Category Archives: Romance

Bali Birthday! (2013)

Andrew: For my birthday last year, Dearie planned a getaway to Bali which was just pure pampering – a beautiful villa, a refreshing massage, great restaurants and shopping (where I finally found a suitable casual bag for myself)! With her usual trip-planning finesse, Dearie had meticulously researched all the good restaurants and possible things we could do. It was also our first time away from Baby D, as my mother-in-law helped us take him. (Jasmine: Thanks alot Mum!!)

This being our first time in Bali, we were actually quite surprised at how easy it was to get around and how much there was to do, in terms of dining and shopping. We didn’t actually do any touristy-stuff, but did most of what we would usually do in Singapore – which was great too! 

Here are some highlights from this wonderful getaway:

1. Great Restaurants

Breeze at The Semaya

Andrew: I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the most romantic restaurant I’ve ever been to – I really went WOW when we arrived at the restaurant.

IMG_4331Beautiful Dear with our celery amuse bouche

Jasmine: This was the top-rated restaurant in Seminyak and I could totally see why. The path leading to the restaurant was stunning too, lit dimly by candles floating on long narrow pools. When we reached the restaurant, we were given seats right by the beach. It was the very definition of romantic, dining by the waves under hurricane lamps.

Andrew: There was something just so calming about dining by the sea, with the sound of the waves gently crashing and the sea breeze gently blowing. We even had to use reading lamps to peruse the menu. It was amazing. We were so hungry by the time we got there, so we didn’t take many photos and since it was dark, the photographs are too blur, but we can guarantee you that they certainly didn’t disappoint in terms of taste! The less blurred photographs are below. 

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Bread, with butter & chives

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Roasted Pumpkin Soup, crispy bacon

The pumpkin soup was rich and hearty – each scoop was flavourful and the cheese souffle was the perfect texture, absorbing and complement the flavours of the soup.

As for our main courses, we wanted to try a mix of their Western and their Asian dishes so Jasmine had the pork belly and I had the duck curry (bebek menyatnyat). Both were good! 

Sardine

Jasmine: Even after a year, I’d still say that this was my favourite restaurant in a long while, period.  The lunchtime atmosphere was buzzing, and the view of rice paddies drenched in water was not only serene but provided a respite from the busy-ness of the lunch crowd, as you could walk into the rice paddies from the restaurant.

Sardine, as its name implies, specialises in fish, and I relished the freshness of all the dishes. The drinks were refreshing and good for countering the heat too!

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Andrew: I ordered coconut water, and they put the coconut water in one cup and the ice and lemon in another cup, so that you could just transfer it over when you wanted to drink it and not let the coconut water get diluted! How thoughtful!

These were the dishes we had there, all of which were excellent: 

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 Home Cured Salmon on Grilled Flatbread, Lemon Aioli, Arugula Salad

Andrew: As I don’t even like salmon in any form except for sashimi, I was very pleasantly surprised that I loved this dish so much. The flavours balanced off so delicately and the whole dish tasted so light and refreshing. Great appetizer to start off the meal!

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Salad Nicoise, Fresh Yellow Fin Tuna, Mix Greens, Tomato, Olives, Green Beans, Anchovies & Quail Eggs, Red Wine-Herb Vinaigrette (what a long dish name)

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Grilled Whole Fish “Jimbaran Style” with Sambal Matah Organic White Rice & Bedugul Vegetables

Andrew: If there’s one thing that characterises the food here, it’s the freshness and lightness of it. The flavours are not intense, but  all the flavours are well thought-out, playing off each other in a well-balanced manner, which is light on the palate. The grilled fish was done just right, with the fish moist and tasty with natural flavour – it went perfectly with the rice on its own, the sambal added a nice sourness and spice! Loved it all.

After our lunch, we took a little jaunt around the rice padis and even though the sun was hot, there was a nice breeze as well. I could imagine us just spending a whole afternoon here, chilling out and chatting 🙂

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2. Wonderful Villa!

Jasmine: Our hotel, Seiryu Villas, was quite special. 5 min drive from the main shopping stretch, yet so tucked away and exclusive that taxi drivers usually got lost, giving me a heart attack one night as the driver had us circling for 20 min and could not call the hotel because, as we later found, he was illiterate 😦

The Japanese-Balinese decor was striking and graphic. The open space of the zen garden at reception gave way to a completely dark passageway lined with heavy wooden doors, that seemed to hint that we were being transported to our own private hideout. Then the space opened up again, as we opened the doors to a lush Balinese garden with a pool, that would be our villa and home for the next two nights.

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My favourite feature of the villa was that you could walk right into the pool from the bathroom or vice versa, which makes perfect sense since people usually shower right after a swim, and who needs those silly standalone showers by the pool, anyway? The pool was framed at one end by the bathroom and at the other end by a pavilion which was perfect for breakfast or lounging.

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Some of the more traditionally Balinese aspects of the villa, including the stone and wood finishings in the toilets:

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And as mentioned previously, we could walk right out from the bathroom to our plunge pool!

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Had breakfast at this pavilion on our last morning too!

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And the Balinese entryway and garden!

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Andrew: We didn’t take any shots of the room in the morning, but you can imagine how it’d be like too. I spent the morning swimming in the pool and just chilling out in the pavilion reading.

What we forgot to photograph as well was the breakfast which was served in the kitchen in this villa itself. It’s almost like having your own private butler service, where they come in, lay out the table and prepare hot drinks for you. It was quite a feast, really! They also prepared a birthday cake for me, which was your usual chocolate cake – nothing fantastic, but a sweet gesture nonetheless.

3. Great shopping!

Jasmine: Shopping in Seminyak was lots of fun. I had feared that it would be touristy and overpriced, but there were many independent Indonesian and European (living in Bali) boutiques, and I managed to buy 3 or 4 dresses. The prices were not cheap (think about SGD$60 a dress) but the level of detail in the beading justified those price tags as such embellishment would easily cost twice as much in Singapore. Just driving along the shopping stretch was like window-shopping in itself, as all the storefronts were beautifully lit and the collections appealingly presented.

Seminyak shopping was more upscale and sophisticated, whereas Ubud shopping showcased Balinese artistry and craftsmanship for prices you can haggle down in the markets. I love both places and can’t wait to go back to Bali a third time!

Andrew: Managed to get myself a casual sling bag here, which I had been looking for for ages – so I’d say the shopping was fruitful enough.

Thanks Dear for planning yet another wonderful birthday!

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Andrew’s Birthday Celebration

Andrew: Celebrated my birthday early this year as Dear is expected to pop any time soon. As always, it’s a combination of staycation, food and shopping and this post shall be divided as such.

1. The Staycation @ Quincy Hotel

Andrew: We selected Quincy this time, for its location (5 minutes walk from Paragon or Far East Plaza) and range of activities over the weekend:

  • Art Jamming at 3pm
  • Movie under the Stars
  • All day drinks, snacks and Dean & Deluca pastries/cakes (note that it is advertised as “all day bites from Dean & Deluca”, which is not entirely accurate- only some items like the teas and cakes are from Dean & Deluca)
  • cocktails with canapes from 6-8.30pm
  • breakfast
  • entry for 2 to Butter Factory (hahaha)

Jasmine: Although the amenities sounded really impressive, the hotel and service were only adequate at best- we’ll be highlighting some lapses and AFIs (sorry for geekiness) if you read on.

Andrew: We didn’t know that we could only sign up for the activities if we were on the Qool weekend package. However, given Dearie’s condition, I don’t think we’d be up for all the activities. The Art Jamming was done outdoors at 3 p.m. and I’m sure Dear would have complained about the heat and the Movie Under the Stars was actually done in their pool area, with sofas and some couples sitting in floats on the pool watching the movie. Dear would have been very uncomfortable on that float! Heh. We planned our own itinerary and had a really great time!

Our Room  

We got a Deluxe Studio room, which had a decent view overlooking Orchard Road. We had stayed at smaller rooms before, like at ParkRoyal@Pickering (Jasmine: actually we got a free upgrade to the suite, dear, but it may have felt smaller coz the bedroom and living room could be sectioned off), but somehow this room lacked that cosy feel, which we felt the ParkRoyal room had, which really made you just want to hang out in the room and chill out for the whole day.

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Jasmine: A very modern room (perhaps too cold and impersonal for my tastes).    IMG_5977

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Jasmine: The bathroom- again, only ok by my standards- lacked the luxury finishings and double sink that I expect from a really good hotel.

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Jasmine: However, the bathroom did redeem itself somewhat by offering Molton Brown toiletries- the only other hotel I’ve seen offering Molton Brown is Fullerton Bay, albeit packaged even more classily there.

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Minibar and mini pantry.

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Andrew: Free snacks in the room, replenished daily. Dear, of course, seized the packet of Lays and finished it even before I knew it!

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Jasmine: The mini fridge also held several cans of soft drinks and mineral water which were free for the taking! Never made sense to me to charge exorbitant prices for basic snacks in hotel fridges which you can get at nearby supermarkets for a fraction of the price. So glad Quincy at least got this right!

On another note, I’m kinda tempted to put a bar fridge in my bedroom, and stock it with cold water, midnight snacks and icepacks!

Tea Time Snacks

Andrew: After taking some photos around the room, we headed down immediately for the tea-time snacks!

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Tea time snacks included free flow soft serve ice-cream with toppings, juices and canned drinks,hot drinks, dried fruits and nuts as well as pastries from Dean and Deluca. Honestly, we felt the Dean and Deluca bites were over-hyped. The chocolate-pecan pastry I had was rather dry, but the Lemon Pound Cake was good – cake was moist and each bite was full of lemon zest! I didn’t expect to like it, but I eventually finished off Dearie’s slice!

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The free flow soft serve was something that would definitely have been a hit with kids! However, there weren’t that many kids at this hotel – it’s definitely built itself more of a niche with couples. Nonetheless, Dear had a lot of fun making her own ice cream concoction below:

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Andrew: After our tea time snacks, we took a little stroll around the hotel and Dear was quite intrigued by these  ‘busts’ around the toilet.

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We also went upstairs to take a sneak peek at the Art Jamming classes through the gym window! They have quite a well fitted out gym – decent for such a small size and this floor is also where they have their infinity pool.

The gym and pool are open 24 hours, so it’s a real nice place to chill out. I went to the pool at 6.30 a.m. on Sunday just to have my quiet time and it was really serene and peaceful, lying on the very cosy benches, looking out at the skyline slowly turn bright as dawn broke. Had a real nice swim after that too.

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Evening Cocktails and Canapes

Andrew: Quincy is arguably one of the most blogged about hotels we’ve stayed it – there were pages upon pages of Google search results when we did our search and most had quite mixed reviews of the dinner. Food was decent, spread was good, but not stellar – so we went out for our own dinner (and shopping) which we will talk more about later!

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Came back around 7.45p.m. just for some post dinner snacking and was actually quite pleasantly surprised by the food. What was good was that they kept the selection of hot dishes small, but because of that, the dishes were replenished very often, hence you could easily get a freshly cooked batch of food every 10-15 min. We sat there for about 20 – 30 minutes and within that span, we had freshly cooked penne, Vietnamese Chicken fried rice and mussels in cream sauce! I quite liked the Vietnamese Chicken fried rice and had about 3 servings of it (yes, even after I had my dinner) – mushrooms were juicy and tasty, chicken chunks moist and well seasoned!

There was also a selection of cold cuts, cheeses, fruits and desserts.

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Along with our dinner, we each got a selection of a cocktail/mocktail. I had a Singapore Sling and Dear had a Qool Breeze mocktail!IMG_6011

As a nice touch, they had this bowl of chocolates right next to their main entrance, with a cute caption ‘There’s Always Room for Chocolates’ and free flow of mini Mars bars! Looks like free food is the theme of this restaurant and certainly a way to win guests over and keep them in the hotel. (Jasmine: The all-day bites are a good way to distinguish them from their competitors in the same price range, as it’s for all guests at Quincy, whereas you would have to pay extra for club privileges at other hotels to enjoy free flow snacks.)

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The breakfast spread

Breakfast spread was the usual continental spread with pasta (yes, it appears quite often in their menu, because Modestos is just next door, part of Elizabeth Hotel), scrambled eggs, chicken ragout, spring roll,  sausages and bacon.

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Along with the hot food, there was a spread of freshly cut fruits, yoghurts, nuts and dried fruits as well as juices, cheeses and breads! I have to say, I really really liked the bread they served!

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Specifically, I loved the raisin and orange peel loaf that you see on the top of the picture below. I put one slice through the toaster, tore of a bit and ate it and immediately, I was won over. The texture was so light and crispy, and the bread so fragrant and flavourful – went great with cream cheese or even on its own. I had 4 to 5 slices of that. (Think Dear and I wiped out about half of that loaf on our own). I asked the waiter where they got their breads from and they couldn’t answer me – I shall have to hunt down this loaf.

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This is Dear’s platter below! Didn’t get to take a picture of mine, because I was too busy eating.

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An area that we felt could be improved about Quincy was the service. It was adequate, but it didn’t have that extra mile that great hotels have, which I thought was a pity and not something that require much more ‘investment’ in terms of money (perhaps though, in the form of training). We would have appreciated if the waiter or manager could have helped us find out where the bread was sourced from, given that we had given it a positive review. That would have scored them some points! Also, we only realised later that we could order eggs freshly cooked from the kitchen, either sunny-side up or an omelette, but this was not highlighted to us.

When we had to shift table as it was too warm for Dear, the wait-staff didn’t come along to help us move our stuff, even though they were standing by and evidently quite available. When I was swimming, the hotel staff asked me if I would like them to remove the floats from the pool. Honestly, it didn’t bother me, but since they offered, I said okay. However, nobody came to remove them in the 1 hour that I was there. It’s not that we needed such pampering or attentive treatment, but it would have added to the experience. Which is why I said the service was adequate, but didn’t have that ‘extra mile’.

[Plus points for service recovery – they sent us an email today to ask for feedback and I pointed them to our blog entry. The Hotel Manager, Christina,  immediately responded to share that they were acting on our feedback and also, that the bread came from Swiss Treats! I even asked specifically which loaf was it that I liked so much and she told me it was Traditional French Brioche with Fruits. Shall go hunt that down at NEX!]

Sunday Afternoon Bites 

Andrew: Oh, and what I didn’t mention earlier was that our offer came with a late check-out at 4 p.m. – which gave us another opportunity to enjoy their afternoon bites. Even though we had a lunch booking at Gordon’s Grill, we just had to eat a bit of what they had. The spread was much more extensive than the day before, with laksa (made to order) on the menu and sandwiches!

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The Dean & Deluca spread was similar to the day before, with the addition of… Rainbow cake!

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I had paid $7 dollars before to eat this cake at their Orchard Central outlet, so just out of cheap thrill, I had to have a slice here, for free! I didn’t quite enjoy it the first time, but this second time where it was free, I must say it tasted better. Haha!

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All in all, it was a decent experience at Quincy. Facilities and food were decent enough, room could be improved and service definitely could have been improved. For the price we paid, we could have gotten a room with club privileges at Intercontinental Hotel, hence I would consider this rather pricey. Propose the hotel looks into improving its service and also providing a frequent shuttle into the heart of Orchard. They could also allow an on the day sign-up for their activities, because not all couples would want to do all the activities.

2. The Food!

Andrew: It seems like we’ve already blogged so much about food @ Quincy that I can’t imagine there’s a separate section on it. This section is on the meals we had that were not at the Quincy. Unlike other times where we could splurge on more expensive degustation menus, this time we went to more mid-range places, and interestingly, by coincidence, places that we had been to during our dating days, which did bring back good memories!

Day 1 Lunch: Hatched!

Andrew: So, before we checked in, we dropped by Hatched at Evans Road for a quick lunch as I was fasting breakfast that morning (yes, even after a 10km run!) –so you can imagine, I was famished!

One thing Hatched hasn’t lost is its quirky charm and one of a kind decor and design. Just check out these really cute salt and pepper shakers! (Jasmine: actually, I know exactly where to buy them.)

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They had plenty of cute lamps about, but we didn’t take shots of them. These were our drinks below: a fruit tea and iced caramel latte!

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And my food – a ‘Burly Benedict’, poached eggs and corned beef on English muffin.  Ironically, the egg was the worst part of this dish. The corned beef was alright and the English muffin was light and fluffy, even the mashed potato with a mushroom sauce was creamy and comforting.

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However, the egg was disappointing – the sauce on top was tasteless and the texture of the fried egg was quite ‘rubbery’. Quite a disappointment! Serving was small too, given that I had already ordered the double egg – but I didn’t quibble too much as we had the light bites at Quincy to look forward to!

Dear and I had come to this outlet before while we were dating and quite surprised to find the standard drop quite significantly!

Day 1 Dinner: Everything With Fries

Andrew: We wanted a quick dinner on Saturday after we had spent more time than expected on shopping (more on that later!) and wanted to rush back in time for the dinner canapes, so Everything with Fries at Orchard Central it was!

It was extremely crowded, but a couple was nice enough to offer us their seat, so we returned the favour later too when we saw a couple finding a seat.

Here’s what we had – a crumbed fish burger with sour cream and onion fries, duck leg burger with curry fries and a side of har cheong kai.

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The har cheong kai was the best! Chicken chunks were so juicy, the batter so crispy and well-seasoned, and it went perfectly with the mayo sauce on the side.

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Of the burgers, I loved the fish burger more. The duck leg burger was interesting and tasty, but because it was duck, the patty lacked the chewiness and juiciness that we usually appreciate about burger patties. The fish patty was so light and soft that it almost ‘melted’ together with the bun with each bite! Completely divine! The fries were generously seasoned and tasty! Such a simple, sure-win formula.

This restaurant has significantly improved from the time we first went there during our dating days. Dear used to stay near an EWF and this used to be our dinner before we went for cell on Fridays. It has retained its high quality of food as well as strong following, and I can see the range of burgers has increased, as well as desserts!

Day 2: Lunch – Gordon’s Grill 

Andrew: This was the ‘birthday treat’ of the weekend – Sunday roast at Gordon’s Grill! I had been there ages ago with my family and always wanted to come back. This meal was a real steal – at $50 per pax for a 3 course lunch, and $60 for a 4 course (including coffee or tea at the end) – if you check out the a la carte menu, the main course itself is already $40 plus, hence it’s totally worth it!

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The courses included a starter – we had the escargoes and the cold cappellini with crab, truffle and caviar. The cold cappellini was their signature dish and rightfully so – each bite had such a delicate mix and cacophony of rich flavours. Fantastic! The escargoes were well done and juicy, but not out of this world.

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Next course was the soup, where we had French Onion soup and Lobster Bisque with a splash of Napoleon brandy. The Lobster Bisque was the winner here, with a rich, creamy and robust flavour. 

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And then, it was the main course! Since their wagon-roasted black angus beef was the signature dish, both of us had it! The other dishes didn’t sound as attractive anyway.

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As the signature dish of the restaurant, it definitely didn’t disappoint! The serving was generous and the beef was just divine – so tasty, tender and juicyyy! Loved the Yorkshire pudding at the side and the boiled vegetables with mash. Serving was so big that Dearie couldn’t finish half of hers, and of course, I volunteered to help!

Jasmine: I rarely eat beef, but I had read that the roasts were the star of the show at Gordon’s Grill, and it didn’t disappoint! Juicy, tender and one of the most generous servings I’ve ever seen! My one small disappointment was that the meat wasn’t carved and plated tableside, since the roast meats trolley is supposed to be a Gordon’s signature and dying trade in Singapore restaurants- a waiter later told me that that was just for the a la carte orders but I still don’t understand the difference…

Andrew: Finally, we had a mini Baked Alaska to share, because I didn’t want to over-eat!

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Besides the food, there were other nice little touches, which made this restaurant unique. Dear’s Dior Ling got VIP treatment, with a little chair of its own! (Jasmine:  Wow! I’m amazed Dear remembers the name of my bag! Last time he would have just called it “the pink thing”.)

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Andrew: And all around the restaurants were these paintings in recessed walls, which Dear is planning to do in our home! Oh, someone please save me! (Jasmine: relax… I said, future home.)
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Jasmine: As a sidenote, I love the decor of this restaurant: elegant but not stuffy, with a nod to the colonial building through its classic furniture but given a modern update with the neutral palette and fantastic figurative artwork in “reverse framing”, yet small enough such that you feel comfortable and not intimidated by the poshness of the surroundings.

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Andrew: All in all, a great meal. Thanks Dear!

3. The Shopping!

Andrew: As always, we save the best for last! Now, Dear had asked me where I wanted to go to shop and I told her let’s go to Orchard Gateway, since I wanted to try out Daniel and Jamie’s latest restaurant – Dulce and Sucre! Little did I realise that Orchard Gateway was a heaven for men’s shopping because they had an entire floor dedicated to men’s shopping! This is something that no other mall in Singapore has. I believe all the shops there are also unique to Orchard Gateway, giving it a true niche in the market.

We didn’t take a picture here, but they had a store where you could get custom-made shoes, with a choice of the material and design of sole, the type of material used, the design of the shoe etc. The designer walks you through the design elements, then they send the design back to Korea for them to tailor make it. We saw some truly stand-out pieces, but immediately left when they told us that each piece starts from $500. (Jasmine: Allow me to just point out that two days later, Andrew told me he was thinking of going back to check out this shop.)

One shop which we spent a lot of time at was this shop ‘S2VS’, where I bought 3 new shirts – one of which you’ve seen extensively in the pictures at Gordon’s Grill. This I quote from Dear, the shop ‘does colour blocking really well’, which is something I currently do not have in my wardrobe! Well, since she said it, I had to plug that gap in my wardrobe, didn’t I? Heh.

Jasmine: I’ve created a monster. I should never have introduced that man to the concept of coloured shoes. I should have just let him think shoes only came in black. Now he’s talking about colorblocking and custom made shoes, for goodness’ sake. Sighhhh.

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Jasmine: We also spotted this shop, City Flow, near the escalator, which sold a whole range of creatively designed products from Taiwan, some winning Red Dot Design awards, ranging from quirky Oscar trophy and industrial lamps, to ice cub trays which can make transparent ice cubes (instead of the normal whitish ones), to tissue boxes designed with springs to help get the last piece of tissue out!

Andrew: I was drawn to this amazing range of rings they had, which resembled my wedding band. Dear identified a really nice design in ebony and stainless steel and bought it for me as my birthday present:

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Even the ring box is stylo

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Nicely matches my skin tone…. and my new Ted Baker watch! (Jasmine: I don’t understand.. why is this watch picture here? Told you I created a monster.)

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Andrew: Wow, now that we’ve blogged about it, I can’t imagine so much was done in the short span of just 1 day! Thanks Dear for this amazing birthday celebration. Beyond all the treats and presents, what was truly good was the  couple-time where we had, just laughing, chatting, and reminiscing about our dating days. It was a much needed recharge for the week ahead and also, for the next phase of our lives when baby girl arrives!

Babymoon @ Shangri-La Valley Wing

Jasmine: With the contractions and risk of early labour, we decided to play safe and not travel out of the country this June hols. However, we still wanted a babymoon to recharge ourselves, so we splurged on a staycation at the Shang!

We were initially booked in for a staycation at the Garden Wing, but upon check-in, we were offered a $75 upgrade to the Valley Wing. Now, Shang has 3 wings, each with its own feel and branding- the Tower Wing is catered to business travellers, the Garden Wing more for couples and families who want a lush oasis in the city, and the Valley Wing is the premier wing, where VVIPs stay, including President Barack Obama.

This was what our package included:

  • Complimentary all day bites and drinks (coffee/ tea/ juices/ wines), including afternoon tea (until 11 p.m.)
  • Breakfast: either international buffet at The Line or fine dining at Summit Room
  • Champagne, cocktails and canapes from 5-7 pm
  • $50 dining credit, to be used at any of the Shang restaurants or for room service
  • Hourly shuttle to and from Orchard Road

Enough explanation… We’ll let the pictures do the talking!

Our Room

Our room was the most spacious one in  its category, located on the 12th floor with a view of the pool and small putting green.image

View from our room of the Garden Wing, where we almost stayed

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A well-stocked stationery drawer for business executives e.g. not us…

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The room even had a dressing area with lit vanity!  

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A walk-in wardrobe area leading to the bathroom

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And the marble-clad bathroom, which my photograph does not do justice to.

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Exclusive to the Valley Wing: L’occitane toiletries. The bathrobes are also monogrammed with VW for Valley Wing.

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All day bites

Jasmine: What a wonderfully pampering concept. We both agreed that our $75 upgrade was well spent as we had breakfast, two lunches (actually afternoon teas) and dinner (actually cocktails and canape hour) there! (Our original package at the Garden Wing would have included international breakfast buffet only but not the fine dining breakfast option that we took at the Valley Wing).

Andrew: Now, when the receptionist offered us the upgrade and told us there will be all day ‘snacks’, I was thinking of chips, chocolates and the likes – little did I know that their snacks would be things like tarts, cakes, free flow sandwiches etc. I even asked a swa-koo question of whether the snacks would be in the room. Needless to say, I was a very happy man!

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Jasmine: All our meals were served at the wonderful Summit Room, which I really liked, because it was stately and yet calming at the same time. A circular room provides better flow, and half the room was done up in Chinoiserie panelling, while the other half had floor-to-ceiling windows which opened up onto a view of the greenery and pool. I entertained the thought of a small 10th wedding anniversary celebration here (Andrew: She’s completed her planning for the 5th wedding anniversary and gone on to planning the 10th…), but was told by our kindly waiter that this room is not bookable for events, it’s only used as a breakfast room for Valley Wing guests. That’s how exclusive it is… sigh.

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We opted for the fine dining breakfast option at the Summit Room as we had experienced international breakfast buffets elsewhere…

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In addition to the healthy buffet spread (this pic below shows less than half of it), we could also place orders for anything we wanted.

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Andrew: The rest of the breakfast buffet was the usual croissants, breads and muffins, which obviously we didn’t want to waste our stomach space for, since we had free flow cooked breakfast options! There were so many things to choose from the menu that we were spoiled for choice.

Jasmine: We designed our own three course breakfast menu. First course, appetizers of ricotta cheese with wild honey and some of the sweetest, fleshiest mangoes we’ve tasted (props to our wonderful waiter who also suggested seasonal dishes and foods that weren’t on the menu)…

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Second course, Eggs Benedict (but you can choose any style, really), which we could add an unlimited number of sides to, such as the tomato polenta cake, asparagus, tomatoes on the vine, portobello mushrooms and hashbrown. I also had a milk-fed cod fillet on the side (right), while Andrew had both a lamb chop and filet mignon (left)! (Andrew: You know it’s a super luxurious break when you have lamb chops and steak for breakfast! The waiter was even tempting me to get more meat! Honestly speaking though, the eggs benedict was only so-so. Fullerton’ Bay’s ones were much better, but I’m not complaining!)

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Third course, french toast with caramelised pears for Andrew and banana waffles for me (I requested a half portion as I was too stuffed at this point)!

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Andrew: I was completely stuffed by the end of this meal, but I just had to have French toast. Wonder if dads also get cravings during their wife’s pregnancies… Heh. (Jasmine: That’s fine, but nobody’s sending me out to buy French toast for you!)

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Jasmine: We of course also had both hot and cold drinks to wash all this rich food down- cafe latte and freshly-squeezed watermelon juice for Andrew, and ginger honey tea and iced chocolate for me!

Andrew: One thing I’d also have to add about the experience at the Summit Room was the great service! The service staff were attentive and friendly, very willing to customise the dishes to our preferences and suggesting good dishes for us. They would go up to you once you’d finished getting your stuff at the buffet and help bring your plate to the table. They also actively engaged us in conversation and made us feel very relaxed and well taken care of.  I really have to say that it’s great service that makes all the difference!

Service at Shang in general is top-notch – the lady who served us at the Garden Wing was also very friendly and personable, offering us free flow of their welcome tea (apple and osmanthus), which Dearie gladly took. Compared to the other hotels we’d stayed in, I’d say this was the best service we have experienced so far.  (Jasmine: completely agree, even the receptionist who did our check-out seemed so genuinely apologetic when I told her that I wished the hotel would have a selection of pregnancy pillows. She even rushed out to bid us farewell when Andrew drove up.)

Jasmine: We also did not one but two afternoon teas there.

We could help ourselves to all day bites from the bar, which included fig lychee tart, cranberry oatmeal cookies, an assortment of Shangri-la truffles (I kept going back for the crispy ones) and chocolate cake…

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And our very own (refillable) afternoon tea cake set. Warm, buttery scones with clotted cream, berry jam and marmalade were also served separately.

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I also had peppermint tea and mango juice, while Andrew had champagne… Seriously, who drinks champagne at 2pm?? Only at the Shang!

Result: happy like bird!

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Finally, cocktails and canapes! Also note the intricate Chinoiserie panelling- a wonderful nod to Shang’s tradition of fine Asian hospitality, the most important aspect of which is pampering their guests with food! I also overheard the receptionist say that Singapore’s Shangri-La is the very first in the world and is 43 years old, but I guess glamorous opulence never goes out of fashion…

Now, the only other place we have had Club privileges at was Hotel Intercontinental, which trust me, had nothing on Shangri-La in terms of their cocktail hour. We did not expect such a variety of sweet and savoury canapes…

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In addition, the waiters served hot snacks from the kitchen, such as mini beef rendang pies, mini fish fingers and chicken buns. My personal favourites, though, were the cream cheese and chive choux puffs, and the chocolate-encased lemon meringue tart.

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Andrew: This was my first platter below…

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Roasted beef with Asparagus Rey Crouton, Smoked Salmon with Cream Cheese on Pumpernickel, Smokced Chorizo Cornichorn on Farmer Bread and Herb Cream Cheese Choux

I loved loved loved the cream cheese choux so much that I went back for more, even while they were clearing the trays. Such a tasty yet light and healthy spread. I could definitely have done with one more day of such pampering.

Jasmine: Cocktail-wise, I couldn’t take alcohol, but the waiter mixed up Shangri-La’s signature Lily of the Valley drink for me. He was quite secretive about the ingredients, so I had to ask him twice, but he told me it includes guava, lemon, mango juice and a dash of grenadine syrup! Very nice tropical drink- slightly bitter edge but light and refreshing!

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We’ve been to Fullerton Bay and St Regis and enjoyed their live pianists… But of course Shang had to top them all by having… a HARPIST. I felt like I was in heaven.

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We actually just wanted to grab a few quick snacks before heading off for our dinner reservation at Salt Grill, but the cocktail and canape spread was so extensive that we ended up eating “dinner” there and cancelling our reservation! In fact, as the bar closes at 11pm, we also came back after our shopping trip for a second Lily of the Valley for me and pinot noir for Andrew!

And for those who were wondering, this is the other international buffet breakfast option at The Line (note: we didn’t actually eat there but just strolled through it)…

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Buns and bread baking right before our eyes!

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And a variety of gelatos, ice creams and toppings for those of us with a sweet tooth! For breakfast, they varied it and used this ice-cream counter for their yoghurts and bircher muesli. Creative!

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$50 dining credit

Andrew: We were hoping to use the dining credit for in-room dining, but turns out most of the dishes there didn’t look too appetizing and grossly over-priced. I wasn’t going to pay $18 for a mushroom soup… So, with our $50 dining credit, we went to The Line bakery!

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Jasmine: Nope, we didn’t buy this penguin cake for Dylan, who was doing his own staycation at the Skang (Granny’s house in Sengkang, which also offers all day bites of free flow muffins and milk, plus live pianists aka Ee Ee)…

Just ordered a couple cakes, a sausage roll, frozen berry yoghurt and a box of 12 chocolates for my family…

IMG-20140609-WA0024Chocolates from Shang, paired with Ben & Jerry’s 

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The pomme cake was our favourite- it was their cake of the month, a cross between a cake and a tart, made of stewed apples sandwiched between layers of mascarpone cheese. Surprisingly, it was light and zesty!

Andrew: Unfortunately the rest of the pastries/cakes were rather typical, but we’re not complaining since we got to use our credit. They do seem to do rather good personalised cakes though!

Facilities

Jasmine: We also booked a pregnancy massage for me at the famed Chi Spa while Andrew used the gym facilities.

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Actually, Chi Spa does not offer prenatal massage, but they customised one for me based on a light Swedish massage. Ask and you shall receive…

This was one of their massage rooms.

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And after the massage, the therapist brought me to their Relaxing Lounge, gave me warm ginger tea, spread a blanket and told me to rest as long as I wanted. It was absolute bliss. After spending the 90-min massage awake and visualising renovations, I could just feel my mind emptying out and de-stressing in this lounge. Heh.

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Andrew: The gym was huge, with a wide range of machines and weights not seen even in the more luxurious hotels we’ve stayed in, who honestly often place very low emphasis on the gyms. The gyms at Raffles Hotel and Fullerton Bay were tiny and ill-equipped. This gym at Shang had equipment I’d not seen in other gyms like kettle bells, elliptical trainers, indoor rower, weights machines targeting the obliques etc. You name it, they have it! And even with all this, it was very spacious.

Shopping

Jasmine: And since we were only 10 min drive from Orchard, we just had to squeeze in a bit of shopping for the family!

Some Eric Carle books for Dilly and a pair of Fred Perry shoes for Andrew (he made some excuse about there being a 20% off with my credit card so I paid for that)…

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Jasmine: And I was looking for a bag as my previous had given way a month ago and I was still trying to make do by knotting the strap onto the bag…

All my bags are under $200 and I typically carry one bag, everyday, for months until it breaks. So this time I really wanted to indulge in a high-end designer bag that would last for years.

I checked Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs and finally wandered into Dior, where I bought this Diorling bag in less than an hour. (Andrew: Am always surprised at how decisive Dearie is when it comes to shopping.)

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Hrmm.. I know these are signature to the brand but I don’t care much for the letter charms that spell Dior. Ah well, I suppose it will be useful as a travel sensory toy for Dylan.

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The wonderful salespeople, James and Mona, also happened to be the same lady and gentlemen who served us last year when we bought the Dior Oui ring, and they recognised us this time! The last time, Mona, the Grand Vendoir of the Dior boutique at Ion, actually showed me a coffee-table book and regaled me with stories about Dior’s stunning jewelry designs and her trip to Paris to meet the designer, Victoire de Castellane! This time, she gave me two coffee-table books about Dior jewelry and invited us to the opening of the Baby Dior boutique at MBS! You can’t get these books in Singapore, even if you tried, and on Amazon the blue book retails for $75 USD! What a wonderful gift!

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I know I don’t look great here but since I have been so lax in taking bump pix, here is one of me at 33 weeks pregnant. Although this Diorling bag is small, it’s made of butter-soft calfskin, and has three compartments, which are roomy enough to fit all my stuff. I also love the candy pink colour and am surprised that the colour somehow seems to match most of my outfits, perhaps thanks to the bag’s contrasting neutral sides!

Ending with a selfie of us!

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Hands down, the most indulgent staycation ever!

Andrew: What I really enjoyed and appreciated was the quality time with Dearie. At home now with our dear son Dilly, we barely have much time to set aside to just talk and spend time with each other. After Dilly goes to bed, I’m sometimes so tired that I also can’t focus on having a proper conversation with her. This Shang staycation was so perfect as it gave us so much time, in such luxurious and relaxing settings that we could just have great connection time, talking about geeky topics like politics and all. Indeed, the best staycation ever!

Taking Care of Your Pregnant (and Hormonal) Wife

Andrew: Pregnancy is always viewed from the woman’s perspective – and rightly so. However in many ways, it’s also a journey that the man goes through and increasingly so, as men step up to play a greater role in parenting.

Having gone through two (almost!) pregnancies, I wanted to share my own journey and what I’ve deemed as being helpful to Jas during her pregnancies – some things learnt thru the hard way, as always. Some of these are tips I’ve learnt from friends too and put into practice with good effect. In many ways, these tips are similar to how a husband should support and communicate with his wife in a marriage – just amplified 100x because of the pregnancy! Without further ado, here goes:

1. Your wife is your first focus, the baby second.

Andrew: Doesn’t this sound wrong – shouldn’t the baby come first? However, this is akin to what they always say about how to be a good dad – love mommy more.

While caring for your wife, always make sure she knows that she is your priority and not just the baby. During her pregnancy, your wife will receive a lot of advice on what to do – from the gynea, from family members, from well-meaning friends etc. Your wife might feel that everyone just cares about the child’s needs and not hers, but as a husband, you must let her know that she is important too. Not just in actions, but even in the way you phrase your advice to her and the words that you say – always phrase advice from the perspective of you caring for her and not just the baby. For example, when Dr said Jas was at risk of pre-term labour, I got so worried for the baby that I said very stern things to her like “You better stay at home and rest or else our baby will come out early” or “You mean you’re not concerned about our baby?” – obviously these comments backfired and got her even more frustrated. Looking back, I should have just expressed how concerned I was for her and her health.

This is arguably even more important when you have more kids, when it becomes even more difficult to balance the need of your existing kids and the new one. Your wife should know that she’s still valued as your wife and not just the mother of your child.

2. No request is too trivial.

Andrew: Yes, I’m sure everyone has heard tonnes about the wife’s cravings during pregnancy – which is true! Admittedly, I’ve been a bit lazier during the second pregnancy and Jasmine’s cravings haven’t been that difficult to obtain and also, her mother is a good cook who can help make what she wants. (Jasmine: Yes, there was this one time I was craving Tasmanian sausage rolls, and my mum actually Googled a recipe and made her own mince rolls with black pepper! Yum!) I do see many of my husband-friends faithfully meeting their wives’ cravings by driving out in the middle of the night to get what they want, and yup, that should be the way! Be attentive to your wife’s needs and that means fulfilling her cravings as fast as you can – just think of you as becoming the 24-hour womb service for your little child inside! (Yes, some creative visualisation helps one to manage too!)

Jasmine: Yes, I read somewhere that cravings are not just an emotional thing, but may supposedly be related to a nutritional deficiency in the mother, for instance, I have been craving yoghurt a few times this week, which may be due to lack of calcium leading to severe backaches. (Andrew: Oh, so is your body very deficient in potato chips?) Also, the thing about cravings is that they must be fulfilled now– we held back on my MacBreakfast craving for almost a week, and my Kinder Bueno White craving for a few days, and the craving, instead of dissipating, kept building up until I was so unhappy and moody… that I messaged Andrew nonstop about hotcakes while he was at work.

On the other hand, Andrew woke up early one morning and bought me my Macbreakfast Deluxe while I was still asleep… And that was a great start to my morning! Just ask him, I was pleased as punch (when usually at 730am I’m a grouch).

That being said, not all cravings are healthy, obviously. To try to stave off those hunger pangs (and nausea in the first tri), we try to keep some healthy snacks in our fridge- these have included Hup Seng crackers, hummus and breadsticks and grapes. Don’t expect it to eliminate your wife’s cravings, but consider yourself lucky if it saves you a midnight trip out to buy Ramly burger!

Andrew: Your wife will have strong nesting instinct and get you to help her move this or that (as you would have read in the previous posts – though honestly, she did most of it herself. Hmm, why am I even qualified to write this post? Anyway…). Even if you think it’s a silly request, just do it and do it when she asks you to. Dearie would not just rearrange the house – she would ask me to take photos of the ‘completed’ products and I would sometimes just groan…

Jasmine: Yes, that nesting instinct is also quite normal as it’s the urge that women feel to prepare everything for the arrival of the baby. For some, it could involve doing up the nursery or cooking and freezing large batches of meals that can be reheated when the little one arrives.

For me, it’s manifested itself in the form of rotating Dylan’s toys (to a different weekly theme) and more recently, re-organising my kitchen and Andrew’s frightful bedside table. Actually, the husband does not have to say much- just  go along with it, help move heavy objects if asked, and by no means comment on how much the wife is spending- though agreeing on a budget beforehand is certainly fair, and I get most of my storage stuff from Daiso.

3. Bedrest is a great concept – but extremely tough in reality.

Andrew: During pregnancy, the gynea may give the wife/mother bedrest if there’s over-exertion or pregnancy risks. In our minds, bedrest sounds like heaven right? Because your wife can just lie down in bed and do nothing. For the husband, maybe it sounds good because you no longer need to worry about your wife being overly tired and stressed at work. Wrong!

Bedrest, while good in concept, can be extremely boring and your wife, who’s also hormonal during her pregnancy, might end up feeling stressed, frustrated and also very handicapped, like every small move she makes can cause distress to the baby.

Your role as a husband then is to remain attentive to her while she’s going through bedrest. Buy her magazines, brainstorm activities to do with her while she’s on bedrest (as you can see, this is why our blog has been more active lately), and especially as the pregnancy gets on, don’t assume that bedrest = well-rested wife – your wife can still be tired, even while on bedrest. Lying down is not necessarily comfortable anymore, without the right support and even lying down in the same position for too long can cause backaches and for Jas, contractions. Continue to be attentive to her needs and be there for her.

Also, while bedrest is important, it can be quite stifling to be cooped up at home all the time. So, do find ways you can bring her out without her over-exerting herself – the best option probably being restaurants/food places where she can be fetched directly to the door-step. I know gyneas will always say complete bedrest, but honestly, nobody can stay confined to the bed for one week continuously.

Jasmine: Boredom aside, I also found it almost impossible to be on strict bedrest- which happened quite a few times this pregnancy because of contractions and the risk of early labour, which would pose health risks to the baby if born so prematurely. As a mother of an active little boy who just learned how to walk and is practising his walking skills all day, I found that I had to chase after him, bend down to clean the high chair and floor, carry him when he needed comforting etc. This of course would lead to increased frequency and painfulness of contractions- not good!

Of course, we tried to outsource our cleaning to a part-time cleaner before we got our new helper, but there were still daily tasks that needed to be done that were somewhat strenuous, such as the cleaning of the high chair and floor.

Even when my new helper arrived, things got slightly better as I could leave the housework to her and even let her watch over baby occasionally while I rested. However, whenever I was at home, I would always feel compelled to check on them, or take care of baby so that she could get the housework done. Perhaps it’s just a mother’s instinct?

4. Your wife will be hormonal and emotional – no matter what you do. Patience is the key.

Andrew: Mood-swings are part and parcel of pregnancy and frankly, you won’t be able to stop the mood swings from happening, so don’t even try. Nonetheless, when they happen, be patient, listen to your wife (regardless of how emotional or unreasonable she might get), don’t take things personally and do not – I repeat, do NOT – try to talk your wife out of her emotional state, she will naturally come out of it.

Honestly, Jas does try to help me through this part by alerting me and saying, “I’m feeling extremely hormonal today” before she goes into her emotional state. I’ve at times tried earnestly to advise her and talk her out of her negative emotions, but I’ve since realised how silly that is. Usually, once she’s had her say, expressed all she feels – she’ll usually come out of it, as if nothing happened and I’m like what? This process can be rather long though, hence the need for patience.

Jasmine: I can’t explain it. I remember that even the strangest things could set me off, like when I was expecting Dylan I would suddenly cry when watching some Youtube video. Sometimes, I would message Andrew with a string of complaints about my contractions when he was working- even if you are busy, do try to respond to your wife in a timely way so she knows you’re there for her, or at least let her know that you are at a meeting and will get back to her in an hour or two (and honour your word!).

5. Find time to intentionally enjoy the process.

Andrew: Welcoming a new child is something joyful and nobody would deny that it’s an exciting process. However, as pregnancy is also tough and tiring, there must be intentional effort to enjoy the process and make it a positive one, so that the tough parts don’t seem so bad.

Yes, maternity photo-shoots are one way (and Jasmine’s favourite way), but it’s also about little things that the husband can do to make the wife feel excited, like spending time to talk to your baby, initiating trips to buy things for the baby, talking excitedly about how the new baby will be like and the things you’ll do with him/her. Spend time every night praying together with your wife for her and the new child.

Continue to do fun things together with your wife, so she’ll have positive memories of the pregnancy. It’s not just about one-off events, but also consistent actions.

Miscellaneous other tips:

  • Learn how to do basic massage (especially back massage) for your wife: You’ll probably be the best masseuse for her because she’ll be able to tell you exactly where to massage and for how long, unlike those paid ones – though those are good too! Learnt some pretty good techniques from Mills and Wayne too! (Jasmine: our gynea showed Andrew how to knead his fists and knuckles into the lower back to disperse the lactic acid buildup which causes the backache, and it’s really shiok. Andrew now does this for me almost every night, if not he knows I will not be able to sleep much at night due to the discomfort, which increases as baby grows.)
  • Invest in a good pregnancy pillow: Yes, my wife has spoken at length about the miracle below that she bought from Amazon, but it really is that good. Once having that pillow, her complaints reduced by almost about half (okay, maybe a quarter).
  • Keep affirming your wife and telling her how beautiful she is. Pregnancy makes a big dent on a woman’s self-esteem and she’ll feel like she’s totally lost control of her body. (Jasmine: Totally agree here. I used to be very sensitive when people would say “wah you so big” and wanted to tell them that it wasn’t me who was big but the baby!) Just keep affirming her, hold her and tell her how beautiful she is, keep appreciating her.

Andrew: Now, I have to add and end off by saying that once you have two kids, the things above become more difficult to do by practically two-fold – additionally challenging for us because the first kid is less than one year old, hence still very needy.

When all else fails, falling back to Strategy 1 will never fail you. Your wife should be first priority, above all. That’s not to say you ignore your kids’ needs completely, but don’t ignore hers either or deem them trivial in the midst of the babies.

A final important tip to husband is to find time to take care of yourself. Yes, to many, the baby will come first, then the mother and the dad last. Hence, while staying involved, don’t forget to also rest enough and do things to refresh yourself, so that you can also stay positive. Enjoy the pregnancy journey!

Cheap Princess Gowns for Weddings

[To my horror, I found these fully-written wedding-related posts from THREE YEARS BACK, before we got married, just sitting in the drafts folder… So I just clicked “publish”. Also, feeling kinda really sad that I have put on so much pregnancy weight since these pictures below were taken!]

Jasmine: I’ve made pretty clear that I’m no fan of the princess gown… Until I actually tried one on, while shopping with my mum at Far East Plaza.

And realised, horror of horror, that with a very simple bodice, the exaggerated train and full skirt could actually look rather… pretty.

I felt like I was cheating on my own wedding dress- the one that I had painstakingly designed and made at Emanuel B.

On a budget of less than $200, I decided that I would search for a second gown that I could rent. I wasn’t planning to have a change of wedding gown on the actual day itself, but just thought I’d rent one for a different bridal silhouette in pictures.

I decided to go really low-end for this because the ballgown style is so overwhelmingly popular at Taiwanese-style studios that there was sure to be much price competition which would drive prices down. I wouldn’t recommend low-end studios if you want a form-fitted sheath or quality materials, but an A-line gown is still relatively easy to do.

Of the low-end rentals I sourced, most charged around $200-300 for a three day rental, inclusive of alteration and dryclean.

The cheapest was Bridal Closet, which offered rentals from $188, which included not only alterations and drycleaning, but also free rental of veils and accessories (though I didn’t need those).

As I needed to have my measurements re-taken for my cheongsam (reached my goal weight… yay!), Bridal Closet had the advantage of being 5 min drive away from my cheongsam tailor, so we decided to pop by.

This was one of the dresses I tried on:

Option 1

It’s got the sweeping train which shows up well in photos and I liked that the beading wasn’t too overdone, but up close I could tell that the skeleton of the bustier had gone awry and the waistline was crooked. Next.

Option 2:

All along, I had been looking for something more modern, like Option 1. However, this dress was decently-tailored. Also, despite my best efforts to veer away from the traditional gown, I kinda liked the way the tulle skirt was gathered and the lacework was pretty, albeit in a retro way.

Even better, both options cost under $200… to buy. Bridal Closet even threw in free alterations and drycleaning.

Here’s what Option 2 looked like after alteration and removal of the sash:

A few key points about bridal shopping for the budget-conscious:

  • Always inspect the garment carefully to ensure that all joinings are straight and seams don’t pucker (looks especially awful on shiny fabrics like satin and gives away bad workmanship immediately)
  • If you are going for a princess gown (or any gown), make sure that the embellishment does not overpower your frame
  • When in doubt, less is more. Remove all annoying accoutrements. Unnecessary adornment is often used to disguise crappy workmanship
  • Shop with one, maximum two trusted friends with good taste. (Especially important for low-end studios, because you’ll really need to spearate the wheat from the chaff)

I saw too many girls at Bridal Closet who were trying on hideous, butt-ugly gowns (Crime Scene Exhibit A: red and black mermaid gown, with TWO sashes bisecting the natural waist and the low waist, thereby successfully showing off her paunch) but their mums and boyfriends were not offering them the wake-up call they really needed.

When Andrew and I were shooting at National Museum, we saw six other bridal couples, and all the brides were wearing princess gowns which were too complicated and looked like they harked from the ’80s. For example, they had pleating on the bust and massive amounts of embroidery on the skirt. The hairstyle (typically, fussy updo with lots of waves and a TIARA on top of all that) never differed from bride to bride and made the whole getup look dated. Someone really needed to tell them that less is more (ironic, coming from the girl with two wedding gowns).

Princess gown or not, I always maintain that the bride should wear the gown and not the other way around.

More on New York: Winter Fashion and Food!

Andrew: Right after completing the entry of top 10 on NYC, I realised there was still so much to write about NYC – in particular food and winter fashion! Okay, honestly I just wanted to write about the food places we went to, but when compiling the photos, I realised that there was so much fashion (mainly Dearie’s) to feature, hence decided to make it a fashion and food post – much to Dear’s delight, I’m sure.

Bouchon Bakery

Andrew: We actually visited two Bouchon bakery outlets during our time in NYC – the outlet at Rockefeller Centre before our NBC tour, and another one at Time Warner Centre after a long walk following a Christmas service.

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Enjoying a chai tea latte from Bouchon Bakery – sad to say, Starbucks was much better!

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Rows and rows of sweet delights!

Andrew: The pastries here were just fantastic. We had a raspberry croissant, which was just out of this world as well as a pistachio macaroon, which was top notch too! Really enjoyed sipping in our hot drinks and soaking in the Christmas atmosphere.

Me sporting my new scarf from H&M and Dearie wearing her rabbit fur scarf + XXX (pls fill in fashion details)

Rabbit fur scarf from Shanghai, woollen beret from H&M Washington and white coat from Warehouse

Andrew: The dinner that we had at Bouchon was not as impressive, I felt, perhaps due to what I ordered. Dearie, however, enjoyed her salmon rillette a lot!

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Leather jacket from Uniqlo, Polo-T from H&M

Scarf from Edinburgh, peacoat from Topshop

Jasmine: I saw these salmon rillettes on Food Network in Singapore and was so happy when I saw them on the menu! It is essentially just shredded cooked and smoked salmon with butter served in a jar, for you to spread on crispy brown bread. So simple, yet so delish!

Shake Shack

Andrew: Classic case of over-dressing – going to a fast food joint in vest + pants for me and Betsy Johnson dress for Dearie. This was our indulgence after our NYC photo-shoot and we had missed our lunch cos we were too caught up in photo-taking. Think we had quite a few people staring at us. Do note that the temperatures were close to zero on this day!

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Dress from Betsey Johnson Washington, hairband from Christmas market at Bryant Park (a Spanish designer who recycles scrap metal and plastics into accessories)

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Tailored vest from my wedding suit and shirt from POA; hair styled by Jasmine

Andrew: Shake Shack is immensely popular in US and there was a crazy queue almost every time we went. There are many outlets too throughout NYC, so you can’t miss it. It was great comfort food – burgers with juicy patties, melted cheese and greens, cheese fries, and thick milkshakes (or what they call frozen custard)! Not sure if I would queue up again for it, but it was certainly worth trying.

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Chickalicious Dessert Club and Bar

Andrew: This place was recommended by a colleague I met at a department retreat before our trip. It was rather out of the way and we had to walk quite a bit from the train station to find it, but the plus point was that there were no crowds, hence we could just enjoy our lovely desserts. Did some research too prior to going and when you read one long, photo-heavy entry just on the cookies and cream ice-cream alone, there’s no way you can not go to this place. The ice cream certainly didn’t disappoint – just look at those huge cookie chunks – it’s even chunkier and less overwhelmingly sweet than Ben & Jerry’s.  Bring this to Singapore!

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Andrew: The chocolate éclair didn’t disappoint too (and yes, there’s another blog entry I read just on that eclair). The above photos were from the dessert club – just across the street is a more classy version called the dessert bar, where there is only one fixed menu, kind of like a degustation menu and you are served several courses of desserts! Just imagine having desserts being split also into starter, main course and erm… dessert? LOL.

Nanette Lepore blazer from Filene’s Basement Boston (another shopper said, “I’m lazy to try it on but it looks good on you so I’m just gonna buy one”), necklace from Christmas market at Bryant Park, turtleneck from China

Jasmine: Yum yum! I was worried that dessert served in three courses, fine dining style, would be glucose overdose, but it was done just right… and oh my, that crazy ice-cream with the humongous cookie/ cake chunks!

Andrew: Not sure what this was – think it was some kind of apricot tart, but it was good!

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Grey sweater loaned from Jasmine’s brother – thanks Gab!

Greatest buy of the trip [a gift from Dearie!] – industrial watch from Grand Central, which is made of recycled metal and the face is hand-painted, so every watch is different – it’s the only watch I still wear now.

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The petit fours: closest to camera is an almond toasted marshmallow

Andrew: While I don’t recall the specific names of the dishes we ate, I recall that every dish was a hit and not too overwhelming (in terms of taste and portion size). Unfortunately, it wasn’t filling enough, so even after two ‘meals’ of dessert, I still had to go have my ramen! 🙂

Magnolia Bakery @ Bleeker Street

Andrew: We tried really hard to find this place. The cab got lost, so we reached there really late and hungry. Sad to say, we weren’t impressed by the desserts offered and I found cupcakes at Sprinkles and DC cupcakes so much better! There was a long queue still though – wonder why?

Jasmine: Probably because of the name- Magnolia Bakery of Sex and the City fame! I heard that there are tour companies offering SATC-themed tours, with a pit-stop for coffee and cakes at Magnolia Bakery. However, as pretty as the place was, we were let down by pretty much every item we tried- perhaps we ordered the “wrong” things?

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Icebox cake – tasted to me like any regular cake, just more creamy. The cream might have fared better if it had been placed in a chiller for awhile to enhance the sensation of coolness?

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German cupcake with coconut, caramel and pecan, and the classic buttercream cupcake

Andrew: The cupcakes fared better, and the German cupcake was lovely! I still recall we were very hungry after this meal still and because the place was so packed, we had to eat these cakes while standing by the street. The bakery was also in a more upmarket district, which had less food areas, hence we had no other food options. However, shortly after, Dearie discovered a Cynthia Rowley shop and eventually bought a dress from there and her mood immediately picked up for the rest of the day (You’ll see that dress soon).

Cantina Corsino Italiana

Andrew: This was another place we just discovered while watching TV in Yotel. It was featured on Food Network and because it was near High Line, we went there for an early dinner after our romantic stroll 🙂 We needed to have a light dinner as we had our Babbo Christmas Eve dinner booked for that same night at 9.30 p.m. (latest I ever had dinner). It was a really nice place, with great service and the crostinis were perfect for what we needed.

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Nice mix of sweet and savory crostinis 

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Can’t remember all the dishes but the first two were the best – the orange and ricotta cheese as well as olive tapenade! This was our first round of crostinis!

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There you have it – the Cynthia Rowley dress! Paired with a Betsey Johnson belt from Filene’s Basement Boston.

Jasmine: Like Andrew, my favourite was the olive tapenade, which packed quite a flavour punch, and the orange ricotta, coz the tartness of the marmalade contrasted quite well with the mild sweetness of the cheese!  They also change their menu seasonally, so do ask if there’s any special of the day. Great for light bites with a whole bunch of friends.

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Attacking the last two! (Okay, think I didn’t quite nail the savage look in this pic – looks more like staring blankly)

Christmas market

Andrew: I used to frequent the Christmas market every year when in Leeds so I was quite delighted to find one here in NYC. This was at Bryant Park, where we also ice-skated! And for me, I don’t really care about all the Christmas decorations and little ornaments, all I care about is the food!

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Yummy churros!

Jasmine: Maybe I’ve not tried many churros in my life, but this was pretty much perfection for me! Warm, crispy, not too sugary- eating this in the wintry Christmas air while chilling out with my husband was a wonderful way to end the evening.

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Cranberry mulled wine with lemon – this was seriously so good and perfect on a chilly night!

Andrew: As mentioned, NYC brings back so many great memories. There was so much to do there from morning till night and I still haven’t even started talking about the museums we went to, the parks, the historical monuments/areas – that might be our next post! Nonetheless, we’ll definitely be back again!

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Symbolic Rings on our Couple Journey

Jasmine: Since university days, I have had a thing for rings. They are the easiest piece of jewelry to slip on and off, and can either blend in with any outfit or be a conversation-starter. This post traces the evolution of our journey as a couple through the rings that Andrew has bought me- they are not very expensive, but each ring marks a next stage in our relationship. (Andrew: Really, this is just another excuse for Dearie to showcase her accessories. And I like the inclusion of ‘very’ in the statement above.)

Jasmine: You are uninvited from contributing to this post, Andrew.

1.  Sundial ring from Toulouse, Southern France

Jasmine: Before that, let me just show off my favourite ring when I was a single lass! (Darn I make myself sound so old.) This ring represents my love of travelling- it is a ring bought from a silversmith in the South of France. The ring replicates a traditional design- the story goes that a prince gave a ring like this to a princess as a token of his love. "Carpe Diem", or  "seize the day" in Latin, was very much my motto when I was on exchange  and had the best time of my life exploring new countries.

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However, the most unique thing about this ring is that it is a…. sundial! If you prop it on its face, the little hole allows sunlight to come through and hit a number engraved on the underside of the ring! How perfect for an ancient keepsake reminding a princess to be patient in waiting for her true love’s return! (Andrew: Oh, so by that analogy, am I your knight in shining armour?) (Deletion done by Jasmine)

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2. Michal Negrin ring for Marriage Preparation Course (MPC)

Jasmine: In our church, a guy asking a girl to go for MPC is a serious thing, as it signals his intent to lay strong foundations for marriage. In fact, couples are discouraged from doing the wedding proposal, buying of flats, booking of hotel etc before MPC, as MPC will ensure that couples are ready for a lifelong marital commitment and do not just rush headlong into wedding prep.

Therefore, we did not have an engagement ring at this point, but Andrew surprised me by bringing me on a date, asking me to "shop" at Michal Negrin, an Israeli jewelry boutique stocked at Raffles City, and then sneaking back to Michal Negrin to buy the ring that I liked while he dropped me at Paper Market! (Andrew: I was surprised she didn’t know what was going on, but those were the days where I still bothered with such little surprises and romantic gestures – nowadays I just say ‘Dearie – tell me what you want’, or in more desperate times, ‘Send me the link and I’ll buy it for you.’)

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Jasmine: He then brought me to a spot by Esplanade overlooking the Singapore River, and asked me if I would go for MPC with him, and accept this ring as  a token of his sincerity. Although this ring is very ornate, I love its vintage style and have worn it both for casual days as well as for our pre-wedding shoot:

And just in case you’re wondering, we have written about our Tiffany & Co engagement ring and custom wedding bands (Andrew’s ring is quite striking for a man’s ring!) here.

3. House ring by Noir

Jasmine: This ring was SO unusual, it was love at first sight. It was a double finger ring by Noir, a NYC-based jeweller stocked at Deja Vu Vintage. Dear bought this for me when we were six months newlywed, and it had special significance as we had just bought our first home 😀

Noir collaborated with Mattel to produce this cotton-candy pink mansion ring.

It can be worn closed e.g. snap the house shut and wear it on one finger, or open. When open, the back  reveals the house interior with all these cool touches like stairs and a chandelier charm!

Andrew: I was truly unable to appreciate the beauty of this ring when I first saw it. I thought it was just me and my usual ‘dense-ness’ about fashion-related stuff, then I realised I wasn’t alone- Jasmine’s mum and sis couldn’t appreciate it either. This is truly a mark of Dearie’s eccentric taste!

4. Rubberband ring made by Andrew’s 6-yr-old niece

Jasmine; This may seem like an oddball choice, but it is said that when you marry someone, you also marry his/ her family- for better or for worse. How true that is!

Thankfully, Andrew has many nice cousins on both sides and their children are all very, very cute. Faith is a lively 6-year-old girl (who was also our flowergirl at our wedding) who "made" this ring for me during Chinese New Year- she and her sis busied themselves during dinner churning out rubberband jewelry from a kit they had brought along. This ring symbolises family to me!

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5. Dior "Oui" ring

Jasmine: I had admired this ring for years, even before I knew Andrew! I thought it had a touch of wry French humour, and found the idea of literally saying "yes" both ironic and well, sweet. Dear bought this for me as a birthday present last year- it must have been one of our fastest shopping trips ever, as we were in and out of the Dior boutique within 20 minutes during lunch break!

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The original Insta caption went: two years on and it’s still yes…

6. Matryoshka ring from Noir

Jasmine: This was a happy chance encounter. I actually went into Deja Vu Vintage trawling for vintage dresses I could use for maternity wear, but strayed to their jewelry section- which is really worth a long browse, as it has such a diverse range of jewelry of all time periods (vintage and contemporary designers), countries (local designers and international brands) and styles (punk, retro, 1940-50s vintage).

I really liked this Russian doll ring, which I discovered was from the same designer who made the house ring above! Not only is she intricately enamelled, the top can be screwed off to reveal a peanut-sized mini doll inside! It seemed to symbolise a mother and daughter pair, which was extra-meaningful to me since I am carrying a baby girl this pregnancy.

Dilly likes this ring too, I have to use it to distract him when he is fussing in the infant car seat. Heh.

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Andrew: We actually went back to the shop twice to look at this ring, buying it only on our second visit. During the first visit, Dearie tried to use Dilly as a reason for me to buy the ring, but I had a counter-reason for not buying it – that I was tired and wanted to go soon! Haha… During our second visit, the shop assistant actually remembered our first encounter there – she remarked, “Oh yes, he looks much less tired today. And your son also loves the ring right?”. Oh man, looks like we are remembered at the wrong places for the wrong reasons.

Side-note, being with Dearie has truly brought on some strange conversation topics with shop assistants. When getting Dearie her Mothers’ Day gift at Maternity Exchange, I ended up having an extended conversation with the shop assistant about their selection of brands and which range they should bring in (of course, with help from Dearie thru whatsapp, who jumped on the chance immediately to provide any fashion input). 

Jasmine: Isn’t that amazing? The shop assistants didn’t just recognise me but recognised my husband when he went alone. Hope that doesn’t mean we have visited the store too frequently. Heh.

Couple time at St Marc’s Cafe

Andrew: It’s been really great having a public holiday every two weeks to allow us to relax and unwind – especially great when we can have some couple time!

Had read lots about St Marc’s Cafe from the food blogs I frequent, and this is apparently the ‘Starbucks’ equivalent in Japan.

We had their famous milk chocolate croissant (chococro) as a ‘starter’, and a croissant with green tea & red bean filling, which was nowhere near as nice. Dearie loved the chococro so much that we bought some back for her family, and they loved it too! (Jasmine: We actually  meant to order the white chocolate croissant but they got the order mixed up… I’m going back to try that one day!)

Besides that, we also tried the sandwiches! We’re quite into sandwiches now, such that we’ve even declared Saturdays as our ‘sandwich’ day. Our maid will make egg mayo and fry either corned beef or luncheon meat (sometimes – both) and we’ll just have eat those with bread, sometimes toasted with a slice of cheese. Simple yet tasty and satisfying!

This time, we had:

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Egg mayo and prawn sandwich

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Beef Pastrami and Swiss Cheese sandwich

Jasmine: I preferred my beef pastrami sandwich to Andrew’s egg mayo, which was a tad plain. The beef pastrami was flavourful and was offset well by the milder Swiss cheese. Now I want to replicate it on our family Sandwich Saturdays- a new weekend ritual we just started!

Andrew: I loved the crispy toasted edges of the bread, but the toasting also meant the sandwiches  were rather dry, especially the egg mayo and prawn one. I think toasting only works well when you have a very creamy or ‘melted’ filling. The sandwiches were accompanied by coleslaw and chips (a sure winner with Dearie)! One set like this cost about $8 each, which is a bit on the expensive side.

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Royal Iced Milk Tea and Green Tea Latte

To accompany our food, we ordered their drinks, which were only average in my opinion. The Green Tea Latte wasn’t rich enough. I’ve had better tea lattes at Mc-Cafe – random point, their  Himalayan Tea Latte is fantastic! I even drove and stopped by a McCafe once before work just to get a latte to treat myself. (Jasmine: And my milk tea was substandard and watery… Even Mos Burger’s milk tea is nicer coz you can add as much milk as you want!)

On to the best part of the meal, the dessert!

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Strawberry Heaven

Now, this was really good! It was a great mix of textures and flavours, with cornflakes, frozen strawberry bits, light sponge cake. I loved the crunch of the cornflakes! The soft serve ice cream was delicious! Loved it.

Will definitely be back again for more of the desserts! Kyoto Delight is next on my list.

Jasmine: This was a fantastic parfait! Everytime we dug a bit deeper we discovered a new ingredient. The cornflakes and soft serve were great!

Andrew: Always appreciate such times where we can have a relaxed meal and just enjoy quality conversation – we spoke about random things like whether to buy a sandwich maker (lol! – yes, so interesting), planning the week’s menu for our maid and planning the blog posts we could write (interestingly enough, this wasn’t on our list of posts!). Following that, my wife went for a massage and a little shopping, while I went off to Momentum Conference.

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Eagerly awaiting… her massage and shopping spree!

Jasmine: I only spent $24… where got spree… However, it was $24 well spent, as I managed to get a last-minute appointment for a brow wax at Benefit!

Fullerton Bay Hotel

[We take a break from the Dylan diaries to post this long overdue post about our Fullerton Bay staycation 2 years ago.]

Andrew: Dearie has been nagging me for ages to post photos of this wonderful hotel, which we staycation-ed in almost two years ago! Was prompted once again when I saw a friend staycationing there on Facebook, so here they are!

We staycation quite frequently, but I have to say that this first staycation set the bar so high that other staycations just couldn’t compare (well, you pay for what you get). Everything was amazing, from the hotel room, to the hotel design, the outstanding view, the great breakfast spread, the service. Would go back again, if only I could afford it so frequently.

The hotel lobby

Andrew: This was the most stunning and impressive hotel lobby ever, with (very) high ceilings and lots of natural lighting.

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Jasmine: The architect, Hong Kong-based Andre Fu, has a distinctively luxe, Hollywood Regency style. From a coffee-table book in our hotel room, I read that he envisioned Fullerton Bay Hotel to be a gem on the waterfront, and therefore designed it to look like a jewel box, with metallic and plush textures.

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Mix of rich fabrics

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Sofas that you can just sink into

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Andrew enjoying life

Jasmine: Although the remodelling and decor were futuristic, there were also nods to the hotel’s history, through archival prints of the building as it was in the 19th-century, and vintage steamer trunks like the one below…

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Our hotel room

Andrew: We were given an excellent room which had a great frontal view of Marina Bay Sands. I spent a lot of time just chilling by the balcony, enjoying the breeze and great view, while journalling. Just happened there was some dragon boat championship during that time too, so I got a great view of what was going on! You’ll see more photos of the view later.

Jasmine: Yes, we were so fortunate to be upgraded to a corner room, which meant not one, but two panels of windows overlooking both MBS and the city.

Both panels of windows had automated sheer and blackout blinds so you could either maximise the view or enjoy the privacy and get a good night’s sleep.

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Jasmine: Service was second to none. Based on whose belongings were on which side table, housekeeping placed a larger pair of bathroom slippers on Andrew’s side of the bed and a smaller pair on my side!

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The panel of windows overlooking the city also had a long desk and an ergonomic chair, making this hotel great for business travellers.

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Nespresso coffee to keep you up while tele-conferencing?

Jasmine: The business traveller aside, it was obvious that Fullerton Bay Hotel was built for romance, with the mahogany panelling and mirrors that gave the room a sumptuous, decadent yet thoroughly modern feel.

My other measure of a six-star hotel is how well-appointed the bathrooms are. They should have separate shower and bathtub facilities (each screened off), a double sink, premium toiletries, bath towels and bathrobes. This bathroom exceeded my expectations! Here is the lavish bathtub area done up in marble (there are automated blinds if you want to screen the bathroom off from the rest of the bedroom).

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There was cable TV in the bath, and even a pillow to support the head during bubble baths… I made sure I had a nice long soak each night!

Not forgetting the generous tubes stuffed with Molton Brown toiletries.

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And our fantastic night view of the Singapore skyline from the balcony… Dragon boat races by day, MBS lightshow by night! More pictures if you scroll to the end…

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Breakfast @ The Clifford

Andrew: The breakfast spread at hotels are always amazing, but this one was truly outstanding in terms of quality and not just quantity and spread. First, check out this collection of Yakult! Not the most premium item, but Dearie was going thru a Yakult craze during that period, so this was quite perfect!

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The cheese platters were amazing, with honeycomb and a nice mix of fresh, tasty nuts.

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Andrew: There was a good selection of freshly squeezed juices, as well as this energy booster smoothie and a great bircher muesli (not photographed). The bircher muesli was one of the tastiest I have ever tried in any hotel thus far.

Jasmine: There was also an eggs station where the cook whipped up eggs benedict with smoked salmon or ham upon our request! It was truly the best hotel breakfast I had, both in terms of the extensive variety and quality of food!

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More shots around the hotel!

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This was taken in a mirror with an interesting, shimmering reflection, hence the kaleidoscopic quality of the shot.

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And Botero sculptures just dotting the hotel!

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There was also a live pianist when we were wandering around the hotel, making our experience even more otherworldly and perfect.

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Jasmine: I remember that this was exactly 2 Labour Days ago, and it was our first break since joining HQ and working for about 5 months straight without taking any leave. (Andrew: It was also after my first In Camp Training, for Reservist, which was extremely exhausting, hence it was a fantastic break.) Staying at Fullerton Bay was like one long overnight date, as I have memories of Dear picking me up on impulse from One Fullerton when we were dating, and just strolling around at midnight, admiring the city lights and quietness. One of the evenings, we also had dinner at Fullerton Hotel’s Lighthouse Restaurant, which is well-known for its Southern Italian cuisine, and got a 15% off because we were guests at the sister hotel, Fullerton Bay.

Some shots of the Lighthouse and the food:

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The wonderful Noir double-finger ring Dear bought for me to celebrate 6 months of being married!

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By day, we were happy to explore the waterfront area, and take advantage of Fullerton Bay’s “shuttle bus”- as I remember, the “shuttle bus” actually involved the concierge hailing a taxi and giving the cab driver $10 to take us to our destination!

Perfect and free view of the MBS Light Show

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Pregnancy Massages Singapore (and Phuket and Tasmania)

Jasmine: Even before I got pregnant, one of my favourite indulgences was massage. I was never able to afford such pampering before I started working, and now that I am working, preggie and have to endure all the assorted aches and pains, massages are not only nice, they’re practically necessary :)  In my first trimester, before I started showing, I would go for those 20-30 min Chinese massages as they were cheaper and widely available. Now though, my tummy gives me away and I have to go for legit prenatal massages.

Oh yeah! Most of these pregnancy massages were sponsored by Dear- thanks sweets and keep it up!

I will be reviewing some of the prenatal massages I’ve had in Singapore and on our travels over the last two pregnancies. Of course, there is no fair basis of comparison because I have only been to most of these spas once, and therefore the experience is dependent entirely on the therapist’s skill. Thus, I’ll try to provide some qualitative assessment of the spas based on two main criteria, mainly the massage itself as well as the ambience.

In Singapore

1. Qi Mantra ($98 for 60 min)

Given its Raffles City location, Qi Mantra is geared towards working women who can drop in during lunch hour for a quick facial or neck rub. I tried its prenatal massage based on a review that it was one of the top 5 spas in Singapore but found the massage average. The atmosphere is quite modern and no-frills, especially the therapy rooms which were pretty barebones.

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 2. Remede Spa at St Regis ($190 for 60 min)

This spa was pure luxury. The massage was extremely good and relaxing. The atmosphere was excellent- beautifully-appointed in marble and crystal. While I was having my massage, Andrew went in to enjoy the Remede Spa facilities (free entry for hotel guests), which included a full cycle of hot and cold therapies such as Finnish saunas, steam chambers, ice fountains and marble loungers for bathers to recline on, which Andrew said was very relaxing.

No pictures, because we lost a year’s worth of photos through accidental deletion on Andrew’s part. Grr.

Two days after our St Regis staycation, I gave birth to Baby D after just two hours of active labour. As such, our MOE colleagues started joking that if you want a speedy delivery, staycation at St Regis. Heh.

 3. Estheva Spa at Raffles Hotel ($198 for 90 min)

We first stumbled upon Estheva’s prenatal massages when we were celebrating our 1st year wedding anniversary at Raffles Hotel. We had requested the same suite that we were given for our wedding dinner, and this spa was right outside it.

This is the spa that we keep returning to over and over again for pregnancy massages as the quality of the massage is consistently high, with the therapists thoroughly kneading the legs and back especially. I have fallen asleep in their therapy rooms quite a few times!

The atmosphere also blends in very well with the Raffles Hotel colonial aesthetic. While not my decor style (I find it abit too atas and maximalist),  it looks inviting enough, like you are visiting the home of a rich friend.

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The reception area

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One of the therapy rooms- note the huge fluffy pillow which I am given to hug as a bolster and to support my tummy

 Phuket, Thailand

4. Pimnara Spa (SGD$50 for 60min)

I also did prenatal massages during our short Phuket trip as they were so much cheaper than in Singapore. I went twice on two consecutive days to Pimnara Spa at Jungceylon shopping centre. There were cheaper ones but they didn’t offer prenatal massages. The massages were decent but not particularly memorable. The atmosphere was decidedly more upmarket though, with the Chanel-esque black and white decor and 3D camellia ceiling and wall fixtures.

Pimnara almost always has a glut of masseurs waiting to serve customers, so you can just walk in after a day of shopping. Also, they have dedicated facial and manicure/ pedicure areas, so it’s literally a one-stop beauty shop.

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 5. Spa at Avista Hideaway (SGD$90 for 60 min)

We were staying about 10 min out of town, nestled away on a cliff, so we were feeling rather lazy on our first day in Phuket to explore the town. We managed to get bookings for the spa at our hotel, which was also steps outside our suite (as we were staying in a spa suite with indoor and outdoor spa baths… shiok), and the massage was better than expected, as I fell asleep within the hour. The ambience was also fantastic- you could choose to have your spa treatment done al fresco in the pavilions pictured (but with the curtains drawn). We did ours in a comfortable couple room (stairs pictured lead down to it) with ensuite toilet and bathtub.

Oh yeah, the prenatal massage price listed in the spa brochure was about SGD$120, which we thought was pricey by Thailand standards, even though this resort was supposedly famed for its spa and wellness offerings, but Andrew somehow managed to bargain with the manager, who gave us a 25% off our treatments.

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Tasmania, Australia

7. Waldheim Alpine Spa, Cradle Mountain Lodge (AUD$135 for 60 min)

I was about 6 months pregnant with Baby Dylan when we holidayed in Tasmania. This was the spa with a view. Atmosphere was unbeatable. Our treatment room had floor-to-ceiling length windows that overlooked the majestic forest of towering King Billy pines. Unfortunately, the blinds were drawn almost immediately once we began our treatment. Kua kua…

The massage itself was very soothing, though I would personally have preferred something firmer. Most massage places tend to be very gentle with pregnant women.

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8. Sandy Bay Massage Centre, Hobart (AUD$80 for 60 min)

Now I will go out on a limb and say that this is the best prenatal massage I’ve ever had. The ambience was quite shabby chic, as this massage parlour was tucked away in a residential suburb of Hobart.

This unassuming massage parlour had fantastic reviews online, with many women raving about the great prenatal massages in particular. I was sold and emailed from Singapore to book a slot, and the massage centre responded very promptly, within a day.

The long-awaited massage did not disappoint. Firstly, there was a special massage bed for pregnant women, with a hole carved out to accommodate the belly, so that I could lie on my tummy for the first time in months. Secondly, my therapist from Czech Republic was amazingly skilled. Unlike many other masseuses giving prenatal massage, she wasn’t afraid to use firm strokes, hit all the right pressure points, and helped to loosen many of those stiff joints and achey back from all that driving and walking. I was super relaxed and ache-free that day!

Back home in Singapore (free)

9. But of course, the best massage is none other than the one that my hubby gives me, night after night, which includes a footrub (he can crack all ten of my toes) and a backrub.

Ambience is homely (hurhur), but I have to give my masseur extra credit because he is also not afraid to apply pressure or crack a toe. What’s best about this massage is that Andrew does it out of love, no matter how tired or sleepy he is. I  really appreciate that lots about him because I may be the one who is pregnant, but he is supporting me through this pregnancy through his acts of service.

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I top off the nightly massage with a Tiger Balm back pain patch (cleared by my doctor until I hit third tri). That plus my pregnancy pillow and I’m ready for bed, and hopefully, seven hours of sleep without needing to pee or tend to Dilly. Heh.

Hey dear, say something about the massages.

Andrew: Like what?

Jasmine: Like why do you like to pamper me with massages? (hoping for a sweet answer)

Andrew: To keep you quiet. If not, you will complain about your back…

Jasmine: HEY! I’m so gonna quote you on that.