March 31, 2013

Easter Feasting

It’s Easter Sunday and after checking out of the hotel, we headed straight to St Teresa’s for mass where we were joined by the Gomezes. Nat, Gigi and Sasha were running up and down the aisle but for the most part they behaved.
I think the service must have been either very moving or Geraldine was homesick because she was all teary during some of the hymns! I think probably both.

We didn’t make any prior lunch reservations and just headed towards town, winding up at Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in Taka since they had space. Never trust a hungry and preggy Swana to order, there was too much food!
 
In the evening, the Easter feasting continued with dinner at Ben’s house. He and Wendy splurged on wagyu steaks, yum. They also prepared Easter presents for the girls, as well as Sasha’s and Nick’s birthday presents which the kids had fun searching their bed for. 


For dessert, I served the cheesecake I baked yesterday, finally verdict time! Not as dry as I expected, it has the dense baked cheesecake texture but didn’t taste very Oreo-y. I liked the base but next time will search for a cookies and cream type recipe. But overall a success I think. 

March 30, 2013

Sasha makes a splash!

The pumpkin had a small birthday party today to welcome her terrific 3s!

After the last Hard Rock staycation, she requested to celebrate her birthday at Hard Rock (kids nowadays!) and this mummy tried to oblige.

I had initially reserved the Kids Amaze at Toa Payoh but when she mentioned Hard Rock, I looked at booking a room on the RWS website and they were sold out on the Good Friday weekend, and rates before and after were hovering at $640++ per night! Sheesh!

Tried my luck and asked Baba to check availability on his end as he’s a RWS member too and surprisingly there were rooms available for him to redeem with his points, and in the end I only paid $135 nett! Good deal eh?
On top of booking a room, I found out the cabanas around the pool could be rented for a min spend of $350++ on F&B, so the idea of a Dora-themed pool party took shape. As they only take about 10-12 adults, I decided to keep things small with just the UpperWatsAppers (UWA) chat group and their spawn.


It was a full house attendance from the UWA, even little Jai made it. 


The cabana comes with a semi-private pool that connects to the main pool. The kids had fun cooling off in the water, it’s been so hot of late. But Sasha needed a lot of persuading to be carried in.

Ordered an assortment of food from the Rock Bar but as the Dora theme was decided on only at the last minute, I didn’t manage to score many decorations and refused to spend S$11 on 8 paperplates when I can get them online for US$2! I did buy the kids floral wristlets to give it a tropical touch.

As the cabana was too cramped, and there was a beer special of $150 for 3 buckets that entitled you to use a cabana, we opened up the one next door too.
After their showers they had dinner and most of the kids wore their floral print dresses from Bali. Then it was piƱata-time and the vultures descended on the treats as soon as they spilled out.
We next cut the blueberry vanilla sponge cake sponsored by her Godma and then it was free and easy time before I gave out the goodie bags as people started departing. There was a small fireworks display at RWS which I told Sasha I arranged specially for her! 


Kenny, Flea, Sarah and John stayed on and joined us to watch the crane dance on the waterfront, very short love story about the mechanical birds, which scared the birthday girl. 

Back at the hotel, there was a band in the lobby singing Alicia Key’s ‘New York’ and Sasha started swaying and twirling to the music, this girl sure likes Alicia Keys!

Easter goodies

It was Good Friday yesterday and I decided to bake some egg sugar cookies so that the kids had something to decorate but the thought of the mess resulted in just me and Swana decorating the cookies!
I used the sugar cookie and frosting recipe from before and Swana did most of the decorating…she has more artistic flair. Wanted to personalise the cookies with everyone’s names but 4 letters is the max.
This morning I baked a cheesecake for the first time in my life…had volunteered to bring dessert to Ben’s house tomorrow for Easter. Made an Oreo cheesecake using a recipe from Kraft with some modifications, will only know what it tastes like tomorrow. The original is here.
Ingredients:

Half a bag of crushed Oreo cookies – they sell at the baking shops
15-20 more Oreo cookies, broken coarsely
75gm butter, melted
675gm Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
200ml sour cream
2 tbsp fresh cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs

Method: 

1. Heat oven to 180°C. 

2. Mix the crushed cookies (no cream) with the butter and pound with a mortar to get a finer texture. Line a 8 or 9” springform pan with baking paper and press onto the bottom of the pan to form a crust. 

3. Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add sour cream, fresh cream and vanilla; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Stir in broken cookies. Pour into pan. 

4. Bake 55 min to 1 hour in the middle rack until center is almost set, about 1 inch in the middle should wobble. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake and cool before removing rim. 

5. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, remove from fridge 30 mins before eating. 

I added a tray of water to keep the oven moist but my top cracked anyway because I placed it too high in the oven and my temperature was probably not accurate. Will have to try again with a slightly lower setting or water bath because it makes a difference whether the pan is dark or light and if the oven has a fan. Blueberry next time?

March 23, 2013

Penang Day 4 (23 March 2013)

And we are back!

Didn’t do much today because we were departing so after breakfast, we finally went to check out the Adventure Zone. 
 
It’s a huge indoor playground and Nick was the one running after the children because I was limited in what I could do.
The giant slides looked fun but Nat didn’t want to try because one had to use a gunny sack for the feet and bum to prevent ‘burns’ as the base of the slide is covered in a rough woven mat to bring the sliders to a stop.

They had about an hour of play before we had to check out of the room and then we walked next door to the Lone Pine Hotel for lunch.
The modern boutique hotel was serene and peaceful compared to the ruckus at Golden Sands. It was my first choice hotel actually but I wasn’t sure how kid-friendly it would be…good for couples though. 
Service was slow but the food was decent. Nick very much enjoyed his kiam chye duck soup and I had a grilled fish.

The bubs fell asleep on my lap en route to the airport…both of them!
They perked up at the airport and we had a mostly uneventful Jetstar flight (another first for me!) except for the bit where Nick raised his voice at the stewardess for not allowing Sasha to sit on his lap during takeoff. She was too old for an infant seatbelt but a senior crew member managed to persuade her to sit on her own. 

She did puke as we descended…poor bub’s ears hurt. Luckily Nick got away with putting her on his lap as by this point, the crew were already preparing for landing and buckled into their seats.

Ben and Wendy were on hand to welcome us back and we all went to Taste Paradise for dinner. Sasha was so reluctant to go home, she loves hotels and when she realised we were back at Spottiswoode, she burst into tears and kept saying “I want to stay in the hotel”. So spoiled they are!

March 22, 2013

Penang Day 3 (22 March 2013)

Kids woke up bright and early today and we were the first to be ready to I brought them down to breakfast on my own.
 
Thankfully they behaved while I went to get food for them and I was always in sight so they wouldn’t be scared. Got them fried rice which was easy to feed and came prepared with activity sheets to entertain them.

After breakfast we had a bit of time to explore the beach, people were already parasailing, I was amazed at the Arab ladies flying about in their black burkas! 
Our first stop today was Penang Hill. We took the tram up, it was quite a long and steep ride and stopped several times. It’s definitely higher than Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak but the view isn’t as nice.

In fact it was pretty cloudy and hazy with rain threatening so much of our view was obscured. The weather was only slightly cooler than ground level but there was no need for cardigans.
We spent a short time walking around, there really wasn’t much to see. There were some temples up on some hills but we did not venture there. I think there are several walking trails but they would take too much time and the kids would be bored.

There was an old school kacang putih stall, and I bought some piping hot steamed chickpeas. After a few snapshots, we queued up to make our way down again. Not very organised it was, there was no queue system so everyone rushed to board.
Next Norman brought us to Kek Lok Si temple, not the main bit but the new giant Kuan Yin statue as he was allowed to drive all the way up there. The view from here was better and the statue is impressive in size but it’s not complete yet. 
Don’t think Mildred was particularly pleased to be in a non-Catholic place of worship and she, Nick and the kids stayed in a pavilion looking at the fish while me and Ma quickly explored and posed for pictures.

There were colourful ribbon offerings with different types of wishes stated. I bought one for the family to be kept safe and made a wish for me and Swana to have healthy bubs.
We went in search of food next, Norman brought us to an airy food court in Georgetown called New World Park. More kway teow noodles for the girls while I had some char kway teow. Food was better than Gurney Drive I felt!

Thereafter he brought us on a short drive around Georgetown, stopping at the famed Blue Mansion or Cheong Fatt Tze mansion to snap a couple of pictures and then passing by Fort Cornwallis.
There was a slight miscommunication because I was not planning to visit the Pinang Peranakan Mansion but we ended up there anyway and actually it was a most interesting visit and everyone enjoyed it.
The mansion is a re-creation of a typical rich Baba home and offers a glimpse into their opulent lifestyle. There were plenty of antiques on display, Ma had fun pretending to be a matriarch and the kids had a ball running through the rooms.
There were jewellery exhibits as well as some kebayas and kasut manic, Nat was naturally taken with the bling!
Our second last stop was Chew Jetty, a clan village on stilts and a UNESCO world heritage site. It was quite nostalgic and retro, and seemingly stuck in a time warp, I wonder if everyone is really surnamed Chew there!

We couldn’t leave Georgetown without trying some chendol and we stopped outside Joo Hooi coffeeshop to sample the famous Penang Road Teochew chendol. Tried the popular one with the long queue and their rival opposite, which I actually preferred because their gula melaka tasted nicer.
We dropped the moms at Gurney Plaza on the way back for them to shop and Sasha fell asleep for a little bit but woke up as soon as we reached the hotel. Gave up trying to make her sleep again and we went swimming, just the four of us.

This was followed by dinner at Sigi’s, the hotel’s beach bar restaurant. Kids shared a fish & chips and mac & cheese while Nick had a carbonara and me a pizza. Sasha was pretty buzzed from the lack of nap and she kept singing 'This girl is on fire' but changed the lyrics about to 'This restaurant's on fire', 'This room is on fire' etc. Lol.
At first we were sitting outdoors but moved inside the restaurant when it started to rain a bit and this mucked up any plans I had to check out the pasar malam outside the hotel. And so ends Day 3.