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On this day…

On this day 34 years ago, a brown-haired, hazel-eyed boy arrived in the world at a hospital in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. As his parents marvelled at this solid little mass of baby, trying to come up with a name for him (apparently, it took a name-by-name reading of a baby book to pick one), they could only imagine the sort of man he would grow to be.

A man with an inquisitive mind and an amazing ability to absorb general knowledge in his mind like a sponge.

A man built with a capacity for impressive physical strength.

A man who feels most at home hanging off the side of a mountain, scuba diving in the ocean, doing anything which involves exploring the great outdoors.

A man who would choose to serve his country as his career, to move around Australia and beyond, and travel to places most would dare not to go.

A man with a deep passion for travel, who has visited as many countries as candles on his birthday cake.

A man with a wicked sense of humour (more often than not displayed on a T-shirt).

A man who, above all else, possesses a heart as big as his biceps (and trust me, they’re pretty impressive).

A man known as a loving son, awesome uncle, diligent worker and loyal friend.

A man who married a woman who can’t believe how lucky she is to have this brown-haired, hazel-eyed man in her life (and obviously isn’t afraid to share her amazement.)

Happy Birthday, Mr B. You’re worth celebrating every day – but especially this one.

PS. Forgive me for big-noting myself here, but I was so impressed that I managed to surprise Mr B with a cake at his workplace today (it took a bit of work to pull off this feat as well!) Apparently the cake was pretty amazing – perhaps I’ll need to re-create it for the blog?  

 

 

Make a Pin Monday

Happy Monday, people! There’s not much left of Monday in my corner of the world, but I wanted to continue with my Make a Pin Monday posts and actually post on a Monday!

So if you didn’t see my last post about the inspiration behind MAPM, go check it out here. I am continuing to justify my newest social media habit by trying out my “pins”, although they still seem to be inclined towards the food variety (with side trips to the papercraft world.) I’ll have to delve into my fabric stash soon and get my crafty on, methinks.

Anyway, today’s pin is a wee bit of a cheat – I made it last week as part of morning tea for a meeting. But it’s a recipe too good not to share:

Salted Cornmeal Sugar Cookies from neverhomemaker. This is another “fit foodie” type of blog I follow, with some excellent vegetarian recipes. I’m no veggie or vegan by any means, but I sure do love eating vegan and vegetarian food. This blog features some fantastic recipes of that persuasion, especially of the “healthified” baking variety.

These cookies were part of a Christmas series last year, and I can’t believe it’s taken me almost a year since to make them, as they’re fantastic! You get the soft, crumbly sweetness of a sugar cookie, with the satisfyingly gritty crunch of cornmeal – I’ll definitely be making these again.

But, I must confess, I think my favourite part of this cookie is the salted frosting. I think it’s well established by now that I love mind-bending salty/sweet combinations. It may sound strange, but the frosting really makes this cookie. Think compulsive combination of salty/sweet/crunchy.

Just a tip from me – halve what the recipe says for the quantities of frosting. I had way too much left over, and frosting like this is a little dangerous to have in the fridge. Or perhaps that’s just me…

Anyway, go check out the recipe here (I just love the purple icing Ashley used – it almost looks silver!)

If you’re a pinner, don’t just sit at the computer admiring other people’s pretty work – get out there and make something pin-worthy yourself this week. Happy Creating!

Wow, it’s been a busy start to the week. Meetings, appointments, functions, and a whole lot of baking (accompanied by a whole lot of washing up.) I don’t think I want to see another vanilla cupcake for a while…

It’s already Wednesday (and November…how did that happen?) and I’m tired. I’m a little under the weather today and while I was lying on the couch, getting sucked into the visual vortex that is Pinterest, I decided it was high time to write my first Make A Pin Monday post…even if it is Wednesday.

What is Make a Pin Monday? MAPM (as I will refer to henceforth) is my attempt to make my growing Pinterest habit a productive one.

But first, what is Pinterest? It’s a website which acts as a virtual pin board for all those cool things you see on the Internet. Whenever you see a recipe you’d like to make, a craft tutorial you want to try, a photo which takes your breath away…you can “pin it” to one of your boards, thanks to some clever software. You can follow your friends, and people you admire, and see what is inspiring them too. Browsing through Pinterest’s visual library is amazing…and the pinning thing is kind of addicting.

So, to make sure these images don’t just stay in my mind as ideas, I’m trying to make something from my pin boards at least once a week and sharing the end results to keep myself accountable, hence the idea for MAPM (and besides, it’s a pretty catchy name, you have to admit…)

Surprisingly, I’ve made a lot of “pins” already, mostly of the food persuasion (are we really that surprised people?) The “try new things” philosophy has also extended to other areas of my life, and I’m working my way through my paper files of inspiration too.

Today I wanted to share one of my “pins” I have made – triple chocolate donuts from The Edible Perspective. I first tried Ashley’s gluten-free donut recipe for cinnamon donuts about a month ago, and was blown away. The texture was incredible – just like a donut you would buy from the shops, but they’re baked, not bathed in fat. There isn’t too much “bad stuff” in the ingredient list either. Mr B and I tore our way through that batch in no time at all – and I haven’t seen Mr B demolish baked goods like that in ages. I’ve got a picture to show you how cute and close to real donuts they look:

I used a donut pan I’ve had for years to get the shape – I’m sure you’d be able to find a pan on the Internet somewhere, considering every single food blogger seems to be making these donuts at the moment.

Since making the cinnamon donuts, I had been thinking of how delicious a chocolate version would be, and Ashley beat me to the punch. One look and I had those suckers pinned – I couldn’t wait to try this recipe out.

Don’t those babies look amazing (if I do say so myself?) I had three different toppings; the chocolate sprinkles, the tiny silver chacous and a caster sugar/cocoa/cinnamon mix. My icing was a little different to Ashley’s – I melted 3 tablespoons of butter, mixed in 1/2 cup icing sugar and 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, dunked the donuts in then coated them in sprinkles.

The end result? So good, especially while still a little warm. Gooey chocolate goodness, with the tender chew of a cake donut…and relatively healthy to boot. Mr B thinks these donuts are best eaten the day they’re made, as he took the batch in to work the next day and wasn’t as blown away as he was by the cinnamon ones. But his colleagues didn’t seem to have any complaints…

I can’t wait to try more of Ashley’s donut variations – I have quite a few pinned away, waiting to come to life in my kitchen.

Want to make these chocolate delights yourself? Here’s the recipe. Oh, and here’s the recipe for the cinnamon ones too. Goes without saying I want to try the lemon ones…

Just a note: sweet rice flour in Australia is known as glutinous rice flour – you can find it in Asian supermarkets and some grocery stores.

So that’s my first MAPM…on a Wednesday. Here’s to me actually posting next week on Monday!

Thanks again to all who commented on the blog your heart post. I honestly value and appreciate every single one of you, and thank you for your support. 

I read a huge variety of blogs, and one of my favourites is Stephanie Howell. I was initially lured there by her scrapbooking style but now, I continually return for her stories. The way she shares her stories about herself, her soldier husband and her four little girls is amazing; such a unique writing voice. I also love how honest and genuine she is, as reflected by her blog your heart challenge. It’s a simple challenge: just share your heart -authentically. It’s a post which has been on repeat in my brain for a few days and I figure, why not? I’m procrastinating from a few other tasks, so lets take some time out to muse…

1. Yesterday I went out and had lunch in a restaurant on my own. I felt like a sushi and wasabi fix, so I went out to one of my favourite spots and asked for a table for one. It was nice to sit there, read a magazine and also do some diary planning for the upcoming weeks. I do solo outings often; I go shopping, eat out, explore Penang and see movies alone. I’ve even travelled alone before.  I’m quite comfortable with doing this, but yesterday I started thinking how this behaviour may appear to other people. Does dining solo make me look pathetic? Sad? A little weird? Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy hanging out regularly with friends, but I’m also comfortable with my own company. This behaviour seems to baffle a lot of people, and I have been criticized for my quiet, introverted ways in the past. Most of the time I couldn’t give a rip what others think but occasionally…these sorts of thoughts creep in.

2. We’re reaching the end of year two of our posting. One year to go and we head back to Oz… and already, I am freaking out. I don’t want to leave. I love living here in Penang, and the life we enjoy here. I’m freaking out about trying to find a job when I get back; my portfolio for the last two years is virtually non-existant, and in journalism a published body of work is vital for getting a decent job. I haven’t had much luck on the freelancing front and I have no idea what I should do.

3. I had plans to write a book while I was here on this posting. I haven’t done so. I discovered I really can’t write fiction anymore after almost a decade of journalism study and work, and since then… I haven’t done so out of fear. I’d love to write a book about my time living in Malaysia but to be honest… would it be boring? I don’t know many locals, I mostly socialise with ex-pats, and most of that socialising seems to revolve around exercise and trying out as many restaurants as possible. I’m just not sure what angle to take on such a book. While I do believe there is a book (or two) within me, fear and a perfectionist streak is stopping me from taking such a project on. And it’s making me feel like such a failure.

4. I have so many ideas for recipes to bake and share swirling around in my head. But I’m not making them…because I’m really conscious I need to lose some weight and am scared to put the temptation in my way. I’ve had a few rough patches this year, and I’ve used food as a coping mechanism. And it’s definitely showing on my body. I’m doing a pretty good job on the exercise front, but it’s the diet I need to really crack down on…and gosh, that’s hard. I wrestle with the food issue every single day. They say nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, but it’s been so long since I was slim, I honestly can’t say if that’s true. And cheese sure is good…How can a person slim down but still savour the things they enjoy? And why is “everything in moderation” so darn vague?

5. I don’t think anyone reads this blog other than my mum, and a few of my friends. That can be very discouraging sometimes. I’ve also had a few people make fun of me about the things I post, which I can’t help but take to heart. I know you should just blog for yourself but sometimes I wonder why I am. And my blog is really ugly, quite frankly. I’m hoping to fix it and I have a friend who will help but I wonder…is it worth it when I’m possibly one of five people looking at it? I love blogging, I love reading other blogs, and I do enjoy posting. There’s a lot of effort which goes into writing and putting up photos though and I sometimes wonder if it’s worth the trouble.

So that’s five things. It’s all honest, and authentic. I’m mindful of what I say as I’m part of a small community where anything you say can spread like wildfire, and make you a source of gossip and ridicule. But this is me, blogging my heart…as best as I can do right now. Please don’t judge me for it.

The week that was…

This week, I…

…did a lot of exercise outdoors, including a hike up to Moon Gate 5 on Penang Hill. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, for various reasons, and boy it felt good to hit the hiking trail again. Having good company along for the hike is always a bonus, and I’m sure I’ll be doing this trail a couple of times each week for at least the next month. I’m hiking Kota Kinabalu in mid-November and I have not done anywhere near enough prep work; better get working on that. I’ve also been doing workouts on the resistance equipment at Youth Park, interspersed with quick jogs around the track. It’s a nice change from the gym, being out in the morning sunshine (though I had my share of indoor time with my PT session).

…had such a great time making cards at my card making workshop. The cards for the troops are now all packaged and ready to be sent.

…enjoyed cooking up a storm for the workshop, and found myself wishing I had more opportunities to bake. There’s so many recipes I want to try, I’d be baking a cake or a batch of cookies each day. Perhaps I need to host a morning tea, or just randomly surprise people by dropping off cupcakes at their door…

…went and tried out the new Kopi Cine (or Kopi C/China House as its now known) with a friend. The verdict? This place is going to be amazing; it already is and they’re still finishing off the finer details. A cafe space, fine dining room, reading room, art gallery…they also had an impressive arrangement of baked goods which reminded me of CWA afternoon teas, and a list of ice cream flavours which made my mind boggle. The food was divine and the sour cream and brown sugar ice cream I tried was pretty darn seductive (I want to make it at home!) I didn’t take any photos as I was too busy chatting and scoffing down food, but trust me, I’ll be going back soon.

…did take a photo on my “Kopi Cine day out”…of washing on the line. My friend may have thought I was nuts, but I loved the colourful batik prints, the lush plants and how both contrasted with the peeling wall. I had visions in my head of playing around with the picture in Photoshop, and this is one of my experiments so far:

…signed up for Pinterest. I’ve been resisting this phenomenon, telling myself I don’t need any more social network time sucks in my life… but then a friend sent me an invite, and I succumbed to the allure. And yes, I was definitely a pin-a-holic for the first few days. It’s addicting, but at least it’s allowed me to tidy up my folder of bookmarked websites into organised and pretty inspiration boards. I’m planning to institute a “Make A Pin Monday” so that I’m doing something with this inspiration at least once a week. We’ll see how that goes…on Monday. And if you want to jump on the Pin bandwagon, just leave me a message and I’ll send an invite. It’s only fair to spread the addiction love…

… Came to the realisation I have all the ingredients for Cosmopolitans in my kitchen. Except the martini glasses, which are back in Australia in storage. It’s just not the same, drinking a Cosmo from a tumbler, is it?

Next week, I…

…hope to complete at least three hikes up Penang Hill, as well as my regular gym workouts.

…want to go take photos down in Little India in the lead-up to Deepavali.

…try and attempt to do one “Make a Pin Monday”.

…really would like to do dim sum again. And visit Kopi C again. Is that too much eating out for one week? (Don’t answer that, Mr Personal Trainer…)

Happy Saturday people!

 

Warning: Contents of this post may be addictive…

If you make a batch of these sweet, spicy, crunchy nuts, don’t give in to the urge to take a handful “to taste”. You will want to hoover down the entire batch and you’ll struggle to have any left to share. Recipes like these are the food equivalent of crack and should be handled with care.

When I was brainstorming ideas for little thank you presents for the participants of my card making class, these nuts immediately sprang to mind. I’ve made them for Christmas hampers, so they were a perfect fit for a Christmas themed class.

This recipe started off life by appearing in Super Food Ideas as Cinnamon Crusted Macadamias. But who wants to stick with just plain cinnamon, when there’s so many wonderful aromatic spices out there? And who wants to stick with macadamias when they cost you an arm, a leg, and your first born child (delicious as macadamias are)?

So in this batch you see before you, I mixed together some whole almonds, cashews and a few pecans (whatever was sitting in my fridge). As well as cinnamon, I added in ginger, mixed spice and some crushed cardamon pods. I subbed out the demerara sugar for brown sugar because, let’s be honest, finding demerara sugar in Penang is a bit of a stretch.

Considering how simple these are to make, the end result is simply incredible. Just make sure you keep some to share with other people…

 

SWEET SPICE CRUSTED NUTS

Adapted from a recipe originally in Super Food Ideas

This recipe makes about five cups of nuts, and you can use any type you want: macadamias, pecans, almonds, cashews, peanuts…They will keep in an airtight container for three weeks…if they last that long!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggwhites
  • pinch of sea salt (about 1/4 teaspoon if you want to measure)
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar or demerara sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 6 cardamon pods, ground into powder
  • 4 cups (580g) nuts of your choice

Preheat oven to 160°C and line a large roasting pan with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer (hand held or stand alone), beat eggwhites and salt in a bowl until the mixture is frothy with large air bubbles. Add caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until the sugar is well combined.
Stir the brown sugar (or demerara sugar, if using) and spices into the egg white mixture. Add your nuts and mix well to coat. Spread the mixture over the base of the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring with a metal spoon to break up mixture every 10 minutes, or until the sugar crust feels dry. Cool completely in pan, then break up and place in an airtight container.

 

So, this is how I spent my weekend…

(No, not making all the cards, just cutting up the card stock for them.)

Today I hosted a card making workshop to make some Christmas cards for a special cause. A woman in Australia is collecting handmade Christmas cards to send to the troops currently serving overseas, either in combat or on peace keeping missions. A lot of those service personnel will be away during the Christmas holiday period and won’t have ready access to Christmas cards; this initiative allows those service personnel to send home a nice card to their loved ones. It’s a cause close to my heart and I know this small gesture will be well received.

We had nine ladies, and myself, making cards this morning (and thank goodness for that… if everyone who RSVP’d had turned up, I would have been short of card stock due to a silly miscount on my part!) There were quite a few first time stampers, so I kept the designs pretty simple and stuck to that classic Christmas colour combination of red and green.

Together we made 30 cards, in three designs. Much to my surprise, we finished the card making in record time, which allowed plenty of time for tea, coffee and a bit of morning tea.

 

This was the little token of thanks I made for each person who attended, filled with a few treats…

 

To be honest, the star cookie (although cute) wasn’t anything to rave about, but those nuts…oh yes, they’re going to get their own blog post soon enough. I also made some of my “famous” chocolate cookies, which I’ve never really shared the recipe for. Do I or don’t I? I must admit it’s kind of fun to have a secret recipe…

Thanks again to all the ladies who came along, made three excellent cards, and made the morning such a pleasurable one. I really appreciate your efforts. If you want to learn more about the initiative, this is the lady who is organising this effort.