Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NYC For Kids: Summer Lovin' in Dumbo, Brooklyn

The Grand Old Dame

Dumbo (short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is a waterfront, charming little town, adjacent to Brooklyn Bridge. With its cool artsy vibes and cobble-stoned street, this former industrial neighborhood is filled with lots of family attractions, including the sprawling Brooklyn Bridge Park, adorable children's boutiques, family-friendly cafes.

 Can you spot the 2 NYC Icons?

Here is our list of 7 recommended things to do in Dumbo, Brooklyn for a great day out.

1.  Hop on the East River Ferry for a scenic boat ride across

 East River Ferry - Fast and Fun

We use the East River Ferry to bring us to DUMBO so we can walk back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a fast (30min), clean and economical ride at only USD$4 per adult (Kids travel free). We purchased the ferry tickets online that morning itself via the East River Ferry app, took the public bus to the terminal at E 34th St. to board the ferry. It's such an inexpensive and enjoyable way to see the NYC Skyline as we cruise under the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge. Highly recommended!

East River Ferry Terminal at Midtown
East 35th Street at F.D.R. Drive
Phone: (800) 533-3779
Check Ferry Schedule here

2. Get a shake at Shake Shack

We love Shake Shack!
Source

One cannot visit NYC and not try Shake Shack (the famed burger chain with the cult following). We arrived at Dumbo before 11am so happily tumbled into this week-old Shake Shack outlet. Their peanut-butter shake and Smoke-shack burgers are seriously to-die-for!

ShakeShack Dumbo
1 Old Fulton Street
(Corner of Water Street)
Under the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Open daily, from 11am – 11pm

3. Brave the long lines and enjoy a hearty Italian pizza from Grimaldi's

 It's not everyday you find a Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria
 Yummy Italian Pizza!

Grimaldi's is a staple NYC tourist attraction. The pizzas here are not fancy or pretentious but definitely Italian - thin crust and bursting with flavours in every bite.  The menu is really simple. Either you order a small or a large pie (pizza), select whatever toppings you want and that's it. We ordered a large mozzarela and basil pizza with sausage and extra sun dried tomatos toppings for lunch and left the place feeling very satisfied.  Happy to have this great NYC bucket-list checkoff.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria Dumbo
1 Front Street Brooklyn
Under the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Phone: (718) 858-4300

Open daily from 11:30am to 10:45 pm
Tip: Cash only!

4. Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and take snaps of lower Manhattan

 The Brooklyn Bridge is 147 years old!
Start from Brooklyn and walk back to NYC...
 Happy to be about...
A mandatory shot on Brooklyn Bridge against the Lower Manhattan skyline
#Funforfree NYC - Walk the Brooklyn Bridge!

We regretted devoting only half a day for Dumbo when it had so much to offer. If we had more time, we'll definitely love to visit these other sites:

5. Bring your tot to the Pier 1 playground at the Brooklyn Bridge Park

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Pier 1 is the largest of the park piers and includes large lawns, a playground at the northern edge, a waterfront promenade and a series of tree-lined pathways. When it comes to panoramic views of lower Manhattan, Pier 1 is the place to be. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll, sinking into a good book or looking out at the harbor, this outstanding open space provides scenery to spare.

Pier 1 Playground
Brooklyn Bridge Park
334 Furman St (Cranberry)
Brooklyn, NY 11201

6.  Go for a spin on Jane's Carousel

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Set between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, the glass pavilion encasing Jane's Carousel designed by French Architect Jean Nouvel is a magnificent and unforgettable way to enjoy the beautifully restored 1922 historic carousel as a family.

Jane's Carousel
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Dock St, New York, NY 11201
Phone: (718) 222-2502
Open 11am - 7pm, Closed Tuesdays

7. Indulge in a sweet treat at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

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The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory offers simple, pure and delicious ice cream made without eggs or preservatives. All of its ice cream, and its hot fudge, is freshly made in small batches. The ice-cream here are creamy-yet-light and very old-fashioned. There are eight flavors (including chocolate, vanilla, butter pecan, and strawberry) to choose from.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
The Corners of Old Fulton and Water Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 
Phone: (718) 246-3963
Open daily 12 pm - 10pm
Tip: Cash Only!

Dana's summer lovin' oufits are lovingly sponsored by Pumpkin Patch Singapore. They are light and comfy, cheery and stylish - perfect for that summer vacation or that long awaited family holiday.  I especially like their wide range of matching accessories for both boys and girls. Check out their new launches and end of season sales on their FB page!

Pretty in Pumpkin Patch!

Special Summer Giveaway!

The generous folks at Pumpkin Patch SG is sponsoring TWO PrincessDanaDiaries readers a SGD50 shopping voucher each! To participate, simply follow the steps here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to readers residing in Singapore and ends midnight of Sunday 10 August 2014. The lucky winners will be notified by email. All the best!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

For the people, by the people, of the people – National Day Parade 2014

Same same but different this time around.

This is perhaps one of the most difficult post for me to write. Why? Well, I’ve experienced a myriad of activities over the past month or so that has left me a tad overwhelmed. I suspect primarily that it has brought out the ‘little boy’ within me. I mean how can a ‘little boy’ contain his excitement when he had the opportunity to go on-board an actual warship and was taken on a Fast Craft Utility (FCU) ride during the annual ‘Navy@Vivo’ event. The experiences then hit closer to home for this plane enthusiast with an exclusive visit to the hanger of the F15SG fighter jets and meeting those pilots behind the magnificent flying machines that would enthrall the crowds with their precision fly past. Boys and fighter jets – inseparable.

Our National Flag, Our Pride

If that’s not exciting enough, I went on a ride across the mouth of the Singapore river with a bunch of balaclava-clad men on a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB), firing heavy machine guns across the city center as part of the total defence military display during the National Day Parade (NDP) rehearsal. After which, I mingled with the army personnel who were manning their impressive war machines. To cap it off, my family and I witnessed the much anticipated National Day Parade (NDP) rehearsal from the floating platform complete with resplendent fireworks. How do I even begin writing about these? Where do I start?

Adrenaline Rush - on the fast speed RHIB
Chasing 'bad guys' across the Singapore River

To expand on my thoughts about these experiences per se would be obvious and predictable, coming out like a laundry listing of spoiler alerts. No. I wanted to write on about something that would do the people behind the parade justice.

In fact, I think I’ve just hit it right there – the people.

There's no generation gap when it comes to patriotism.

To me, the common thread that runs through the amazing myriad of experiences leading up to NDP 2014 would be the insurmountable level of commitment and dedication of these people. Regardless whether they are piloting the F15SG, or if they are out at sea in the dead of night patrolling our waters, or if they had to stand in position under the hot sun week after week, going through the same routines again or even just waiting hours for their turn to march onto stage which may last only a few minutes. It touches me on two fronts: 1. Beyond the machines and their duties, these people are just as ordinary as you and me. No different - people with families, people who commute, people who struggle to balance work and family etc... 2. These ordinary people are giving their extraordinary best for their country, their homeland Singapore.

With one of the heroes from SCDF who 'runs in' while others 'run out' of a fire.
It's not everyday you say 'Hi' to a Tank driver.
With some of the brave people who protect our country.... so we can go around our daily lives peacefully.

Then…there are these other people – you, me, the common folks who would gripe about the weather, the ERP, the MRT breakdowns, the education system, the CPF policy and about the gover…. Yes, admit it. But seeing everyone putting all these aside and joined in solidarity as one voice, one spirit, one nation celebrating our National Day is really awe-inspiring. I personally will never tire of seeing parents, grandparents, friends and family sharing the NDP moment with their loved ones. I think there’s something to be said about teaching and imparting loyalty – a much understated value in times of peace but yet it's so essential in moments of crisis.

Guards marching into the crowds...Quite symbolic actually - we are One.
 Hello there Officer!

Our People, Our Home – that’s the theme of this year’s NDP. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been about the country’s people but this year's NDP, for a start, it’s not about the song – there’s none as you would know by now and no, not about some fictitious Merlion or another creative historical rendition of our country's relatively short existence. It’s entirely threaded on  the stories of fellow Singaporeans among us. May I add also that it doesn’t mask our common every struggles. Without giving too much away, you will see and hear of familiar and authentic stories of Singaporean’s everyday lives and how they rise above the challenges. You may even see yourself within those stories.

NDP - a time for friends...
and a time for families...
Moved by the spirit of her countrymen.

So this year, as you watch the National Day Parade, look beneath the glitzy performances and the mass displays. Inside there is a Singaporean, much like you and me - whose story includes giving his best to our families, our society, our country despite our differences and imperfections. This NDP, it’s about the people and their stories. Your stories and mine. So….start by telling your stories to your loved ones so that your legacy become part of theirs and together we write a new chapter for Singapore beyond 49 years old. Happy Birthday Singapore!

Simply electrifying to celebrate the nation's birthday as ONE with our fellow countrymen!
Portrait of a young patriot.

We really like these 2 MTVs produced this year of some of our most well-loved NDP songs. They feature spontaneous scenes of our familiar heartlands and take a peek at the many faces of Singapore - across races, cultures, ages, professions and challenges, echoing the theme of Our People, Our Home. Enjoy!




One People. One Nation. One Singapore.
  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Parenting with Empathy...Even When It Feels Hard

Baby AJ turned 1 month yesterday. As an adoptive Mom, I'm not entitled to maternity leave* so the husb and I have been trying means and ways to juggle work and caring for the new-born simultaneously from Day 1. My Mil was kind enough to fly from Penang for 10 days to aid in the transition; my Mum comes over in the mornings on most days but from dusk to dawn (the dreaded witching hours and night feeds), we are all on our own. In our sleep-deprived and exhausted state, the patience wears thin, especially when the baby refused to be pacified after a full feed, a nice warm bath, nappy change, soothing music and baby massage. Some nights, we are driven to our wits' end when the wailing just won't stop for no apparent reasons. A sense of helplessness overwhelms us, and we wonder what have we gotten ourselves into - to choose to parent a new-born after 6 years of relative ease with Dana.  Each time I find the husb losing his cool (and I losing my patience with him for losing his cool), I remind ourselves that the baby is just equally helpless- crying is his only form of communication with us, his caregivers. So we gotta to be extra patient, extra loving because he is crying to express a need (most of which are physiological at this point).  It really is, easier said than done because there are a whole lot of stressors (mostly work-related) which contribute to the tipping point.

Giving him a good bath after I come home from work...

An article 'How to Be an Empathetic Parent Even When It Feels Hard' on the Huffpost Parents affirms my positive self-talk. Here's an excerpt to encourage all fellow parents who finds this parenting journey tough-going. Here goes:

Sometimes when I watch my child crumple into a screeching, sobbing mess at my feet, all I hear in my head is, "You have got to be kidding me! I don't have time for this!" I can't feel his pain, I can't understand his mind and I can't find empathy for him. I want him to snap out of his nonsense at this instant. But he can't. Not without my empathetic touch.

Why can being empathetic be so hard?

1. We're exhausted.

It is SO hard to understand another's point of view or distress when we feel exhausted.  Tell that to parents of a newborn who hasn't had a good uninterrupted sleep for the past few weeks/months.

2. We feel overwhelmed by our stressors.

When financial, work, relationship or physical stress sets in, we often cannot see past our own challenges. 

3. We feel annoyed or impatient with an unfinished task at hand.  We get caught in an avalanche of anger.

When we are about to snap, it is very hard to feel empathy for others.  When we have something on our mind, such as a specific task to complete, we can get preoccupied with not getting that task done and not be able to feel someone else's distress.

4. We feel trapped and unable to get away.

Anyone who has experienced feeling trapped or abandoned can get quite triggered by a screaming child. I have heard many Moms say they go numb and want to walk out of the front door. One Mom said it's like getting a puppy and suddenly realizing what you've got yourself into, except unlike a puppy, you can't give the child back.

5. We want to avoid the feelings another is experiencing.

Some parents might know exactly what their child is feeling, but just don't want to feel or understand that irrational fear or sadness.

What can parents do to increase their empathy?

I believe the first step to being able to deeply connect with the emotions of our children is to be able to shed our own agendas, exhaustion and triggers. The thing a screaming, overwhelmed child needs most is for an adult they feel close with to stop talking, to open our arms and just be there until the screams and crying subside.

When our child is losing it and we are about to, also, it's a great idea to remember that when we are at the end of our parenting rope, our children feel the same way, except they don't have tools to manage those intense feelings yet.

This is what I recommend to increase empathy when doing so is hard:

1. Take control of exhaustion and a busy life.

I made big changes to create space for myself. I did this by making a schedule that included time for rest and fun. I also stopped trying to cram 15 things into a block of alone time and instead tried for 10. I also let go of some tasks that I really wanted to do, but weren't essential. I adjust my schedules and get the word "busy" out of my life. 

2. Don't take another's struggles, meltdowns, or freak-outs personally.

Young children are not attacking you; they just don't have the language or ability to communicate their intense emotions (yet). If your buttons are getting pushed, it is your responsibility to address that, not your child's.

3. Take charge of intense emotions, do not let them take charge of you.

This is a process that requires learning skills and practice. I have some suggestions on how to do that in this article.

4. Stay in charge of self-talk each time empathy is needed and emotions flare.

When my child is freaking out, before I start to feel sorry for myself or allow anger to take over, I say, "STOP!" Then I say, "This is not about you" followed with, "On your knees." (When I drop to my knees to be at eye level near my overwhelmed child, for some reason an instant connection happens).

5. Never be afraid to acknowledge you need help.

And lastly, if any of the above feels impossible, it is time for some help. I continually count on my trusted friends, husband and sister to keep an even keel. If you have had traumatic events and difficult challenges in your life, I encourage you to seek support and learn skills that will be helpful for you and your family.

Empathy is when a person accurately communicates that they see another's intentions and emotional state. It means watching our child's frustration and focusing on how life feels in that little child's body, while putting our own anger and agenda into the background.  I constantly tell myself that 'this too shall pass...he wouldn't stay a baby for long' so I should cherish this stage while it lasts. I'm gonna persevere and try parenting with a bit more empathy today than yesterday. Won't you join me?

His hands in mine...


* For those of you who must know, adoptive Moms are eligible to 1 month's adoption leave (as opposed to 4 months maternity leave), but it can only be granted upon the passing of the Adoption Order (which usually takes 3 to 6 months).


Friday, July 18, 2014

The Skyline Luge Sentosa: All-in Addictive 'Alpine' Fun in the tropics!

There’s nothing like having a dose of adrenaline to inject excitement in any family outing. Over the years, Singapore has added to her play-worthy landscapes many such new attractions ranging from indoor gyms to outdoor parks.

I brought the daughter to revisit a family-friendly adventure activity that not many know has been around for a decade. Recently revamped, I dare say the Skyline Luge Sentosa is the ONLY place in Singapore to offer this unique dose of adrenaline rush complete with stunning sea view and a literally uplifting experience. Judging by the crowd (even on a weekday), one can tell it's really popular among tourists and local families alike. To add to its accolades, Skyline Luge Sentosa has also been awarded the Certificate of Excellence for four consecutive years (2011 to 2014) by Trip Advisor.

Skyline Luge, Beach Station, Sentosa

The Skyline Luge gives your family an addictive and entertaining 'Alpine' experience right here in sunny Singapore by first hoisting your entire family up on skyride chairlifts to the top of the Sentosa hill where you will then race down your luge in one of the two winding tracks Swiss-style. All this without breaking the bank account or subjecting yourself to jet-lag to fly to the land of the Matterhorn! What impresses me is that we can experience the Skyline Luge Sentosa with the entire family, even children as young as 3 years old!

I still remember I went on the Luge for the first time with Dana on my lap 3 years ago when she was still a tiny tot. I was apprehensive initially but the moment I steered the luge down the tracks with relative ease and heard my daughter giggling non-stop, I knew we had to come back. And we did!

Here are some family-friendly pointers from our Skyline Luge Sentosa experiences:

Safety: 

At the Luge, safety is paramount. Before your first ride, the helpful staff will brief you how to steer, maneuver, slow-down and come to a complete halt (all in a 4 simple pull-push-left-right motion). To gain speed, just leave it to gravity and the gradual slope. You’re in total control of how fast you want to go. Release the steering completely and you come to a complete stop. It’s seriously simple and safe. The low CG (Center of Gravity) and wide bottom of the Luge will ensure that you will not skid off or fall off. Helmets, customized by age and size, are given and must be worn. If you have a child with you, there is ample space for both of you to sit comfortably together on the Luge. The additional weight of your child only makes the Luge more stable. For children to ride the Luge alone, they must be 6 years or older (or 110cm in height).

I can ride the Luge on my own, yay!
Safety briefing for your first ride

The helmet selection and safety briefings are done before your first ride. For subsequent rides, the queue will move much swifter. During our recent visit on Youth Day, the wait was 30 to 40 minutes for first riders. If you want to avoid queues and heat, I suggest you go either early in the morning or in the evenings. They open from 10am till 9:30pm daily.

Red helmet for our adventurous little Luger...

Sun:

This is an outdoor activity. Right after you purchase the tickets, you’re out there with the elements. Go armed with sunscreen, mozzie repellant and lots of drinking water. The ride allows you to bring a small water bottle or small haversack as long as you can sling it securely over your head and across your shoulder.

The most fun outdoor family activity in Sentosa!

Speed:

You’re in absolute control. There are no accelerators. Just a simple all-in-one brake and release steering mechanism which allows you to control the speed of the Luge. As a beginner, you may want to avoid the crowded time-slots as there may be more maneuvering needed to steer clear of other riders on the tracks. During our visit, it was the wifey's first time on the Luge. Those who know her well would know that she's not extremely sporty and adventurous sort but despite that, the Luge was enjoyable and simple enough for her to go on it not once, but 5 times!  When they say once is not enough, you gotta believe it! It's that addictive, even for a novice!

The satisfaction at being able to ride in her own Luge!

Selection:

There are two tracks offering only slightly different levels of excitement. After all, they both merge midway. To us, the Dragon Trail starts off with a bit more bends allowing more thrills at the corners while the Jungle Trail with lesser bends allows you to gain speed right from the start. I personally prefer the Dragon Trail whereas the wifey and daughter like the Jungle Trail.

Waiting for our turns to start Luging!

The tracks take on an entirely different feel at night.

During the day, you’re able to see details of the tracks more clearly allowing you greater control. Also, the day ride on the chairlifts allows you to photograph the panoramic vista with ease.

The skyride at dusk...

At night, the tracks are lit with multi-coloured lights, bright enough to illuminate the bends and fellow thrill-seekers. Seeing the lights whiz by amidst the darkness adds to the level of thrill and excitement. The night rides tend to be also way cooler and less crowded.

Mesmerizing track lights at night...
A totally different Luge experience!
Did she like it? You bet!

Undecided? There is a day and night combo ticket for those who want the best of both worlds.

Scenery:

Gorgeous scenery. Day and night. The 10 minute ride on the ski lift rewards you with a bird's eye  views of the sea and our city beyond Sentosa. The night view is mesmerizing albeit more challenging to photograph. Unlike the cable car, the skyride chairlifts have no 'cabins' so you’re ONE with the stunning views. Exciting and not for the faint-hearted!

 Enjoying the views on the skyride...
 Going uphill was a rewarding experience in itself!
Night vista...

Souvenir Photos:

No need to stand in front some green screen and have ‘fake’ scenery superimposed onto your family portraits. The photos taken during the skyrides and luge rides are as real as they get - they capture your family’s thrill-seeking, spontaneous moments! Should you wish to purchase a photo, just inform the friendly staff at the counters to reserve them under your name for viewing once you’re done.

‘Once is never enough’: we can't agree more!

Getting there:

Whether you commute or drive, head towards the Beach Station in Sentosa. Once there, follow the signs to the Skyline Luge or, better still, look up and you’ll see the skyride…for you, the thrill has just begun.

Here we go again! Seriously addictive fun!

SKYLINE LUGE SENTOSA
Website | Facebook

Ticket Prices here
Opens 10am - 9.30pm daily all year

SPECIAL GIVEAWAY!!!

The Skyline Luge Sentosa is sponsoring 3 lucky PrincessDanaDiaries readers with a Four Ride Family Pass (for 2 adults and 2 kids) each! Simply follow the steps to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to readers residing in Singapore and ends on midnight of Thursday 31 July 2014. The lucky winners will be notified by email. All the best!

Terms and Conditions:

* Family deals are applicable for families with children below 16 years old.
** Children under 6 years or shorter than the required 110cm to ride alone, may ride the Luge in tandem with a full paying adult.



Disclaimer: We thank the Skyline Luge Sentosa for the kind media invite, friendly hospitality and for generous sponsorship of the giveaway. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and photographs, are as usual, ours.