January favourites 2017

It’s been an interesting start to the new year. Lots of things have happened and rather than dwelling on the not-so-good, I thought I’d share my favorites for the month! The hubby and I started the year off spending less time holding onto our phones and more time holding onto each other and creating memories with the kids and it’s been amazing, so below are something of the things that have brightened up the first few weeks of 2017.

Hot air ballooning with Global Ballooning 

With January being my birthday month it’s always such a hectic end of the year/start of the year period. So this year I absolutely loved that the hubby planned something for just the two of us for breakfast and dinner. I  was surprised with a hot air balloon ride! It was like we were watching a live Google Earth flying high over the houses, golf courses, freeways and parks. It was so peaceful up there that I think it would be the perfect place to get away on your own. No noise and beautiful views of our world. We watched as the sun rose and the beautiful changes of colour in the morning sky. I would highly recommend trying out this experience if you haven’t been already! We flew with Global Ballooning Australia and they were brilliant. So friendly and knowledgeable.

Dinner dates – Nieuw Amsterdam & The Graham

We spent most of this month feeling like we were in holiday mode and the evenings were filled with either family movie nights and relaxing at the beach, or enjoying dining out with friends. The hubby booked birthday dinner for me at one of our faves – Nieuw Amsterdam. This place has amazing food with vibrant service and there’s just something comfortable about being there. This time round some of the dishes we enjoyed were the zucchini flower poppers, the pork and scallops and the fresh tasting salmon ceviche.

Sharing a meal is always such a great way to bring about conversation and get to know each other better and we did just that with some friends from the parish at a sophisticated yet casual place in Port Melbourne called The Graham. I had the pork belly for entree and it was so delicious and generous in serving, I wondered how I would finish the mushroom risotto I had ordered for mains. I needn’t worry as the risotto was so tasty, I easily cleaned up the plate. The wine and conversation was never-ending which made for another great night out. We didn’t have to worry about parking as there were plenty parking options around and the beach is just a walk away. Great for a no fuss weeknight dinner I say!

 How much clearer are these two pics above compared to the previous ones? These two were taken with the hubby’s Samsung S6 andriod phone. So much sharper than my iPhone 6S.

Kikki K – Wellbeing Diary

A new year means a shiny new diary. I love opening up books to fresh, clean, white pages. A blank canvas to write new stories and capture wandering thoughts. This year the hubby bought me the Wellbeing Diary from Kikki K. So apart from keeping up with appointments, to do’s and generally organising my life, this diary also has weekly prompts that encourage me to reflect and improve on things like health, nutrition, exercise and overall wellbeing. There’s a different focus theme for each month of the year and so far I’m hooked!

January – Dream Then Do (bucketlists, dreams and goals)
February – Exercise
March – Nutrition
April – Sleeping Habits
May – Mindfulness
June – Time for Me
July – Relationships
August – Attitude Audit (Self Esteem)
September – Surroundings (Enhance your sense of wellbeing by surrounding yourself with the things you love. Simplify. Declutter. Creativity)
October – Technology Detox (Technology has the power to improve lives in so many ways but it can also provide endless distraction which can negatively impact your productivity, relationships and sense of wellbeing)
November – De-stress
December – Gratitude

I also love how the diary has a yearly, monthly and weekly view set up. Easy to plan dates and have an overview of what’s coming up.

Skin Naturale’s Me. range – Pink Clay and Jojoba Exfoliant

Spending so much time outdoors in the sun, sand, park, garden etc means slathering on the sunscreen, moisturiser and make up. After a long day out, exfoliating with this pink clay and jojoba medley makes my skin feel oh so squeaky clean and smooth. Gentle enough to be used daily but thorough enough to stimulate blood circulation, even out complexion, reduce pre mature aging and tighten pores. I’m sure I’ve included this in a previous favorites post I’m so obsessed with it!

 

How was your start to 2017? What were some of your favorite places, products or moments that brightened up your January?

Happy Lunar New Year 2017 – Lazat Malaysian Restaurant, Sunshine

Lazat Malaysian Restaurant
495 Ballarat Rd, Sunshine

Happy lunar new year to all those that celebrate the season! Melbourne’s lunar new year festivities seem to get bigger and brighter each year. Coming from a Filipino background I never really celebrated the occassion until I met my hubby. He is half Filipino, half Malaysian Chinese and every year we celebrate with his dad’s side of the family. An abundance of food and a clean house, red pockets for all the kids and greetings and hopes of prosperity in the new year.

This year the in laws were on holiday overseas so with little experience on how to prepare the traditional new year’s dishes, the hubby and I searched for a place that served yee sang. Yee sang or yusheng, also known as the Prosperity Toss, is a salad that consists of raw fish, crunchy noodles, strips of veggies and assorted condiments and sauces. We have fond memories of our first ever taste of the dish in Malaysia. It’s not even so much the flavour but the sharing of the meal that we get excited about. Everyone gathers around the table and tosses the noodles and veggies high into the air as happy new year greetings are shared.

We headed to Lazat Malaysian Restaurant in Sunshine and devoured a few dishes for lunch:

– Steamed fish of the day with ginger and onion
– Seafood fried crispy noodles
– Yee sang salad with crunchy wontonpieces, veggies, sauces and condiments and salmon
– cendol for dessert

I loveeee the cendol dessert! The first time I had it was in a market in KL when we visited the hubby’s family during our honeymoon. Cendol is a popular dessert enjoyed in south east Asia consisting of coconut milk, green rice flour jellies, pandan leaves juice, shaved ice and palm sugar.

When the dessert came out these three smashed it in no time, We should’ve bought another one!Lazat have a little courtyard out the back with outdoor seating and the kids spent quite a while just standing in front of the waterfall fountains and watching the fish swimming around.

5 Places in Melbourne to Celebrate this Filipino Tradition – Simbang Gabi!

5 places to experience Simbang Gabi in Melbourne

The most liveable city in the world not only has spectacular landmarks, world class events and, cuisine and coffee second to none, it also has a vibrant mix of the most friendly and welcoming people. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Melbourne is made up of such a vibrant mix of ethnicities in which a myriad of customs and traditions are celebrated, igniting people’s imaginations, sense of belonging and passion.

 Simbang gabi pandesal Melbourne The Urban Ma blog

It’s that most wonderful time of year again when fresh, soft pandesal and sticky Filipino desserts are enjoyed together after a mass that takes place as the sun rises. Simbang Gabi (dawn mass) is a tradition brought over from the Philippines and celebrated each year during the nine days leading up to Christmas.

Rising with the break of dawn, community members full of faith and joyful spirit attend the novena celebrations with the twinkling hope that upon completion of making it to all of the nine masses, their wishes and petitions will be granted.

Be it the granting of wishes, the tasty Filipino fare, the harmonious guest choirs and priests or the celebration of mass, it has been amazing to see this tradition being embraced by so many people in the community from different backgrounds. I remember when I was a little girl, my parents used to drive to Braybrook’s Christ the King church to attend Simbang Gabi as it was the only parish that celebrated the dawn mass tradition. These days Simbang Gabi masses can be found in various Parish in Melbourne.

Now with two young ones, I find that waking up and rising in the sun, and sitting in silence listening to the stories of guest priests and the sweet melodies of the choirs, is an amazing way to start the day. Quiet moments and reflection with two under 5 is a rarity so these days I cherish this tradition even more. Especially with all the hustling and bustling people around during this time of year, the early morning stillness is priceless.

puto Filipino Christmas tradition in Melbourne simbang Gabi Noel Brady Resurrection Parish simbang gabisopas at Simbang Gabi Melbourne dawn mass filipino Resurrection Parish Christmas in MelbourneResurrection Parish Christmas in Melbourne Simbang gabi

Today we are blessed to have the spirit of hope and love alive in Melbourne during Christmas that you can find Simbang Gabi being celebrated in numerous parishes.

Resurrection Parish, Kings Park (Congratulations on its 15th year of celebrating Simbang Gabi in Melbourne!)

St Peter Apostle, Werribee

St Peter Chanel, Deer Park

Holy Eucharist, St Albans

St Francis Xavier, Frankston

and now Our Lady’s, Maidstone

Does your parish celebrate this Filipino tradition or do you know of any others in Melbourne that do?

If so leave a comment below and share the spirit and joy of Christmas.

Foodie Fridays on a Monday! – Latin Foods and Wines, Deer Park

Grilled meat South American bbqInterior Latin Foods and Wine

Latin Foods and Wines, 809 Ballarat rd, Deer Park

I had never really paid too much attention to the strip of shops near the corner of Station and Ballarat roads in Deer park until a few years ago when Chef Lagenda opened. And more recently when we wanted to get our fix of Vietnamese soups but didn’t want to drive over to Sunshine or St Albans to get it we found ourselves Vinh Thuan restaurant. And yes I have no idea why I’d never been to the infamous kebab instition that is Roxy’s Kebabs who’s fans claim have the best kebabs in Melbourne. It seems that this eclectic row of shops which, by the way, includes an awesome costume store (we hired some costumes for the kids’ birthday party recently and the ladies were extremely help and efficient), is successfully covering nearly all the continents in terms of choice of cuisine – South America is the latest addition.

It was just over a couple of years ago now that we first met Maria and Marco at their La Morenita shop in Sunshine for a feast organised by Kenny from Consider The Sauce. We were seduced by their hospitality and handmade empanadas and were so excited to see them again at their launch event to celebrate the extension of their opening hours to now cater for the dinner crowd as well as the popular lunch time rush. Operating in Melbourne for over 20 years now, Maria and Marco recently moved from the small Sunshine store to this space in Deer Park that is more than double the area with not only table service but fresh hot bread, drinks, and other goods – your one stop shop for all things South American!
Empanada Latin Foods and Wine Melbourne's West

Our South American BBQ journey took the form of a set menu feast that was further enhanced by the gorgeous bottle of red we tried from Chile – I can’t remember the name and will totally have to go back and grab a bottle or two it was so good. Our meal was complimentary and the dishes were part of the $50 set menu that is now available for dinner and also includes a drink. We devoured:

Appetisers
A trio of empanadas including pork, mash n’ meat and vegetarian accompanied by a tomato and onion salsa (I could totally eat this salsa on its own. So fresh tasting and full of flavour

Surprise!
Pan de bono with mayonesa de ajo. These little bread rolls full of melted cheese were a hit with the whole table and weren’t on the menu so it was a nice surprise!

Entree
Ceviche
– Chillean style, shredded haku cured in citrus juices. Such a refreshing light dish that I can imagine would be perfect to eat during the hot summer days. Now if only Melbourne would keep it consistent – It feels like winter again!
Causa limefia – mashed potato with chicken and topped with a slice of hardboiled egg. This tasted like an amazing homemade potato salad but all mashed up. The kind you keep going back for at a family bbq.
Anticucho – a slice of chorizo sandwiched between two pieces of beef on a skewer fresh off the bbq

Mains
– Costillar – pork with a little cumin. 
– Pamplona –
grilled stuff meat, in this case chicken stuffed with cheese and ham
– Lamb – Parrillada (South American BBQ) with a sprinkle of rosemary

 

Typing it all out, it looks like so much food and thankfully they were portioned out quite well and I left feeling fully satisfied without feeling like I needed to be rolled out of the restaurant. I was so pleasantly surprised by the last trio of delights that came out for dessert. I almost licked the plate clean.

Dessert
– Pineapple gelato – tangy, cool and perfectly garnished with golden piece of caramelised pineapple – I almost tried to steal Wes’ little piece after finishing mine. This gelato held the rest of the desserts well together giving that refreshing feeling after eating the two other creamy, sweet samples.
– Tres leche. Oh gosh, this moist sponge cake with layers of cream and other sweet goodness on top was just heaven. I will defnitely be ordering this all on its own next time I visit.
– Merengue lucuma. I popped my lucuma cherry with this bad boy of a dessert that consisted of a biscuit base topped with chocolate, topped with cream sweetened by lucuma. I was told by the friendly staff member doing the whisking that lucuma is also known as the “Gold of the Incas”. It is found in Peru and Ecuador and kinda looks like a mini avocado slash mango but tastes totally different. It is a natural low GI sweetener that is rich in antioxidants and has the same amount of calcium as a glass of cow’s milk according to this article. I was given a  teaspoon to try and it was sweet and tasted a little like dates. Hooked!

Cheese bread Latin Foods and Wine Melbourne restaurantsEntree Latin Foods & Wine Melbourne restaurantsThe Urban Ma food blogger MelbourneSouth American bbq Melbourne's west
dessert Melbourne restaurants Latin foods and wine
Melbourne's West South American restaurant
Whisking the lucuma into the cream
Kenny Consider the Sauce Latin Food & Wines Melbourne's WestKenny trying his hand at Latin kareoke? Heheh!
Latin Foods and WineI made my way over to the grill after our meal and this friendly guy gave me some pieces of different chorizo to try – I ended up buying some to take home for my dad.
Thank you Papa for looking after our kids while we went out for dinner!

Exterior Melbourne restaurant Melbourne Latin foods and wine
It was a great casual night out with the hubby and Kenny and a chance to hang out with some new and familiar faces including bloggers Maggie from They Call Me Maggie and Nat who I had met previously. And some new friends, Cassandra from Hungry Cookie, and Susan from Point Cook Dining and her friend Saba. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories about life, food and blogging!

Thank you to Kenny and Latin Foods and Wines for having us. With all the food so delicioso, warm-hearted service, music and entertainment, we had such a fun night out. The live dj made me want to get up and salsa! Latin Foods and Wines are open daily and have some popular lunch specials. Try the egg tart or fresh bread if you’re in a rush and if you have time to sit and relax, they have indoor and outdoor seating available.

Where: Latin Foods and Wines 809 Ballarat road, Deer Park
When: Open daily. Call them on or check their Facebook for the latest updates
Cuisine: South American

Buenas noches amigos and have a great week!

Fueling the West – Eating Station, Ravenhall

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A while back we had brunch at Eating Station. It’s one of those places that makes you feel at ease as soon as you walk in, even if you have a pram and a couple of kids in tow. Spacious and modern, clean and well-lit. The staff were attentive and while we waited for our order, the little garden outside with a slide and other little materials for the little ones to play with, kept our three year old occupied until it was time to eat.

The menu offered a variety of options and with seating inside and out, we felt spoilt for choice. I was so happy with what I ordered – no plate envy for me! The veggie fritters with poached egg and salmon hit all the right notes and the pancakes were presented so nicely with the pink fairy floss covering a ball of ice cream.

A great way to start of the day and a beautiful weekend.

Date night CalMex style by the bay


Bay City Burrito interior bar Bay City Burrito interior

Date night in St Kilda

“Do what you did in the beginning of the relationship and there won’t be an end.”

When I used to hear the words date night I used to think why does it have to have a specific name? Isn’t every night date night? Going out on spontaneous trips to the movies, rollerblading by the beach and flying to new destinations to explore the world with your bae. But that was before we had kids. Before having to juggle breastfeeding, nap times and various other preschooler and baby needs before ours.

Our world has become a much more colourful place since our two little munchkins joined us. I never thought I’d get so excited to watch Sesame Street again (it helps when people like Usher, Bruno Mars and Emma Stone appear on it!) or be so enthralled watching Hannah’s little fingers trying to grasp food for the first time.

In the midst of hearing the monster truck song on YouTube over 20 times in one day that my son is completely obsessed with, and having to remember doctor appointments, nurse checkups, dinners with friends, catch ups with my mothers group, visiting relatives, play dates, birthday parties and events, the kids are on my mind 24/7. And that means sometimes someone misses out…hence the need for highly anticipated date nights! I remember when we got engaged and started our marriage preparation, one of the many questions our priest asked us was about communication. How were we going to talk and stay close to each other when/if we had kids? I thought well we’d just make sure we find time to listen and talk. Hahaha! A lot easier than it sounds. Little did I know it would take a little bit more than just positive thinking to be able to get out and about with the hubby

Thankfully we have family close by who also believe in the importance of spending time together even if it’s just for a couple of hours, so last Thursday we headed off somewhere new that we hadn’t been to before…the Mission district in San Fran.

Bay City Burrito menu

Just kidding – although going back to States for a family holiday is on our list!

Instead of the fourteen hour flight across the Pacific, we headed out to Bay City Burrito in St Kilda right next to the iconic Luna Park to try their Mission San Fransicso – style burritos. With Hannah already nine months, we’ve been able to get out a lot more lately as she is now on solids and lasts longer in between her breastfeeds. Our last date night took us on a tour of Europe at the alluring Copper Pot restaurant in Seddon. This time round we switched it up and got our CalMex on.

Bay City Burrito’s St Kilda installment has been open for three years now,with their first Hawthorn restaurant serving customers seven years strong. We met ever-charismatic owner Gary, who informed us that their style of food is Californian Mexican as opposed to TexMex. It’s widely known that Californians generally tend to want more healthy options in the food they consume and, as a result CalMex cuisine utilises more of the fresher ingredients such as lettuce, tomato, avocado, black olives and leaner cuts of meat in their dishes. Fish tacos and other fusion extras can also be found on the menu of CalMex style eateries.

The hubby ordered the Bay City Bomber burrito and it was seriously massive! He had to take a break towards the end to have a breather but it tasted so good he still managed to finish it off!

At first glance of the BCB menu, I was excited at the huge variety of burritos I could choose from, and then even more impressed when I saw that there were some flavoursome vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options as well – need to keep this place in mind next time I have a catch up with friends!

We ordered:

– the Bay City Nachos – warm tortilla chips smothered in BCB’s home made queso sauce & topped with fresh pico de gallo
– Sangria
– The Mission Special Burrito – Pick any two items (grilled chicken, lean steak, carnitas pork, tofu or veggies – I picked the lean steak and pork…it was amazing!) with cheese, black beans, Spanish rice & mild salsa in a grilled flour tortilla
– the Bay City Bomber Burrito – steak & chicken, black beans, Spanish rice, cheese, guacamole, lime sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, Spanish onions, black olives, & mild salsa in a grilled flour tortilla

There were also specials like their warm chicken and tortilla soup and the Sampler Basket which included a small chicken burrito, a steak street taco, with chips and salsa. Maybe we’ll try those next time.

Ambience:

We had such a fun date night thanks to the vibrant music, comfortable furnishings and of course the alcohol we consumed – it doesn’t take much these days to get me a little red and happy as I am quite out of practice when it comes to the drinking side of things haha!

Service:

We were served by a really friendly guy who I also saw go around to each of the tables afterwards just to check if everyone was ok with their meals. It was nice to see the attention they paid to their customers even though they also had quite a few takeaway orders coming through. I loved my burrito so much that I actually ordered another one to take away. Yes,Little Miss Piggy right here!

How cool are these coasters under our drinks!? The colours of the decor and furnishings were a great combination drawing inspiration of the Mission district back in the States. And see that plate of Bay City Nachos there? You can’t see the special queso sauce because it is perfectly layered underneath so that it is evenly distributed – every single tortilla chip gets a dunk in the cheesy goodness.
We almost licked the plate clean. That queso sauce was sooooo good! Check out our warm, tightly packed foil packages…ahhhh I was in burrito heaven. It was nothing like I had ever tasted. So jam packed with a balance of rice, beans, cheese and meat. 
Bay City Burrito St Kilda
The hubby’s burrito compared to mine. The menu got it right – “It’s MASSIVE”! You’ll have to try it for yourself as the picture just doesn’t do it justice. Even just looking through these now makes me want to drive out there to get my hands on one…or maybe I’ll go for lunch tomorrow…Ok so I haven’t tried everything on the menu but this has got to be a winner – the Mission Special Burrito with beef and pork.Bay City Burrito service St KildaThe hubby loves hot sauce. He puts Tabasco on everything. I never used to be able to eat spicy food before…even when I worked at Nando’s back in the day, I always only ordered my chicken with the lemon and herb dressing. That all changed when I tried tom yum at a Thai restaurant for the first time. It was sooooooo spicy but the flavours were so spectacular that I had to just keep slurping the soup even though the spice levels were insane. Ever since then I love spicy food and luckily so. The hubby and I tried out the sauces on our table and they elevated our burritos even more!
Bay City Burrito hot sauces
hot sauce Bay City Burrito St KildaThese two sauces were amazing! The Chipotle and Cayenne one on the left had a gorgeous smokey taste while the one on the right had a kind of acidic vinegar taste to it. Very different but both complemented our meal really well.

All in all we had such a fun night out together chatting about anything and everything without the kids interrupting our train of thought. We were so full that even though it was cold out, we took a nice stroll down Acland street to get a little air. When we left Bay City Burrito we saw these cozy blankets just outside the door for people who may have wanted to dine in the outdoor area. How thoughtful!

Burritos N’ Blankets for the homeless

Speaking of blankets and Melbourne’s freezing weather, not only do Bay City Burrito aim to make the best burritos in town, the crew at BCB also aim to help the homeless by going out every fortnight to hand warm, clean blankets to those in need. I found this on their Facebook page!

Here’s how it works and how you can help:

For every clean blanket you drop off to our St Kilda OR Hawthorn store we will match it with a fresh warm burrito and every fortnight go hand them out in Melbourne to the homeless in need.

But we need YOU, yeah YOU. Have a check in your closet, donate some of your extra blankies or if you are especially a kind soul buy a nice new one for someone that really needs it.

Help us help those in need. Changing the world one burrito at a time.

One world, one love…

BCB Crew X
Hawthorn: 838 Glenferrie Rd
St Kilda: 4 Shakespeare Grove

CalMex Bay City BurritoSan Fran Bay City BurritoDate night Acland St St Kilda Bay City BurritoA relaxing stroll down Acland street. All those windows filled with neverending shelves of cake were sooooo tempting!

Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship…keep dating, keep learning and trying new things. Something so simple is as good as a holiday and can help strengthen and nurture your connection to each other. We found a new place we both loved and a cuisine we thought we new but learnt more about thanks to BCB! Next time we’ll be back for Happy Hour. Meet you at the bar – cheers!

Where was the last place you went to for date night?

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IMG_0046When we got back to my mum’s house ready to pick up our little ones, this is what we saw – a content little boy cozy in bed with his aunty! Awwwww!

#The Urban Ma dined as guests of BCB. All opinions are our own.

The Waterboy Cafe – Phillip Island

The Waterboy Cafe
58 Chapel st, Cowes Phillip Island 

Last time we stayed at the Island my dad found the best pie place on Church street called Pieland. We had to go back for more this time round and whilst in the mood for some coffee we spotted a sleek modern cafe across the road.

The Waterboy Cafe serves 5 Senses coffee and the menu was perfect for breakfast or lunch. Or brunch as we had it!

Water views towards the back of the cafe. Plenty of tables inside and outside the front. The place was buzzing with customers waiting for their take away coffee but we just sat back, read the paper and waited patiently for our meals.

Mum ordered the ricotta pancakes and we all couldn’t help but have a mouthful or two…or three – they were amazingly! Soft and fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness from the coulis and other toppings.

I ordered fried eggs on sourdough toast with extras on the side – the pork and fennel sausage and mushroom were so tasty!

And finally the almond croissant -please can I have some more? I love almond croissants! Especially when they’re sweet and dense like the ones from Laurent and this one from the cafe was fabulous.

So far we’ve tried a few eateries on the Island which have been amazing in both their food and their service.

I wonder where else we should eat next time we’re there..

Any suggestions?