Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A little bit of landscaping.

Ok, a LOT of landscaping!  This spring, we finally deciding it was time to bring in some help with the back yard.

When we first moved in, we thought the back yard looked fine, but wanted to extend the small amount of grass.

That fall, we pulled up all of the vines that covered the entire back yard - it was unreal.  We were pretty proud of ourselves, and had plans to move the monkey grass and put down seed in the spring....little did we know... Spring came and dozens of perennials grew up in our nicely cleaned out yard!  You just can't imagine... we just didn't find the time to do the overhaul that year, but M cleared things a few times with the weed-wacker and ground clear spray.  So when this spring came, we decided it was time to bring in some professionals...

We asked around, and tried to get a few different quotes from different landscaping companies.  However, only one was professional enough to actually respond, show up on time, and answer all of our questions in a timely manner.  Unfortunately he was so busy, and this was a 2 day project, that we didn't get it scheduled until the first week of July.  I was literally counting down the days.

Danny and his team did an amazing job.  We took out 3 medium sized dogwoods, plus another small tree.  They limbed up our large Hickory tree, plus some other dogwoods that we kept, and trimmed back the remaining azaleas and boxwood.

Danny did the tree trimming himself.
They removed/moved all of the monkey grass that surrounded the grass, and put it along the back of the house.  They removed all of the bricks that also surrounded the grass, plus all kinds of extra bricks and rocks that the previous owners had left in the back corner of the yard.  We had already removed a ton, but there was still a lot left.  They cleaned up everything else in the back, removing plants, massive hostas, dozens hundreds of bulbs, and a ton of weeds that had joined the party.  They also moved 3 azaleas from one side of the walkway to the other and cleared out the vines along the fence.

Then, once everything was cleared and tilled, they put down new sod and planted 2 new crape myrtles.  We are planning on adding a few more bushes to the back, but couldn't even imagine how much space was actually there when it was all covered!  So we will probably add some hydrangeas next spring to fill up some of the open space.

I can't even tell you how thrilled we are with it.  The open space is amazing - Cady loves it!  She's been running all around, sniffing everything and sprinting from one side to the other.  Before we wouldn't let her past the grass cause who knew what lurked back there!!

Can't wait to enjoy the rest of the summer in the back yard!!

Danny Sharpe, Looking Sharpe Landscapes, was great.  He helped us to design the yard, was responsive while we went back and forth to decide what exactly our plan was, and then he and his guys did a great job.  Highly recommend him from our experience!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Singapore for 24 hours

When M was researching flights home, one option was to fly through Singapore.  So, we decided to stop and stay for 24 hours - Layover Style.  We had big plans to eat our way through town!  It was rainy, humid, and very hot.  

First - Hawker Centres.  We started our adventure at the Hong Lim Food Centre, a popular hawker centre in the CBD.  Hawker centres are permanent, open air markets for street food vendors to make and sell food.  A little tough to see in the photo above, but the first 2 floors of that building is where the market is.  There are dozens of stands in each centre selling all kinds of food and drink.

Through his research, M had found a few places that we were off to try.  Now...actually finding said places proved to be a bit challenging, but finally we got the hang of it....the long lines helped us find them!

It's definitely not the prettiest dish we've ever had, but man it was delicious!  It's char kway teows, which means literally "stir-fried ricecake strips," is a popular noodle dish in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia.

M stood in line at our next stop while I went to get something to drink - we wanted to try something different.  So I got a chocolate avocado smoothie - it was surprisingly tasty!

The next 2 dishes were also delicious!  Wanton Mee and a chicken curry (I'm not sure of the name).  

Seating is first come first served.  It was so interesting to see people leaving umbrellas or coats or their purses to save a seat and go wait in line - no one would dare mess with anything!  Two young guys sat down at our table, heard us speaking English and struck up a conversation with us.  Super nice guy, he wants to get to the US one day! 

We walked around the area a bit before we met up with our bike tour.

There were tons of these massive covers that were over alleys and walkways - to protect from rain and sun.  

We met our bike group at Let's Go Bike Singapore.  We love doing bike tours in cities - you see so much more than walking, and get some exercise!  They're the same group as the company we did our crazy Bangkok bike tour with.  Luckily, this tour was much calmer than the one in Bangkok! 

We did the 'Historic Singapore' tour.  Since Singapore is so small, we were able to really see a ton of different areas on our 20km ride - Chinatown, Boat, Clarke and Robertson Quays, Singapore River, Kampong Glam, Museum District, Raffles Hotel, and more.  

I always love spotting older men sitting around playing intense games of checkers. 

Did I mention it was incredibly hot and humid?!

We stopped at a small cafe for a Kaya Bun, or peanut butter bun.  Such a great snack!

Our tour group - the other couple was from Toronto and the man from Ft. Lauderdale.  

One of my favorite parts of the city was how many different religions coexist together.  For example, while the mosque still has the traditional call to prayer 5 times a day, they keep the volume low and point the speakers only towards the neighborhoods immediately around so to not disturb others.  

The Merlion, half mermaid and half lion, is Singapore's national symbol.  Unfortunately he was under construction when we were there, so he wasn't spewing water... but that didn't deter the massive crowds around him! 

This was the last stop on our tour, which was fantastic - definitely recommend it.  Such a great mix of old and new Singapore.  Our guide Freddie was terrific.  We felt like in just a short amount of time, we got a really good feel for the city. 

After our bike ride we headed over to Orchard Road, the main shopping district of Singapore.  The Christmas decorations were out in FULL force - it was absolutely unreal.  These photos don't even begin to show many lights and decorations there were!  They certainly don't mess around. 

Once we were a bit overloaded, and surprisingly in the holiday spirit (despite the temperature), we went back to near where we finished our tour for dinner at an outdoor hawker centre, Makansutra.  With all of the city lights illuminating the skyline, it was really beautiful - very different look than in the daylight

We got the traditional wee nam kee chicken rice, as well as a stir fry dish hokkien prawn mee.  The place was absolutely mobbed!  We finally were able to grab 2 seats, our food and a pitcher of beer.  We'd definitely earned dinner that day after all of our biking and walking!  

A fabulous, whirlwind stop in a vibrant city.  We so enjoyed our time there and can't wait to return one day.  It was the perfect end to our trip on the other side of the world.  

Back to our hotel to shower, pack up and head to the airport.  Several people have asked me where we stayed - it was the Holiday Inn Express Clark Quay.  Great location, tiny but very nice room, would certainly recommend it. We had a reservation for both nights - our flight out wasn't until around midnight, and we knew we would want to clean up before the long journey home.  

Flying through Tokyo, we landed back in DC the morning before Thanksgiving - and were so looking forward to spending the holiday in Richmond with our family and friends!  

Time to plan another trip!