Europe city hopping: Prague (accommodation edition)

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Hotels.com. I have been using the website to book my travel accommodation for a couple of years now and I like that they have this reward system that gives you a free night stay after completing 10 nights on their site. After using the site for 2 years now, I finally received my first free night (oh yeah!) which I used for Prague.

We stayed at Mamaison Riverside Prague on our first night in Prague because the value of my free night was calculated at around SGD150. Being the greedy Singaporean I am, I booked us a junior suite room to maximize the value, and then we moved to another service apartment nearby which was only about SGD60 a night.

The check in procedure at Mamaison was prompt and friendly. Our room was not ready when we arrived so we had to wait for a couple of minutes at the bar. Not a big deal as we used the time to catch our breath and decide where to go next. We were then assigned our room which was located on the top floor. Then the staff told us “the lift is not working now, it is under repair”. I thought he would help us with our luggage, but no. He just turned and walked back to the office, leaving us to carry our luggage up 6 stories. Granted, we had a relatively light luggage (only one cabin piece), but still! At the moment, I was thanking myself that we had packed light for the trip.

Upon entering the room, I was drawn by the view at the balcony. It faces the Prague Old Town and it being located by the riverside, means you get unobstructed views. The rest of the room was huge and modern (except the TV). They had a coffee machine as well. The sleeping area was carpeted so you might want to bring your own bedroom slippers if you’re finicky like me.

Though the lift was under repairs when we checked in, thankfully it was working by the time we left the hotel an hour later to explore the town, so we didn’t have to climb the stairs again when we returned. The location of the hotel was 10 mins walk from Café Savoy, and 30 mins walk to Old Town.


Our second accommodation for the trip was MH Apartments Riverside, 10 mins walk from Mamaison, further away from Old Town, but it was only 300m to Andel subway station. You can also catch the trams to the city centre from outside MH Apartments.

MH Apartments had recently opened its new location at Andel and so everything was new, modern and in working condition. For the price of SGD60 a night, it was excellent value for money. We got a one bedroom apartment which included a living area and a small but well-equipped kitchen. The management had very thoughtfully included a cleaning pack for their guests so you have fresh dishcloths, dish detergent, clothes detergent, and tea towels.

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The kitchen also had almost everything you’ll need for simple meals: pots, pans, cooking utensils, cutlery etc. The amount of cutlery was sufficient for the 2 of us for 3 meals, so we only had to operate the dishwasher once after accumulating everything.

In the bedroom, there were two single beds put together to form a double bed – this is common for Europe. Gosh I could go on and on about how soft the European pillows are, but thankfully MH Apartments had provided two pillows per person, and with different firmness so I was spared a sore neck for this holiday. Bath towels were also provided, and extras were also available at the wardrobe area, so you won’t need to call them for a change of towels. By the way, there is no front desk at this service apartment chain. Check in is done self-service, via a machine. Super cool!

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The bathroom was nice and cosy, and they had a heating towel rack!! Our favorite because nothing beats warm, fluffy towels after a nice rain shower (toilet fittings by Grohe!).

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By now, you should be able to guess which of the two accommodations is my favorite. MH Apartments wins the award, hands-down, no need to consider and mull over my decision. At only SGD60-70 a night, fantastic location and amenities, it’s a steal!

My wish for 2017…

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If there’s one thing that I’d like to change about this blog, I guess it would be to blog more consistently. It’s always the same for me, I start off the new year making a resolution to blog more frequently and consistently and I do that for maybe 1-2 months and I fall off the bandwagon again. You know, life takes over when you’re busy balancing work and house matters like cooking meals, cleaning the house, doing laundry etc. I think I’ll try something new this round and I hope it works.

Almond-Chocolate muffins

I frequently try to use yogurt-alternatives* in my baking experiments as I often have them on hand and it reduces the amount of oil I have to use in my recipes. I don’t create recipes on my own but I often adapt the recipes I find online. This particular one I’m going to share below is one that I adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

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Makes 6 muffins

  • 100g chocolate bar (I used a Swiss milk chocolate bar with chopped almonds because it was a gift from someone and I hardly eat chocolate)
  • 64g vegetable oil – about 1/4 cup
  • 150g flour
  • 1 tbsp mocha powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt-alternative*
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Prepare your muffin tin by using 6 liners or greasing it.

Break chocolate bar into pieces and combine it with half of vegetable oil (32g) in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of boiling water and melt the chocolate.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining oil, yogurt, sugars, almond essence and egg. Mix evenly.

In your main mixing bowl, combine the flour, mocha powder, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the oil-yogurt mixture. Whisk gently. Now pour in the melted chocolate and stir to combine evenly.

Portion your batter into the prepared liners and position muffin tin in the middle of the oven. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a muffin. Let cool and enjoy/share. The nutty fragrance from the almond essence combined with the moist chocolatey crumbs is just too good to resist!

*I say “yogurt-alternative” as I cannot take dairy yogurt, therefore I’m using Alpro soy yogurt.

Penny savers recipe: soy sauce braised meat

I was watching a lot of Youtube when I first arrived here last year, especially 康熙来了, a Taiwanese variety talkshow that was been keeping me company during the lonely cold days here in Bremen. In one particular episode, the guests were introducing foods from their university days, and one guest introduced 卤鸡腿饭, or rice with braised chicken thigh. That sounded and looked absolutely scrumptious so I thought it might be a good dinner idea. I tried to find the simplest recipe and I think I found it. I adapted it a little since there were some ingredients that were not easily available in my area.

The recipe is very versatile – you can use any cuts of meat (chicken, pork, or even go vegetarian: tofu and eggs are nice too), and the leftover braising sauce can be kept in the freezer for future braising sessions. In fact, I think that’s the best part of the dish… you keep leftover gravy from previous sessions and add it to the next one, intensifying the flavors further.

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Apologies for the less than stellar/appetizing photo. I had tried to remove the chicken thigh as a whole piece, but it was so meltingly soft that the meat just slided off the bone as I lifted it up. Hee hee, not that I’m complaining about it!

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My struggle with acne

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Well, well, well… where do I start with this series of posts? So a little background about myself for the new readers: I’m 31 years old this year (2016), and sadly, I am still suffering from acne. When I was younger, I thought that acne is part of puberty and was not too bothered by my pimples. When I entered my teens, I was very active in school and did quite a lot of sports. As far as I can remember, I had uneven skintone due to sun exposure, large pores and blackheads on the nose and occasional pimples when Aunt Flo was visiting, but my skin was still fairly alright. Of course, I was jealous of my other girl friends who still had flawless skin (think fair skin with tiny pores!) despite them going through puberty like me.

When I graduated from high school and went to do my diploma in another school, again I was faced with new friends who somehow possessed fairy-like skins. At this stage, I was 17 years old and started to dabble with makeup. I would apply foundation, powder, blusher, mascara and lipgloss to school. I started to place more emphasis on my skincare since I now use makeup. However, without the proper knowledge on skincare, there were a lot of trials and errors and self-diagnosing. Looking back, my skin started to break out more during this stage, probably because I was not using the right products and not removing my makeup well. I had more pimples (huge ones filled with pus), blackheads and whiteheads. While I know I shouldn’t, I love to squeeze them, causing more problems at the end!

All these while, my mother still maintained “it’s ok to have pimples. It’s all part of puberty”. But my growing phase came, stuck around for a while, and left (I took it that I’m out of puberty when my height stagnated), and I was still suffering from acne. There wasn’t any sign that my acne condition was getting better. In fact, it was getting worse as I got older.

Then I went to Australia for university for 2 years. It was my first time living in a temperate country, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my skincare. I mean I was already struggling with attaining good skin when I was in Singapore, what more with the changing seasons in Australia! When I was there, I was introduced to the plethora of skincare and cosmetic brands, and I became obsessed with cosmetics (oh, vain vain me) and really experimenting a lot. Needless to say, all hell broke loose with my skin when those experiments and it was the lowest point of my life where my skin is concerned. I finally decided to seek professional help.

My regret is that I took my condition lightly and did not take steps to educate myself properly. As a result of my low self-esteem caused by my acne, I do not have many photos from my university days (arguably one of the best experiences of my life) because that was when my skin was at its worst. When you look like a sea monster with so many papules on your face, your confidence level takes a hit, you get withdrawn and taking a photo was one of the last things you want to do. After all, why document your acne-filled face? Sigh.

So if you’re young and suffering from acne, and don’t let anyone tell you “oh, you’ll grow out of this phase soon”! It is your skin and your life, and if you find that acne is hurting your self-esteem, take action and seek help before it is too late!

In my next post, I will touch on the solutions I’ve tried, in my long arduous journey for flawless skin.

A few characters in my acne journey that I thought you should ‘know’:
1) My GP: I went to him for help when I was 15, and then again when I was 20. He prescribed doxycycline (antibiotics) and Diane35 (birth control pills), and also did laser treatment for me.
2) Kin Mun clinic: I went to Dr Victor Wee when I was 23. He prescribed Retin-A, AHA and BHA, and also introduced me to light therapy.
3) Dr Valentin Low: He was my mum and my sister’s aesthetics doctor for a period of time. He did IPL treatment for me.

Recipe: chocolate yogurt cake

Sometimes, the best things in life are unplanned and unexpected. Like this tender, moist and chocolatey cake I baked a couple of weeks ago. I decided to bake a cake using the ingredients I had left in my fridge after my dinner party had ended. I will be gone for the long weekend and so I didn’t want the fresh stuff to sit in the fridge for so long.

These were the things I wanted to use up: eggs, yogurt (the main item I wanted to use), milk. I originally wanted to bake a French yogurt cake, flavored with earl grey, however it required me to blend the tea leaves and I didn’t have the proper equipment with me. So I substituted chocolate for earl grey. Pleasant surprise! The Nesquik chocolate powder worked great in a pinch, and it smelt really chocolatey while baking.

The proof is the taste test though. I let it cool slightly for 20 mins (it was tough resisting the temptation), and then I cut a teeny cube to try (teeny is subjective heh). It felt like chocolate angels singing, and I was brought into another yummy dimension. I didn’t expect it because I didn’t use pure cocoa powder but the cake was super chocolatey, and the yogurt made it really moist (not fudgy though). It reminded me of a Sara Lee pound cake, but less heavy on the butter front. The cake was still as moist one day after baking.

The recipe makes a relatively large cake for one, so I suggest to share the love and the extra calories with your loved ones! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Wet ingredients: 1/2 cup yogurt + 1/4 cup milk
  • Dry ingredients: 1 cup + 2 tbsp flour + 1/2 cup cocoa powder + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla and mix until evenly incorporated. Alternate the wet and dry ingredients 2-3 times into the butter mixture, ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour into baking tin (I used a 20cm square tin) and bake for 40-45 mins, until the centre comes out clean when tested with a skewer. Do not overbake because the sides will become dry.