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Lake Toya, Japan

Spot of Tranquility.

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Little India, Singapore

Spices, gold and splashes of colour!

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Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay

Garden City, City in a Garden.

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Bryce Canyon, USA

Thor's Hammer

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Chocolate Test, Singapore

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." -Charles M Schulz

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Old School Delights

My good friend's mother was telling me that she liked this cafe along Thomson - Old School Delights because it was fun. Since it got her stamp of approval, we headed down. 


I think the main draw here is that they provide games (from our era) for families to bond over.


Back in those days when there was no iPhone, no iPad, no internet on phones, my mum used to buy random games for us to play- Uno, Game of Life, Monopoly, Snake & Ladders, Bingo, Scrabble, Donkey etc. And of course, not forgetting Old Maid. At this cafe, they bring you back to those good old days. Up till this day, my mum still owns us at playing five stones, nothing has changed in 20 years!


Even their menu is in the form of a school notebook.


The Lil' Drumlets ($5.50), not surprisingly, were a hit. Deep fried to a crisp and very juicy within.


I ordered the Hor Fun with Mushroom Stock ($8.80). The question is why should I be paying so much for something that I can buy for much cheaper in a hawker centre? Aside from the fact that the price point is fine considering that you enjoy the comforts of air con and can play games, they try to value add to the dish. For example, the portion here is certainly bigger than what you get at a hawker centre and the mushrooms are certainly bigger as well. My only gripe with this was that it was a little too salty.


While i didn't try the Nasi Lemak Besar ($6.90), I tried the jumbo otak which was pretty decent.


We ended the meal with a Lemony Cake ($4.50). Without any embellishment, this was a homely and simple cake that was buttery and lemony without being too sweet.


A nostalgic place with decent food at affordable prices.

Old School Delights 
215M Upper Thomson Road
Tel No: 6458 4518 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pizzeria Rustika (Slovenia)

We stayed 2 minutes away from Pizzeria Rustika and it came highly recommended by our local host- she said it was cheap and good! This pizzeria was a rarity in Europe. In Europe,  restaurants often told us that their kitchens were closed at 2 p.m. Here, they are opened between 12 a.m. to 11 p.m. and even offer home delivery!


After all that huge European portions we were eating, we decided to share a salad (it doesn't hurt to pretend to be healthy) and a main. We got a Rustika Salad (8.90 Euros). We were a little taken aback when we saw the large portion of the salad. It was a simple salad with lettuce, rocket, tomato, corn, ham, cheese and olives. It offered a much needed respite when we were getting too full with the pizza.


We shared a Morska Pizza (8.90 Euros) which consisted of tomato, garlic, mussels and squid. They were so generous with the mussels, it's as though mussels here were free. I had to constantly remind my husband not to finish all the mussels or the souvenir he would be bringing back from the holidays is cholesterol! This was definitely more than enough for two to share although we marvelled at how a girl at another table ate the entire pizza on her own. The pizza was decent for the price we paid.


To round off the meal, we got a Marlenka (3 Euros). The presentation is pretty bad but tasted pretty good. It is a honey cake, layered with chocolate sponge and there was a good kind of gooey in between. It might border on being a little too sweet for some though.


The waitress was very pleasant and friendly. Value for money, certainly worth a visit!

Pizzeria Rustika 
Riklejeva cesta 13
Bled, Slovenia
Tel No: +386 4 576 8900 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Haus Anastasia (Bad Ischl)

Haus Anastasia is one of those places that might not look like much initially but turned out to be one of our favourite places for the trip. 

1) Location 

Haus Anastasia is located around a leisurely 15 minutes walk to town. The hosts would gladly tell you which route to take to reach town. The roads can be a little narrow to drive so if you don't mind walking to town, walk. It is a convenient base to nearby places such as Hallstat and many lakes. 

2) Apartment 

No footwear permitted within the apartment but we are perfectly fine with this because it just means that the hosts really value cleanliness, and that's what we got! 

Aside from the host's own living space, there are three apartments housed within the same compound. Despite that, the apartment we were in was spacious and had everything we needed. For the tall ones, do take note not to bump into the ceiling when walking up the stairs. 

There was a living room which was equipped with a TV and a shelf outside the apartment full of DVDs. There were also guides on what you could do as well as a thoughtfully curated list of restaurants that the hosts recommended. We in fact bumped into the hosts at a restaurant which was recommended in the list.


The kitchen was fully equipped and you had everything you needed to prepare a meal.



The beds were a total luxury. It was the first time during our trip that everything about the bed was right- for once, we had proper beds and pillows which were neither too hard nor too soft. We woke up feeling well-rested. The only minor thing was that we were wondering why there were two separate mattresses instead of one, but it was not an issue at all.


3) Toilet 

The toilet was warm (something that was not a given in all the places that we have been to) and provided bathing products.


4) Hosts 

The hosts, Elaine and Russ, were hospitable and were ready to make recommendations if you required any.

An enjoyable stay - it offers the comfort of your own home!

Haus Anastasia 
Traxleckerweg 30
Bad Ischl
Austria 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ostarija Babji Zob (Slovenia)

Of the various restaurants we went to in Slovenia, Ostarija Babji Zob in particular left a deep impression on us, for the comforting and beautiful food as well as friendly service. 


We ordered a Home-Made Mushroom Soup (3.90 Euros). Thick soup with chunks of butter and plenty of mushrooms with each spoonful made for a promising start. One could almost imagine an old grandmother in her kitchen stirring a pot of mushroom soup lovingly.


I am not a cream pasta person, so when ordering the Noodles with Spinach and Smoked Trout (10.20 Euros), I specifically asked the waitress whether it was cream base. She said that there was very little cream. I went ahead with ordering it and realised that something must have been lost in translation because it was a cream pasta! Nonetheless it was surprisingly good. The creamy taste did not overpower and they were generous with the smoked trout which was not too salty.


My husband got himself the Carniolan Sausage with Mustard and Fresh Horseradish (8.80 Euros). The Carniolan sausage is a Slovenian sausage and contains at least 75 to 80% pork (aside from bacon), and at most 20% bacon. It tasted pretty much like the German wurst.


Value for money and very close to city centre.

Ostarija Babji Zob 
Cesta Svobode 8
Bled 4260
Slovenia 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Vintgar Gorge (Slovenia)

We were checking the weather forecast everyday and were hoping for good weather in Slovenia since the weather in Europe has been pretty volatile. 

We were lucky and enjoyed good weather at Vintgar Gorge. The ravine is located approximately 4 km north-west of Bled. 

These beautiful wildflowers welcomed us at the entrance. Entrance fee is 5 Euros per person. 


The gorge is 1.6 km long. What is the origin of this name? One interpretation is that it originated from the German Weingarten (vineyards) while another interpretation says that the gorge reminds one of a wine glass.


With the turquoise and crystal clear waters, it was difficult not to make comparisons with the Plitvice Lakes. If you are energetic, Plitvice is definitely a better option because it has more floral and fauna and offers views from all angles. That is not to say that Vintgar Gorge is not worth going. It is great for a short and easy walk.


A boardwalk has been constructed around the gorge and even if there are steps, there are not that many. For the adventurous ones, they can always veer off the path slightly and walk down the rocks where they will be closer to the water.


The walk takes around 1h-1h 30 min to and fro, depending on how many photographs you want to take of this picturesque gorge. This is good for a half day trip.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ezbuy: Bad experience

I have been spending the last couple of months doing up my house and of course, one component involves buying furniture.

Buying furniture in Singapore can burn a substantial hole in your pocket and we decided to shop for some items on taobao.

We set our eyes on a light brown dining table which cost around S$350 (excluding shipping costs). In our purchase request to Ezbuy, we specifically stated that we wanted 原木色.


When the item came, it was dark brown. I know brown is brown, but there has to be a reason why we specifically chose light brown and not dark brown.


I wrote to Ezbuy telling them that they had sent the wrong table. And then all the angst started.

First they said that they could refund S$100. In the first place, I did not choose this table so why should I accept S$100? I asked for a replacement instead.

Every email from them has someone stating "We could understand your mood and situation". No, you do not understand. They said that as I did not purchase insurance, "ezbuy offers free compensation up to $100 per parcel". So S$100 was the highest compensation they could refund.

I think it is worth noting that in addition to the price of the item and shipping fees, there is also this component called agent fees that you have to bear. I quoted their website which stated that "With ezbuy, we offer basic visual inspection to detect obvious errors made by the sellers." Why am I paying agent fees if their guys didn't detect that this was the wrong item? They then sought to bring up the lack of insurance again, stating "but if you have purchased the insurance, the compensation is capped at S$2000".

At that point in time, I had asked several times whose fault it was - was it the Sellers' fault? The inspector's fault? Or did they purchase the wrong item to begin with? Needless to say, I didn't get a straightforward answer.

After much probing, ezbuy finally admitted that when their purchaser ordered the item, they didn't leave any instruction as to which table I wanted.

How can I expect to receive the correct item when their purchaser did not even order the correct item?

I went on to quote from their website:


I told them that the insurance covers the situation where the items are found damaged, lost or having any issues listed in ezbuy's inspection coverage. It does not cover a situation where their own purchaser purchased the wrong item.

Ezbuy replied stating that "... inspection is needed to inspect problems being generated from purchasing process or problems from seller. No matter where the problem lies in, inspection team should have inspected it out, if not, then we concluded it as a lapse made during inspection coverage, which means that it is inspection team's fault thus making customer didn't receive correct items, even purchasing department made a mistake firstly, inspection team could have inspected it out and should have inspected out while it didn't."

At this point in time, I was not only irritated by the fact that they were trying to lay the blame squarely on me, but was disturbed by their English as well. Give me the red pen.

I knew there was no way ezbuy would return my money parked safely in their account. I raised the white flag and accepted the S$100.

It is ridiculous that they make you buy insurance when the cost of insurance is 3% of the total value of item cost (including domestic shipping fee).

Anyway, the long and short of this entry is that Ezbuy ordered the wrong item and refused to refund me in order for me to buy the correct item.

Buy at your own risk, especially with high value items. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sushiro

We read reviews about how Sushiro had snaking queues (partly due to its popularity and partly due to its small size) and were pleasantly surprised when we went and immediately were shown to our seat- I guess it helped to have a late lunch. 

Although they are known for their chirashi don, we were a little wary of raw food ever since there was a bacteria outbreak. I still miss sashimi and will eat small quantities of it when the craving strikes. 


I ordered the Salmon Mentaiyaki Don ($13). Needless to say, I wiped off every bit of the generous mentaiyaki. I know I said earlier that I have cut down on raw food but I was hoping for a tinge of rawness in the salmon- the sublime state between raw and fully cooked. Nonetheless, the pairing of the fully cooked slab of slightly charred salmon with the mentaiyaki still made a pleasant meal.


Extremely friendly service- the waitress knew the menu inside out, was enthusiastic to make recommendations and her energy was infectious- give her an employee's award!

Sushiro 
Thomson Plaza
301 Upper Thomson Road
#01-113 F
Tel No: 9450 1020 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Swatmobile

As I recently moved house, travelling to work takes significantly longer and I was introduced to an application called Swatmobile.

It says that it is "Cheaper than taxi, faster than bus". Does it really live up to its claim?

1. App

The app is clean, user friendly and intuitive. It is extremely easy to get the app going. The bot will speak to you and you just need to answer accordingly.


Once the application is set up, you are ready to make your bookings. You can prebook your ride up to 1 day advance or up to 30 minutes before departure. Of course, there is a risk that if you don't prebook early, you don't get a slot.

You don't have to remember to pre-book everyday because the app will send you notifications asking you whether you want to pre-book for the next day. They also keep your preferences in mind and give an estimated travel time.

After you request to pre-book, they will let you know later in the day, for example, at around 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. whether you have managed to secure a seat, together with your pickup points and drop off points, and what time your pick up time will be. You can then decide whether to accept or reject the trip.


2. Price 

Prior to 31 March 2017, it was a flat fee of $5. After 31 March 2017, they have launched a distance-based pricing model where rides start as low as $2 to a cap of $7.99. Where I stay, they are charging $6.30, an increase of $1.30 from the previous $5. For those who stay close to their destinations, I guess the distance-based pricing model is an incentive. This $1.30 increase, together with other reasons, as elaborated below caused me to stop using the app. I wouldn't completely rule out using the app though, as it may be useful in days when I just want to sleep through the journey instead of standing in the MRT.

3. Punctuality 

The first time I used the app, I was extremely impressed. I was ready to write a glowing review of the app, but I thought, hey let's try this a few more times to see whether it's really that good. I am glad I did.

The app will let you know the vehicle number and when the vehicle will approximately be reaching. This is of course all good and well because it gives you an idea on when you need to go out. While the van was very punctual the first time I took it, the ETAs subsequently were not very accurate. It caused me to run to the pickup point only to wait there for the next 10 minutes.


4. Time taken 

How this app works is where their algorithm inserts new people along the way without affecting the ETA. So if you look at the estimated time, that should give you a pretty good indication on how long it will take to your destination. The problem is, there were times I reached my destination around 10 minutes than I would otherwise have taken if I had taken public transport.

From where I am to my destination, the fastest way is by expressway. However, their "smart" algorithm suggests that it's better for them to go through the long route so that they can pick up more passengers along the way. So when they say it's "Faster than Bus", it really depends on your luck who else pre-booked.

I had suggested to Swatmobile that they could perhaps indicate in their estimation whether expressways would be taken. Who doesn't like going on expressways- most of the time, that's the fastest way! They didn't reply me, I guess they aren't that keen on feedbacks.

5. Pickup and Drop off points 

Their pickup and drop off points may be at bus stops, taxi stands, lamp posts, petrol kiosks or landmark buildings. However, you will not be required to walk more than 300 metres. However, do note that the pickup and drop off points might differ from what is stated.

The service does not currently cover all areas. You can download the app to see whether your commute locations are within the geofence.

6. Mode of transport 

The vehicle used is a 13-seater Toyato Hiace High Roof vans. The seats are comfortable and there is air-con. Depending on the driver, they may sometimes like to blast music, which caused mild annoyance to me because I wanted to sleep. Another passenger asked the driver to lower the volume and the driver obliged.

Conclusion 

All in all, I think it's an app with a lot of potential. But some tweaks can definitely make the service a lot more attractive. 

Cafe & Meal Muji (Paragon)

Muji is the kind of shop that I enter just to satisfy my eyes' need to look at beautiful things, yet not buy anything from because the prices aren't exactly cheap. While doing my usual rounds, we decided to get a meal from the cafe. 

You could either order the dishes ala carte or get a set meal. There were two Basic Deli Sets ($8.80)- Japanese (minced chicken, 1 cold deli, white rice, onsen egg and miso soup) and Western (minced chicken, 1 cold deli, bread, hijiki and mushroom bisque). You could also choose a set of 3 delis ($12.90), 4 delis ($16.90) etc. I wished they had the Basic Deli Set with the hot deli instead. 


I ordered a combination of Japanese and Western- Sakura Chicken with Curry Miso and Dried Chilli ($4.80) with Mushroom Bisque, Onsen Egg and Bread. This felt a bit kopitiamesque and I would have expected it to be served on prettier plates. Leaving that aside, the mushroom bisque tasted like it was made from scratch (i.e. certainly not your canned soup) and the onsen egg was very slurp worthy. The tender Sakura Chicken with Curry and Dried Chilli was an interesting combination and was slightly spicy.


No prizes for guessing what we did after the meal!

Cafe & Meal Muji Paragon 
Orchard Paragon
290 Orchard Road
#04-36 to 40
Tel No: 6735 0123 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Poulet (Raffles City Shopping Centre)

Poulet is one of those places that we go to when we can't decide what to eat and want something safe. 


Poulet is of course best known for their Roast Chicken with Mushroom Chardonnay. We wanted to try something new and went ahead with the Roast Chicken with Black Pepper Sauce ($30.90). I guess it helps that since their main draw is their roast chicken, they constantly roast a few at the same time, and our order got served very quickly.

We are never disappointed by the roast chicken at Poulet, always timed to perfection - slightly crispy skin and moist inside. The sauce tastes different from the usual black pepper sauce and was mildly peppery. I guess if you wanted, you could eat the peppercorns which would lend a stronger peppery taste- they made this dish look almost Christmasy. Between the Mushroom Chardonnay and the Black Pepper Sauce, I prefer the Mushroom Chardonnay.


We can also never go wrong with the Tiramisu ($9.90) which in this market of over-priced desserts, is one that we think is value for money because of its large portion. It is also not too sweet and has enough soaked lady fingers, instead of some desserts where it is just 90% cream.


Good and attentive service.

Poulet 
Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road
#B1-65/66
Tel No: 6336 3119 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Kucina

Kucina is situated at OneKM, housing many restaurants with halal options. As I was craving for pizza that day, we headed straight to Kucina, a Halal-certified restaurant. Their menu was rather extensive. 


As we were famished, we ordered some Pane ($5) to satisfy our hunger. It consisted of a basket of warm bread with sundried tomato, herb foccacia, garlic pizza bread and country slice. They sure do their breads well- I especially enjoyed the herb foccacia.


The Pizzotto ($16) consisted of turkey bacon, mushrooms, egg, tomato and mozarella cheese. The portions at Kucina were large and this was more than enough for two of us to share. The chef was liberal with the ingredients and this was certainly on par with the better pizza restaurants that we have been to. If you don't fancy the ingredients that they have put on the pizza, you can choose to customise your pizza.


Kucina Italian Restaurant 
OneKM Mall
11 Tanjong Katong Road
#B1-0910
Tel No: 6493 2154 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Osmanthus Jelly

We had a gathering where we wanted to prepare some food. Taking into consideration the target audience in mind, which consisted mostly of people above 60 years old, with a number of young adults with their kids, we wanted to prepare something that was delicious, healthy and presentable.

After some googling, we decided on osmanthus jelly. The osmanthus jelly they sell in restaurants are exorbitant, once you know the cost of making this jelly.

The first task was to hunt down some osmanthus. Osmanthus is supposed to improve complexion and rich in antioxidants. We bought a bottle of osmanthus from Hockhua Tonic for $7 (60g).


The fragrance of the osmanthus hit us the moment we opened the bottle- it is a very delicate, sweet and subtle fragrance.


The reason why I used a glass tray instead of a konnyaku plastic tray was because people were worried that the plastic tray will melt. That said, we still managed to cut the jelly into pretty diamond shapes- just that it will wobble around when you plate it. 

Receipt modified from Noobcook and Misstamchiak:

Ingredients

1 packet of konnyaku jelly powder 
500 ml water (use the amount stated on the box)
2 tsp dried osmanthus flowers
2 tsp wolfberries soaked in water until puffy and drained 
Chia seeds soaked in water and drained 

Directions 

1. In a pot, add water and bring to boil. Lower heat and add osmanthus flowers. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes.

2. Add konnyaku jelly powder. Stir until the powder is fully dissolved. Switch off the flame.

3. Pour the mixture into a jelly mould, or in my case a glass tray. Add about 2 to 4 wolfberries to each mould. 

4. Add chia seeds (which will give an added crunch) to the mixture. 

5. Let the jelly cool down in room temperature and chill in fridge until jelly is set. 


The jelly is inexpensive, healthy, presentable and a crowd pleaser. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Elemen (Thomson Plaza)

The vegetarian landscape in Singapore is changing. Gone are the days when you can only find vegetarian food at hawker centres and old restaurants near temples. Now, nearly every menu has a vegetarian option and more exquisite vegetarian food are aplenty. 

We visited Elemen which reminded me of Sufood. The set meals at Elemen are cheaper, at a price point which is more palatable. 

We got the 5 Course Set ($23.80++ per person) which comes with an appetiser, salad / soup, main, dessert and beverage. 

When the appetiser came, we were told to eat the appetiser from right to left, supposedly from sweet to sour. The mushroom with edamame sat on bed of teriyaki sauce / soy (?) sauce and we didn't really taste the sweetness in that. In the centre was tofu with sesame dressing- anything with sesame dressing is delicious! To the left is a large juicy cherry tomato in tart plum sauce. 


As I am a fan of mushrooms, I chose the Mushroom Salad. This is a mushroom lovers' dream. I haven't seen / tried such big mushrooms before. They were chewy and released a burst of juice with every bite.


This was my favourite dish. Eating the Spicy Shiitake with Purple Rice Roll felt entirely guilt-free: purple rice, shiitake mushrooms and crunchy carrots. To add to that, the chilli added a slight kick to the rice roll.


Drinks are served after the main course is completed. I chose the Iced Lychee Green Tea and totally didn't regret it. Light hints of lychee without being too sweet, and a sweet big juicy lychee at the bottom of the glass!


Alas, the meal ended off flat with the Raspberry Vanilla Dome. On first bite, I was horrified by how sweet the dessert was- could it be because the rest of the meal was so light and clean tasting? The bright pinkish-red hue of the dessert was enough to throw me off (but I won't complain about that since I ordered the dessert knowing that this was how it looked like). The dessert comprised layers of incredibly sweet mousse and vanilla cake. I took two bites and left the rest to be cleared away.


Service was friendly and efficient. Minus the Raspberry Vanilla Dome, this is certainly a nice presentable place for vegetarian dining options. Comparing Sufood with Elemen, Sufood is more creative with its food options but at a more expensive price tag. 

Elemen @ Thomson Plaza
Thomson Plaza
301 Upper Thomson Road
#01-113
Tel No.: 6452 0351