Monday, April 30, 2012

Good times...

Dear Baby,

It's hard to believe that seven years ago we were just about to say our vows and make the biggest commitment of our lives.

Really, where did the time go?

Everytime I think about us, I think about how we met and came to be together. How we went through being young parents and survived at all that life had thrown at us. And how you were always working so hard to provide and never once complained about the long hours.

It wasn't the easiest of times but hey! we kinda made it work. I know it's because you really love our lil family and it's something you hold so dear to your heart.

Even now, you still work your bum off to make sure we have more than enough for the dinner table. You always  make sure that we still go on dates and trips alone. And you will always step up to help me with the kiddos when I have other engagements.

Without a doubt, looking at our three kids we have come a really long way. In more ways than one, they are a constant reminder that we need to maintain a good marriage so that we can be better parents.

I guess this is not really a love letter but more of a reflection of our years together. =)

That said, I still find myself smiling secretly when I think of you during the day. And whenever you manage to find a way to be home before me, I always wanna rush home to see you. My heart skips when we go for a lunch date. So safe to say, I think I'm still crazy about you. I love how we always laugh and say silly things when we are together.

To say that I feel blessed is an understatement. My world would not be complete without you.  I thank God everyday that I have with you. Life has been really awesome with you, babe!

Happy Anniversary, my dear!!

I've still got my eyes on you!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tips for Ho Chi Minh

I have been getting a few emails about our trip to HCM. So I'd thought I would share what we've experienced during the few days we were there. This was written to a galfriend who asked for tips. =)

Here's what I came up with.

#1 - We stayed at the A&EM Hotel just across the Ben Tanh Market. It's very convenient because there's plenty of food around and also a night market in front of the hotel at night. It's super midrange so take that into consideration.

#2 - Whilst taking a cab either from the airport or the city, take either Malin or Vinasun. These two have the most reasonable rates. The others are a rip off. Most hotels have a vinasun rep that would help you get a cab.

Also your vietnamese cab driver would most likely not understand much english so always have the address of your destination.


#3 - Pho Hoa was our first stop for pho. Our Viet-Aussie friend loved it. It was good and very classic and herbal.

260C Pasteur Street | Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Pho 2000 (which Bill Clinton visited) is pretty good too, according to my good friend. But we didn't get to try cos there was no time.



#4 - Ben Tanh market has good food as well. The prices are all on a board so make sure you checked just so they don't rip you off. We loved the pork chop rice and pho best.

Also when you buy condiments or tea there (or just about anything), make sure you bargain.


#5 - L'Usine is a store above Christian Louboutin. It's a mod australian lifestyle store cum cafe as well. Very lofty and quite a nice change after walking around HCM for a day. We had coffee there after a long day of walking around.

The entrance is actually located at the back alley where you have to walk through an aisle of stores selling up and walk up the windy staircase.

La Cafeteria De L’usine

151 Đồng Khởi, 1st Floor, District 1, Saigon

+84 (0) 8 6674 3565
 Mon – Sun: 10:00 – 22:00


#6 - You should change Viet Dong at either the hotel you stay in or at any gold/jewellery shop. The rates are better than SG.


#7 - Best Bread roll - 180 Duong Ba Trac, District 8. It's a roadside stall but it's really good. The crispy baguette was absolutely to die for. It's like biting into a crispy airy bun. Ask for fresh baguettes though. It's 17k dong.

#8 - Nha hang ngon is a lovely restaurant with a courtyard and a whole assortment of vietnamese food that you can pick as you walk around. The place was very very lovely but the food was so so. It could be that we were there just before they closed but they do offer a good variety of food there. Like pancakes, broken rice, pho - horrible, sugar cane prawns, desserts.


 #9 - Le Creperie has excellent french crepes.  We loved the fit out and also the food & cider. Yumz! It's also on the street where there are plenty of japanese restaurants.

Le Creperie

5 Han Thuyen St., Dist.1, Ho Chi Minh City



#10 - Roadside stalls had a great range of street food and we had some really good food there. The sugar cane juice usually have an injection of fresh green orange juice in them and it's delicious. Also, we had some carrot cake by the street. But you can explore and see what you are comfortable with.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Frames

One morning. An inspiration. A pair of glasses. Magic.




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ham & Cheese Piggie Blankies


My firstborn was born Chinese but has 100% Aussie tastebuds.

He loves nothing more than pasta, pizzas, sandwiches and pastries.

Thankfully, he tolerates the asian food that I cook at home (even that took a long time) but really he only wants pasta 24-7.

So I had an idea for lunch yesterday since he normally has sandwiches for lunch.

I had all the ingredients at home, so I made some ham, cheese and tomatoes piggie blankies for him.

It was terribly simple that I'm embarrassed to post this but it makes a good weekday lunch for the kiddies or even as a snack.

He loved it so much that he whalloped 7 at a go. So give this a go!

Ingredients
100g of Ham
1 block of cheddar cheese (or whatever you have at home)
1 tomato
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 egg - beaten

Firstly, turn the oven on to 200 degrees celsius.

Cut puff pastry sheet into 9 cubes. Then put shreds of ham, cheese and tomato diagonally.

Roll the puff pastry. (fold one side to another.)
Brush with beaten egg. Put it into the oven for 12-15 minutes till it turns golden brown.
Serve with tomato relish or tomato sauce.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Joy

Sometimes you just gotta sit back and relax.

And appreciate the good things that three kids bring to our lives.

Happy Monday, peeps!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Easy As ABC Baked Eggs


I <3 Weekends.

Sundays are my favorite because we usually get time with friends for coffee and have a really late brunch.

Sometimes when I'm in the mood, I'll prep brekkie for the kiddos at home.

Here's a really simple baked eggs recipe that I love.

It really cannot get any simpler than this. Because all you need are some simple ingredients, ramekins and an oven. Viola!

Here's what I put into mine.

Ingredients
Bacon
Mushrooms - with
1 tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic
4 tbsps of canned diced tomato
3 Sprigs of coriander - coarsely chopped
A handful of Spinach
1 Egg
Salt and Pepper

Steps
1. Turn oven onto 200 degree celsius
2. Fry the bacon
3. Add butter to the pan. Throw in the garlic & mushrooms and sautee with a pinch of salt and pepper
4. Put bacon into ramekin. Followed by mushrooms.
5. Add diced tomatoes.
6. Add the Spinach
7.Crack egg on top of the tomato puree
8. Add a handful of chopped coriander on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
9. Put in the oven to bake for 5-7 minutes.

Serve with Toast Soldiers
I topped mine with some cheesy toasts which I got the recipe off A at her blog.

It was very yummy. And best of all it doesn't come with a bill that stings. =)

Sight Words


Any parent in SG would know that by the time the child enters Primary 1, they are expected to read and write basic words, do simple calculations and speak a second language.

The Principal at K's school mentioned that reading is very important to kids.It serves a dual purpose. When you are able to read, you can understand and solve mathematical problems as well.

So Jake is going to join his korkor in his school next year so I thought I beter make sure he's up to par with his reading.

I was introduced to a term called Dolch words. It is a list of 300 sight words that are common repeated in the English text. Something like a foundation of sorts.

The boy is already attending phonetic classes so he can sound words out based on their sounds. Dolch words, sometimes, cannot be pronounced with phonetics so he struggled a little with it.

I printed out over 200 flash cards and laminated them (yes I went to buy a laminating machine for this) all to get him accustomised to the words.

What we do is I would go from the elementary level and we would run through the words to the advanced ones. What he is not familiar with, I would take it out and run through it with him again.

I try to do this on a daily basis as the more he sees it, the more familiar he is with the words.

There are plenty of ways to learn through play with these flash cards. Sometimes, I pull those cards out to play 'create a sentence' with him. Or I pull random cards for him to flip and guess.

Overall, I can see the vast improvement in him as we read these days. I'd printed out the story where there are 220 dolch words in there and the boy was able to read them all.


There are plenty of resources online. You can google dolch words and explore. Alternatively, a good start would be the Peter and Jane series by Ladybird. =)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kate Speaks #734895


Lil K is at a stage where she's poking her lil nose into our daily going ons.
Here are a few things she's chattered on lately.

Scenario - I took my shoes off in the car. (which is a 'supposed' no no)

K: Mummy, you take off shoes.
Me: Oh!
D : (in a teasing voice) Should I beat Mummy?
K: NO! Mummy put on shoes. NOW.

Princess talk is also all serious business.
Me: Who's the princess?
K: Me!
Me: No it's me! Mummy's the princess.
K: No it's me. I'm the princess.
Me. No it's Mummy.
K turns to Daddy and says: Daddy's the princess. =)

Whilst getting into the car and being strapped onto her car seat.
K: So Mummy? Are we going to Bali now?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bringing Home Birkin

My husband spoils me.

I know because he would often buy me things before thinking of indulging in something himself but this one, oh my, this one totally takes the cake.

So I have been lemming a certain bag for a really long time.

Over the years, I've got quite a collection of all the different designer bags out there. (It's a terrible habit, my bank account will tell you!)

But the one thing that I've always coveted is... the Birkin.

Seriously, this bag has eluded my hands a few times. Once because we just moved back, I had to say no to the one offered because we were bogged down with several commitments.

I'd left it be after because I didn't think I would put down the $ for a bag like that so soon. (And weeped for ages after. =( )

But my husband has always been my number 1 cheer leader. Seriously.

He's always said that I will get my birkin someday.

And guess what?

Lil Miss Pink
Tadah! The man did not even blink when he bought it. Isn't he such a darling?

It's the luscious 35 Rose Tyrien Epsom birkin that is too gorgeous in real life. It's such a lovely pop of color to my outfit and I adore it sooo much. It is structured and really easy to maintain.

Thankfully, it is also pretty light so I can lug it around town without feel the ache in my arm.


Now I just hope this doesn't start a serious obsession with birkins. I don't think my husband's heart can take it. *wink*

Thank you babe!  (And thank you D!)

My Gals



I cannot tell you how thankful I am for the great friends that I have in my life.

I probably don't say enough but these galfriends are the sanity to my kids -filled life.

Amongst all, these two are the best to travel and eat and talk about every single thing under the sun.

Aren't galfriends the best?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sights of HCM

HCM is quite an interesting town to explore.

Because they were occupied by the French for a period of time, their architecture has a strong influence by their heritage. Most of the buildings are low rise so you really only see three sky scrapers there.

It was real good fun walking around exploring the city.

We took a short trip out to see the Wind and Water Cafe which was an hour away. It's built entirely on bamboo which was amazing but it's incredibly boring. So we had a quick coffee before hopping back to the city in a cab. =)

The new Hotel Con

City Hall

We spotted a street stall selling intricate cards

Look at the detailing

Opera House
Looking like the French Riviera

An hour out of HCM is the Wind and Water Cafe

Made entirely of bamboo

Group shot!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coffee Viet Style

 The peeps and us are avid coffee drinkers.

We spend many a weekends around the different coffee joints back in Melbourne and now in SG.

So when in HCM, the coffee was essential to keep us going as well.

Drip coffees are common and aplenty. In fact, if you order an ice coffee, chances are it would be come metal drip container. You wait for it to finish before pouring it into a glass of ice.

The best part of coffee drinking in HCM. People watching. You sit in their short tables and chairs whilst doing it. It's good fun sitting there chatting and watching the crowds go by.

Life is good this way.

Ah I miss my vacation already.

Us at Cafe Vy waiting for the boys

Coffee...

Mafia style gathering

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cu Chi Tunnels


Cu Chi Tunnels is a tourist destination known for its infamous tunnels which the Viet Congs used to defeat the Americans. It is a complicated web of tunnels under the forest grounds of Cu Chi.

We had a free day when D&H left for a wedding in a village so we booked a tour to see the tunnels and ,also, because the boys wanted to shoot some bullets.

H booked us into this cheap tour that cost $15USD. We were left scratching our heads as to why a private tour for four is so cheap? Turns out it was a group tour in a really shitty bus with a busload full of tourists.


It was approximately 1.5 hours to the tunnels. With a stop at a store that sold products made by the handicapped. By the time we got there, I swore the four of us wanted to wave the white flag and head back to the city in a cab. But we persisted. And finally got to Cu Chi in one piece. Phewz!




We arrived at a forest with lots of low rise huts. The guide took us on a 2-3 hour tour through the forest. Describing the horror of the American attacks, he showed us the different kinds of traps invented by the Viet Cong to trap, injure of kill the Americans.

We also got to see the 'modernized' versions of the tunnels. ie the ones they dug bigger for tourists. Quite a poof, I feel.

Oh hi there!
It was hot and humid that day. We literally sweat buckets as we walk through the trail.

We were given a chance to climb through the tunnels for a certain distance, shortest being 15m. However, after attempting to do so, I freaked out at the entrance and backed out. It was too claustrophobic for my liking and the musky smell of the tunnels turned me off.

We also got a chance to have some lotus tea and cassava to have a 'taste' of war time food.

Obligatory pic with the overturned tank

So after all that walk, we got to the shooting range. If you ever need to feel how it's like to walk amongst gun fire, this is the place for you. Those guns were loud.

You get a choice of M30, M16, AK47 etc. Each bullet is probably $1USD and you need to purchase a minimum of 10. The boys and R went ahead with the firing. They had this guide who would take your bullets and bring you to the range. I call him Mr Army man. He was totally in military mode. It was funny as.


The final part of the tour was a documentary about the history of the tunnels. It was clearly propoganda. The information provided were all praises and the heroic acts of the viet cong. I didn't know whether I should cry or laugh.

My take on this tour. It's a once in a life time thing. As in you do it once, and then you won't want to go back again. But if you must, take a private tour. The comfort in the car ride to and fro is more than sufficient to make up for the price.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh market is probably the most famous market in HCM.

Our hotel was brilliantly located just across the market. Which could only mean one thing for greedy gluttons like us.

FOOD. GLORIOUS FOOD.

Seriously, we headed to Vietnam like people waiting for a buffet. Empty stomachs were essential to begin with.

Ok back to the topic, Ben Thanh. Just like the rest of Vietnam has an old school charm. It is not the cleanest market you will see (I mean a lady selling vegetables had her manicure done next to her produce.) but it is spacious with a lot of variety.  You would find fresh produce, manicure salons, stalls selling clothes, watches and such, food stalls.

Out of them all, we were interested in the fresh produce stalls and the food stalls.

It is important to note that it is a tourist destination. Which means the food sold is not the cheapest but when you convert it back to our currency, it is still really affordable. And they were delicious.

We bought jugs of chilli of the lady selling pho. And found an stall selling the best charcoal grilled pork chops and chicken broken rice. You can find vietnamese drinks like three colors and cheng tng here too.

The stalls here have menus which will describe their dishes. Also, the prices are stated on boards written in front of their stall.

One funny thing that happened was when R was about to tuck into her pork chop rice, a pair of tongs came charging towards her and took a piece of pork back! She was taken aback. Turns out the lady gave more pieces than expected and so she took it back. I guess that's how it's done here.


Condiments for the pho

The gals were ready to shop.


This stall sells amazing pork chop broken rice.

Grilled chicken rice
Pho with added chilli. Yumz!



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