Sunday, August 10, 2014

City 2 Surf 2014

The City 2 Surf has been on my bucket list and one of my Lululemon BHAGs (big hairy audacious goal) for a few years now. The 14km run from Sydney CBD to the iconic Bondi Beach is one of the most popular running events in Sydney, attracting thousands of people from elite runners to walkers with prams. For me, I wanted to run the whole distance including the infamous heartbreak hill, midway through the race.

2014 was my year to tick this off my bucket list. I'd stated seriously running since about September last year and coaxed the hubby into running alongside me, even though he's a faster/more experienced runner than me. (He's running the marathon in September).

Before September last year I didn't run at all. I refused to run, hated running and couldn't run more than 500m without getting out of breath. But everyone starts somewhere. So I started 3km laps: running as far as I could, then walking until I got my breath back, then continued running then walking. After a couple of weeks of this it got easier and the walking reduced until I was running 3km without stopping. After this, I started to increase my running pace and also slowly increased my distance gradually.

My view of running has done a complete 180. I enjoy it now, feel refreshed and get a good buzz from running. I was quite nervous last night about today's race, as the longest distance I'd ever ran was only 8km and I didn't do a lot of training in the weeks prior due to honeymoon and all other excuses I can pull out of the bag. Running 14km was going to be hard, and especially with all the hills, I was a bit unsure if I'd make it to the end or not. Plus I had 2 days off work sick due to a throat infection. But in true Bateman style, I didn't give up, kept my word about running all the way and made it past the finish line in under the time I had hoped for!

Garry was great company and also a great motivation, even if I did get annoyed at him during the race a couple of times. Only because I was jealous of how easy he found it and how comfortable he looked, while I was breathing heavily, couldn't talk and had a major stitch... Blah blah blah (insert poor excuse here) hahaha. It was great fun running with him, having him there to keep me company and keep my pace up. We started together and finished together :) can't wait to see the finish photos :)

My brother Rave was also a good sport and encouragement - finishing the race just shy of 60 minutes, he then stood road side to cheer us on as we entered the downhill stretch into Bondi Beach.

So I finally did it! I made it, 14km later, with a time of 1:25:25 according to Gaffa's Garmin watch. We were both busting for a toilet while we were waiting to start, but since we were right up the front in the Blue pack, we couldn't get to the porta-loos. So once we set off past the starting line, we stopped at the first available toilets just past the tunnel. Gaffa stopped his watch while we went to the toilet and restarted it afterwards. Our City2Surf recorded time was 1:27:31. Either way, it was under 90 minutes which is what I had hoped for, and will secure us a place in the green pack for next year's race if we decide to run.

My feet and legs are a bit sore but that was expected. It was well worth it, mission accomplished. Thrn we finished off with a yummy brunch at Henleys Wholefoods in Bondi Junction.

Now time to plan the next 6 weeks training for the Blackmore's 9km run across the Habour Bridge on 21 September which my awesome SIL has decided to run with me :) yay. And then training hopefully for Huski Sprint Triathlon in Feb 2015.... :) bring it on!!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Honeymoon: Langkawi, Malaysia - Part 1

It's been a while since I actually wrote this. But I've been reluctant to post because I was waiting for my phone to hopefully be fixed so I could add some photos. But alas, phone is completely dead and photos are gone... So have a read anyway of the second week of our amazing honeymoon :)

After a quick overnight stay in KL we were back at KLIA2 again for another Air Asia flight to Langkawi, which is on the western side on mainland peninsula Malaysia in the Andaman Sea - very close to Thailand. We'd chosen this island for the 'luxury' part of our honeymoon and booked a jacuzzi room in the 5 star Andaman Resort for 5 nights.

Upon arriving at the airport we enjoyed a Starbucks drink while waiting for our driver. About 40mins later we arrived at the resort and were greeted by the sound of a beating drum and walked through the grand lobby. When we checked in we were advised that we'd been upgraded to another room! The second best rooms at the resort: the executive suite, to be exact!! Woohoo, our smiles got bigger as we were escorted down the north wing to our room 139 the Rapala Suite.

The lady took us through all the amenities of the room including our own private pool, outdoor rain shower, lounge area, amazing bathroom and complimentary mini bar. We were in heaven! We decided to unpack all our clothes into the wardrobe and then headed out to book in some spa treatments and dinner reservations for the next 5 days.

The spa at the Andaman has received a few awards for some of their treatments. They are a bit on the pricey side - what you'd expect for a 5 star resort - but yolo, we booked in a massage and body scrub each.

For dinner we wanted to try all the restaurants they had at the resort. So the first night we booked a table at Jala, which is their famous seafood restaurant. The next night we had a reservation at Tepian Laut, then a private romantic dinner on the beach for our monthly anniversary, Japanese the night after and we left the last night open to go back to our favourite restaurant.

We decided to take advantage of the gym facilities and did an intense workout and enjoyed a dip in our private pool before dinner.

Jala restaurant is al fresco dining, with a sandy floor and massive menus lit by a clip on reading light. You can order off the menu or choose your own fresh fish and choose how it's cooked and with sauce and sides. Gaffa and I went all out, 3 course meal with a bottle of wine. We chose a snapper fish steamed in banana leaf with a variety of spicy dipping sauces. The fish was amazing and paired nicely with the sauces and the white wine Gaffa chose. Tummies full, we headed back to our room after a visit to the shoe concierge to use an air hose to blow the sand off our feet before putting our shoes back on.

The next morning we woke for some more delicious food at the buffet breakfast. Pancakes, waffles, eggs anyway you want, an array of breads and pastries, fresh fruit, Malay, Indian, western food.... We filled up enough to skip lunch every day we were there!

Then it was massage time!!! We took the golf buggy up the hill to the day spa and were greeted with a sweet drink and cold towels. After filling in some forms and enjoying the view over the Andaman we walked up to another room with 2 massage beds. We each enjoyed a relaxing massage, and the a soothing body scrub. Ahhhh pure bliss! I think afterwards we were so chilled out that we returned to our room and collapsed on the sun lounges outside and had an afternoon znooze!

Unfortunately I woke to Gaffa not feeling very well. He was vomiting and spending a lot of time on the toilet... We postponed our dinner reservation at Tepian Laut and I ordered room service. We had an early night's sleep which was a bit restless for my poor hubby. The next morning he visited the resort doctor who gave him a lot of tablets to take to help with the vomiting, diahrea, bloating, stomach cramps and dehydration... ;(

We spent an hour or so relaxing by the pool and ordered a fresh coconut for some well needed rehydration. I went on the slippery slide and practiced my handstands in the water while Gaffa watched and laughed.

We then decided to visit the cable car, which gives you an amazing view of Langkawi and the surround sea. The weather was overcast but no rain and the lines were short. We went all the way to the top and had a relaxing day, enough for Gaffa to recover.

When we got back to the hotel, there was a fresh coconut waiting for Gaffa from the hotel, sending him wishes to get well soon. How thoughtful!! The staff at the hotel are so attentive.

Until next time.... Look out for the next post starting with our private romantic dinner on the beach :) :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Honeymoon: Perhentian Island, Malaysia

Hello ETD readers! Apologies again for the lack of posts but another good reason is that we've been on our honeymoon. So look out for some exciting travel and dive posts coming up! You might even be so lucky to read a post by Gaffa, if I can convince him to write one about the diving we did on our honeymoon.... I'm sure I won't have to try very hard ;)

Anywho, we were married in December 2013 and 6.5 months later we left for our belated honeymoon. Initially we were wanting to go to Hawaii but money and time didn't work in our favour so we found somewhere closer and a bit cheaper. We decided on 5 nights of diving and 5 nights of relaxing and the "real" honeymoon. When I say "real" honeymoon, I'm talking the typical tropical 5* resort, some luxury and splurging, relaxing and chilling out. Isn't that what most people do on their honeymoon??!

So we found Malaysia to be able to provide both diving and beach luxury. We initially booked to dive in Sipadan and stay on the oil rig dive resort on the east side of Malaysia near Borneo & Philippines but a few days before we left we were told by some friends that there were some terrorist activities going on in Sabah and the Australian Government Smart Traveller website advised to avoid travel to that area. A bit stressed out, we had to reorganise the first part of our trip, rebook flights, accommodation and find a new diving location. I don't know how we did it, but team WinGaz worked it all out in the end and it turned out pefectly!! :)

Say hello to Perhentian Island. I think this place is a hidden gem. Even some of the locals didn't know where Perhentian was! (Maybe we were just pronouncing it incorrectly?!) It's on the east side of mainland peninsular Malaysia, off the coast of Kota Bharu. We flew into KL and stayed overnight then took a 1hr flight the next morning to Kota Bharu. The resort we found, Tuna Bay Resort included airport transfers - so a taxi was waiting for us when we landed. An hour later we arrived at the Tuna Bay office on the mainland and waited for the ferry to depart. The Tuna Express then took 45mins to get to the idyllic beach resort on the Perhentian big island.

There's not much on the island except resorts and when I Googled things to do, there wasn't much else besides scuba diving, snorkeling and jungle treking. Perfect! Universal Divers are connected to Tuna Bay Resort - Gaffa actually found the dive shop before we found the accommodation! The resort did a 3night/4day dive package including full board. So we opted for that and added an extra 2 nights which included breakfast only.

When we arrived we were greeted with a welcome drink and sat down in their restaurant on the beach front. Our bags were taken to our chalet via a wheelbarrow; which overlooked the trees but there are beach front chalets as well. Apparently the resort closes down in the wet season which runs from about Oct - Mar I think... we were actually lucky to get a last minute booking as another couple we met tried to book a few months in advance and were told it was a 6 night minimum stay.

Our routine for each day looked something like this:
Wake up
Breakfast
8am - go diving
Chill out on the beach
12pm - go diving
Lunch
More beach chilling out
3pm - go diving
Some more relaxing on the beach
Dinner
Sleep
Repeat!!

We did a total of 11 dives, including a night dive. The package included 7 dives and we added on some extra ones. There are loads of dive sites around Perhentian and there are a few more islands in the area with some more dive sites (like Redang), so we didn't get to experience it all. But that's just a good excuse to go back again!

The diving was super easy - just the way I like it. Universal Divers had 2 boats, a big one and a small one. All the dives we did were off the big boat except for the night dive when there was only 4 of us so we used the smaller boat. 30 degrees Celsius in the water meant no wetsuits, just boardies, a rashie and my Probe top. Each dive site was about 5-20 mins away by boat, entry by giant stride into the water and out via a ladder made for some easy and pleasurable dives. Not to mention the marine life: wow! So much to see on every single dive, it was crazy. As you can imagine I went a bit happy snappy with the camera underwater while Gaffa experimented with his GoPro. So much, that I saw Nemo on every dive and one crazy clown fish decided to take a munch at my right middle finger!!

Away from the diving we relaxed on the beach and the sun lounges. The resort also had a pontoon out on the water and a large swimming area with a net. One afternoon we went kayaking around to another beach in search for turtles - we found them yay! Gaffa made friends with some Canadians and played frisbee with them while I worked on my tan and practiced yoga and handstands on the pontoon and sand. At night we enjoyed a few cocktails and got an early night's sleep because diving wears you out sometimes!

The rooms were pretty good, 3* but very clean and had everything you needed, including an Aussie power point! The menu at the restaurant included both Western and Asian meals. In the full board package lunch was a Western meal: soup then meat and chips with salad. Dinner was Asian meals and always a lot bigger portions. Their drinks were good (juices & fruit lassi's) and cocktails even better - accoring to Gaffa!

On our last night there we decided to try the restaurant next door: Cocohut. We had heard mixed reviews about it, some guys got food poisoning but some had gone their every night and loved it...so we had dinner there with our new Canadian friends. It was good but the day after I had stomach cramps and a few days later Gaffa was really sick with vomiting and the runs. Eep!

The dive operator was very professional. Gear was in good condition - we used our own gear but had some hoses blow on our regs so we had to borrow a set. Rinsing tanks were clean and drying space was organised. We would definitely recommend them to fellow divers. The guides were fun and knowledgeable and most dives lasted about 60 minutes.

The weather was perfect during the day, hot and sunny and not too overly humid. The sun wad so bright you had to squint sometimes to see. It rained at night a couple of times but was always clear during the day. The island was simple and laid back, a great place to just get away from it all. Gaffa and I will definitely be back for some more diving!!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Paleo Savoury Bread Recipe

Grated carrot in bread?! Say what now?! Yep, I found an awesome bread recipe that asks for grated carrot, or sweet potato or zucchini. It's paleo and it's damn tasty!

The Merry Maker Sisters have a lot of healthy and tasty recipes on their Facebook and Instagram pages - so go check them out! @themerrymakersisters

I'm always looking for bread alternatives because the hubby is gluten intolerant and gluten free bread is mosty really dense and hard. One thing I miss about not eating gluten - soft freshly baked bread....

Anyway... I don't have a thermomix or a bread maker so when I find recipes that are relatively simple and you can make pretty easily, I definitely give them a try.

I didn't have any dry basil flakes or dry garlic so I asked Gaffa what would work well with the array of herbs and spices we already had at home. He suggested thyme and chilli since the lemony flavour would combine with the mild spicy kick in the chilli.

You can find the recipe here

Enjoy!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Fish Shop, Potts Point

It's very rare that Gaffa recommends a new restaurant to try, but he read in the Qantas magazine on a flight home,  that The Fish Shop was one of the best places for fish & chips in Sydney.

We were finally able to try it last weekend when he was back in Sydney. My parents called to ask if we wanted to have lunch with them so we suggested The Fish Shop. They are happy to try anything, but my Dad can't handle spicy food and my Mum, well she like Chinese food or plain food, mainly tofu, greens, fish and not much else. So it was a pleasant surprise when Mum was complimenting the food at The Fish Shop. 

We drove to Potts Point and found a park pretty easy on Victoria St. I went to school in Potts Point so I knew the area quite well. Gaffa will be working at Kuttabul in a few months, so I'm sure this place will be one of his main lunch joints on Challis Ave.

The restaurant wasn't too busy when we arrived (kitchen opens from 12pm) so we got a table (more of a high bench with stools) inside but with a view of the street. Menus were a newspsper type complete with a 4x4 sudoku, which I completed but found that it has 2 solutions...

Anyway, we got some recommendations from the waiter (who Gaffa said smelt like alcohol). But we later found out that the night before was crazy busy, so he hit the vino after work... lol.

We ordered the cuttlefish with garlic, chilli & parsley and some pickled eggs for entree, which came out with some pickled onions, chillis and betroot too. For mains we shared the fish & chips, the crumbed fish, bacon & chilli burger and a special of whole battered fish with a sweet chilli dip as well as some potato scallops, pea mash and side of chips. FYI the burger comes with chips so no need to order more. But they do have vinegar so we were able to relive the Pommy way of eating hot chips: with salt and vinegar! Yummy!!

The cuttlefish was cooked perfectly. Very soft and not chewy at all. The whole fish was what my Mum loved, she liked the light crispy batter and the flakey melt in your mouth fish. The pea mash was nice too. Burger was "best burger in Sydney" according to the waiter, that's why I ordered it; but it wasn't the BEST, but still pretty good.

For dessert Gaffa and I shared the ice cream sandwhich, since we didn't get to have the one at Reuben Hills the day before. Delicious! Drizzled with caramel sauce, with a thin biscuit 'sandwhich' and yumny vanilla centre. Could've eaten one each if we weren't stuffed with potato chips!

Prices are typical Potta Point prices - more than usual. But for the quality of the food and a special occasion, it's worth it. You could always get take away and walk down to the wharf.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Reuben Hills, Surry Hills

I'm always on the lookout for good breakfast places. I think breakfast is my favorite meal of the day,  but sadly I don't have much time during the week to prepare nice elaborate breakfast dishes. So on the weekends it's always a treat to to out and enjoy breakfast or brunch (so we can sleep in!)

Last Saturday we organised with Rave and Ms Tjak to meet for lunch since Gaffa was back in Sydney for the weekend. And I was given the task to pick somewhere to eat.

Gaffa and I had chiro appointments in the morning then we dropped off Gaffa's road bike to be put back together. Afterwards we got a call from Ms Tjak informing us that they were finished with their morning chores and Rave was hungry. (Gaffa was hungry too or maybe a bit hangry!) so we took this opportunity to head to Reuben Hills early.

I found this trendy 'hipster' cafe on a list of Sydney's beat cafes for breakfast. The menu was a bit different from the usual bacon and eggs, inspired by the owners' travels around South and Central America. We waited around 20 minutes for a table. Lucky there were seats outside and the sun was shinning.
I'd looked at the menu beforehand and decided on what drink and dessert I was ordering, but upon discussions with the waitress, I changed my mind. Reuben Hills are well known for their salted caramel milkshakes but we were told the Aero milkshake was mint choc, so definitely had to order thay one. Lucky Ms Tjak ordered the salted caramel so I had a little taste (and yes it's pretty damn good) but I preferred the Aero. Gaffa had the espresso and white chocolate milk shake. It had too much of a coffee taste for my liking, but not much of a white choc taste...

For food we were told that they could substitute any gluten/bread for corn tortillas. Yay for Gaffa!! He decided on the Crocodile Tostada, Ms Tjak and I both ordered the Dirty Bird (which funny enough I kept calling Dirdy Birdy, who is a Viet pole dancer in Sydney that I follow on Instagram) and Rave had the Not Reuben.

Food came out in a reasonable time. I asked for the gluten free version instead of the brioche. Which was a good option since the brioche looked quite thick and was very filling. The gluten free version cake split onto 2 tortillas, perfect since Gaffa and I always split our meals. The crocodile tostadas came out on crispy shells and the 'return to life' sauce was a slow burner but went nicely with the refreshing pineapple jalapeno slaw. The crocodile was slightly battered with a Japanese flour, which didn't affect Gaffa.

We didn't have room for dessert which would've been an ice cream sandwich - totally devo. But it means we'll be back again. They also have baked eggs which we were told by the waitress is very popular. And the single origin coffee is also a must try, surprised Gaffa didn't order one.

Prices were standard Surry Hills prices, a little more than suburban cafes, but worth it. Plus it was in celebration for Ray's 30th birthday next week. Dirty thirty - he should've ordered the chicken burger instead! :p

Any suggestions for breakfast places, please let me know!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Healthy Snickers & Chocolate Fudge Coconut Bites

Everyone, (well not literally everyone) has been asking me for the recipe for the two raw desserts that I posted up on Instagram a few days ago. So why not just write a post about them so everyone (this time I mean everyone - since this blog is public) can enjoy them both! :) Win win.
I first discovered the healthy Snickers recipe on a Facebook post that a friend was tagged in. I normally don't enjoy chocolate bars like Snickers, Mars Bars, etc as they are too sweet and I'm not really a big fan of caramel (but since salted caramel has become an in thing, that's a different story...) So I was reluctant to make it, but since I had most of the ingredients I decided to give it a try.

Things I noticed:

- it says to include 1/4 cup of flax seeds. I didn't have any so I just substituted them for more almonds. It still works find with any nuts I guess.

- the recipe says to combine 1 1/2 cups nuts/seeds to 1/2 cup dates. In my experience of making raw dessert bases (all are pretty much just nuts and dates mixed together) the ratios didn't seem right to give it enough 'stick'. If you press it together between your fingers it did stick a bit, but not enough, and parts of the base crumbled which resulted in my first failed attempt at making these. So the second time I used 10 dates which is about 1 cup and it turned out nicely.

- for the 'caramel' centre it says to melt and then cool the coconut oil. I'm not sure if this means cool it completely so it solidifies, since coconut oil is a solid when temperature drops below 25 degrees or so I think (don't quote me on that). Both times I made it I let the oil cool, as it not hot but it was still liquid. When I added it to the other ingredients and mixed it, there was some liquid residue that formed. I'm not sure if this is from the coconut oil or the tahini or the natural peanut butter - since they all have natural oils. But don't worry if this happens to you, just drain it off (I put the caramel in a sieve) and it still tastes yummy!

- freezing or fridge? Up to you. I keep mine in the freezer, as I want it to keep for longer. You may just need to wait a bit for it to defrost and not be so hard. Ms Tjak put hers in the fridge and says it still tastes good and isn't too soft.

Ms Tjak made these in mini cupcake moulds to bring to her workmates. They turned out so cute and were a definite hit at work. She was also a little OCD (she thought it was cute) with the placing of the peanuts. (See photo below) Hehehe :p

Now the chocolate fudge coconut bites. I found this on Facebook (as much as I don't like Facebook, it is a very powerful and useful social media tool). I follow various paleo/clean eating pages and saw this recipe. Again I had all the ingredients and it looked easy to make so I tried it out. As you can gather, I'm a non fuss/lazy 'cook'. I like minimal effort for maximum outcome. Whereas Gaffa loves to spend hours in the kitchen creating delicious food. I'm just impatient and hungry all the time hahaha.

Here is the recipe for the chocolate fudge coconut bites.

The dates to nuts ratio were fine in this recipe (I used almonds). It's supposed to be more 'gooey' than other bases, like fudge. It does get a bit sticky though when you're trying to put it in the pan. I used a loaf tin for mine. It has a strong coconut taste since the filling is mainly shredded coconut and coconut oil. If you like coconut you'll like this.

So my dear readers, which one is your favourite? I'm torn....



Monday, May 19, 2014

Raw Orange and Blueberry Cheesecake

Who sais you can't have a healthy cheesecake? Well to be honest, it's not really cheese but instead what the raw foodies call, 'cheeze' - cashews blended up. It may sound strange but believe me, it tastes damn good!

I found an interesting recipe online for an orange and blueberry cheesecake which I had most of the ingredients for, or at least I knew I could get relatively easily and at a reasonable price. So a few weeks ago I made this delicious cake and ate most of it (over a couple of weeks), bar about 3 slices which I gave to Ms Tjak and Rave to try. With glowing reviews on the taste I decided to make it again for Gaffa to try the next time he is home (which is this weekend yay yay yay!).
The recipe is quite simple and quick to make. The patience comes when you put it in the freezer and have to wait for it to harden up before eating it. Or waiting for it to defrost because your freezer has frozen it too much (which is what I had to do!)

Some points I noticed while making this:

- The recipe asks for 2 cups of nuts to 1 cup of dates. I found that the base didn't stick together enough so I added another half cup of dates. I've worked out that 1 cup is approx 10 dates (this is of course depending on the size of your Medjool dates). So I added 15 dates in total and it came to a nice sticky base but still crunchy from the nuts.

- The recipe calls for 3/4 cups of orange juice and the zest of all the oranges you used. The first time round I didn't know how many oranges would give me 3/4 cup of juice. So I juiced first and found it so hard to zest afterwards. So make sure you grate the orange zest before you juice the oranges. I found 2 oranges is enough but I guess it depends on how juicy your oranges are. I used naval oranges.

- I used frozen blueberries for the top layer. I found it easier to spread ontop of the cheese layer after putting the cake tin in the fridge for a bit to harden up. I also took out the blueberries to defrost first so when you mix it with the 1/4 cup cheese it won't be too thick and will be easier to spread.

The cake is very refreshing with the zest and the orange flavour goes well with the blueberries. Enjoy, try not to eat it all at once!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

28th Birthday in Melbourne, Part 2

After a very yummy dinner we went downstairs the next morning to have buffet breakfast in the hotel. Bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, hashbrowns, fruit, yoghurt, gluten free toast, fresh honey straight from the honeycomb, pancakes... filled us up for a full day of shopping ahead.

First stop was DFO at Docklands. We walked from our hotel all the way to Docklands. I was wearing my boots and a jumper and in true Melbourne fashion, weather was hot then cold at times - so annoying.

We finally arrived and headed for the athletic shops first. In Nike I bought a pair of running crops and a thin run jumper. Next stop was the Asics store for some new running shoes. Since my Nike Free Runs were giving me blisters Gaffa suggested Asics for more support on the longer runs. The sales consultant was very helpful and I also got a couple of pair of running socks too. We then headed into Lorna Jane. Since the Nike run crops were a dark pink colour I just had to find a black top to match! :) my current gym/run gear was black crops and coloured tops so I had nothing to match (thats what all girls say!). I found a cute black singlet and had to stop myself from buying other things, especially a purple crop top (and yes because it was purple I immediately loved it).

Afterwards we browsed through some other stores and Gaffa was getting a bit tired. He went for a toilet break and a drink while I had a look in some other stores. We both went into Jay Jays and I noticed a Minion tshirt in the window. Those that know me, know I love minions! This one had "one in a minion" on it, gotta love puns!! We also spotted some Batman tshirts and we both bought one, since our last name is very close to the superhero name hehe.

It was finally lunch time and we decided to catch a train to try out Three Bags Full Cafe. We ordered a couple of gf dishes and milkshakes, and a coffee for Gaffa in this busy suburban hang out. I should've tried the coffee because apparently it's quite good there. They also have funky stools made from street signs. Food was nice and well priced.

We then walked to the Lululemon factory outlet in Collingwood. I was super excited because I love all things Lululemon. The stuff at the outlet was mainly the random outrageous coloured items, with a few good finds. The store is arranged by size, so it was easy to find a bargin. I picked up a free to be bra for yoga and a funky backless top for the gym. Gaffa picked up some shorts. I was tempted to get another scuba hoodie but decided against it since I already have two of them. (They're so comfy and warm though).

After a long day of shopping we'd finally had enough and took a tram back to the city to our hotel.

Gym time! We headed to the same Fitness First we went to the previous night but it was just about to close. So we decided to trek to the newly opened Flinders St Fitness First gym. This was the first FF gym in Victoria with the new branding. Spread out over 2 levels with all the gym equipment and space you could want. It was quite impressive. We lost track of time again with an intense arm and abs workout and ended up back at the hotel getting ready for a late dinner.

Cookie was another place that my SIL and another friend recommended. Both for the Thai food and the cocktails. When we arrived they were really busy and didn't have any seats in their restaurant area but we could sit in the bar area on a large communal high table. As I minded the seats Gaffa went to order the food and cocktails. Food prices were a bit expensive and food was good but not as impressive as The European the night before. We ordered a couple of entrees and a couple of mains. It was quite noisy as well (since it was a Saturday night) so we left after dinner in search for some dessert.

We walked past the Nitro Lab, which is the ice cream store that sprung from a contestant on Master Chef. On the show she was running out of time while making ice cream and decided to use liquid nitrogen to freeze it instantly. There was a line but it went quickly. They change their flavours every now and then so it's definitely a place to visit more than once. I opted for Gaytime and Gaffa had the watermelon mojito. I watched eagerly as they made the ice cream in their Kitchen Aid mixers and added in the secret ingredient... then hey presto,  ice cream was created! The Gaytime ice cream was so delicious as was the mojito.

On Sunday after our buffet breakfast we packed our bags and checked out, leaving our luggage at the hotel while we went for a movie. The Lego Movie was very entertaining, brought me back to my childhood memories of playing with Lego. I had the girly lego while my brother had the boys lego. Kids nowadays probably wouldn't appreciate Lego as much, with all the new high tech toys out there.

After browsing around some shops we headed for lunch at a small Taiwanese place and then dessert at the Nitro Lab again. This time we tried and TimTam and Mango Boba. Gaytime was my fav, followed by mojito, TimTam then Mango boba. Nom nom! Can't beat a yummy gelato or ice cream.

Sadly the awesome birthday weekend had to come to an end.... I said goodbye to the hubby and he took the train back to Crib Point, while I headed to the airport. I was quite early for my flight so had loads of time to kill. Finally after a delayed flight I arrived home. What an awesome 28th Birthday, one I'll remember for a long long time. Thanks for making it a special one, Gaffa! :) xxx

Monday, May 12, 2014

28th Birthday in Melbourne, Part 1

Every year regardless of what day of the week my birthday falls on, I ensure that I don't have to work. This year, 11 April was on a Friday so I decided to celebrate my birthday in Melbourne with my hubby and enjoy an extended weekend full of shopping and eating!!

I took an early flight from Sydney to Melbourne with carry on luggage only. Then hopped on the Skybus from the airport to Southern Cross station and headed for my first stop: breakfast!! My SIL: Ms Tjak, recommended the Hardware Society amd raved about their baked eggs. Since the cafe was not gluten free friendly I decided to eat there myself. In usual Melbourne fashion, it was raining and I ended up taking the free city tram to the cafe.

Using my awesome navigation skills (Gaffa would laugh, but Melbourne is one of the easiest places to get around since it's a grid like network) I found the Hardware Society tucked away in a small lane and waited for a table for 1. I ordered the baked eggs with chorizo and a hot chocolate. 

The baked eggs were pretty popular as every table had at least one person order the dish. The hot chocolate came out first and was just divine. Full of chocolatey goodness and ended up being about 3 cups worth. The eggs: so yummy! Definitely worth it.

After refueling, I headed to the city for some shopping. Gaffa told me to go to H&M because he didn't want to go with me (he hates the store). When I got to the H&M building I noticed the extremely long line just to get in. I decided to wait, since I had time to kill. About 20 minutes later I was in! Woohoo. Pulling my little suitcase around I browsed the 2 main levels. Didn't find much except for a pair of blue denim jeans for $27. I spent over half an hour waiting in the fitting room line to try them on. I think when it gets less busy it'll be better, it was just way too crowded!

After browsing some other stores I headed to our hotel, the Rydges, as it was almost check in time. When I checked in Gaffa was already in the city on his way to the hotel so I waiting for him to eat lunch.

Beforehand I had picked out a few lunch spots. One was across from our hotel but was closed by the time we went for lunch (sushi sandwiches). Next stop was Ms Chu, a Viet tuck shop that sold rice paper rolls, salads and other small dishes. Because it was after the normal lunch time rush we were able to get a table easily and sat down to order some rice paper rolls, beef vermicelli salad and some refreshing iced coconut juices. Gaffa also ordered some char-sui baos, his favourite! The final stop was Ferdydurk, a pub that sold $3 hotdogs. We ordered 2 but they weren't very nice.

Afterwards we headed back to the hotel for a quick rest and then into our gym gear for a pre dinner workout at Fitness First. Our hotel allowed guests to use the Fitness First gym for free since their gym was erm well, crap to say the least. We headed to FF for an intense back, shoulders and ab workout.

We rushed back to the hotel room to get ready for my surprise birthday dinner. Gaffa had booked a restaurant a few weeks back and I didn't have any clues as to what or where it was. I wore my Popcherry dress and my hight heels and we walked from our hotel to the European. It was a quaint little restaurant with dark mood lighting, that had an extensive wine list and amazing food to match. Or should I say they had a great wine to match the food?!?!

Upon looking at the menu, there was a lot of dishes that sounded very apetising... and being the indecisive person I am, had a very hard time deciding. For starters Gaffa chose, and we each ordered an entree, a main and dessert. For the wines, Gaffa always asks the waiter to recommendations. We started with some sparkling while waiting for our starter of peppers and chorizo - reminded me of Spain. Next came our entrees. I just had to try the bone marrow dish. The first time I tried bone marrow was in the Napa Valley at Morimotos restaurant and it was amazing. This dish did not disappoint. It was probably my favourite dish of the night. I could've eaten it again for my main. Gaffa had a soup that was on the specials board. The waiter recommended some wines to match our dishes. Since the bone marrow was quite heavy I was given a light wine. I opted for half glasses while Gaffa had whole ones.

The restaurant was pretty packed but food came out pretty quickly. With enough time in between each course to let the food settle and to enjoy the rest of our glass of wine. For mains I ordered the pig. Anything pig related (mainly pork belly) I tend to order it. Gaffa went for the cassoulet which reminded him of our time in France. Again we were recommended matching wines which complemented our dishes nicely.

Then came dessert! The special was a twix recreation with salted caramel, which of course I jumped on since twix bars are one of the few chocolate bars I enjoy; Gaffa wanted to try the soufflé. My dessert was my second favorite dish of the night, with its rich salted caramel and crispy biscuit layer, just so moreish! We then finished off with a kir royal for me (which reminded me of our time in France again) and some after dinner aperitif for Gaffa recommended by our awesome waiter.

This birthday dinner was an amazing night of culinary delights and one I will definitely remember and talk about for a long time. Gaffa will have to work hard next year to top it! I would certainly go back to the European for dinner again when I'm next in Melbourne. Service was great, and prices were not mega expensive. I think our bill was under $260. For 3.5 courses with matching wines, that's pretty good!

To finish off the night Gaffa took me to the Whiskey Bar. The bar is hidden behind a blank store front with only a small sign above the door to identify it. Inside it is small and dark to match, only the most dedicated whiskey lovers would know about the hidden gem. Gaffa was recommended this place by the bartender at the Gin Palace.  I had a Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or while Gaffa again askes for a recommendation. The whiskey list is huge!

Stay tuned for part 2, for more food delights and some shopping adventures!

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