Definitely not your usual ‘humble pies’!

I like the name of the cafe: Windowsill Pies – In the Woods.

I was first attracted to a pretty photo of the cafe posted in a friend’s FB. I didn’t know it is actually located near my work place, to my pleasant surprise.  Friends have told me the place is usually packed to the max on weekends. By virtue of convenience, I decided to try it out on a weekday, lunch time. Yes, pies accompanied with latte and nothing else for my lunch 🙂

I was happy to find that my colleagues and I were the 2nd batch of customers and we had many choices as to where we wanted to sit.  The not-so-big cafe gave me a comfy feel though there were no elaborate decoration. I think they changed the decoration regularly according to the seasons. I’ve got the christmas-y bear and trees.  Noticed the yellow vintage fridge?  You may think it was just part of the decoration. Nope!  FYI, it’s still working well and used to keep bottles of ice water for customers!

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At Windowsill Pies, there are only SWEET pies. And the pies are “full of robust flavours and exciting textures…to dispel the notion of humble pie.”, according to its website.

We were wow-ed by the varied selections of pies at the counter.  We decided to share and ordered 4 pies – the S’mores, Strawberry Lemon, Funny Apples and Banana Almond Brittle.  And, how could we miss ordering latte to go with the pies?

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We only had one word to describe the pies – YUMMY!  They were all tasty and we were happy!

By 1pm, we noticed more customers, mainly the young ones, streaming in to dine in or takeaway.  Coincidentally, I bumped into 2 friends who specially drove here from the Novena area to try the pies upon hearing about it from peers. Then, my colleague saw a Grasshopper Pie that had a chocolate flourless cake base topped with a crazy fresh mint cream. Even though we were already done with our pies and latte, she said she would want to try that next time.

The pies here are really attractive, tasty and most importantly, not ‘gelat’. You’ll just want to try them all!  Before we stepped out of the cafe, we were still loitering around the counter, admiring the pies. The S’mores pie was just left with 2 slices!

I’ll definitely be back soon to try the remaining Pecan, Grasshopper, Morello Cherry & Coconut Lime Vodka!

*BURPs!

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[Movie] The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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IMdb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/

Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a continuation of the earlier story. For those who are unfamiliar with the plot, here’s a summary from Wikipedia:

In the novel The Hunger Games, at an unspecified time in the future, the nation of “Panem” has risen from the ashes of a post-apocalyptic North America. Panem’s seat of power is a utopian city, called “The Capitol,” located in the Rocky Mountains. Outside of the Capitol, the nation is divided into twelve districts under the hegemony of an authoritarian, totalitarian dictatorship, headed by the tyrannical and cruel dictator President Coriolanus Snow.

The Capitol developed the Hunger Games as an annual event to punish the citizens of Panem for their rebellion and to remind citizens of consequences for rebelling against the absolute power of the Capitol.

The survivors of the last story, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, are now back to their home district but Katniss suffers from nightmares from the Games. In their victory tour to other districts, Katniss and Peeta quickly realized how their actions may inadvertently bring harm to those who around them. In spite of that, there is a stirring amongst the community as people started to riot in small scales, inspired by both of them in their resolve to act against The Capitol’s wishes.

Meanwhile, President Snow and the Head Gamemaster hatches a plot to get rid of Katniss before she becomes a symbol of rebellion. They organized a quarter quell for the 75th Hunger Games, sort of like Survivor: All-Stars, where previous winners are invited back to take part. They rigged the selection so that both Katniss and Peeta are automatically included. Will both of them survive the Games this time? The answer is obvious but the ending may surprise you.

Personally I like the visual style of the movie. Not too futuristic and not quite steampunk, just the right amount of post-modern touches. Katniss’ fiery dresses from the earlier movie also got a nice upgrade this round. Also kudos to the author for coming up with different interesting attacks in the Game while not degenerating into a Final-Destination-style mess. Ultimately the best part of the movie is in the refreshing plot and strong character performance. Jennifer Lawrence continues her convincing performance as the main character Katniss. And Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of the cunning head Gamemaster is really good.

Will be eagerly awaiting for the final installment of the movie next year.

A side trivial: do you know that Liam Hemsworth who acted as Gale is Chris Helmsworth’s (Thor) brother? Good genes run in the family apparently.

Overall ratings: 4/5

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Lovely latte art @ Chocks Full of Beans

A coffee lover friend has previously recommended this place to me. It’s one place where you get to see lovely latte art, she told me.  Though it’s not very far away from my place, I’ve not had the chance to visit Chocks Full of Beans at 4 Changi Village Road till recently.

The cafe is inconspicuously tucked at a corner of Blk 4, next to the bus terminal.  On a Friday evening, I would have expected it to be full house, as with many other similar joints in Singapore.  Well, this is the trend currently, where lotsa cafes and bistros are sprouting everywhere.  To my surprise, Chocks is not Full of Beans(lovers) when we arrived at about 8pm.  Strange!?  Then again, it means we didn’t need to queue and wait long for our table and food.  Happy 🙂  There are limited seats indoor, so we sat at a corner table outside.

We ordered latte (for me, it’s more to see the much-hyped latte art), pastas, chix wings and a choc cake.  Even though I was hungry, I wasn’t impressed with the food.  I would also rank the cake to be of ‘normal’ standard.  But yes, I’m impressed with the latte art  \^_^/

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I was pretty attracted to the visuals on this giant chalkboard

As the cafe closes at 10pm, we left at about 9.30pm.  Customers began to stream in much later at about 9pm.  I concluded that the food may not be as important as the atmosphere the cafe brings to its customers.  Perhaps it’s also the nostalgia and laid-back feel of Changi V. This could be their selling point?

Laksania

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Had always passed by laksania@ bugis+ and often thought of trying the food. It looks like an interesting way to modernize laksa into interesting western and Asian dishes.

On the same floor, this cafe was quite empty compared to poulet which is having a super long queue.

From the menu, my safest choice was Singapore Laksa. The food turned out ok until I had a bite of the prawns. The prawns tasted terrible, which was due to it being pre-cooked and frozen.

The laksa fried rice wasn’t my cup of tea. The same thing happened with the prawns there!!

I decided that I would probably not return for a second trip.

More discoveries @ Down Under

We said it too early that we would not return to Perth any time soon. We were wrong!  About 4 months after our visit in May, we were back again. The last trip was rather a let-down as we fell ill soon after we arrived [check out “Unwinding in Down Under” in this blog!] So we were back this time with a “vengeance”; and we had another family on the same road trip that promised fun for a 6D5N relaxing and fruitful journey 🙂

We decided to self drive and got an X-Trail. Hertz did not have the RAV 4 that we wanted. Never mind. Equipped with the GPS and 150MB-a-day WIFI, we headed to Margaret River immediately after I touched down from a midnight flight.

1st pit stop: Mandurah.  We decided to stop for a break at the peaceful town, watching the seagulls as we sipped our soup and coffee. Not bad at all – the clear blue sky, the sea and the cooling weather under 20deg.

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A friend told me Margaret River (MR) is the gem of Perth, and I agree with him. Though we were not particularly knowledgeable in the art of wine tasting, we appreciated the tranquillity of the wineries.  I also loved the lush greeneries that laid all over South Perth.

Thanks to L who did research and booked our stay for this trip, we got a cosy room at Yelverton Brooks Eco Spa for 2 nights. My very 1st time being so up close and personal with lively kangaroos, parrots, woollies and possums. The animals must have felt so loved by L’s family cos they kept going to her cottage for carrots, bananas and apples. Yeah, L bought 5kg worth of carrots just to feed them! They were obviously happy with their food, so did we! We had BBQ chix wings, beef fillets, broccoli and sausages for dinner 🙂

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Day 2 was another fulfilling day. The owner recommended that we visit the Farmers’ Market for fresh produce, and so we did. But after checking it out, we only bought oranges, hee. We then proceeded to the Berry Farm, Chocolate factory, Betteney’s wine and nougat for more shopping before heading to the Voyager Estate for high tea. The sales at Berry Farm was amused we bought 18 jars of jam, lol. The Voyager Estate is ranked 3rd in MR and we were indeed impressed by its vast vineyard, classy settings and certainly, the food. Yummy!  Dinner was L’s specialty – spaghetti. We also had the oranges from Farmers’ Market and sparkling strawberry wine from Berry Farm to wrap our 2nd night in MR.

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Farmers’ Market

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(from left) Berry Farm; Chocolate Factory

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High Tea @ Voyager Estate

On our 3rd morning, we were pleasantly greeted by the Roos family who waited patiently for us to cut the carrots and apples before feeding them. After a breakfast of toasts, we bided goodbye to MR.  En route to Pemberton, we dropped by beautiful Knotting Hill winery for photo op and bought a bottle of white wine.  We loved the ambience at Voyager so much that we decided to return for lunch 🙂 Thereafter, our long road trip began…into and through the woods.

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By evening after 2+hrs of continuous driving, we finally checked into Forest Lodge. Yeah, Pemberton is full of National Parks and forests. L & Y made dinner for us again…spaghetti, veg, pan fried chicken fillets, corn and minestrone soup. As usual, we capped the night with the award-winning Semillon Sauvignon Blanc – cheers!

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Pemberton has more colourful birds and Roos. A decent spread of flakes, fruits and hot breakfast, coupled with birds chirping really made a wonderful morning. We had a leisure walk after brekkie to check out the property and yes, more photo ops with the tranquil surroundings. We missed the timing for the tram ride and decided to visit the Gloucester National Park. For A$11 per car, we could visit ALL the parks in the area! Too bad, we only had time for one. Unanimously, we thought it wd be better if we could spend another night’s stay here. After attempting to climb up the tallest Gloucester Tree in the park, we took a leisure 800m trail around the park and got closer to Mother Nature.

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Leisure walk around Forest Lodge

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800m trail around Gloucester National Park

Busselton Jetty was our next pit stop for photo op, feeding seagulls and lunch before we parted ways with L n family. It was the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. I really loved the chilly breeze, clear blue sky, tall trees and the seagulls! We fed them one big loaf of bread (made by the Yelverton Eco Spa owner, hee). The seagulls enjoyed their food, so did we with the joy of feeding them.

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For our last 2 nights, we bunked in with J & N who are staying at Langford. It was nice seeing them, esp. Bb Al again 🙂 Gosh, she’s grown so much during the last 4 months! J had made popiah (akin to Vietnamese spring rolls) for dinner.  City was really different from the suburbs. So we did what most people would do in city – shopping at the huge Harbour Town Factory Outlet. Didn’t expect we stayed there for about 5hrs, with quite a few shopping bags 🙂  We treated J & N to the Chinese Restaurant at Chinatown. The snow crab was really fantastic, no wonder K & Y came here a few times for dinner and dim sum the week before L & I arrived. At Y’s suggestion, we met up for dim sum there on our last morning before departing to the airport.

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We loved the relaxing pace (including the vehicles on the road) in Perth. K was even contemplating returning next time, contrary to what he remarked during our last trip (his first) here in May, that there’s nothing much to do in Perth. I think we have grown to love to appreciate nature more and it’s always good to do that, seeking serenity away from the bustling and bursting Singapore.

Agree? :p

[Movie] Ilo Ilo

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IMdb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2901736/

This is one of the better locally produced movies in recent memory. The backdrop of the story is in the 90s, where dual working parents are becoming a norm and foreign domestic helpers are being brought in to help take care of kids and the household. While it may seem like an ideal arrangement – parents get help while domestic helper gets employment – it is far from problem free. This movie seeks to explore the issues that arise in a typical household with domestic helper, while economic downturn hits the region.

The 4 main characters (husband, wife, maid, child) are given roughly equal screentime, which helps the viewer time to connect and emphathize with them. Both female leads delivered strong performances in their respective roles as wife, working-mum and maid, caregiver. Jiale (his real name) and Chen Tian Wen also put in commendable performances as the latchkey child and a down-and-out husband.

Ultimately, there’s no fairy-tale ending – and I applaud the director for not copping out like some Jack Neo movies. I like this show for its realistic portrayal and unpretentious storytelling. The occassional humour also helps to lift the mood amidst the seriousness. All in all, a very good effort and a well deserved Camera d’Or win.

Overall ratings: 4.5/5

Hai Di Lao: One Pot, Endless Smiles

When J first brought it up to our attention that there’s this amazing steamboat place at Clarke Quay, we  thought it was more an amusement than anything.  We even questioned with some scepticism – “Free finger food and manicure services while waiting in the queue?”…”La Mian flying ard you?”…”Plastic bags to protect your mobile phones and wipes for your glasses?”…”Free apron to protect your clothes?”

When it was my turn to choose a venue to celebrate my bday ( a tradition amongst ourselves by now), I thought, why not just explore Hai Di Lao?  Making a reservation is quite challenging, according to other friends, due to its popularity.  Okies, we decided to go for the 5pm slot; else 8pm might be too late.

It is not difficult to associate HDL with JPot at Vivocity as both subscribe to the free-n-easy style of choosing and concocting your own sauce to go with the steamboat dishes.  But personally, I think they have different styles and JPot seems to be at a higher end in terms of ambience and cost.

HDL is easy to locate.  Once you crossed the Cavenagh Bridge, you will spot the signboard.  You need to take a lift to Level 2.  I’m amused by its decoration – mainly red….and MORE red.  The restaurant is big and immediately, we were led to a table that’s near to the side bar where you help yourselves to the generous spread of dressings and side dishes.  A wait staff, like our butler, passed us an iPad.  Since J has been there before, we looked up to him to place our order using the gadget.  According to J, the tomato soup is good. So we had that plus a laksa soup.  Indeed, we loved the tomato soup – thumbs up!!

Since we heard so much about the entertaining La Mian performance, how can we not order La Mian?  After quite a long wait, the Master of La Mian finally came to our table.  We rationalised that he is the one and only in the whole place and highly sought after.  That explained the long wait but for only less than 3 minutes of flour flying here and there, over and around our heads.  Yes, it’s quite entertaining but who should eat the flour after it went “over and around the heads”? We had a short debate on this.

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As we walked out of the restaurant, I then noticed the much-hyped manicure services and spread of finger food at the entrance of the restaurant. What a sight indeed!

HDL is value for money.  Next time you need a manicure, can consider doing it at HDL to save time :O

*BURPz!