July 31, 2010

Yan Yan – 12th month update

This past month, Yan Yan seemed to suddenly develop an understanding of how things worked around her, and loves to imitate what we do:
– holds the mobile phone to her ears and babble
– holds the comb to her hair
– points the remote control to the TV
– taps pen/eraser onto book as if writing or erasing

She also comprehends things a lot better:
– will give us a kiss when asked to
– follows simple instructions like "Give mummy"
– pats her tummy when we say 饱饱
– crawls to the bathroom when I say, "Come mei mei, lets go take bath"

In the morning when I drive the girls to kindy and babysitter, I will normally switch on the Little Einstein on the car's DVD player. Yesterday morning, I'm not sure if it was a fluke, but I caught her responding "Uhm" whenever June, one of the characters in the show asked, "Is this the second piece of the music machine?" She responded three times, each time at the precise moment June finished asking the question :-)

She's also able to work out solutions to problems – when standing by the side of the bed and trying to reach for things in the middle of the bed beyond her grasp, she'd climb onto the bed slightly, arch her body and extend her hand to reach the object. She can also call Ah Pa and Ah Ma to the specific person.

Hubby caught her walking three steps unaided the other day, though she still prefers crawling to get her around. She also enjoys moving her body to music, especially to "Nobody but you" by The Wondergirls.

She now has four teeth, two each on the upper and lower jaw. Her staple food is still porridge though we are beginning to feed her bits of table food whenever we eat. She'll have us in stitches coz she'll keep shaking her head instead of nodding whenever we ask, "Do you still want (this food)?" even though she actually means yes! She started taking formula a week short of turning one, but is still nursing whenever I'm home.

July 27, 2010

Yan Yan's 1st birthday

We celebrated Yan Yan's 1st birthday last Saturday, two days after her actual birthday. It was a dual celebration as Saturday was also her papa's birthday, so papa got to tumpang glamour a little bit. Well come to think of it, it's a triple celebration as it's also the day we signed on the dotted lines as husband and wife but of course, the star of the evening was the little girl.

I started planning for the party about two weeks ago, sourcing for a restaurant which would be willing to let us have the whole place from 6-10pm as I wasn't keen to have it at home to avoid having to clean up after the party. The solution came in this restaurant whose core business is catering, and since they don't open on Saturdays and Sundays, we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. We didn't intend to have a big do but still ended up with close to 50 adults and 35 children.

Since I had been really busy at work, I bought most decorative items and favours for party packs online. It was a breeze just waiting for the courier to deliver the stuff, before packing the individual bags with other snack items.

I ordered two cakes, one each for Yan Yan and her papa, from this talented lady, and again, I wasn't disappointed. Yan Yan's cake was gorgeous, and I was amazed with the intricate details on the little girl, right down to her two front teeth! And the lion head was a hit with the boys, with many of them requesting for a piece of the lion :-). It was my first time tasting orange poppy seed cake and I liked the "crunchiness" as I bite into the tiny seeds. The other was moist chocolate cake which was super rich and yummy.

The lion head cake reflects hubby's passion in Lionism, with the words "A Lion That Touches Many Lives"

And of course, birthday celebrations can't do without the ubiquitous red eggs, can it?

Being her first birthday, we decided to splurge a little bit and got someone to come in to entertain the children. He performed magic tricks, puppet shows, organized simple games, rounded the children up for the cake-cutting before wrapping it all up by twisting balloons for the children. Needless to say, the children had a blast.

One for the family

And here's the birthday girl, oblivious to all that's happening around her. She's probably thinking, "It's MY birthday but how come all these kor-kor and che-che are enjoying themselves so much?"

Happy Birthday Darling. May you have a blessed, happy and healthy life ahead of you.

July 22, 2010

Beijing foods

I remember not being impressed with Beijing food ten years ago. As far as I could remember, Beijing food was far too oily and bland. But surprisingly all the restaurants I dined at this round were really good.

Beijing Dadong Kaoya Dian is acclaimed for ite Peking duck and claims to use a special method to reduce the amount of fat in its birds. The duck slices are served with a wide assortment of condiments (garlic, green onion, radish). The menu is extensive and dishes are presented in a visually appealing manner. Every meal comes with a free fruit plate and dessert.

The exterior of the restaurant

The chef skinning the duck right before our eyes

Kaorou Ji at the Back Lakes area is a Muslim restaurant famed for its roast lamb on hotplate. We ordered the signature lamb dish and though I'm not a fan of lamb, the meat was very well marinated with various spices and masked the characteristic smell of the meat. After dinner, we strolled around the area and most bars/cafes were packed with people watching the kick-off of the World Cup.

Exterior of Kaorou Ji

Back Lakes area by night

Since everyone was tired by the last night, we had dinner at a restaurant near our hotel, which proved to be pretty good. There were several other restaurants at the same row and all were brightly and attractively lit to lure diners.

The restaurant we chose among the row of brightly lit establishments

Other restaurants in the vicinity

July 20, 2010

Beijing revisited – Part 2

The congress I attended was held at the China National Convention Centre (CNCC), which is just a stone's throw away from the Olympic Park. The Olympic Park is now a tourist attraction with Olympic songs still being broadcasted during the day. I took a walk there one afternoon to see for myself the famed Bird's Nest and Water Cube. They didn’t look that impressive up close, or perhaps it's due to my seeing them in broad daylight, and not at night when the structures are bathed in light.

One of the evenings before dinner, I visited Qianmen Street, a pedestrian street with buildings restored to that of old Qianmen Street in 1920s – 1930s. The buildings are now occupied by international brands such as H&M, Haagen-Dazs, ZARA, etc alongside time-honoured Chinese brands. There's an ancient trolley car that plies the 2km pedestrian thoroughfare of Qianmen Street.

Really enjoyed strolling and admiring all the beautifully reconstructed buildings

Just want to show you this last photo - it's a popular mode of transport in Beijing, not unlike the famed tuk-tuk in Thailand. It's basically a shell covering a motorcycle which can ferry up to two passengers. Try riding in one of these through the busy Beijing traffic for a little adrenaline rush :-)

July 18, 2010

Beijing revisited – Part 1

My first visit to Beijing was 10 years ago, as part of my company annual trip. Since then, despite travelling a fair bit for work, I've never had the opportunity to return to Beijing until recently when I was there for several days to attend a conference. Since I had limited time for leisure, I visited places which I hadn’t been to ten years back, so no Great Wall as that would easily take up half a day or more.

The only exception was the Forbidden City, as the last visit was a rushed one where we were practically herded through the central route from one entrance of the Forbidden City to the other. This time, I took my time walking around, and rented an audio guide to fully understand and appreciate what I was seeing. Even then, with the short 2-3 hours that I had, I didn't manage to set foot to the Eastern Palaces and only managed to visit part of the Western Palaces. So looks I'll be heading to the Forbidden City again should I have the chance to visit Beijing again.

The main hall of the palace

The largest stone carving in the palace

A pavillion in the Imperial Garden

Two cypress trees with interlocking branches, symbolizing loyal love. It was said that Emperor Puyi and Empress Wanrong, the last emperor and empress, had their photograph taken in front of these trees after their wedding ceremony.

The other few hours of free time I had was spent walking around the Back Lakes area, which comprises of three idyllic lakes – 前海 (Front Lake), 后海 (Back Lake), and 西海(West Lake) and the tree-shaded neighborhoods that surround them. These lakes were once part of a system used to transport grain by barge to the Forbidden City. It is now a happening area with plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants. I also stumbled upon numerous 胡同 (hutong), where many families have lived for generations.

Tourist trishaw for hire

Local residents enjoying a dip in the lake

This is the most lavish courtyard residence in the area, Prince Gong's Mansion

Former residence of Soong Ching Ling

The gardens at the former residence of Soong Ching Ling, and a marble bust of the feminist hero.

I ended my walk at the Drum Tower and Bell Tower, opposite each other. Drumming performances are held several times daily inside the Drum Tower, and I managed to catch the last performance for the day.

The Bell Tower (L) and Drum Tower (R)

Drum performance in progress

July 14, 2010

No longer exclusively breastfed

Eight days before her first birthday, Yan Yan had her first taste of formula.

Due to my recent extended trip, and her ravenous appetite following her bout of milk rejection, she wiped out all the EBM stocks in the freezer. And since my production had dropped, the output from my once-daily pumping is less than her daily intake, so babysitter started supplementing one feed with formula today. So that makes Yan Yan three months short of her che-che as an exclusively breastfed baby.

The next question is, shall I give up pumping altogether so she's on formula during the day at the babysitter's, and I only nurse her when I'm home?

July 09, 2010

Yan Yan – 11th month update

I was contemplating whether or not to post this update, since it'll be only two weeks away to the post on her first birthday (hopefully I won't be too late on that one!). But I'd just do it anyhow, albeit a short one. The milestone in the last month has to be her two front teeth – after weeks of discomfort, the two front teeth on her lower jaw finally erupted. And now, she's again having discomfort of waiting for the two upper front teeth to erupt. When she's not bothered by the discomfort of her teeth, she's a joyous, gibberish baby who loves to talk non-stop.

When she was younger, we all thought that she'll have a better temperament than her sister but looks like we're wrong - this feisty little lady would cry loudly and arch her back in tantrums when she doesn’t get her way.

The samseng girl trying to climb on her che-che's chair

She knows when we adults prepare to go out and will stretch her hands out to be carried, and once she's safe in the arms of the person heading out the door, will gleefully waves goodbye by moving her hand from side to side, with palm facing upwards :-)

She's still fully on breastmilk, but I think we may need to start supplementing with formula very very soon. I was away for 11 days recently and despite my efforts to pump consistently, my production had dropped drastically, so much so that I gave up pumping towards the last few days of my trip. Hopefully now that I'm back and nursing, my supply will be reestablished.