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Today’s lunch

Kathirikkai Chinna vengaya Sambar
Cabbage carrot poriyal
Vazhapoo thuvattal
Sorakkai kootu
Pudalangai poriyal

Yes, I am at Amma’s home 🙂

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Singapore vacation – Part 2 – Day 94

It was a 10 day trip covering top tourist attractions in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Here is the travel itinerary. Hope its useful to someone planning a trip!

Day 1 – We reached midnight and decided to take it light on first day. So, spent morning with cousin family, went to BFF home for lunch and then visited M’s school friend in the evening.

Day 2 – Jurong bird park. Surprisingly this topped Adi’s list when we spoke about favorites from the trip. Dinner with friend at Little India.

Day 3 – Flew to Langkawi. Spent the evening at beach and just roamed around the streets exploring options for next day.

Day 4 – Mangrove day trip, sky bridge and eagle square. The day trip is a popular package for any first time visitors. Spent most of the day in motor boat, visited bat cave, floating fish farm, eagle watch and spent some time at a private island beach. Evening went to sky bridge. The cable car ride was breathtaking. Then took a cab to Eagle square to just take a picture in front of that humongous eagle.

Day 5 – Skipped other plans and decided to spend the day at beach. We stayed just opposite to the beach and what I enjoyed the most was the hot breakfast provided by the hotel at roof top. Flew to Kula lumpur in the evening and retired early after deciding on the plans for next day.

Day 6 – The location of hotel at KL was unexpectedly far from city so we hired a taxi for all day that would take us to all places and then drop us at the airport in the evening. Initial plan was to explore local trains but we settled with taxi as suggested by hotel front desk to make the best use of 1 day at KL.

Started the day at 6am – visited Batu caves murugan temple, oldest Mariamman temple, Twin tower, Suria KLCC mall, Chinese temple and then reached airport. The driver cum tour guide was an awesome guy. He took family pictures from best spots and bought us a water bottle at Chinese temple. We chatted about Chinese culture and how things are changing with generations. I have couple of interesting happenings from today to share and it deserves a separate post. Boarded flight back to Singapore in the night.

Day 7 – Cloud forest, Gardens by the bay, Merilion, Flyer and dinner at extended family’s home.

Day 8 – River safari, Chinese temple at Little India, China town, Mustafa shopping, dinner with cousin family at Anjappar chettinad restaurant.

Day 9 – Sentosa (It has water park. we didn’t go prepared with change of clothes but still couldn’t let go of the water slides 🙂 )

Day 10 – Legoland at Johor Bahru Malaysia. We took a tour package where the provider will ride us to/fro to the park and help with immigration clearance to enter/exit Malaysia. The uber ride in the morning to reach boarding point was an interesting experience. The guy we booked came on time but turned us down saying he doesn’t have permit to ride 5 year old, then we had to book another cab that took forever to come and we got caught in the peak hour traffic. It was a mad rush but we made it to the bus.

Day 11 – Fly to India. My cousin and her 2 year old came with us too.

Rest of the vacation time was spent in India with attending an engagement, marriage, LHB’s 3rd tonsure and ear piercing at family deity temple, first ever late night movie show with M, visiting local temples, friends, friend’s parents, relatives, solo weekend trip to Chennai, meet with college friends, meet with school girls gang, Ganesha making for Vinayakar chathurthi and unlimited gorging of all delicacies prepared by Amma.

Singapore vacation – Part 1 – Day 92

A long due travel post. I will try to recollect anything that is left in my memory.

Last year summer, we decided to go to India as a family unlike the previous year when M and I took turns. So, we thought it would be a good opportunity to plan the first international family trip en route to India. We started the plan with Italy, moved to Dubai and finally settled with Singapore. Dream big and settle with reality 🙂 🙂

Good side was we had extended family and friends at Singapore. A friend helped with visa processing and cousin opened her doors for stay. A special mention to cousin’s husband who prepared a detailed excel sheet for us to answer all our silly queries and helped with local itinerary and flight bookings. We would hop on to a call every other day to go over the details as the travel was getting closer. He made us totally feel at home and comfortable. Not everyone knows or follows this genuine art to make others feel comfortable.

The best part was all that chit chat the cousin’s husband, M and I had every night. After having dinner and settling kids, we will sit down around 10pm to plan for next day and talk everything but plan until 1 am or 2am. The cousin with a 2 year old baby in hand and a 7 month baby in tummy will be half asleep on the other room pleading us to retire soon. We were never out of topic. He even spent the whole night with us in Singapore airport from 7pm to 5am talking non stop with couple of doses of kopi/tea during our return journey to US. The plan was for him to just come and meet us in the airport to exchange luggage but he ended up staying to chit chat till it was time for us to board the next flight to US.

This is what I call as the highlight of the trip and made this vacation more memorable to me..

  • Stay with cousin family, cooking with them
  • dinner with a school friend who helped us with Visa. We saw each other after almost 20 years!
  • lunch at my BFF home. Seeing her after 12 years!
  • dinner at an extended family Akka’s home
  • impromptu evening visit to M’s school buddy’s home
  • family time not worrying about errands to run, train to catch or mundane tasks to complete

It was a trip filled with fun and laughter besides the customary visit to all top tourist attractions to take pictures and check from the list.

Day by day itinerary in next part..

2017 Winter break – Florida road trip – Day 80/29

Publishing at 11:58pm. Pheww!!!!

I don’t feel like doing a detailed day by day post about the recent winter break trip. So here are the bullet points

  • Stay at extended family’s place for a night. Visit of ex-neighbor Akka with her family from my childhood who have last seen me when I was around 10 years old. Both the Akka and the cousin’s wife were persuading me to move to NC and I was this close to start wrapping up as soon as we reach home 🙂 🙂
  • Visit to Universal studios and sea world (yes we ditched Disney).  Spent 2.5 days at Universals and we split as two groups on second day. The girl and me spending more time at Harry potter rides, the boy and M spending more time at Minions. For the uninitiated, there are apps that show wait times of each ride and we made the best use of it. 

  • Visit to Orange tree farm by name “Showcase of citrus” and monster truck ride in swamp. This was a last minute decision and totally worth it. It’s very close to Disney and Universals. I gathered the details from Trip Advisor.
     

  • I loved the live shows and parades more than the rides. The Christmas themed ice skating show, Shamu show, Universal parade. I was awestruck at the humongous effort behind each of this act.
  • Hogwarts express train ride and paddle boat ride deserves a special mention. They didn’t have Hogwarts train ride when we visited in 2011.
  • Was constantly talking to Adi about how technology is controlling every move of these theme parks.
  • M household as usual only looked at roller coasters from a distance. We were more than happy with carousels and mini train rides.
  • Skipped water park and beach as weather was not great and kids were also at the edge of catching cold.
  • Chanced upon a colleague and his family at Universals. We took pictures and shared it in office team whatsapp group 🙂
  • Night stay and local tour at Charleston on the way back. We made a poor choice of hotel and LHB referred to it as ghost house after the trip.
  • 13 hours of non stop drive to home. The sight of LHB getting off the car as the first guy at 2am and running into the garage showed how much he missed home or how much he hated the ghost house.
  • That moment when we tucked ourselves under the blanket in our own bed after being away for a week. Home is heaven. All of us were giggling for no particular reason and drifted off to a peaceful sleep.

 

Drive continues – Day 46

Day 2 of driving begins. Hoping to reach the destination by evening.

Yesterday was spent mostly in the car munching biscuits, oranges, veg biriyani, cookies, playing snakes and ladder, little reading and listening to radio all day long. We only took one quick 15 mins break at gas station. Still were delayed by almost 2 hours due to rain and traffic.

Reached extended family’s home around 9pm and there was another my childhood neighbor akka family waiting for us too. Its a small world indeed. Next few hours was spent with good food and non stop chat. It’s always fun to visit friends and families. 6 kids ranging from high school to pre school kept themself engaged with hide and seek and other games.

India trip – Kids return

Late August, when I was alone in US, I get a call from India at 1am. It was M on the other side. He asks me “Does Adi have 2 passport or 3 passport?”. It took some time for me to realize that it is not dream and by this time he repeated the question at least 10 times. I was just responding with a weak “what?, what?” until I got my senses. Then, I mumbled it is 3.

We belong to that type of family who carry all their old passports too in hand for every travel. M was at the airport with kids to board the flight to US.

The flight is about to depart in two hours. Apparently, when he was trying to check-in the person at the counter noticed that Adi’s current passport was missing whereas he had the two old passport.

With the clock ticking, a series of events unfolded in next two hours and they boarded the flight before the door was about to close. M’s parents shifted to new home few days before his departure so there is no source of communication to reach his mother to check if passport is at home. He called his relative who luckily was at home that day to go home and check. His relative and MIL couldn’t find the keys to the bureau, then found it with FIL’s direction over phone and they found the passport kept in the bureau very safely.

I kept all passports in a small bag and gave it to him. How could he possibly take all from the bundle except Adi’s current passport? I felt the same when he didn’t bring my collection of sarees that I had neatly packed and kept inside his luggage **shaking head in disbelief**

The airport is around 1.5 hours drive from home. BIL and other relatives were kept as stand by at different check points when this relative started driving towards the airport. He was received at the airport gate by M, he literally grabbed the passport and flew to the counter to get boarding pass. And the air hostess and pilot were waiting with red carpet to welcome them so that they can close the door. It seems like Adi was scared that she thought M would board the flight with LHB leaving her behind. She is one scaredy cat.

While narrating the incident in person, M said he was not treated very well by the officials during this wait. They looked at him as some illegal guy and refused to give him access to communicate to outside world. Somehow he managed to gain their confidence and handled the situation.

Imagine my state of mind after that 1am call. I lost my sleep and the next 24 hours was spent restlessly until I saw the kids flesh and blood.

2016 India trip

Wowww is all I can say about last year’s India trip. It is one of the memorable trip that I will cherish forever. M and I took turns, had an overlap of one week and kept kids at India for 7 weeks last summer.

There were are lot of firsts in this trip. We landed at Trichy airport and went straight to my hometown Thanjavur. Sneaked out to chennai for 3 days in the first week with parents in tow and spent the rest of the 3.5 weeks at Thanjavur. It was the first time I got to spend extended time with my brother at parent’s home after about 15 years!!! We roamed around the city with 4 kids every other evening, watched Kabali night show with my father (he dozed off even before the title was over and promptly woke up for the climax!!). Driving in the small town at 1am after the movie was a different experience.

Visited my native village (it was a painful trip with most of my previous generation not there anymore) , toggled between the parents and in-laws constantly, went to a book fair in local, read Jayakanthan’s tamil novel “Sila nerangalil sila manidhargal”, spent most evening chatting with neighbors/relatives sitting in easy chair at front porch, visited local temples numerous times to attend all that pooja arranged by Amma. At some point Adi wakes up to ask “Are we eating non vegetarian for lunch today?” and gets very excited if we reply with “yes”. Her theory is then it means we are not going to any temple today!!! I warned Amma clearly to take it easy during future visits.

I travelled back alone and the next 3 weeks of living alone in US seemed like a year. WhatsApp and Skype kept me closer to kids though.

Some pictures:

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Birthday card for paternal thatha by Adi

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At Saravana bhavan

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Jetlag

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Sangeetha’s poori

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Sangeetha’s cone dosa

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All aboard upper sleeper berth to Chennai

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At Maya bro’s wedding reception

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Indoor playing

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Imaginary school bus with all amenities

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Brihadeeswarar temple – 10 mins away from home

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Hiding spot

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Getting ready for lunch

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Home grown veggies special lunch – banana flower poriyal, banana stem kootu, mango kuzhambu, keerai masiyal

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Cousins galatta

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Matching game with Nephew

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Yours truly in the middle

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I can do homework with eyes closed. I am talented yaa

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Look at that style! This pic has my other favorites too – tape recorder, cassette holder, sewing machine, beeg wooden box

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Mani mandapam

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Cousin bro’s second home. That’s the terrace

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Family deity temple pond

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Family deity temple. Glad to have found it after 12 years!

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Ready for Jallikattu?

9 days of fun

I took a break from work for a week with no agenda during last leg of Adi’s summer holidays. That’s right, with no agenda for the first time ever during my entire tenure. M and LHB were running on business as usual and the girls decided to have some fun, one day at a time. So, this is how we spent our time

Day 1 – I arranged for an impromptu play date. It was a day that will reflect “Make lemon juice when life offers you lemons”. M left home early in the morning to run some errands and he was expected back only late evening. I had no clue what to do with two kids and no car all day. We can’t even step out. I was worried how would I engage LHB all day. Then came the lemon juice idea 🙂 Made few quick calls and three of Adi’s friends landed in our home within few hours. They baked cookies, had fun at pool and played outside. Needless to say, LHB was the center of attraction and all the girls had so much fun. I loved being a spectator of their girly chit chats and the day turned out to be better than any other normal day.

Day 2 – Family day at bake shoppe. Visited a bake shop near our home. Adi and her friend participitated in cake decorating contest while we were busy relishing the samples. She did quite well I must say!

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Day 3 – Lemonade/cookie stand day. We baked cookie at home and put up the stand near park in the evening. Sale was better than previous time. And I cooked chicken briyani and Adi’s favorite oven roasted chicken drumstick for lunch.

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Day 4 – Craft day. We stayed home, played board games, scrabble and Adi made slimy slime at home.

Day 5 – Packed our bags and went to an art museum and biggest public library in nearby town. Had subway sandwiches for lunch and returned home on time to pick up LHB.

Day 6 – Family time. We visited an amusement park as family in the evening. Thanks to Adi’s friend who joined us. With her company, Adi tried all twisty and scary rides and had real fun. The rides that she would not even have looked at otherwise.

Day 7 – Pottery time. We visited a pottery store in neighborhood and painted ceramics with friends. Adi choose a plain round box, drew her signature drawing on the top and colored it. The product was too pretty to last for long. It got the blessings of LHB too soon. Hope you get what I mean. We are still keeping the box but just as several pieces 😦

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Day 8 – New York visit. Visited our friend’s family at old neighborhood. Spent few hours at their kid’s birthday celebration and then spent rest of the evening at NY. We visited Believe it or not, Chocolate world at Times square, Chelsea market and returned home past midnight.

Day 9 – Laze around day. Stayed home, watched movie and just simply lazed around. I was mentally preparing myself to return to work after 9 gorgeous days.

Apart from these, tennis court saw us for around one hour every weekday morning after the boys were sent out.

I will cherish these 9 days forever and hope Adi enjoyed it as much as I did.

I am glad I was able to jot it down here in the middle of getting ready to embrace the next change which is right around the corner.

I am still not able to get to reader and have a justification if you could accept it. Hope all of are doing good.

Take care. More later…

Florida and Bahamas Trip – Day 8 and 9

1st Jan – Today’s plan was to visit Kennedy Space Center – the commercial visitor complex of NASA. We enjoyed the beach view from hotel room balcony for some time in the morning and then packed our bags and reached KSC by 9:30am. We even thought of extending the stay in this hotel but then decided not to for practical reasons. All day was spent at NASA exploring about shuttles, hubble – the telescope, took a close-up tour of a launchpad and experienced psuedo shuttle launch ride. For the shuttle launch, scary cat Adi came with me till the spot we were about to board the shuttle and then stepped back. So, we had to step out from the line. Then, later the day I tried it alone by myself while the rest of the family spent their time happily at angry birds encounter. I hope at least LHB will give me company in trying adventurous sports/rides after few years. KSC was worth a day trip and loaded with information.

We left KSC around 6pm and then made an impromptu visit to our friend’s home at Orlando. They have moved to Orlando from NJ few months ago and have a newborn. Had a nice chit chat and ate simple dal rice for dinner that tasted heavenly. Nothing can beat home food I say. We stayed at their home for the night.

2nd Jan – Started our sojourn back to home at 8am. We decided to drive as much as possible during daytime and then take a break if required. M drove most of the day, we had bagel/creamcheese/bread/fruit spread for breakfast and ice cold pasta/pizza for lunch (remember the leftover from pizza hut). Just took few short breaks whenever LHB was cranky and covered a very good distance by late evening. I learned to feed the kids lesser while in commute. I saw at least few breakdown vehicles and accidents en-route. It was scary. One honda odyssey was upside down and police was just off-loading the passengers from the upside down vehicle. By late evening, we were around 6 hours away from home and I didn’t feel like spending another night at the hotel. That will only extend our trip and make it hectic to prepare for the coming week. So, I tookover from M and drove the rest of the distance to home. We reached home sweet home at 2am and crashed on the bed.

Next day was Saturday and we saw daylight at 11am. The next two days was spent with washing, cleaning, cooking and preparing for the week ahead. And in no time, we were pulled into the boring aka routine life.

I don’t know if we will do a trip like this ever again and I have no clue what made us go on this crazy trip. But, after this trip I got a new respect for our car that brought us back home safe and sound. This will remain as one of the memorable family trip for many many reasons and I am glad that I was able to write the details down in this blog for posterity.

The End.

You all are freed now and thank you so much for reading this series 🙂

Please do email/comment here if you any questions on Cruise. I will try to help with my little experience.