Thursday, December 25, 2008


Along the way in Singapore I have deluded myself into thinking that the prices I pay for imported items aren't THAT much more than what I would pay here. Oh how great is my self-deception.

I'd think things like, "Hmm . . . Pop Tarts for S$5. Those are what - $3 in the US? Maybe $2.50. That's about right." Pop Tarts are $1. That means about three times more. Fortunately I've decided Pop Tarts don't make the healthy cut in our house and we don't buy them.

Cranberries! Once a year in Singapore I spring for a bag of cranberries. They're usually about S$8. But they're probably expensive in the States because who but the people in New England grows cranberries? Apparently enough to make the US$1.49 at Walmart. Oy.

Oh, and dark chocolate Hersey kisses, my biggest vice in Singapore. They are S$6.95 at Mustafa. They were on sale the other day here 2/$4. Think of how many more bags of chocolate I could have bought by now! Is this not tragic?!?

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The up side of this dilemma is that it makes me more willing to spring for something better here. Sure, the yogurt I bought yesterday was one of the more expensive ones, but it was a bargain compared to what it is in Singapore. I'll enjoy it while I'm here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back in the Saddle

When we woke up yesterday morning we'd had four inches or so of new snow overnight, and the snow machines had worked overtime so there was about a foot of fresh powder. I decided I couldn't let that hill lick me. Well, at least I couldn't let hills in general lick me. I could let Sterling lick me. This time.

We dropped the kids off in ski camp again and Erik, his aunt Barb, and I headed up Lower Morse. I like calling it Lower Morse because otherwise I'd have to call it the bunny hill which sounds wimpy. So we headed up Lower Morse and slowly made our way down. I've never skied in that much powder before (I've skied a total of about 10 days in my life so I don't have much to draw from) and it was both fun and more challenging. It felt a bit like going over the wake when you water ski - not sure how it will affect you. The first run down was tough because I was concentrating hard on not going too fast, which meant my legs were dying by the bottom. We did about 5 or 6 runs before I said I'd had enough, but by the end I felt my confidence coming back and was actually starting to enjoy it. As much as someone who really isn't a fan of downhill skiing can enjoy it.

Aside from blistery winds, it was a decent morning. At one point we went straight for the main lodge instead of left toward the chair lift. I came to a point where the snow was untouched and about two feet deep, right next to the snow machine. I'm not sure what happened but my assessment is that I lost power and got blown over by the snow machine while I was at a dead stop. I managed to look like an idiot by myself this time, as I tried in vain to push myself back to standing (my arm went all the way into the snow up to my armpit).

My knee still feels weird if I straighten my leg completely but I'm thankful I was able to get back up and not come away with a renewed injury. We'd back on level ground in Minnesota again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Morning After (and the day too)

I awoke this morning to light rain and a bum knee. Just as well - it meant my family couldn't go off and have fun without me. Instead they would have to stay and have fun with me, on level ground. I've forgotten how weather can be so variable in the U.S. Saturday it was about 10 degrees and clear skies. Yesterday it was 30 degrees and cloudy. Today it got up near 50 degrees and drizzled a great deal of the snow away. Tomorrow's forecast: 25 degrees.

In light of rain and limping people, we went to the Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory and got a tour, which of course ended with a sample of what they were making today: Mint Chocolate Chunk. Good stuff. It's been so very long since I've had really good ice cream. Asia just doesn't do dairy. Did you know Ben and Jerry's employees get 3 free pints of ice cream a DAY? I thought that was just the stuff of legends.

After the ice cream tour, we went to a glass shop and watched two men blow and shape glass into beautiful, ridiculously expensive pieces. I kept thinking, "I wish I had a specialized skill like that." But I couldn't think of anything I'd really want to devote my life to learning, so I guess I'll just get over it.

Then into Burlington for lunch and a quick walk down Church Street, which is a pedestrian shopping street, and back home in the rain. The sun going down between 4-5 means we always have this feeling like, "Shouldn't we be sleeping by now? Why haven't we eaten yet? Something's wrong."

Tomorrow it's back to the slopes. There's a chance of snow tonight that will hopefully make everything pretty again, and the hills will be groomed and ready for everyone but me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ski Catastrophe

Here's what you need to do right now - go to Youtube and find the most spectacular ski wipeout possible. Preferably it should be one on a medium slope, and the skiier should be on your left, gaining speed in a uncontrolled way. He (or she) should trip to the right, get the right leg trapped underneath his (or her) body, slide across the hill to your right, maybe flipping once or twice, and glide to a stop several feet before plunging over the edge of the mountain to his (or her) death. Oh, and all the while you should hear a strange "I'm out of control!" kind of scream coming from that person. Did you find it? No? Oh, maybe that's because no one on top of Sterling at Smuggler's Notch, Vermont, had their camera going this morning. If they had, they would have caught that exact scenario, starring me.

Thankfully I was in the best of hands - the president and the public relations director of the resort (read: excellent skiers) were right behind me, as was my former ski patrol husband. While small children swooped past me, chuckling under their breath, my family untangled me and helped me down to an easier place, from which I could navigate the rest of the way down. It wasn't pleasant, as I had to strike a balance between staying in control and not putting too much pressure on my knee. But I made it without incident.

Where did I go wrong? Well, I should have insisted on listening to the voice inside me that said, "I need to start at the bunny hill again." But I didn't, and the rest of my party was confident that I could join them on the bigger slopes. That confidence is now shattered, at least until I've refreshed myself on an easier hill.

But there will be no more hills today. Not sure if there will be tomorrow either, as my knee is officially tweaked. I thought it might be broken at first but the ski patrol said I'm good. But there's plenty to do at Smugg's that doesn't involve embarassing falls. If not for Erik, I would never attempt to downhill ski anyway. I much prefer cross country or snow shoeing. Anything with less potential for speed and injury.

The kids on the other hand will be surpassing me in skill within the next 24 hours. We caught up with them at lunch where they informed me that their ski instructor, Eric, would be taking them up the hill after lunch because they are now "experts." If only I could have started so young, I might have avoided today's debacle.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What to do with snow

When it started snowing and turned cold here, I mentally panicked a bit and thought I might end up spending the rest of our time inside. How could I go outside when it was so cold?! But the arrival of several inches of snow, and the possibility of cute "kids in the snow" pictures drew me out with the kids, Erik, and my brother this morning. Turns out it's really not all that cold. You just have to dress for it (which I am now able to do again thanks to Old Navy).

We tromped down to a hill by my parent's house that was blanketed with untouched snow about 6 inches deep. We brought four sleds and a shovel (shovels actually make decent sleds). After I'd taken a few pictures and returned the camera to the house, I joined in on doing what we did when we were kids. It all comes back to you - when faced with chilly temps and loads of the white stuff, you keep warm by configuring the snow into various play devices. In our case, we built jumps for sledding.

After building what we thought was a great jump, we sent Christopher and Ethan down for the inaugural run. We think the weight of the two of them together somewhat destroyed the jump, but that's part of the fun - you rebuild better. After a few runs, it had had enough but not before watching various family members launch themselves over it.

At that point I'd had enough, but it was a fun trip down memory lane. Forts, people, tracks, angels, jumps - there's no limit to what kids will make from snow. And it looks like we have enough of it to try every one.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Magic Kingdom

My first trip to Disney World was when I was six, so it seems fitting that Megan's first trip would be at the same age. I think six and up is the perfect time to take kids to Disney. Our kids were wired with excitement as we parked, took the tram to the "transportation center," hopped on the monorail, and entered the Magic Kingdom.

We thought it might be better to hop on the train to the back side of Disney and make our way forward to avoid crowds. Turns out the train's pretty slow, so I don't think we beat anyone, but it was a fun ride nonetheless. The first ride we hit was Goofy's Barnstormer, which is a mini-roller coaster. Ethan and I went together with Megan, Nonna and Erik soon to follow. Ethan laughed the whole way, and we had barely slowed down when he exclaimed, "Let's do it again!" I think he might have been happy just staying there the whole day. But we moved on.

I have some strong memories from my first trip which kept cropping up as we moved through the park - the Mad Tea Hatter's Ride which, as it turns out, is more fun when you're six; Snow White's Scary Adventures, which we avoided after we scared the pants off Megan in the Haunted Mansion; Pirates of the Carribean, where you can tell which animatronic people were created more recently than 1980; and the Jungle Boat Cruise, which was on a much larger river when I was 4 feet tall. Or so I remember. It was fun to relive my own memories while watching the kids make their own. And thank God for fast passes, though this time of year isn't a busy time at Disney. We hardly had any wait time for any rides.

The only part of the day I really didn't enjoy was Space Mountain. I know - it's one of the best rides, and it was Megan's favorite. But having my petite six year old, who barely made the height requirement, be flung back and forth in her seat in front of me in almost total darkness terrified me. Especially since by that point of the day she was all into the "raise your arms like this, it's more fun!" kind of coaster riding. I reached as far around the seat as I could and clung to the hood of her sweatshirt, like that would help if she launched from the car. I know, irrational of me, but I couldn't help it.

What surprised me about Disney was the amount of crying I observed. There's no crying at Disney World! C'mon - it's a magical place where dreams come true! Can I offer an explanation and perhaps a warning? The children who were crying were the little ones - the ones who were scared of the rides and the giant characters, tired from missing naps, and from being dragged around a huge amusement park. They're just too young. Save your money. They won't remember it anyway. Unless you know that your kids are troopers who love new experiences, take them to the county fair until they're old enough to appreciate it.

Wait until they're five or six, then have a great day with them, like we did.