Balloon Heart

Late last night, K and I had a long talk about expectations. I felt so tired going through touchy topics and treading on thin ice with my words. I felt my heart deflate whenever we disagreed. At the end of discussion, what was left of my heart was a flaccid piece, holding nothing.

Then morning came, like a fresh sheet of paper waiting to be written on. I checked my phone – it is the seventh today. How many months has it been? Eighty! We have been together eighty whole months. We have been through tougher times than this. We have proved our resilience time and time again. Surely it isn’t going to change now?

And so, my heart inflates again. It swells with pride, love, and confidence that we would pull through as one, stronger and better than ever.

Because we always have.

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Valentine’s

It’s Valentine’s Day and K showed up unexpectedly at my dispensary, presenting me with a bouquet of red roses and an embarrassed grin. I can’t remember the last time he did something like this. He certainly caught me off-guard.

It has been hard finding time for each other these days. We are almost always together physically, but I must admit – it hasn’t been easy connecting with each other, especially with a baby around. Don’t get me wrong – Le is a wonderful darling. But this piece of writing is about us, not about him. Some days, I really just want the day to be about us, and not about him.

There are so many things going on in our lives right now, and our minds has been filled to the brim. There is always something to be done from day till night; dishes to be washed, clothes to be hung, plants to be watered, bed to be made, Le to be entertained. By the time the home is (sufficiently) clean and Le is sound asleep, our lids are heavy, our bones ache, and our brains are screaming in overdrive. We settle ourselves on the couch together (if we are lucky Le does not wake soon after we put him in bed), lemming for a (couple of) beer and some silence to catch our breath amidst this crazy non-stop schedule. Even the sound of television can be overwhelming at this point.

Just.

Stop.

I remember myself thinking.

Stop and breathe. Stop and take a good look at each other. Stop and talk. Stop and connect. Stop and give a genuine compliment.

I miss our drunk, intimate nights out, when we had a drop too much and we did silly things like buy another bottle of wine and sit outside a closed cafe to continue our conversation. We could talk and talk and talk. The topics were endless. We never wanted the night to end then.

These days, I find myself wishing for the night to end, so that I can crawl into bed and shut myself off from everything. Just me, K, and Le under the sheets; nothing else. These days, we enjoy each other’s company in a different way. In a quiet way.

So, for all of the above, I appreciate K for his efforts, even though I found it odd that he picked out a bouquet of such dated colours (red roses wrapped in indigo paper. I’m sorry but he usually has remarkable taste). I appreciate him for keeping me in mind, and for going the extra mile (quite literally) to hand-deliver me the bouquet. We had KFC that evening. After our meal, we were deciding between going home to our son, or catching up on the Lunar New Year shopping (before all shops close for the holidays). We picked the latter. We also held hands and shared many kisses.

We are both exhausted parents, struggling to spend some quality time together. Date nights take on a new form. Simplicity does it. And with that, I am very grateful.

Bedtime

It is impossible to creep into bed silently; the creaks would never go past Le’s young ears unnoticed. Are babies’ senses of hearing all so sharp?

At midnight, as I prepare myself for bed, Le starts to rouse from his sleep. He grunts and begins to turn his head from side to side furiously, in search of something to suckle on. When he realizes there are none, his soft whining grows into loud cries.

I sigh and got out of the bed that hasn’t even warmed to my body. Has it only been twenty weeks with this lil’ milk monster? I can’t remember a time before he exists anymore. How does a full night’s sleep even feel like?

I lie down next to Le and pretend to ignore him. He responds by flailing his tiny arms and turning his tiny body to face me. “Hi,” I greet him. He flashes his megawatt smile. “Why are you not sleeping?” I speak in a hushed tone.

Le’s impatience is second to none, a trait I constantly mock his daddy for. Within seconds, a sulk takes over his smile and crying ensues again.

“Okay, okay…” I give in and lift my shirt to reveal my glorious boob, well, at least to him. The lil’ milk monster attacks it with immaculate precision immediately.

I stroke his tiny face and kiss his tiny head. “Good night my milk monster,” I whisper, before drifting off to my sleep.

 

Ice, Fire, & the Moon

K and I set out on our honeymoon on a whim. We had not had the time to plan out a detailed itinerary in view of our wedding, but decided to go ahead with one a month later. We booked last minute everything (flights, trains, lodgings, etc) and flew off to our dream destination—Iceland.

Touching down in Iceland was a triumph in itself. Because of our lack of preparation (and hence not many flights left), we had to take a connecting bus in London from the Heathrow airport to the Gatwick airport before we could board our flight to Iceland. We ended up travelling for a full day before we finally reached Iceland.

We rented our 4×4 car from Hertz. There are some F-roads in Iceland that can only be accessed using a 4×4 car; the terrains are rockier, and at times there are even rivers and snow involved. It’s always an adventure in Iceland! 😉

We spent twelve days in Iceland in total, doing the famous ring route in the anti-clockwise direction, and ventured out to the west fjords and west coast for a bit towards the end. It was summertime when we went and in summer, the sun does not set in Iceland. They call it the midnight sun phenomenon.We went in end-July so it was approaching the end of summer. The sun set at midnight and rose about four hours later everyday. It was a good time to visit Iceland because you get plenty of time on the road. Some days, we drove till midnight, and if not for the midnight sun, we would have been scared stiff by the winding roads in the dark. Plus, the sun sets for a very long time and for a very long while, your view is lit up in gold.

The downside is that you would definitely miss the Northern lights (which many associate Iceland with) because the sky never gets dark enough. That’s fine though. I assure you Iceland is so amazing that you would want to return again.

I tried my best to research about Iceland prior to going but it was quite hopeless. All the waterfalls looked the same to me and have names that I couldn’t pronounce for the life of me (I can now!). From the words, I couldn’t even tell if it was a town or site of attraction. Everything was just completely foreign. Needless to say, I gave up eventually (lol). I looked at the map and booked random accommodations along the ring road and in the west, without a care for the length of drive between them. Fortunately, it turned out to be manageable, but there is definitely room for improvement with regards to the places we stayed at. For instance, I set aside three days to explore the west fjords and the west coast (accommodation booked and confirmed beforehand). The roads turned out to be extremely long and winding so we gave some sites a miss in view of time constraint.

Everything started to make more sense when you are really in Iceland.You can finally distinguish between the names and put them to every sight. It’s not that hard! Every night, K and I would list the sites we would like to see the next day before we went to bed. Along the way, if we see any signs pointing to an attraction, we would detour and explore. That turned out to be a pretty good plan!

Also, it is essential to stock up on food and water before you hit the road, and have some extras on hand for those nights you didn’t manage to make it to the next town in time of dinner. K and I relied on cup noodles for two nights and went hungry on one night. I didn’t have it but I would highly recommend you to bring along a thermos flask so that you could have some hot water to make hot beverages or hot soup. There were so many times we stopped by an attraction and wished we had some hot food or drinks with us so that we may stay longer and enjoy the view. Imagine—eating a piping hot tom yam cup noodle at Jökulsárlón, the lake with floating icebergs. Oh my, that would have been perfect!

K and I are not light packers, me especially. I remember my bag being overweight for our trip to Maldives two years back. Maldives!! All you wear are bikinis, summer dresses, and flip flops. I don’t know how that happened.

It’s important to pack layers for Iceland because the weather is ever changing. On good clear days, the temperature is extremely comfortable and I could get by with a sweater and a pair of tights. The real challenge comes when night falls, when the wind blows, when it rains, or when you are near a waterfall that can splash, which is pretty much most of the time. No matter how I dress, I always end up wearing my windproof-waterproof jacket. They are a lifesaver. If you are someone who is concerned about taking photos in the same outfit everyday (like me), you might want to consider bringing two or more such jackets. The inner layers don’t matter that much since they are not seen most of the time. Bring the softest, warmest, and most comfortable pieces!

Reykjavik

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At the top of Hallgrímskirkja
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At the top of Hallgrímskirkja
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The famous hot dog buns from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
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Our first encounter with the midnight sun
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Hallgrímskirkja’s architecture was inspired by the nature’s basalt columns

The Golden Circle

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Standing next to Silfra, a rift between the North American and Eurasian techtonic plates
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The waters was so clear you could see the vivid colours of the rocks on the bed
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Geothermal area near Strokkur
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Waiting eagerly for the eruption of the geyser, Strokkur
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Another geyser that does not erupt as frequently as Strokkur
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Gullfoss is the largest waterfall in Iceland
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Next to Gullfoss
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One of the most iconic waterfalls in Iceland – Skógafoss
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Walking further up the trail at Skógafoss brings you to yet another breathtaking landscape
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Kerið, a volcanic crater lake
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You can find langostine soup in almost every menu

Vík

We stayed at Grand Guesthouse Gardakot and it was the most amazing experience. The host was unbelievably warm and thoughtful, baking and delivering fresh cakes to the common living area. For breakfast, we had the most sumptuous spread of fresh bread and pancakes made upon request. I highly recommend staying here.

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Black sand on the Reynisfjara beach
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Scaling the basalt columns by the Reynisfjara beach
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Views along our snowmobiling route on Mýrdalsjökull
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The end of our snowmobiling adventure
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Wild sheep are aplenty
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Climbing the rocks at Dyrhólaey
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Enjoying the panoromic view and sea breeze at Dyrhólaey
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One of the many Artic terns returning from the sea to feed their young
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Artic terns with their piercing screeches
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Wild horses along the road

Höfn

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Höfn houses one of the best langoustines restaurant as it is located right next to the harbour where the langoustines are caught
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Conquering Iceland together, one waterfall at a time
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A quiet fishing village along the way
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Jökulsárlón being extremely peaceful on a foggy night
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Greeted by another amazing midnight sun while walking back to our accomodation from dinner

We had dinner at Guesthouse Egilsstaðir. It was the best meal we had in the entire trip. I highly recommend ordering the fish dishes. It’s extremely fresh. You can end your meal by having beers on the balcony if you don’t mind the cold. I love that they provide fleece blankets at no additional charge.

The Mývatn region

After much deliberation, we decided to give the Mývatn lake a miss because we were afraid of midges, which is abundent at that time of the year.

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Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe
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Endless lupine fields
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Leirhnjúkur is the first stop of the hiking trail at Krafla
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Exploring the mysterious lava fields
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This area is called Eldhús Djöfulsins by the locals, which translates to Devil’s Kitchen, because of its boiling mud pools and pungent sulfur fumes
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The Icelandic moss covers wide areas of land
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The rich mineral content in the Mývatn Nature Bath is said to be good for the skin

Akureyri

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Caught sight of a humpback whale
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Trolls are featured heavily in Icelandic tales
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A picnic point by the lake
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RUB23 is a restaurant famous for its novel sushi pizza

The West Fjords

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Spotted more Icelandic horses
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Dried fish is an Icelandic tradition
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Seals sunbathing lazily on rocks
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Random waterfall on the roadside
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More Artic terns guarding their territory
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Getting upclose with Dynjandi (my version)
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Getting upclose with Dynjandi (K’s version)
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Cotton flowers in the wind
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The drive along the west fjords was the most scenic one that we’ve had
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You can get very close to the Puffins at the Látrabjarg cliff
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Driving during the golden hour
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Soaking in a natural hot pool while watching the sun set at midnight
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The calm waters reflecting the pastel sky just beside the hot pool

The west coast

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Snowy grounds at Snæfellsnes
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Roaming around Snæfellsjökull
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Kirkjufell looks like a wizard’s hat
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Kirkjufellfoss is located just beside Kirkjufell
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Following a stream into the mountain crack
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A classic Icelandic view
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A bright orange lighthouse in Stykkishólmur
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Galloping horses led by its owner
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Enjoying a cup of Pinot Noir under the midnight sun

 

Iceland had been the perfect destination for our honeymoon. We had the most incredible time just connecting with nature and with each other. It was certainly the most liberating trip I have ever taken.

I hope my post has inspired you to pack your bags and just go to Iceland. Just go, explore the country, get lost in F-roads, get drenched because no rain is going to stop you from having the time of your life.

x HY

two-oh-one-six

2016 has been a crazy year so far. Being engaged, I spent the first half of the year preparing for the big day, which of course was a roaring success (it was to be in any case). Then, K and I, together with our bunch of mountaineer friends, conquered Mt. Kinabalu, a mountain that was on our list even before Rinjani.

Before we know it, K and I jetted off to our honeymoon, to our dream destination—Iceland. That was a whole lot of fun, just the two of us! We saw clocked more than three thousand kilometres on the road, experienced countless waterfalls (walked behind a waterfall, stood just beside the most powerful waterfall in Europe, walked into a crack in a mountain to find another waterfall—so magical by the way!), explored lava fields on a volcanoes, caught sight of a humpback whale in the fjords, spied on seals sunbathing on rocks in midday, admired puffins in their natural habitat at arm’s length, ate the freshest langoustines and fish, discovered we love this traditional icelandic dish called Plokkfiskur (we even attempted to make it the day we returned to Singapore), drove through snow but got stuck (some locals spotted us and came to our rescue), braved the sporadic freezing rain, soaked in natural geothermal pools under the midnight sun, visited the local baths, had a mini picnic by the lake (where a monster is said to reside), snowmobiled on a glacier (it was drizzling and it was so foggy our view was basically an expanse of white), fed and pat the local horses, saw a glacier lagoon with chunks of floating icebergs, and so much more. It felt incredible feeling so small, yet so big at the same time. It was exhilarating.

It has been a truly amazing and rewarding year so far. Just three more months to the end of 2016. Gotta make it count! ^^

x

Nails By #JeanYipSG 

I have always been quite a nail junkie. Whenever asked to name an unusual fact about myself, I would point out that my nails NEVER go unpainted.

It started from my JC days. Because nail painting has always provided such therapeutic pleasure to me, I love to indulge in this activity the night before major papers. Once, I went all out and embellished my nails with rhinestones and nail art. I did particularly well that semester.

Since then, I made it a point to always do my nails before examinations (lol), including my A levels. That habit stuck and I never went a day without perfectly polished nails after I graduated, through university and till today.

Manicures are a huge part of my life. I hate the feeling of bare nails and I have a relish for shiny surfaces (which is why I am anti-matte nails). At the end of a tiring day, if I feel really lousy and unaccomplished, staring at my perfectly primmed nails really perks me up! I find manicured nails also a reflection of how well one takes care of themselves. Despite hectic schedules, I will definitely find some time to set aside for to pamper myself.

For the past six months, I have been treated to monthly manicure sessions with Jean Yip.

I do think I am pretty good at painting my nails and keeping within the lines (credits to numerous coloring books when I was a toddler), so when it comes to nail salons, I decided to put the manicurists to test!

For the first month, I requested for design with beachy vibes because I was flying to Bali the following week. I requested for the bottom to be clear so that when the nails grow out, it would not look too unkempt.

It was the first in a long time that I had nail art again so that took some getting used to.

I decided to opt for something darker for the second month. I did not have any ideas in mind that day so it was pretty much free play for the manicurist. She suggested a multi-coloured foil effect over a black base and silver trimmings on the accent nail. I love how badass it looked!

For the third month, I was feeling pretty adventurous and wanted something more elaborated. I browsed through pages and pages of Pinterest and saw this beautiful set of turquoise nails. Move over, marbled nails. This one is girlier yet retains the edgy vibe. I remember my manicurist thinking long and hard over this design. She commented that she had not tried doing this before but after much deliberation, she gamely took on the challenge. I also remember how she would paint on the design, only to wipe it off because she wasn’t satisfied with the look. You can never go wrong when working with a perfectionist! This is my favorite set of nails by far.

Then came the fourth month. Initially, I had wanted to give the manicurist a break after the last challenge (which she passed with such flying colours!!), so I asked for a simpler set of nails. I chose the colours myself and quite evidently ended up being indecisive surrounded by the large variety of shades available. Still, the manicurist suggested to put some studs to complete the look, to which I agreed.

Love the hand-drawn tribal print on the accent nail!

For my fifth month, I was newly engaged (hurray!!!!)! I was pretty much in bride mode over the next few weeks so I asked for a set of nude nails with some bling (no rhinestones because they are a bitch to remove). I love some subtle this set is and it perfectly accentuated my newly engaged mood hehe.

Spot my sapphire ring! 😀

For my sixth and last month, I had a prewedding shoot scheduled in a cafe days after the manicure, so I wanted some simple but striking nails that can go with the ambience of the cafe. The base chosen was a nice rich berry shade with a fun twist of negative space in the form of a triangle at the bottom. Prior to the red, a layer of glitter polish was used so the triangle sparkles prettily under light. I love little details like this!

It has been such a joy working with Jean Yip and exploring various nail styles. Their manicurist are ever so meticulous and never fail to show passion in whatever they do. More often than not, the one doing my nails will be tasked with shop-closing duties as I usually arrive pretty late after work (ends at 7pm) and she would have to stay beyond the operating hours. 😦 I never once heard them complain or reject me, and they always seem to be all smiles and takes great care in painting my nails!

I once asked one of them whether she preferred doing simple or exaggerated designs. She laughed and replied,

“I like them all as long as they are pretty.”

I find this attitude so inspiring and encompasses the pride that she takes in all her work. (‘:

If you haven’t had manicures with Jean Yip before, you should! I have had my fair share of disappointing experiences with some nail salons and Jean Yip really won me over with their friendly and candid service. It is going to be the Chinese New Year period and I am sure they will be swarmed with appointments so do book early!

Address:
Plaza Singapura (Hub)
#04-02

Tel:
6332 9913