Amsterdam(age) Part 1 – bicycles

img_3289-amsterdam-11.jpgPossibly one of the funnest cities in the world. Geez the Dutch sure know how to live. Good food, home of the Apple Cake (at Winkel 43 in the Jordaan), lax/progressive (depending on which side of the fence you live on) marijuana laws. Everyone is just so super chilled out. And it’s not just the adults. It’s the kids too.

Leave your car at home and forget about public transport! Grab yourself a bicycle. Sometimes it was just fun while we sat looking out our apartment window, with a steaming morning coffee from the cafe (not the coffee shop), and watch workers, parents dropping kids off to school and daycare, university students and the world generally pass by on 2 wheels. It’s a unique sight. No fancy road bikes here. Just your standard, fixed-gear, black bicycle, rain or shine.

I’ve seen bicycle road rage in Sydney, and you’d think you’d find it in Amsterdam where there are thousands(!) more cyclists. But it’s not there! Not even when you’re a nitwit tourist not used to riding on the right hand side of the road, unfamiliar with routes, who has right of way and Dutch road rules. Everyone just tolerates tourists. Personally I think all tourist bikes should be a different colour – like a bright orange or bright red – so that locals know to watch out; sort of like an L-Plate on a car when learning to drive.


Bike lanes

Amsterdam has great bike lanes. They are clearly marked. And they are clearly used by 100’s of other cyclists. Safety in numbers! As Amsterdam is so flat, it is easy to get around by bike without even needing to be that fit. You do need some nerves though as others whoosh past confidently in singles or doubles, or squeezing between parked cars and moving cars. The biggest challenge is keeping your wheel from buckling and possibly tipping you over when you ride over the cobbled roads through areas like the Jordaan along those beautiful 17th century canals. Still, it is one unique experience!


What a beautiful park. So well laid out and such an easy ride. Perfect for the kids to careen around without fear of being hit by a car. Most people seem to go around in one direction so it’s even less likely of there being an accident. Channelling my inner Julie Andrews, pedalling confidently along the wide avenues beneath the cool shade of the trees, it felt very #drinkwithjamandbread.

Out of the city

If you’re looking for unique – where else can you ride on top of a dyke? We took the free ferry north out of the city and rode through some very pretty lands, starting from Noord up to Holysloot, across to Broek in Waterland, then back down to the ferry. There are various routes depending on how far you want to ride. We managed about 25kms with our 9yo. At times the winds coming off the sea make for a tough(er) ride, but there are plenty of places to stop for a break, cup of tea, snack, herring.

Undoubtedly, one of the most memorable European things you can do, heart in mouth and all.

**Highly recommended bike hire – MacBike, various locations |

IMG_1212 Amsterdam (34)


Does it terrify you?

Steve jobs best famous quotes ideas pics images (14)

How many times do we hear this, read about it, even groan under our breaths as someone else reels of a cheesy one-liner about following your heart.

But why is it that the sentiment behind it still resonates.

When I was in my first year of high school, we all had to play an instrument. My piano teacher suggested that I play the oboe “because there aren’t many oboists in a orchestra.” uhhh, because my life’s ambition was to be principal oboist….not. I wanted to learn the cello. I hated the duck-quack noises the oboe made while I was learning; playing an “A” so that the rest of the ensemble could tune to this lonesome croak that soared through any venue, startlingly alarming to audience and conductor alike.

Many moons later, having dinner at my parents’ one night, my mother pulled out the oboe. She had kept the oboe long after I had left school. Immediately, my lips started to smart and my jaw hurt, as my body recoiled in memory of the physical pain of playing that torturous instrument. As I took the oboe from mum, I vowed that I would never ever again let someone dictate what I should do with my life. I look at my oboe case every now and then and it’s a visual reminder: follow your heart.

Intuition is something harder to pin down. It’s that gurgly feeling as your stomach tenses in anticipation or fear, in excitement or anger. Sometimes it’s not your heart that leads the way. Sometimes it’s your intuition. Learning to trust that intuition could be life-saving. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason other than your gut instinct that this is something you just need to do.

Steve Jobs believed in his heart and his intuition. That self-faith led him to create amazing things, live an incredible life.  It’s taken me many years to realise you don’t have to be Steve Jobs to have the same. It’s a shame when you are given an opportunity, you waste it. It’s a tragedy when you’re given the same opportunity and you throw it away again.

#nevertoolate #noduckshere #believeandtrust 

Seriously (!) good food in Melbourne

We are officially unable to travel overseas for the next week having succumbed our passports to the US Consulate. While we wait for the US Government to bless us by stamping our passports with our visas, I’m reminiscing about some of the best places we’ve eaten at in Melbourne.

Eat here Melbourne!

Below is a list of our fave eateries while we’ve been in Melbourne. These places aren’t necessarily the cheapest, nor the fanciest, but they have created some darn good memories. And it’s not just us, but also judging from the reactions of interstate and overseas guests when we’ve brought them here, I think these places are on many Top-10 lists for a reason.

We are big fans of Andrew McConnell – think, Cumulus Inc, Supernormal, Builders Arms Hotel, Cutler & Co. Anything he touches turns to gold.

In the North, or north-ish of the city

Smith Street vicinity

  • Saint Crispin – all round great, contemporary, original food
  • (the original) Jimmy Grants – unreal kebabs


Miss Katie’s Crab Shack – grab your claw crackers (try saying that 10 times quickly) and get your bib on!

Just a bit further north of the city but not so far you need a packed lunch

  • Cutler & Co – awesome steak
  • Pope Joan – the humble sanger is elevated to pole position


  • Take your pick from a huge multitude of extremely palatable eating venues! Chin Chin (swoon), Pei Modern, Il Solito Posto, Ezard, anything on Flinders Lane!
  • Movida – just go
  • Bomba – rooftop cocktails and cheap tapas = winner
  • Madame Brussels – while technically not an eatery, it has to feature here for its cheeky jugs, multi-zone layout, and the view
  • The dual genius (genii??) of Tonka and Coda – impress the visitors and go with a group so that you can order a gluttonous amount of food. Throw in a cocktail or two and it makes for a very fun night. BOOK AHEAD!!
  • Hutong Dumpling Bar vs Din Tai Fung – I call it a draw

Inner city


  • Kong – can’t be beaten for Jap/Korean fusion and those damn good baos
  • Union Dining – take the inlaws and you’ll be in the good books for aaaaagggees
  • Bouzy Rouge – where eclectic meets yum
  • Jinda Thai – who can resist cheap, authentic Thai for the price of a newspaper (ok maybe not that cheap…)


  • Franco Choo’s – this teeny little place has been around for yonks and for good reason



  • Hawthorn Common is the place for breakfast. Sure Axil Roasters downstairs is pretty good too, but who really can wait …. that…lonngggg for brekky on the weekend? If you are hungover as all get and could eat a horse, head upstairs to Hawthorn Common. Plus ease your conscience as you mow down your food that has virtually no carbon footprint.
  • Hakata Gensuke ramen – this is the real deal. Lipsmackingly good.
  • Porgie & Mr Jones – a little further out, but worth it
  • Penang House – don’t expect tablecloths at this standout, local Malaysian joint
  • Romulus & Remus – the antipasti, the pasta, the laidback-ness, all sooooo good


  • Roti Road – won’t break the bank and has the most amazing, flaky, scrumptious rotis and curries


St Kilda 

  • Cafe di Stasio – theatrics and food flair come alive
  • Machi – fresh tasty Japanese food washed down with a cold Asahi


Attica deserves its own sub-heading. As Australia’s best performer on the global stage it wouldn’t be fair to leave it off this list. BUT, do yourselves a favour, and give the test degustation menu a miss. If you’re going to spend this much on a meal, do it properly, book well ahead via their online booking system, start saving your pennies, and go with someone who you love/who loves food/you really really really want to impress/all of the above.

Heading out of town?

If you choose to head out of town, go to Brae. Nearly self-sustaining, immaculate, so pretty you could cry for demolishing the presentation. Also has stunning accommodation on site now.

Oh Melbourne we will miss you! #melbournetakeabow 

And now the curveball…a diagnosis from out of nowhere

A previous post was about fastballs. This post is about the curveball. At this rate, I’m going to become an expert at baseball… or certainly baseball analogies! This may be helpful with our pending move to the US.

Callum was admitted to hospital recently. He had been ‘off’ for a few days and I just knew that something wasn’t right by the third day when he was the colour of ash and was curled into a ball on the bathroom floor, intermittently clinging to the toilet bowl. As life would have it, Marcus had had his work send off the night before so he was a little worse for wear and I wasn’t certain if the hospital would end up admitting both son and father. So I left the father at home to fend for himself.

It turns out that Callum has Type 1 diabetes. In this past week our lives have been overturned as we recover from the shock of this diagnosis. There is no history on either side, there were no symptoms other than that he’d been drinking lots of water and peeing a lot, and in hindsight, he’d lost a lot of weight. But it had been Christmas and he’d been mucking around non-stop with his cousins and friends. Callum will be dependent on insulin for the rest of his life, until someone can find a cure for it.

I am a basket case. It breaks my heart that my little boy has to face this. No 9 year old should be dealing with their mortality.

Callum is the champion. He is extraordinary. 

  • He is a super, resilient kid.The great thing is that he can still eat whatever he wants but he has to time when he eats it and how much of it he eats. He can still go to birthday parties and eat sausage rolls and cake. He can still keep doing all the sport that he wants. He can still become a Supreme Court Judge or play soccer for Liverpool. It’s all a matter of management and for him to learn how to manage it himself. Already he is doing his own blood glucose tests.

    School hasn’t started yet and Marcus is still around for a few weeks as he continues to wait for his visa to get the US. Little blessings that I’m happy to take at the moment.

    I’m not going to spruik. But here is the link to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation


  • Box Hill Hospital Paediatric ED team particularly Dr Archie and Nurse Bon who managed to unravel my garble and pick up on the T1D.
  • the ICU and DACS teams at Monash Children’s Hospital – Meagan, Renata, Adam, Belinda, Tracy and Jacky and all the other extremely calm nurses who helped me hold my shit together in the first 72 hours

I found Cinderella (and not at Disney)

IMG_1841Hong Kong

I am blogging on my iPhone while I wait for the final adjustments to be made to my dress. I am sitting in Irene Fashion. Two fittings, lots of discussion about what I want and I’m almost ready to wear the most perfectly fitting dress ever.

Irene and Denise are magicians.  They can make whatever you want – literally! Bring in a photo or your own design. Their small foyer is crammed with neat swatches of material, remnants of deluxe fabrics and laces, jars of sequins and beads, feathers, everything you’d want or need for that perfect creation.

With a talented eye and years of experience, Irene can tell you whether the fabric you’ve picked out will wash you out or whether you will glow, and this is before you’ve even done hair, makeup or spray tan! Her very diplomatic, “I think that is too mature for you” saved me from walking around looking like the Queen Mother (God rest her soul).

So I now own a beautiful strapless gown in peacock blue shantung that holds in everything and won’t fall down when I need to run down the stairs to get home before midnight.

Here’s a tip ladies: when you’ve put your frock on, bend from the waist and push everything forward. This saves you from getting those pouches of flesh that hang over your dress around from your arm pits. Don’t be shy about it! Give everything a good push forward.

Next trip to Hong Kong – bespoke shoes. Bliss!

Irene Fashion
Room B, 2/F Welley Building
97 Wellington Street
Hong Kong
Ph: +852 2850 5635 | e: |

Closest MTR is Central and it’s about a 10 minute walk from there.

Tuk tuk riding 101

We arrived in Sri Lanka after a 15 hour journey at midnight (5.30am back home). The transit through immigration and customs was fluid and we had to laugh at the duty free stalls – one side was your customary perfumes, cigarettes, alcohol; the other side was all about white goods… because you just never know when you might need a 400-litre fridge when you’re travelling around.

I was super pleased with myself for arranging our hotel driver to meet us at the airport because it didn’t look that there were any taxis available at that hour, and he knew exactly where our hotel was. In a city as big as Colombo there are literally hundreds of accommodation options. The USD30 we paid seemed like a small price to pay for the peace of mind, particularly a mind that was surviving on a few hours of sleep and the imminent jet lag.

In we piled into a Prius hatchback, 2 bags, a backpack, surfboard, 3 tired bodies. But that tiredness soon evaporated as we hit the empty streets and flew down the freeway towards Colombo. A few kilometres out of Colombo we hit a traffic jam – at 1.45am. What the??? People lined the streets, along with decorated elephants, parade floats and other vehicles. Our driver explained that it was a Buddhist festival.

We reached the hotel and fell asleep promptly.

IMG_0364Colombo(21)The next day we decided we would head into the Old Town and visit the Pettah Markets. Tuk tuks are ubiquitous and rule the roads, or in Colombo anyway. Our first venture in a tuk tuk was jointly terrifying and exhilarating. As we careened through the traffic in a little 2 stroke vehicle, I could not help thinking that it was like real life Mario Bros. At each red traffic light, they weaved and jostled for pole position before taking off in a chorus of straining gears. While I squealed in the back seat, the tuk tuk drivers traversed the roads fearlessly, judging gaps in traffic to the exact, death-defying millimetre.

Most are metered. Those that aren’t mean that you just need to check the price with the driver. And make sure you bring lots of small notes with you as the drivers don’t have a lot of change. We did have a lovely driver who didn’t even charge us to go around the block back to our hotel in the hottest midday heat. We insisted on paying him and gave him lots of isthuti (thanks). Such is the generosity of the Sri Lankan people.

Tuk tuks are super cheap and a very efficient way to travel. Some of them even have roof racks and big boot spaces. We grabbed one of these to travel from Mirissa to Galle. A particularly wise decision when we easily weaved our way through traffic when we hit the traffic on the outskirts of Galle. One of the funnest ways to travel and very memorable.

Food Part 1 – the glory of bananas

Local markets
One of many banana stalls in the local markets in Nuwara Eliya

It’s hard to write about Sri Lankan food without mentioning bananas.

There are literally hundreds of loads of bananas in Sri Lanka. They are transported in massive bunches in trucks to a Dedicated Economic Centre aka growers’ markets (where they are auctioned to or bought by Colombo restaurants). Or they are sold in one of the many stalls that are set up in local markets or dotted on the roadside from town to town. It didn’t seem to matter if we were in the hills, on the edge of an ancient UNESCO world heritage site, or in a small town not detectable by Google Maps.

A very long banana!

Before going to Sri Lanka, Marcus found out that there were about 18 different types of bananas. There are bananas that are just for cooking, there are red bananas, there are bananas as long as a child’s palm, there are bananas as long as my forearm!

Being a bit of banana connoisseur, Marcus was very determined to go over there and try as many as he could. I think we ended up trying about 6 different types. Marcus was a bit more daring than Callum or me. Callum and I loved the small sugar bananas. Their skin was soft and very easy to peel, the flesh sweet, making it a handy snack on the road. We did find that we weren’t the only ones that loved them. If we didn’t wrap them up tightly in plastic bags overnight, the next morning there’d be evidence of geckos, ants or squirrels having feasted on them!

We were on our way to Kitulgala on a long winding road and decided to stop to buy some bananas at a roadside shelter that had been built at the front of someone’s house. The going rate for bananas (if you’re a tourist) is 50 rupees a kilo. 50 rupees is about 50 cents. Even with the tourist markup it’s extraordinarily cheap!!! I needed to use the bathroom so I left Marcus to buy some fruit while I followed the daughter to the back of their house to use their bathroom.

When I came back, they were settling the bill. It cost 1100 rupees. I’m no maths genius, but even I knew that either:
(a) Marcus had bought an entire village’s production of bananas; or
(b) we were being ripped off; or
(c) it was a very expensive toilet trip; or
(d) all of the above.

I looked at Marcus with utter astonishment on my face as I wondered what he could have bought! Marcus picked up a small bunch of small bananas – nothing that could have possibly weighed 22kgs. Scratch option (a). Back into the car we piled to the tune of, “Oh, it’s ok, we’re helping the local economy” and “Doesn’t matter, we’re on holiday” and “At least the toilet was clean and had running water.”