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Travel

Cities we visit, food we eat, and the fun things we do there. 

On Patience. Palm Trees. and Purpose.

Debora Manusama

2016 hit us pretty hard. Thankfully we made it through and things are getting better. Why was our LA vacation a huge deal for me? What did it mean to us? Well, EVERYTHING. It was like us, finally exhaling. Finally walking barefoot on the sand. Finally getting a change of scenery. 

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A Picker-Upper from the Fixer Upper

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

Every once in a while, we need a little picker-upper to get through the day. I am grateful that last week, I found it at a pretty unlikely place, a bakery. Not just any bakery, it's Magnolia Flour! If you're a fan of the hit TV show Fixer Upper like me, you would have this place on your bucket list for sure.

Every corner of this place is pinterestable and instagrammable, owners Chip & Joanna must really know their market very well.

For a full picture of what it's like over there at The Silos, click play and watch the video :)

https://youtu.be/2JjlshfW27U

 

I had been planning to come here for a while, but the Texas heat and the 1-hour-and-40-minute drive was holding me back. Last week however, I spontaneously decided to go on a mini roadtrip with J and visit it.

I am just so inspired by their story. We might look at the glitz and the glam that surround them today, but we don't know the struggles that they had to go through in order to get where they are now.

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They have been doing what they're doing since 2003, but they didn't get their reality show until 2014. That means there was an 11-year gap there, where they were building their marriage, family, and business together while no one was watching. They have kept that genuine love and work ethic throughout the years, so when the spotlight is on them, they stay true to what they believe in and uphold.

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I looked at everything they have built and thought to myself, "I can do this. If they can, I can. Mr.Man and I can." Seriously, I think we all can if we're committed to our journey that is set for the both of us and not worry about others.

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We can't do it ourselves though, we need to surrender it all to God. Because what good is an empire or a palace if God isn't in it?

We tried the bacon and cheese biscuit + lemon lavender cupcakes and went home with happy bellies. Sweating though, because it was super hot that day.

Next time, let's wait for the weather to get cooler before we do this, J ;)

 

6 States in 5 Days.

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

On the 4th of July weekend, my family and I decided to go visit Chicago. But not just Chicago, but also got to see Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Oklahoma. As I stated in the previous article, this was the longest roadtrip we've ever done so far. But we loved it!

Highlights of the trip:

Memphis :

  • Central BBQ - try the half and half slab (half wet rub half dry rub ribs)
  • The Pyramid (Bass Pro Shop) - there are a LOT of things to do and see in here including the restaurants, the observation deck, shops, and they also have a giant aquarium which kids absolutely love.

Chicago :

  • Navy Pier - this is the 'Times Square' of Chi-town, very touristy, but you gotta visit it at least once, ride the ferris wheel, and even have dinner on the cruise. It's so worth it! Beautiful scenery, gorgeous weather, don't bother eating on the food court, get some food somewhere else!
  • Uno's Pizza - again touristy, but you just gotta try the deep-dish pizza to cross it off your bucket list
  • Michigan Ave - a lot of fancy shops, kinda like 5th Avenue in NYC, very nice to stroll around
  • Riverwalk - GORGEOUS, oh gosh! So many rooftop restaurants here
  • Firecakes Donuts - try the donut ice cream sandwich!
  • Lincoln Park Zoo - it's FREE so why not? parking is $25 though
  • Chicago Cultural Center - it's also FREE and gorgeous! right across the Cloud Gate
  • The Bean/ Cloud Gate - touristy, but why not?
  • Andy's Thai Kitchen (ATK) - delicious Thai food! Try the Tom Kha
  • Floriole - try the ricotta toast, pastries, and coffee selections

Missouri :

  • Mango - A Peruvian restaurant in downtown St. Louis, the ceviche is bomb!
  • The Arch - take pictures!

 

We didn't get to stay in Arkansas and Oklahoma, but maybe next time :) Even though summer is not over yet, I feel like my 'vacay mode' is simmering down. Why? Because next week is August already! And that means School is starting very soon! I really hope we'll be ready by then.

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The Art of Staycationing

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

I don't know who came up with the term 'Staycation' and what do you guys usually do when you do it (I guess everybody's different), but for me and my family, the point of going on a staycation is getting away from our daily routines as you would when you go on a vacation, without having to travel very far.  ashton-27

So this month, we chose to 'travel' to our neighboring city, Fort Worth, TX. It's only 30 minutes from our apartment, it's got a good historic and downtown district, and it's got this beautiful hotel called The Ashton Hotel.

Located strategically by the city's Sundance Square, The Ashton is a luxury boutique hotel that has a lot of history in it. In fact, it is listed as a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

Okay so what do you do on a staycation? Here's what we usually do.

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1. Chill in the hotel bathrobes and watch cable TV all afternoon

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Seriously guys, this is the best feeling ever. The thought of not having to do laundry, cook, and clean up is a vacation in itself to me! The hotel room was so luxurious and comfy, the custom bathrobes made me feel like a boss lady, and that view by that big window --- ohhh yesss, I can get used to this! At least for another 20 hours lol.

Don't try to do too much on your staycation. The point is to relax. So chill, watch tv, have some cookies, and savor the moment.

2. Enjoy room service if there's any or try the hotel breakfast

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The Ashton waffles were amazing. I wish they offered room service on the weekends, though.

3. Go to the nearest kid-friendly attraction

Choosing Fort Worth Zoo was a no-brainer. It's our favorite zoo in the DFW metroplex, it's got tons of attractions, and we got our FREE tickets from our POGO PASS :) If you're thinking of visiting Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austion, Arizona, or Vegas you can get entries to multiple family-friendly venues with just under $50 when you purchase the passes at pogopass.com with my code MOZDEB. 

4. Try the nearby restaurants

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We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Hanabi, and then made a quick stop at my favorite ice cream place in the metroplex, MELT. I had the cookies and cream but J had their vegan 'Out of the Blue' and it was amazing!

5. Take a walk around the hotel 

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We took a walk to Sundance Square, explored the downtown area a bit, and then went back to the hotel, took a nice warm shower, and watched a good movie until we fell asleep. It was definitely a rejuvenating getaway. We can't wait to do it again!

Hotel and Six 10 Grille photography by Beckley & Co. 

In partnership with The Ashton hotel. 

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Riverwalk, Tex-Mex - It's San Antonio!

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

This coming June marks the 2nd year of our living in Texas, and we've been wanting to visit all of the big cities in the state and experience Texas a little bit more. We have visited the state capital, Austin, 3x, Houston 2x (Hi Beyonce!), and last Memorial day weekend, we finally visited San Antonio! J woke up at 3 in the morning that day, instead of trying to put him back to sleep, we decided to drive to New Braunfels, a small German town near San Antonio for some breakfast at the oldest bakery in Texas called, Naegelin's. 

We loved the heavy German influence in the city, the beautiful European-style church buildings, small shops, and the beautiful Landa Park. We tried the Sausage Kolaches at the bakery which were delicious!

Next! San Antonio! Press play and please, don't forget to subscribe to my channel :)

https://youtu.be/juo4Fjyni88

Yes, as you can see in the video, we did the 'Dining with Shamu' thing at SeaWorld, where you get to eat on the poolside in a buffet setting, while watching the killer whales swim and do tricks. It's perfect for kids 4 and up, but I didn't think it was good for J. The lunch started at 1 pm, and by then he was already super tired.

Anyways, it was still a good experience. Now my favorite, Guenther House for brunch on the next day!

The ginger peach tea and the houseblend coffee were really good, the signature waffles were excellent and the pricing was surprisingly good!

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I really loved San Antonio's downtown area. In fact, I think it's the best downtown out of all the downtown areas in the big cities that I've visited in Texas. It's walkable, a lot of restaurants and shops, and it's more alive than downtown Dallas, Austin, and Houston in my opinion! Not to mention the riverwalk and the greeneries that make the downtown so much different than those of the other Texas cities.

Next, for dinner, we went to a famous mexican restaurant, Paloma Blanca

 

We had the Mango Camorita (margarita with mango flavor & a splash of chamoy), Ceviche del Mar (fish soaked in lime juice, onion, olive oil, and tomato), Enchiladas '09 (chicken enchilada in chipotle crema & shrimp in cilantro crema + spanish rice & beans) and their best-selling Enchiladas Verdes (chicken enchiladas in tomatillo sauce + spanish rice & beans). My favorite was the Ceviche and the Shrimp in Cilantro crema!

The margarita was strong, I liked it but I wish I could've tasted a little more of the chamoy flavor. The rest of our experience at the restaurant was amazing though, great service and waiting time, friendly staffs, and the casual-chic ambience was the cherry on top.

On our last day, we went to hip Pearl Brewery area try the breakfast menu at Bakery Lorraine. And then we drove for a little over 1 hour to Austin for lunch at Thai restaurant, Titaya's.

And then we drove another hour or so to have dessert in Waco at Heritage Creamery. Yes! 3 meals in 3 different cities! I would definitely do it again!

Over all, we are so grateful for the past 2 years living here in Texas. There are so many beautiful cities with yummy food and kind people. I look forward to many many years to come :)

Taking It Easy in The NYC

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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There are so many things to see, do, and eat in NYC. It is almost impossible for us to not get 'ambitious' whenever we take a trip to the Big Apple. But I have learned that when traveling with a toddler, it's best to take it easy. To do what they like, visit what appeals to them, and just relax. Because if we force them to do too much, they might throw tantrums or get sick, and that's no fun. Trust me, I did that back in December and both J and Mr.Man got sick after the trip. https://youtu.be/6MUcReF1ZQY

 

So yeah, parks, libraries, museums, and restaurants are ideal! Oh and I'd love to try the zoos next time.

If you notice in the vide, we spent a lot of time at Central Park, because they have a lot of things to do there!

NYC will always be there, so if you don't get to visit all of the 'must-visit' places in one trip, don't worry, you can always come back. Your child's happiness and health come first.

If you happen to have a youtube account, please remember to hit the subscribe button :) I will post the video of our culinary adventure in NYC soon!

A Little Pre-Valentine's Day Family Staycation

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

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We don't usually celebrate Valentine's Day, because well...I'm just not into anything cheesy and lovey dovey like that (ever since I was a teenager, true story!). So when I noticed that Valentine's Day was like 2 weeks away from last weekend, I thought, hey, why not do a little staycation around my city of Las Colinas and have a little getaway with my little family. Any excuse to have a little getaway, right? So last weekend we stayed at NYLO Hotel Las Colinas. And we loved it!

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I like the modern and spacious loft design, with a touch of industrial decor around the hotel. The room is just the right size for our small family. To get the glimpse of our staycation, click play and don't forget to subscribe on youtube.

https://youtu.be/o3YnIEXMz10

We got everything from waffles, chinese food, to fresh-cut tulips, turned on the TV and just chilled there. It's nice to not have to clean up and make your bed every once in a while.

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Yes, J loves his orange juice. And I love spending a Saturday, not having to worry about events and what-not. I didn't even post anything on my social media that day! I think that's the essence of 'celebrating love' - as most people believe February 14th is all about. I personally like having J with us, because, well...my love is for him too, not just for Mr. Man. And it's just more convenient to have us all together. It's just the 3 of us anyways. But whatever works for you, kid or no kid, as long as you can have a little 'sabbath' from work and routines and getaway with your loved ones.

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We talked, argued a little bit, ate, laughed, and rested. I don't know what they put in our pillows but we slept good that night. Cute coffee mug? I know! I got it from ILY Couture. It's on sale now so get it quick!

The next day, we had breakfast at The Loft at NYLO.

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And Mr.Man played pool while Jerome chilled with his youtube videos.

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If you don't have any plans yet for Valentine's Day weekend, NYLO hotel Las Colinas offers special rates starting at $199 per couple, which include a 1 night stay and 3-course dinner on the Valentine's Day eve (Saturday, February 13th) with delicious menus like Peppercorn Orange Poached Shrimp. Lamb Chops, and Chocolate Walnut Bread Pudding. Yumm!!

Book your stay now and if you don't know where to go or what to do during your stay around Las Colinas/Irving, check out Visit Irving's blog.

*in-room photos by Beckley.Co // in partnership with NYLO Hotels.

 

Brunch at Cafe Henri, New York

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

As you might have seen on my social media channels, my family and I had just got back from a 5-day trip to New York City. After waiting for 4 years, we finally visited the very city where Mr. Man and I met for the first time since high school. It was amazing to come back to that city as a married couple with a kid of our own. Henri5

Now there were too many awesome things that we ate, saw and experienced there to put in one blog post, so I'm going to post about the trip sporadically. Starting with how we ended the trip : having brunch at Cafe Henri in Long Island City.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-by4fFGBQs

 

Through this post, I am also announcing that I am starting a youtube channel where I will be uploading short clips to support the contents of this blog. So for instance, if I'm posting an article here about a restaurant, you'd likely find a short video about it on the youtube channel. So please subscribe and show love :)

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Anyways, back to Cafe Henri. As you could probably see in the video, the eatery's ambience is very intimate and pretty with classic French menus that are served from as early as 8 a.m.

What we ordered :

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Le Pain Perdu aux amandes et fruits frais which is basically some fancy French Toast with Fruits and bacon. The maple syrup is bomb.

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Les Crêpes Citron Sucré which means Crepes with Lemon and Sugar. Citrusy yet sweet at the same time, just the way I like it.

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Tartine 4 : Baguette, Butter, and Natural Jams) for J. We also tried the Saumon Fumé, crème au basilic (Salmon with Basil Cream) and L’Omelette avec choix de trois (Omelette with Choice of 3) which were all amazing.

If you wanna stick to what you know, they also serve pasta and burger. But why eat a burger at a French bistro, bruh?

Anyways, what I also like is the fact that Cafe Henri is only walking distance from Long Island City Waterfront Promenade, where you can see the breathtaking view of Manhattan Skyline and Queensbridge (I like Brooklyn Bridge better tho). So yeah, we would definitely come back whenever we're in town!

A Hipster Stay. An Unexpected Trip. 

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

Back in March, we have agreed to not go anywhere this summer. Why? Because we are saving up for our New York trip in December. We do not want to suffer once we get there and be 'on a tight budget'. We want to enjoy our trip, especially because NYC means a lot to Mr. Man and me. So yeah, we weren't planning to take any trip to anywhere until a few weeks ago, we got a text from Mr. Man's cousin who had just got accepted at the University of Texas in Austin. To cut cost, she had decided to fly all the way from Indonesia to Dallas. How would she get to UT? That's where we'd come in. We were to drive her to Austin. A roadtrip! Yeay! Wait, what? Doesn't that mean we have to spend some of our savings? Yup! For gas, accommodation (especially with a kid, you can't just take any room at any hotel!), and for dining. So to save money, and to try out the service we will be using in our New York trip this December, we decided to use Airbnb.

It was a decent place we rented for $90/night (tax included), with full kitchen, fresh towels, WiFi connection, and of course, the whole apartment to ourselves! This is better than hotels! Plus it was located in East Austin, only 7 minutes from UT, and also minutes away from cool restaurants.

Our host left us a thank you card, some fresh flowers, and her 'hip' belongings, like vintage vinyls, philosophy books, and organic cleaning supplies. Oh and also, J's favorite, her acoustic guitar!

Guess he was trying to do an acoustic version of a Run DMC song. haha.

One thing that bothered me though, was the fact tha the apartment had quite a few 'disturbing' images hung on the wall. Why disturbing? Because they were well...there's no subtle way to say this, but...satanic. Yes, and I wouldn't go into details. But I wasn't going to sleep with my kiddo with something like that hung beside my bed. So we put them away and we prayed over the place. Overall we had a pleasant stay regardless. We knew the One in us was greater ;)

Next time, however, I think I am going to stay with a 'regular' host and not a hipster (no offense you guys). Hehe.

Anyways, the highlight of my trip?

I would say one of them was JUICELAND. Just because it's unique, cozy, and fun. It's a perfect hangout spot that I wish we had here in Dallas.

They even have this Atari game table that you can play for FREE. And if you can top the scores, you can bring the table home! You can read my full review of the restaurants I visited in Austin on my Zomato account here.

 

The other highlight was our visit to UT. It was a nice walk around the university complex with our close friends. Glad that Mr. Man's cousin got the best tour guide too.

Oh these two boys. Aren't they adorable?

The crème de la crème of the trip though, was our unplanned stop to WACO. We were playing peek-a-boo and the traffic was bad, so we decided to just take the exit to Waco and see the whole Baylor University complex.

Right across a Baylor building, we found this amazing place called Mayborn Museum! They had a free admission that day so we changed J's diaper and went right in.

The kids section is amazing. J had a great time! They had little pretend everything like school, gas station, market, houses, everything! What a perfect place to bring your kids. And it's only 90 minutes from home. Okay well, that's far but, I would definitely come back here!

  

Too bad they were closed at 5 p.m. So we could only spend about 30 minutes in there before we had to drag J out of the building. It was nice though, to spend time with just the 3 of us. Talking about life, money, food, our anxiety, and the things we're grateful for.

 

Okay August is here, the summer is ending soon (well in Texas, the heat does not go away until October), so no more trips! New York is worth saving up for.

It is. Oh, it is.

Full of surprises. Our Little Staycation in Downtown Dallas.

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

Finally got a chance to sit down and post this! I've been too busy living last week, going out everyday with J, cooking some meals for women and children in a shelter with Gateway's Titus 2 women's group, and just enjoying every second without worrying about what picture to post on instagram, you know what I mean? It's pretty liberating - not streaming your thoughts and personal details to the world on daily basis and just...saying nice things like "I love you" straight to Mr.Man instead of posting a photo of him with lovey dovey caption on facebook. You know, the old-school style. Anyway...I love what I do, so this week, I'm back! At least to post this story because a lot went on during my birthday weekend. And I just thought I needed to share it to y'all.

So, I thought that my birthday weekend would be perfect - a staycation downtown, mother's day brunch, perfect weather, everything. I felt like I've earned this staycation, and I wanted to be celebrated! At least by my little family. But guess what happened?

First, we went to the famous Ellen's Southern Kitchen at West End Historical District for lunch.

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Everything was good for a few minutes, until J started to fuss and we found out that he had a mild fever.

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Oh no. "Why now? Why today?" - I grumbled. He felt very sick that I didn't even get the chance to eat my lunch (Ellen's famous buttermilk fried chicken!!), cause we had to take him to the hotel for nap. The little dude didn't even want to eat anything. He just wanted me to nurse him. With that dress that I was wearing? Yeah, it was impossible to nurse in public, so we rushed to the hotel. The beautiful Magnolia Hotel in downtown Dallas.

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It's a modern boutique hotel with a classic exterior (I think the building was an oil company or something). You'd recognize the building from its red flying horse light at the top. We checked in on Friday, and they were serving free lemonade and limeade at the lobby!

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Happy birthday to Mom...Happy birthday to Mom...

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Oh wait, not feelin' it? Okay never mind.

J was too fussy to even do anything fun. So I nursed him and put him (and Elmo) to bed right away.

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I had planned to take a trolley and go uptown for some snacks or something. But since J's condition was worsen, we decided to stay at the hotel that afternoon. I really wanted to complain. But maybe at the second quarter of life, birthdays aren't meant to be all about you anymore. Maybe, now that you're older, you oughta celebrate your birthday by loving others. And in my case, it was my baby.

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The only thing that could soothe him besides my breastmilk? Music videos. Yes! And I'm not talking about explicit or oversexualized music videos here. They are positive music videos that I've compiled on a youtube playlist for him! (I'll share them to y'all soon). The thing that could soothe me on the other hand? Ehm...maybe some wine?

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Not a problem! Magnolia serves complimentary beer and wine (guests only) for a couple hours in the afternoon. And complimentary cookies and milk at night before bedtime! Sweet! This weekend will only get better, right?

Not really.

Because the next day, on our way to visit Dallas Aquarium, Mr. Man got a phone call from his mother in Indonesia...And we found out that...His grandmother had just passed away that morning.

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Again. "Why now? Why this weekend? Wasn't this weekend suppose to be a refreshing and rejuvenating getaway for us?" - I whined. Though J had recovered from his mild fever that morning, he still hadn't fully regained his strength. The rain was pouring and Opung Gendut (that's what we called Mr.Man's grandma) was gone. Perfect.

But there was no turning back. It was all happening outside our control. So we just prayed in the car, called some relatives to console them and decided to still make the most of this staycation.

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We couldn't believe we were still in downtown Dallas. It felt like we were somewhere exotic. The Dallas Aquarium is definitely worth visiting! You get to see so many different animals in a very cool man-made environment.

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Btw, yes new hair. $19.95, thanks to Supercuts. Haha!

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Can't forget to represent ;) They have many different restaurants here, and in one of them, Indonesian comfort food called Nasi Goreng is regularly served! How cool is that!

Speaking of Indonesian comfort food, I have been craving for a Dutch comfort food that is also very popular in Indonesia (they invaded our country for 300 years plus my grandma's half Dutch so I love it!) called Bitterballen. Couldn't find it anywhere in Dallas so we settled for some good Croquette at Henk's European Deli.

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What's even cooler about this place is that they have so many dutch snacks and condiments that you can't find at a regular supermarket! Like chocolate muisjes !

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Dutch traditional spiced cookies called Spekulaas!

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And even...another Indonesian comfort food called Kerupuk!! Yeas!! They have it people!!

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Definitely coming back to this place more often, I'd probably try their famous Black Forrest cake one day.

Moving on to the next day, the Mother's Day, we ended our little staycation by checking out the hotel and having brunch at a health-conscious restaurant called True Food Kitchen.

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I had quinoa pancake with Greek yoghurt and maple syrup, Mr. Man had the organic omelet with veggies and cheese, and J had the teriyaki chicken bowl. What a way to end a getaway weekend.

It really wasn't that flashy fun as I planned it to be. But It wasn't bad either. I guess the things in life, whatever they are, will only be as good as we make them.

Welcome to the 2nd quarter, Deb. Life has just begun!