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We spent the Independence Day long weekend running errands and sorting out the kids bedroom with C being a wonderful little helper.

- Mr. P assembled the free crib we picked up the previous week.

- Mr. P and C painted our black/brown Ikea Expedite white. (Did you know Expedite is no longer in production and replaced by the Kallax which has thinner sides?)

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Earning her keep as a painter

 

 

- We finally got around to putting up the wall decals I bought last year before we moved to the new apartment with placement input from C. (King procrastinator here!)

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Up inspired wall decals

- We bought an Ikea Brimes pull out daybed (converts to a king bed) with storage for C in preparation for move to the girls room on her 4th birthday (yes currently she co-sleeps with us).

It’s still a work in progress, there are a few bits and bobs to finish up plus I still have to purchase bedding. We are aiming to complete this by the end of July (we kind of have to!).

 

Since our relocation here and having to move 3 times in a year, I have been working on conscious living;. In other words, consuming less. When we moved to our apartment last October, I gave away all of C’s baby stuff – convertible crib extensions (we converted it to a full bed, binned the crib parts), mattress, change table, infant car seat, Inglesina pram, play mat, and a whole load of barely worn infant clothes. We had no plans to add to our family.

Murphy’s law and a long, hard winter (what else is there to do right?) changed all that. I guess second time around we can differentiate between necessities and waste-of-money items. I have set a very “ambitious” target of not spending more than USD 1,000 for all of A’s baby items. That is a small chunk of change compared to what we wasted on C’s stuff!

Here’s my very concised Baby Shopping List

- Crib and mattress we picked up a free one (score!)

- Pram (this might bust our budget since we are going for the BabyZen Yoyo)

- Infant car seat

- Feeding set

- Newborn button-front tops / onesies

- Swaddles x 4

- Fancy crib bedding (waiting for Labour Day / Black Friday sales)

- Sterliser (we will get this for free using Hilton Honors points)

- Breastpump (covered by my insurance if the old one doesn’t work)

At 31 weeks along, the only item checked off is the crib and mattress because I made Mr. P go pick them up FOR FREE from a family who was moving. It saved us USD 260+tax (cost of the Ikea ones we were eyeing) off the bat and will hopefully keep us within budget even with buying the Babyzen.

With Mr. P travelling to the UK for work in a couple weeks, his dad visiting the week after and not wanting to clutter up the apartment, I told him we should only start shopping for the rest of the items in the last week of July. Let’s hope we get to pick up some good deals on the remaining items on my list.

:: Life :: PRs

Some time back, a colleague, a British transplant, gave us the idea of having work sponsor our green card application in order to give us more security. I wasn’t overly keen since we have zero roots here but having bought an apartment, it was the smart thing to do. On Mr. P’s work visa, if he gets laid off, I have to go too since I am on his dependents visa. It gives us 2 weeks to leave the country (or something like that).

Work signed off on our request last year but between buying a place and moving we didn’t get around to filling up 10,000 pages of paperwork till this year. Once that was done, we were told to expect a processing time of up to a year.

Just 2 days ago we received an email notification that while our petition was approved, the processing of the actual cards would need 2-3 months. We were pleasantly surprised to receive our Green Cards in the mail yesterday, making us permanent residents here in the States. Yay!

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Picture credit

P.S. The annoying thing about my Green Card is that it has a picture of my 6.5 month bloated, preggers face!

P.P.S. On a lousy separate note, I’m down with suspected UTI and have been in pain the last 2 days. Hopefully this will clear up before tomorrow (Saturday) morning. I’ve got a fair bit of mugging to do before my regulatory exam on Monday!

:: Food :: Pad Krapow

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Freshly made

 

Pad Krapow (stir fry <insert meat> with holy basil) is one of my favourite Thai dishes; I like how all types of minced (ground) meat works in this dish and the combination of the fragrant holy basil and bird’s eye chili.

This is such a classic Thai dish in Asia, you would think this is readily available here in NYC given the number of Thai restaurants. Unfortunately, many restaurants here use sliced meat; and for whatever reason includes bell peppers (annoyingly I find this addition in 95% of Asian stir fry dishes). Pongsri, which is pretty authentic and does a good Yum Woon Sen (7.5/10), has a branch next door to my office (I got many colleagues hooked on them) does exactly that – sliced meat and bell peppers. Sigh!

After a 1.5 year in NYC, I have only found this dish done with minced in TWO restaurants. Now that we have moved to Hoboken, there is none near me. So what is a desperate, pregnant woman to do to satisfy her craving?

I made my own, adapted from here. I used minced pork and regular basil as a substitute since I couldn’t find holy basil at the local supermarket.

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Served with a fried egg and rice

 

Next time, I think I will attempt Chubby Hubby’s recipe.

We spent 8 days doing absolutely nothing more than chilling, eating and sleeping. There is a huge mall right next door to the resort grounds, but we didn’t bother making a trip. We were there to relax, not shop.

The weather was mostly sunny saved for a couple of passing showers. It was during our Caribbean trip last year that C truly understood the concept of a holiday; she has pretty much looked forward to this beach holiday since we told her back in March.

The 8 days were pretty much paradise for her; swimming before and after nap time, ice-cream for desserts and cake for mama’s birthday!

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Lounging in the Baby Pool

 

I thought C would be interested in the Kid’s Club at The Reserve which looked pretty awesome; there was a daily movie, outdoor play area and in the afternoon the caregivers take the kids out to the pool for 30 minutes. Unfortunately, she did not make use at all. As she said, “I want to go to the pool with Dada!”

Mr. P was her favourite playmate all week!

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Father and Daughter at Gabi Beach

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Swimming!

 

We were asked to attend a Vacation Club blurb in exchange for a USD 30 resort voucher. Since we had all the time in the world, we did. And for being a good sport, we bought C an alligator float with part of the voucher.

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Meet Ally

 

A couple of days into our trip, C decided that she wanted to take her afternoon nap poolside. It meant she got to jump straight into the water from the moment she woke up.

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Naptime

 

During this trip, we introduced C to the concept of room service. She went “I want room service” when she woke up every morning. We only made it out for breakfast once out of 7 days. It was really cute the way she said it, though she did sound like a little prima donna.

Mr. P had called ahead to ensure the hotel did something nice for my birthday. By chance, we were booked into what turned out to be our favourite restaurant in the resort. Not too sure about the deco but there were balloons (mostly for C’s benefit) and a cake.  The meal itself, at Aqua, was fab. The shitake risotto with parmesan chip was so delish!

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Happy Birthday Mama!

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Mama & Bubba

 

After 8 wonderful days we had to go home. The best thing though is that we ended up with a 2-day weekend (because I forgot Memorial Day Monday was right after our trip) when we got back Stateside; it meant a short work week to get over the post-holiday blues.

We spent a glorious week down in the Caribbean at the end of May. This year’s destination was Punta Cana in the Domnican Republic (last year we did Turks and Caicos). Silly me forgot that the Monday post holiday was memorial day which meant we could (should) have extended our stay for another day (or two); 8 days / 7 nights isn’t too shabby.

We don’t really have a plan when it comes to picking an island; it’s pretty much any place with a direct fligh, a decent resort pool and direct access to the beach. It was a toss up between Jamaica and DR and we went with the latter as C is too young (and very unwilling) for us to leave her at the kids club.

It was an easy 3.5 hour flight from Newark to Punta Cana. UA was sold out of economy class on our return trip so we ended up coming back on Business which is about USD120 extra per person (and no, there is no child ticket for regional flights in NA). It was a great way to end the trip; not having to be in cattle class after a whole week of chilling out! On our outbound, we paid a little extra for upgrades to premium economy which was reimbursed by Amex.

We were booked into The Reserve at Paradius Palma Real, an all-inclusive resort and were upgraded to a one-bed garden suite at check-in. That meant no climbing stairs for the week YAY! If we wanted a swim up suite, we would have to fork out another USD 500 plus tax. While C would so love that, it just didn’t make sense considering the pool was round the corner from our room.

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Welcome drink

The most annoying thing about the resort is the very strict check-in time. We were there an hour early and apparently our “room wasn’t ready”. Are you kidding me? Thankfully, being an all inclusive stay, we whiled away the hour at the restaurant with beers, juice and mocktails.

The resort grounds consist of 3 properties, the main Palma Real Resort, The Reserve and the Caribe Tropical. Since we were guests at The Reserve, we had access to the restaurants and facilities at the main resort during our stay. Service and food quality were inconsistent; there were a couple of good restaurants and waiters. Maintenance staffs weren’t efficient, the free wireless internet was spotty, you have to pay for wired internet (seriously?) and for a supposedly upmarket resort there were one too many kinks.

 

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The beach from where we stood poolside

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Pool at The Reserve

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Kiddy Pool at The Reserve

 

After we finally checked in at 3pm, Mr. P took C to the pool to give me a breather (it is my babymoon-birthday-trip afterall!). We had to wake up at 6.30 to catch the 9am flight and C was so excited about her “beach holiday”, she missed her nap. She was so tired after the almost 2 hour play time with Mr. P, she fell asleep next to me in the restaurant at dinner which left us to enjoy a B+ meal at  Bana Restaurant in the main resort.

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Overtired (read grumpy) bub at dinner

 

 

Notes:

- The DR airport charges USD10 per person tourist tax on entry, including children.

- USD is accepted pretty much everywhere.

- We brought about USD 100 in $1 bills for tipping (and we about finish all of it!).

 

No offense but the States is a little bit of a culinary graveyard for my Singaporean tastebuds. Maybe it’s because I have not live in Singapore for almost a decade that i crave anything and everything Southeast Asian; rose tinted glasses effect perhaps?

Of late I’ve been cooking a fair bit partly because the Asian restaurants are not quite up to par. We went to Laut (a one Michelin star Malaysian restaurant) on Mother’s Day and was somewhat disappointed.

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C at Laut

One dish I make fairly often is Hainanese Chicken Rice (especially now that I have found frozen pandan / screw pine leaves). I’m Hainanese and I speak the language. My parent use to sell Chicken Rice at a coffee shop in Bukit Timah. Safe to say if I can only eat one dish for the rest of my life this would be it.

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Chicken on the stove

On my lazy days, I start my dish with the Prima Taste pre-mix (it’s not bad except I don’t use the dark soy and chili sauce; those are not up to par). When I cook from scratch I don’t really have a recipe I work off of; it’s pretty much intuitive given that I have grown up watching my mum make chicken rice all my life!

A decent recipe I found is from Steamy Kitchen.

I don’t usually use a whole chicken since I don’t like dark meat neither does Mr. P. A good substitute is boned-in, skin-on chicken breast.

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Dinner is served

One of my secret ingredients is a good quality thick dark soy sauce with a tinge of sweetness. Mr. P always has 2 servings and C finishes her healthy portion as well. I suppose that means I’m doing it right :)

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Magic sauce

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