Sunrise at North Curl Curl and Kayaking around Middle Harbor

We started our day at 430am today. Headed up to North Curl Curl, me to snap pictures and Jeff to dip in the rock pool.





Afterwards, we launched our kayaks in Ellery’s Punt Reserve by Spit Bridge. Our original plan was to do the Spit to Manly trail by boat, but the waves got a little hairy once we rounded Grotto Point, so midway to Dobryod Head, we decided to turn back to more protected waters instead. So we cut across to Balmoral Beach and hugged the coast back to Spit Bridge. Still feeling fresh, we continued going, up Middle Harbor and up Bantry Bay. It was such a serene paddle up Bantry Bay, a lush cove bound by Garigal National Park. All along the way and back, we couldn’t help but marvel how lucky we were to call this area our home for now, where there are endless waterways and rivers and coasts to explore.

Our longest exploration yet in our new kayaks. 3.5 hours, 17.4km. Can’t wait for next weekend, when we can launch them beauties again for a long paddle.

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Yay for kayak netball


Crazy weather Friday. Temperatures rose to 42 degrees C. It had been 33 degrees C the day before, but the breeze still felt cool, so I thought, how bad could 42 be? Boy, the air was oppressive. The breeze that hit felt like the blast from from opening the oven. To top it off, the office air conditioning wasn’t functioning.

So it was with a huge sigh of relief that I finally got out of work and made it down to Lavender Bay for some kayak netball. Anything to cool off in the water.

Good game as usual though. And in the span of the hour of the game, the temperatures dropped 20 degrees. It was incredible.

Afterwards, we packed up and then hung around the bay, content to bask in the cooled breeze against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the screams from the rides at Luna Park. We knocked back a few beers before thinking that it may be good to get some food. But loathe as we were to leave the park, we called for some pizza to be delivered, then past the time playing some tug of war and drinking some more beers.

Fun times. :)

Relay racing


We had plans to go kayaking this weekend, but the weather was uncooperative. Could have still gone, I guess, but we used the excuse to just relax at home, watch all the Gotham episodes we could, did some shopping, and finally gave our car a long overdue car wash.

I did go out and join my company for a relay race Sunday morning in Mosman. Kayaking, running, swimming, and standup paddle boarding. I took the standup paddle boarding leg, even though I’d only tried it a couple other times before. Haha, I’d forgotten that the sport is pretty popular here, given all the surfing people get up to. No matter though, all in good fun. We were supposed to paddle 1km, but the windy conditions made for tough paddling, so the organizers shortened the course. Still, I was quite winded by the time I got out of the water and joined my team to run through the finish line.

Kayaking Narrabeen Lake, NSW


It’s been another week of relentless rain here in Sydney, including an epic storm Friday afternoon with fast billowing shelf clouds that blew into the city. Made for some incredibly dramatic pictures – wish I was out with my camera instead of at work! Hah.

But, we’re happy the rains finally let up – in time for our kayak netball Friday evening! Always fun, and afterwards a few of us rather spontaneously decided to grab some drinks and food. Good times.

This morning, Jeff and I dragged ourselves up and out for another spot of kayaking, this time at Narrabeen Lake by the northern beaches. I’d seen pictures of the lake where the water was so clear, that it looked like the boats were floating in air. Alas, the water today was rather murky from all that rain. Still, we spent a couple solid hours paddling around the lake and up little streams to explore. More good times!

A week in Taveuni, Fiji with Wendy and Chris

This has got to be one of the most relaxing vacations we’ve had in, I don’t know, ever? It’s certainly one of our favorites already though.


Our routine: Except for the first day when we explored the coast, every morning, we awake around 6am, tuck into a hot breakfast of eggs and fresh vegetables from the garden, then leisurely make our way down to the dive boat. Two tank dives, in waters housing the most beautiful soft and hard corals we’ve seen, and what an abundance of fish! We finish up early afternoon, take a dip in the pool and clean up with another made to order lunch. Then as food coma sets in, we retire to our bure overlooking the ocean, and take a long, blissful nap, waking up in time to watch the sun make its slow descent over the far islands. And it’s time to eat again. We wash down hot Fijian food – a mix of coconut cream and curry – with a bottle of wine, then settle back in our chairs for a short game. We fall asleep in the moonlight to the sound of waves gently lapping the shore.


Our resort, a quiet family-run operation set on a hill overlooking the Somosomo Strait, is the perfect haven. With 4 bures (Fijian for wood-and-straw huts), the resort takes up to 12 guests, but for the week we were there, there were only 6 of us. There isn’t much of a town-life to explore, there being only two tiny towns with provision shops on the island. So a much restful week indeed, and grateful for the companionship of old friends!


(I took more pictures of course, but tired of duplicating the uploads. The rest can be found here.

Sydney with My Singapore Family

One of the best thing about moving to Sydney is that my family in Singapore is that much closer now, a fact that I didn’t truly appreciate until this past week, when 12 friends and family flew over to celebrate my grandpa’s 90th birthday in style – by skydiving! 17 of us jumped out of an airplane to accompany my grandpa’s 4th attempt, and for 11 of us, it was their first time!

Other highlights:
1. Long weekend in Kiama – we broke out our Oru kayaks for the first time, and in bigger news, my brother proposed! Jeff and I were there to help capture the moment (so was my mum, with her powerful zoom from a few hundred meters away!)


2. On Saturday, before driving down to Wollongong to skydive, Jeff, my aunt and I headed over to Curl Curl for the sunrise. Hehe it’s my favorite beach, and I managed to get most everyone to visit (albeit on different days this week)



Half our skydiving group

The whole group

Grandpa on his Singapore Record dive


3. We also went whale watching, just outside the Sydney Harbour. It was a relatively calm morning, but about half our group succumbed to sea sickness. A couple actually declared that they would rather jump out of another airplane than board another boat…

Bellies full after a huge BBQ at our place. Loved seeing our place so full or warmth and laughter

Il Trovatore at Met

Took a short trip back to the States last week – flew out to Chicago on Sunday afternoon, and flew back from New York the following Saturday afternoon (our trip to NYC perfectly coincided with the Pope’s, which was somewhat inconvenient…). It was hectic, but I had an enjoyable time, visiting with old friends, coworkers, and old haunts.

To be honest though, not to discount the meetups with friends, but the highlight of my trip was catching Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera! While I am not a huge fan of the convoluted plot, I was most excited to see again live Anna Netrebko and Dimitri Hvorostovsky – the latter especially since it was his first return to the stage from brain tumor chemo. And we weren’t in the least disappointed. This was a dream cast, with four outstanding lead singers, including Yonghoon Lee and Dolora Zajick. Eric Simpson’s review from New York Classical Review quite perfectly summarizes our experiences of what might go down as a legendary evening!

Hvorostovsky’s return adds emotion to Met’s dramatic “Trovatore”
September 26, 2015 at 3:31 pm
By Eric C. Simpson

Photo Credit: Marty Sohl

Photo Credit: Marty Sohl

Friday night had the feel of a reunion at the Metropolitan Opera, as David McVicar’s vivid 2009 production of Il Trovatore returned with much of its original cast. The bleak sets, with torture victims looming constantly behind prison grates, lent dark drama to one of the most emotional evenings at the Met in recent memory.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, the superstar baritone playing the Count di Luna, announced over the summer that his doctors had identified a tumor in his brain. Friday’s was the first of three performances he will sing at the Met this fall before returning to London for further treatment.

The news was not lost on many present on Friday. The ovation that erupted when he first appeared was fervid enough that Marco Armiliato had to stop the orchestra and let the audience have their say—which they continued to do until Hvorostovsky acknowledged them with a gesture of gratitude.

His performance Friday was not the most flawless performance Hvorostovsky has ever given: he was occasionally difficult to hear and the G at the top of “Il balen del suo sorriso” spread glaringly. Yet otherwise, that aria was sublime, a passionate rendition that showcased his spiced caramel tone and arching, seemingly endless phrases that have made him one of the most treasured baritones of his generation. If the emotion of the evening was getting to the Russian baritone, he didn’t show it—in this portrayal he was mostly collected, sure of purpose even in his flashes of rage.

Anna Netrebko continues to add to her repertoire at an impressive pace, singing Leonora for the first time at the Met, after having tried on the role in Berlin and Salzburg. Vocally, this is a superb role for her. She showed a rich, dark-hued sound, and brought beautiful and intricate coloration in all her singing. Her work in the “Miserere” in Act III was most stunning of all, unleashing a burning chest voice, and it was here that her acting was the most satisfying, as well, leaving her alone with her consuming passion and her daunting decision. Elsewhere her portrayal seemed generalized, though Leonora is a more subdued role than Lady Macbeth or Anne Boleyn, the powerful ladies she’s portrayed in recent seasons. As she often does, Netrebko had a few issues of intonation, but her coloratura was surprisingly accurate, lending a fiercely giddy chirp to the cabaletta “Di tale amor.”

On a night with many more recognizable names and stories, the tenor Yonghoon Lee made his presence felt, giving what was in many ways a breakthrough performance as Manrico. It was difficult to find much fault with his singing: he showed a full, muscular, bronze tone with a nice soft voice to match. He carved out long, rolling phrases, and while he clearly felt entirely secure in the vocal part, he did not let comfort give way to complacency. Charismatic and energetic, Lee pursued both his beloved and his rival with conviction, delivering a stirring rendition of the famous battle-cry “Di quella pira.”

The Met’s reigning Azucena, Dolora Zajick, was on hand once again to inhabit the role with which she made her company debut in 1988. Nearly three decades have not softened her portrayal in the least; at sixty-three, she still brings a dark, imposing instrument to the stage, and craftily hides her malice under a world-weary façade. If her voice wobbles ever so slightly, it only adds to the effect. Also joining the cast from the 2009 run was Štefan Kocán, a superb fit for the officer Ferrando. His dramatic account of the opening narration, sung with a flinty edge, set a promising pace for the evening.

Apropos pacing, Marco Armiliato kept a firm grip on the orchestra, and gave an intelligent, if largely straightforward, reading of the score. His conducting was mostly restrained, but he took the lid off for the Anvil Chorus, which the Met’s choristers bellowed with joyful abandon. The only time things seemed to be out of hand was when he allowed Hvorostovsky a touch of indulgent rubato, but under the circumstances, who can blame him?

Also, NYTimes’ Artsbeat Blog on the audience’s loud appreciation of Mr. DM (it was electric!):

Met Opera Crowd Cheers Ailing Russian Baritone
Three months after announcing he had a brain tumor, and still in the midst of treatment, the cherished Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky returned to the Metropolitan Opera on Friday evening as the Count di Luna in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore.”

An ovation greeted his first entrance, loud and long enough that he broke character to smile and pat his heart in appreciation. Three hours later, the curtain calls ended with the orchestra pelting Mr. Hvorostovsky with white roses, as his co-star, the Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, appeared visibly moved. Ms. Netrebko and several colleagues donned T-shirts in support of Mr. Hvorostovsky earlier this summer at a concert in Moscow.

Since his Met debut on Oct. 26, 1995, in Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades,” Mr. Hvorostovsky has sung more than 170 performances with the company, concentrating on Russian and Verdi operas but also in Mozart, Gounod and Donizetti. He was the Count di Luna when the current “Il Trovatore” production had its premiere in 2009. And when he appeared this spring in Verdi’s “Don Carlo,” our critic Anthony Tommasini wrote that he “brought velvety legato phrasing, virile sound and his distinctive smoky timbre to Rodrigo.”

Mr. Hvorostovsky was originally scheduled for 10 performances of “Il Trovatore” this season, but he announced earlier this month that he would sing the first three — including Tuesday evening and next Saturday’s matinee, to be broadcast in movie theaters worldwide live in HD — then return to London to continue medical treatment.

Back on the flying trapeze


I am so sore now, and sporting a newly ripped hand, thanks to not having flown or climbed in the past nine months.

Still, it felt good to be back at the trapeze rig. The weather was brilliant. Bright blue skies with nary a cloud, and cool temperatures – a perfect early fall day in Chicago. It felt good to be up on the platform, swinging off into the empty air.

I hadn’t yet forgotten the tricks, yay. But I did tire quickly, and my form got more and more wonky as the class progressed. Still, I managed the legs and split catches. Heheh.


The cool breeze tousled her hair as she opened the car door and stepped out. Pulling her camera from the car, she straightened and zipped up her jacket to the chin.

It was not yet light, but soon. Already, the low clouds overhead were awash in hues of deep purple. She slipped her headlamp onto her head, flicked it on, and stepped towards the beach, her uncovered toes curling involuntarily from the cold, fine sand.

She smiled as she breathed in, deeply, the salty ocean spray. The waves were decent-sized this morning, about 3-4 feet high, and breaking close to shore. Squinting, she could make out a dark shadow in the grey surf. Some surfer was already out catching waves.

In the horizon, the sky was turning a lighter shade of purple, now suffused with pink and orange. As she glanced down the length of the beach, she could see small clusters of black-clad surfers emerging from the brush, long boards tucked under their arms. Some dropped the boards onto the sand to do a bit of last minute stretching, or to suit up. Others simply broke out into a run, tossing the board flat in front of them as they hit the water, and throwing their weight onto it to start paddling past the break.

She grinned this time, a wide toothy smile, and lifted her camera, in anticipation of catching the surfers ride the waves. While she didn’t really have the desire to plunge into that freezing froth herself – that thought made her shiver – it always cheered her up to watch others. What better way to greet the start of a new day, and one that was appearing to be a beautiful one?

The sun, an incandescent ball of golden light, broke through the horizon now. She snapped away, finger constantly depressing the shutter button of surfers stark black against the blue of the ocean and the red orange sky.

The sun was rising quickly now, and the waters took on first a deep emerald green, then the waves turned almost translucent golden-green as the rays from the sun shone through them.

When the sun was high in the now blue sky, she heeded the growl in her stomach and finally dropped the camera to her side. Another gorgeous start to the day. Now for some breakfast and perhaps a bit of a nap.

Milsons Point to Manly Walk

When we met up at Milsons Point station, we could see thick, fast streaming clouds overhead. No matter. It wasn’t raining, the temperatures were mild, and we were going to walk!

Not 20 minutes our walk to Mosman however, the heavens opened up. Happily, we were on Military Road, where there were shopping centers aplenty that we could duck into to ride out the weather. We didn’t have long to wait. As soon as the rain slowed to a drizzle, we were marching off again, towards Balmoral Beach.

By the time we arrived at Balmoral though, we had clear blue skies overhead and I had to stuff my jacket into my backpack.
And the skies remained clear the rest of our way, as we crossed Spit Bridge and hugged the coastal trail to Manly! In fact, we both weren’t expecting the sun, and so hadn’t slathered (much, in TPR’s case) sunscreen, and ended up a little burnt.

My friends who have previously done the Spit walk were right – this definitely ranks as my favorite trail in Sydney, ahead of Bondi. For one, the scenery is a lot more varied. We cut our way through bushes, across rocky terrain, and climbed up and down steep hillside sections to sudden vistas of the Gap. We could see the neighborhoods of Manly to the north and Vaulculse to the south, and all the squiggly dramatic coastlines of Sydney. But we mostly had the trails to ourselves, and felt in nature, far away from the bustling streets.


We felt we had earned a well deserved lunch after our long walk, later mapped out to around 21.5km. :) And so treated ourselves to a lip-smacking meal of corn and sweet potato fritters and salmon, washed down with refreshing glasses of mojito and cider.

Best way to spend what turned out to be a beautiful spring day with one of my oldest, bestest friends. Thank you, TPR.

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Our 21km + route. :D