Addicted to carbs

I knew that completing a 30 day Paleo challenge would be hard, but Day 1 was even harder than I expected.

So, for a whole month, I have cut out all sugar and grains from my diet. Traditional paleo also forgoes dairy, but I have decided not to as my only milk consumption is in tea, and i believe that yogurt is beneficial to health.

Day 1 – Started the day with a thick juice of apples and peaches at 8am, that despite being delicious, was also quite filling, and followed that with a hard boiled egg at 9am. I was already hungry by 11am and i swear i could smell rice cooking somewhere on our floor just to tempt me!

Lunch was a salad of mixed salad leaves, tomato, cucumber, roast shaved chicken, and a dressing of hummus. That must have filled me up, but it did not satisfy my mentally. I spent the afternoon battling phantom stomach cramps, and the overwhelming urge to eat some carbs that i thankfully resisted. Nothing like failure on your first attempt to drain confidence huh? Some feijoas helped keep me going till dinner time.

Dinner was a Thai Chicken Curry with carrots, zuchinni, onions, and bok choy. It really was delicious and filling, and i had enough left over for lunch the next day.

I could not resist a mini Picnic after dinner though.

Man, this is going to be a long 30 days……..

Thoughts on Auckland Airport….

Auckland Airport regularly makes the list of top airports in the world and it was easy to see why when we flew Malaysian Airlines to Dubai via KL in January.

We were travelling with 2 children and were there 3 hours early as recommended for international flights. Check in was quick and though there were long lines at the immigration counters these were cleared quickly. We were given customs forms to fill out at the check-in desk and assumed these were handed over in the plane, however we were asked to fill these out at the Immigration desk and come back in line which made this process longer than necessary for us.

airport duty freeairport

There are many food options once inside and all were open for service despite the relative late hour of 11pm. I was a little surprised at the selection of different things and the prices at the duty free shops – they were quite cheap compared to prices outside for the same.

I was also impressed by the very modern yet comfortable public seating provided at regular intervals in the departure hall around the big modern sculpture in the center. The girls quickly found their sofas of choice and snuggled up with their throws and a device each. The free wifi was easy to register for and fast to use.

airport seating

While the public restrooms were clean, they are widely spaced out.

Overall, airport staff were all friendly and efficient and all facilities were clearly marked – our time in the airport almost flew by.

On our return there were longer lines at the immigration counters as 2 or more flights seem to have landed together and after a 36 hour journey the wait seemed longer than it was. Customs clearance was fast and organized as we had food to declare (including Yemeni honey that was binned much to the disappointment of Miss 8 who had bought it). Remember to declare any food, plant or animal based products as the rules are NZ are strictly enforced to protect our natural biology & ecology – if you declare it most likely you will be able to keep it, however if you are found out not declaring there will be a hefty fine. Beware – many passengers get needlessly bitten by this rule if they have any forgotten fruit from their aircraft dinners in their handbags or purses.

The arrivals gate was built like the entrance to a maori marae and there was a troupe of performers enacting the haka for the arriving passengers which was a lovely way to welcome people to NZ.

airport marae welcome haka

My only gripe is that from the time you land to the arrivals hall there was just 1 restroom which was out of service at the time so with only the handicapped toilet being in use there was a very long line outside it.

Auckland Airport is clean, comfortable, and well equipped with facilities for travelers. Thoughts on improving the airport would be (in no particular order): longer free wifi, especially if you find yourself waiting long for a connecting flight; more signs before the immigration checks to ensure that all customs forms are pre-filled and no lines are held up due to this being overlooked; and more restrooms are provided.

Oh Calcutta! in Parnell, Auckland

Have you ever had the feeling that some old memories may not be real memories – just a strange dream-like imagination mixed in with what actually happened? This happened to me yesterday – I was going to dinner at Oh Calcutta! in Parnell, Auckland and hazy memories of sitting there at an outside table  on a cool spring night 13 years ago came back to me in patches until I wasn’t sure if I was making up this scene in my head.

I was looking forward to dining here, as in my search for a great Indian restaurant that my father would like, Oh Calcutta! was the name that came up consistently for great service and better food.

oh calcutta! decor

Most of the outdoor tables were already taken when we got here at 7.30, and we were seated inside the restaurant at a table large enough to accommodate our party of 8. Oh Calcutta!’s décor was a god balance of interesting ethnic while still remaining classy. The lighting was soft and I really appreciated that there was no music playing in the background so we could talk to one another in normal tones.

oh calcutta! inside

View of interior tables

With the kids and adults having chosen their drinks, we turned to the menu to order our food. Just reading the beautifully described dishes made us all ultra-hungry! For entrees we had: Chilli Prawns; which while beautifully cooked were disappointingly not as hot as the name suggested, Mansoori Kebab; tender lamb cutlets with a smoky and unique flavor; and half Tandoori Chicken, which to be candid was just perfectly ordinary.

OhCalcutta open kitchen

The interesting open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work

Our mains included the Butter Chicken; which despite all the rave reviews I found to be sweet and mediocre, Prawn Malabari Curry; which likewise was sweet and mild (and for me, lacking in a south indian flavor), Kadhai Paneer Masala; which had a lovely burst of fresh flavour, Murgh Makhani; a more authentic version of the butter chicken that was quite nice but unmemorable; and the special for the day, Mutton Curry; which had a lovely homemade curry flavour and feel. The Garlic and Cheese Naans were excellent and the rice served was aromatic and cooked to perfection. All in all, while the food did not blow us away everyone including the kids did enjoy it and we all walked away with far too much food in our bellies! Unfortunately that also meant that we did not have the chance to indulge in desserts, especially their very tempting Trio of Kulfi that I would not be normally able to resist.

OhCalcutta food

The service was quiet but very attentive, with our young server coming around just when he was needed and our plates were cleared regularly without our prompting.

While prices may seem high in comparison to many other Indian restaurants, in my opinion the food, service, atmosphere and location make these perfectly appropriate here.

Oh Calcutta! does many things very well, and the next time I want to enjoy a date night or special occasion dinner, this may very well be where we end up.

Why I Love the JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur

People, Places, and Perspectives.

Completing the lovely room ambience was the music that played from the TV the moment I slotted the room key card into the main power slot.

I stayed at this hotel early September this year, and wrote an incomplete post about it. It’s time I finish writing about the marvelous experience I had lounging around in my room at this flagship hotel.

Aside from the spelling error on my name by the receptionist who helped me register for the Marriott Rewards membership, the service was impeccable. I love smiling and I got to return many smiles and greetings the moment I alighted from my taxi at 11.30 am for the early check-in I had been given. Assistance was offered proactively – almost automatically. It felt like with every step I made there were a few more made towards my direction, with hands extended so readily – whether it was to…

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UAE: Jumeriah Hotels in Dubai

Will be in Dubai this month! So excited 🙂

Breezing Through

Once in Dubai, we toured many, but not all, of the Jumeriah hotels. There are so many that we just didn’t have the time! We started off at the Jumeriah Creekside hotel. This hotel had a beautiful lobby and an incredible view of Dubai. It is had a more corporate feel to it.

UAE: Jumeriah Hotels in Dubai | Breezing ThroughWe then went to the famous Burj Al Arab hotel. This hotel is actually more of a residence with every room being a suite. Every floor has a butler to server your every need!

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Finally, we went to the Madinat Jumeriah, which is where we started for the rest of the trip. This hotel was beautiful and right on the beach. There was so much to see and do,  including shipping! The Madinat had its very own Souk!

UAE: Jumeriah Hotels in Dubai | Breezing ThroughUAE: Jumeriah Hotels in Dubai | Breezing ThroughUAE: Jumeriah Hotels in Dubai | Breezing ThroughUAE: Jumeriah Hotels in Dubai | Breezing Through UAE: Jumeriah Hotels in Dubai | Breezing ThroughUAE: Jumeriah Hotels in Dubai | Breezing ThroughBreezing Through

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A few stolen hours at Hot Water Beach, Coromandel

On Wednesday last week, I was home looking after Miss Six who was not very well and Miss Eight who was pretending to not feel very well so she could stay home too. It was also hubby’s only day off that week. Being the impulsive optimist that I am, I thought that we should so something more exciting with our day and drive down to the Hot Water Beach in Coromandel.  Girls were on board immediately and with a few minutes of puppy eyed pleading from us all he was in too.

So we set off on our 2 hour drive with a bag of quickly assembled snacks, sweets and drinks.

As luck would have it, midway through, the anticipation wore off and boredom set in plus Miss Six started feeling queasy. I was trying my best to keep her spirits up when the sky went dark as big black clouds rolled in. Wondering why I did not think things through and wishing that hubby had talked some sense into me, I asked everyone if they wanted to turn back. Thankfully though we all agreed to press on and soon we were at the beach!

Hot Water Beach is world famous in New Zealand – well no actually, this is a unique beach that really is world famous – for its underground hot springs which filter up through the golden sand between the high and low water tidal reaches. Families, kids and couples can be seen digging their own spa pool in the sand and relaxing in the natural springs.

the only way to get to the Hot Water Springs is through this stretch of beach and stream.

the only way to get to the Hot Water Springs is through this stretch of beach and stream.

The only access to the beach is through a narrow walk across beach and a stream.

Expecting it to be almost deserted, I was shocked to see that it was almost packed! We found a large and deep spa already dug but when we went into it the water was literally burning hot – we could barely stand in it for a second before being scalded. The girls had a brain wave and decided to use their beach toys to bring cold water from the ocean and pour into the spa to help cool the water. As you can imagine this did not help at all even if they were having fun doing it. Miss Six, by now having forgotten that she was ill, was in great spirits. She started exploring other spas to find one with a better temperature and found one that was just vacated. We all got in and enjoyed the warm water at the edge of the ocean – it was magical. Soon though the ocean started slowly reclaiming the sandy beach as the waves came closer & closer. Eventually one giant wave came in and flooded cold water over our heads and into our warm spa. It was time to leave.

digging a spa on the beach - hot water beach

a couple digging their spa on the beach

New Zealand: Hot Water Beach

enjoying the DIY hot water spas at Hot Water Beach

Miss Six has been talking about having a party at the beach for her birthday in December and is keenly waiting for our next trip to the beautiful Hot Water Beach!

10 disgusting foods with surprising health benefits – how far would you go?

As the popular saying goes, let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.

After reading so much about how good the paleo diet is for you, I have decided to start my 30 day challenge this weekend. I am really quite excited to test myself and only hope I can stick to it long enough for me to judge the effects. That got me thinking – all over the world, people have turned easily available ingredients into their food, many for their health properties – exactly how far would humans go to get perceived nutritional benefits? So in order to psyche myself to survive the paleo diet I did some digging – I guarantee you, after this I will never turn up my nose at a green salad again! Come and take an armchair trip with me to sample some of the worlds strangest (not so) edible offerings….

  • ‘Penis Fish’ : 
    Korean Penis Fish

    Korean Penis Fish

    Our first stop is in Korea to sample a popular food called Korean Penis Fish which is not really a penis or a fish but a spoon worm that looks surprisingly like a penis. This phallic shaped sea worm can be easily bought from the seafood markets while freshly caught or be eaten at restaurants where they are stored in fish tanks. Penis fish is served seasoned usually with salt and the ever popular sesame oil, and is eaten while raw and alive. They have a reportedly chewy texture and surprisingly a salty sea water taste that is quite pleasant. Why would anyone want to eat this you wonder? Here’s why….

Health Benefits: Like many other foods that are believed to strengthen the body parts they look like, not surprisingly the Penis Fish is eaten for its aphrodisiacal effects. It is believed that eating this will help men increase both their libido and performance.

  1. Sannakji:  
    Sannakji - live octopus

    Sannakji – live octopus

    Still in Korea, our next dish is one of a long list of foods referred to as ‘Korean Viagra’. Nothing sexy about this dish though – simply explained, it’s a plateful of raw octopus that is still moving as you try to eat it. Usually served in restaurants, the chef will carve out pieces from a small octopus while you watch and serve it to you while alive and kicking. You can then season it with salt and sesame oil, dunk it into a dipping sauce of your choice and pop into your mouth. The actual eating is not as easy as it sounds – While many foods are eaten raw, the difference here is eating something that actively tries to escape from your mouth.

 Health Benefits: Octopus is good source of iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin A and several B vitamins, as well as some omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fresh octopus is best and can decrease the chances of heart disease, as well as cancer and depression.

  1. Baby mice wine.
    Baby Mice Wine - Asian Health Elixir

    Baby Mice Wine – Asian Health Elixir

    Need something to wash out the taste from the snacks above? Maybe a glass of baby mice wine will hit the spot. This is a traditional beverage in China and Korea and as the name suggests, it is made by taking new born and hairless baby mice that are no more than 2 or 3 days old and placing these baby mice into a bottle of rice wine while they are still alive. The mice then drown and ferment in the wine for 12 to 14 months and can be found at the bottom of the bottle. Baby mice wine reportedly tastes like foul gasoline but is potent enough to get you high on just a small cup.

Health benefits: The common custom is to eat the mice once you reach the end of the bottle. This beverage is regarded as a health tonic and is believed to be a cure for a variety of diseases, including liver disease and asthma. 

  1. Black Ivory coffee:
    Black Ivory Coffee - made by Elephants in Northern Thailand

    Black Ivory Coffee – made by Elephants in Northern Thailand

    Move aside Kopi Luwak – a new shit coffee is in town. Recently there has been a trend of animals like the Civet eating the coffee beans then defecating them a day later only for humans to harvest these dropped coffee beans to produce some of the world’s most expensive coffees.  Black Ivory coffee is produced in the same way with elephants instead of the civet cat. In the hills of northern Thailand, a herd of 20 elephants are hard at their job of eating and defecating these coffee beans that are then collected and ground into an exotic brew. This speciality coffee is only available at a few luxury locations around the world as yet. The brand claims its taste is chocolaty and smooth, infused with earthy and unique flavours.

Health Benefits: Aside from helping you wake up in the mornings and get alert, studies have shown that coffee may have other health benefits, including protecting against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease. Coffee also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression.


  1. Fried spiders:
    fried Tarantulas for sale in Skuon, Cambodia

    fried Tarantulas for sale in Skuon, Cambodia

    If you have arachnophobia my advice would be to stop reading this list. Right. Now. Still with me? Okay, let’s take a detour in Cambodia and stop off at the village of Skuon which is famous for its big, juicy, fried spiders. Yes, that’s right spiders – tarantulas to be precise. No one knows exactly how this tradition started, with some speculation that it was born from desperation due to scarcity of food during famine and war. Here you will find market vendors with baskets full of fried tarantula, which are grown and harvested just for this purpose, seasoned with salt, garlic and sugar; deep fried till crunchy then served with a lime and black pepper dip.

Health benefits: The belief in Cambodia is that this snack has cosmetic properties and can enhance the natural beauty of women. Allegedly, if you eat the legs first, your hair gets long and lustrous. The Cambodians also believe that the tarantulas have medicinal properties and are very useful for soothing back aches and treating breathing problems found in children.


  1. Snake wine:
    Snake Wine

    Snake Wine

    How about a nice glass of wine from South East Asia next? Snake wine, as the name succinctly describes, is a beverage made by taking a venomous cobra snake (among others), steeping it in rice wine along with various herbs and fermenting it for a few months. Alternatively, it can also be made by mixing bodily snake fluids including blood with rice wine. While the venom from the snake is not extracted before it is steeped in wine and the poison dissolves in the wine, the drink is not dangerous as snake venom being protein based is inactivated by the alcohol. Don’t look out for it on the menu of your local Thai takeaway though, as this is made and served in Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos.

Health benefits: Allegedly, this traditional drink is believed to have excellent restorative qualities and is considered a healthy liquor with many benefits.  Its medicinal traits are used to treat a wind range of ailments including overall health to sexual performance.

  1. Tong zi dan, China:
    Tong Zi Den - Virgin Boy Eggs - Chinese Delicacy

    Tong Zi Den – Virgin Boy Eggs – Chinese Delicacy

    Let’s move on to Dongyang in Zhejiang Province in China next for a very unusual snack – Boiled eggs. Boiled eggs you say? That’s not very unusual. Well, these eggs are boiled – not in water but in the urine of young virgin boys under the age of 10. This Chinese delicacy is prepared by first soaking the eggs in urine. After being brought to a boil in the steaming urine, the eggs are removed, their shells are cracked and they are placed back into the boiling urine to soak up the flavour. It is also interesting that the urine is procured fresh by placing buckets in primary schools for young boys to relieve themselves. These buckets are then picked up and used by the street vendors making this food.

 Health benefits:  These hard-boiled eggs blur a line somewhere between centuries old local tradition and modern medical science.  According to Chinese belief, these urine boiled eggs have health benefits for a wide range of ailments from treating arthritis to preventing heat stroke.


  1. Casu Marzu (rotten cheese):
    Casu Marzu - rotten cheese from Sardinia

    Casu Marzu – rotten cheese from Sardinia

    Our next stop is Sardinia, Italy, where there is a type of local cheese that has been banned due to fear of disease. For years, the Casu Marzu was only sold on the black market; however, it persisted in the culture due to its reportedly wonderful taste. It has now been declared a traditional food and it is legal to make and sell. This cheese is made when pecorino cheese is set outside to allow cheese flies to lay eggs inside of it. Soon the thousands of larvae are breaking down the cheese’s fats and fermenting inside it; decomposing the cheese and turning it silky and runny. Some people remove the larvae before they eat this cheese and some believe that it should be eaten only when the larvae are still alive inside.

Health benefits: Cheese, like other dairy products, is high in calcium and Vitamin D, while insects are high in protein, B vitamins, and minerals like iron and zinc, plus they’re also low in fat.

 9. Escamole:

Escamole or Ant Eggs in a Mexican street snack

Escamole or Ant Eggs in a Mexican street snack

Next stop Mexico – A Mexican delicacy that is also sometimes called ‘insect cavier’, this dish consists of ant larvae and pupae and are usually harvested from the roots of the agave plant, also used to make tequila. Escamoles are light in colour with a buttery and nutty taste and can be crunchy when fried. They look like white beans, with a delicate texture and a consistency like cottage cheese when cooked. They can be served as a salad where they replace rice or couscous or sprinkled over other foods like tacos for an extra protein kick!

Health Benefits: Escamoles are a rich source of proteins like almost all the insects and good fata. They contain significant amounts of vitamins A & E, minerals and salts. They are believed to help keep your eyes and eyesight strong and resistant to age.


  1. Hakarl:
    Hakarl or rotten shark that is usually eaten with a liqor chaser to wash it down.

    Hakarl or rotten shark that is usually eaten with a liqor chaser to wash it down.

    While many cultures eat fermented fish, Iceland goes even further. How? They have found a way to make a poisonous decaying fish into a (not so tasty) snack. Learning how this is done only makes this less appetizing – first a Greenland Shark is decapitated, then gutted. The fluids are squeezed out by placing the fish in a shallow gravelly hole and covered with rocks and sand for 6-12 weeks. The flesh is then cut into strips and hung for several months to dry. Cut into chunks and voila – a snack is born! While readily available in supermarkets in Iceland, this is not something you want to serve at your next soiree though. In the words of Anthony Bourdain it is “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he has ever eaten.

Health Benefits: While better for you than most red meats, and mostly fat free to boot, the hardest thing to overcome about eating it is the smell with some describing it ‘like eating a urinal cake’.  In times of scarcity though, it is still something that would keep you alive.

What is the most disgusting food you have tried on your travels? Leave me a comment below – I’d love to hear your stories!



A day at the beach

Curving roads. Empty roads. Surrounded by greenery roads. With arching trees and creeping vines. Like a grand entrance beckoning us, offering so much more in the great beyond. The cool moist air with a hint of the ocean as if caressing our cheeks. Off the highway, the empty back roads tell us this isn’t season time. Instead of drunk raucous revelers we encounter silent trees out for a parade covered in their greens. This is Goa in the Monsoons.

It is drizzling now, a hint of rains yet to come, but it is pleasant enough to be venturing out. We tell our driver to take us to the beach. Candolim being the nearest, we go there. He tells us that it’s a short walk to Calangute & Baga and we can call wherever we chose to get off the beach. It’s an interesting idea, probably more so because strolling on…

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Travel Budget Blues

I have done something bad. Something i never thought i would do and now am mentally freaking out at making this work. Impulse buying a BIG thing.

You see, it started with an email i received announcing sale fares to 6 destinations on Malaysian Airlines. I had to do a double take when i got to the airfares they were so low. Lower than i have ever seen before. So the next day i walked into my friendly travel agent store and bought 4 tickets for a family holiday to Dubai.

Now that the excitement of buying the tickets has worn off, i am left with a major problem – arranging enough money to cover our 3 week holiday. I have started dreaming of travel vaccinations, passport photos, and assorted other expenses. 

I have only 4 months to arrange $10,000+. I need to get a grip on my panicking brain and start thinking about what i can do to save up.

Options so far:

– find an evening job – but then i will need to figure out what to do with my girls during that time 

– sell anything i don’t need

– we are already quite a frugal bunch so don’t know how much more i could squeeze from our food budget

How you you funded your trips on short notice – maybe you can help me with your tips on what i can do 🙂