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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wordless Wednesday {linky}: Family Obento Ideas - Prawn Aglio Olio & Salad | Week 40


What's in my obento this week?
Prawn Aglio Olio with Capsicums and Garlic with Salad.

Can you believe it's already October??!!
Just 3 more months to the end of the year!

Obento {お弁当} is a home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine and doesn't always need to be complicated or time-consuming. I hope to inspire you to create delicious, everyday obento meals for your family with these simple ideas and tools.

These photos are part of the 52 Weeks Family Obento Ideas series.

*****

Sakura Haruka's wordless wednesday
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

15 Instagram Tips & Tricks from Instagramers

Instagram is by far my favourite social media channel. I'm a pretty visual person and love that it is not just a place for me to share photos on-the-go and engage with my friends and blog readers, but also acts as a source of inspiration for me to take better photos of places, people, food and outfits. And oh, it's not cluttered with ads or random promoted posts by people I don't know too ;) 

Instagram seems easy enough to use. All you have to do is to snap a photo then post, no? I guess it is, but if you want it to be more than just a photo-sharing app and get a higher engagement with your Instagram community by posting more visually-interesting content, here are 15 Instagram Tips and Tricks from other Instagrammers that rock it. Pretty useful especially for those just getting started on IG!

Thanks for sharing them with me when I asked on this post! xox

1. Colour, Contrast and Crop - essential to great IG shots! - @reginamoo

2. Always go close to the subject so the distracting background can be cropped out of the frame. And do use one of the filters to add mood or enhancement to the photo :) - @mylollipopdays

3. Use an external photo edit app to clean up the photo before posting on IG, people are drawn to nice photos.- @isaiahkuan

4. There's a lot of good photo-editing apps out there but try not to over-process and let the picture speak for itself - @myvintagebaby

5. Take as many photos as you can and go through them later to choose the ones you want to load on IG. When I am out and about in the moment, especially with Mia, I don't like to fiddle around adding filters and such so I often snap a quick one and post, then later on I go through and pick one or two to play around with and edit before I upload later. Means you still get to share stuff on IG without having to miss out on what you were actually doing at the time! @kyl21z

6. Take images a little off centre, on an angle as this can sometimes enhance a filter's effect - @emilyhavealaugh

7. When taking a photo that you will want to post on Instagram, make it wider than normal since you will be cropping it into a square. - @geraldineguo

8. Use hashtags, this way your photos can be seen by others who like the same things like you like. - @susankoh

9. Photos come out best from a phone when you take them vertically rather than horizontally.
Also, leave plenty of space around the subject you're taking a photo of so that when you frame it on IG, you can get a better close up :) - @_withsomegrace

10. You can use the blur tool to blur out items in the photo so that the main thing is in focus only! - @whit3dot

11. Remember that instagram crops to the pic along the shortest edge of the photo. As a result, I find it easier to take pics in portrait than landscape. - @mummybean

12. I use bokeh as a tool to shift focus on the particular in my pic. Caption is very impt too! - @sherbetgal

13. When taking photos of food, sometimes it is better to take a long shot and with minimal filter effects than a closeup. Some food just doesn't look very pleasing up close or digitally enhanced.- @motherofxander

14. For black and white shots, try running the picture twice through the filter to increase contrast, for sharper BW pictures! :) - @justtey

15. Use filters to create the mood of the photo that you want to express. - @jolin82

If you haven't yet, let's link up on Instagram! Find me as @AiSakuraHaruka (^^)V

How often do you use Instagram?
What's your favourite Instagram tips?

I Blog on Tues with Essentially Jess.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Of Bubbles, Kicks & Starfish!

Yesterday was Lil Pumpkin's first swimming class since her assessment last weekend. We were both pretty excited and I was the enthusiastic mum at the poolside giving thumbs-up signs and taking a gazillion photos of her kid haha.

I wasn't expecting myself to be so excited over it actually... it's not like it's the first time she going to an enrichment class. But, I guess since she's just getting started on something that's been close to my heart and I've been involved in for nearly two decades, it got me really hyped up.

She's in the beginners class and her coach is Teacher Priscilla, a young and friendly lady. There's 6 kids in her class ranging from 3 years old - 6 or 7 years old. I didn't manage to talk to any of their parents yet so not sure how long they have started, but Lil Pumpkin seems pretty comfortable in this group and not too far behind in terms of swimming skills.

For her first lesson, she learnt some basic stuff like kicking, blowing bubbles, floating on her back to be a "starfish" and simple diving. There was a bit of group session, but most of the time, the kids practised one-on-one with Teacher Priscilla and while waiting, they sat at the pool edge.

Personally, I think that's quite a waste of time and not a good idea to get in and out of the pool so often as the body will cool down fast and they might fall ill. It might be because the coaches are scared of the kids drowning if left in the water on their own but there's Teacher Shaun around to oversee everything so at least for the older kids, they should be able to hold onto the pool edge and practise kicking or blowing bubbles while waiting instead of just sitting around.  

We'll see how it goes in the next few lessons as the kids get more competent and confident in the water :) I'll probably bring Lil Pumpkin to the pool another time in the week so that she gets more practise on what she has learnt. At least now with a proper syllabus to follow, I can guide her better. For her level {Starfish Level 1}, she needs the following skills to progress to the next level -

Water Familiarisation:
1. Entry and exit pool with and without support
2. Dipping and chin taps
3. Bubbles and submerging exercises

Assisted Movements:
1. Stationary: Seated/ Prone position flutter kicking with noodle or board
2. Mobility: Flutter kicking, breathing and holding cues with noodle or board
3. Body roll and rotation with board, noodle or water - mat

Unassisted Movements:
1. Balancing with hand crawls and flutter kicks
2. Kneeing and seated front and back glide
3. Starfish floats front and back

I think blowing bubbles isn't a problem for her since she likes to put her head underwater!! Maybe she is looking around for mermaids :P

This is a video I took during her lesson. If it isn't working, watch it on YouTube here. Lil Pumpkin needs to work on her kicking A LOT! haha.. She bends her knees too much... Anyway, good luck in your swimming journey dearie! 頑張ってね~!

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Australia 2014 | Family-Friendly Serviced Apartments in Gold Coast

When I travel with family for extended periods of time, I prefer to stay at serviced apartments. Since it's going to be our home away from home for more than a few days, I want more comfort, space {so important with kids!!} and freedom for my family.

They may be slightly more expensive than a hotel room's stay, but with dining areas and a fully equipped kitchen, we can prepare our own food and save money on eating out. Not to mention convenient.

When we were at Gold Coast for 2 weeks, we stayed in 2 different serviced apartments. Both were in excellent locations that gave us great view of the Surfers Paradise beach, had free wifi, Foxtel cable channels and not too pricey either. I'd highly recommend any of them.

The Shore Holiday Apartments was not too far from QT, the conference venue for Problogger Event. A few participants had stayed there before too, and the Tripadvisor reviews were pretty good {ranked #12 of 93 as of Sep 2014}.

The furniture and decor was rather dated, but still pretty clean. For the price and location, it was good value-for-money. We were also given a corner room with all our windows facing the beach so that was a definitely a win for me ;) It got cold some nights since there's no central heating, but you're given a small heater in each room and extra blankets.

If you come during summer,  there's the ceiling fan and floor fan to use. Lots of windows so plenty of air ventilation and bright sunlight in the apartment!

Room types: Only one-bedroom apartments, each with views of the ocean and Gold Coast beach.

Rates: From A$93/night. Children under 2 years old stay for free or A$35/stay for a child's cot. One older child or adult is charged A$25/person per night in an extra bed. Only one extra cot or bed allowed in a room.

Location: About 10-15 mins walk from the centre of Surfers Paradise - Cavill Avenue. Since it's slightly away from the bustle, our part of the beach is not so crowded or noisy, which I like. It is still very convenient though with nearby bus-stops {access to theme parks & attractions}, convenience stores, small attractions e.g. mini golf courses, and a G-Link tram station {Surfers Paradise North} just a short stroll away.

Room amenities: Separate bedroom with a Queen-sized bed, fully equipped kitchen {stove, microwave, fridge, kettle, crockery, cutlery etc.} and a full bathroom. Complimentary Foxtel cable, room WIFI {Superior rooms only}, lobby WIFI, bed linen & towels, ironing board.

No washing machine, dryer, bathing soap, shampoo or toothbrushes. Change of linen and towels only after 8 days stay.

Accommodation facilities: Outdoor gated swimming pool & heated jacuzzi, Café {excellent breakfast sets!} & Bar, BBQ pits, coin-operated laundry area and luggage storage room.

Parking: Free undercover parking or rear building parking for guests {reservation not required}.

Services: Reception staff can help you to book airport shuttles, attraction transport, buy attraction tickets, fax or photocopy documents. Note that reception is only open until weekdays 5pm and weekends 12 pm.

Check-in: 2pm - 5pm {free}, after which you've to pay a fee for a security officer to help you with late check-in since the reception staff are off-duty.

Check-out: Up to 10am, but you can request for late check-out {fee may apply}.

The Shore Holiday Apartments
2 Ocean Avenue, Surfers Paradise
Tel: +61 7 5539 0388
Website: http://www.theshore.com.au/

My sister and her family joined us in the later part of our holiday so we moved to Hilton Surfers Paradise Residences {H Residences} to stay together in one apartment {since Shore only had one-bedroom apartments}. It is right smack in the middle of Surfers Paradise center so the shops and restaurants were right at our doorstep!

They were built just a few years back, so everything is very contemporary and new. Since it is located above Hilton Hotel {most of the apartments are situated on high floor levels, boasting sensational ocean or city views}, it had all the comfort and convenience of a fully-contained holiday apartment and we could use the 5-star services and facilities too!

We had a room with a large balcony with the beach view, 2 bed-rooms and 2 separate toilets. One of the bedrooms even had a huge walk-in wardrobe! It certainly lives up to its name of being luxurious and part of the Hilton group. 

Room types: One, two, three or four bedroom apartments available.

Rates: From A$150/night. Where the booking is for more than the number of people listed, extra beds will be provided at an additional fee of A$55/person per booking. A bit more expensive, but still all right when you share it out.

Location: Located just off Cavill Avenue, a few minutes walk to Cavill Mall, Paradise Centre and all the shops & restaurants located there. Woolworths and Coles supermarket are within walking distance too. Nearest G-Link tram stations are Cavill Avenue and Surfers Paradise.

Room amenities: Open-plan design with bathrooms, fully-equipped kitchens {electric stove-top, dishwasher, microwave, oven, fridge, kettle, crockery, cutlery etc.}, washing machine, dryer, iron, ironing board, bed linen & towels, bathing soap, shampoo and toothbrushes. Complimentary Foxtel cable, room WIFI, and Blu-Ray player. Centralised heating and air-conditioning. 

Change of linen and towels only after 7 days stay, but you can, of course, wash them in the room's washing machine.

Accommodation facilities: Lagoon-style outdoor swimming pool, indoor heated pool {but was still pretty cold!}, indoor jacuzzi, children's splash pool, BBQ huts and alfresco dining areas, restaurants, gym {the boy was so happy!}, fully equipped games room, in-house theatre room, saunas etc.

Parking: Free and secure {card-access only} underground parking for guests.

Services: 24-hours reception staff can help you to book airport shuttles, attraction transport, buy attraction tickets, fax or photocopy documents. They helped me to mail a postcard to Lil Pumpkin too :)

Check-in: 3pm

Check-out: Up to 11am, but you can request for late check-out {fee may apply}.

Hilton Surfers Paradise Residences
6 Orchid Avenue, Surfers Paradise
Tel: +61 7 56808000
Website: http://www.hiltonsurfersparadise.com.au/residence

Where else would you recommend for a family stay in Gold Coast?


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