Sunday, December 11, 2016

National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

I must resurrect this blog and briefly bring it out of retirement in order to announce the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year!

The Grand Prize Winner is none other than Greg Lecoeur for this photograph taken during the Sardine Run off Port St. John's. We were there with Greg when he took this photograph! So exciting!!! We counted on Greg to document our experience on the Sardine Run and he came through big time!

Viewing the photographs from the National Geographic contest was something we looked forward to every year during our stay in South Africa, whether it was in Pretoria or in Cape Town. I will miss seeing them in person this year.

Congratulations Greg! Now back to sleep in Singapore ...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Expedition 6-0

Greetings from Singapore! Besides being the auspicious Year of the Monkey - (I am a Monkey!) - 2016 is also the year I will turn 60. Yikes!

So in honor of this milestone birthday, I have decided to challenge myself. Before I turn the BIG SIX O in May, I will take part in an international expedition  to Antarctica, my sixth and last continent on Planet Earth to explore. (If you're keeping score, that will make it six-continents-visited to zero-left-to-visit ... or 6-0. )

I have chosen to travel to Antarctica with the 2041 Foundation's International Antarctic Expedition (IAE) 2016. IAE 2016 is a leadership expedition specifically focused on climate change and environmental sustainability. We have been challenged to create a call to action for future leaders to do everything they can to help maintain the pristine environment of Antarctica. I have partnered with Elite Academics Inc. (EAI) in Denver, Colorado and have created a new blog where I intend to post responses to questions created in advance by mostly high school students and compiled by EAI's Executive Tutor Jill Talley. My new blog name? Expedition 6-0.

And during the expedition, you can also follow IAE 2016 via our official expedition blog. It will be updated throughout the expedition along with an active map that shows our exact location. The blog and map will be live by 13 March 2016 and is available on the 2041 Foundation website. Don’t forget to use our hashtag, #icyclassroom on all social media outlets!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Somewhat settled in Singapore

It has been a little over a month since we moved into our new apartment in Singapore and we are finally (somewhat) settled.

I must admit it was tougher than I thought it would be moving straight into a completely unfurnished apartment ... especially with Lou & Serge being freshly sprung from their 30 days in quarantine. Mad dashes to IKEA for mattresses, furniture and basic kitchen utensils to get us started and to the hardware store for doggie-proofing supplies.

much more wiener dog friendly!
Doggie-proofing? What? Our apartment is on the 14th floor with balconies all around and we needed to reinforce the railing security to protect the dogs from falling. Serge could definitely fit between the bars. He probably wouldn't but I couldn't take that chance. We settled on some fine plastic meshing which will keep the doggies safe and won't obstruct the views.

We slept on a mattress on the floor and ate and sat on an IKEA bistro set for the first couple of weeks waiting for our hastily acquired furniture to be delivered, our newly purchased televisions to arrive, and our cable and WiFi to be activated.

It was very different from when we moved to South Africa in 2012. In Joburg, we rented a completely furnished ground floor apartment with a grassy garden for the dogs. And since Vince had moved into the apartment a full six months before I finally made my permanent migration, by the time I arrived he had the cable and WiFi already live. He had a car and was well acquainted with the local malls and markets. In retrospect, it was actually quite an easy transition for me.

an antique Chinese cabinet and Peranakan ceramic accesoriess

Yes, Vince had started working in Singapore last December again ahead of my moving here, but he spent most of that month outside of Singapore traveling around his new region before heading back to the USA for the last two weeks of December to celebrate the Christmas holiday with our family. Although we had rented the new apartment in November, we did not take possession of it until January 2, the day we both landed in Singapore. It was a rude awakening to reality.

an antique calligraphy desk we will use as a TV stand
At the same time as I am trying to make this new apartment into our cozy home, I am trying to be selective about the amount of furniture I am buying. We have a huge storage unit filled to the rafters with furniture waiting for us at home in the USA and now that we have adopted a minimalist lifestyle, we have embraced the  smaller footprint that goes along with it. I will find a place someday for the teak and Chinese antiques we are buying, but not the IKEA pieces. Luckily in a country where 30% of the population are expats, there is a strong aftermarket for IKEA furniture!

We shipped very little from South Africa to Singapore. Clothes, some kitchenware, office supplies and the Webers. All of our "Africa stuff" is on its way back to our US storage.

Our apartment is located along the East Coast of Singapore on Amber Road in the trendy Katong area. 11 Amber is one of the older high rises in the area and therefore has just one building and fewer apartments overall. Only 20 floors with two apartments per floor. (Some of the newer complexes have several buildings with 100s of individual apartments and are almost like small cities.)

The Chinese Swimming Club
11 Amber has a small gym and pool but we don't use them. We joined the venerable Chinese Swimming Club located a few steps away from the apartment almost as soon as we moved in. Between the main clubhouse and its additional recreation center across the street, the CSC offers two 50m Olympic size pools, another 25m lap pool, a water polo pool and and a recreation pool.

The Recreation Complex across the street
The club also houses a huge gym, a rooftop of tennis courts, a floor of badminton and squash courts, a billiards room, a bowling alley and table tennis center. There are several restaurants, a bar, a casino, a spa, a dance and music studio and many activity rooms and event spaces. Besides swimming every day, I am also learning to practice tai chi on Sundays.

Our location is ideal. Katong is very atmospheric and culturally rich. A short walk gets us to the expansive East Coast Park and beach, several shopping malls, tons of restaurants and bars along picturesque East Coast Road, hair salons, our new vet and doctors, two Catholic Churches and a wet market. Anything else we could want is just a quick cab or bus ride away.

Let's take a tour ...

entrance lobby for the apartment... please take off your shoes outside before entering!

Come on in! Morning sun streams in from the small entry balcony.

The main living space is long and narrow making it somewhat difficult to furnish. It serves as our entry foyer, living room, dining room and an outdoor balcony breakfast room.

Although it is small, the high ceilings, expansive sea views and bountiful light make it feel much larger.

The long hallway goes from the dining corner in the main living area to the master bedroom suite.

First, you pass the office on the right.

Next is the guest room.

And then finally at the end of the hallway, the master bedroom ...

... and en suite master bath (with tub!)

Back down the hall to the dining corner ...

Across from the office and guest room is the guest bathroom (with shower)

Other spaces include a maid's room, a laundry room, and a maid's bathroom all of which are off the kitchen. (Yes, we have a live-in helper ... mainly for the dogs.) There is also a tall fairly generous storage closet in the hallway for all our suitcases.

The main reason we chose this apartment was for the sea views from the windows and balconies. I can't get enough of them! Besides the expansive views, the glass doors and transom windows open allowing all the bountiful sea breezes to flow unobstructed into the apartment. We have hardly used our air conditioning! There are several small balconies and one very long balcony that runs the entire southern length of the apartment, all of which overlooks the greenery of East Coast Park, the ships in the Singapore Straits and the islands of Indonesia beyond.

The living room / dining room balcony.

Looking into the main living area from the balcony.

The kitchen and balcony or "yard"

There are beautiful sunsets over the sea from the kitchen yard balcony!

There is one long continuous balcony starting outside of the office ...

... running past the guest room ...

... all the way to outside the master bedroom
the views from the windows and balconies are like paintings!
that's the rooftop tennis courts of the Chinese Swimming Club on the left

This being Asia, the first thing we did - even before we arranged the furnishings - was to figure out the feng shui of the space. The idea is to arrange furniture and add elements to attract the good energy and discourage the bad energy.
Like I said, the apartment was completely unfurnished when we moved in. Not even a dish or a mop! We have purchased most of the big pieces of furniture already but we still need a few more pieces before we are completely done with the basics ... like some chairs and a table for the guest room balcony and a low antique Chinese dresser for the master bedroom here ...

And there is still lots of room left for decorating with all the arts and crafts we plan to acquire during our travels around Asia. Especially on the shelves here ...

And a perfect spot for a sculpture in this space here ...

And another one perhaps here ...

One thing is for sure. It is really hard to know whether you are making the right decision in those few jet-lagged days when you have to choose a place to live in a city you've never lived in before. But now that we are here, we are quite sure we made the right choice ... and that is a huge relief!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year 2016!

ice sculptures in Keystone, Colorado

Wishing family, friends and the world a year of peace, love, and happiness in 2016.

Vince and I will be celebrating New Year's Eve 2015 high up above in the sky somewhere between Tokyo and our new home, Singapore. Binge watching Season 6 of Downton Abbey and no doubt, drinking champagne. Ring in the new!

Here are some of my GWM posts on Ghosts of New Year's Eves Past ...

NYE 2014
NYE 2013
NYE 2012 and before

Friday, November 27, 2015

Au revoir South Africa!

It's been grand!
I will miss the weather (along with the good hair days it allows!); the parking guards; the wine; the divine butternut squash; the best calamari, mussels, and giant prawns I have ever tasted; the bush at your door; Amarula sundowners to go with magnificent African sunsets; meeting people with names like Beauty, Blessing and Lovemore; and of course, I will miss seeing my rhinos on safari.

But most of all I will miss these faces! Thank you for making our stay in South Africa so delightful.

Did not get to say goodbye in person to everyone I wanted to during our last few weeks. Thank you for all the calls and messages. Adieu et au revoir!

Christmastime is here!

Literally stuffed like one of the three turkeys we served at last night's Friendsgiving feast, I am jetting off to the USA tonight until early January.

Looking forward to my first white Christmas in years with both our sons and lots and lots of family and friends; decorating real pine and spruce Christmas trees; skiing on real snow in Colorado; ice-skating outdoors (!); drinking hot gluhwein and cocoa because Jack Frost is nipping at your nose; being dazzled by the Christmas decorations in New York, Philadelphia, Denver, KC and San Fran (Nobody does Christmas like NYC though. No. Bo. Dy.); and reuniting with my jewelry in storage!

Visions of rutabaga, jicama, & Cheese Danish dancing in my head. Tidings of comfort and joy. Comfort and joy. It is going to be the best Christmas ever!

God bless us, everyone.

ice sculptures in the windows at Barney's

gingerbread at Lord & Taylor's
The Met’s Christmas tree and Neapolitan Baroque crèche
KC's Crown Center Plaza

Next stop ... Singapore

Dubai layover on the way to JFK
With a month+ stopover in the USA first ...

packing and moving day @ Valley Lodge; stuff to go to our apartment in Singapore & storage in the USA

safe flight to Singapore, Lou & Serge!