US California Trip (May 2017) – San Francisco Day 3 (Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and Children’s Creativity Musuem)

Our main attraction for the day was the Children’s Creativity Musuem. After spending the day running outdoors yesterday, it was now time to take it back indoors. But of course we needed some place to settle breakfast first and given that the Musuem only opens at 10am, we had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast. I decided that it would be fun for the kids to experience a farmer’s market in the US. They did visit one in Margaret River, Perth last year but the rainy weather kind of put a dampener on the overall experience. So yes, Take 2 it is.

We got to the Ferry Plaza (where the Hog Island Oyster Bar which we visited last night is also located) at about 830am. It was a short 3 minute Uber ride from our hotel. The initial plan was to take the bus/ tram but honestly Uber is so so easy there that we decided to not go through the hassle. I was also hungry. 

There were fresh produce and hot food for sale at the Farmer’s market and the kids were super excited that they were pointing out all the things that they wanted to buy. There were many wooden benches along the pier and we quickly settled down. Bella and I hung out and made sure we secured our seats while Joel and Jah went around and bought our food for us. 

They came back with the most awesome grilled cheese sandwich we ever had and it was also one of our best meals on this trip!! The sandwich was a Honey Lavender, Bacon, Farm Egg and cheese sandwich from The Farmer’s Wife Sonama. Yes just reading the name of the sandwich is Omg!! In fact we ended up ordering another portion of it on top of all the other muffins and cakes we bought.

With full bellies, these happy people headed to the Children’s Creativity Musuem (in an Uber). The Musuem as its name suggest is all about exploration, creation and creativity. It is not your typical ‘musuem’ but really a place for the kids to play with materials and create artwork, learn concepts through play and express their creativity through stop motion animation and music.

The kids spent a good amount of time just sitting at the art table – cutting, pasting and drawing. I realised then that we were not going to leave this place for at least another 4 hours.

After a while, we managed to convince them to move on and explore other areas. They found themselves at a table containing kinetic sand. Yeah kinetic sand, no big deal right? But then I realise the Musuem had combined the use of kinetic sand and augmented realiy to teach geography and the concept of mountains, land, valleys and ocean. Even the adults were secretly having fun!! Oh yes and we were stuck there for quite abit too. 

The main reason we came to the Children’s Creativity Musuem was because we heard that they had a section/ studio where they taught kids how to do stop motion animation. For those who are not very familiar, just Google Lego Star Wars on YouTube and you will see many stop motion animation videos. Jah is crazy about these videos and wanted to know how it was done. I was initially concerned that it would be too complicated for him to understand but the concept was really simple! We spent about 30 mins creating our own clay models from scratch and then we chose a backdrop and were taught how to create different scenes. It was really a case of moving your characters really slowly for each ‘frame’ and then pressing the record button each time. Oh trust me, this takes a lot of patience!! We completed a simple 13 seconds! video but it took a lot of effort to stop the kids from rushing through it. The good thing was that the Musuem would email you a link to the completed video πŸ™‚ Check out the video on our Facebook page and Instagram but please excuse the shaky hands as it is a handphone video of the video clip. 

It was almost 1pm by the time we were done with the stop motion studio and we still hadn’t explore the 2nd level. We headed up and Bella wanted to star in her own music video haha she barely sang but totally enjoy being a music video star. The 3 mins music video was also sent to us via an email link. Check out a snippet of it on our Social media channels too πŸ˜‰

It was hard to get the kids to leave but we had not eaten our lunch yet (thank goodness for the full breakfast that sustained us for so long) While there are malls within walking distance of the Musuem, there isn’t really a proper cafe there for good hot food. So I would suggest doing some research of where u might wanna eat around there. Jah and Bella wanted to do some shopping (toys) so we crossed the road to a nearby Target and they got their shopping fix there. By then, we were honestly too tired to eat and figured the kids would be too cranky to survive through any proper meal so it was Starbucks to the rescue and we headed back to our hotel at 3pm for a much needed nap.
I have to admit that it was a pretty fun day and life changing too (the grilled cheese sandwich that is) :p

Next Up – Our last day in San Francisco (California Academy of Sciences)

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

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

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

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

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.

Hong Kong Oct 2016 – Victoria Peak, Madam Tussaud’s and a little transportation tip

We made our recent Hong Kong trip right on the tail of 2 typhoons in the region. In fact we nearly had to call off our trip due to that uncertainty. But I was pretty insistent on taking the trip and yes some would have called me mad, given that flights were cancelled the morning before our departure due to a Signal 8 raised in Hong Kong and we didn’t really know what kind of weather we were getting ourselves into once we got to Hong Kong. The upside, I became quite the typhoon tracker expert after this trip :p

In any case, the airport reopened and flights resumed and we got to our destination safely and landed in dry and sunny conditions! Phew!

We decided to stay at Nathan Hotel on Nathan Road this time around. Given that it was going to be a really short trip, we wanted somewhere very central for food as well as a short walking distance to an MTR (3 mins walk to Jordan MTR). 

We were fortunate than our room was ready for us at 11am despite check-in being only at 2pm. Apparently many guests checked out the night before or in the wee hours of the morning before our arrival because they were able to get on their newly timed flights. We comfortably settled lunch in the vicinity and then the kids got their much deserved nap time, after enduring a 3am wake up call from their parents. 


We were still pretty tired at about 5pm but we didn’t want to waste the night so we got everyone up and about and decided to head to Victoria Peak for dinner.


How difficult could that be right? We took a train from Jordan MTR to Central MTR (10-15mins ride?) and it was a relatively simple 10 mins walk from Central MTR to the Peak Lower Terminus where we would take the Peak Tram up. 

That is until we turned the corner and saw how long the queue to purchase a tram ticket was. I didn’t take a photo because I was absolutely shocked. I’m honestly not sure if this is the usual weekend crowd or it was a result of people being trapped indoors for the last 48 hours due to the typhoon. Well we had 2 options – turn around and run for the hills (no pun intended) or queue (it looked like a 2-3 hour queue at least). It was 6pm..kids were pumped up for a tram ride which we probably oversold to them and we were too hungry and still tired to recalibrate.

Luckily we saw a sign that said express tram ticket but it involved us purchasing a package that included a ticket to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Musuem. Well at that point, anything to beat the queue and get out of there so we paid 10x the price literally and were on our way.

Well almost, we had to queue another 30-45 mins or so to get on the tram because they were alternating entry between big groups and independent travellers. Well ok still on track for dinner at 7pm at least…


The kids were intrigued by the tram going uphill so steeply (like a rollercoaster they say) though I would say that a day time tram ride would probably have been better for them visually. But that’s a toss up between the visual impact of going uphill and seeing the lights and the skyline which pops out at you in the night.


We got to the peak station and managed to settle dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company before the crowd started thickening..honestly the food was rather disappointing and everything just well tasted fried..I mean I know it’s fried food but it was tasteless and just tasted like oil..really different from what we remembered from the US.

We were quite fortunate that we ended up buying the package because the kids were pretty keen to check out Madame Tussaud’s (who would have thought). We moved through the exhibits pretty quickly (spent about 30 mins or so?) but the kids were quite happy to pose for most (some) of the photos :p

We made the customary trip to the viewing area but ended up leaving within 5 minutes. The droves of tour groups up there, was pure madness! Guides were screaming and waving, and people were crowding walkways to pay, to get their photos taken. Not to mention that the vents from the restaurants seems to be spewing smoke out into that ‘confined’ space. Really a far cry from what I remembered it to be almost 15 years ago when we were up there for a school trip.

We finally made our way down to the peak station (our package came with a return ticket) at about 930pm. A sign told us that the wait time to get onto a tram to lower peak terminus was about 1 hour. We decided to forgo our ticket and walk over to the cab stand which also looked about an hour Long 😦 and didn’t seem to be moving at all. But we were kind of stranded at that point and had to just wait in line for a cab. 

So here’s a little tip πŸ˜‰ while waiting for our cab queue to move, I started googling for a taxi app and found one that was in English! The app is called HK Taxi and it is a bright red app. You could indicate the extra tip you are willing to pay to entice a cab to take your booking. I eventually up my tip when no one was taking my booking after trying for 5 minutes and scored a cab rather quickly. The app is best used if you have a local phone number which we did because we got a local Sim for data and it came with some free call credits. The driver called us immediately to tell us that he was 5 minutes away, asked us to look out for his cab number and hop in because he was not allowed to stop in that area to wait. I spoke to the cab driver in Cantonese but I’m sure they would be able to cope with some English, given that they ask you what your preferred language is when making the booking. We managed to get out of the area by 10pm phew! and thank goodness the kids were all still in good spirits when we got back (especially because Jah caught his first Haunter PokΓ©mon while we were driving down the peak) :p

What a wild 18 hours we’ve had so far! 

Stay tuned for more of our Hong Kong 2016 trip!

JahBella’s Mummy