EatNow… Have A Feast Without The Prep

My domestic genius has been blogged about a few times in the blog. Cough. Well, I give it my best effort anyhow. But time passes so fast in the day. I mean, I sit down at the computer and do a bit of work, and whatdayaknow … it’s time to pick up Jayvon, and in a blink of an eye, it is also time to pick the two younger ones from childcare too!

This leaves precious little time for dinner prep, and so here is a confession.

I love takeaway and delivery food services.

In fact, it might be fair to say I might be indebted to them.

How else was I able to feed the family on days when I am especially under the pump and tight for time?

Hallo delivery guy!

The good people at EatNow.com.au were generous enough to offer me and the family a chance to try out their site. I downloaded the app and it was simple and user-friendly – a real no-brainer!

Eat Now 2

Once the suburb’s selected, you can easily browse from the long list of available restuarants. I loved reading the various reviews and I was torn between ordering Chinese and Thai. Till I realised that Chinese restaurant was closed on Tuesday, so the decision was quickly made, and I selected some dished from Na Bangkok Maroubra.

Now, even though we’ve been to the beach at Maroubra quite often, we have never seen this restaurant, so it was a pleasant surprise to be introduced to such a gem that is so near us.

This was the feast we had (a portion of it anyhow):

Eat Now

Red Duck Curry: Spicy and with a kick – just the way we like it!

Fried Chicken Wings: devoured by Jay and Xav.

Chicken Fried Rice: Zoie loved it.

And more! All in all, it was one very satisfying meal – and we’ll be sure to order from them again!

If you’re living in Australia, and *cough* like me, need some respite from the kitchen heat, check out EatNow.com.au for a list of restaurants – and who knows, like me, you would chance upon a previously-unknown gem of a place!

Als0, from now till 10 October, EatNow is running  a Best Eats competition. Vote for your favourite restaurant and stand a chance to win a holiday trip or vouchers!

(This post was sponsored by EatNow, who has kindly offered to reimburse my meal. No other monetary compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are 100% my own.)

Fave Fridays: So Pho So Good

Well, the top two go-to places for pho I have eaten in Sydney in the last 15 months we’ve been here at least.

Sydney is such a melting pot of different cultures and peoples and – yes!- food glorious food. I love the cafe culture here, but have come to realise that while most cafés I’ve been to serve up some awesome coffees, others are much more lacklustre and plain blah. The same goes with the food! Pho (pronounced simply as ‘fur’) is one of my go-to dishes here in Sydney. A lot of places serve up this simple and hearty noodle soup, and in some Chinese eateries you might even see it on the menu as well.

There is a lot of good food to be enjoyed in Sydney’s city area – but what better way to experience what this city has to offer then to wander into the suburbia Australia? And, best of all, beat the parking woes? (And I’ve heard of so many complaints from fellow Singaporeans about the ghastly carpark prices back home… but it is nothing compared to Sydney’s prices especially during the week where you might be fortunate enough to get street parking for an “affordable” $7 per hour to secured parking starting at around $15 per hour.)

An excellent bowl of pho should have a delicious and flavoursome broth, generous serving of beef slices and perfectly cooked noodles. Add the mint leaves and beansprouts, with a splash of lemon juice, a few slices of chilli and it is pretty much a gastronomical delight. And this delicious dish is a hit with my three kids! Jay loves the noodles, Xav loves the beef, and Zoie loves both the noodles and the beef. So we’re winner all around. In fact, between the three of them, they can finish up one huge bowl of noodles. And this means Mummy gets her own bowl of pho. Yay!

So yeap – today let me introduce the two best places for pho – both situated in Sydney’s Western Suburbs. Each is about 25 km away from where we live, but we (and by we, I mean the hubby) happily make the long drive to enjoy one good bowl of pho on a regular basis! There are, of course, Viet restaurants nearer where we live, but calories are a precious thing, and I have a hubby who is willing to go that extra mile (or 20) for a good, satisfying meal!

#1: An Restaurant

Address: 27 Greenfield Parade, Bankstown NSW 2200 (Google Map link here)

Opening Times: Mondays to Sundays, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Quick review: This restaurant just sells pho. I kid you not. (Cos I made the noob mistake and asked the first time, only to be met with a slight smile on the waiter’s face as he slowly shook his head.) No spring roll, no fried chicken, no tomato rice or any other Viet dishes you might expect. But just pho. Different kinds of ingredients. Pho done to almost perfection. Chicken, beef – the two normal versions. Then there’s the “Specials” – which is code for offals and weird parts of the cow and chicken. I am not an innards person AT ALL so I stick with the regular version, but the hubby who enjoys such stuff loves the beef specials. For the regular beef pho, they also have two types – cooked sliced beef and raw beef (which is a beef that is pounded, and a little bit minced and raw when they put it in front of you). The kids love both, and the beef broth is a winner. The hubby tried the chicken version once, and it is not as impressive as the beef broth.

Highlights: It is a busy restaurant, and you can expect a long queue on weekends and lunch time. But there is plenty of seating, and we’ve been fortunate and gotten seats pretty much as soon as we get there. It’s a typical Asian restaurant – sit, order, eat, pay and get out. No lounging around! But I love that they have nice comfy high chairs for the baby, kid-friendly bowls, plastic spoons and best of all – they even give us a scissors once they see we have kids, all without us even asking. The menu is plastered on the wall – and entirely in Vietnamese and Chinese. We obviously have no problem reading Chinese, but the last visit, we brought some Aussie friends over too, and the waiters very promptly brought out an English menu for them.

What to do after a full meal: Check out the indoor playground Monkey Mania, which is located just opposite An Restaurant at Bankstown Sports Centre. It is HUGE. Like seriously huge. It bills itself as the largest indoor playground in Sydney, and the very first time we went in, both my boys went “WOAH!!!” and absolutely bonkers. So this has become one of our favourite way to spend the weekend (especially when it is too cold to go out) – lunch at An followed by three hours of mad play at Monkey Mania.

#2: Saigon Pho Vietnamese Restaurant

Address:Shop 8, 90 The Crescent, Homebush West, NSW 2140 – It is just opposite Flemington Station (Google Link here)

Opening Times: Mondays to Sundays, exact timing not sure, but it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

Quick Review: A very nondescript little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, there is also another popular (read: long queues at meal times) just a stone’s throw away, and after trying both, the hubby and I decided that this was still our favourite between the two. The pho was pretty good, but we prefer the tomato rice, pork chop and oh-so-sinfully-yummy fried chicken drumstick. You know, the kind of fried chicken with a crispy, oily skin that crackles and juicy, succulent flesh that melts? Yeap. That kind. This restuarant offers a full range of different Viet dishes, though whenever we go there, we never seem to be able to order anything other than pho and tomato rice!

Highlight: Order the fried chicken. I repeat. Order the fried chicken. They will sell saigon phoit sans rice, so it is pretty perfect as a side dish/entree.

What to do after a full meal: From the restaurant, you can actually see the Sydney Markets! So make a lunch date on Wednesdays to Sundays, when the Markets are open, and you can drive over to pick up some fresh produce and fruits to cart home.

So that’s it. Two of our favourite pho restaurants. Now all that’s left is for us to plan another time to make the trip there!

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An Open Letter to New Parents from Your Dog

Today on the blog, I am happy to have Robyna (or to be more specific, her dog) post for us. The one good that has come out of my move to Sydney is being exposed to a whole new world of bloggers, and Robyna’s one such recent inclusion to my blog reading list!

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Robyna May writes as one half as the Mummy and the Minx, a blog dedicated to empowering mothers and inspiring minxes. Their blog is all about getting the mojo back into your life and expanding possibilities when they contract after having babies.

Hope you enjoy her writing, and don’t forget to pop over to her blog!

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An Open Letter to New Parents from Your Dog

This is Cute

Remember when I first came into your life? All tiny and fluffy and gorgeous? You would look into my dark brown eyes and vow to love me forever? We would go on walks. Runs even. You would take me to the dog park every other afternoon. We would play.

At first, you needed a bit of house-training. You tried to put me outside to sleep. Remember that? It didn’t take long before I spent the nights on the bottom of your bed. You thought that the couch was a dog-free zone. I quickly put that right as well. I had you wrapped around my little paws.

And then the interloper came along. Oh, I was warned. Jacky the spaniel at the dog park nodded at your burgeoning belly and barked to me “Everything in your life is about to change.” I didn’t believe him. Not my parents.

Really

But then you brought him home and you wouldn’t stop gushing over how gorgeous he was. Remember me as a puppy? Now I was gorgeous. The bald little thing that just seemed to cry? I wasn’t not so sure. Not that you let me close enough to see. A sniff of his foot, a whiff of his hand, but try to give him a good lick on the face and you freaked out!

I remember when I was very little and new to our house. I cried a bit. Not much. A few times a night. You put me in the laundry. This interloper cried all night. You never put him in the laundry.

When a host of new soft toys that made wonderful noises arrived, I thought that things had made a turn forthe better. You had recognised the error of your ways and had come up with an assortment of peace offerings. But, oh no, not only had your affections shifted to this new little baby, but he got all the good toys as well.

Things have improved. When the little one started to eat solid food, things became infinitely better. Despite the fact that you insist on calling him clever, the baby is completely incompetent when it comes to feeding himself. Scrap time at dinner has never been more abundant. Sometimes I think he gives me food on purpose.

Not all bad

He is getting a little more fun. At least he pays me some attention! When he isn’t pulling my tail, ears, hair, nose, he is actually quite a splendid little fellow. Considering what he has put me through, I am really quite magnanimous towards him. I let him play in my water bowl and I even let him have some of my food one time (although I don’t think I was supposed to tell you about that).

I would call the little interloper a friend now. It has taken some time. Just don’t get into the habit of bringing any more in. Okay?

Yours Sincerely,

The Dog

 

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Fave Fridays: Sharing some Insta-Love

Are you an Instagram addict lover like me? I love browsing through my feeds and seeing gorgeous photos – it just makes my day!

I try to post as well, and sometimes when time isn’t on my side, I do a simple point-focus-shoot and then post. But other times, when life is less hectic (in other words, the kids aren’t screaming or trying to kill each other), I like to play around with photo apps. And boy oh boy, I have downloaded quite a few.

Here’re some of my favourite (and most frequently used) photo-editing apps on my iPhone.

Snap Away

#1: Wordswag (Download link here)

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My latest download – and there is so many ways to play around with the words, fonts, colours, effects that it is quite a joy to use. A picture paints a thousand words, and if you have a quotable quote to say, use this app to add some pizazz to your words!

#2: Little Moments (Download link here)

This is a photo app developed by popular Aussie mum blogger Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim. I love the clean look of the app, which is in line which how her overall blog looks like, and I love the fact she got a few other people on board to also contribute their own style and photo effects. Oh, and if you are a fan of her daily Instagram challenges, this app also prompts you every day, and is pretty smart in letting you post direct to Instagram (some apps are less intuitive).

#3: A Beautiful Mess (Download link here)

Another gorgeous app, and one that is pretty affordable at just US$0.99! One of the first few photo edit apps I purchased, and definitely worth it, with such pretty fonts, filters and doodles. This app is developed by sisters Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess blog – and I love their gorgeous photographs on their blog, and their app reflects this too!

#4: Rhonna Designs (Download link here)

What I like about this app, and what sets it apart from the above two (in my opinion) is its big array of pre-loaded designs and “stamps” to use on your photo, which helps add a bit more zing to it. Bad part is, I am pretty limited in my graphic design ability and end up using the same few prints some times, which makes my photos look too repetitive for my liking! Still, a decent enough app.

#5: Burst Mode (Download link here)

Are you a parent too? Then you will understand that sometimes kids make the worst photograph subject. I first used this app when I brought the boys to a outdoor water playground, and boy o boy, this was a fabulous app as it would take about 100 photos in about 3 seconds – and you can SURELY find a good shot!

#6: Hyperlapse (Download link here)

Recently released by the same people who brought us Instagram, Hyperlapse is pretty awesome. I used it as we drove up to Canberra, and I love how it looks! Like this:

(Pardon the shaky hand – it was one bumpy road!)

#7: For the selfie lovers out there: MeituPic (Download here) and Mei Yan Xiang Ji (Download here).

Oh, to make your face glow? Even out those wrinkles? Shave off a few years? No app does it as kawaii-cute as these two, I reckon!

#8: Video? Photo? Can’t decide? Have both in your Instagram pic using PicPlayPost (Download link here)

Love this app being so easy to use. Simply select the photos and videos you want, add them in, and voila! You are ready with a cracker of a Insta post to impress! While you CAN put more than 1 videos in, do note that it all plays AT ONCE, so if the audio will be pretty messed up. Less is always more!

Well, this is my list of fave Insta apps – any of yours on the list? Any more to add? Do share! This is a part of my ongoing weekly series, entitled Fave Fridays – where I introduce a favourite thing of mine to you guys! Come and link away if you have a Fave Friday post too!

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Running An Online Store – Highs, Lows and The In-Betweens

I worked in my previous employment for more than 10 years, and so, coming to Sydney and having to fire up my resume and find a new job proved pretty challenging. There were plenty of jobs out there, but I had my own set of requirements. I wanted a job that was (1) part-time of a max of 3 days a week, allowing me time with the kids, (2) paid well (muahahaha…) and (3) minimal travel required, as I didn’t drive till February of this year, and the hubby would need the car to go for his fieldwork. Now, #3 probably limited my choices the most! Haha!

Well, I am thankful that I got the opportunity to explore other possibilities, and decided to start up an online store. Doing something that I love and believe in – beautiful clothes – and giving me the flexibility to be around for the kids!

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It’s been one long road!

And through it, I got to experience some of the best – and worst – of what Sydney has to offer.

Coming from Singapore, and having a little knowledge of business setups and whatnots, I was a little off-centred when it came to trading in Australia. There was a lot of meandering steps to take, one after another, and there were no “quick” ways to go about it, but to wait patiently for one step to be finished before I could move on to the next.

Registering for a Tax File Number was the first step – and one I was thankful I already had done a while back, when we had to register Xavier for childcare benefits.

Then came the tedious part. Registering first for an ABN (Australian Business Number). This took a few days. Once approved, I had to register for a Trading Name. This took another few days. With the Trading Name set up, I could then apply for other things under my business name: domain name, bank accounts, payment merchant options like EFTPOS and Paypal.

And then I also had to get acquainted with the Shopify platform – where I hosted my online store. Finding the right theme, colour schemes, fonts, adding of products… It was a tedious process!

I also had to find out more about SEO and advertising options, to get my brand name “out there” – from using bloggers’ reviews to Google Adwords to Facebook Ads. I am still grappling with which is the most effective method, but being a blogger myself, I reckon word-of-mouth and an honest blogger’s review might be the way forward for me.

But I’ve learnt so much in the process. Dabbling in my own graphic design, for example. Such as the banner above, which I used PicMonkey to achieve. I don’t kid myself into believing I am a graphic genius, but while I cannot articulate the style I want, I think it is better for me to experiment it. Side note: I did try using Fiverr.com once. Paid USD5 for a button ad that I absolutely hated, and while I asked for a change, it was also a weak attempt, so I reckon I shan’t waste more money there till I absolutely know the look and details of what I want. Another lesson learnt: If you don’t know what you want (or you don’t communicate well), you won’t like it when you get it.

Oh, and brushing up on my bookkeeping skills – and I even prepared my own set of statements for tax filing purposes this year. *pat on the back for me!*

Ironing, cooking, cleaning doesn’t inspire me. But running  an online business does, and I am ever grateful to have the chance to do so. Kudos to my dear friends and partners at Missy Stella & Co for the collaboration! Oh, and when I get an order than comes through or an email enquiry, or a compliment on the range I carry – what a joy it is!

I will be running a voucher giveaway on the blog in a few weeks (have other blogger collaborations lined up this month, so wouldn’t want to clash with them), so stay tuned, and till then, please hop on over to Missy Stella Australia’s Facebook page to show some love and support – and if you have friends, family or colleagues living in Australia or New Zealand, be sure to point them over to the store!

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