a Mother in Search of the Unbearable Lightness of Being

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Baking 101

Truth is, I’m not the domesticated wife/mama who can whip up fancy dishes or bake up a storm and God knows, so He surrounded me with people who excel in either one or both.

To give you some perspective of how “well” I cook, here’s possibly my best dish so far, prepared together with Oska. Behold the stir fried beef noodles:


Over stirred broken noodles. In my defence, it tasted quite yummy. Uglily yummy.

There was also the ‘Crab in the bag’ dish which I really should not claim much credit for. My brother, the aspiring chef, did most of the work and I just replicated the second batch. Heck it! I need to claim a tad bit of credit or at least an A for effort, right?


So if I can’t cook or bake for nuts but want to impart some important life skills to Olive, what do I do? I outsource, of course!

My sister, who bakes like an artist, did a baking 101 session for Olive and I, and I am documenting it below for future reference.

Baking for Dummies: Sugar Cookies

3.5 cups of plain flour (450g)
1 cup sugar (200g)
1 egg
2 sticks of butter (or 1 block of butter; 227g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract*

Step 1: Give your teacher the cheekiest face so she will be lenient on you. Also, get mama to preheat the oven at 170°C.IMG_0340Step 2: Beat butter and sugar together, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract until just combined. Add egg and mix until well combined.

Step 3: Mix in flour and knead the dough. Ask for help if you refuse to get your hands dirty, but get your hands dirty anyway.IMG_0351Step 4: Roll the dough as evenly as you can. If this 17 months toddler can do it better than her mama, so can you!

Step 5: Use your cookie cutters to cut out shapes in the most dramatic way, just to show how good you are at cutting out shapes.

Step 6: Bake your cookies at 170°C. Leave out to cool for a bit. Coat them with icing and decorate them with your assortment of sprinkles and TA-DA!


Can you spot Olive’s naked bear? Hurray to Olive’s first bake and first cookie at 17 months small!

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Diamond Valley Railway fun

Oh what fun it is to ride on a miniature train!

So glad we made a pit stop at Diamond Valley Railway from Great Ocean Road to Yarra Valley. We only managed one ride in a slight drizzle before it started raining, and what a memorable ride it was. Just look at the glee on Olive’s face!

There weren’t many people when we were there due to bad weather, just two other families with kids. One boy in particular seemed to have taken more than 10 rides, and exasperated ticket-buying Dad had to play tug of war every time his boy got off the train. Mom was just going with the flow, accepting her fate as train ride buddy. So kid won. Every. Single. Time. Until rain came and saved the parents’ day. The end. Now let’s wait and see how Oska and I manage Olive’s toddlerhood.

If you are travelling in Melbourne with kids or if you are a railfan, I would highly recommend making a trip there.


Running Times: Sundays only 11am-5pm
Tickets: AUD3 per passenger per ride; free for children under 2
Location: Eltham Lower Park, Eltham Victoria 3095

Interestingly, this railway is staffed by volunteers only. Those we met all looked like Santa Clauses in different shape and sizes, who were taking a break in summer by doing some volunteer work. They were friendly and informative, and chatted with us while we waited for our mini train ride to commence.


The look on Olive’s face when she spotted the train! Oooooh!


Sydney & Melbourne with a Toddler

Olive’s +61 trip at 14 months small

Travel period: 12 Dec to 27 Dec 2015 (2 weeks)

Weather: Summer with temperatures between 23°c to 33°c in Sydney, and 22°c to 42°c in Melbourne. Experienced a major heatwave in Melbs with temperatures soaring to  40°c and above.

Sydney – Meriton Serviced Apartments Campbell Street
Blue Mountain – Lurline Guesthouse
Melbourne – Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens & Oaks WRAP on Southbank
Port Campbell – Portside Motel
Lorne – Cumberland Lorne Resort
Yarra Valley – Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort & Spa
Phillip Island – Seahorse Motel

Eat: Anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere since Olive has reached toddlerhood. Plus, Sydney and Melbourne are both kid-friendly so we had plenty of food options

Moving around: We took the public transport mostly in Sydney with our Opal card, rented a car via Avis to get to Blue Mountain, and rented a car via Budget for Melbourne. Check out DriveNow website for car and campervan hire price comparisons across the car rental companies. Child seats required by law in Australia.

We took a taxi from Sydney airport to Meriton at Campbell street and we were allocated a maxi-cab with car seat by the taxi traffic manager. This trip set us back by AUD90+ or more, I can’t quite remember the exact amount, but definitely way too expensive! My heart was racing together with the taxi meter. So I found out from the NSW Taxi Council website that (1)  there will be a 50% charge on top of the standard charges if you request for a maxi-cab but you are not using a wheelchair, or if there are 5 or more people in your group, and (2) in taxis, children 12 months up to 16 years do not actually need a baby seat, just a suitable seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened would suffice. So we could have avoided paying a premium if I had done my research earlier. We took a shuttle bus from Meriton at Campbell street to Sydney airport for our return flight via AirBus airport shuttle which cost AUD30 per adult.

Both Sydney and Melbourne are stroller-friendly and I was recommended by friends living there to bring a stroller along. But we made do with our trusty Ergobaby 360 carrier since Olive preferred to walk run around on her own anyway. Also, we were moving around quite a bit so we decided to ditch the stroller for greater mobility.

Staying connected: We purchased prepaid sim cards from Optus when we arrived at Sydney airport and there were various plans available, from AUD2 a day to monthly plans. The salesperson advised us on which plan to go with based on our needs. We got the AUD40 ultimate plan for more data in case we needed to stream Youtube videos to keep Olive occupied on our road trip.

12.12.15 Sat Day 1: Caught the 7hrs red-eye flight from Jakarta to Sydney. Checked into Meriton Serviced Apartments Campbell Street.


Olive’s 19th flight @ 13 months going on 14!

13.12.15 Sun Day 2: Circular Quay Station and around. Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Royal Botanic Gardens, and The Rocks.

14.12.12 Mon Day 3: Celebrating Olive’s 14th month at Taronga Zoo via Captain Cook Cruises Zoo Express, Sydney Tower Eye, and Hyde Park. Window shopping at Queen Victoria Building.

15.12.12 Tue Day 4: Picked up car from Avis. First stop at Featherdale Wildlife Park en route to Scenic World Blue Mountains. Checked into Lurline Guest House. Explored Leura village and went to Echo Point.

16.12.12 Wed Day 5: The day we were stuck at the airport as heavy storms hit Sydney with tornado, hail, strong winds, and flash floods. Most flights were grounded, the rest delayed. Jetstar failed us and Tigerair saved the day for our domestic flight from Sydney to Melbourne. And yes, we purchased another set of tickets on the spot in order not to mess up our itinerary, mostly the prepaid accommodation bookings. Checked into Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens.


Rain, rain, go away.

17.12.12 Thu Day 6: From hailstorm in Sydney to heatwave in Melbourne. But we kept our cool and travelled on, with our spirits soaring as high as the temperatures. Toured Melbs city on the Visitor Hop-on Hop-off Shuttle at AUD10 per person (free for children 9 and under) and visited Harbour Town and Royal Botanic Gardens which was right across the Shrine of Remembrance. Walkabout around Flinders street station, where Federation Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and Hosier Lane are closely located. Took the free City Circle Tram back to Radisson hotel.

18.12.12 Fri Day 7: Picked up car from Budget for the start of our Great Ocean Road trip! First stop at Werribee Open Range Zoo en route to Port Campbell via Princes Highway. Most people would have taken the coastal Great Ocean Road from Melbs city to Port Campbell (estimated 4hrs 15min no stops) and back via the faster inland Princes Highway route ( estimated 3hrs 15min no stops), but we did the reverse due to constraints from last minute booking of accommodations. Checked into Portside motel and went straight to Twelve Apostles Port Campbell National Park for sunset to see the remaining 8 apostles, and also checked out The Arch, The Grotto, and the London Bridge.


Safari tour @ Werribee Open Range Zoo.


Indoor play space, Ranger Kids.


Sunset at the Twelve Apostles.


Show your teeth when you smile, Dada!

19.12.12 Sat Day 8: Went to Loch Ard Gorge before Olive took her first helicopter ride at 12 Apostles Helicopter. Drove to Apollo Bay for lunch and some beach fun. Checked into Cumberland resort at Lorne and explored the seaside town.


Apollo Bay with the BEST KID EVER!

20.12.12 Sun Day 9: Teddy’s lookout. Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. Aireys Inlet Split Point Light House. Bells beach. Lunch break, surf shop outlets, and the Australian National Surfing Museum at Torquay. Diamond Valley railway for a miniature train ride en route to Yarra Valley. Checked into Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and had dinner at Rae’s restaurant.

21.12.12 Mon Day 10: Healesville Sanctuary for our animal fix. Coombe Yarra Valley Melba Estate for lunch. Domaine Chandon for a winery visit. Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery for an overdose of chocolates and ice cream.

22.12.12 Tue Day 11: Puffing Billy train ride from Belgrave to Lakeside and back. Picnic lunch at Emerald Lakeside Park. Drove on to Phillip Island. Checked into Seahorse motel, had dinner and off we went for the Penguin Parade.

23.12.12 Wed Day 12: Maru Koala & Animal Park for Olive’s animal feeding and petting fix. Brighton beach for her love of the sand and the sea. Dinner at Humble House near the beach. Checked into Oaks WRAP on Southbank.


Little mermaid as happy as can be.

24.12.12 Thu Day 13: Last day in Melbs. Walked around Crown and along the Yarra river. Flew back to Sydney. Checked into Meriton Campbell street.

25.12.12 Fri Day 14: Took a bus to Bondi beach for a picnic and of course, again, the beach on Christmas day. Another walk in Hyde Park.


Back hug for Dada on Christmas day @ Bondi beach.

26.12.12 Sat Day 15: Brunch at Sydney Fish Market. Harbourside shopping and Olive’s play date fun with a friend at the children’s playground at Darling Harbour. Last stop at the Powerhouse Museum where we checked out The Art of the Brick: DC Comics by Nathan Sawaya, a temporary exhibition which will close 1 May 2016.

27.12.12 Sun Day 16: Flight back from Sydney to Jakarta.


Olive’s 22nd flight and counting.

So the question I’ve been asked by fellow mamas, “Traveling with baby/toddler, yay or nay?” Look above for what we have covered with a toddler in tow and I say HELL YAY! It is true what Peter Pan said, that all you need is faith, trust, and pixie dust! Have faith in yourself, trust that your kid will amaze you by how adaptable they are in many ways, throw in a little pixie dust (in the form of a prayer, or milk, or snacks, or toys, or whatever works for potential parent/kid-meltdowns) and you are good to go!

Ending off this post with our super trooper who is proving to be mama’s best travel companion, aside from Oska of course.


The little traveller.