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Jon and I took a short break with his friends at Phuket for 2 nights.  It was a really short trip cos we only arrived there around 10pm on the first night.  His other friends had left for Phuket early that morning, but we didn’t want to have to spend quite so much time away from Asher.  As it is, it was already be the longest that he’d been away from us. 

You probably won’t understand, but I’ve been dreaming of eating cup noodles on a plane since my last KLM flight in 2007.  I have fond memories of my LON-SIN-LON flights via KLM when I got to watch movies the entire way and snack on steaming hot cups of noodles in the cold airplane in the dark while everyone else was sleeping.  It was just something that I really really enjoyed :)

My parents, aunt and grandaunt eagerly made an event of our being away cos they’ve always wanted to have Asher stay with them for a long stretch.  Two days isn’t very long, but since it was the longest ever, they quickly took the opportunity to plan a staycation :)  Aidan came along too, so it was a ton of fun for the grandies to have both grandchildren around for the ‘trip’ at the same time.  And, the two boys get along spectacularly, so it’s always lots of fun and very entertaining to watch them together.  They just feed off each other’s antics and utterances.  Very adorable :)

They arranged a two night stay at Fairmont Hotel cos that weekend coincided nicely with the NDP rehearsals.  They managed to get a room facing the Padang so the boys got to watch the fly past, helicopters, parachutes, and of course, fireworks!  I’ll have to get some of the pics that they took that weekend :)

What about Phuket?  Well, I was ill from start to finish of the trip.  In fact, I just got worse and worse.  I was also unable to enjoy all the spa treats cos of the pregnancy.  So I found myself sitting around while everyone else spent hours being kneaded and stretched.  BUT!  That was exactly how I liked it, cos I got to read to my heart’s content!  I did exactly as I planned.  Read.  I brought along my cousin’s copy of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  She had lent it to be a few months after Asher was born, but I never got around to reading it.  So I thought I’d start on it during this trip.  I targeted to finish the book by the end of the two days, which for me – a slow reader – was going to be a challenge. 

But I did it!  Stayed up late at night, woke up early in the morning.  Was utterly antisocial with Jon during breakfast cos I’d just read and eat (altho he didn’t mind cos he had his newspapers, and then in his words, he had “quiet”…tsk).  Didn’t really get much chance to be antisocial with his friends cos most of them weren’t even up that early anyway haha.  It’s a hazard of parenthood I tell you.  No matter how late you sleep, you still end up waking up at 7am Singapore time and find you can’t go back to sleep.  We had a good 2-3 hours before everyone was finally up, so we even had time to squeeze in a swim on the first morning before meeting them back at the breakfast hall. 

I also read through all those hours sitting at the spa waiting for everyone to be done with their massages, and was done just before we boarded the bus for the airport on the last day. 

I love the book!  I never watched the movie, and hadn’t heard what the story was about.  My impression was that it was some action packed book cos the movie adverts showed vampires chasing each other.  But it was completely different!  It was not at all what I expected, and so much more compelling and engaging.   To me, it’s not a book about vampires and werewolves and all that lore, it’s a love story.  It’s really a story about their relationship and it’s development.  Ok, it’s not a book to read to enjoy beautiful literature.  For that, stick to the classics.  But, somehow, despite all the cheesy lines, she manages to capture your imagination and pull you deep into the story.  Yes, there are plenty of cheesy lines.  How Edward is like a model/god/too good to be true, how he makes Bella hyperventilate/forget what she was thinking/lose her balance, etc.  And these lines are peppered throughout the book.  But, because of the way Edward is portrayed, I can believe that you would really think that of him, and you would react that way.  Oh, Edward!  ;)

Ya, I know many people think of it as a teenager’s book.  But actually, the many adults I know who’ve read it love it too!  But admittedly, it’s more of a girl’s book.  To the skeptics, and especially the romantics at heart, put aside your preconceived notions and give the book a chance! 

At the end of the trip I had only done a teeny bit of shopping for 2 pieces of kids clothing, had Thai food when we could (we managed to make our way to one of the back alleys where locals eat which we discovered the last time we came), and made a discovery about crepes. 

There are plenty of street-side stalls selling crepes in Phuket, and Jon and I found that there really is a difference in quality of crepes, even though they may be located side by side.  We thought that since their menus all boasted approximately the same range of crepes, it probably didn’t matter which stall you bought it from.  But on our last night there, we tried the chocolate & banana crepe.  The first one we had was made by a popular stallholder, and the queue was quite long.  I managed to study her method and found that she flipped the crepe before spreading the nutella.  She then let the chocolate bubble for a while before slicing the banana on top, folding the edges over, then pouring chocolate sauce on top.  It was a heavenly crepe.  Crispy on the outside, gooey goodness on the inside.  It was so good we decided to have another, but had walked while eating and decided to order the same crepe from a different stallholder.  Bad choice.  It was nothing like the first one, and I’m certain it has to do with the method.  This lady put blobs of nutella on the moist batter without having first flipped it.  She also cut the bananas straightaway onto the chocolate before folding the edges in and pouring the chocolate sauce over.  As a result, it was not crispy, more like man chiang kueh.  And the insides were too thick and jelak – not cos it was our second one for the night, but it was just too cloying to be enjoyable.  We didn’t finish that crepe.

So anyway, back to the Twilight Saga.  When we got back to Singapore around 1am, I was still quite awake and straightaway started on New Moon.  Within a week from the time I first started Twilight, I was done with the series.  I couldn’t put the book down!  I just kept wanting to go on and on, from book to book.  I was so energised!  It’s been a very long time since I’d read a book that really captured my imagination, that filled my mind with images of places and settings I knew every detail about. 

I found myself digging deeper into the Twilight Saga after I’d finished the third and fourth books, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.  To my delight I discovered there was an unfinished book called Midnight Sun, which was Twilight written from Edward’s perspective.  After that, I rented the videos for Twilight and New Moon and made Jon watch them with me.  He had refused to read the books but promised to humour me and watch together with me :)  However, the movies were a let down.  If I hadn’t read the book I really wouldn’t understand why Bella loves Edward so much and why she feels so strongly for him.  They fall in love too quickly.  I had my reservations about the movie before watching it because a lot of the important story telling parts of the book have to do with narration and internal thoughts – how do you put that into a movie?  And as expected, it was no where as good as what my own imagination had cooked up.  Told Jon that the movie probably only captures like 25% of whatever you can think up on your own. 

The the worst bit (well almost the worst…it’s a toss up between the failure to live up the story and this), Robert Pattinson is so not my kind of Edward!  He seems just all wrong!  And what’s with that weird hair?!  Edward’s hair isn’t described like that!  I saw from internet articles that he’s apparently quite the acclaimed actor, and perhaps in other movies he really does do a good job, but in Twilight, he so bombed.  And it was clear, at least to me, that in the movie New Moon, Taylor Lautner who played Jacob was so much more convincing!   

The other bits that the movie was unable to capture properly were the portrayals of the other characters which I thought were quite central to the story, especially Alice. 

But I decided I liked the music from Twilight, especially after seeing the MTVs of Muse and Paramore from the DVDs, and went to get the soundtrack.  What a great buy!  I love the soundtrack!  It’s one of those CDs I can put on repeat and not get tired of quickly. 

 Now, I’m waiting for VideoEzy to stock Eclipse.  I didn’t catch it in theatres cos I hadn’t read the books then.  Didn’t want to spoil my reading experience.  And even though I know it won’t live up to what’s in my head, I still want to watch it anyway.

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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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Melbourne Part I

We decided to take the red-eye flight to Melbourne hoping that Asher will sleep on the 8 hour flight there. In the end it worked out pretty well, thank God! We let Asher have a run around at the airport to tire him a bit. He obviously didn’t mind, in fact, he had fun looking at the colourful posters, studying the patterns on the carpets, and chasing girls!!!!!! This boy ah ;)

He eventually fell asleep, and we laid him in the much-too-small bassinet. Asher’s too tall for it, and it was a good thing he curled his legs up, else he wouldn’t fit into the bassinet. In fact, during the flight there was one point when he stuck his legs out, and almost his entire calf was dangling from it! His hands were also hanging out :) He may qualify by weight (only babies under 11kg are eligible to use it – Asher was only 9.2kg when we left), but by height he may not be able to use it the next time we fly!

We got there safe and sound around 8am Melbourne time (they are 3 hours ahead). Got to the apartment and decided to go for a walk and take in the city. We were actually tempted to take a nap cos we were all tired (way too early by Singapore time!), but we were getting peckish and there was a lunch spot we were planning to hit. Our apartment was right in the heart of the city, making it highly convenient for explorations on foot.

 Woo hoo!  We’ve arrived!

Our first impression of Melbourne was rather negative. The city seems rather unpolished. Not that it has to be spanking new or anything like that. It’s just the way the shops screamed out their names, had giant posters yelling out sales, the unfinished, warehouse like quality of a lot of their shops…It seemed too in-your-face. Just an example, there was a shop whose name was ‘Dirt Cheap Books’. Just saying it as it is, leaving nothing to the imagination.  Surely there could have been a nicer name?? It didn’t seem like a very aesthetic city.

But at the end of our 3 days in Melbourne, after seeing the diversity of people living there, the vibrant food culture, and just soaking in the vibe which ebbs slowly to the surface, there was a decidedly cosmopolitan feel about the place, which though still unpolished, made us understand why people choose to move, work, and live in Melbourne.

I was very keen to explore their art museums, especially those displaying works from the indigenous aborigines, but we just didn’t have time.  Besides visiting relatives, we were effectively operating on Singapore time for the first 2.5 days of our stay in Melbourne.  Because Melbourne is ahead of Singapore, Asher would only wake up around 1030am Melbourne time.  After breakfast and changing and all that, half the day would be gone.  But we didn’t want to push him to wake sooner as we wanted him to adjust in his own time and get enough rest, particularly since he had just recovered from an illness back home.


 
Happily running around in his new cap

Anyway, some of the sights around the city:
  

The iconic Flinders Street Station



Federation Square

 Bird warching at Federation Square












 Central Place – an alley lined with interesting cafes

Trams running throughout the city

 

 Another old form of transport – the horse carriages

 Just one of Melbourne’s famed graffiti-scapes












 Enjoying a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice :)

Queen Vic market was one of the places we really enjoyed.  It is really the place to buy your fresh food.  The fruits and veggies are so plump and fresh, the variety of seafood is amazing, the range of meat and prices offered were much better than in Singapore, and cheese selection was great, the bakeries and patisseries were lovely, and to top it all off, there were candy stores to tempt us!  We wished we had more time in Melbourne so that we could cook up a big feast to enjoy!  As a compromise we picked up some button mushrooms (look at the size of the mushrooms in the pic above!! Not the ones we got though.  Had already bought some by then), baby carrots, peaches, cherries, mangos, salmon, artisan breads, beautiful pastries and tarts, and a bagful of chocs.  

We had a healthy breakfast of fruit the next day, and Asher had a hearty mushroom chowder which he walloped in no time!  Nice to have a warm soup in cold weather :)

While at the market Asher napped in the trusty Ergo.  We had decided not to bring a pram and just rely on the Ergo baby carrier.  It is fantastic, and any mum with a kid who’s getting too heavy for a sling should consider getting one!  I can walk hours carrying him and not feel tired!

We dubbed this photo “sweet dreams”.  Look at the mass of candy behind him!!

 Besides food, though, we made a very important purchase at the market.  Tim Cahill is from Melbourne, and besides playing for the Australian national team, he is an attacking midfielder for Everton Football Club.  So we were delighted to find Everton jerseys in the market!  Both the home and away ones!!  It’s not everyday you come across jerseys for this club, even in London!  Supporters of Everton tend to be..er..from a certain generation :)  But I suspect that Asher’s generation might see a revival of Everton fans cos all the Daddies may influence their children  ;) 

Important education – “The Everton jersey is blue; Chang beer is their sponsor, see the 2 elephants?” 

Back to food.  Lunch on the first day was at Journal Canteen, an unassuming place that specialises in authentic Sicilian style Italian food.  It’s hidden away in the CAE building in Flinders Lane, opposite the bustling Central Place alley, and occupying a formerly vacant first-floor classroom.  The food is simple, but very well prepared.  You are not offered a wide range of choices – just an antipasto, a pasta, three mains, and one dessert – but the limited variety is more than made up for by the use of the freshest ingredients of the day. 

We started with a heavenly antipasto which consisted of baked ricotta, pickled veggies, marinated veg and olives, zucchini frittata, grilled corn, pepperoni, and the most wonderful eggplant.  Seriously, it’s the best eggplant I’ve had in my life!  People talk about eating something that bursts with flavour, but they probably didn’t really mean it.  I mean it!  The eggplant looks so humble, just two slices sitting on a plate.  But, wow, they were incredible!  The flavours had developed in to the most wonderful mix of indescribable joy. 

The antipasto – An absolute must try if you visit Melbourne

We also ordered the Porchetta (roasted pork)  and Polpette (meatballs).  Both were beautiful dishes.  The Porchetta reminded me of Ibu Oka’s Babi Guling from Ubut, Bali.  Although the spices used were different, it was also extremely moist and tender, juxtaposed with perfectly crispy pork skin.  The meatballs were done just right, and Jon and I were left wondering how we can re-create that dish back home. 

 
Dinner was Indian food from the popular Classic Curry, but that wasn’t so much to our taste – didn’t taste that authentic. 

Playing catching – Asher running away from Jon and giggling all the way down the corridor :)

Other random moments:
I just love this pic!
And this! “How do I get this thing off my head?”
Playing with Grandpa’s iPhone.  Asher loves some of the baby apps :)  Anyway, this was also an interesting study of conditioning.  Grandpa thought that Asher was tapping the phone to hear the sounds the animals made, but actually initially, Asher was tapping the phone because each time he did so Grandpa would laugh!  He was conditioning Grandpa!  :) 

Turning to look at Grandpa when he tapped the phone.  
Ok, more to come.  Next up, family time!  Watch this space :)

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Chinese New Year Down Under

For the first time in my life I went overseas during the Chinese New Year holidays! CNY was always spent shuttling from house to house, visiting relatives, eating tons of yummy goodies (tho it seems like over the years the yumminess of the goodies has gown down), collecting ang pao…then giving ang pao, etc.

This year we decided to head to Melbourne to visit relatives. So there was still some visiting, but it was something out of the ordinary for us. 3 days in Melbourne, 2 days on a roadtrip to the 12 Apostles, then 2 days at Phillip Island.

I haven’t had time to sort through the photos yet, but the weekend is coming so I should be able to find some time, I hope. Look out for the post!

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Phuket

Everyone’s generally so busy we sometimes find it difficult to all be in the same place at the same time. So we thought we’d all take some time off and go for a family holiday.

Phuket was the destination of choice. Chill. Relax. I think we all needed some serious R&R.

We managed to snag a good deal on an apartment style accomodation at Marriott Vacation Club – 4D3N at US$250 thereabouts for 5 adults and 1 baby. Not too bad I think. The apartment was a very good size complete with kitchen, dining and living area, a spacious balcony, and 2 large rooms (1 with 2 queen size beds, and 1 with a king size bed). The most luxurious bit, I think, was the bathroom attached to the master bedroom. We could all fit into the tub!

The trip started early with us dragging Asher, asleep, out of bed at 6am. He continued sleeping in the cab all the way until we reached the airport, but was awake after that and didn’t nap till we reached the hotel.

Asher looked a tad sleepy when we first got on the plane

The flight up was Asher’s first! His previous trip was a roadtrip to Malaysia. I had read somewhere that the best way to help an infant relieve the pressure from flying was to let him suckle, so that was exactly what I did. Thinking that we were going to take off soon (cos the cabin crew went about checking our seat belts and all), I started to nurse Asher. But the flight was delayed, and just as we were about to take off, Asher finished nursing. Great. Exactly as I was telling Jon things might turn out…murphy’s law right?

Still, he handled the flight well, and didn’t seem bothered by the pressure. He was getting a little sleepy though and I was trying to rock him to sleep, but there really isn’t much aisle space on Tiger Airways. I had to dodge the drinks cart, then the food cart, then the shopping cart. In the end he didn’t nap, but had a good time playing on each of our laps in turn :)

Decked out in appropriate clothes – aeroplanes!

Marriot Vacation Club is located pretty near to the airport, and once we landed we were there in no time.

What did we do on the first day? Or rather I should phrase it as, what did the males do on the first day? Sleep! Yes, every single one of them. I, however, was nursing Asher and then carrying him to sleep. When he was finally dozing and put down in the cot, I went about unpacking all of Asher’s barang barang. Besides that, I remember being busy with something, I can’t remember what, and not being able to find the opportunity to take a nap even though I wanted to. I found it quite hilarious actually, and it reminded me of why our church’s Mens Breakthrough weekend has a segment in the itinerary that is specifically allocated to an afternoon snooze!



The stuff we brought, most of which were for Asher – cereal, jarred food, biscuits, etc.

But after everyone (every man) had their rest, the next fews days were spent going for walks by the beach, relaxing in the apartment, eating, reading, and just having a good time in each others’ company :) I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves :)

Asher going for his first seaside walk.

Studying the way the waves swept in, swirled around Jon’s feet, and flowed out

Then taking a walk in the sea! :)

Celebrating the twin’s birthday – eArThQuAkE!!

Swimming in the evening

Snoozing on Uncle Joe’s soft, comfy jersey :) Think Asher found his new mattress!

We frequently took the buggy to travel between the two Marriotts.


Going for another beach walk


Discovering the wonders of the remote control


Yet another beach walk
. Can’t get enough of those can you?

Parting shot


On the plane with Grandpa

Home sweet home



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