Tuesday, March 3, 2015

~ Celebrating Lunar New Year 2015 ~

Many friends were amazed when I posted on Facebook that we had stopped at 10 different places (well... it used to be more) on the 1st day of Lunar New Year. From visiting relatives and friends to going to the temples, this was part of our CNY celebration.

No doubt it was tiring driving from houses to houses, we were happy to meet up with friends and also the children had fun snacking and collecting red packets along the way. Lunar New Year does not feel the same if we were coop up at home. ^_^ It is only this time of the year where we put aside the baggage experienced at work and celebrate the festival wholeheartedly.

Lunar New Year - Day 1

Visiting the temples is a tradition for our family. To pray to 太岁 and the other deities for a smooth sailing year with good health and wealth. This year, due to the long weekend, we even have the opportunity to bring the kids to Haw Par Villa for a walk.

Lunar New Year - Day 2

Stayed home most of the time on Day 3 as Gladys fell ill due to too much intake of cold drinks. On the bright side, we had the luxury of waking up late, watched a series of CNY movies on TV, enjoyed a quieter time at home and welcomed relatives and friends to our home.

Lunar New Year - Day 3

Gladys felt better on Day 4 and it was another peaceful and relaxing day where we get to go out for one visiting before heading home and enjoy our first home-style steamboat dinner for the Year of the Goat.

Lunar New Year - Day 4
Joyous moments always flash past very quickly and in a few more days it will be the end of the 15 days celebration. On a happy note, the children are looking forward to open their red packets (ang pows) to mark the end of the CNY holidays.

Monday, March 2, 2015

~ Eco Bed & Breakfast - Homestay in Johor Bahru ~

Sponsored Review: Being frequent travelers, keeping a look out of suitable locations to stay which encompass convenience, safety, comfort and price is important for our family. When Eco Bed & Breakfast invited us for a 1 night stay last month, we were extremely thrilled and looking forward to our first homestay experience in Johor Bahru.

The term "Bed & Breakfast" (B&B) means providing travelers with overnight accommodation and breakfast (only). Generally, guests stayed in the rooms within the private or family homes. It never occur to me to seek out B&B alternatives in Johor Bahru mainly due to safety reasons. However, I will beg to differ after our stay with Eco B&B.


I had a nice chat with Keith Lee, the co-founder of Eco B&B to understand what prompted him, a Singaporean to start a B&B business across the border. Despite being an avid traveler himself, for the past 40 years, Keith has never set his footprints in Johor Bahru due to safety concerns. Opportunity struck when Keith and his wife, Jewel decided to find a bigger unit to house their increasing number of cats. High property prices in Singapore prompted the couple to look into alternatives in JB. Amazingly, their first trip taking the public transport across the border set their minds to purchase a property in Setia Tropika after viewing the unit and surroundings. Within a short period of 1.5 years staying in their new residence with their 14 cats and 2 dogs, Keith and his wife have grown to love the food, culture, and environment in Johor Bahru.

With their new settlement came another opportunity. Keith rented another unit near his home to start his B&B business. Why B&B? After travelling to many countries, the 44 year-old Singaporean believes that residing in a homestay setting allows travelers to learn about the country's culture better. It is an enriching experience which will leave a more long-lasting impression. That is how Eco B&B's journey begin. Let's take a walk-through to see what it has to offer.

It took about 20 minutes drive to arrive at Setia Tropika from KSL Ctiy. To address our concerns on safety, Eco BnB resides in a gated and guarded residential area which puts our minds at ease. Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Ah Jie who took us on a mini tour around the house.

Eco B&B as the name suggest, aims to reduce the carbon footprints and also to promote local crafts, food and culture. In contrast to the buzzing city center where many hotels are situated, Eco B&B is tucked away in a quiet estate where you can rest your body and mind.

I am a big fan of swings, hence I fell instantly in love with the white swing at the front porch. Families and friends can gather and sit on the benches and enjoy some chill out moments. Alternatively,  if you like to have a greener view, take a seat in Eco B&B's very own eco garden and have an alfresco dining with their homegrown tomatoes, red chilli and basil.

What's unique at Eco B&B is you feel the warmth of being back home upon entering the house. Beautiful hand-made crafts are also displayed at the front counter where you can make purchase if you like the craft works.

Taking a quick glance around, you will notice the entire house is painted white. From its exterior and interior walls to its furniture, the white furnishing gave the house a very bright, clean and neat look. I commended Keith for his courage and the amount of effort he must have put in to preserve its look and cleanliness. Keith happily revealed to us that it was Jewel's idea on having the "little white house" concept although he also shares the same concern. Jewel adores the colour White which symbolize purity and it's ability to make people feel refreshed and energized. The Little White House turns out to be a popular location for hosting wedding events/parties and a temporary home where the brides could stay while awaiting for their bridegrooms.

Even though only breakfast is served, feel free to help yourself with the drinks like coffee, tea and milo which is available throughout the day. Cups and sachets are placed at the counter and our kiddos are not shy when it comes to making their own cup of hot milo. ^_^

Eco B&B aims to be eco-friendly and conscious effort has been put in to reduce the carbon footprint by using locally sourced raw materials and products in making their furniture. Keith engaged a carpenter from Philippines which took him 6 months to handmade and complete most of the furniture in the house. The lovely swing, dining tables and chairs, front counter, benches and side tables, made from sturdy recycled wood were the evidence of months of hard work put into to saw, sand and piece everything together without the extensive use of machinery.  

Learn more about their handmade furniture here.

Apart from the cozy corners downstairs, what's more important and interesting are the room settings upstairs. There are 4 bedrooms on level 2 which comes with attached bathroom. Guests do not have to worry about sharing toilets and can enjoy the privacy behind the doors. Every room comes with free wifi and is equipped with a hairdryer, shampoo, body wash and fresh towels. However you need to bring your own toothpaste and toothbrush.

Eco B&B emphasizes on the comfort of their guests. Extensive research has been done to design unique bedding that boast both ergonomic and aesthetics. In conjunction to reduce carbon footprint, Eco B&B collaborated with a local manufacturer and got the experts who specialized in making window grills to help materialize their dream beds.

Symphony Room is the largest room in the house which has a king-sized bed and 2 super-single beds. It is perfect for 4 guests but spacious enough to host up to 7 guests. This room is perfect for families especially with young children. The main highlight in this room is the King-size Dreamweaver bed which has a rocking mechanism that helps to induce sleep, allowing you to feel refreshed and recharged.

Lullaby Room fits 2 guests comfortably and what's unique about this room is the circular queen-size lullaby bed. It is said that the swinging motion is hypnotic and addictive which will sweeps you into dreamland. Particularly suitable for those who have problems having a good night sleep. It was a pity that we did not stayed in this room else Hubby can testify as he has been experiencing difficulties having a restful night.

Ballad Room has 2 single beds which fits 2 guests comfortably but is able to host up to 3. This is the room where Hubby and I will be resting for the night! Their forest beds are the main highlight and I love the details put in to design the bed frame. When the night falls, the glow from the lampshade and shadows from the leaves make you feel as if you are within the wilderness! I thought it will be interesting if I hear the owls hooting. Nevertheless, a piece of soft music would be perfect for this room.

The only problem Hubby has with the forest beds is he keeps hitting his head on the bar. I guess the beds isn't quite suitable for our big man who is tall. After sharing with Keith, I learned that the initial intention was to have the bar frame raised higher. Unfortunately due to miscalculation in the construction, it was shorter than expected. Even so, the ballad room remains to be very popular especially with the Koreans.

Duet Room has two super single Dreamweaver beds built with steel and wood panelling which fits 2 guests comfortably. Similar to Symphony room, the rocking mechanism helps to coo you into dreamland. Denver and Gladys reserved this room without hesitation as it definitely looks like a fun place to be in. You can choose to lock the sides to stop the rocking or release it to enjoy a night of gentle swing.

As parents, we are concerned that the children will hurt their feet when the beds are rocking if they are not cautious. On a safe note, I thought it would be best to use the Dreamweaver beds with adult supervision. ^_^

If you notice, there is no television within the house. This was a deliberate direction by Keith as he wishes his guests to move away from gadgets and be fully engaged in quality family time. I couldn't agree more on getting the children away from their handhelds and be more involved in activities. It would be lovely to finally have a game of monopoly or board games on our next visit. ^_^

It was a night to remember but that's not all! We will be sharing more about Eco B&B breakfast on our next post. Stay tune. :)

More photos at BPDGTravels photo album.

Eco Bed & Breakfast
Address: No. 42, Jalan Setia Tropika 9/6, Taman Setia Tropika, Kempas 81200, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Email: thelittlewhitehouse@gmail.com
Website: http://ecobnbjohorbahru.com/

Disclosure: Sponsored Review - We were invited for one night stay with Eco B&B.  All comments and opinions are personal and no monetary compensation was received. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

~ 6 course meal at Sufood (舒果) - Raffles City Shopping Centre ~

Very often I had the impression that vegetarian is not appealing, appetizing and filling. However, I changed my mind after dining at Sufood (舒果). Launched in Singapore since May 2014, Sufood is the first meat-free concept restaurant under WOWPRIME Group (largest F&B operator in Taiwan).  The Italian-inspired restaurant cuisine adds flavour to its creative cuisine by emphasizing on the quality of the ingredients and their cooking techniques.

To start of, I love the atmosphere of the restaurant. Brightly lit with comfortable and cozy seating. Since it was my first visit, the staff explained how to place the orders. I was thrilled to see a range of selection on the menu. It seems as if I will be sitting for a "six course lunch" with my colleagues. Let's Begin!

Starter - The SUFOOD Appetizer

A delicate trio of poached Japanese Yuca root drizzled with a blueberry coulis, a stack of oriental white water snowflake greens and a savoury cheery tomato jelly. Beautifully presented which was visually pleasing to the eyes. As each appetizer is bite-sized, I could not bear stuffing them all in at one go. You have to savour them delicately to enjoy its taste.

Cider - SUFOOD Signature Cider

I was kind of skeptical when the fruit vinegar was served. I'm not a big fan but it tasted pretty nice after all. Smooth and not too sour. I ended up having a few more shots to cleanse the palate before the main dish.

Bread - Rosemary Breadsticks (Mustard dip)

Freshly baked, home-made rosemary-infused breadsticks with sweet mustard dip. Personally, I thought it would be great if they were served slightly warmer and crispier. 

Salads - Mushroom Salad

I love mushrooms in the salad! Served with Button and Shitake mushrooms with steamed broccoli and sliced cheery tomatoes glazed in a vinegar dressing, this salad dish is deliciously refreshing.

Salads - Summer Salad

While I applaud for its colourful display, Summer salad did not excite me with only a bite-size chunk of sweet potato, celery, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper and a few sticks of carrots and celery on the plate.

Soups - Root Soup

After a series of 'cold' dish, it's time to drink some warm soup! Root Soup is my top pick as I always enjoy the lotus root. Stewed in a light vegetable broth, it was sweet and yet not too over-whelming for my taste bud.

Soups - Cream of Pumpkin Soup

My colleague ordered the rich and creamy pureed pumpkin soup. Love how creative this soup is presented. A touch of green peas within the pumpkin.

Mains - Star Pizza

Sufood has 12 main items on its menu and we were spoil with choices. I picked the golden star-shaped pizza for my main dish. Filled with oyster mushrooms, cream cheese, mustard sauce and topped with salted seaweed, my tummy was satisfactory filled. Taking a bite on the pizza excites me as the cream cheese was tucked within the edge of the folded crust! The flavour of the oyster mushrooms were further enhanced with the cheese and mustard sauce. Portion was generous and you can understand why I am completely filled with the entire star in my tummy.

Oh! Did I mention gloves were provided for dishes that you need to use your hands to eat with? How sweet and thoughtful of Sufood.

Other main items that my colleagues ordered. Every dish is pleasantly displayed with no mock meat. 

Mains - Potato Crisp Pizza

Classic "Four Cheese" pizza baked with smoked cheese, mozzarella cheese, fetta cheese and cream cheese. Garnished with tomatoes, spinach and fried potato shreds.

Mains - Vegetable Pita Pocket

Mushroom, pepper and broccoli baked in a zesty Arrabbiata jalapeno sauce, served with toasted pita bread pockets.

Mains - Wild Mushroom Charcoal Tagliatelle

King Oyster mushrooms sauteed in a light olive oil and homemade dressing on a bed of fragrant charcoal tagliatelle.

Mains - Primavera Spaghetti

A fine selection of baby corns, tomatoes and lady fingers sauteed with Hon-shimeji and fresh basil

Drinks & desserts. There are a couple of hot and cold drink selection you can pick from to go with your dessert. For now, let's look at the dessert.

Desserts - Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate

This is a fun dessert as my colleague coat their Vanilla Ice Cream with the warm, dark chocolate fudge sauce. After some time, the warm chocolate hardened and you can scoop it up and take a bite. The ice-cream doesn't melt as quickly hence you can make more chocolate coats. ^_^ 

Waiting for the chocolate to set

Desserts - Osmanthus Flower Jelly

This reminds me of the dessert I had in Tim Ho Wan (Hong Kong). Not sure if it taste the same though. A light serving of sweet maple syrup jelly infused with fragrant Osmanthus flowers.

Desserts -  Banana Cheesecake

My pick for dessert - Banana cheesecake drizzled with blueberry sauce, accompanied with chocolate wafer roll. No wow factor but still decent.

For $29.80++ per pax, we had a delightful 6 course meal. Nothing that I have ever imagine nor did I thought that a vegetarian meal can be so exciting in taste and flavour. For the ladies, it seems like a very healthy meal that you do not have to worry about putting on weight.

Raffles City Shopping Centre
252 North Bridge Road, #02-19, Singapore 179103

Monday, February 23, 2015

~ TNP - Joint effort to keep our environment clean ~

Daddy and the children were featured in The New Paper

The article was about littering and how we can do our part to keep our estate clean. Although Singapore is well known to be a clean and green country, we are still far from being a truly clean city with the presence of many litter bugs around. 

When we moved in 2 years ago, our letter box area has always been an eye sore. Hubby has been picking up the pamphlets all these times and Gladys gradually learn to help them up as well. She was Primary 1 then....  

After 2 years, Hubby continued to do his part whenever he collects our letters from the letter box. I'm proud that our kiddos do not mind bending down and getting their hands dirty to dispose the litters in the bin. 
Image source: http://www.tnp.sg/
Image source: http://www.tnp.sg/

It may be an individual effort that may seem insignificant but the children look up to their father as a good role model.  

We can do our little part to make Singapore a truly clean and green country.

Friday, February 20, 2015

~ Double Celebration @ River Hongbao 2015 ~

Our annual tradition - taking an evening walk at River Hongbao after our reunion dinner. Apart from welcoming the Lunar New Year, this year, the lantern display has an extra special meaning as we celebrate Singapore's 50 years of independence,  

Standing in front of the majestic main entrance arch feels like we are about to go back in time. It's Show Time! 

Beautiful peacocks lay down their feathers spreading joy and happiness.

Fortune God is a must see at every River Hongbao. Be awed by the 18 metre tall God of Fortune to bring you wealth and luck.

Festive lanterns to welcome the Year of the Goat. 

Birds spreading their wings on top of the light changing giant pine tree. 

This is one of my favourite - Some of the heritage playgrounds have been demolished hence it is heartening to see them in lantern form. Children can also take the opportunity to slide on the elephant playground.

Check out the giant mural wall to celebrate SG50 : Singapore - our homeland 

Another main highlight at River Hongbao - 12 Zodiac lantern display. This area always attract the crowd for photo shoots with their Zodiac and also to check the fortune and luck for the new year.

The star performance for River Hongbao 2015 has to be the Tightrope Walking Act by Adili Wuxor and Abulaiti-Maijun from Xinjiang's acrobatic troupe. The Guinness World Record Holders will be performing stunts as they walk across The FLoat @ Marina Bay! A breathtaking performance not to be missed!

Standby some coins if you wish to hit the bells hanging on the Wishing Well. 

Can you tell what is the scene of this lantern display? Take a closer look and you will see the old Singapore River.

River Hongbao will have performances and celebration during the Lunar New Year period. From now till 28 February, do drop by The Float @ Marina Bay and check out the largest lantern display ever. :)

Wishing all a Prosperous Year of the Goat!


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