Reader's Worshop Lab

Last year, my district started using the Reader's Workshop model- officially.  My teaching partners and I had been using it for 2 years prior and LOVED it!  We have also been using the workshop model for writing.  If you are not familiar with workshop, it has a basic structure for every session and it caters to your students' needs by giving them the opportunity to read for an extended period of time and confer one-on-one with the teacher throughout.  This is what mine looks like:
Connection (to prior learning and a hook lead-in)
Mini-Lesson (10 minutes)
  • New skill lesson
  • Active engagement to practice skill
  • Link to current work as a reader
Individual Reading time (20-30 minutes depending on stamina)
  • Teacher confers with students individually or in small strategy groups (not guided reading)
Mid-workshop Teaching or Refocus (2 minutes)
Partnerships- ability matched (5-10 minutes)
  • Read together
  • Discuss books
  • Retell or use current teaching point
Share (3 minutes)
  • Teacher reiterates the lesson by using a student example of what "smart readers do", based on the mini-lesson

Although I've been teaching this way for a while, I'm new to first grade.  When our Literacy Coach offered me the opportunity to study another first grade teacher's RW three times this year, I jumped at the chance.  How cool, right?  Kate (Literacy Coach) was worried that I may not get as much out of the lab as the other teachers who have not been teaching or are new to workshop.  I am so glad she was wrong :)

The first thing I lovingly stole for my kiddos was the idea of a toolbox that readers use to keep their reading strategies in while they read.  She had the students make a paper with a toolbox drawing, then they added the clip art reminders of the strategies to figure out unknown words (as they were introduced in workshop).  Then, the papers were laminated to keep in the students' book bag.  Genius!  I was so inspired!  I recreated the toolbox and the tools for my own class to use.  It has been such a help.  Even though the strategies were on an anchor chart we created earlier, they had stopped looking at it!  Now, my students pull out their Strategy Toolboxes every day while they read.

Another awesome idea that I added to my workshop is the idea of a warm-up and cool down time.  She used the students' poetry notebooks for the warm-up (about 3 minutes) because they are all comfortable with the text and it has been practiced as a whole group.  At her signal, they switched to their "just right books" and a "challenge book" (instructional level) for the bulk of the reading time.  Near the end, she signaled for the cool-down (3 minutes), in which they were able to read a look-book or anything else in the bag.  This was so inspiring!  I put it in to use within the week.  It has made a huge difference in their stamina and they are up to 20-25 minutes solid reading.  (Don't get me wrong- I still have a handful that I keep a close eye on because they lose focus easily!)

I was so blessed by this teacher and her willingness to share her room with us for the hour!  We also had an opportunity to debrief with her and ask questions about her room and methods.  It was an action packed day of learning!  I can't wait until January for the next one :)

So In Love Its Vomit-Worthy...

With only one week left til my wedding i just wanted to give you guys a little sneaky peek.... not at my dress or anything like that, but at a few photos we had taken last weekend, which will be edited and turned into a guestbook for the reception.

The photographer, a very good friend of mine, said " You guys are so cute, and in love.... it makes me sick! ". Judge for yourselves....

And of me on my ownesome, looking all sultry with my gorgeous booty!
*All images courtesy of SpeakingOneThousandWords Photography, Dubbo, NSW. Please search her on Facebook and like her page because she is all kinds of awesome sauce!

List? Check!

I'm considering becoming a list person.

You know the ones - those highly organised people who make " to do " lists, and then manage to get everything on that list finished? I want to be one of those. If it means i can keep my house tidier and the general unavoidable toddler chaos more confined, then i'm willing to give it a shot.

My list will be a little more boring than this one...

I did try it once, when i was still a young singleton living on my own. I wrote down all the little jobs i wanted to get done that week ( i may even have broken it up into days, which is slightly more anal than it needs to be... ) and then i ticked them off as i got them done. It worked - having it all spelt in black and white on the front of the fridge helped keep me on track. I felt a sense of accomplishment when it was all ticked off, even if it wasn't anything groundbreaking. It was just standard stuff like " Fold clean washing ", " Vacuum carpet ", " Tidy Tupperware cupboard "... but it meant that my house was neater and tidier and, for me, a happier place to be.

So what say you? Are you a list person? I'm considering starting next week and doing one especially for Monday through Friday , so i can get myself and the house ready before the wedding, and so i dont forget to pack all the important stuff to take on the honeymoon!

Polly Dolly - Arty Expression

Thursday has come round again - and quickly, i might add! - which means time again for another Polly Dolly challenge ( as brought to you by the lovely Dani from Danimezza ). This week has been a little tricky for me... i really had no idea where to even start when Dani asked to see what Polly wears when she's being an....
Polly Dolly - Arty ExpressionUsually i have some idea of how i want a Polly Dolly set to look, or at least one particular piece i'd like to start with, and build on. Today? I had nothing! So i decided to go with what i would like to wear if i had more of an "arty " kind of job or lifestyle. So i went with a loose fitting grey dress and added some splashes of red ( my favourite colour, and the one that makes me feel the most confident ). Add some unusual bracelets and a statement ring, and some soft eyes with long lashes. I'd keep a journal and some pencils in my bag at all times so i can write down that poem or sketch out an idea whenever the mood strikes. Still not sure its a typically "arty" outfit but there it is!

Sharing Or Comparing?

When should a mum NOT feel proud of her child? When should she keep her mouth closed and not share her childs achievements, for fear of offending other mothers? Is it all in the way we say things, and not so much in what we're actually saying? And should i feel that horrible " mothers guilt " not for the way i parent my child, but the way my childs development makes other mothers feel?

These are all hypotheticals of course - i dont think i've actually said or done anything thats made another mum feel horrible ( at least, not intentionally ). I only ask because i wanted to leave a comment on another blog this morning, but i hesitated before my fingers hit the keyboard. See, this post was in regards to a beauitiful little childs development, all the things they were learning and milestones they had hit and, as another mum, i wanted say " job well done! " and share my experiences. After all, isnt that how conversation starts?

Learning to stop and say " cheese " when he sees a camera. Yep - i'm so proud! ( Even if it is when he's totally naked, running around Poppys backyard ... )

But then i paused - if i mentioned how Flynn was doing, was that me trying to compare our children? Would this other mum take that as me saying " Anything you can do, i can do better ". But then i though i wouldnt feel this way, i wouldnt hesitate, if i was saying " good job - Flynn isnt up to that yet ". No, i was only feeling that mother guilt because, in comparison, Flynn is a little further along the developmental path in one particular area than the other child.

So - should i feel bad that i left that comment? Should i only be proud of my son when his success isnt quite as good as someone else's, so i cant be accused of gloating ? ( Not that anyone has accused me of that, this all in my head thus far... ). Or should we just keep our traps shut when our children do something well, and only mention what we think will make others feel good? And how do we navigate the mothering landscape, learning and sharing and developing, without doing our bloody heads in worrying about what other mums are thinking of us?

Time To Get Back Up On The Wagon

With only 12 days left til my wedding, i've succumbed to my own pressure and gone on another health kick. After having lost 10 kgs earlier this year ( in a pre-wedding blitz ) i know i've lost my way a bit. I'm not eating all the vegies that i know i should be, and i definately didnt drink enough water during the last few months ( although, to be fair, winter and the lack of hot, thirsty days will do that ). For the past 8 and a bit months i've managed to stay within a kilo or two of my goal weight ( the goal i reached after losing those 10 kilos ), and i'm still within that range. Its just that i've noticed the increase in sugar and carbs ( oh how i love thee toast! ) and i need to nip it in the bud.

Pic from here

So - i'm deciding to try and get back on a better health track. Like right now - right.this.very.second - amd fighting the urge to leave my desk, go into the supermarket and buy myself a packet of Maltesers. My body is screaming " Fill me with choc-malty goodness! " but my brain is trying to beat that impulse off with a stick. For one thing, i've only just finished my lunch* , and for another i know that about half an hr after i've eaten the Maltesers i'll be absolutely fanging for more. So i'm just gulping down the water instead, and pretending that chocolate just doesnt exist.

And this time, its not just going to be vanity motivating me either. This time i'm staying on track and maintaining a healthy weight for the good of the unborn baby i hope to be pregnant with shortly. Its no secret that we'd like to expand our family ( in fact, we're hoping to fall pregnant on our honeymoon ... ) and i know that eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy body weight before, during AND after the pregnancy will be best for me, future bub, and the rest of my little family...

* Ok, so clearly i didnt just write this - i wrote it at work and emailed it home to myself. Just another way i like to waste time at work....

Name-plate nonsense (bucking the system)...

I am done.  My students no longer have name-plates on their tables.  Every time I turned around, I saw this:

Being the neat-freak that I am, it drives me nuts.  On the first day of school, it made sense- they needed to know where to sit.  Everyone needs a place to call home, right?  Here are 5 reasons why I ditched them and broke with tradition:
  1. If they are taped down, I will immediately need to move a child.
  2. If they are not taped down, some one is always bending or chewing on them.
  3. They should know their name and how to spell it by now.
  4. The fancy ones with tons of info serve as a crutch- they need to learn it and not rely on a chart for numbers and letters.
  5. My students only sit in their assigned table seat for writer's workshop and some social studies & science activities.  They rest of the time, they are in pairs or alone around the room learning.  No one stays in the same spot for long!
I think it's my teaching style that has a big part in this, too.  We have community everything.  We share- tables, materials, ideas, learning, EVERYTHING. 

I'm not a fan of desks, either.  When I moved from kindergarten to first, I asked my custodian to track down tables for me.  I just couldn't imagine desks (clutter collectors) and huge name-plates taped to them.  It almost made me feel like the students would be locked into that location for all eternity.  I believe in movement in the classroom- physical and social.  I want my students to have multiple opportunities to work with and learn from different people throughout their day.  I think name-plates and desks  represent (in my warped mind) a statement that they are locked into certain people and experiences within the room.  This is NOT to say that there is no structure.  There is so much structure that they wouldn't notice if I left the room most of the time.  This freedom of movement came after a month of learning routines and expectations.

I guess because I am new to first, I will be questioning everything this year.  I read somewhere that "everything should be on purpose" when designing the classroom and planning the experiences for your students.  I just want to make sure that there is a reason for doing things, not just because "it's what you do".


Blue Ginger

It was the perfect place to bring my overseas guests. Singapore food to them WAS the chili crab and durian - hello, we (at least I) only eat these foods a few times a year - so I felt an education was necessary. I'd take them to my neighbourhood Old Airport Road hawker centre (yeah, lucky me!) but there were some VIPs who preferred a restaurant.

So peranakan food at Blue Ginger it was. The marriage of Chinese and Malay cuisine, one we fondly call "nonya", after the womenfolk of the Straits Chinese. Ambiance-wise, Blue Ginger had it down pat - quaint shophouse, beautiful peranakan carvings and colourful nonya paintings. Even the tableware oozed old world charm! My guests definitely loved it.

For starters, we ordered the ngo heong and the kueh pie tee. Can I just start by saying that I LOVE kueh pie tee (well, how wrong can you go). The version at Blue Ginger was pretty good, although I thought 4 for one serving at $7 was pretty expensive.

The ngo heong too was good, although I could have preferred it more crispy and fried. My guests really took to the accompanying black sauce, we had to ask for more.

The highlight for the mains was the curry fish head. The seasoned Singapore traveler among my guests said this was better than "that indian curry", whichever that was. Repeated top-ups for rice was requested to mop up the delicious sauce.

The other dishes we ordered were ok too, although less gushed about. We had the sotong keluak, the assam prawns and the chap chye. Personally I thought the chap chye was flavorful but wayy too oily. The sotong keluak was a bit lack lustre.

Everyone was stuffed by this time but I had to let them try the durian chendol. Yay, overseas guests who actually like/can tahan durian! The pic looks a bit gross (like mashed brain) but it was soooo good. Gula melaka with durian rocks.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant as a place to bring guests. But having said that, it is a bit pricey as servings were quite small. Not hearty enough!

Polly Dolly - Beautiful Bridesmaid

So after all the intimate mental health talk around here this week, its time for another Polly Dolly! ( Thanks to the very talented Dani over at Danimezza ). This weeks challenge is pretty fun for me especially - Dani would like to see how we would dress our...

Polly Dolly - Beautiful BridesmaidAnd as regular readers of this blog would know i'm getting married soon - in 16 days as a matter of fact! My younger sister will be my bridesmaid ( i'm only having one, and Mick is having just a best man ). I love my younger sister but she isnt much into fashion, so IRL her dress is a very simple, timeless style that she is comfortable wearing.
However, if i could dress her in something different - and without a budget! - i'd go with this gorgeous blue dress ( its the same colour as what she is wearing IRL ) and some sparkly sky high heels. Some simple jewellery so she doesnt outshine the bride, and a clutch that matches the shoes. Emergency tissues, bobby pins and safety ins are a must. A yellow bouquet in keeping with my colour theme ( and our bouquets IRL will have yellow calla lillies... ) and some bubbles for after the ceremony and we're all set!

No More Stigma - A Mental Health Post, Part 3

See, i kind of, sort of, might have thought i was in love with someone ( In retrospect, now that i have Mick and we have Flynn, i know that it wasn’t ... ). I let myself feel all those happy feelings i hadn’t had, convinced myself that maybe i had found something great, finally. When i told the object of my affection how i felt, he told me he didn’t feel the same way. He thought i was a great girl, and a great friend, but nothing more.

It sent me into a tailspin – and started my second major bout with depression. Within only a few months i was back to the self loathing, the wondering why i wasn’t good enough and thinking i never would be.. Recognising what it was this time i went back to a GP, did the whole mental health questionnaire again, and got a referral to a local psychologist.

Opening up was easier this time – i’d been there, done that. It wasn’t so scary, or so taboo. What was scary was the prospect of what he was asking me to do... to get out in the world, alone. As much as i was used to being alone, being alone at home and hitting the pub on my own were two totally different things. We both agreed that my major problem this time was not so much self confidence, but loneliness – and the only way to alleviate loneliness was to find new friends. Easier said than done, right?

Making friends in Cambodia ( i'm 3rd from right, bottom row )

I decided that there was nothing to be done but give it a shot. With the help of anti-depressants ( again ) i started small – i spoke to people at the gym instead of just a nod and a smile; i went out to the movies or to lunch with my sister, just to get out of the house; i went on a trip to SE Asia and made friends amongst strangers; and strangest, and maybe bravest of all, i started internet dating.

My friends and family thought it was a bit weird, or maybe a crazy/desperate move, but little by little i got my confidence back. I had a few good dates, a few ok dates, and one particular date with the most condescending, materialistic, arrogant man i may have ever met ( blergh! ) I went on an ok date with an ok guy that i just didn’t click with, and then found out he thought i was the bees knees when he sent a friend to my place of work to talk to me a few months later ( kind of creepy.. ).

And then – i met Mick. Online. On a dating website. Our first date, a casual lunch at the pub, went for 5 hrs. We saw each other next day, and a few days after that. And the rest is history! Or, for the short version: dating, pregnant, engaged, baby, family, and getting married in 17 days! I’m blissfully happy, and despite a brief blip when Flynn was 6-8 months old ( which could have seen the onset of another episode but, thanks to intervention, didn’t ) i’ve been “well “ for over 3 years now.

And i hope to stay “ well “ for a long time to come. But i know that that isn’t a given – i have to consciously be aware of my negative emotions when i feel them, and work to keep them in check. And i feel that part of that work is also to tell my story – maybe not to just blurt it out to everyone i meet, but be open and honest when the occasion calls for it. Mental Health Month is one of those occasions. And on this occasion i’m asking you to share to – whether you can share a story, or show support for those who need it...

No More Stigma - A Mental Health Month Post, Part 2

This is part 2 of my journey through mental illness. If you missed part 1, please go here and then come back!
I went to my dad first. I was terrified that he would think i was being melodramatic or that i was a complete nutcase but he sat, and he listened, and he said maybe i should go and ask a GP. I made an appointment and i did the little checklist survey that the GP's make you do and then i was referred to a free counselling service within the medical centre.

As i was working on the one day that the free counselling service ran i decided to chuck a sickie the day of my first counselling session. At this stage, even though the GP said it was most probably depression, i still didnt really know what was going on, so i was cacking my pants at the thought of telling my employer ( or anyone for that matter ) that i was mentally ill. So i fudged the day off work and went off to see the counsellor. Even though i was nervous i felt immediately comfortable with her - she had this crazy, kicky, curly hair and she asked me questions without making me feel like i was going mad. Basic stuff like why i had been referred on, and how had i been feeling, and what happened when i felt that way. She set me some homework ( cognitive behaviour therapy she called it ) and our appointments became a weekly thing. I still majorly struggled but being able to offload in a secure environment once a week helped.

I was referred to see a visiting pyschiatrist when he came from Sydney every 2 or 3 months. He was a little intimidating and i think i clammed up a little more with him than i did with my counsellor. Regardless, he prescribed anti-depressants ( Levlen, from memory, an SSRI ) to be taken once daily, and continued weekly counselling sessions.

Little by little things became less heavy - my way of thinking started to change, and the fog started to lift. After about a year i discontinued the counselling sessions and started tapering off the meds. I started going out a little more when my friends were home from uni... and found that i actually enjoyed it. My motivation for actually " doing " something with my life started to return and, eventually, i had enough confidence to apply to be an au pair.

Me, in the orange, and some au pair friends at Six Flags theme park in Jackson NJ

I was accepted by a wonderful family in the USA. I spent a year living with them in New Jersey, making friends amongst the other international au pairs, hanging out in New York City on the weekends. I did a weekend trip to Florida to Disneyworld by myself. I took my two week paid holiday in Peru and did something i'd always dreamed of ( trekked four days through the Andes to Machu Picchu ). I even became the " go to girl " for new au pairs, the one the co-ordinator called to take new girls out for coffee, introduce her to the area and the other au pairs. Me, the previously socially anxious outcast!

I returned home in November 2005. For a while i was on a super high - i was back with my friends and family, i found a job and bought my own car. I took road trips to visit my (ex)best friend and went out every weekend with one of my other friends when she moved back to town. I joined the gym and went 5 days a week, relishing the natural high - and natural anti-depressive measure - that it gave me. I looked into becoming a yoga instructor ( but couldnt afford the training at the time ). I became a fan of a few of the early social networking sites like Bolt and Bebo ( ha! ). I made a few online friends, one of whom encouraged me to start blogging. I found it a great way to get my thoughts and feelings - good and bad - out of my system, making sure nothing got bottled up and stuck on the inside. My confidence was at an all time high.

And then - emotions that i'd never previously let myself feel betrayed me....
*Part 3 to be posted tomorrow...

Ryoriya Sangokushi

Taiwan Japanese food? Other than the Japanese sounding (mouthful of a) name, and the few beer/sake options on the menu, I’d say the food here is more “Taiwanese”.

Expensive too. The bill came up to $192 for the 4 of us and this was what we ordered:

- century egg tofu
- jelly fish
- some cold sliced pork with cucumber
- claypot “san bei” chicken
- egg fried with prawns
- fried brinjal
- a small bowl of plain noodles
- 2 bowls of rice
- 2 small bottles of Taiwan beer
- 1 small bottle of sake ($22)

I liked the century egg tofu and egg fried with prawns best. But then, it’s hard to go wrong with homely fare like these. The rest of the food were not too memorable and portions (despite my pics) were kinda small.

The food isn't too bad, but for the amount we paid, I doubt we will be back. Darn, should have followed instincts and gone to Bella Pizza.

No More Stigma - A Mental Health Month Post, Part 1

So as you may be aware, October is Mental Health Awareness Month here in Australia. There has been alot of talk about it here on the blogosphere, lots of bloggers taking up the challenge and getting posts out there in regards to mental illness, health services and programmes or just telling there own stories.

And it seems like a lot of people out there have stories to tell. I happen to be one of them.

If you're only fairly new to these parts you wouldnt know it - what with my general sunshiney-ness and lack of doom and gloom - but not so long ago i was in the grip of depression and social anxiety disorder. I like to call myself a " former depressive " but, as some of you know all too well, there is no such thing as a 100% , fool proof, "cure " for depression. The threat of another depressive episode is always there, lingering, that bastard black dog always hanging around, waiting to strike.

It started when i was around 14, that age where you've outgrown your childhood but your not quite sure where you fit as a teenager. Most kids have a period there where they sulk and moan and hate everything. For me, that fog didnt lift. And it wasnt that i hated everything or everyone - what i hated was me. I didnt like anything about me, and constantly worried that no-one else did either. I had a fear of being around new people my age - i was fine in the classroom with the peers that i knew, and the anxiety didnt extend so much to adults. It was just this constant nagging worry of other teens thinking i wasnt cool enough, smart enough, pretty enough, whatever. Take your pick. Whatever it was, it prevented me from being so much as able to open my mouth at parties around kids i didnt know and so, eventually, i just stopped going.

I just stayed home with my family, or sat alone in my room, thinking, pondering, worrying, crying, hating. I listened to lots of music, and wrote heaps of emo poetry. Stuff like this:

There is never time more lonely
Then time spent alone.
But there is never time more comfortable
Than time spent on my own.
Can't spend time with others
'Cause i spend too much by myself
They think i'm just a drag now
So they leave me on the shelf.

I wasnt officially diagnosed until i was 18, when i'd finished high school and most of my friends had gone off to uni ( which i didnt do. Depression stole all the motivation i had once had to do " something " with my life ). By that time the panic attacks had set in, that horrible creep of anxiety and fear that culminates in heart pounding, sweating, shaking breathlessness that convinces you that you're about to die. It was at this point that i was able to admit something wasnt right, that these physical manifestations of everything that lie beneath the surface well... they just werent normal. Up until then i just had everyone convinced i was the typical sulky teenager - but not even the most emo of the Emo sulky teenagers had panic attacks. ( Not that i knew what they were called at the time ).

So what did i do? Where did i turn?

* Part 2 to be posted tomorrow....

Shunjuu Izakaya

Shunjuu is one of my favorite jap restaurants. The yakitori items (chicken meatballs, rolled beef with cheese) are pretty good, thought I gotta be honest that Kazu is better. What keeps me going back is the sashimi salad and the century egg tofu. Yums. And, the location. I just lurve hanging out at the Robertson Walk area - super chill vibes.

For the month of October, there's another reason to visit Shunjuu - SHOCHU 1-FOR-1 Promotion!! It's a pretty sweet deal, I paid $75 for these two bottles of 750ml shochu. And if you can't finish two bottles in one go, they allow you to store the unfinished bottles with them for up to 3 months.

Wait for 3 months? Never! I plan to go back very soon to finish up muhahaha.

Lovely Lovely Lipstick

Do you know the theory behind the term " lipstick economy " ? The one about women buying lipstick even when economic times are hard because lipstick is that little luxury that will perk up a womans spirit? Well i've never understood that .... until now.

I've always thought " Lipstick? Whats so crash hot about lipstick? Whats that going to do for my mood ? " - however, in the quest for perfect romantic wedding lips i've found it. THE lipstick - the one that all glamorous women seem to have, that lifts their complexion and brightens their eyes and makes them feel like a million bucks. And mine is called " Beyong Blushing " by L'oreal*.
 Its a soft pink and i think i may be in love with it. I've never been a lipstick girl - i've always loved eye makeup so much more - but maybe because i'd never been shown the right colour. Every time i've ever had to wear lipstick for an event ( like as a bridesmaid, or for my school formal ) i've always felts its been too dark and made me look clownish, even if everyone else said it suited me.

But not now. Now i've got a colour that i feel good in, that i feel sexy and romantic and girly wearing. And i'm going to take it to the make-up artist who's doing my wedding make up and get her to give me perfect wedding lips. She has already done my trial make up this past Wednesday so i know i'm going to get gorgeous wedding eyes ( the lips though i wasnt a fan of - which is what prompted the search for the perfect lippie ). With a trial hair appointment this Saturday all i/we have to do now is put it all together on the day!

What about you? Are you a lipstick girl, and have you found your perfect colour?
* This is not a sponsored post. ( I'm not a big enough or special enough blogger to do sponsored posts! )

Liberty Private Works (HK)

I think guys who can cook are sexy. There’s just something about their confidence and how they know their way around a kitchen (which might extend to other important areas) that gets me. And when they unleash inner creativity like Vicky Cheng has with Hong Kong’s hottest private kitchen – Liberty Private Works (LPW), it just blows the mind away.

LPW has just moved into their new premise on Stanley Road – a small trendy space on the 26th floor which has an amazing view of Soho. The concept of an open kitchen remains. Diners sit around a U-shaped bar while watching the lively kitchen action – I love how energetic the chef and his team are, they clearly cook with passion and pride.

We were greeted with warm and efficient service the moment we stepped in. Our reservation for 8.30pm was a tad late and the bar (sits maybe 20 pax?) was almost full. The crowd was definitely beautiful (as were Rosemary and me muhahaha *blush*) and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Excellent.

They allow BYO with no corkage charge (up until the end of October) so Rosemary and I sipped the Riesling I BYO-ed while waiting to be fed. We couldn’t get enough of the crackers they served with the delicious guacamole-like dip. Pure bliss, chilling out with one of my dearest girl friends! Babe, you are truly excellent company I feel totally at ease with.

The amuse bouche we had – a tasting of peppers – was the prettiest, most elaborate amuse bouche I have ever had. Tasty too. We polished it off and twiddled our thumbs while waiting impatiently for the first starter.

Up next, we had a tuna espellete mayonnaise (something like a tuna tartar), topped with generous amount of caviar and crispy puff rice, paired with a frozen longan by the side. By the time I was done with this, I was already impressed. How did the chef create a medley of flavours like this? Loved it!

The second starter swept us away. OMG. From left to right, we had a piece of lobster poached in butter (sweet g*d), corn seared perfectly with corn puree, sauteed escargots and foam of lobster bisque, the last of which was such a tease – we want more…

Next came the scallop with braised enclave and truffle duet of white and dark chocolate emulsion. Now THIS was daring. Scallop with chocolate? So playful but it worked. It really did.

The caviar re-appeared in the next dish – they patiently explained it was oschetra caviar - ravioli with spinach, egg yolk and parmesan cream. “Burst the yolk”, Vicky urged. Gulp. That sounded so sexy.

The next dish married decadence of foie gras and a duck trio with beetroot, in again, chocolate sauce. This is one single dish I would go back to LPW for. Who knew chocolate could go with…. Everything?

Both Rosemary and I were stuffed by the time the last savory dish arrived. But who can say no to a perfectly done beef ribeye, potato bone marrow and sauteed brussel sprouts? I thought that beef was wayyy better than the one I had at Osteria Mozza.

You know girls. We have separate stomachs for dessert. Which was good, because they served not one, but two dessert courses. First up, an intricate palate cleanser of pineapple sorbet, rose poached peaches, dragon fruit and coconut soda. This was refreshing.

Second, we each had a warm chocolate cake with liquid caramel and malden salt. Not too sweet, rich quality chocolate, oozing goodness - I think I died and went to heaven. How can gluttony be a sin when it feels soo right?

When Rosemary and I walked out of LPW at 11.30pm, we were on a high. Not exactly floating, given how much we ate, but seriously, best (and most exciting dining experience ever!)

At HKD800 a pax, even with the current favorable SGD-HKD exchange rate, this dinner ain’t cheap. But I would go back time and time again. In a heart beat. If you are ever in Hong Kong, plan ahead. I’m lucky to have darling Rosemary who helped make our reservations wayyy in advance.

LPW is hands down my pick for “Favorite Restaurant of the Year.”

Polly Dolly - Bike Babe

Hello again Polly Dolly-ers! Its crazy how quickly Thursday comes around and its time to play virtual paper dolls again, all brough to you by the loveliness that is Dani from Danimezza. This week Dani must be feeling either very active, or very environmentally friendly, because she'd like to see what Polly would wear....

Polly Dolly - Bike Babe
Ignoring the fact that bike helmets are not fashion friendly and therefore not worn by Polly ( at least in this set - i'm sure she'd totally obey the law IRL ) this is what Polly would be wearing. A cute set of navy shorts - not shorty shorts, but not too long either - and a sweet print top to show you can be pretty whilst riding a bike. Converse high top sneakers and a backpack, both for practicality. Sunglasses and sunscreen are both a must for the sunsfae Polly, and lip balm and a bottle of water keep everything hydrated. Throw on this gorgeous bicycle pendant - which could double as a watch! - and Polly is ready for a day of pedal power.
What would your Polly wear riding her bicycle?

Crazy In Love

Let me pose a question to all my married readers - did you find yourself more in love with your husbands in the few weeks before your wedding?

Pic from here

I ask because for the past fortnight or so i've been so incredibly attracted to my fiance that its distracting. Not just physically attracted either - though mind you he is one gorgeous hunk of man and we've been a little more vigorous *ahem* in the boudoir in the past few weeks than we have for a while - but i find myself wondering what he's doing during the day, wishing we didnt have to go to work just so we could hang together, and almost bursting with love and joy at the way he interacts with his son. And then i watch the way Flynn behaves, the crazy, sweet, knuckle-headed little things he does and the little boy he's turning into and i love his father more because i know his influence is at play.

So it is unusual, this whole "falling deeper " into love thing? Is it just a pre-honeymoon period and all this lovey dovey-ness will wear off by the time we get back from our time away? Did it happen to you?

Hens Party Victim

..... or so said the badge my SIL made me wear on Saturday night. Why? Because it was my hens party! First up, lets see what a gorgeous, classy hen such as myself wears on her big night:
Dress: Temt $15 Tights: Big W $12 Boots: Rivers $25 Various hens party accessories : cheap

Don't you just love my red veil ( made by my very handy SIL )? It came complete with an L-plate on the back and a sticker declaring " Property of Mick ". My sash said " Bride to Bling " which is why have a huge, fake-ass ring on and a lanyard with sparkles. So once i was dressed to the nines, where did i go?

Me, my mummy and my sister/bridesmaid Erin

We started out at a local tapas bar where i was treated to some gorgeous little tapas ( my favourite was the mushroom and parmesan tart... ) and indulged in a glass or three of sangria. My SIL organised a few games and i was stoked when i answered 10 out of 15 questions correctly about my fiance. ( Although Mick did cheat - when asked what his favourite drink is, he had answered " water ". What a lie - we all know its beer! )

Me and my girlfriends from school, Em and AJ

We then moved along to a few local establishments for a drink and a dare or two. Truth be told, i didnt really complete my entire dare list... i had heaps of " kiss a random blah blah " ones and its hard to get the nerve up to do something like that, unless the place is packed. At least it is for me - i find it easier to be crazy in a crowd where i can blend in. Unfortunately the rest of Dubbo didnt really come to the party... I havent been out for a long time but both the bigger pubs we went to were really, really quite. We did have a little dance but because of the lack of a crowd the vibe just wasnt the same. Boo to you, Dubbo patrons!

J from work, myself and my little sister after a few drinks

But no matter, i enjoyed my night. It may not be as raucous as i remember a Saturday night being a single lady without a child, but it was right for me: good food, big laughs and a night out as " Amy ", not " Mummy ". And what now that the party is over? The official countdown begins to the big day: 26 days to go!

Admitting you just aren't getting through....

This week, I struggled through teaching the concept of growing patterns.  I turned to my favorite math book (Kathy Richardson) for help.  On day 1, I modeled how a pattern can either repeat (which was beat into their brains until they cried- not really!) or it can grow and change.  I modeled a pattern and asked what they noticed was happening.  (insert crickets soundtrack here)  I'm not exaggerating.  Total blank looks staring at me.  I went back to looking at the pattern unit- Remember this from last year?  (more crickets)  Nada!  I owned it and simply said, "I think we will come back to this tomorrow and talk about pattern units."  No arguments, more crickets.  

***On a side note, there really are cricket sounds coming from the classroom next door- the nature girl has them in her room along with a tarantula (whom I have no plans to make nice with any time soon!).  

The next day, a fabulous guest teacher retaught the pattern unit concept.  When I returned, I came prepared with some models of growing patterns on construction paper (borrowed from Richardson's book).  I asked them again, "What changed each time?"  

Before the crickets could even begin, a sweet little hand popped up.  I had to do a double -take, because she was looking a her shoe the whole time I was talking.  Do I dare call on her?   I waited.  It was painful.  I called on her against all instinct..... by golly- she knew the answer.  The crickets began squeaking the Hallelujah Chorus!  Another hand went up on my next example, then more each time.  In the bliss of the moment, I paired them up to practice either recreating my examples or create their own. 

This activity is now in my Math Stations area for additional practice.  Following this lesson (and more practice the following day), we moved on to identifying and extending the growing pattern on paper.

One of the most important things I've learned over the year it to cut your losses and regroup- to seek out experts with a different way of thinking than you and give it a try.  I'm not naturally a "math person", but I try to find the best people to seek inspiration from when I'm in doubt.                                                                                                        

You an peek into more classrooms at: Clutter-Free Classroom

Clutter-Free Classroom

The Cellar Room

I like restaurants with their own wine retail shops. They intend to have lower mark-ups on the wines, and that’s a big plus point in my book. Moomba at Boat Quay is a good place, with solid good food to boot. Incontro at Robertson, is another favourite of mine (although I recommend going for the cheese/meat platters rather than the main courses).

I have heard of the Cellar Door for the longest time but I never got around to checking out the place. Vivo is just one of those places I don’t frequent so often. They have recently removed the corkage charge, previously imposed when you buy from the retail shop to consume at the bistro. So I figured this was a sign for me to check out the place.

The first male waiter who served us was very friendly, telling us about the wines and cheese they had. The other lady who served us subsequently had a really sour face and made us feel second class (she was fawning over the Caucasian couple beside us!).

For the month of October, they have on promotion some wines which are discounted. I thought the two whites we ordered were rather good value:

Ata Rangi Pinot Gris 2010 (Normal $48.60 OFFER $41.31) – we had a bottle of this and it went beautifully with the cheese platter. I think it would be a very pleasant drink on its own.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Taylor Pass 2009 (Normal $54.90 OFFER $46.67) – this was one of the more complex NZ SBs I’ve had to-date. There’s some chalkiness, which was interesting. Strangely, this complimented our Eggs Benedict well.

Foodwise, the selection was not large. There were quiches and chicken pies, all-day breakfast sets, some main courses etc. Desserts were limited to mainly cakes. But what they did have, they did reasonably well. Don’t order the mussels though – expensive and very mediocre. I would be back to try the quiche and chicken pie.

And more wines. Of course.

Polly Dolly - Lady In Red

Thursday has come around again already, and Dani from Danimezza has issued us with another Polly Dolly challenge. This week, we're getting all racy and putting Polly in a....

Polly Dolly - Lady In RedI dont know about you, but i wear red when i want to be noticed. When i'm feeling all confident and sexy and i want to be looked at, i wear red - and this dress, you wont be able to miss Polly! I've gone for a neutral shoe to give Polly the illusion of super long legs, and relatively nuetral accessories to keep the focus on the gorgeous detailing on the dress. A brown/gold smoky eye and a super sexy red lip and Polly is ready to paint the town... red!