Monday, November 23, 2020

Family Staycation at Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa

I know I've said in the past that I thought staycations are lame. Well, over time, I have changed my opinion and now I think a staycation is a great way to refresh and recharge without the hassle of tickets, passport or elaborate itineraries. Not to mention, with Covid-19 cases spiking around the world and travel restrictions being imposed, we feel much safer and stress-free right where we are! 

But then again, in the past 14 years, I have only been on 4 staycations in Singapore. The first time was a babymoon at the iconic Hotel Fort Canning which came about as a result of my doctor forbidding me from travelling when I desperately needed a break! The second time was to D'Resort at Downtown East to celebrate our twin daughters turning three years old. We didn't want to get into the intricacies of planning a birthday party and we already had made travel plans for the following month and so at the very last minute, we zeroed in on a staycation to mark the occasion. The girls has a total blast at the beach, park, waterpark and indoor play area that were in close proximity to the resort and so we planned another staycation at the same place last year during the CNY break with a group of close friends. Our most recent staycation was prior to the girls sixth birthday and was a result of the Covid-19 pandemic that has taken overseas travel out of the equation (for the time being at least). 

In my opinion, a staycation at Sentosa Island makes the most sense if you have young children. There are so many activities to do on Sentosa that will keep them occupied for days. My children are crazy about going to the beach and if you would ask them on any given day as to what they would like to do, the answer would invariably revolve around going to a beach! I didn't plan a whole line-up of activities for my kids since we also wanted to relax and get a temporary respite from this tumultuous year. Not to mention, there is a booking system for absolutely any activity you can think of which makes planning cumbersome. But I fully intended to take them to at least two beaches on the island, Nestopia and HydroDash, the latter two of which they had not been to yet. 

After considering the hotel options we had, we settled on Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa for our sojourn. The resort had been SG Clean certified by local authorities to reopen for staycations. 

The  5-star luxury resort hotel is located on a secluded nook of Sentosa and perched atop the cliff above Tanjong Beach. It is known as a haven of tranquility and relaxation with panoramic views of the South China Sea, stylish rooms and suites, world-class dining establishments, an award-winning spa and spectacular pool. Sofitel draws inspiration from local culture and tradition while celebrating innovation and the French art de vivre to offer a one-of-a-kind, luxurious hotel experience.

We arrived at the resort on a Friday afternoon. After the initial temperature checks and QR code scanning, we proceeded to the reception for check-in. As I stepped into the airy lobby, I stood transfixed by the striking bespoke lighting installation suspended against a coral pink ceiling design. The gigantic chandelier is aptly named "Stellar" and inspired by the Milky Way and beautiful night sky!

We were pleased to see that there weren't a lot of people waiting in line ahead of us. I must acknowledge that all safe distancing protocols were stringently maintained. As we waited, we were provided with a complimentary bag of yummy cookies. After about 20 minutes, we were shown to our rooms which were two interconnecting rooms that I understand to be popular with families.

Spread over sprawling 27 acres of tropical woodlands, Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa exudes colonial charm with its shiny black and white tiled floors, walkway pillars and manicured lawns. The resort houses a total of 215 accommodations across 7 categories of sophisticated rooms, suites and luxury villas. 

Each room comes with air-conditioning, WiFi, LED Smart TV, minibar, bathroom with separate bath and shower, bath amenities and coffee/tea making station.

The rooms are spacious and embody Parisian refinement and Singaporean colonial heritage, filled with rich textures, vibrant colours and French amenities. The natural shades of brown, blue and green interspersed with bright pops of gold and orange, impart a calming yet opulent look to the rooms. Touches of nature appear throughout the room - the leaf motifs above the bed, floral motif carpeting on the hardwood floor and flora and fauna themed handles on the wardrobe.⁣ The bathrooms are spic and span and quite chic as well. There is a small adjoining balcony which opens into verdant greenery. The perfect place to sit down and enjoy a hot beverage. 

A special shout-out to housekeeping who did a great job of cleaning our rooms during our stay!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Letter to my Daughters on their Sixth Birthday

This is probably going to be the shortest birthday letter to my twins and the last one (I know I hinted at that last year as well but this time I really mean it 😄). 

I know I term them "birthday letters" but to me they feel more like love letters when I re-read each one of them. If I'm being perfectly honest, I can't claim this endeavor to have been an entirely altruistic one. The day I became a mother is one I can seldom recount without tearing up. It brings up a tsunami of emotions for me even to this day. There have been moments in motherhood that have taken my breath away, that have shaken me to my core, that have prompted me to rediscover my sense of self, that have brought intangible happiness and that have triggered a kind of fear I never knew before. The most intense and heartfelt emotions that I have ever experienced in my life are tied to motherhood and going through these letters helps me relive (mostly) the good ones. 

On a lighter note, the girls start looking forward to their birthday months in advance (fairly typical eh?!) and their excitement is infectious so I get completely swept up in it. And since they have come to expect some effort from me, slacking off is not an option! 

This year's birthday celebrations have been quieter and slightly unconventional (for obvious reasons). Since the girls love going to the beach so much, we decided to do a staycation at Sentosa island for four days before their birthday. It was just us spending quality time together as a family. We went to an outdoor playground, a floating aqua park and two beaches where the girls played to their heart's content. We relaxed in the lovely resort pool at every given opportunity, watched tv till midnight, gorged on amazing (and way too much!) food, went peacock watching everyday and in general had a super lazy and relaxed few days. It was a much-needed change of scene for all of us. 

Today, on their actual birthday, both I and their Daddy took the day off from work. Clad in their new unicorn-themed dresses (so predictable 😆), the girls were full of beans on the way to school. They were eagerly looking forward to distributing goody bags that they had helped put together for their classmates. For the edible gifts, the girls had shot down my recommendation of homemade chocolate chip cookies because we had done that last year. I presumed they wanted to be more involved in the process and so it was their favourite sugar cookies with royal icing that made the cut this year. Last night, they helped me bake and decorate a giant batch of cookies which we then carefully packed. It was a messy but productive collaboration indeed! 

Homemade birthday cake has also become somewhat of a tradition (with fluctuating degrees of success!). This year, I suggested a simple lotus biscoff cake which was fortunately met with enthusiasm. The birthday cake was cut at home this afternoon with no audience but the girls shared the cake in the evening with their playground friends. They had specified their birthday lunch and dinner menu weeks ago which I and hubby mutually split between us. The day has almost come to an end and they have been occupied for the past few hours with their birthday loot (courtesy: mom-dad, helper and family from India). All things considered, I think it is safe to say they have had a pretty fabulous birthday week 😊

With this birthday letter, I'm finally wrapping up what has been a eventful and joyous week. Deepavali is around the corner so the girls are looking forward to a sparkling celebration! 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Restaurant review: Sufood at Raffles City Shopping Centre, Singapore

Another restaurant I've been wanting to check-out for a long time. Finally crossed it off my list!

It was time to meet up with a dear friend who also happens to be my go-to partner when I go in search of purely vegetarian establishments in Singapore. Together, we have been exploring the vegetarian dining scene in the island over the past few years. These are catch-ups I cherish not only for the great company and yummy food but also because I usually churn out a blog post at the end of it! Killing three proverbial birds with one stone 😁

Sufood belongs to a Taiwanese chain of vegetarian restaurants and is known for its stylish, wholesome and innovative cuisine. Through a joint venture with Putien, Sufood opened its doors in Singapore in 2014.

The restaurant strives to provide its customers with nutrient dense menu featuring nourishing whole food and responsibly sourced ingredients. There is no mock meat and no artificial colorings, flavorings or additives in any of their dishes.

The restaurant enjoys a prime location at Raffles City Shopping Centre so access and parking are no problem at all. You can tell the restaurant is spacious just by the first glance.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the necessary safety precautions were in place. I had made a reservation online in advance. As with other places, temperature checking and safe entry check-in are required. There was restricted seating with many tables not available for service. 

The interiors are simple and soothing with a color palette dominated by blush pink, beige and white. On the whole, it imparts a clean and modern aesthetic. 

Between the two of us, I was first to reach the restaurant. I noticed that even though the number of tables were limited, those that were for service were mostly full (always a good sign!). 

Waiting for my friend, I leisurely leafed through the menu and was pleased with what I saw. Although not extensive, there is an interesting selection of beverages, soups, appetizers, main courses and desserts. It is hard to categorize the kind of cuisine that is offered but you will see Asian (mainly Taiwanese and Japanese) influences on popular Western fare such as pasta, pizza, burger and pita pockets. So in essence, the cuisine is a fusion of East meets West. 

Sufood clearly labels which of their dishes contain egg, milk, onion, garlic and those that are spicy which I deemed quite helpful. And I really appreciated that there was no mock meat in their menu (seriously, I detest the stuff!). As someone who exclusively cooks vegetarian food at home, I can vouch for the fact that delicious vegetarian dishes (from any global cuisine) does not need the abomination that is mock meat! I did notice the dominance of black truffle and mushrooms in the menu but these are ingredients I like (and respect) so I was completely on board with that 😁

The good thing about the menu is that aside from a-la-carte dishes, an assortment of set meals are available (4-course, 6-course and 8-course). Not only do they help the customers select the number of courses they would like and balance out the courses but also provides value for money. 

We ordered one set meal and a few a-la-carte dishes. Here is a line-up of what we ordered,

Monday, October 26, 2020

Navaratri Special: Quick Carrot Halwa (With Condensed Milk)

The festive season is here and it is helping to dissipate some of the gloom that has descended on us since the start of the year. 

Navaratri (Sanskrit: Nine nights) is a multifaceted Hindu festival held in honor of the divine feminine. The celebrations occur over 9 days culminating in Dussehra (also called Vijayadashami) on the 10th day. It is celebrated differently in different parts of India but the essence of the festival is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil. 

In my hometown of Mysore, a city in the state of Karnataka in Southern India, this festival is celebrated with legendary grandeur and pomp. People flock to Mysore during "Dasara" to experience the festivities. I sorely miss home during this time as it brings back innumerable memories of Mysore Dasara, a time during which the city is brilliantly illuminated, the traditional Dasara procession (known as Jamboo savari) takes place on the streets of the city followed by the torch-light parade on Vijayadashami. There are various music and dance concerts during this time. The whole city comes alive. Sparkling clean households are brimming with colors and lights, beautiful traditional clothes make an appearance, the smells of incense, flowers, ghee and deep-fried goodies only add to the festive vibe. It is a magical time indeed!

I'm not exactly what you would call religious but I do enjoy Indian festivals very much. Although, I’ll admit that living outside India, our celebrations are scaled-down considerably. For us it is work as usual so unless the festival falls on a weekend, we can’t really do much. The home is kept cleaner than usual, a little more effort goes in adorning the God's mantap and prayers are kept simple. We primarily celebrate through cooking of festive Indian dishes, wearing traditional clothes (usually only the kids get brand new ones 😛) and meeting up with close friends and family at the nearest opportunity. It's not much but it does help to alleviate some homesickness. 

Personally, I don't observe any kind of fasting or dietary modifications during Navaratri nor do I have the time or inclination to make a dizzying array of sweets and snacks. However, I do commit to making at least one of each. This year, I made homemade samosas and carrot halwa. 

For me, Indian sweets have to be quick otherwise I won't bother making them at all 😛 I made this carrot halwa using condensed milk which shortened the time to just about half an hour. I served the warm halwa with vanilla ice-cream which is how I like it (this again brings back lots of memories from back home!). 

Here is the recipe folks. I always cut down the amount of sweetness but feel free to adjust the recipe according to your tastes.

Wishing you good health, prosperity and positivity!