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Little Mister’s 3rd Birthday Party

Pinterest is both my saviour and destructor. Whether I want to find toddler crafts and activities or salad inspiration, Pinterest will save the day! Yet when it comes to organising a kid’s birthday party, Pinterest has a knack for making me quake with fear. There are hundreds of stunning and imaginative party inspirations – from slumber parties to dinosaur excavations to unicorn themed cakes. The attention to detail makes me weep. And I work in events!

As much as I would love to lavish our only child with the biggest birthday party, we cannot afford to spend hundreds – much less thousands – of dollars on a 3-year-old’s birthday party. Instead, the Little Mister’s 3rd Birthday Party was celebrated earlier this month at our home with some of his friends and family.

Third Birthday Party - our family

While I’m gutted we couldn’t invite more friends, it was for the best. Our little apartment felt cramped with eight adults and three kids. The SO had to turn on the air-conditioner by midday, as the humidity was stifling with the threat of rain.

Nevertheless, the kids had a great time playing with all the toys, and the Little Mister was obsessed with ripping off the wrapping. His current obsession is the original Ghostbusters, so his favourite birthday gift was a Ghostbusters Electronic Proton Pack.

Third Birthday Party - guests and family gathered in the living room

Little Mister has come such a long way since that first day we held him in our arms. He can now:

  • Speak in full sentences
  • Express some of his emotions (angry and grumpy are the most mentioned)
  • Can articulate what he wants
  • Load and unload the washing machine
  • Blow out his candles without spitting into his cake
  • Actively seeks to make friendships with other kids

Third Birthday Party - unwrapping a birthday present

Since this was an intimate party, I planned a morning tea simple enough that I could make beforehand.

And most importantly that both adults and kids would eat.

 

The Menu

The Preparation

I did the following the day before:

  • Made and baked the ham and cheese pinwheels. Refrigerated them overnight once cooled.
  • Made and baked the spinach and ricotta rolls. Refrigerated them overnight once cooled.
  • Made and baked the chocolate cake.
  • Made the chocolate buttercream frosting. Iced the cake.
  • Added decorations to the cake. Stored covered at room temperature overnight.
  • Made chocolate covered banana pops. Refrigerated them overnight once cooled.

Third Birthday Party - homemade spinach and ricotta rolls

Third Birthday Party - homemade chocolate cake with chocolate icing, ready for decorations

Two hours before guests were due to arrive:

  • Assemble the sandwiches.
  • Wash and cut the fruit.

One hour before guests were due to arrive:

  • Preheat the oven.
    • Warm the ham and cheese pinwheels.
    • Warm the spinach and ricotta rolls.
  • Assemble the cheese and dip platter.
  • Set everything on the table

Third Birthday Party - chocolate birthday cake with banana candy and happy birthday candle

Third Birthday Party - food selection

Preparing this way made the party go a lot easier. I was also able to communicate to the SO what and when I needed help with. I had more time to enjoy everyone’s company and make memories with the Little Mister, rather than for him.

Hopefully I’ll be just as prepared next year, but on a larger scale with more friends!

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The perfect pizzas at Italian Street Kitchen

Italian St Kitchen

Carne. AUD$16

I don’t think there’s a person out there who has never had a pizza. This versatile disc of baked dough is everywhere, and now gluten-free and vegan versions are becoming ubiquitous. What’s not to love?

I have certainly had my fair share of pizza. I have even conducted The Australian Delivery Pizza Taste Challenge back in 2014. That was a lot of fun.

But the perfect pizza? Now, THAT is the holy grail and I think I have found it at Italian Street Kitchen.

Read the rest of this entry »

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[Singapore] The Halia

 Blog title - The Halia [Singapore]

My mum works at The Halia‘s current and only location in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. She makes the many drinks the restaurant offers and sells at its kiosk stand. It’s hard work with very early mornings, but she seems to enjoy the work and the people she works with.

She has worked there a number of years now and we’ve been to Singapore several times, but never got the opportunity to dine at The Halia. We decided a visit was long overdue, so we went for lunch on our visit to Singapore in December last year.

 

The Venue

Nestled inside the Singapore Botanic Gardens, The Halia is a fair walk from the Botanic Gardens MRT station. Signage to the restaurant is limited, but follow all signs to its neighbour the National Orchid Garden.

The Halia might not look imposing nor impressive from the outside, but its true nature is hidden by the surrounding ginger plants and palm trees. It offers several dining areas, each with a unique view to the greenery outside. Those who seek relief from Singapore’s unforgiving heat and humidity can escape to the air-conditioned dining room, but the open-air deck was just as popular.

 

The Service

As my mother works at the restaurant, I am not inclined to comment on the warmth of service.

The Halia was busy at the time with a number of large groups, so while time to table and ordering were swift, food service was slow. However, we were told from the very straight that our meals might take awhile, and the manager apologised for the delay. Both strategies helped manage our expectations and we were fine with how long it took.

 

The Food

The Halia offers a weekday set lunch menu from 12 pm till 2pm. It includes a starter, a choice between 3 mains, a choice between 2 desserts, and coffee or tea to finish. Two courses set you back SGD28, and three courses are SGD 34. Prices do not include 7% GST or 10% service charge.

The SO worked up quite the appetite walking from the Botanic Gardens MRT station to The Halia, so went all out with the three-course weekday set lunch.

The soup of the day was white vegetable soup – potato, parsnip, etc and served with a freshly baked bread. Tasty, but not particularly stellar.

The Halia (Singapore)

The Halia (Singapore) - Ginger Jive. SGD 7

Ginger Jive. SGD 7

Between the barramundi, slow-cooked chicken breast or puff pastry parcel, the SO went with what’s familiar to him – the pan-fried barramundi.

The Halia did very well with its crispy pan-fried skin and not drying out the flesh underneath. The bed was a Thai coconut cream (think super mild green curry), served with lengths of firm asparagus, cherry tomatoes, pignolina and basil oil. This was, for us an unusual flavour combination with barramundi, but it was enjoyable and satisfying.

The Halia (Singapore) - Panfried Barramundi

Panfried Barramundi

I got The Halia‘s Puff Pastry Parcel, which in hindsight I could easily recreate at home. Filled with butternut squash (pumpkin), spinach and feta, the pastry is dressed with dehydrated olives, mesclun, and a drizzle of basil and tomato oil. Deceptively simple, and utterly delicious for those looking for something vegetarian and heartier than a salad.

The Halia (Singapore) - Puff Pastry Parcel. SGD 24

Puff Pastry Parcel. SGD 24

The Paperbag Oven-baked Halibut Fillet was by far the star dish of our meal.

Presenting the fish in its crinkly paper bag offers the diner to create their own personal dining theatre – one has to gingerly untwist and peel back the folds with anticipation, to reveal the prize inside.

If you have any initial sense of disappointment at the dark mess inside, don’t get your panties in a twist! Stick your fork in there and taste it. The fish has sucked up the umami flavours from its ginger and soy broth. Add a touch of the wasabi aioli or ginger flower sambal (or both! My preference was for the sambal though), and your taste buds will sing!

The Halia (Singapore) - Paper bag oven-baked halibut fillet

Paper bag oven-baked halibut fillet

The Halia (Singapore)

The Halia (Singapore) - Ginger Spice, all things nice

Ginger Spice, all things nice

Dessert was a toss up between Die Die Must Have Chocolate (chocolate and raspberry, which sounded kinda vanilla to me) and Ginger Spice, all things nice.

We decided to be adventurous and opted for the Ginger Spice, which was delightful! I admired the number of elements that all balanced each other: ginger and almond nougatine parfait (the base and it’s stunning, without being sickeningly sweet), coconut mousse (very light and not too heavy on the coconut), compressed pineapple (little cubes of summer sunshine) and shavings of dehydrated coconut flesh.

 

The Verdict

I am definitely willing to overlook the slow service to visit again for a lazy lunch of good food.

 

The Halia
1 Cluny Road, Ginger Garden, Singapore Botanic Garden, Singapore 259569
Phone: +65 8444 1148

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[Gold Coast] Bam Bam Bakehouse

 Blog title - Bam Bam Bakehouse

Bam Bam Bakehouse has been on my radar for awhile and I was thrilled we stopped in on the way home from a quick weekend on the Gold Coast.

It started with an early morning at Tallebudgera Beach. Its gentle crystal clear waves and soft sand are the perfect backdrop for a day of frolicking under the warm summer sun. Tallebudgera Beach is also a patrolled beach, making it our favourite beach to take the Little Mister swimming.

The lifesavers are from Neptune Royal Life Saving Club, which is right by the beach. At the bottom of the Neptune Royal Life Saving Club, there’s a coffee stand and I discovered they offer some Bam Bam Bakehouse goodies for sale.

One Nutella cruffin later, and I was hooked!

Bam Bam Bakehouse

The Venue

While Bam Bam Bakehouse is located on the Gold Coast Highway, you might not quite see it driving past. It is tucked along the side of the building in front of a small car park, but fret not – you’ll need to find parking somewhere nearby first. We found parking on Francis Street, and some might get lucky on Montana Road.

The cafe is fairly large with plenty of open air to capitalise on the gorgeous Gold Coast weather. There is a somewhat Parisian air to the place, and the clientele is not the average daggy flip-flop wearing beachgoer. Think well-pressed polos, crispy white shirts, luxury bags and proper footwear – casual, but not cheap.

 

The Service

Now there are a number of reviews that mention it’s impossible to get a table without a booking. Or that the wait might be 20 minutes. We went in for a late lunch, and while they were busy, we did not have trouble getting a table with some space for our pram.

While you’re ushered to tables by staff, you order and pay at the counter. Service was quick, even though nearly every table was occupied. Staff were friendly without being overly-clingy – they did not hover over us asking how our meals were going before our first bite.

 

The Food

Bam Bam Bakehouse‘s claim to fame is their delectable croissants. Each flakey bakes creation takes three days to make. And they sometimes offer special limited edition croissants, such as their mince croissant for Christmas, mermaid croissant and lovers croissant for Valentine’s Day.

Bam Bam Bakehouse - Twice baked almond croissant. AUD$8.90

Twice baked almond croissant. AUD$8.90

These are their almond croissants, fresh out of the oven and they disappeared very quickly. If you see them, buy them straight away! You can also order these babies online.

If baked goodies are not your thing, Bam Bam Bakehouse also has a meal menu.

Bam Bam Bakehouse - Egg Nasi - AUD$18.90

Egg Nasi – AUD$18.90

The Egg Nasi was super popular while we were there – every table surrounding us had at least one person devouring one of these. This is Bam Bam Bakehouse‘s interpretation of a nasi goreng, a Malay/Indonesian fried rice. Rather than mix in an animal protein, the Egg Nasi is instead full of vegetables and topped with the perfect sunnyside up egg and liberally sprinkled with crispy fried onion for crunch.

And of course, what’s a nasi goreng with a generous dollop of sambal? Their sambal is spicy, but it’s not going to explode your head.

If you are quite hungry (as the SO was on this occasion), add the chicken satay for AUD$7.

Bam Bam Bakehouse - Karaage chicken croissant. AUD$16.90

Karaage chicken croissant. AUD$16.90

My choice was Bam Bam Bakehouse‘s Karaage chicken croissant. with an additional side of sweet potato fries for AUD$8 (cuz I’m such a sucker for sweet potato). This was utter perfection! The beautiful buttery croissant lent itself as the ultimate vessel for a crunchy large chicken karaage. The rest of the ensemble were simple – finely shredded crisp iceberg lettuce, kewpie mayonnaise (of course!) and a sweet in-house made teriyaki sauce. God, I’m still drooling at the memory of it.

 

The Verdict

Bam Bam Bakehouse is a wonderful must-visit cafe on the Gold Coast, but be prepared to spend – it’ll worth every cent though! If you cannot get a table, at least grab some croissants to enjoy while soaking up the sunshine.

 

Bam Bam Bakehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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How to read more in 2018

Blog title - How to read more in 2018

Do you often have “read more” as a new year’s resolution? Or is it your 2018 resolution?

And as a result, do you buy lots of books that you never finish reading?

Then after reading Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“, you end up throwing away your collection of never-finished-reading and only-read-once books?

I read more than 50 books in 2017 without spending a cent, and am hoping to repeat it this year. Here’s how you can do the same.

 

Get a library card

If you have a Brisbane City Council library card, you’re already halfway towards a universe of books to jump into this year.

Every town or city has a public library, and membership is usually free. You’ll need a form of identification to sign up and away you go!

Find your nearest Brisbane City Council library here.

 

Use it to access ebooks

Finding the time to go to a library and select books I want to stick my nose into can be a monumental task. This is especially when you are juggling a toddler, work/business and home.

But you don’t need to step foot into a Brisbane City Council library to check out a book and read more!

I learnt Brisbane City Council library catalogue has a growing number of ebooks. To access them, you need to download the mobile app Libby, select the appropriate library collection and type in your library card number.

And voila! You can now browse, tag, hold and check out books from the comfort of home.

 

Get more ebooks

Whether you have an iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle or Nook, you should subscribe to BookBub. They will send you alerts on limited-time offers for the best free books in over twenty genres, from both top-tier publishers and critically-acclaimed independent authors.

There are also free ebook collections:

 

Join a book club

If you’d like to keep track of your reading goals this year, sign up to Goodreads. They have a huge community with book recommendations, book clubs, deals and giveaways.

You can start with 2018 Reading Challenge, Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf or Oprah’s Book Club group to help you along. Sure, you won’t get to sit around someone’s living room, sipping tea or wine with like-minded readers, but you can still connect with fellow bibliophiles.

 

If you DO decide to take up more reading and sign up to Goodreads, friend me and we can share our reads over the year!

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