The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Year End Review 2016

It is tempting to write off this year as being a terrible one. Indeed, that was my initial thought. It would be all too predictable even to go on about the things that would make 2016 memorable for all the wrong reasons. 

Truthfully, 2016 on the whole has not been my most favourite year and for those who know me well, you already know this. But to say that it was a complete shambles would do the whole year a huge disservice. It would be unfair to all those who celebrated a special occasion for instance to have it tarred with the same brush as the less favourable events that happened. All too often we can be led by the negative but this will only lead to the Dark Side. We all know how that ends. It is right now as we are about to welcome a fresh new year, that we need to lead with the positives.

How best to do this than with our very own positives from the year. 
So for my Year End Review, I am going to share some of my own personal highlights from 2016.

#1, 2 and 3

Everyday I feel thankful for #1, 2 and 3. Even if there are moments within those days when I forget to feel thankful. I am definitely thankful for them. 
They don’t know anything about what’s going on with the state of the global economy, everyone is friends and a good day is measured by what’s happened in the last five minutes. They enable me to live in the moment. Something we should all do more of.

There have been some challenges of course, there probably always will be. At the same time, it has been a joy to see #1, 2 and 3 achieve their own mini milestones at school and home, more so at school than home. I still don’t understand why they can’t just show us some of that same helpfulness at home. Just a little bit. 

#1 in particular has worked very hard this year. Some of the earlier challenges in the year around adapting to a Big School environment was hard work. There were some battles we had to overcome but hard work and perseverence has rewarded #1 with confidence and enjoyment of learning. Most of the time. I’ve also discovered that #1 likes to help out in the kitchen and can almost bake a banana loaf all by himself. And he has stuck to his goal of wearing a Star Wars t shirt everyday this year. 

 
When your children start Big School, you hope for a good teacher and that your child makes friends. We have been lucky on both counts with good teachers but friendships have to be navigated themselves. I know one source of worry for #2 was whether she would find friends this school year. Within three weeks of the new school year starting, #2 had been sent to see the Head of Year twice. For boisterous behaviour with her friends. Whilst I’m not condoning the behaviour at all and #2 has solemnly sworn not to find herself in that situation again (we’ll see), I’m also glad to know that she has found a group of partners in crime that she talks about all the time. I like how she’s enjoying her hobbies of judo, gymnastics and has a creative streak in her. For Christmas, she gave us books of drawings of our favourite things as presents. 
#3 has heart and generosity. As well as a loud yell. Sharing comes naturally to her. She will offer you whatever she’s eating even before she’s had enough of eating it.  That is saying something. Mostly I get offered leftovers. Or mushed up food spat into my hand. Yum. 


Catching my first ever moonset

I wonder whether, like me, you even thought about the moonset. Though it’s so obvious isn’t it? If there’s a sunrise and sunset, there should be a moonrise and moonset. I’ve often chased a sunrise and settled down with a sunset but never a moonset. For one thing, you have to be a really early morning person. Like super early. 4.45am early. I am not a 4.45am morning person. But for this occasion I was. 

The setting could not have been more idyllic. In the resort of El Nido,  Philippines which I was lucky enough to have travelled to for Gainful Employment. The waters there were so clear and the amount of marine life you could see just a 30 metre snorkel away from shore. The furthest way from the hustle and bustle of city life you could imagine. There are few opportunities to be really still and I will always remember the calm of sitting there, watching the moon slowly dip further towards the horizon as the light all around became brighter and you were caught between that moment where night ends and day begins. 


  

My Dad, Mr Li turned 80


Just a few days before Christmas, my Dad Mr Li turned 80. I’m very thankful for that. I’m sure he is too even though he often tells me his job is done. But I have news for you my Dad, Mr Li. Your job is not yet done. Who’s to say without your watchful eye on things that I won’t be feeding your grandchildren food from dented cans. Or allow them to go out with wet hair. Or allow them to be so daring as eat two bags of crisps in a 24 hour period. 
No my Dad, Mr Li. Your job is not yet done.
Travelled to new places sans kids

I know! I actually travelled sans kids three times this year. Twice was with Gainful Employment and whilst a great experience, it wasn’t actually a holiday and shouldn’t really count. 
This year Nana Moon came to stay en route to somewhere else. As seems to be the new tradition, whenever Nana Moon comes to stay, she and I must travel to someplace new. At first we thought about Taipei but it’s actually quite far from Singapore and with just three days to spare, you want to make sure you make the most of every moment.  There are plenty of places yet to be explored nearby and so we went to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I bet you’re pronouncing it Yog-ya-karta. That’s because you’ve never been. For us it’s Jogja now. Though Nana Moon will still insist it’s Yogi.

I don’t know about you but an opportunity to travel sans kids for me is to explore and do things that I’ve never done before or would do if I wasn’t sans kids. Any notion of long lie ins and leisurely breakfasts never happen. These mini sojourns are to remember all the things that you should do because you can do them. 

In saying that, there was a moment whilst being suspended 60metres over a cliff when I wondered what on earth was I doing putting my life in the hands of a harness with three kids and Husband at home. The experience was worth it though.


Celebrating Big Brother Li turning 50

I think it’s fair to say that decades have passed since we celebrated any of our Birthday’s together. So it was particularly special to be able to celebrate Big Brother Li turning 50 this year. To him, these milestone Birthdays are no big deal. Indeed, even if it weren’t a big Birthday, it was still a special occasion to be together as a family for it.

Getting right up close to Take That, Kylie, Ronan Keating, Madonna, Queen and Imagine Dragons


In my former London and Manchester life, going to see live bands was a regular occurence. I’ve seen some of my favourite over the years and I’ve even been fortunate enough to be at Live8 just five rows from the the front. Strangely enough, I’ve had some of the best live band experiences in Singapore. 

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Going to a live gig is uplifting for the soul and one of my top five favourite things to do. You can’t fail but smile and feel your spirits rise when you are in the presence of real drums banging and guitars twanging. Perhaps the list of popstrels I’ve been to see this year are not exactly to your liking, but for me they make me happy and therefore seeing them live makes me double happy. 


I was a bit concerned that finally getting to see Take That live for the first time (even with just three of them) would be a disappointment. Would they be too middle aged I wondered and whilst I was so close I could see wrinkles, when they played songs from the 90s we were all transported to this other time. Whilst in the 20 years or so since they first were dear to my heart, much has changed and we have all aged but in those years those same songs have seen us through and brought back feeling of happiness. 

Time with family and my closest friends  


This counts for both friends in Singapore and the ones I’ve known much longer. Time in your company is always a pleasure and thank you for all the invites to many a social occasion this year.

We are very fortunate to live in times when international air travel is so possible and affordable. I think back to when my Dad, Mr Li left Hong Kong for the UK over 50 years ago with no idea of when he would next see any of his family and friends. Whilst we may struggle at times in this privileged Expat life of ours, we have the luxury of modern technology that makes distance a little easier to bear.

However, nothing can compare to having them here with you. This year we have had the joy of my In Laws come to stay in the summer. As #1, 2 and 3 get older, we can see that they need more than Husband and I around. We are of course very important and much loved by them but there are others who are much loved too, who can give them something else in addition to what we can. People who love very much and tell them all the positive things that small people delight in hearing about themselves. 


As you know, I don’t just think Brilliant New Adventure as my friend, she is family and I often do wish she was here in Singapore. But equally, when we go now to go Hong Kong we have an extra reason to visit. It can be bittersweet because you imagine what fun times the children would have altogether. But I wouldn’t miss these times for the world. Nor the opportunities to catch up with friends you haven’t seen for many years and for it to be like no time has passed at all.


It’s funny how Nana Moon tells me that when siblings are together, you all revert to type. I think the same can be said about friends who have known each other a long time. We are all of a certain personality and the core of us perhaps doesn’t change as much as we think over the years. I still rely on Nana Moon to tell that jumping across a beam, kayaking in deep waters or being hoisted over a cliff is going to be alright. I have no idea what reassurances I give her. Let’s not ask that question.

Learning new things

This year I took Mandarin Chinese lessons, picked up new skills in Gainful Employment and made my own chutney.


Husband

One constant this year, through the ups and downs, has been Husband. He who does not complain (too much) about my intention to master the use of the sewing machine he bought me several years or the bike he got me for my Birthday which he has made more use of than me so far. He who gets up early in the mornings on school days. Who enables the travelling sans kids and much more.

We celebrated Birthdays, weddings and the arrival of new family members. And we saw otters.

 So really, 2016 gave us some good memories. We just needed to think about it. 
May we all end this year thinking of what 2016 did right. Husband and I are not going out tonight because #1 has been unwell but tomorrow, we’re going to start the year fresh, with friends and new hope for a bright 2017. 

Whatever you do, do it in style. Do everything in style. 

Happy New Year’s Eve to you. xx

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The days after Christmas

I’m enjoying this lull after Christmas.

 

When the cupboards and fridge are no longer creaking with the amount of stuff stored inside them and we have just about worked our way through all the Christmas food. Ooh, except the pannetone. I forgot about that. I do love pannetone except I always feel cheated when you open up the box and it’s actually a tiny sized pannetone for one inside.

 

The days after Christmas when you can just relax and enjoy time spent thinking about other things than Christmas presents, Christmas food, Christmas posting dates (missed them again this year.) Rushing to the shops when you have a spare moment or just leaving everything to Christmas Eve……..Ahem.

 

But I do love Christmas. The twinkling lights on the tree. The smell of pine throughout the house. The excitement of all the small people (some who are quite the grown ups now) that I’ve spent each Christmas with. Now with #1, 2 and 3 who all FULLY BELIEVE and anticipate the annual ritual of preparing for the arrival of Father Christmas, I guess you could say that I am reliving a part of my childhood too.

  

 
I love how #1, 2 and 3 left the carrots and a bowl of water for the reindeers and immediately went to investigate the ‘mess’ they had left behind with #1 almost folding his arms in shock. #2 was pleased that Father Christmas had drunk his apple juice as well as the whisky and of course the almond tarts would go down well.

 

 

#1 took a while to settle down to sleep, such was the excitement and almost caught Husband still wrapping a few last minute gifts. On Christmas morning #1 and 2 were first up (after 7am thankfully) and wasted no time investigating whether anything new was going on in the living room. That first morning call of ‘He’s been!’ is one that will never tire.

 

 

A bleary eyed #3 soon joined the fray and all clamber  into our bed with their stockings. Shaking out the contents to see what’s inside. As always, the suspense of unveiling what Father Christmas has brought them has to wait until after breakfast. The air rings with persistent calls of ‘Can we open it yet? Can we open it yet?’

  

 

Then they finally do and it’s pure joy to watch them shriek in delight at what they find. #3 as you may recall asked for a dog. If not a dog then a cat. What she unwrapped was a singing karaoke Elsa that she was still enthralled with. Of course she wasn’t going to get a dog just because she had asked Father Christmas for one, he’s much more considerate and practical than that. But there are always ways around it. I have never known a child to be so in love with animals than #3. Right from when she first set eyes on a dog or cat she would be straight over wanting to befriend it. I myself, have a fear of all things animal but #3 has made me overcome that fear somewhat.

 

Our neighbours have a lovely young dog R, and they are more than happy  for us to look after him for a short while but #1 and 2 have been less keen. However seeing as it’s Christmas, we decided that for #3 she could have him over and whilst it may have seemed unfair on #1 and 2 to have them shrieking in their bedrooms on Christmas morning, we thought it’s about time they started to really think about making others happy. It didn’t happen that first day but the next day when R came by there was a little less shrieking and a little less fear. On the third day, a Christmas miracle happened with #2, who is the most shriekiest of them all, actually wanting to take R for a walk. Yesterday, they were all letting him run amok at home. Their attention taken away from all the toys and television to wanting to be near him. I think it was almost a relief for R when he could go home! But I think he will soon become a regular around ours.

 

     

This year I could see a change in #1. I think he’s starting to get that Christmas Day isn’t just about the presents (though a big part still is) and he’s becoming aware of the fact it’s special in other ways like preparing a special kind of lunch and setting the table with a real table cloth instead of the wipe clean vinyl. In previous years, the traditional turkey and all the trimmings was more for our benefit than #1, 2 and 3 would could equally be happy (happier) with traditional chicken rice. This year though #1, whilst not yet venturing onto his first Brussel sprout, showed an appreciation for some items of ‘trimmings’. In contrast to #3 who definitely would have been happier with traditional chicken rice.

 

 

#3 is still the feral one. Ploughing through the unwrapping of her stocking at a rate of 3 to every 1 that #1 and 2 opened. Then having the audacity to complain that she had no presents to open when #1 and 2 were playing catch up but try explaining the concept of ‘you’ve already opened your presents!’ to a 3 year old. Cue enter cute dog from next door  to distract her. In fact actually, R has become quite the discipinary tool for #3 if she shows signs of becoming Stubborn Wolf.

 

 

What better way to round off Christmas Day than to spend it with other friends. In the absence of family around us, we are thankful to have friends who open up their homes on this day to welcome us over for drinks, more food and merriment for the kids.

 

The same goes for sharing Boxing Day ham with friends that we’ve made here too. Almost every year, we’ve invited different friends over to share in this much more relaxed day of celebration and continuation of over indulgence.

 

Christmas is about spending time with each other most of all. The people who make you laugh and feel good. It’s about hanging out with Husband and #1, 2 and 3 without rushing here and there. 
It’s about enjoying this lull after Christmas. I hope you are too.

  

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2014 Year End Review

It’s New Year’s Eve again!

Time to wave off the old and ring in the new.

I’m not surprised this year seems to have whizzed by for me as two thirds of it was dominated by the lead up to Embracing 40 and then soon after it was all about my much long overdue trip to the UK.

Speaking for myself, I’ve really enjoyed nearly all of 2014. It didn’t start off so well with a couple of things that have since resolved themselves enough for me to feel happy about. But the rest of it has been pretty amazing.

In this year of Embracing 40, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. I knew I would meet it head on, enjoy it and to celebrate it fully. I wasn’t expecting just how great my family and friends would make me feel about it all. I still feel incredibly touched by all the thoughtful gifts and gestures that came my way. I have been very lucky and spoilt.

The highlight of my year without question was going back to the UK for nearly seven weeks. To introduce #3 to my parents and many family and friends is something I was looking forward to doing since she arrived. Although I would have liked it to have been much sooner, I think heading back to the UK this year was good for us as a family as we could do much more and not have to work around the needs of a small baby. #1 especially loved being back in the UK, #2 isn’t so sure yet and #3 will still just go with the flow. For now.

And of course there was the chance to see you. The you being all the people I have missed so much since we’ve been away from the UK. Do you know how much it means to know that you’re still all there when we come back? Six years away when we thought it would be two or three and to still find we all get on like it was no time at all. I loved that very much.

Of course I’ve always known this but I’m surrounded by people who mean so very much to me. It’s been a great honour to share some of their special occasions too. From the weddings of Big D and Sister In Law to being part of the celebrations of Mrs Cake Pops and Nana Moon who also Embraced 40 this year.

Not forgetting the Birthday celebrations of #1, 2 and 3 this year. They turned five, four and two. It’s been a really good year with them as we watch the dynamics change so that #3 is very much an active member of the family. Sometimes it’s been a challenge, especially with the assault on the ears with the noise levels they generate but as we move away from the toddler stage, we can look forward to doing much more together. Even our holiday to Japan was less daunting than we thought it would be.

Then there’s the knowledge that Brilliant New Adventure is indeed enjoying her brilliant new adventure in Hong Kong. I like living vicariously through her with the fabulous new life she’s leading. I still miss her dreadfully but with all the mod cons we have these days, no one is truly that far away.

Even my Dad, Mr Li with his new smartphone is just a what’sapp away. That can be a good and a bad thing as I discovered earlier this year with the sharing of news between family members that I once could keep from them.

But amongst all the good things that have come my way, for some close to me it has not been such a celebratory year. For them, I give much time and thought.

Equally, in the world news this year the memory of some events will never leave me. So for these tragic events I will also give much time and thought and for the friends who have been affected by them too. Sometimes, it’s much less than six degrees of separation. More like two degrees.

But as New Year’s Eve symbolises, it is the end of another year. Whether it be good or less so. Whether you come away with great memories or not so great ones. Either way it’s almost done now. Tomorrow beckons a whole new one to fill and look forward to.

For tonight and for the first time since 2007, Husband and I are off out to a genuine party for Grown Ups only to see in the New Year. I’m looking forward to starting 2015 with another three day hangover.

Wherever you are and however you may be celebrating the end of 2014, I wish you a very good one. Cheers to you.

Thank you for sticking with me and my blog and I’ll see you in the New Year.

With much love.

Karen xx

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So how do you cook a turkey?

No, seriously. How do you cook a turkey?

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Husband and I have never cooked a turkey before, except for a turkey crown. Partly due to him having been a vegetarian for the early part of our relationship. Then his principles left him. Or according to my family they thought it was for religious purposes so they probably think religion left him.

Anyways, we have never cooked a whole sized turkey. And we’ve seen them before. They’re big.

Really big.

And people talk about having to cook them overnight and getting up before dawn to baste it and all sorts. It sounds quite daunting.

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So tentatively I went to order the overpriced turkey from our local butchers last week. Naturally they couldn’t tell me the exact size it would but take your pick from small, medium or large.

Small please, considering it will be just for Husband and I as #1, 2 and 3 will most likely eat just the crispy bits of the roast potatoes and nothing else. So makes you wonder why we’re going to spend all morning in the kitchen for the full works.

Tradition of course. And because everyone in the UK will be doing the same (albeit some eight hours later and not in a hot, sweaty kitchen the size of a pea shell).

So I picked up the turkey this afternoon and asked the butcher to weigh it for me. It’s just over 3kg. Not as big as we were fearing thankfully. Then he showed me the Boxing Day ham I also ordered which we’re going to share with Mrs Cake Pops and family. That is also 3kg. With no bones or anything. Just 3kg of ham. That is a lot of ham.

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So, every year, Husband is adamant that we will not be spending Christmas Eve wrapping the presents of #1, 2 and 3 until the early hours.

It’s never going to happen because in the words of Mrs Imperturbable, ‘this year I am very disorganised’. And yet we were out having drinks together last night over looking Marina Bay Sands. We should have been wrapping presents instead but how could you pass up a view like this?

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So why am I disorganised this year? Well because I usually just am. Mitigating circumstances being the whole excitement of my almost seven week trip back to the UK used up all my excitement reserves that were left over from Embracing 40 this year. Plus the fog of jet lag took me almost into December so it feels like there has been no proper build up.

Until this last week or so when I’ve indulged in a flurry of Christmas outings.

The main shopping street in Singapore, Orchard Road, has a slew of shopping malls all with their own unique style of Christmas decor ranging from the tasteful to the tacky. But all when lit up at night look beautiful. There’s something quite magical about fairy lights twinkling in the dark.

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We took #1, 2 and 3 to the Winter Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay which was absolutely lovely. It really cheered me up to be there and I felt completely in the festive mood. We also took #1, 2 and 3 to see Father Christmas. Slightly less successful with #3 clinging onto me so fast that she could hold herself up with me hands free. Serves me right for laughing at the poor unfortunate families before us who had children who freaked out at having to be near the sleepy looking man with the fake beard and belly who clearly looks like he’s going to expire in his full on furry outfit.

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Today has been a whirlwind of last minute shopping, grocery shopping with #1, 2 and 3 that attracted a few dirty looks from other frantic shoppers, it wasn’t my most greatest Christmas experiences admittedly. We’ve watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Miracle on 34th Street and Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone whilst we’ve been wrapping.

We adopted quite a high risk strategy wrapping presents in the living room when #1 and 2 could have walked in at any time. But they didn’t fall asleep until gone 10pm because along with the excitement and anticipation, there was also a modicum of fear too.

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#3 has flatly refused to entertain the idea of Father Christmas coming at all. Not even the lure of presents will change her mind. ‘No Santa, No Santa. Ok Mummy. No Santa’.

I really enjoyed a massive bedtime hug from #1 tonight. A real big hug filled with happiness. I asked him how did he feel. He said excited and nervous at the same time. He really is so looking forward to Christmas Day.

I wish I could tell you all of them have behaved impeccably to merit a visit from Father Christmas but either way, he’ll be paying them a visit.

And tomorrow I can’t wait to hear their excited cries in the morning. I hope not too early as it really is the early hours now.

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One other thing is that those Elves can come down from those shelves for another year. As you know, I am not a fan but I follow my friend’s efforts closely and she is a creative genius. Here’s a round up of her fabulous creations this year.

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So, the advent windows are all open. The whiskey is out on the table together with the mince pie, almond tarts and gingerbread. The carrots and water are on the balcony. The presents are wrapped under the tree.

And yet we still haven’t got a clue how to cook the turkey!

Merry Christmas to you all. May you have a wonderful day with all the people you want to be with.

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