Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

Gosh. It’s been raining since we landed and we woke up to a gloomy 2018.

We had spent the last day of 2017 unpacking, washing and clearing the boys’ wardrobes. We cleared out 4 bags of their old clothes, most of them too small for my elder son yet too big to fit his younger brother. I have been hoarding these clothes thinking that one day my younger one could fit. But most of the time, it never happens! I would forget about them and start buying new ones!

Perhaps the biggest word to sum up 2017 is Simplify.

Between my husband and I, I am the hoarder and he’s the thrower. He’s a minimalist and through him, I’ve seen what it’s like to live with the essentials. I witness that every time we travel.

From the things we pack to the itineraries we plan. He can travel with a bar of soap and 2 days worth of clothes, because according to him, you can always rewear or wash them! I am secretly glad the boys take after him and they would make fun of their Mom who needs a BAG of toiletries!

I am your typical tourist still learning to be a more adventurous traveller.

Our December last minute holiday in Australia was planned (or should I say unplanned since it was so last minute!) around simplicity. The main itinerary was to explore new hiking trails and get close to nature. We basically parked ourselves in one place for a few days and hiked. I actually felt relaxed, despite all the strenuous hikes. I got to contemplate between my wants and my needs. It was kind of liberating when you got that figured out.

We packed our books and a deck of poker cards. The boys finished all the books they brought and we played cards almost every night. I was so happy that they could actually live without their gadgets and electronic games!

While my elder boy was happy lounging around with a book, my younger one was always finding things to play. He was constantly on a look out for sticks. He collected those which were shaped like ‘guns’ and carry them everywhere we went so that he could shoot ‘enemies’

Then he found a long straight stick and spent many hours sharpening it with rocks. It was sharp enough that if you threw it like a javelin, it would stick into the ground !

At the glamping ground, he made a couple of friends and they would play till dusk.


They wandered off to the remote part of the lake and ‘spearfish’ with the spear he made.

He told me that there was no fish so they decided to see who can throw the furthest rocks. They surprised a flock of ducks swimming in the lake which flew off just before I snapped this picture.

This picture sort of round up 2017 and a reminder for me to strive towards simplicity for 2018.

“In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trips to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes. ” ~ Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting (one of my favourite parenting reads)

Here’s to a new year with less things and less clutter but more space for experiences and memories with the people we loved.

Happy New Year.
 
 

25

Biking With My 7 Year Old

We have been cycling quite a bit recently. During the school holiday, my 7 year old attempted the new Tenah Merah Coast Road. It was the first time for him, the furthest he has cycled.

I haven’t got the courage to bring him along on my own because the stretch of road is long, sunny and windy. It would be painful if I have to deal with a whinny kid who needs coaxing to pedal on.

But a last minute arrangement with some friends kind of got him all hyped up. Despite my effort to warn him that it wouldn’t be an easy ride, his enthusiasm didn’t falter. I think good company and good food at the half way point motivated him.

We followed his pace and took almost 3 hours to complete more than 40 km. He was like this little hamster spinning a wheel. It was amazing how his little muscles and lungs worked so well. So he officially did his first full marathon on his bike!

Then few days later, there was a flypast by the Singapore and Indonesia Air Force to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations. It was a rare chance to catch 25 fighter jets airborne and we wouldn’t want to miss it. Unfortunately, the Dad had to work and his brother had something on that day. We decided to head off on our own, just the 2 of us.

I had done my homework, it would be a 26km ride round trip and the new PCN would bring us all the way to one of the vantage points.

I was initially worried that my little guy couldn’t make it especially when his Dad and brother weren’t around to ‘entertain’ him. But the Tanah Merah ride a few days ago kind of boosted his confidence and mine too.

The morning came and it started to rain. The dark clouds started clearing up soon after but my weather app continued to show chances of shower. I was hesitant and worried of getting drench. My 7 year old was however optimistic and insisted that we should just stick to our plan.

It was cool and windy after the rain. He did complain about the headwind but was soon distracted by the sights along the way. The fallen leaves that lined the paths and and the flowers that dotted the trees. It was a pretty sight and I was glad he noticed them. Then there were the rain puddles which were perfect for splashing and making a mess of.

Food was always a great incentive for a long ride like this so we stopped at a cafeteria to gorge on our favourite food, Bolognese pasta for him and Penang Char Kway Teow for me.

We discovered a new cafe which was dressed like a garden with potted plants and hanging greenery. It was a soothing place to escape and relax with a cuppa and indulge in a slice their home baked cakes. We found out that the cafe has been there for a while now but strangely, we have never noticed it before.

I wonder what other things we’ve missed in our daily business when we rushed from here to there.

After having our tummies filled, we continued our ride. The sky started turning dark again and storm clouds loomed in the horizon. Since we still had some time to spare, I decided to make a short detour to show him a new water breaker that I have discovered a few days ago.

The place was deserted with only a few foreign workers in sight. They would be seen toiling under the hot sun, pruning and planting new saplings on normal days.

We took a short walk along the water breaker that seemed to stretch out to no man’s land. He found a stick to poke around and got curious over the air bubbles that filled puddles of water.

Apart from air bubbles, he found a rowing oar and a big piece of styrofoam which he initially thought of bringing home for craft. But a closer look showed that it was too filthy and it raised questions on how the trash got there. He decided to keep the stick and add it to the pile of ‘treasures’ he had amassed from all his outdoor adventures.

It started to drizzle and we decided to double our speed on our bikes before the rain got heavier. I couldn’t remember when was the last time we cycled in the rain but it was surprisingly fun and liberating! I was actually glad that the rain caught us by surprise because on a normal day we would never go cycling in the rain! It turned out to be such a refreshing ride.

When we finally reached the place to catch the flypast, there were already eager spectators all decked out with their umbrellas and cameras. Before long, 20 F16 jets zoomed by in the formation of 2 arrowheads and and they came around 20 minutes later in their 5-0 formation. The show ended with a finale bomb burst by the F15s. It was a great show but if you ask me, the highlight for that day wasn’t the flypast.

Our 3 hour adventure on our bikes left me feeling peaceful and relaxed. We had a simple afternoon where not much was planned and not much happened yet it was exactly what we needed.

It was a slow pace afternoon where we experienced the quiet, beauty and fascination of Nature. My little man’s innocent curiosity and vivid imagination reminds me of the beauty of simplicity.

The simple delights of being out in the fresh air where Nature is the best entertainer, stimulator and teacher all in one.

 

 

 

2

Learning Watercolour Painting

My husband and I finally fixed up some wall shelves on one of our empty walls during the school holiday. This is how the wall in our lounging area looks now.

A mini collection of my amateurish artwork and it is kind of satisfying to see them framed and displayed neatly. Part of the satisfaction comes from knowing that I am capable of learning something new at this age!

So a friend saw some of my watercolour paintings and was quick to recommend me to her painting teacher.

Leach is a very talented self taught artist who is also very passionate about teaching. She conducts painting classes at her home studio regularly and on demand. On top of that, she runs a beautiful website and regularly posts her work on her Instagram account.

I’ve attended a couple of art jamming sessions before and I’ve done some painting on my own by following YouTube videos. While it was fun mixing colours and filing up blank canvases with my limited ‘artistic instinct’, it wasn’t enough to provide me a good understanding of the fundamentals of watercolour painting.

I still felt overwhelmed when I walked into ArtFriend and I still couldn’t figure out what art materials to buy. I ended up buying the cheapest paint and paintbrushes I could find at Popular bookstore.

Well, there may be nothing wrong with using cheap art materials but it would be good to know what a 100 dollar paintbrush can do that a 10 one can’t. Leach was able to enlighten me on this.

Over the 4 sessions, apart from learning how water, paint and paper interact to produce the different effects, I learned about the importance of buying high-quality paints, brushes, and paper instead of buying cheap supplies.

Just paper alone, there are different qualities of cold pressed, hot pressed, and rough watercolor paper. I learned about the qualities of the different weights of paper available and the effects one can achieve with each. I also learned during the lessons the different pigments used in each colour, from generic historical pigments to the modern ones and the binder used ultimately determines the type of paint – oil, acrylic, watercolour etc. I seriously felt like I was back to attending lecture at LT27. There was so much theory to know even before picking up the paintbrush to paint! It was mind boggling.

Thankfully Leach has thoughtfully prepared these notes which summarized what was being taught in class. She must have encountered students like me, whom after years of child bearing and rearing, have quite lost their abilities to grasp new knowledge.

I realised that painting can be laborious and effortful. Colour is diligently controlled by dabbing exact quantities of paint and water. Every brushstroke is deliberate. Every careless flick of the wrist can cause water and therefore colour to flow where you don’t want it to. The shades and tones can change inadvertently. Too firm a brushstroke would change the texture and feel. Each painting is made up of hundreds if not thousands of such deliberate brush strokes. To perfect my skills, I couldn’t be as carefree as before. Mastering this delicate, subtle and very fluid painting medium is not easy. I felt myself crippled by my own fear. A fear of making mistake.

Leach being an experienced teacher understands that. She has been very encouraging with her kind words and patience. Her witty humour also helped to lighten the mood during class and made learning less stressful!

The other day, I came across this picturesque Norwegian riverbank on Instagram by @doting_dad (who blogs at Life’s Tiny Miracles). I was so inspired that I got it sketched and painted in one sitting.

It was therapeutic to be fully absorbed and focused at working with this spontaneous and free flowing medium. It was a joy watching the water and colour separate and coalesce on the paper. But without constant deliberate practice, my technique was far from perfect and the painting was quite a mess. The journey was blissful but the outcome was far from desired.

Like most things, practice makes perfect. I came to the conclusion that while I should strive for perfection in my basics, there are times where I should just let go, don’t worry so much and just paint.

 
 
To find out more about painting classes with Leach, you can visit her FB page – Art Workshops by Leach.
To feast your eyes on her beautiful artwork, you can follow her on Instagram or visit her website.

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