eateries: dolci cafe silkream (in tokyo)

One of the things I noticed while visiting Tokyo this year was how soft serve ice cream and crepes had become a trend. I lost count of how many shops I saw offering this dessert, and well, it was most welcome since summer was on its way and the weather was warm and lovely. One afternoon, walking from Shibuya to Harajuku, feeling the need of a quick sweet fix, I stopped at the most adorable cafe ever: Dolci Cafe Silkream.

Opened by four friends who got together and decided to offer a space for relaxation dedicated to women, Silkream specialises in cremia, a premium soft serve vanilla ice cream.

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They also offer meals for lunch and dinner, drinks, and a takeaway only for the ice cream cones, but we decided to order an affogato. For ¥820 (around NZ$10),  the affogato is served with a portion of ice cream, cocoa puffs and a shot of espresso.

 

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Beautifully decorated, the interior was inspired by a cozy country house in northern Italy, with white wooden furniture and lots of flowers. And with excellent customer service, the cafe truly is the perfect place to enjoy dessert with your girl friends. When you sit, the front of house staff brings you a basket so you can put your bag under your seat, without letting it touch the floor. And the toilets are stocked up with toiletries for females, like pads/tampons and scented cleaning wipes.

 

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Located in Shibuya (1F,Haimanten Jinnan Bldg., 1-19-3, Jinnan) and open every day from 11am to 9pm, Silkream was definitely one of the highlights of my holiday in Tokyo. I forgot to take photos of the cafe’s interior, but their website is filled with them. No information in English, but if you can read Japanese the menu is available online.

watched: that sugar film

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I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on obesity and nutrition and last night I watched one called That Sugar Film, by Damon Gameau.  It covers a 60-day experiment in which Damon ate only foods thought to be “healthy” (e.g. low fat yogurt, granola, smoothies) and how that diet consisting of processed foods with an excessive amount of sugar changed his body.

The average Australian eats about 40 teaspoons of sugar each day, hidden in foods as “added sugar”. That’s 160g of sugar a day, adding up to over a kilo in a week. The movie presents a lot of information in a fun way, using special effects and a few celebrity guests, but the most interesting and shocking part is when Damon eats the amount of white sugar that would otherwise be hidden as an ingredient. Instead of eating cereal for breakfast, he adds several teaspoons to plain bran flakes. And then for lunch, he eats roast chicken covered in sugar, instead of mixing it with sauce.

 

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Feeling a bit paranoid after watching it, I wrote down every thing I ate yesterday to check how much sugar I had consumed. I had salami, cheese and cucumber toastie and black coffee for breakfast, a scrambled egg sandwich for lunch, and meatballs with veggies and couscous for dinner. I read all the labels, from the bread to the tomato passata I cooked the veggies in, adding up the sugar content in all of the ingredients. The final result? 10 teaspoons of sugar. I didn’t eat any chocolate, cake, gelato or cookie. I didn’t even have fruit on Sunday. But the total amount of sugar in what I ate was 40g! It’s under the recommended daily intake, but still, it didn’t leave me much “allowance” to actually enjoy a sweet.

The message is quite clear: we’re eating too much sugar. A lot of what Damon explains I was already aware of after watching another documentary, Fed Up, about childhood obesity in the US caused by, yep, you guessed it, excessive sugar consumption. For decades fat was the enemy and the food industry substituted fat with sugar to guarantee flavour and loyal, addicted consumers. Now it’s time to re-think the way we eat and make smarter, healthier choices. And knowing exactly what you’re eating is the first step.

You can buy (or rent, if you’re in NZ/Australia) a digital copy of the movie from their official website or sign up to receive a free pdf with recipes Damon used to shed the weight gained during his experiment.

tomorrow: packing for a very special holiday

This post is part of the #BlogGreatness weekly challenge. You can find other posts with the theme Tomorrow here and learn more about the weekly challenges here.

I’m typing this post from the International Terminal at Auckland Airport, killing time as I wait to board my flight to Japan. The plane leaves tomorrow morning and I’m beyond excited!

Last year was a very stressful year for us, so when I saw a voucher for seven days at a beach resort in Thailand for sale on Grab a Deal, I bought it without even researching how much would cost to get there. We needed a holiday and something fun to look forward to and help us stay positive. I bought that voucher in May last year and started saving money for the tickets slowly, aiming for a trip sometime in March. 

Then, in November, Ivan saw an offer on Facebook from Jetstar: 2 for 1 flights to Japan. I did a little research on Skyscanner and flying to Japan, and from there to Thailand, wouldn’t be much more expensive than flying directly to Phuket. I love Japan and Ivan always wanted to visit, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. We bought the tickets to Japan in November, and in January we got the ones to Thailand.
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I wish I could say that after that all we had to do was wait until our departure date, but alas that’s not the case. I’ve always considered myself to be extremely well organised when it comes to planning, but this time my head was so busy with our residency application, I ended up making a few mistakes along the way. 

First of all: the tickets were cheap because they only included the seats. If you wanted anything else, e.g. luggage, meals, entertainment, was extra. I almost didn’t buy any meals out of spite, but bought a couple at the end. We’re not dispatching any luggage though. That’s right: we’re going on an 18-day trip with only a backpack each. I’m also taking a small bag, but the total weight of both items must be 7kg.

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Here’s what I’ve packed: 1 paid of jandals, underwear, socks, 1 bikini, 1 pair of ponte pants, 1 pair of shorts, 1 skater dress, 1 strapless dress, 1 beach cover-up, pijamas (shorts & tank top), 7 tops, 1 long-sleeved top, 1 cardigan, 1 towel and a small bag of travel sized toiletries. I actually removed two tank tops from my backpack while I was arranging my clothes for the photo. Packing light also means packing smart. 

On my bag I’m taking my camera, iPhone, Kindle, respective cables, wallet, documents, water bottle, sunglasses and a few other smaller things.

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After our North Island motorcycle trip last year I’ve become the queen of repurposed storage. I’ve put my accessories and Lady Danger lippie in a coin purse. During the road trip, I used an old eyeglasses case to carry cables and chargers and another for q-tips, band-aids, and daily liners. 

Tomorrow is the start of a great adventure and I’m not too worried about not being able to buy loads of stuff to bring back home. I want to experience something new with my beloved husband and share a place I visited on my own with him, and then explore a new place together. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter, I keep posting there while I’m away! And you can find me on Snapchat under danipohlod too.

And FYI: when I get back to Wellington, I’ll be 29… 😉

5 ways to get out of a (blogging) rut

Last week something pretty scary happened to me: I got locked out of my own account. I had the password saved but it got wiped out, so I had to re-enter it. I’m sure I typed it correctly, but after a few attempts my IP was banned for several hours and the password reset wouldn’t work. I was freaking out! After googling around for a bit I finally found a clear set of instructions that allowed me to log back in. It was probably a security plugin error, all good and sorted now, but the incident gave me a mild case of blogger ‘s block. All the ideas I had were suddenly put on hold, until this morning, when I read a few of the bloggers over at the #BrunchClub commenting on how sometimes they felt stuck in a blogging rut. The shared struggle inspired me to write a post as a reminder to myself that hopefully might also help someone else. Here’s what you can do to get out of a blogging (or any other kind of) rut.

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Clean up: I’ve noticed that my lack of writing enthusiasm usually affects other areas of my life, like my house. I have a spare room that in theory should be an office, but I end up bringing my laptop to the dining table and posting from the lounge so I can be close to my husband while he’s doing something else and I’m updating my blog. Lately my side of the table had been filled with random crap, from nail polish to PS4 games and dozens of different pens. My laptop was actually by my side of the bed, on the floor. So before typing these very words, I put away everything. Your surroundings are a reflexion of your mind and sure, Einstein’s desk was messy, but he was busy working. If you’re feeling stuck, declutter and clean up. That also applies to what’s on your computer: photos with non-descriptive names, duplicate files, dead links on old posts, drafts that never got finished and lost relevance, etc. Take some time to create a space that will encourage you to concentrate and produce.

Change your approach: You’re probably well aware of to-do lists, right? What about done lists? At the end of every day, list all the tasks you managed to do, no matter how tiny they seem. Track your progress at all times. That way you’ll acknowledge regularly the steps you’re taking to actually reach larger goals. Also try new things, scary things that challenge you out of your comfort zone. Change the way you create content, and even the way you present it. If you usually blog beauty products reviews, try putting together a make-up tutorial. If you only publish written posts, try recording a vlog. If your blog is based on lists, share a story. I have a couple of restaurants reviews coming up, but I think it’s time to post a recipe too now.

Ask for help: What I love about blogging is the sense of community and the #BrunchClub has been simply amazing in that regard. Turn to other bloggers for inspiration and collaboration. Read new blogs, outside of your niche, see what they’re posting and give your own spin. Open up your blog and let collaborators post too. Get together with friends and start a project, like the 3x6x9 photo challenge I started this year with my friends on the Portuguese portion of my blog. Offer to help others too as by looking at someone else’s problem you can also find solutions for your own problems.

Keep yourself busy: Work on other areas of your blog, like your About Me page or Media Kit. The important thing is to keep the habit going and avoid long periods away. Carry a notepad at all times or make use of apps like Evernote to jot down ideas. I often email myself and share/favourite posts on social media so I can refer to it later for inspiration. Even when I’m not blogging, I’m constantly thinking about it and ways I can improve myself. Pick a new hobby, work on a skill or teach someone. And then share your experiences, interact on Twitter and Facebook, to increase what you can write about afterwards.

Don’t lose focus: one of the greatest motivations to keep posting is receiving feedback from readers and knowing that you have an audience interested in reading what you blog. But it’s important to remember that sometimes that response won’t come straight away. A lot of people prefer to read in silence but that doesn’t mean that your words don’t resonate with anyone. Keep setting goals for yourself and posting content you’re proud of, focus on your mission, the reason that made you decide to share your thoughts, experiences and knowledge in the first place. Don’t worry about making it perfect, just have fun and enjoy the ride.

Anything to add? What’s your secret to keep going, ? I’d love to know. 🙂

newtown festival street fair

Newtown is a very diverse suburb in Wellington and to celebrate it, nothing better than holding a massive street fair for a day. With 12 stages, over 400 stalls, and 80 acts, the event that took place on Sunday 8 March (same day as International Women’s Day) was the largest street fair I’ve ever seen. Many food stalls, offering food from all over the world, including the always great Curbside Cafe, and several other stalls selling all kinds of products from vintage clothing and personal grooming to decorations and services like energy readings and henna tattoos.  It was a fun, sunny morning, perfect for lots of photos.

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Le Canard may have closed its doors but this rotisserie food truck is amazing!

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eateries: chameleon restaurant & zomato meet up

Last Wednesday I was invited to join a group of bloggers for the first Zomato meet up in Wellington at the Chameleon Restaurant, at the Intercontinental Hotel. I got to taste their divine autumn menu, enhanced by the inspired Ata Rangi pairings, each course bursting with fresh, intense flavours. Their menu changes seasonly and talented chef Paul Limacher makes the most out of local ingredients available at different times of the year.

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When I first arrived at the hotel, I got distracted by a display of one of the costumes used by Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf on the Hobbit trilogy. As I was taking a photo on my iPhone, Geoff (director of sales and marketing at the hotel) quickly spotted me and took me over to the bar where all the other bloggers attending the event were enjoying a drink. I got myself a glass of infused lemon and gin, and sat down close to Kahu, Emma and Marie. Jenna, who I’ve met before at the Brunch Club meet up last month, was there too, as well as Tallulah, Rachel and Blaire. Shaun and James were representing Zomato and Helen from Ata Rangi completed the group. After a very stressful day at work, it was great to relax in such good company.

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We then headed to the restaurant and two tables with marked seats waited us. The personalised menu was a sweet touch, and variations to accommodate dietary requirements were noted, so everyone was properly catered for that evening.

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To start the degustation session, amuse bouche of duck on chicory leave.

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The first dish served was avocado tartare with cornichon, roasted saganaki, beetroot chips and coriander juice, paired with a crisp, Dry Riesling 2010. I’d never have thought of combining avocado with pan fried cheese but now it seems so obvious it’s a perfect match, I can’t believe it took me so long to try it!

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The next course was a plate of kingfish gravlax with creme fruit, vodka, cucumber, tomato jelly and watercress, paired with a refreshing Craighall Chardonnay 2013. It was like a delicate kiss straight out of the ocean.

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Then, we had lamb rack and braised neck, with wild thyme honeyed caramelised yoghurt, black garlic, brussels and shitake, paired with an elegant, layered Pinot Noir 2012 and my favourite wine of the evening, a peppery perfumed Syrah 2010. The meat was so tender, coming out of the bone with no effort at all.

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Dessert was an amazing piña colada coconut yoghurt mousse with rum pineapple and coconut sponge, followed by a plate of petit fours to share and coffee. I can’t stop thinking about it and would definitely go back just for another teste of that pineapple!

The menu isn’t actually divided into entrees and mains, and all the seasonal plates are NZ$26. It was an incredible evening and I had a wonderful time: amazing food, exceptional service, and lots of laughs with new friends.

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You can read more about the tasting meet up from Kahurangi at Xox Bubbles and Emma at Muffin Mum.

everything you need to know before going on a motorcycle camping trip

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I remember the first time I got on the Ducati 600SS and put my arms around my husband’s waist, helmet and gloves in place, and went on my first motorcycle ride, I was scared but thrilled. It was a cool evening in April, barely any wind, and we went all the way from The Terrace to Seatoun, Island Bay, Lyall Bay and back through Newtown. I was finally seeing some parts of the city I had no idea even existed. I enjoyed it way more than I ever thought I would and, although I’m still a bit scared of riding on my own, I have no problems with being a pillion passenger.

So, when my husband suggested a seven day motorcycle camping trip during our end of the year break, I got really excited. Camping is a great way to save money and New Zealand has a lot to offer to campers. We quickly extended our trip to ten days, and there’s lot to talk about the places we visited in regards to accommodation and activities, but this post is all about the ride. Going on a road trip driving a car has many advantages (you’re not exposed to the weather, you can carry more stuff, etc) but motorcycles are just as fun. Here’s everything you need to know before going a motorcycle camping trip:

1. Educate yourself

First things first: know your motorcycle. Familiarise yourself with the sounds of the engine, understand how it works and how to repair minor damages. Make sure all the papers are in order and everything is working as it should. Study the roads you’re taking, get to know the terrain, the distances. A motorcycle’s tank is smaller and you need to fill it more frequently, so we downloaded an app called CamperMate that shows you anywhere in New Zealand the nearest petrol station (as well as public toilets, police station, groceries and wi-fi spots). It allowed us to plan ahead and decide how much longer we could keep going before taking a break. We didn’t carry any petrol with us and we didn’t have to deal with an empty tank either.

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2. Pack smart, pack light

We carried two saddlebags, with a sleeping bag in each one, a gym bag with our clothes, a backpack and a tent. We stayed at holiday parks and DOC campsites and the people camping next to us would always comment on how compact our gear was. The less you carry, the faster it is to repack the next day before continuing your trip. Try to avoid any unnecessary luggage. No matter where you travel to, there’s always some place you can stop and do your laundry along the way. It also prevented us from buying useless stuff during the trip as we simply couldn’t carry any more than what we had brought with us.

3. Improvise

Most places offer shared kitchen facilities but you need to bring your own pans, plates and utensils, which was disappointing as we could have saved a lot more money if we were able to cook our own meals. So we did the best we could, got creative and improvised. We ate meals that required minimal preparation or had picnics (and we had great meals at cafes and restaurants too). We had to park the Ducati on sand and grass, so we found an used water bottle and repurposed it as a side stand pad, to keep the motorcycle in place. We don’t have intercoms in our helmets, so we developed a way of communicating with each other using gestures and taps. It’s important to use all the knowledge you acquired during the planning stage to adapt, change course or come up with a solution.

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4. It’s scary

No matter how hard you plan and research, it’s still scary to actually go on the road and ride. There were a couple of accidents involving dairy trucks during the Christmas period and every time one of those large trucks, loaded with logs or milk tanks, drove by us and threw a gust of wind us, it’d hold a breath for a few seconds and hold tight onto Ivan. The weather was on our side and luckily we escaped most of the rain predicted for the North Island. It’s tiresome and uncomfortable at times. Keep calm and well rested at all times.

5. Enjoy the ride

But don’t let fear get in the way of enjoying it and having a good time. When you’re on a motorcycle, you become part of a community of riders that will always acknowledge you and greet you with a quick nod as they ride past you. It’s a great conversation starter and kids are fascinated by two wheels. You’re more exposed and also more connected to the road. You feel the wind, the cold and the warmth all around you. And all those hours in silence, looking out the road alone with my own thoughts, were great to clear my head. The journey becomes part of the fun, it isn’t just about reaching a destination anymore but making the most out of every step of the way.

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Now we’re thinking of doing a similar trip, but around the South Island and with two motorcycles. What about you? Would you ever go on a motorcycle road trip?