Europe city hopping: London 2017 (accommodation edition)

We needed to stay near Liverpool Street station because of our early flight at Stansted Airport on Easter Monday, and Leman Locke was my choice of accommodation. It is a new establishment that had opened recently and already has close to perfect ratings on various hotel booking sites.

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The rooms all come with a well-equipped Smeg kitchenette (toaster, dishwasher, stove, oven, microwave, full fridge) and a welcome care pack was also provided (a bottle of drinking water and a small bottle of milk in the fridge, T2 teas, the little coffee bag co coffee bags, some sugar sticks and Doisy & Dam chocolate bar). By the way, the little coffee bag co blend no. 1 reminded us very much of the local kopi in Singapore! As it was brewing, I casually mentioned how much it smelt like the instant kopi-O that my MIL likes and ZH agrees! He says it tastes like it too.

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The bathroom was outfitted with modern Grohe fittings (woo hoo rainshower!), heated towel rails and mirror. Basic toiletries were also provided (yummy-sounding salted caramel haircare, Himalayan hibiscus shower gel from Kinsey Apothecary).

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The bed is a comfortable Queen (I think…) which was perfect for a good night’s rest after touring the various London sights. There is also a separate living area which social media fans would love because of the famous pink L-shaped sofa. Really, just search for “lemanlocke” hashtag on Instagram and you’ll see many pictures of the cute pink sofa! It was quite comfortable for us to just chill on it and watch K-drama on our tablet. When it got a little chilly, just wrap yourself in the lamb wool shawl that Leman Locke has kindly provided in each room.

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Should you need to wash or iron your clothes, they also have a washer & dryer and ironing board in the room (they also provide washing tablets, so there’s no need to bring your own, unless you’re particular about the brand).

We did not use the Smart TV in the room though because our device does not support mirroring and the free channels did not interest us much.

There were several well-located powerpoints in the room, so there’s no need to fight over who gets to charge their phone first. Leman Locke has also conveniently provided USB charging points so you can just plug in your USB charging cable without the need for an adaptor to the wall socket. For those coming from Europe, do note that UK uses a different plug, and the front desk do not provide any travel adaptor. I had brought a hair iron from Germany (EU plug) and so needed to borrow a travel adaptor, which the front desk staff told me they do not have any. It was only on my last evening that my husband found, by accident, that there was ONE single wall socket that was for EU plugs. I wonder why the staff did not tell me that…

Leman Locke is marketed as a service apartment and therefore they do not offer daily cleaning services. Well, they do actually, for a fee. Otherwise, they clean the rooms every 7 days, and clear the trash from your room every 3-4 days.

If you like any of the items they have kindly provided (toiletries, shawl etc), you’ll be glad to know that Leman Locke also sells them!

Europe city hopping: Cologne & Bonn

At the end of January, we made a weekend trip to Cologne and Bonn. It was a quick trip because I had to be in Cologne for a trade show on the following Monday, and so we decided to spend the weekend there since ZH has not been there before, and my previous trips to Cologne and Bonn were work trips (meaning, I only saw the hotel room and customers’ offices).

Thankfully, Bremen and Cologne were connected via a direct route and we were able to arrive at our destination comfortably without any hiccups. I had booked our accommodation via Airbnb as most hotels were fully booked due to the trade show. The apartment was located near the Basilica of St. Ursula which was a short 2 min walk from the Cologne HBF.

While in Cologne, we were mainly walking around a rough agenda that we had planned. Cologne is well known for its many art museums but since we already know from our Amsterdam experience that we don’t know how to appreciate art, we decided to skip out on all the art museums.

As it was already past noon when we checked into our accommodation, we decided to head to the Mustard Museum for lunch as I had read that you can taste several different varieties of mustard at the museum and also enjoy a sausage with your choice of mustard sauce. I told my family that we were in Cologne and going to visit a mustard museum and my sister was surprised that there’s even a museum for mustard sauce. We were too, and that’s why we decided to visit it! It was about 30 minutes’ walk from our apartment to the museum but thankfully it was along the river and we were blessed with good weather that day (by good, I mean blue skies and not too cold, maybe around 8 degrees), so it was a lovely stroll.

Though we liked some other flavors that were for sale, we bought a jar of (boring) honey mustard at the museum to enjoy at home because the mustards were sold in large ceramic pots and I can only foresee ourselves enjoying honey mustard without getting bored before the jar is finished. It’s a pity that they don’t sell sample sizes or variety gift packs because the large sizes meant that you must really love mustard in order to finish one jar.

After the mini lunch, we crossed over to the Chocolate Museum but we only went to the Chocolate Shop because we have been to many Chocolate Museums in other countries and so we didn’t want to pay 9 Euros each for things that we have seen before. There were some interesting chocolate products in the shop and I got this Madagascan chocolate bar with sea salt and cocoa nibs but sadly it wasn’t really tasty.

On the way back to the apartment, we made several stops along the way to view some churches and Roman architecture. We also made a pit stop at the Cologne Cathedral but didn’t stay for too long as it was crowded inside with tourists, and outside with a demonstration going on.

The left picture below is the Hahnentorburg or the west gate in Cologne. It was part of the medieval city wall that once circled round Cologne. The picture on the right shows the old town hall, it is the oldest building in Cologne and has different architectural influences all in one building. Interesting.

On Sunday, we traveled to Bonn where we met up with a friend I had met while learning German in Singapore. Like me, she moved to Germany because her husband had found work in Germany. These men… they had better appreciate all the sacrifices their missuses have done for them! I do not know the lady that well, but I guess you bond naturally with your fellow countrymen when you’re longing for home. The TehSee couple (as they are commonly known among their friends) brought us around Bonn, showing us some tourist attractions such as the birthplace of Beethoven and even brought us for a short hike up the Drachenfels hills – it was a tough walk up but the view overlooking the Bonn city was gorgeous.

We then had steamboat dinner at their place as it was the first day of the Chinese New Year, and nothing signifies better than steamboat! They had put in so much effort in preparation of the food… TehSee had gone to 2 different Asian supermarkets to gather all the ingredients. We had flower crabs (! I was very surprised), salmon fish, mussels, fish balls, meat balls, tofu, kang kong vegetables, mushrooms. They even prepared a dual hotpot so we could have the choice of spicy tom yum soup or chicken broth. Talk about putting in effort! Kudos. Why don’t we have more options for Asian food like they do… 😦

Recipe: Kaya jam

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What is kaya? It is basically an egg-based jam with coconut milk (or coconut cream for that full taste), enriched with the wonderful aroma of pandan. I would not say it’s invented in Singapore because there are different variants from the Southeast Asia region. I had never thought it would be possible to make it at home because it was so easily available in Singapore, but one day my mother made it at home and I was sold. It was so fragrant because of the high quality ingredients and not as sickeningly sweet as commercial ones.

Now that I’m in Germany, I make it occasionally when I have some coconut milk to use up or when I’m missing a taste of home. The original recipe I have calls for pandan leaves but I’ve changed it to pandan essence and paste as I cannot get fresh leaves here.

  • 5 eggs
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 220g caster sugar (or if you like, use 200g gula Melaka instead)
  • 3 pandan leaves / (I have substituted it with ½ tsp pandan paste + ¼ tsp pandan essence)
  1. Lightly beat eggs with sugar in a pot.
  2. Tie the pandan leaves (if using) into a knot and add to the egg mixture. Place the pot over low heat to infuse the egg mixture with pandan aroma.
    If not using pandan leaves, just continue to whisk the egg mixture to dissolve the sugar. You may also place it over low heat to melt the sugar easily.
  3. Prepare a pot of boiling water for a bain marie.
  4. Add the coconut milk to the egg mixture and strain it into a bowl suitable to be placed over the bain marie. (I usually skip the straining part – too lazy to wash another item)
  5. Place the bowl over the bain marie and let the mixture cook till thickened, while stirring occasionally. This will take around 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your top bowl (the more surface area the hot steam reaches, the faster it cooks).
  6. The jam is ready when it has the consistency of thickened custard. You may blend it if it looks grainy, or leave it for a rustic look.
  7. Spoon into prepared jam jars and let cool.
  8. Store in the fridge.

Here are some consumption ideas:

  1. spread it on bread
  2. as a dip for roti prata, alkaline glutinous rice dumplings (kee chang) and French toast (I love kaya with kee chang!!)
  3. topping for your overnight oats
  4. as a filling for your puff pastry pockets (kaya puffs!)

Have you tasted kaya before? How do you consume it? Share your ideas with me because I’m always looking for ways to finish up my jar of kaya (the above recipe makes quite a fair bit)

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 that 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 SGD70 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.