Foodnotes, Travel

Sydney cafes

Four Sydney cafes down, three more to go.

bills
This was a recommendation from my friend Charlotte and it was spot on. See, always ask your foodie friends for recommendations – they will never fail you!

We checked out of our hotel located at the Sydney CBD area and moved into another one at Surry Hills. While we were no longer in the heart of the hustle and bustle, Surry Hills won us over. It was quieter, most charming and had plenty of indie and vintage shops to give the area character. We had fun exploring the neighbourhood on foot.

There are three bills outlets in Sydney and conveniently, one was situated within 10 minutes of our hotel. After checking in, we took a leisurely stroll over for a cup of coffee and a late lunch.

It was an amazing meal. The coffee was good and the miso charred steak sandwich that I had was delicious. The beef was well-seasoned and tender, and the bread was crusty.

We liked it so much that we went back for dinner on our last night in Sydney. Mr Thick’s lamb cutlet was so simply cooked and yet so fantastic, we couldn’t stop raving about it. Meanwhile, my veal ragout was melting in my mouth and I was reduced to a blubbering state of infatuation.

It wasn’t only the food that was superb, the service was impeccable as well. The staff never failed to make us feel welcome and at ease, and they took care of the little man too.

Definitely a must-go in Sydney.

Single Origin Roasters
Again a recommendation from Char, Single Origin Roasters was merely 15 minutes away from our hotel. Yay! We decided to make it our first stop in the morning before starting our day. SMARTIES!

The coffee was delicious. Fragrant and packed the right amount of kick. I was all zinged up after that. Mr Thick, on the other hand, couldn’t stop raving about his ham and cheese toastie while my banana bread with espresso butter was just as good.

We sat there in the cold, crisp morning, sipping our hot coffees and munching on our delicious breakfast. Life was good.

Bourke Street Bakery
Once again, this winning recommendation came from Charlotte. And again, we were lucky that our hotel in Surry Hills was within walking distance of Bourke Street Bakery.

We decided to pop over to the boulangerie as the afternoon faded away, and after a lengthy stroll in the neighbourhood. The weather had been chilly, and we were looking forward to having some nosh in our tummies to warm us up.

Oh. My. Word.

The hot chocolate that I had was spicy and had that bittersweet tang of dark chocolate. The crust of our lemon tart was buttery and crumbly, and the lemon curd was just tangy enough to make me squeal in delight.

I wish we had the time to buy and eat more baked goodies – we reached the bakery slightly before it closed. Regret maximus!

Poor little buddy though. He couldn’t partake in the yummy food and decided to eat his shoe instead. That happened a lot during the trip.

Aidan

37+3

Exactly 37 weeks and 3 days ago, Aidan was born.
From tomorrow onwards, he would have spent more time outside my womb than inside.
I’m sure this is something that only mothers would care about.

We have all come a long way since that morning at 4am, when he was taken out of my body.
And we have barely scratched the surface of it.

The time that I had spent alone with my little man during my maternity leave is something that belongs to us.
He made me a mother and in those hours – some extremely long and painful – he stripped me down to my rawest state.
I had never felt so helpless before in my life.
And nobody else will ever see me in that way again.
He won’t remember it, of course, but I will.
It’s forever seared in my memory, in my heart.

37 weeks and three days on, we have hit our stride.
We no longer question why, we just do.
There is no point in wondering and whining, the days still fly by.
We still have to get through each challenge, each milestone.
Some days are easier than others, and yet everyday is full of joy.


8 weeks in gestation


20 weeks in gestation


Hours after he was born


At 2.5 weeks


At 4 months


At 7.5 months

Silly things

Liebster Award | Of elevens

The very lovely Katrijn of Singapore Tamtam has decided that I am worthy of the Liebster Award. Whee!

The rules that come attached with this award:
1. When you receive the award, you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you.
2. Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (make sure you tell them you nominated them!) and ask them 11 questions.
3. You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you!
4. Make sure the blogs you chose have 200 or LESS followers.

I’m not going to pass the award on, simply because I am sleep deprived and cannot think straight. Yeah, mental leap season is upon us. I know, I know, when the heck is it not mental leap season? Good times!

So here goes, the 11 random facts about me.
1. I cuss like a sailor. Terrible. I tried to stop but I can’t. It’s so unrefined and unbecoming of a kim gek but hey, if it works…
2. My feet is tiny, I wear size 35 shoes. It’s annoying sometimes because the shops run out of this size very quickly!
3. Despite my unruly hair, I have never straightened nor rebonded it. I don’t have the patience to sit at the salon for hours on end. This is why my hair always looks like the lion’s mane.
4. When I was a kid, I was often lonely and would stare into the night sky, pretending that the stars were twinkling down at me. That began my affinity with astronomy.
5. I have my mother to thank for my love for writing. She brought me to the library regularly when I was a child, and indulged in my love for books despite the fact that we didn’t have much money.
6. I’m stubborn like a mule. Once I have set my mind on something or someone, nothing can change my mind.
7. My kid peed on me after his bath this evening. Cheeky little bugger.
8. I may not look it but man, do I love my food!
9. I don’t keep my nails long, thanks to the habit instilled in me during my piano-playing days. Long nails make me feel all icky and weird, and they get in the way of everything.
10. Growing up, I have never been one of the girls who was popular or attracted the jock. Nay, I only drew the interest of nerdy boys. I don’t know why!
11. Even though I have the body of a stick insect, the mammaries of a pre-pubescent child and skin resembling an oil field, I have never been one of those girls who wished to be like a supermodel. Strangely enough, I never hankered to be perfect and was happy being gangly ‘ol me.

Part of deal requires me to answer 11 questions that Katrijn had for me so here are my answers.

1. What song or performer will make it onto every mix tape or spotify list you’ll ever assemble?
Adele’s rendition of Make You Feel My Love. It will always remind me of that time when I hit rock bottom and had to claw my way out slowly.

2. What book or article are you still thinking about?
Today, it’s Cloud Atlas! I am thinking that it might be a book that would appeal to me.

3. Where on the internet do you waste most time? And where on the internet do you find most interesting/inspiring/influential news and stories?
Actually, the Internet is my playground. I get distracted easily and move from site to site quite quickly. For news, I love New York Times. It’s really my daily fix.

4. What newspaper/website/twitterfeed do you follow to keep abreast of current events in your geographic area?
Channel News Asia.

5. And where will you take me when I come to visit?
The Botanic Gardens.

6. How do you meet locals in your neighbourhood?
At the lift landing and at the playground.

7. How would you describe your style?
Eclectic. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I am all about vintage Stepford Wives and other times it’s menswear for me.

8. What’s your favourite hobbyhorse to get on? What do you love to hate?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. I guess it would be the lack of flexible working arrangements in Singapore in general. And I love to hate ugly behaviour. People being rude, people being inconsiderate etc. Don’t get me started.

9. What parenting taboos or practices have you come across in your culture?
HA. HAHAHA. I’m all about breaking traditional parenting practices. I don’t feed my kid porridge, for instance. Many of my parenting principles run parallel to those of attachment parenting.

10. What parenting practices do you think should be adopted from elsewhere?
Gosh, that’s hard. I don’t think I know enough to say for certain. What I would like, however, is shorter working hours. If I can just get off from work 30 minutes earlier each day at 530pm, that would give me the opportunity to actually do stuff with my little man.

11. When and what made you change your mind?
Don’t know!

Phew! That’s a long one. I’m off to bed soon, please do take on the questions if you feel like! And please feel free to share your answers with me.

Motherhood

It doesn’t get easier

On paper, I have got this mothering thing all sorted out.

We have caregivers who are willing to look after the little man while I head to work. Both grandmothers love him and take solid care of him in the day. I have a job that I enjoy very, very much. I’m doing well, my colleagues are awesome and I have a fantastic boss. My commute from work to the caregivers’ to home is under an hour.

It’s all good.

And yet it’s not. You have no idea how the notion of not being able to bring up my child full-time kills me inside.

I miss my little guy so much when I am at work. Most of the time, I am able to compartmentalise and get on with my work. And it’s not like I don’t like it. But there are moments when I look at the photos of Aidan and wonder why I am teaching someone else’s child when I can be there for my own. And I’ll wonder if something has got to give.

It’s a constant struggle that I go through every single day.

I suspect that I am not the sort who will kill myself and my kid if I were to stay home and be a full-time mom. Granted, there may be frustrating days (*coughmentalleapcough*) when I will tear my hair out (or his) but in general, I won’t feel too sorry about being there for him.

There are so many things that I want to do with him. And I know exactly how I want to bring him up. As a working mom, the only time that I can do all that is during weekends but even then, the days are too darned short. On top of that, I am constantly performing the mundane chores of being a mom: packing milk, freezing milk, cooking dinner, freezing dinner, doing grocery shopping, ordering dipes and wipes, sterilizing pumps and bottles etc.

I once spent three hours in the kitchen whipping up his meals for the next week and was exhausted after that. And then I wondered about the point of doing that because those were three hours I could have spent playing with him. Or taking him out for a swim or a walk.

Perhaps the key to it is to let go. But how? This is my son, the child that I dreamt of for two years and was blessed with in the most unexpected manner. And this is my child: joyful, strong-willed, delightful, charming, adorable, chatty.

Maybe the catch is that I want to have my cake and eat it too. Work part-time. Or something. I just need to figure out what this “something” is.

Foodnotes, Travel

Caffeine addicts love Sydney

My name is Yann and I am addicted to caffeine.

No, not really. Oh fine, YES I AM. I’m holding down a full-time job AND mothering a tiny tyrant so I definitely need my daily caffeine fix. And because I am still nursing the kiddo, I try my best to limit my caffeine intake to just ONE a day. And that means that my ONE caffeine shot has to be supremely out of this world.

Which is why I hate, HATE it when the coffee SUCKS.

And then we went to Sydney. And I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

A cafe! Here! And here! And there! Oh, look! ANOTHER CAFE?
WHEEEEEEEEEE!

Yeah, I kinda liked Sydney.

Anyway, one of my rules when we were there was that we would explore a new cafe every day. This turned out to be a fantastic rule because it forced me to check out new sights on the days that Mr Thick had to work and I was alone with the little man. I ended up walking and walking and walking and discovering fantastic new eateries.

And because I am not only Fabulously Gorgeous but also ridiculously nice, I am sharing my list with you! Nah, much of the list came from suggestions from very nice friends so I am merely paying it forward.

Le Pain Quotidient
We stumbled upon this cafe on the day that we arrived in Sydney, all bleary-eyed and exhausted from the red-eye flight. And it totally helped to soothe any frazzled nerves that we had.

The mocha with Belgian chocolate that Mr Thick had was nice and thick, with a hint of bitterness. My butter croissant and lemon tart were okay but his leg ham and gruyere cheese omelet was yummy.

I liked the place so much so that I went back to it one afternoon to rest my weary legs after shopping at Bondi Junction.

Taste Baguette
Convenience was the keyword in leading us to this cafe. It’s situated right at the foot of our hotel and we decided to just pop in for a bite.

BEST DECISION.

The Vietnamese Style Lemongrass Chicken and Grilled Portuguese Chicken sandwiches that we had were delicious. DELICIOUS, I tell you. Every bite was full of flavour. And I loved the crusty baguettes!

And the icing on the cake? The coffee (Campos beans) was kickass. As in, it kicked my sleepy ass into GO GO GO! mode. It made me very happy.

The staff was awesome too. When I was there for lunch one day with just Aidan, they were extremely attentive and friendly, and even helped me with the napkins and water.

Le Grand Cafe
A cafe situated at the Alliance Francaise de Sydney, this little nook is never crowded nor noisy. There’s always jazzy French music playing in the background, and it’s perfect for a solo traveller. In fact, I liked the place so much so that I brought Mr Thick back for a coffee break one afternoon.

The croissant that I had was nicely buttery and flaky, and the flat white was nice enough.

Flour and Stone
This was a recommendation by the fantastic Mrs Ergul. I had snapped a photo of Hyde Park on Instagram and she immediately left a comment, suggesting that I check out Flour and Stone.

I love them foodies. They always know where to go when it comes to good food.

It. Was. Yummeh.

The spicy chicken sandwich that I had hit all the right spots while the lamington was simply heavenly. The coffee was decent but then again, I couldn’t drink it fresh because the little buddy was demanding all of my attention.

Okay, that’s enough caffeine for now. I’ve still got a couple more to go and I’ll share that with y’all soon.

Photography, Travel

Sydney dreams

So. Sydney.

We were there for all of seven nights and we fell in love with the city. We didn’t want to leave, partly because we loved being out there on our own. Just us three, our little family unit, 24/7.

Well, sort of, since Mr Thick was actually there on business and we were the tagalongs.

But I daresay the trip has emboldened us and we will, if finances allow, be embarking on more adventures. Traveling with the little man is so easy now and he is such a good companion. His current temperament is mellow and cheerful, and we are very lucky indeed.

(Note my emphasis on “now” and “current”. As with everything related to baby, the only constant is change so we never think ahead and always focus on the present.)

What we loved about Sydney:

Baby-friendly facilities
Never once have I felt unwelcome while pushing the stroller around the city. All the curbs have ramps to slopes built in for strollers and wheelchairs to move around easily. The public transport system are excellent too, with seats dedicated to those with strollers and wheelchairs. We ditched the car seat and took the bus and train when we needed to travel out of the CBD, which was where we were based for much of the trip. I took the train with Aidan in the stroller on my own and found it a breeze. When the wheels were caught in the gap between the platform and the train, many good Samaritans came forward and helped to lift the stroller up. Amazing.

Beautiful architecture
The city had preserved the colonial buildings magnificently and I loved the juxtaposition of history and contemporary. Somehow the mix of traditional and modernity worked perfectly.

Fresh produce
My brother-in-law, an Australian, tells me that Australia doesn’t import many things and everything is made or created within the country. And it shows. I loved the wide variety of organic and free-range products. Some are pricy, yes, but at least we have plenty of options. Organic has become such a way of life for them. It would have been so much fun if we had gotten a service apartment with access to a kitchen.

Spring
The weather was beautiful. Perfectly crisp, perfectly cool. We walked almost everywhere. On the days when Mr Thick had to go into the office, I would strap the kid into the Boba baby wrap and explore the city on foot on my own. I reckon I walked more than 5km each day!

Green spaces
There were so many beautifully manicured parks within the CBD alone! Whenever I get tired of walking, I’d sit on one of the benches and enjoy the peaceful grounds. There were art installations in the parks (Art & About Sydney 2012), which I really enjoyed. We also had dinner at the Night Noodle Markets at Hyde Park one night. And I had my first glass of wine in 16 months there! Yums.

Awesome cafes
Good coffee, fantastic weather, delicious bakes. Can you blame me for not wanting to leave? I had a “one new cafe to check out a day” rule and that was fun! It forced me to be more daring. I’ll leave that for another post for those heading to Sydney soon. Some of these places are to die for.

But of course, with our income, we wouldn’t be able to survive life in Australia. And that’s the clinch – the higher cost of living. Never again will I complain about the cost of transport in Singapore. A train ride in Sydney cost us $4 while the cab ride from the airport to the hotel was a whopping $90.

Oh we spent a heap of money, more than we should, but we had fun and made many beautiful memories.

Till the next holiday.