Friday 21 June 2019

Double Tree By Hilton JB [Review]

We were planning a long vacation this year end, so we decided to save up and not jet anywhere this June holiday. Instead, we took a car ride nearby to Johor Bahru (JB) for some weekend fun. 

We stayed two nights at Double Tree by Hilton. A 15 minute (3km) walk from JB Sentral train station if you are coming by train, and a 10 minute (7km) drive from the causeway. It is strategically located near City Square Mall and KOMTAR JBCC shopping mall, where Angry bird activity park is. Both malls are next to each other, and it takes only about a 10 minute walk from Double Tree. If massage is your kind of relaxation, there are a few Thai massage shops just across the hotel. I missed getting my muscles soothed on this trip, too engrossed in Motherly duties and family bonding I guess.

The hotel's check in time was 3pm, but we left home at 6am. All in the honour of causeway jam. Leaving wee early means less chance of snaking car jam. Proven to be true, it took us 1.5hours to arrive at our breakfast venue in JB. Not too bad on getting sleepy kids loaded into the car this early. How we decide to spend time idling after breakfast will be another story to tell.

We need another trunki!

We had a King Guest room which comes with a king bed good enough to fit our family of 5 petites. If you need additional roll in bed, do request early as they run out pretty fast. Bathroom is with a standing shower of open/close concept. For the no romance guests, there is a blind that you can bring down for privacy. Toiletries are also well provided.

Wi-Fi is free upon the signing up as Hilton Honors member. A great deal if you travel often and stay widely in their arms of hotels. It allows you to accumulate points that will reward you with free hotel nights and premium merchandise.

Spacious room size

Work desk

From bathroom view

Sparkling clean bathroom

It is always nice to be walking into a spacious hotel room that warmly embraces our welcome and shouts comfort. We were also given their signature cookies upon checking into the hotel. These cookies were warm and best enjoyed at that very moment.

Cookie monster!

Our car was also safely parked and guarded in the hotel's basement carpark. Parking is Free. Do remember to validate your parking at the concierge each time you drive out.

Since there was no agenda for our trip, other than to take time slow and enjoy some family time, we spent more time in the hotel than venturing outdoor. We had most of our meals heartily settled within the hotel, including hi-tea! My first experience of doing hi tea with 3 kids in tow. You guessed it, I spent more time mediating squabbles and trying to get a toddler sit still than savouring the sweets and pastries.

Mood to relax

Hi-tea set for two

It was however a wonderful welcome and relaxing moment of doing hi-tea, and sipping our favourite tea centrally at the hotel's nicely embellished lobby, Axis Lounge. A great option for tummies that are starting to feel hungry from digested lunch. This hi-tea set for two is customized to its theme of Mint Tango with hint of mint and mango. As the name suggests.

Alternatively, the food store located at lobby offers some small bites and drinks for dine in or takeaway.

Mint Tango menu till 30 June 2019
Price: RM 58 per set (For two pax) 

Convert it to SGD, you do know where is a better valued place to do tea with great ambience.

A great place to lunch if you are staying within the hotel will be at Tosca Italian Trattoria. Located on the same level as the pool, 13th level, Tosca is an alfresco dining venue that gives you good view to the pool area and surrounding scenery. We had lunch there, and the kids had a great time making their own pizza! Okay, more of topping off their pizza as the crust was ready made. And I very much love the after bake of this crispy pizza crust.

Kids's most loved area with cartoon

Pizza making

Pizza making is available every Saturday along with the all you can eat Italian buffet. Buffet spread includes salad bar, pizzas, pasta live station and dessert. We enjoyed our lunch here very much, perhaps because it was way less crowded than meal time over at the lobby, Makan Kitchen. It is also more child friendly here, Juboy did some colouring and the 2 older kids were calmly glued to the television that was playing Spongebob Squarepants. These kids tried their luck asking for a table with the best TV screen view, and they got it.

I am just happy, it was a peaceful meal. 

Live pasta station

Off to the stove! Pizzas I meant.


Yummy pizza!

Aglio Olio

Always their favourite corner

The kids had so much fun topping off pizza, eating and watching cartoon in here! Watch as you eat is a thing they can only enjoy out of home. And perhaps, on vacation.

Buffet at Tosca
Adult: RM52 Nett 
Child: RM26 Nett

Considering the price and offer, it is a very yummy deal!

We did breakfast and dinner at the hotel's lobby, Makan Kitchen. Breakfast includes a vast array of western and Asian items, as well as beverages like tea tarik and fresh juice. It is hard to not find something you like. Weekend dinner is theme to seafood night along with Malay, Chinese, Indian and Peranakan dishes. On top of these delicacies, there were live cooking stations and cold seafood including sashimi! Oysters were up for serve too, but they were somehow not as good as we thought. Jare who is the hardcore oyster lover in our family stopped at one. Cold prawns and Assam stingray were popular among us that night. 

Different sections of food variety

Snapshots of Breakfast

Snapshots of Dinner

Dessert was of course everyone's favourite! An extensive range of cakes, ice cream, sweets and macrons. I had to whisper to the server to scoop less portion of ice cream for the kids. There was just too much sugar around for those little hands. For the uncontrollable dessert eaters, remember to bring your sports attire to work out those calories at the 24 hours fitness centre. Sleep without guilt. 

If food variety and diversity is your kind of meal perk, Makan kitchen will be an ideal venue to settle your meals. It was however rather crowded during the weekend we were in. That too, highly depends on the occupancy rate during the period of your stay.

Seafood fiesta night is only available on weekends. Every Friday and Saturday.

If it is summer in the country we are in, there has to be pool time accorded for the kids. I think it is only fair we ask the kids what they had like to do when we plan holiday travel. Pool time is always what they ask for.

The outdoor pool area has both adults and kids paddling pool, which Juboy could comfortably stand and play in. Always keep close eyes on your kids when they are near or in the water. Pool towels are available for use and lots of pool benches are laid out for your relaxation too. We also brought along the robes in the hotel room for after play. The robes were promptly changed to new sets upon the making up of our room.

Kids pool behind

Pool benches

Joy of pool time!

I had always try to get myself into the pool with the kids because it simply means playing together! It creates a different kind of memory as to just sitting aside to watch them play.

Located also on the 13th level with the pool and fitness centre, there are the steam room and Jacuzzi in both the female and male toilets. The daughter and I went for some bonding moments in there. It had been such a long time since I last did a sauna. The after feel of steaming perspiration out of my skin was refreshing. Felt like it was a good workout even though I was simply doing nothing but sitting to steam. And of course, being the daughter's first experience, she was in and out the steam room several times. Only possible when there is no one else sharing the room. 

Lockers, showers, towels and hair dryer are available for use in here. I reckon these will be perfect for hotel guests to freshen up while waiting for check in. No access key or assigned room is needed at this level.

In for some Mother and Daughter moments

The flooring in the Jacuzzi area may be a little slippery. Some parts had anti slip mats on, but if not, do be extra careful when walking up and down the steps of the Jacuzzi area. 

This is also where our eyes were treated to a panoramic view of JB.

Trained the daughter to do photography

Maximising the hotel's amenities makes you feel like you made your money worth isn't it?

Our 2 nights stay with Double Tree by Hilton in Johor Bahru was more than just pleasant. Our bellies were always overly full. The hotel has a strategic location and most importantly its hospitality made us felt comfortable and safe throughout our stay.

We'll be back!

And yes, we did venture outdoor, for shopping, play and more food. Stay tune for the next installment post! 

Disclaimer: Sponsored post

Thursday 13 June 2019

Our first camp with Families For Life

Last weekend was our first taste of camping together as a family, with Families for Life. Read camping, not glamping. When the invitation of this P.L.A.Y camp came, I hesitated. The princess mind of mine was processing the many images of camping in nature. Tent, public toilet, insects, food and the many out of comfort concerns.

Family that camps together, stays together!

I firmed up decision only when I thought of the many vacations we had with comfortable hotels and beds, and that we should try to do vacation more differently this time. No air con, no bed, no television and no wi-fi. Only modern nature. Mentioning modern nature because at least, we don't have to answer our nature calls the back to basic way. We actually have a place to shower! We did 2D1N at PAssion WaVe Pasir Ris where all activities were held within this premise, except for some activities that required us to walk out to the park. 

Fun activities and programmes were planned for the 50 participating families by experienced instructors from Better Trail. My heart cheered so much just by looking at the families who put comfort away to sign up for this camp, which we found out it was mostly the Mothers who did the enthusiastic signing up. Only Mothers have such wonderful idea of bonding! But I was probably the most courageous among all, my three year old seemed to be the youngest of age in the camp. I mean, what state of mind was it to bring a toddler to an overnight outdoor camp? And a whiny one. I had Juboy in my arms literally throughout most activities. He wouldn't leave my arms. 

Day 1
It was the pitching of tent upon arrival. A really easy task of opening the tent like an umbrella! After which we can put our belongings in the tent, but be mindful not to put any food there. The ground ants sniff out really fast. 

Obviously, only the men at work

After tent pitching was workshop for the parents and games for the kids! I attempted to leave my three year old with the kids group, but was called out from the workshop not too long later to a crying toddler. Yes, I had him in the workshop with me and the husband. Lucky though, he slept through the most of it. The parenting workshop talked about the 5 love languages of our kids, which sent us thinking about expressing more of our love in their dominant love language.

We then break for lunch followed by more games and activities. The kids got on to make some structures out of air clay and this was probably the most enjoyed activity by Juboy. He finally left my arms. While the kids were pinching on clay, I took some time away to make a tote bag out of an old tshirt. One that I will never get a chance to explore or do at home because 'me' time is rare. These activities were conducted in air con rooms! Best part. 

Air clay session for kids

My tote bag out of an old tee

We proceeded to do some nature walk together as a family. The facilitator leading this nature walk was knowledgeable and engaging. I am certain everyone learnt a thing new and different that day. Kids above 10 were brought to a different adventure of rock climbing, but Jazz decided to stay with us. 

Learning about ferns. P3 science.

After which, we played more games along with other families. I really love how it exposed our kids to not just play among themselves, but with an extended circle of kids and parents of varying age group. I was most glad to see my shy kids opening up to new friends and other parents during games. It is a play goal achieved when we have fun with no generation gaps in mind. 

Listing our family values

Time of song and dance

Night activities were interesting too. The camp's theme was Star Gazing. We were in for some learning on astronomy with a fun quiz at the end. We looked at stars, moon and spotted planet Jupiter through telescopes, and ended the night with some star craft making.

Back to being a student

Star craft making

We winded down the day with shower and supper (biscuits and milo). The kids had much fun making their own milo! Everything is DIY at camp, it is advisable that not to bring your helper along. Get the kids to work.  

In the tent
Jumping into the next morning scene when I saw our facilitator, she asked if I had a good sleep. In all authenticity, I replied, "Of course not". 

Pitch dark tent

I am princess pea, a tiny stone in the ground causes me much sensitivity. Okay, exaggerating. I managed to get some sleep. It was not easy drifting to sleep because the tent was really warm. Not the kind of warmth when family snugs together, but humidly warm. And there were five of us in one tent. Maybe we should consider bringing a portable battery operated fan next time. It got very much cooling in the wee hours though, and that was when we were thankful for the thin blanket we brought along. Trees and dew drops cooled the air.

RISE AND SHINE. We survived a night in nature. Even the toddler.

Day 2
I must say, the highlight of this whole camp was the family race. It was a race of segmented activities that allowed us to accumulate points as we play along. It was FUN!

It bonded the family teams together, bringing forth every individual's strengths and weaknesses. There were attractive prizes, but we were more focused on the play journey than the winning goal. Of course we wanted to play hard for the prize, but the daughter and I had to leave before the race ended because Jazz has gym class to attend to. The koala Juboy had to follow of course. The man and Jare stayed on strong to play. It was some good one to one time for this middle child and his Dad. 

Indoor game activity

Trusting his family

Sibling team

Cooking is his serious business

Readers' Special 
A quiz will be asked to start off the race. If your family gets it right, you may get a head start to begin. Bad at riddles, it took us some wrong tries and probably evesdropping to get it right. I can't exactly remember or copy what the long quiz was about, but 'bond' is the answer. Wind has its word that it was the same quiz last year, and probably next.

Tanned and tired, we ended the camp after lunch. Jazz was at gym, while I headed back with Juboy to reunite with the husband and Jare. It was some beautiful and interesting memories we collected during the camp. I witnessed a different side of the kids, especially Jare. I saw how he really enjoyed the camp, got excited about games, showering and teeth brushing. The venue does not have very promising toilet facilities of sparkling standard, and he seemed so army ready! 

So proud that Jazz and I actually put away our princess thoughts to get this near to ground and nature! 

Families are for life!

It was amazing how we adults actually fuss about camp's food, when the kids were not at all complaining. Food given was not fantastic, but it was not too bad either. To some grown ups, food is a serious business. I thought we had to exemplify being easy with eating whatever food choices given in front of the kids. My husband had KFC delivery in his mind, but I rebuked him. 

I thought it will be a good idea to get families cook or BBQ their own meals though. It is not often families come together to cook. The cooking role is not just for the Mama, but everyone! 

I did think we did look like refugees

First day's lunch

Dinner that felt like breakfast meal

Last day's lunch

We applaud the move of bringing our own utensil and cutlery to minimize disposals at meal time. My most enjoyed part was the after meal, when the kids would wash our used plates, forks and spoons. They were so enthusiastic about washing up for us. All I did was to sit back and watch.

Washing up!

All in all, I urge your family to take part in camps like such to bring the family bond to a whole new level! Where everyone is more task oriented than gadgets oriented. Camps may not be something we would take great initiative to plan on our own, but with a fuss free planning on location, logistics and food, Families for life has got it all covered at a very affordable cost. In fact, there are many fun family activities they organise periodically. Do check them out! I really appreciate this ministry!

Nature camp is very much about insects, crickets chirping and roosters crowing to the morning wake. Yes, roosters in the park. And for being the the east, the sunrise was scenic. An experience we do not have in the comfort of the home. More importantly, the kids have a whole new experience to remember and talk about.

I advocate this camp. It not only brought us closer to nature, we also bonded much as a family. A family that camps together, stays together! Staying tune... till next year.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Mothers and Roses

Flowers don't tell, they show. A rose can never be a sunflower, and a sunflower can never be a rose. All flowers are beautiful in their own way, and that’s like Mothers too.

Thinking of the times I nag and talk too much to the kids, I thought maybe I should just be like the roses in my vase. Sit pretty and silent. Like roses, Mothers can make everything sweeter. 

Where just by looking at it, you feel encouraged, cheered up and inspired! And it is probably the least effort of doing something to get our mood lifted up. Fresh flowers are medicine for the souls.

Roses signal joys

Roses reflect genuine expression and unconditional love. Some similar parenting traits we share. They stand and portray what they truly are and they do not have to worry about how they bloom or wilt. Well yes, the fragrance and visual loveliness brings joy to a room for several days before fading away. At least, there were beautiful moments before fading. Working like an anti aging cream, we often harvest its petals to extend its appeal further.

Roses only sent me some red roses, and I chose red simply because red stands out best among the rest of the rose colours. It is a loud declaration of love and passion! Or more significantly, it is too bright to be missed out in the home. 

Roses only are famous for the quality of their roses and signature gift box. When the courier rang my door bell it was an unforgettable first impression receiving roses in a box with a beautiful bow over it. I received 12 long stemmed roses arranged beautifully in the box with care instructions and a note card. It was a different and unique idea from the traditional bouquets.

12 stemmed roses in their signature box

Their flowers are nurtured by the worlds best growers in the Ecuadorian mountains, each rose reaches an impressive 65cm in length within their 15-week growing period before being distinguished by color and character. Each stem is then carefully arrayed in our elegant, signature gift boxes which, never fail to secure a transcendent first impression. Quality is no mere coincidence.

And they arrived beautifully fresh! 

Mothers need a little love to bloom and brighten up their days. Send your Mum and loved ones a box of fresh roses today! We don't need occasions to brighten a day. Who doesn't love flowers? I do. The only consideration is practicality and pricing. But the joy and cheer it brings to one is priceless!

We are running giveaway of a box of 12 stemmed roses over on our Instagram, @mumscalling. Do hop over to participate. Giveaway closes on 14 June, 2359hrs. Great chance to surprise someone's day with the sight and smell of fresh roses.