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It’s been a long time since I did an update on our food adventure! Got caught up with researching new recipes and well, eating!

Then June holidays happened.

And then Harry Potter happened (a story for another time).

And now it’s back to regular programming :)

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So, moving on with our foodie journey. Just to recap, we were exploring Australian food. Having gone through a barbie and eating a traditional damper, I thought I’d have some fun and freak out the kids by suggesting we eat… Witchetty grubs! You can’t get more Australian than that!

It kind of happened by accident. I was searching around for Australian food, saw a picture of the grubs and was quite repulsed by it. But later on when I was getting something from BreadTalk, I saw some bread that really reminded me of grubs.

Does this…

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…not look vaguely like this?

witchetty grub

Picture credit: CNN Travel

Or ok, maybe there’s a greater resemblance when there are more of them.

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Picture credit: news.com.au

It does right? Right?

Anyway, I was so tickled by the resemblance, and more so by the thought of the kids being completely grossed out, that I had to buy some home to prank them.

I announced to them when they came back home that we were having witchetty grubs for dinner.

“What’s a grub?”

“It’s like a big fat worm or juicy caterpillar. And you eat it live.”

“WHAT? EEEWWWWW!! No I’m not eating it!!”

“But remember? We said the rule was at least two bites of everything!”

And I see the look of regret on Asher’s face. Priceless!

HAHAHAHA

I showed them pictures of grubs, which elicited a whole range of sound effects from the boys. Then I uncovered the plate from afar, held it quite high so that they couldn’t quite get a good look of it, and as they leaned away in disgust, I put it on the table. There was a pause. And then, finally, they laugh with nervous relief and exclaim, “That’s just bread!”

Oh man. Moments like these remind you of how entertaining it can be to be a mummy.

The kids happily tucked into the “grubs” and joyfully declared how wonderful they were. To BreadTalk’s credit, the bread was really delicious! Even the youngest went, “Want more grubs!” It was hilarious to hear.

Apparently, the real deal is nutty-flavoured and is full of nutrients. But I’m pretty sure I’ll never quite pluck up the courage to try it for real.

Then again, never say never huh?

Loving 'grubs'!

Loving ‘grubs’!

Follow us as the adventure continues!

Nair Food Adventure

  1. The Beginning of Our Food Adventure
  2. Week 1 – Down Under: Barbie
  3. Week 1 Down Under: Damper

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That wasn’t the end of the barbie.

After the kids went to bed, I randomly googled a bit more about Australian food and read about damper. It’s a traditional Australian bread prepared by travellers as they went through the bush. The traditional recipe requires very few ingredients because the travellers would only have had basic rations with them on their long journeys. The basic ingredients are flour, water, and salt. As the camp fire died down, the damper was buried in the ashes of the fire and left there to cook.

I ran to check if the ashes from the barbie were still hot. They were!

Hurried to the kitchen. There was just enough flour.

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My unbaked damper

Quickly mixed the ingredients together, kneaded the dough, flattened it, and with tongs in hand went back to the mini-pit. I made a small depression in the ashes and put the dough straight onto the bed of ashes in the traditional way, then covered it with more ashes and the remaining hot coals. Actually you can also use a dutch oven to cook the bread in the fire, but I thought why not do it as traditionally as we can since we’re at it.

Buried under the ashes

Buried under the ashes

It did cross my mind whether it was healthy to have ashes sticking to the dough, but I figured that this was a traditional method that has stood the test of time, plus many cultures cook food in the ground. So I crossed that thought out.

I went to shower and do other things. In fact, I almost fell asleep!

As I was nodding off I suddenly remembered my damper and ran to retrieve it from the ashes. It was cooked through, and had a hollow sound when tapped. That’s the test to know if your damper is cooked. The centre bit was burned from being cooked too long though.

Burnt in the middle!

Burnt in the middle!

I left it to cool on a rack and headed to bed, eager to tell the boys about it the next day.

The boys were so surprised to learn that you could cook bread from the hot ashes of a barbie. They gamely tried the bread and loved it! We had it with honey, jam, and butter. I loved the smokey flavour of the bread. Pity that I had left it too long and the middle part was inedible.

We agreed that this was definitely something we want to make again, and that we should try it at the next barbeque. Apparently you can even cook it on a stick like how you cook marshmallows. Some travellers got tired of waiting for the bread to cook in the ashes, so they wrapped a bit of dough around a stick and cooked it over the fire. They’d then fill the hole that was left in the bread with jam or honey and pop the whole thing into their mouths. Sounds delicious!

Ellery came home telling me how he told everybody in school about damper, how he had promised to bring some for them, and how I had to make it again. So he woke me up at 645am in the morning to make damper for his friends.

There are many modern versions of damper that use more ingredients and bake the bread in the oven. We made a damper using milk, but deliberately decided to keep it as simple as possible because we wanted it to be authentic, so left out the butter and cheese, etc. Ellery was even skeptical about using milk because he really liked the plain, traditional version.

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Shaping the dough into a ball

Pressing down the dough in the pan.

Pressing down the dough in the pan.

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Oven-baked damper

This modern damper was still good, and went well with butter and jam. Like a bushman’s scone I suppose! But the ash damper has an extra oomph that we all prefer.

I cut a hunk of bread for him to bring to school to share with his friends. You could see the look of satisfaction on his face at being able to share something he had baked himself :)

 

Recipes

Traditional Damper

2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp of salt
2 cups of water

Mix everything together. It will be a bit runny at first. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a bit. Not necessary to knead for a long time (I saw one video where the lady didn’t even knead it). Shape the dough into a ball then flatten it. Make imprints all over it with your fingers. Make a clearing in the ashes, put the flattened dough straight onto it, then cover it with more hot ashes. Cook for about 40 minutes.

*The updated version we did was to substitute milk for water. There are many other versions you can find online, including adding herbs. I thought rubbing in butter would make it too much like scones though, rather than bread.

This video shows how to put the dough into the ashes.

 

Nair Food Adventure

  1. The Beginning of Our Food Adventure
  2. Week 1 – Down Under: Barbie

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First stop, Australia!

My first thought when we picked this country was, barbeques! Or barbies, as they are better known in Australia.

So we started off our food adventure with a little barbie in our balcony. Sounds like a nice idea right? I imagined us sitting around a barbeque, chit chatting, letting the kids turn the food on the grill. Lots of good, fire-side bonding.

Nope. It’s probably the last time I’m gonna have a barbie at home. I wouldn’t say I was going to burn the house down, no, not at all. But I think we did create a lot of smoke. Enough to make people downstairs think there was some kind of fire, possibly. I realised the culprits were the meats. The oils from the popping sausages, and the marinades from the chicken dripped onto the hot charcoals which resulted in a lot of smoke. I kept trying to fan it outwards, away from the house, but found that there was still a slight smoky smell lingering in the house after the barbie. We ended up hiding behind the balcony doors, while I quickly popped out into the balcony every now and then to turn the food on the grill. Not quite what I had in mind.

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Tucking into the food. We decided to sit by the balcony for dinner :)

But oh boy. The food was so good. And I think the kids must have been so hungry by the time the food was ready that they were full of praises for the food too. I was especially surprised to see Asher repeatedly asking for more sausages! He’s never really wanted to eat them in the first place, yet here he was happily tucking into them, telling me how yummy they were. Maybe it’s the type of sausage. Note to self, chipolata sausages go down well with the kids. They really were fabulous though! Sausages grilled over a fire win sausages cooked in a pan or toaster any day! And the pre-marinated chicken we bought tasted perfect. On offer too. Score!

The highlight was the pineapple though. I remember loving the grilled pineapples from the restaurant Brazil Churrasco, somewhere I haven’t gone to in more than a decade, and wanted the boys to try it. It was a hit. They couldn’t get enough of it! And it was a breeze to cook – no smoking!

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Balcony barbie. Waiting for the pineapples to be ready.

Overall, the barbie was a success. The kids continued to talk about the food right up till bedtime, saying we should have another barbeque again soon :)

 

Nair Food Adventure

  1. The Beginning of Our Food Adventure

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We went for a family holiday to Australia along with Jon’s Dad for 10 days.  The plan was to spend most of our time in Sydney and a couple of days driving out to the Blue Mountains area.

The flight there was tiring.  We had hoped that by taking a night flight the boys would sleep on the way there.  Asher was still pretty alright, though he slept much later than usual and woke once.  But Ellery woke often, refused to be put down in the bassinet, and Jon and I had to take turns carrying him the entire flight.  In contrast we took the evening flight home, and it was much better.  We settled their dinner on board and basically ran through the night routine on the plane.  So by the time the lights go out it’s about time for them to sleep too.  Ellery was also much easier to handle and allowed us to put him in the bassinet for quite a large part of the flight such that I actually got to watch the rest of Transformers: Dark of the Moon (I watched the first half on the way up), Friends with Benefits, a few random episodes of kids cartoons, and still managed to get a little sleep.

Sydney was fun!  We checked out several kid-friendly sights like the Sydney Aquarium and Australian Museum, did the harbour cruise, checked out a couple of street markets, walked the Rocks and the Royal Botanic Gardens, played at the relatively new Darling Quarter playground twice, and took a trip to Manly beach.  We only had half-a-day each day because of the jetlag.  By the time the kids were up it was about 11am Australian time, but we didn’t really want to push them to adjust.  We were prepared for a slow, relaxing pace, and let the kids adjust in their own time.

Our roadtrip was hit by bad weather which prevented us from catching the views of the various Blue Mountain features.  The first day was bright and sunny when we were at the Featherdale Wildlife Park.  We thought the next few days would be equally sunny since the previous 4 days in Sydney were blessed with beautiful weather too.  But we found the next two days in the mountains utterly dreary.  It rained non-stop, the temperature dropped to a low of 7 degrees celcius (it had been 27-28 degrees in Sydney!), and there was even sleet at one point!  Piled clothes onto the kids to keep them warm, though I was less worried about Ellery since he’s normally a sweaty monster in Singapore.

Instead of waiting out the rain (which would have been futile anyway), we went to explore the Jenolan Caves – apparently the best in the Southern Hemisphere.  Perfect.  Temperature moderated place that’s unaffected by the rain :)  On the last day we also went to the ZigZag Railway for a ride on real steam engines a la Thomas!  It was freezing that day, and we could even see the mist on our breathe.  But we huddled in the carriage and munched on snacks to keep warm.

Overall it was a good trip. Very relaxing and enjoyable.

There was one horrific experience we went through though. Ellery had a little cold that he’d caught from Asher before the trip and the phlegm was difficult to blow out.  On the first night at our Blue Mountain cabin (where we were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by darkness), I was feeding Ellery when I suddenly noticed he was looking at the wall behind us.  Then I asked what he was looking at and realised he was not responding.  I picked him up and found he was absolutely limp!!!  Rushed out to find Jon and we saw he was turning blue.  I tried very hard not to panic but I was very scared.  Then he started to have fits!  We prayed and prayed, and pat and pat, hoping the phlegm would come out – we assessed that it was probably that which was blocking his breathing.  After I don’t know how long, the Ellery suddenly coughed up the phlegm.  His eyes started to move but could not focus for a good many minutes more, and he still did not respond.  He’d be looking at me but not registering anything!  Prayed and prayed some more.  Thank God that he eventually started to mumble something, and regained his colour, and started to be responsive again.  What a fright!!!  What a horrific experience!!!  It was only after the kids were settled into bed later that I felt the stress of it all and cried to release the tension.

We concluded that he’d had a blocked nose, but at the same time was very hungry and wanted to nurse and couldn’t stop drinking.  As a result all his airways got blocked.  It was especially shocking because just a few minutes before he was perfectly fine!

We were just so thankful he was ok.

So yes, it was an eventful holiday.  One good thing that came from the trip was that when we got back to Singapore the kids were kind of on Australian time so they slept much earlier, giving me more time in the evening :)

Ok, think I’ll share more on the individual aspects in a few posts over the next few days.  This was just an overview.

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Our last leg of the trip was planned mainly for Asher’s enjoyment.  Phillip Island has many toddler-friendly attractions that Asher could appreciate since he’s much more aware now.  We thought it’d be great if he could see some of the animals he’d seen in pictures come to life.  Phillip Island boasts penguins, seals, koalas, cows, sheep, chickens, roosters, Clydesdale horses, turkeys, Scottish long-horn cattle, peacocks, kookaburras, galahs, magpies, wallabies, and kangaroos, among others.  Asher got to see all of the above except the last two, while we had the bonus of seeing wild wallabies hop across the road (Asher was asleep in the car then).   

Our apartment was a standalone cabin, cosy and clean, set on an outback style Wistaria Lane.  The All Seasons Eco Resort is fairly new, and prides itself on it’s ecologically sound building and contruction philosophy, and an ecologially sustainable design.  It’s a very pleasant place to stay, and if we ever go back to Phillip Island, I might well stay there again.

Here’re some pics from the various places we went to on the island!
Penguin Parade
No photos allowed inside cos they’re afraid the penguins would be traumatised and hurt by the bright flashes. But I sneaked a picture of Jon and Asher before the penguins made their way to the shore.  Asher was very happy cos initially there were a lot of seagulls flying low in front of him, and then of course there were the penguins.  The penguins come right up to the board walk, so he had a clear view of them waddling home.  It was molting season so some penguins had eaten tons to store up energy while their fur molted.  Those penguins were so adorably fat!  And because of their added weight were particularly amusing to watch cos they’d tire easily and have to plop down on their bellies to rest before carrying on for another few metres, then plop down to rest again :)  Since that night, say “penguin” and Asher will waddle from side-to-side :) 
The bonus was the wonderfully clear night sky that showed off the Milky Way in all it’s beautiful splendour!  You could actually see all the stars clustered into a ‘stream’, instead of how they’re usually scattered across the sky.  The concentration of stars made the twinkling more intense and magical.  We actually got to see this at the Twelve Apostles as well, but Asher was asleep by then.  This time he got to appreciate their beauty too!
Anyway, an interesting little sign – check under your car for penguins!  Some of the penguins stay quite far inland and sometimes can be found wandering under cars at the carpark as they make their way home.
Breakfast at Mad Cowes the next morning was yummy.  I shared pancake and fruit with Asher, while Jon had a decent eggs benedict. 
Churchill Island
This is such a great place for kids.  It’s a small island off Phillip Island, linked by a narrow causeway, and features a working heritage farm.  Some of the caretakers were even dressed in period costume.  Asher had a ton of fun here petting animals, chasing chickens, running around the lawn, picking wild Dandelions, etc.  We dubbed the day “hat day” to entice Asher to wear his cap, and Jon and I donned hats as well to lend credence to the theme.  It was necessary anyway, cos the Australian sun can really burn.  One of the plastic toys we bought for a friend’s kid melted in the car while it was parked in the sun!
Flowers, and more flowers, much to Asher’s great joy! The gardens featured many strange and wonderful Australian wildflowers.

Checking out the gentle Clydesdale horses.
Asher chased this family of chickens…then this rooster came out to register his protest
My favourtie bird on the island – the Galah.  They are so pretty!  A lovely slate grey with a powdery, almost-fushia pink breast.
What are these Scottish long-horned cattle doing here?  The original inhabitent was from Scotland and he brought in these cattle as a reminder of home.
The surroundings were so peaceful, it was ideal for a picnic, or in Asher’s case, a nap!

A field of lavender
Beautiful day to walk the grounds, enjoy the gardens, and see the heritage buildings
Looking for more Dandelions
A clever invention – a Coolgardie Safe.  It’s an olden day equivalent of the refridgerator!  Moist hessian sides cooled by the blowing wind made the insides cool enough to store butter and meat!
Scrumptious food at the cafe.  Pumpkin and spinach quiche with rocket on the side, and homemade patties made from beef got off the farm.  Asher had a taste of everything and was most satisfied, I think :)

Seal Cruise
We caught an evening cruise out to Seal Rocks where we literally saw hundreds of seals just chillin on the warm rocks, and some were playfully showing off their stunts in the water.  What a sight for Asher!  What a sight for us!
Yes, another I’m-so-happy-I’ve-got-the-Ergo moment.  How else to balance baby and yourself on a bobbing boat??
We thought we’d head to another part of island for dinner and decided to check out the highly-rated Foreshore Restaurant at Rhyll.  It must be good, since there was even a wedding party there.  But somehow the food didn’t quite suit our taste.  It was ok, a bit overdone.  We felt the chefs were trying too hard to make the dishes unique and exotic.  It wasn’t effortless, and it sometimes didn’t seem to gel.  We tried the grilled kangaroo, which came with asparagus, drizzled with sweetish plum-like sauce, sweet onion chutney on the side, and a split chilli on cream.  Each individual part was ok in itself, but together, we thought it didn’t quite add up.  The risotto with seared duck was also just so-so.  While the duck, which was cooked with orange reduction, was pretty good, the risotto was really nothing to shout about.  The scallops were blow-torched, but I wouldn’t say to perfection.  Perhaps it was just an off night for the restaurant, perhaps Asher was getting sleepy and needed more attention so we couldn’t focus as much on the meal so it seemed less good, perhaps our taste buds don’t know any better, or perhaps, perhaps, the restaurant is over-rated. 
On a brighter note, the evening sky was watercolour perfect!
Asher’s babycino at breakfast the next morning.  Looks just like a minature version of the real thing, doesn’t it?  We had just asked for a cup of warm milk, but the staff went the extra mile by frothing it, topping it with chocolate powder and serving it with a marshmallow!  But in the end, Asher only got to drink the milk, mummy ate up the choc powder bits :))
Koala Conservation Centre
At this park we got to see koalas up-close in their natural habitat among the gum trees.  A boardwalk brings you through the forest of trees where you can spot koalas with the help of some signs.  Yep, there are signs pointing out where the koalas are for the day.  I was initially surprised, then I realised it was only possible with sleepy animals like koalas.  They really don’t move that much! :) They are impossibly cute, and I was particuarly amazed at how they could sleep on the branches without falling off, especially since some of them were in really strange positions!
Seriously, how can you not fall when you’re sleeping in this position?!??
One of the few koalas awake
Asher really surprised me when he spotted this koala.  It was way up in the trees and wasn’t even sign-posted!  He said, “wan mor!” and pointed up into the trees.  I had to search a while before I found it.  See if you can spot it yourself in the non-close up picture!  (Hint: it’s near the middle of the picture next to the thick, curved branch.)
Another one awake!
Bonus of the day – KOOKABURRA!  It was my first sighting, and we went on to spot another 2!  Finally, I know what the bird in that famous song looks like!  Love the eye-shadow.
Our last stop before driving off to the airport was San Remo, just on the otherside of the bridge linking Phillip Island to the mainland.  By the time we got there we had just missed the daily pelican feedings and they were swimming home, but there was another unexpected bonus!  Wild sting rays!  I was so excited to see them I just rushed down to the shore with Asher in my arms, getting my shoes all covered in mud (and these were outing shoes, not the rugged hiking type).  But honestly, I didn’t care that I was potentially wreaking my shoes, I was just thrilled to see the sting rays, and probably more thrilled than Asher since he doesn’t know it’s rare to see wild ones!  They gracefully glided about very close to the beach and evey now and then flapped their wings above the waterline. 
After a fish & chip lunch at the famous fisherman’s co-op at San Remo, we were off to the airport to catch our flight.  The flight back was good, Asher slept quite soundly and I even managed to watch the animated film, Up.  Asher made a new friend on board too – Ashley!  So it was Asher and Ashley playing in the bassinet area, sharing biscuits and bread, and watching Tom & Jerry :)
That’s our boy, and that’s our plane!
Checking out the butterfly on her jacket.
A very packed and satisfying trip.  I’m so happy we went!

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Leaving as speedily as we could with a young one in tow, we were off with Jon at the wheel. Great Ocean Road, here we come! It was a fairly long drive, but Asher was so good. I do think he deserves praise for how well behaved he was for our 4 days of roadtripping. At home I sometimes have trouble convincing him to get into his car seat without protesting. In the week or two prior to our trip I kept telling Asher, “we’re going to to Australia, and there you must be a good boy and sit in the car seat, ok? They are very strict, you must stay in your seat at all times, yeah?”. Did he understand? Maybe not, but I have this feeling he knew we were on holiday and so was happy to get into the seat.

It was a pity that the car seat the car rental company provided was a little low, so from his perspective, all he could see from the sides were the clouds unless the trees/buildings were very tall. At least he sat in the middle, so he could see the view in front, though still mainly things that were taller. I was eagerly pointing out to Asher, “Cows! Sheep!” But then I slid down to his height and realised he couldn’t see anything : /

Breakfast stop at Hungry Jacks.  The staff there gave Asher a paper crown, and he was delighted!

The initial segment of the Road was as winding as I remembered. Had driven along the Great Ocean Road to the 12 Apostles with my family nearly ten years ago. The road hugs the rugged coastline for a good distance, passing coastal towns along the way, some more touristy than others. We ended up stopping at Apollo Bay for a quick lunch and a much needed stretch (or in Asher’s case, run-around) before pressing on again. While the headlands, bluffs, and bays were impressive, I noticed that the same sense of awe I experienced the first time was missing. I think it has to do with the travels that we’ve gone on in the space between. Having been to the Cote D’Azur, this seemed to pale in comparison. I can’t quite put my finger on it, perhaps there was less variation in the way the headlands looked? Maybe it was the way each turn in Cote D’Azur was somehow more surprising, revealing a hidden bay here and there. Maybe it was the simple reason that I’ve been along this road before. Maybe it was no reason at all.

But the segment of coastline after the road goes inland and comes out again was lovely, and it built up the anticipation to see all the wonderful rock features again.  It was at this point in the trip that I was again thankful for the Ergo.  Don’t think I would have dared to venture so close to the edge if I was carrying Asher in my arms.  Even for the places that had railings, the paths were narrow and rugged with a cliff just beyond; it was not conducive terrain for a stroller nor for a baby in arms.  This way he was snuggled safe and close.  And since we made quite a few brief sight-seeing stops, it was convenient that he could get in and out of the carrier very easily.  Ah, how I love my Ergo :)
The scenic Castle Cove
Asher spotted a couple of birds above.  Sometimes his eyesight amazes me.  But as someone recently reminded me, he probably has 6/6 vision, unlike myself.
What’s Asher looking at now?  Yep…still looking at birds.
The Arch
The (collapsed) London Bridge
The main draw – the 12 Apostles (11 now that one fell several years ago).  See the changing light as the sun set.
We managed to squeeze in dinner at Port Campbell before viewing the 12 Apostles.  Can’t remember the name of the restaurant off-hand (will go chk), but the food was great!  One of the meals I really enjoyed during our trip.  The seafood was so fresh (see the seafood platter below), and they served a most excellent Chicken Parmagiana.  Comfort food!  We were quite hungry, so had lauched into all the other dishes before I got a chance to snap a shot of it :)
We stayed at the Twelve Apostles Motel, the same place I stayed at with my family all those years ago.  It hadn’t changed much, which means the rooms are quite old.  It’s sufficient for a night’s stay, but may not be the most comfortable for a much longer stay.  
I was happy to see the motel’s farm was still there, and especially that their pig, Miss Piggy, was still around!  There was also a goat, some chickens, birds, and a horse too.  The field the horse was grazing in had wild lavender growing in it, giving the field have a sweet purple hue!  Lavender bushes also grew outside our room, adding a fine fragrance to the crisp air. 
One of the nicest sights there was the field in front of the cottages the next morning.  Overnight it had become covered with yellow dandelions!
We headed off to Timboon for breakfast and to try and sample their apparently well-known Timboon cheese.  When we got there we were informed that they had stopped producing the cheese though!  Hey!  All the tourist guides were not updated!  We didn’t use Lonely Planet for this portion of the trip cos the Melbourne guide doesn’t cover this area.  I’m sure that would’ve been more updated!  We did get a block of 12 Apostles Whey cheese though (creamy and milky, quite subtle, good with sandwiches), as well as some locally made Otway G.O.R.G.E chocolates, which were smooth and well made.
The day before we had also tried the award-winning Timboon ice-cream at Port Campbell.  The ice-cream was pretty good – creamy, not too sweet, and had a good range of flavours covering the usual to Coconut & Lime, which I enjoyed, and which was the ice-cream man’s favourite flavour.
 It was gonna be a day of endless driving.  Timboon – Melbourne airport to drop my FIL – Josh’s house – Phillip Island!  Almost 7 hours!  Asher again deserves praise for being so so good.  He sat in his seat non-stop for a 5-hour stretch – taking his morning nap, lunch, and afternoon nap in the seat!  To be fair to him I stayed in my seat the whole time as well to accompany him, even though we made one very brief rest stop along the way.  He was doing so well, and I was afraid that if I took him out he’d not want to go back in!  But I pampered him with massages, partly to make sure his blood was circulating properly :)
Grandpa & Asher catching 40 winks in the car
The more pastoral landscape on the drive back to Melbourne
Next up, the last part of our trip.  Phillip Island!

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As part of our CNY festivities we went over to Daniel Gor Gor’s house in the outskits of Melbourne for a reunion dinner.  Our cousins and aunties took to Asher straightaway, and he likewise warmed up to them immediately.  I was pleasantly surprised since they were all meeting for the first time!  The younger cousins, especially, had a good time playing with Asher.  Nick was happy to have another boy, and eagerly showed Asher his precious praying mantis, which Asher gamely let Nick put on his arm.  While I encouraged Asher to let the insect walk on his hand, I was myself a little wary of it walking onto mine, heh ;) 

Let’s carry Asher!  Whoaaa :)
Hanging out before dinner

Since it was still a while to dinner, we decided to head for the park to burn some calories in view of the feasting to come.  Although the little excursion was meant more for Asher’s benefit, I had such a good time myself chatting with everyone, enjoying the spacious expanse of grassy field, being a kid and climbing up the spider web (when I see these things I really must climb it, I can’t help it!), pushing Asher on the swing, and well, just having good old fashion outdoor fun!! 

Anyway, on the way there we caught a glimpse of Asher’s hierarchy of preferences.  We were kicking a ball around on the way to the park.  It’s one of his all time favourite toys.  But, we discovered that his love of flowers was greater.  As he was going to kick the ball back to Nick, he spotted a flower and walked over to it, ignoring the ball completely.  I even had to coax him back to playing with the ball.  He was distracted again by a different flower at the end of the drive-way :)  A few moments later his attention was averted by the sound of chriping birds.  He was going to a kick a ball when he heard some birds singing above and started to look around for them, again ignoring the ball.  The final experiment that needs to be done is to test whether birds or flowers are at the top of his list :)

To the park!

Dinner was the classic steamboat, made even more comforting because of the cold weather.  Nothing like warm soup on a cold day.  Asher too had a tasty CNY treat, a bowl of steaming hot porridge – his first hot meal since we arrived in Melbourne.  Plus, it was made extra yummy because Lao Yi used salmon which she had already marinated with sesame oil and soya sauce for the steamboat!  So his porridge was deliciously fragrant and he happily chomped away – I know cos I couldn’t help stealing a bite or two! 

Steamboat dinner
After dinner we were treated to a musical performance of sorts by Asher…
Drumming on Grandpa’s head, much to the amusement of everyone! :)

Angie also sang a rousing chorus of the Hokey-Pokey, which got Asher all tickled :)  And Nick volunteered to be Asher’s steed, giving him a ride around the house on his back while crawling on all fours!  And then there was the game of peekaboo which got Asher breaking out in infectious chuckles.  Yup, I think it’s fair to say all of us had a good time – whether directly involved in the post-dinner entertainment, or as spectators :) 

I really like this shot of them :)

This is Asher the morning after, haha.  All worn out from a night of good fun :)

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Chu Yi, the first day of CNY, was spent with my dear Aunty Mui Leng :)  Since young, I’ve always looked forward to meeting her whenever she came back to Singapore for a visit.  Among the many gifts she’s given me over the years, the one I remember best is the children’s Bible I received in primary school.  It was my first Bible, and even though I wasn’t yet a Christian, I loved re-reading it over and over because it was told comic-book style, which brought the characters to life.

We took the free tourist tram to Docklands – a relaxed waterfrount area lined with restaurants and bistros, and features a quaint Sunday market. 
We were heading for Mecca Bah, a Moroccan-Middle Eastern restaurant featured in the Melbourne Lonely Planet (who leaves home without it??).  We were not disappointed at all!  We had the Mecca Bah Dips and Bread (featuring hummus, ztatziki and baba ghanoush), Moroccan olive bread roll with Harissa, Lamacun (turkish pizza) topped with spit roasted lamb, rocket, yoghurt and sumac, a Harpuka Tagine, and to end, Fig and Halva ice-cream with Turkish coffee.

Asher shared lunch with us that day.  Quite a milestone for us actually, it was the first time he ate off the table with us, and he continued to do so for much of the rest of our trip :)  The produce in Australia is famously fresh, and we were convinced that given the food culture and the healthy philosophy of Australian cooking, there’d always be something suitable for babies/toddlers. 

He really enjoyed the bread and dips, pointing at the plate for seconds and thirds…and fourths…AND, he had a major treat too.  His first taste of ice-cream!  Exotic flavours no less! The fig and halva ice-cream went down well, and he happily tried dipping his Baby Bites biscuit into it as well :) 

When he had his fill he entertained himself by watching the kids behind jump of the concrete platform.  For some reason he found it really funny and kept chuckling at their antics.  But a cute girl distracted him…hmm…  When he saw her walk in with her parents, he craned his neck to see where she was heading to, and when he found she was in the outdoor area with us, decided to face forward to look and wave at her for the rest of the time we were there :)  They start young don’t they?

Thoroughly satisfied, we had a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade.  Asher was intrigued by the collection of white sculptures, but was especially taken with one particular structure…the ever familiar, “BOL!”  He insisted on clambouring up onto it and sat most contentedly on it for a good while.  The biggest ball he’s seen so far I think, maybe that’s why :)

Taking the free tram back into town, we hopped off to go walk along yet another promenade along the south bank of the Yarra River.

What is it about the south of a river that makes it more vibrant than the north?  Like in London, this Southbank had a unique allure as well. 

Interesting architecture and bridges (click in to see the sculptures).  Not necessarily pretty, but interesting.
Street artists and buskers (check it out!  I got the acrobat exactly when he was leaping over the boy!)
 
A crooked bridge – perhaps Mahatir saw this and was inspired.
  

Oh, and guess what we found at the CNY street market?  Yu Sheng!  Aunty Mui Leng hasn’t had it in a long time, and given it was the first day of the new year, what a better way to celebrate than have an impromptu mini-lo hei! :)

 
Later that night, Asher was trying hard to follow in Daddy’s footsteps by stuffing his feet into Jon’s sandals and shuffling about (just clicked a moment too late!).  But we packed him off to bed soon cos it was going to be a long drive the next day – roadtrip to the Twelve Apostles! 

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