Thursday, 20 April 2017

Easter Basket Hunt 2017

Video of our annual Plothow Easter Basket Hunt. The Easter Bunny hides the kid's baskets, and on Easter morning the kids have to find them. We help them by telling them if they are getting warm or cold. Each year it gets better because we can be more creative of where to hide them, and the kids are getting better at finding them. Enjoy the video and more about our Easter to come. It was the most Christ centered Easter we have ever had, which probably sounds funny since this whole post I have been talking about the Easter Bunny. Happy Easter!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Ben and Jerry's Free Cone Day

Free cone day is up there with my favorite days of the year. If you know me I am a HUGE Ben and Jerry's fan. Huge! I love their ice cream. When a new flavor comes out I know (because I follow them on facebook, ha!) and we pretty much go out and get it within the month it comes out.

 Our last year we lived in NYC, we were two blocks over from the only Ben and Jerry's scoop shop in NYC. They sold pints in the store as well, for a better deal than we could get else where. We bought a lot of ice cream from them. And the scoop shop would have all the new of limited edition flavors, so we got to try lots of them. I am proud to say that I tried Jimmy Fallon's much anticipated "The Tonight Dough" like the day it came out. Ben and Jerry's it is my favorite. 

So now you know I am obsessed with this stuff. 

I have three additions to my list of why I love Singapore, and they are three Ben and Jerry's scoop shops, I am proud to say I have visited all three. The one at Dempsey Hill opened up last spring and have free scoops that day, and we totally went. When there is free Ben and Jerry's I am there. I get really excited about it, and make sure to tell all my friends where ever I am living to make it down there and get some ice cream, especially here in SG. One pint at the grocery store is $13 SGD. And we have lived here long enough that when it goes on sale 3 for $27 SGD we buy it. Sometimes when it is only 2 for $21 SGD. Then there are times where I just need a pint and we pay full price. It is worth it every time. 

Okay, so free scoop day was April 4th, 2017 at all three scoop shops on the island, I looked it up to make sure. I planned on for sure hitting the one at Sommerset up. Easiest one for us to get to, and then from there it was easy to get to the on at Vivo City. And that worked out perfect because there is an amazing play ground and splash pad (with trampolines) for the kiddos to play at. I have to always plan outings around play grounds/places. It saves everyone's sanity. If I was ambitious I was also going to go to Dempsey Hill, which is a lot harder to get to, I would have to take a cab there, which is why I scratched that one off the list. And the best feature of free cone day besides the ice cream is that here in Singapore if you have small children, then they let you cut to the front of the queue. No waiting! Which is incredible, because the waiting time can get outrageous, even for B&J ice cream (I type reluctantly). 

 We had a great day getting our two free cones. I restrained myself and only got one. The kids got two a piece and ate them all. Rapha downed his first one. I was thinking maybe I would get to finish it off, but no. He loves milk, so no brainer that he would love ice cream too. Cosette was so cute and had her orders planned out. Her first cones was vanilla, and second chocolate chip cookie dough. Henry picked out cone sweet cone for his fist cone, and the second he wanted chocolate. Rapha just got what was given to him, sweet cream and cookies, and then New York Super Fudge Chunk. I did get to help him with the second one a bit. The kids participated in some games you could do for prizes, and took lots of pictures with the ice cream cone props. It was really fun. One of those mom days I will smile about for a long time. So glad we had the splash pad at Vivo City to rinse off in after the second cone. The boys were covered in chocolate. Henry was sitting in his swim suit poking his belly and saying "I have a chocolate belly". I love him to pieces. 

He was happy.

Sometimes this is as good as it gets. 

He ate that all by himself!

Love having summer every day.

The chocolate belly!

Ben and Jerry's have free cone day every year to help promote climate change. I did not talk about it with the kids because we were like ice cream, but it brings up a time to talk to them about some global issues and use my political science degree to teach them a bit. Their ice cream was melting really fast, so I could have just said something like our ice cream is melting really fast because it is really hot here and in some cold places it is getting warmer when it shouldn't.... maybe something like that? Anyway, something to keep in mind other than just the getting our free ice cream. 

Thank you Ben and Jerry's for free cone day every year! 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Road to Jaipur

This day was by far our longest day of the trip. We started before the sun was even up to see the Taj Mahal. After that we packed up and headed to Jaipur. 

Our first stop was Akbar's Palace, Fatehpur Sikri. It was the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571-1585. It was built as a walled in city, so not just a palace. Once Akbar "retired" he moved the Mughal capital to his city to honor the Sufi saint, Salim Chisti. 

The city palace is beautiful. Raj dropped us off at the bottom of the hill to it and we met our new tour guide. We then had to hop on a bus that took us to the city palace. I feel really bad that I cannot remember our tour guide's name. He talked super fast and his English was hard to understand. He was nice though. He kept having us pose for pictures. Again, I felt like we were getting our engagement photos done again. 

 The tomb of the Sufi saint was lovely. Done in white marble, with the lattice windows. I am so in love with the lattice windows. We both had to cover our heads. I just wore my scarf, and they gave Lyndon this tiny plastic hat that didn't even cover his hair. It just sat on top of his head. People will buy these scarves, flowers, and string to place inside the tomb. The string they would tie on the wall. You don't have to do that. We opted out of that but were still able to go in and check it out. 

Right as we walked out, there was a huge group of people looking in and taking pictures. Turns out that a really famous Bollywood star had just entered into the tomb. Yeah, I saw him, but just didn't say anything. Just kidding, I have no idea who is big in the Bollywood world. Something to add to my Singapore bucket list.

 We bid adieu to our fast speaking tour guide, hopped back in the van and fell asleep. Just call us narcolepsy couple. Raj woke us up with a surprise stop to see Chand Baori Step Well, a 1,200 year old hindu temple in Rajasthan. It was really cool, and off the beaten track. Not many tourists there at all. This temple was really interesting because the temple was built in like this big hole that had steps going all the way down from ground level to where a pool of water was. Really really cool. The green parrots were flying around and we had a really amazing experience thanks to Raj. We like to squeeze in a few off the beaten track things into our travel itineraries, so this was perfect.  

On the road again, Raj told us to look for a camel caravan. And a couple minutes later there were like fifty camels of all ages and sizes right next to our van. So cool. Then we, narcolepsy couple, fell back asleep and woke up as we were pulling into Jaipur, the pink city. 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Taj Mahal

The story of the Taj Mahal is seriously the greatest love story out there. Once you hear it, you gain a greater appreciation for this building, and you want to tell everyone about it. At least I do.

The story according to our tour guide is this:  Shah Jahan was the Mughal emperor at the time. He was off to war and had brought his favorite wife Mumtaz Muhal,who was pregnant with their 14th child. She had the child while they were away at war, and shortly after the child was born she died. Before she died, Shah Jahan asked her what her last wishes were. She told him to be a good father to their children, and that he must promise her that he would never marry again. He then said that she had asked nothing for herself, and what last wish would she like for herself? She told him to build something that would show the world how much he loved her. That is how the Taj Mahal came into existence. GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER! It gets even better.

The building of the Taj Mahal started nine months after Mumtaz Muhal died. It is a mausoleum that he built just for her to be placed for all eternity. The Mughal buildings are all symmetrical, so her tomb is placed in the exact center of the Taj Mahal.

Later on in his life Shah Jahan was imprisoned for crimes he committed to become emperor. His one request was that he would be able to see the Taj Mahal from his prison, so that he could look at his wife everyday. He was imprisoned at Agra fort (post here), with a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal and his beloved Mumtaz Muhal. After his death his tomb was placed on the left side of his beloved. And that is where they remain together to this day.

Seriously, the most beautiful love story I have ever heard. I am so sad that I had never heard the story till I actually visited the Taj. I never even knew what it really was and why it was so significant (I'm so ignorant). After hearing all the history behind it, I am completely smitten with the Taj. It was not even my favorite thing we did not the trip, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the Taj Mahal just because of it's history.

Entrance gate we took to the Taj Mahal. 

 Our story with the Taj Mahal started at 5:30am. Not my ideal time to get up and go sightseeing, but the Taj was worth it. Our tour guide sold it to us by telling us we would go and see the sun rise over it. We could not pass that up. The reality is that it gets really crowded and hot as the day goes on. To avoid those things, you go early with the added bonus of seeing the sunrise.

When it opened Nitten had us literally running to the mausoleum. All the other tourists were stopping and taking photos, and he told us that we could do that after. I am so grateful for him making us run there, because we had the mausoleum to ourselves. There was only one other couple in the whole building, and we had a private private tour. Plus, Nitten had one of the security do a prayer chant to demonstrate the acoustics. Then Lyndon did his "Holy to the Father" chant from Cambridge that he does everywhere there are good acoustics.

 During our private tour of the Taj, Nitten explained to us that the Taj is made from white marble and all the decorations are inlaid stones. It looks like paint, but it is precious stones that have been placed into carvings made into the white marble. To make one of the flowers takes 64 precious stones. Agra is very well known for this traditional craft and we got to see how it was done later in the day. The stones I can remember off the top of my head  are black onyx, lapis-lazuli, agate, tiger eye, jade, turquoise. The most beautiful one of them all was cornelian. The stone is translucent, so when a light is held up to it, it glows. It was beautiful and something I will never forget. 

Yamuna River at sunrise. 

Nitten had us do this pose. I felt like we were getting our engagement photos done again the way he had us pose.

 The grounds are absolutely amazing, and they are not even as grand as they were in their day. This was our first time seeing the parrots fly around. That was cool. The gardens are perfectly manicured in the Mughal style. Once there were fruit trees in the gardens, now there are just the dahlia flowers. Still gorgeous. 

As travelers we have to keep in mind the nature of the culture and sites we are visiting. The Taj Mahal is a holy place for people in India. It is where their rulers are buried. They go there to sightsee, but there is also a mosque on the grounds, which is why the Taj Mahal is closed on Friday as it is the muslim day of worship. With that being said, Nitten did have us take some "funny" pictures like this one. But there were some other visitors taking pictures where it looked like they were stepping on top of the Taj, and Nitten asked them to not do that because of the religious significance of this site.  

After we got home, one of my friends from India was telling me that the Taj changes color depending on the time of day you go. At sunrise it is a pinkish hue, midday it is the pure white, sunset it is an exotic orange, and during the full moon (which apparently is the best time to see it) it is blue. 

Later that day, we visited a place where they polish the semi-precious stone, and the the marble inlay work. Such stunning pieces. This was one of my favorites I saw. 

 The Taj Mahal has my hopeless romantic heart. It is the most romantic place on Earth. The best part was just sitting there taking it all in, and talking with my honey. 
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