US West Coast Trip (May 2017) – San Francisco Day 2 (Lori’s Diner, Cable Car Tram and Koret Children’s Playground, Hog’s Island Oyster Bar)

After spending almost a day being cooped up on a flight, we decided that the kids needed an outlet to release those pent up energy. So we decided to spend the first full day of our time at San Francisco at a park. 

We headed to Lori’s Diner at Ghirardelli Square for breakfast. The Diner was about a 10 mins walk from our hotel but the kids were more than happy to oblige us especially Jah who was looking forward to visiting an American Diner which he learnt about in school recently. So yes off we went for pancakes, French toast, scrambled eggs and of course milk shakes!

After breakfast, we walked across the street to the start of one of the cable car tram lines to begin our journey. There were of course other cheaper public transport options to take us to The Golden Gate Park where the Koret Children’s Quarters are but we figured that the kids would love the experience on the cable car tram. They were both scared and excited to be sitting on the exposed side of the cable car tram and were thoroughly thrilled by the view that they got of the streets. 


We rode the cable car tram to the end of the line at Mason & Powell which always meant we got our money’s worth πŸ˜‰ From there, we got onto the local Muni & Judah train and it took about 15 mins to take us to the USCF/ Paranssus station. Once we got off, we followed our phone GPS and walked another 5 mins till we got to the Golden Gate Park. The Koret Children’s Quarters was very close to the entrance. 

The kids were so happy to be out in the open space. Running, climbing and swinging! The park was quite crowded for a Friday late morning and we noticed many daycares or school kids there with their teachers. Come early if you want a picnic spot because they tend to grab all the shaded areas but if you are happy to be just running around the playground then it’s fine and there were more than enough stone benches.

There was also an ice cream stand and an old school carousel ride nearby. Of course we rewarded ourselves with an ice cream and a couple of rides after a crazy time at the playground.

By the end of it, the kids and us were famished and we decided to take a walk back towards the entrance we came in through. You would be able to find tons of restaurants a few streets down outside the park (9th Ave being one of the streets) and of course the phone GPS came in handy again and we found ourselves some lunch rather easily. 

We didn’t think the kids or the adults could cope with another multi transfer public transport ride to get back so we got ourselves an Uber and it took us back. The 20 mins ride cost us about US14 and we were all ready for our afternoon nap. Yes for those who don’t know we all still do afternoon naps even when we are on holidays. :p

We got up at 6pm from our nap and the urge to skip dinner or have room service was almost too hard to ignore. But I persevered and dragged everyone out of bed. I even insisted that we head to the Ferry Building where the Hog Island’s Oyster Bar was located at. I don’t know what possessed me to choose that restaurant for dinner, on a Friday night of ALL nights. The kids were pretty cranky the entire way and when we saw the snaking queue we were ready to give up. It was already 730pm and it didn’t look like we would get a seat for at least another 45 mins. But for a lack of better option in the vicinity, I was unwilling to give up. So Joel very bravely brought both kids to Starbucks while I stood in line. Thankfully the queue moved pretty quickly for a table of 4 as most people were there in big groups. We were also willing to take a table at the bar which fortunately gave us a good sunset view and a view of the food being prepped πŸ™‚ 

We ordered ourselves a raw oyster platter, some raw halibut, the best clam chowder we have ever had and will have on this trip and a grilled cheese sandwich. Actually we ordered ourselves 2 oyster platters because the kids absolutely loved the raw oysters and we found Jah polishing off half a dozen of them on his own!!! Blue cheese and raw oyster lovers, what kids are these? 

By the end of the night, everyone was in high spirits from the wonderful food and that’s when Joel and I realised how much these kids are like us! πŸ™‚

Stay tuned for Day 3 at the Kids Creativity Musuem! 

JahBella’s Mummy

US California Trip (May 2017) – San Francisco Day 1 (GoCar & Pier 45)

We arrived in SFO bright and early at 9am on a Thurs (gained a day after having also departed at 9am on a Thurs woohoo!) Check out our post on how we survived our 15 hour flight with the kids here.

 
We breezed through immigration quite easily but ended up waiting quite abit for our transfer from airport to hotel. There were several options like airport shuttles to city hotels that charge on a per pax basis and honestly may have been faster, given that we waited 30 mins for our driver. However we didn’t know if the kids would be cranky after a long flight and whether we needed to deal with tantrums so we had preferred to pay slightly more for an option with a meet and greet service. We paid about USD110 or so for a meet and greet service that would chauffeur the 4 of us plus our 3 big suitcases in a huge MPV and send us directly to our hotel.

 
We arrived at our hotel (Hyatt Centric @ Fisherman Wharf) at 11am. Our room was ready shortly after our arrival (normal check in time is 3pm) but we decided not to bother freshening up in case we procrastinated and got too tempted by the beds. We headed straight for our planned activity which was just a 3 min walk away – GoCar.

 
We had pre-booked a 2 hour tour slot with GoCar, it is essentially a self drive tour using a 2-seater scooter car which was fitted with a GPS that will guide you along the route and give you a commentary of the sights on the route. There are options ranging between 1 hour to half a day but we chose 2 hours as we figured it was bearable for the kids and would be just enough to take them to nap time.

This was taken by Jah while I was driving!

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The pre-briefing – I promise I was not sleeping

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The kids totally enjoyed the novel experience of the ride and were happily pointing out the sights and views. Less ideal for the parents because we were focusing on driving the Go Car and ensuring that we were driving on the correct side of the road!

 
The GPS worked fine for us, up till our half way point at the Golden Gate Bridge and then it kind of all went downhill from there. (No pun intended) After a few detours because several roads were closed on the route and we couldn’t follow where the GPS wanted us to go. We found ourselves on the ‘fringes’ of the demarcated route which also meant that the GPS would stop working as it was no longer within ‘the zone’. By that time, we were past over our 2 hour tour time (which meant incurring extra charges on a per minute basis!!!) We were essentially circling round and round and the adults started to panic as we noticed that we were getting on busier roads with faster cars and no longer recognise a lot of the road names. To be fair we were given a hard copy map to use if the GPS should fail us but it was impossible for me to drive and read the map at the same time and my 6 year old passenger wasn’t much help at that point. Thankfully we had set up our mobile wifi by then and Joel reminded me that I could use my handphone GPS to navigate us back. Phew! We got back to the pit stop at 230pm (30 mins late) and the staff was nice enough to waive the extra time incurred because they realised that there truly were a lot of road closures that day.

It was truly a nail biting experience for us haha and a true test for any marriage I tell you!

We had a quick lunch at the Codmother (a fish and chip food truck) across from our hotel and proceeded to our room for a much much needed nap.

We dragged the kids up after a 2 hour nap and trust me it was an almost impossible feat but we had to make sure that we got dinner in those tummies and that everyone quickly adjusted to the US time zone.

Our hotel was located in the touristy Fisherman Wharf area close to Pier 45 so we took a slow walk down towards Pier 39 and found ourselves at the Crab House for a seafood dinner and a glorious sunset at 8pm!

The kids entertained themselves with carousels rides and a 7D shooting game at the pier after dinner. We had quite the blast before heading back to our hotel at 10pm. The kids definitely didn’t want their night to end but we decided to call it a night as most places were closing for the day and the adults needed their sleep. :p

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It was an awesome Day 1 to our much anticipated trip.

More on our trip coming up! πŸ™‚

  1. How we survived flying 15 hours with the kids and coped with jetlag

How we survived flying 15 hours with the kids and coped with the jetlag – JahBella in the US (May 2017)

We finally embarked on our long haul journey to the US 2 days ago..well between the option to take a direct flight (15 hours to San Francisco) or a 1 stop option (20 to 24 hours) we were spoilt for choice and many people were kind enough to give us their 2 cents worth on which might work better. Many parents felt that a 15 hour flight at a go without an option to get off the flight and stretch or run it off, was a recipe for disaster. However we decided to give it a try anyway since we preferred the arrival time at 9am.

So here’s how we made it work for this flight in particular and how we broke up the flight for the kids and kept everyone relatively sane
Time in US shown in brackets 

First half of the flight 

Our flight took off at 925am (SFO 625pm), we kept the kids awake although it didn’t take much effort to, since they were really raring to go. Lunch on board was served at about 10+am (SFO 7+pm), I guess u can consider that dinner if u wanted to. The kids spent the next 2 hours, eating and watching their inflight entertainment. By the time meal service ended at about 12+pm (SFO 9+pm), the kids didn’t mind going to bed. Thankfully they are used to a naptime in school at about this time. Lights in the cabin were switch off which made it a lot easier for them to doze off. The kids slept for almost 4 hours! Which meant they woke up at about 4pm (SFO 1am). 
2nd half of the flight 

I had tuned my watch to SFO time by now and of course panicked a little (a lot) knowing that they are awake at 1am SFO time! But I really didn’t have much energy to fight them on it (haha what else could I do). Somehow their wake time was actually pretty perfect because the crew started switching on all the lights in the cabin anyway and began serving breakfast. The kids took their breakfast and then continued watching their shows. By the time the meal service ended at about 7pm (SFO 4am). The kids were starting to get groggy again and I told them that they had to sleep for abit. Shockingly they didn’t fight me! So with the cabin lights dimmed again, they took another nap from 7pm to 930pm (SFO 4am to 630am). I could tell when they got up at 930pm (SFO 630am), they were getting a little edgy and impatient but we were only 2 hours away and that 2 hours was manageable with abit of bribery (candies and snacks). The choice of a morning arrival worked in our favour because the kids had all morning to work off whatever sugar they had consumed and they had obviously adjusted to the time difference by the time we landed in San Francisco.

Conclusion

A 15 hour flight is perfectly manageable if the time of the flight is used effectively to tune their body clocks. The arrival in the morning worked in our favour because it was easy to keep the kids up for the rest of the day when they were so excited to get started on their holiday. I’m not sure if the same can be said if we had arrived at night instead. I’m guessing it would be quite hard for them to sleep through the night then. For the record, we made sure the kids were engaged after we landed so there was less chance of fatigue and restlessness setting in and the kids took a nap at about 4pm SFO time. We dragged them up for dinner at 630pm, bedtime was a breeze at 10pm and they slept through the night. Safe to say, they are completely on SFO time now and we will be attempting the 1 stop flight on the way home so more on how to cope with that to come (if we do cope with it successfully of course, wish us luck!!!) πŸ™‚

More on how we occupied them upon our arrival into San Francisco..haha a pretty nail biting experience for the parents :p

JahBella’s Mummy

We are back! With a kid activity review no less – Kidzania SingaporeΒ 

Hi everyone! I know we have been very quiet of late (for the last 3 months to be exact). Our family has been plagued with one family emergency after another since February and to be very honest I just haven’t been in the mood or had the energy to write much. 

However a little episode with my handphone’s memory being wiped out this past week, reminded me of the reason I write. I lost all my photos from Jan to April 2017 😦 Exactly the period I stopped blogging for. So here I am again, determined to not lose any more of our memories.

We were originally supposed to be on a family trip to Bangkok this last weekend. A city that we used to visit as a couple every year and one that we have not been back to for almost 10 years. We had promised the kids, many fun activities and they were particularly looking forward to Kidzania Bangkok. We also figured it would be a cheaper first time to Kidzania, just in case they didn’t take to it and were afraid to try out the jobs. But as luck would have it, life threw us a few curveballs and the trip was cancelled.

Thank goodness we have a Kidzania right in our own backyard so that we could still keep our promise to the kids albeit a more expensive experience.

We bought our tickets online (few dollars cheaper than at the door) and crossed our fingers and hope that it wasn’t too crowded on a long weekend. We have heard/ read the horror stories of the weekend crowds and were a little worried on how diluted an experience the kids would get.

We got to the check-in counters (resembling an airport) at 10am and were quickly tagged to our kids with matching ‘watches’. This meant that our kids could not leave the place without either one of us and I later found out that I could access all our professional photos just by tapping my watch at the photo shop. Our whole family was synced up!


First stop for the kids was the bank, to activate their debit card and bank account where they would store their salary or pay for activities. As we started to walk into the bank with the kids, a staff stepped forward and say “Parents, please wait outside”. Haha what a shock to the system..:p


Jah and Bella came out of the queue a couple of times to ask for us to join them but eventually were convinced that they could just queue together and it would be fine. Jah completed his banking fuss free because he knew his birthday. Bella on the other hand was sent out to ask me for her birthdate before she could complete her transaction. 


We headed to the Qatar Airways Pilot and Cabin Crew jobs first and took a queue ticket for 11am. We wanted to try the Paddle Pop Job which was right next to it but the lady told us to come back after the airline job because we wouldn’t finish in time for our 11am slot. I love how the other jobs were very aware that the kids were all probably holding an airline queue card and made an effort to help us plan rather than blindly taking us in for the job. πŸ™‚

To kill time, we ended up at the Spritzer water filtration job, honestly not the most natural job that I would have chosen but the kids were willing to give it a shot and we were all in for a surprise. The facilitator in charge was a dream! She managed to engage the kids and made things so fun for them even though I’m sure the subject wasn’t the most interesting or exciting. They will laughing, giggling, high fiving her and running around (not sure that’s allowed in a real lab though :p). They loved it so much that it helped them relax and got them very keen to try on the rest of the jobs…phew!! A big thank you to her!!!

We headed back to the airline job and Jah and Bella were quickly ushered off to their training while Joel and I made ourselves scarce, in case they came running out to look for us. The pilot and the cabin crew had to be separated so we were worried that Bella would freak out because she would only do a job if her Brother did it with her. We were not allowed to see how the pilots did their job but one parent would be invited on board so that the cabin crew could serve them. Jah later told me that his pilot job was very fun and he wanted to come back for it again πŸ™‚

We spent a good 5 hours at Kidzania that day. I was surprised the kids lasted so long but then again you really do need to spend that amount of time, given that most jobs last 20-30 mins minus the queueing time and we were there on a relatively quiet day.
The kids also attempted the following jobs

Paddle Pop Ice cream Maker (Free Ice Cream!!!)


SCDF (You get to ride in a fire truck and rush to a hotel fire to put it out)


Candy Maker


Abbott Milk Lab (Bella was really tired by this time and the only reason she decided to join the 30 mins activity was for the money. Yes I kid you not! She was just waiting to be paid so that her Brother would not have more money than her, in his account)


KFC (They initially wanted to do the CSI job but changed their minds because they needed a mid day snack and yes they earned their mid day burger :p)

And this was probably 1/3 of the career options they had. The kids had so much fun that Jah is already planning for his next visit and has also asked for a trip to Kidzania as his birthday treat.
It helps that there is some semblance of continuity for the kids too because they get to bring home the debit card which they activated and keep their salary in the card and reuse it for their next visit! 

Honestly, it was also really funny to see how parents (yes us included) have a tough time letting go and wanting to solve every problem for their kids (queue cutters). It was tough not knowing what was being said in the rooms and not knowing if your child is misbehaving or following instructions correctly because you can’t hear a thing. In fact at some point, I felt like the kids were coping better than us…however it all changed at the 3 hour mark for me because by then I was really too tired to care or hawk over my kids anymore haha so not only was this a lesson for my kids in independence..it was definitely one for Joel and me too. πŸ™‚

Oh and did I say it yet? I’m happy to be back…

JahBella’s Mummy

Ezpz Playmat [Review and Mumspick Discount Code]

Jah and Bella love to paint, I mean which kid doesn’t love to play with paint right? Problem is, everytime these kids go “mummy can we do painting today?” My answer is almost ALWAYS “ermm no maybe next week ok?” Trust me, it’s not because we don’t have the paint supplies on hand in fact we probably have too much paint supplies, stashed away somewhere at the back of the storeroom. Because every time mummy goes online shopping, it always seems like a fantastic idea to stock up on art and paint supplies for the kids to indulge and play with. Except that paint time never really materialises at least not on a regular basis when I think about the process of hawking over them as they paint and envision cleaning up after. 

What could go wrong you say? Well how about how my heart drops when the plastic cup of paint water threatens to topple over when they reach over to rinse their brush or over enthusiastically stir their brushes in the cup. Or when they splatter their paint all over the table or accidentally paint the table as they try to colour near the edges of the paper. Which is also why I make them paint while sitting on the floor which is absolutely horrible, not just their posture but gives us pins and needles all the time. 

I know I know, mummy is such a control freak right? :p

But problem solved today when I was introduced to the Ezpz Play Mat. Similar to its other products in its range like the Ezpz Happy Bowl or Happy Mat which is made of a high quality silicon that suctions itself to a table (oh what I would give to have a product like that available when Jah and Bella were little!!! and meal times involve swinging arms and flying plates!) The Ezpz Happy Mat is perfect for painting, Lego sorting, beadwork and necklace making, drawing with dry erase markers or crayons, cookie decorating. 

The kids were super excited that they were allowed to sit at the table to paint, without mummy constantly nagging at them to be careful with the cup of water. Or to watch where they are painting (yes mummy is very naggy sigh)


As you can see from the photos, I could fill the centre of the flower design with water for them to wash their brushes and they could use the 5 smaller ‘petals’ for their paint. We used the empty space on the right as their work space. The kids used it to work on painting their leaves and then we later used that space to place half an A3 paper for them to paint on. Yes halving a A3 drawing block paper fit nicely into that space. πŸ™‚ 


Oh sure we had abit of splattering especially with Miss Bella but nothing that I couldn’t deal with and the aftermath was really quite clean and decent.


In fact cleaning was quite a breeze too because I didn’t have to carry paint brushes, cups and paint palettes on multiple trips and could just stack the play mats and take them to the sink at one go. The mats are bendable so you can still wash them pretty easily even if you have a small sink or wash area. We spent a good 1.5 hours just painting and I just sat there and watch them which made painting so much more enjoyable (for me :p)


For those who are inclined to involve your kids in baking, I think the mat will come in really handy for those little hands to help with kneading or decorating cupcakes or cookies. In fact the play mat is washer, mircrowave and oven safe too.

I foresee using the play mat when Bella gets into crafting and putting together her own little necklaces and stuff but for now painting is going to be so much more fun! 

If you are keen to try out this product or other similar products in the Ezpz range, head over to Mumspick website https://www.mumspick.com/ to check it out.

JahBella’s readers are also entitled to a 15% discount on Ezpz products on the website (with no minimum order) from now till 6 February 2017. Just key in Jahbella during checkout for the discount. πŸ™‚

Happy Shopping!

JahBella’s Mummy

Disclaimer: JahBella received 2 Ezpz Play Mats for the purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received and all opinions are my own.