Another Year Wiser 2015

That’s me, I hope! :) I meant to write this post last month (!) but as usual, work got in the way, as well as motherly and wifely duties at home! Now that I have some time during lunch, let me quickly jot this down before the next year comes. :) So I grew another year older last month, and celebrated it with my small little family. On the morning of my birthday, we attended a friend’s daughter’s birthday party! It was at this nice park where Little J had the time of his life playing with the swing, the slides and bubbles! For the actual celebration, since Little J was older, we decided to have a nice dinner in a somewhat classy place with him in tow. We went to Trevi Lakeside Restaurant, which was really located next to the lake, and had a nice dinner there.


Little J on the swing

Upon sitting down at our table, we requested for a high chair for Little J. The staff told us that they were out of high chairs but promised to get us one even if he had to borrow it from another restaurant. :) Now that’s going out of the way for the customers, and it made us feel really welcomed. A few minutes later, he came back saying that he found one in the store room that he didn’t know he had before! They actually wiped the chair down before placing it next to us for Little J to sit in it. Once we’re all settled, we took a look at their menu and placed our orders. We chose the Scallops for our entree, and the dish came with confit pork belly, 3 pieces of juicy sea scallops, carrot and plum sauce. The scallops were seared nicely and were really plump. The pork belly interestingly had a piece of crispy crackling on top, which Saucer and I both enjoyed. It was overall a nice start to our dinner.


Scallops (AUD$21)

For Little J, we initially ordered the kids meal of Pasta with Tomato Sauce, but I decided to change his order about 5 minutes after placing it because I thought my dish would have pasta in it, so we could share. I called the wait staff and politely asked if it’s too late now to change the pasta order to a calamari dish. He said he would check with the kitchen first. 5 minutes later, the pasta dish actually arrived on our table, so I was confused and a bit disappointed. The same staff came back to me and apologised because it was too late to change my order at that time, but he came with a small plate of complimentary calamari to make it up for me! That was a really nice touch. Best of all, the calamari was deep fried to perfection – crispy, tender and not at all chewy. We’d definitely order this again.



Saucer had the Confit Duck Breast which came with hazelnut mash, heirloom carrots and mandarin napoleon reduction, with a ravioli on top. This dish was totally up his alley because he loves vegetables and healthy dishes, and it’s a bonus when everything tasted delicious. The only thing he would have preferred was if the duck had crispy skin, but otherwise, the duck was tender and moist, and the sauce was flavoursome too.


Confit duck breast AUD$38

Last but not least, I was really surprised when my order of Seafood Hot Pot arrived, because it was gigantic! It was literally a mountain of calamari, fish, black mussels, balmain bug and octopus on a bed of tagliatelline in napolatana sauce. This dish could easily feed 2 persons, especially if you’ve had starters. Even before the plate touched my table, I could already smell the gorgeous aroma of all the seafood with the beautiful sauce. It was creamy and tasted like the sea, with a hint of heat to it. I was glad that Little J had this tomato pasta now because the sauce actually had a kick to it after a while! But I wasn’t complaining, I loved it! The seafood was fresh, the portion was huge and the pasta was still al dente. Both Saucer and I enjoyed this very much.


Seafood hot pot AUD$48


Our little family

Halfway through dinner, Saucer surprised me with a gift! I was genuinely shocked, because he had already got me another present earlier. :) Anyway, who doesn’t love to be spoiled? 😉 I was more touched with the fact that he took the effort to get the present without my knowledge and wrapped it as well! The wrapping paper was a leftover from Christmas last year (LOL) but that was the only wrapping paper we had at home so, A+ for effort! And oh, the present was a beautiful white Seiko watch which I really like! It’s solar-powered too so no more changing batteries for me. Yay!


Birthday present #1


Surprise watch!

Back home, he also gave me the second present (which wasn’t a surprise) that arrived a few days earlier all the way from the US. This was the present that I was expecting because I actually chose it myself and told him that I’d like it for my birthday. :)


Birthday present #2!

Last but not least, what’s a birthday celebration without a cake? I was really happy with the choice of cake as well because it’s an ice-cream cake (only the best type of cake) in my favourite flavour (strawberry). Triple brownie points for Saucer this time! It was truly a night to remember – I had fun and most importantly, I was surrounded by my loved ones. Here’s to another year of being wiser!


Birthday cake


With my favourite cake :)

Our Favourite Malaysian Restaurant in Sydney

It’s no surprise that we love Malaysian food and would go to great lengths to get them – either in terms of traveling the distance or in attempting to replicate them at home. :) Every time we hear of a commendable Malaysian restaurant, we would try our best to give it a try usually during the weekends. Having a toddler though, limits the amount of traveling we can make, especially to the city. Now that Little J is not so little anymore, we venture out to the city more often than before. And the main reason was to try out Hawker, which serves Malaysian street food, in Chinatown Sydney. We have been there twice now, and have never been disappointed with it.


Lor Bak AUD$12

During our first visit, we tried the Lor Bak and fell in love with it! It’s one of the most authentic lor bak we can find in Sydney, with the closest resemblance to the ones we have in Penang. Most places serve only the five-spice pork rolls, and not necessarily good ones, but Hawker also has prawn fritters and fried tofu in addition to their crispy pork rolls. And they have both sweet and chilli sauces as well! I don’t think anywhere else in Sydney serves lor bak as authentic as theirs, and that’s good reason for us to keep ordering that every time we’re there.


Har Mee AUD$13

For mains, I had the Har Mee or prawn noodles, because it’s also something that’s hard to find in Sydney. The ones that I had tried before had little to no prawn taste, so I ordered this with rather low expectations. Imagine my surprise when it came out looking so delicious and tasted really good too! So much prawn taste and the chilli paste was the bomb. I mixed everything up in the bowl and was slurping away like a happy little girl. I enjoyed it so much that I actually ordered the same dish during my second visit there. :)


Char Kuey Teow AUD$13

As for Saucer, his main aim was to try their Char Kuey Teow so that’s what he did. This was, again, another winner. It had all the main elements of a good Penang-style char kuey teow – cockles, generous size prawns, lap cheong, chilli paste, banana leaf, pork lard, grease and everything fried with good wok hei. We really could not find any major faults with this dish, and it’s also another reason why we kept coming back for more. It’s so greasy and oily, it totally brings back memories of eating hawker food in Penang. I love it!


Look at the size of the cockle (si ham)!

One thing about Malaysian hawker food though, is that most of them are hot and spicy, which might not do so well with kids. Both Saucer and I are big fans of spicy food, so it’s a headache when it comes to ordering for Little J as neither of us wanted to give in, and Little J obviously couldn’t finish an adult portion on his own. 😛 Fortunately, during our second visit, we went with another family with kids and both our kids shared the Wat Tan Hor, which was non-spicy. This was essentially stir-fried flat rice noodles with lots of gravy, prawns, pork slices and vegetables. Little J had half of this and loved it! I’m assuming the egg gravy was really delicious because he was just slurping away.


Wat Tan Hor AUD$13

If there’s one gripe about Hawker, I would say it’s the price of desserts. We had tried two of their desserts – the Apam Balik at AUD$6 and Goreng Durian at AUD$8! I don’t know about you but I find paying 6 bucks for one piece of apam balik with a scoop of ice-cream to be quite ridiculous, regardless of how good it is. Also, I think the ice-cream on the side was a bit of a distraction and unnecessary. I’d much rather have 2 pieces of apam balik for the same price, and do away with the ice-cream. As for the Goreng Durian, it was even more ridiculous at $8! There was only one piece of durian (Musang King), battered and deep fried, served with a scoop of ice-cream. Saucer ordered it because he loved durian, but I doubt we’d repeat the order next time.


Goreng Durian AUD$8

Apart from the desserts, we really enjoyed the dishes at Hawker. They are as close to Penang hawker food as you can get in Sydney, and to me, that is pretty damn good. We’ll definitely make our way there again in the not so distant future.

Hawker Malaysian Street Food
Shop G.02, 345B-353 Sussex Street,
Tel. No.: (02) 9264 9315

Hawker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Peranakan Food in Sydney

Peranakan cuisine, or food originated from the Straits-born Chinese in Malaysia, is not something that is commonly found in Sydney. So when we found out that there’s a restaurant that specialises in Peranakan food, we made it a point to visit it one weekend. Located along Parramatta Road, Peranakan Place serves nyonya cuisine influenced by the Chinese, Indonesian, Thai and Malay community.


Decorative pieces at Peranakan Place

Locating the place wasn’t difficult, but the same couldn’t be said about finding a car park. There was no street parking available so we had to drive around twice to finally locate an open air car park somewhere behind the restaurant. Since we were early, we were also one of the first few patrons for lunch.


Snacks to keep Little J entertained

We started with the Ngoh Hiang, which is similar to Loh Bak in Penang. This came with only 4 pieces of minced pork, prawns and water chestnuts wrapped in bean curd skin before being deep fried. Although I loved the crispy skin of the bean curd, I found the filling to be a tad mushy and bland. Perhaps that’s why it was served together with the chilli sauce on the side.


Ngoh Hiang AUD7.90

It’s rare to find Yong Tau Foo on the menu so when we saw it, we thought we absolutely had to give it a try. However, what came to the table was different from our expectation. We were expecting a variety of stuffed bean curd items (soup or fried), stuffed bean curd skin rolls, stuffed chillies and the like. But there was only one stuffed chilli and a couple of stuffed bean curds, with a few fish balls and crab sticks(?!) tossed in a dark, peppery gravy. Perhaps this was the Peranakan style of Yong Tau Foo, but it certainly wasn’t hitting my craving spot!


Yong Tau Food AUD15.90

Lastly, we also had the Babi Pongteh, which, I believe, is a true blue Peranakan dish. It’s really a stew dish of braised pork belly, pork trotters, water chestnuts and shitake mushrooms in a fermented soy bean sauce. We have had a few versions of Babi Pongteh back in Malaysia and this, again, did not match up to our expectations. The gravy was watery, almost diluted, resulting in a somewhat bland taste, and the pork pieces were not cooked long enough. They were supposed to fall off the bone easily with a melt-in-your-mouth texture but did not, which was a disappointment as I ordered this dish mainly for Little J.


Babi Pongteh AUD16.90


Portions could have been bigger

Overall, we had a pretty average dining experience in terms of food, even though the service was good. Perhaps we didn’t order the ‘right’ items or perhaps we went on a bad day, but whilst it’s good to know that we have more and more options of Malaysian food in Sydney, the hunt for authentic Peranakan food is still on.

 Peranakan Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cyren at Darling Harbour

As a continuation of Saucer’s birthday celebration, we had dinner that night in the city – in fact, the very first time with Little J in tow! Since it was a Saturday night, most of the restaurants were already packed at 7pm when were there. We approached several of them only to be told that the next dinner seating would be between 8.30-9pm! Obviously, that wouldn’t do with a toddler around. We continued looking and eventually, decided to step in to Cyren. Fortunately, we were informed that the wait was 20 minutes, which was bearable compared to waiting for 2 hours!


The birthday boy

On the way to our table, we noticed how busy the restaurant was! I was thinking to myself that this might mean a long wait time for food to be served, but I was quite wrong. We placed our orders soon, and within 10 minutes, we had the entree and kid’s food served! Saucer loves calamari so it was no question that we would order the Salt and Pepper Calamari served with with ginger, chilli and mayonnaise sauce. We have had a fair share of calamari over the years in Sydney and we dare say that this was one of the best that we’ve had! The calamari was deep fried to perfection – crispy, not oily and very very tender. In fact, I have never imagined calamari to be this tender because they are always a little rubbery (if not very rubbery). The slightly spicy sauce that it came with also complemented the calamari very well, so much so that I almost wanted to get another plate of this! So I guess our only gripe was that the portion could have been a bit bigger perhaps? :)


Salt and Pepper Calamari (AUD19)

We were not sure if Little J would eat what we ordered for ourselves, and since it was a special celebration, we decided to get him his own meal – a Kids Ham and Pineapple Pizza. I loved that the pizza was baked in a wood-fired oven, and was very generous with toppings. Needless to say, Little J was chomping down on this in no time and finished almost the whole thing, bar 2 slices. I was happy to know that they didn’t skimp on ingredients even though this was a kid’s menu item.


Kids Ham and Pineapple Pizza (AUD13.50)

I had the Chargrilled Wagyu Beef Burger that came with tomato, lettuce, sliced beetroot and cheese,  served with chips. I didn’t use to like beetroot, but since moving to Aus, I have come to terms that somehow or other, it would appear in a burger. And it’s actually quite refreshing! The burger was huge, with a nice juicy patty in the middle. However, I don’t think I would be able to tell a wagyu beef patty from a normal beef patty. 😛


Chargrilled Wagyu Beef Burger (AUD18)

Finally, the birthday boy who was craving for a steak got his wish! This was the I’M ANGUS Rib Eye done medium rare, served with mashed potatoes. You know how most steaks are usually unevenly cooked even when you ask for them to be done medium rare? The edges are usually well done and the middle part, usually more bloody and rare. But this rib eye was simply perfect all round! Saucer was very impressed. In fact, he was poking around the steak trying to find areas where they would miss out (it couldn’t have been that perfectly cooked!) but failed. The result was a nice, chargrilled outer layer with tender and juicy meat inside. He was a happy boy! :)


I’M ANGUS Rib Eye (AUD39)


Birthday boy with his steak

While enjoying our dinner halfway, we were greeted with a pleasant surprise! At around 8.30pm, we heard fireworks outside and thankfully our table gave us a nice view of them! The fireworks actually went on for at least 10 minutes, and they were so close too! I was wondering what was the occasion for the fireworks and found out that there’s usually a fireworks display at 8.30pm on Saturday night in Darling Harbour. How lucky were we to be at the right place at the right time? I love fireworks and haven’t seen them up close for a long time! That was a nice ending to our lovely dinner.


Fireworks to accompany us

We totally enjoyed ourselves that night, thanks to Little J who was also behaving himself. I’m sure he enjoyed the fireworks as well, and the company of his two most favourite persons in the world. As for me, I was really glad that despite the lack of planning for dinner, it turned out really well and everyone went home happy and satiated. :)


Family picture

Cyren Bar Grill Seafood

Tel: 1300 989 989
Fax: (02) 9280 2177

Cyren Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Adventure Travel on the Islands of Cape Verde

The relatively unspoilt islands of Cape Verde, which are positioned around 350 miles off the coast of Western Africa, have become an admired destination among sun-seeking holidaymakers due to their white beaches, blue seas and constantly warm climate.

However, this archipelago also attracts more intrepid tourists, thanks to the adventurous activities and experiences on offer. Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies are well and truly spoilt for choice with the following things to do.

SummitTrekking The rocky and rugged terrain of Cape Verde provides great scope for a spot of trekking. The islands of Santa Antão and Sao Vicente are ideal for daylong excursions, while easier walks can be found on Santiago. However, Cape Verde’s ultimate trek takes the form of Mount Fogo. Join a tour and scale the island’s highest peak (2829 metres) to enjoy panoramic views of awe-inspiring landscapes featuring lush vegetation, extensive white beaches and sparkling ocean waters. Snorkeling and scuba diving On the island of Sal, extensive underwater opportunities are waiting for you to capitalize on them. Even if you’ve never plunged the depths of the ocean before, you can still bear witness to Cape Verde’s incredible loggerhead turtles and colorful triggerfish with just a mask and snorkel. But for an even more immersive experience, give scuba diving a try. The island’s marine ecosystem is home to various species of tropical fish and manta rays that glide over and between everything from canyons and caves to lava rock ridges and volcanic boulders. Biking Nancy

Mountain biking

Back on dry land, mountain biking is another popular pursuit that gets the adrenaline pumping. Again, all abilities are well catered for with itineraries ranging from flat and smooth roads that run along the coast to steep and rough tracks down the side of a mountain.

On the island of Maio you can pedal along the level-riding field of its salt flats, whereas the slopes on Santo Antão, Sao Nicolau and Santiago continue downhill until reaching sugarcane and banana plantations.

Boa Vista


As a result of its Atlantic location, Cape Verde attracts the kind of winds that watersport enthusiasts will love. In particular, Ponta Preta on Sal Island provides superb surfing opportunities for intermediate to advanced surfers.

However, more accessible activities such as windsurfing and kitesurfing enable anyone to take advantage of Cape Verde’s alluring waters. You may even want to chill out one day by chartering a sailboat around the various islands.

So, with trekking, snorkeling, scuba diving, mountain biking, and a variety of watersports to choose from, travelers with a sense of adventure should definitely find the time to visit Cape Verde.

Images by davetrainerdickdotcom and niall62, used under Creative Commons license

*Article by James Staney (a photographer and blogger who works out of a Bahay Kubo interactive base in the Philippines. She loves travel and especially beaches!)

Happy Birthday Darling!

It was Saucer’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and for the longest time, I was thinking hard on what to get for him. I wanted it to be something different, something that we seldom do but also something that he would enjoy, of course. I came up with the idea of having a staycation in the city itself! Staying in the suburbs in Sydney about an hour’s drive away means that we seldom venture out to the city especially at night. Ever since Jared came along, we have never spent the night in the city to enjoy the vibrance and colourful night life of Sydney. So I went ahead and did my research and managed to get a really good deal on a hotel stay, smack in the city centre. I did this a few months ahead and had to keep it as a secret too! When the day came, I obviously couldn’t hide it much longer because Saucer saw me packing a luggage and he was the one driving. LOL!


Little J was excited in the car too!

The hotel that I booked was the Swissotel Sydney, right next to the Westfield shopping centre. It was our first time there and I have to say, I was very impressed! The entrance to the hotel was a bit dodgy because we had to take a lift from the ground floor to the 8th floor where the reception was, but other than that, we were pretty satisfied with the service. We arrived around 11am that day, and normal check-in time was 2pm. However, since we were already there, I thought maybe we could just try our luck to see if there were any rooms available. And sure enough, it was our lucky day! We were given our keys within minutes of checking in!


Swiss Advantage King room


View of the windows


The massive king size bed

The room was a decent size but what matters most to Saucer is that the bed must be huge and comfortable. Therefore, one of the criteria during my hotel search was that the hotel must have a King size bed. Needless to say, someone was pretty pleased with the huge and comfy bed that was in our room. Loved that they displayed a customised welcome message on the TV screen too. I didn’t know about that or I would have asked them to put Saucer’s name there to surprise him. :)


Personalised welcome message!

According to the website, the Swiss Advantage King rooms were recently refurbished so it looked really new and the toilet was clean and modern too. I also requested for a baby cot (which ended up not being used *stares at Little J*) and it was set up very quickly after we checked in.




Toilet and shower



Another thing that I found impressive was the room also came with a Nespresso coffee machine with a few coffee pods too. Beats the normal coffee sachets anytime. :)


Mini bar with a coffee machine!


Snacks and cups


The happy birthday boy and Little J

The look of him says it all. :) After settling down in the hotel for a bit, we walked out to the city to look for lunch. It’s such a different atmosphere walking in the city compared to the suburbs. Everyone was just bustling around, there were so many restaurants within walking distance and so many things to see. There were buskers outside of Westfield, there were booths giving out free samples of drinks and we even met a giant minion!


Met a giant minion!

We had lunch at a nice Malaysian restaurant called Hawker (which deserves a separate post), and headed back to the hotel for Little J to nap. He had such a long nap on the comfy bed that I had to wake him up so that he didn’t continue sleeping through dinner! We still had some time before dinner so we went down to the heated pool for a dip. Little J was a little apprehensive at first but he soon warmed up to the idea of being inside the water, and was enjoying the jacuzzi thoroughly.


The hotel pool


Swimming time


Little J wasn’t impressed :P


Seeking for security


More comfortable in the Jacuzzi

Later in the evening, we walked to the beautiful Darling Harbour for dinner. It was a Saturday night and we made the mistake of not making any reservations beforehand (because Saucer couldn’t decide what he wanted to eat). By the time we knew what he wanted (steak), most of the good restaurants were already full and the next seating was at 9pm! Obviously we couldn’t wait until 9pm for dinner, especially with a toddler around. Luckily, we managed to find another nice restaurant which had a 20 minute wait and great food too (another post on that!).



Walking around Darling Harbour at night relived our experience pre-baby. We saw groups of young people dressed to the nines going to pubs, young girls celebrating someone’s hen’s night and couples on romantic dates, and it somehow made us grateful that we were enjoying that life but with our precious boy now. I know Saucer had a great time because he said, “Let’s do this again next time!” at the end of the night, and I knew then, that I had indeed made the right choice of a surprise vacation. :)


Let’s go down together Daddy!

The next day,we woke up to a gorgeous spread of buffet breakfast at the hotel. This was another criteria to make the hotel stay perfect for Saucer, because he was always telling me that he missed having breakfast buffets in hotels. In Sydney, most breakfast buffets are charged separately so we had never opted to pay for them since they almost always didn’t seem worth the price. However, with the deal that I found, the price for breakfast buffet included wasn’t too extravagant, and it meant a lot to me that the birthday boy got what he wanted! :) I didn’t manage to capture any pictures but the spread was pretty good with the standard bacon, sausages, baked beans, tomatoes, omelette station, toasts, lots of pastries, fried noodles, rice, congee, smoked salmon, cereal, muesli, fruits, cheese and lots more!

Before we left the city, we spent some time at the popular playground in Darling Harbour, where Saucer had lots of fun with Little J. They went up and down the giant slide multiple times, and also explored other parts of the park. As for me, I was contented with just sitting by the side and observing the bonding that was going on between the father and son, and sneaking a look at the happy hubby who was having the time of his life.


Pre-Birthday dinner


Home cooked birthday dinner

Overall, the staycation was an absolute success and even though many would prefer to have had the night out without any kids, we didn’t mind having Little J around at all. Most importantly, the birthday boy had a blast and that was all that mattered. Happy birthday my dear, and let’s celebrate for many many more years to come!


Birthday cake