Friday Fantasies

It’s the end of the week, and I’m tired. Wouldn’t life be better if the work week was only 4-days long? :) It’s on days like this that I’m especially glad to have friends like S to keep me going. She always shares the best websites and photos to tempt me, and remind me why I look forward to payday.

Today’s fuel – street styles from Paris Fashion Week.

Runway styles are aspirational, but street styles are inspirational – for me at least! I love finding out how other ladies are mixing it up, creating their own style, and making it their own. Fashion is so much more than just ‘looking nice’. It’s about who you are (or want to be), and telling a story with what you wear.

Here are my favourites from PopSugar’s gorgeous selection, and what I think the back story could be (all imaginary of course!) What’s your story?

Street-Style-Shoes-Bags-Paris-Fashion-Week-Fall-2014

Reposted from PopSugar. Source: Imaxtree

Those red heels and sweet bag say ‘I’m all sugar and spice’. She’s a sweetheart with a generous dose of naughtiness, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind (or step on your heart)

When-shoes-stars-show

Reposted from PopSugar. Source: Getty/Timur Emek

Some girls like to dream, others live out their fantasy. She chases her dreams, and isn’t afraid to buck convention. Why do we have to live by the rules? They’re made to be broken.

star-show-great-tee-even-better-necklace

Reposted from PopSugar. Source: Getty/Timur Emek

“You think you know me? I don’t think so. I’m black and white, and everything between. My moods change with the wind, you can’t define me with stereotypes.”

Pepper-y soup for flu-y days

When I’m feeling sick (like today) all I want is something to warm me up inside-out. The spicy warmth of pepper always does that for me, making bak kut teh one of my favourite ‘sick person’ foods. Fatty pork ribs in a peppery herb soup, dipped in sweet black sauce, with salty vegetables on the side… Even when my nose is behaving like a broken tap and my throat feels like sandpaper, I can still taste it ;) I get my appetite back too, even if it’s just for a while!

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Cooking to clear my mind

Do you ever feel like there’re too many thoughts swirling around in your head, and you just can’t get them to stop?

I’ve been feeling that way, which makes it hard to settle down, relax and just enjoy the moment. Why can’t we just tell our thoughts to stop running around in so many directions? Sometimes it feels like trying to find your way out of a maze, but it’s so twisty, you keep getting lost.

When I just can’t find my way out of the maze, I like to cook or do yoga. I was too lazy to yoga today, so I ended up making one of my favourite comfort food dishes instead – Japanese curry!

Japanese curry for dinner tonight

This my one of favourite ‘shortcut dishes’ to make. All you need is Japanese curry paste, and other ingredients you like. I usually just add carrots and potatoes, because I don’t really like onions. Isn’t great how you can use only what you like, when you cook at home? ^O^

Ingredients for Japanese curry

Yes – this is all I use. Comfort food should be easy to make too, otherwise it would be too much trouble!

  • 3 mid-sized carrots
  • 6 small russet potatoes (less if they’re bigger)
  • 1 square of S&B Tasty Curry Paste (one box contains two squares)

Chop the carrots and potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Fry in about a tablespoon of oil till lightly browned, then add water until it just covers the top of the vegetables. Add in the Japanese curry paste, stir it dissolves in the water, and bring the curry to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium, and let it simmer for about 15min, or until the curry is as thick as you like.

TIP: The curry tastes great with short grain brown rice. It’s healthier too!

If you have more time to spend, try making katsu to go along with the curry. I only do that occasionally because my Japanese curry craving can hit me out of the blue, and I’m not always prepared to make katsu. My ‘shortcut’ version is to pop some frozen chicken or crab cakes into a toaster oven for twenty minutes, usually the time it takes for me to make the curry.

Easiest dish ever- Japanese curry

I think cooking to settle my mind is great because at the end of it, I get to enjoy something yummy too :) Now I’ve really got to do some yoga!

 

Chocolate for everything

It’s been over a week since my last post, and I’ve only got one excuse – a new job has taken over my life. Crazy days and sleepless nights – that’s how it has been since February started.

“A new job is like a new pair of shoes – it takes a whole to get used to”

Someone said this to me today, and I think that’s the best comparison I’ve heard so far, especially since I’m definitely in the ‘wearing it in’ phase!

When you’re going through a ‘wearing’ time, it always helps to have something to look forward to. For some people it’s an ice-cold beer at the end of the day, for others it’s going to the gym. For the past week, I’ve been craving chocolate. Dark, 60% – 70% chocolate that isn’t too sweet or bitter. The kind that melts on your tongue, and leaves you craving for more.

Not just  chocolate, but chocolate cookies too – and I’m not talking about the kind you can buy from supermarkets. Aside from Famous Amos Cookies that have such a distinctive taste, I haven’t bought any chocolate chip cookies that really hit the spot. Sometimes, you’ve just got to make them yourself.

Whenever I need a chocolate fix, I turn to one of these chocolate recipes. These are just my current favourites – I love trying new recipes, so I’m sure I’ll find more to add to this list soon. If you’ve got some favourites too, please share in the comments below!

One thing all the recipes have in common – they only taste as good as the chocolate you use, so go ahead and use your favourite brand.

1. Chocolate chip cupcakes

Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book

This recipe is adapted from Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book, a very old, very retro recipe book that I got from my mum. The recipe is for Polka Dot Dandies, but I usually skip the icing, replace the coffee essence with vanilla essence, and use this recipe for chocolate chip cupcakes instead. It’s a simple, no frills recipe that really hits the spot.

  • 4 oz. butter
  • 4 oz. caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz. self-raising flour, sieved (or 2 oz. wholemeal flour, 2 oz. self-raising flour, and about 1 tsp baking powder)
  • 1 packet of chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp of vanilla essence

TIP: For a ‘healthier’ version, replace half the self-raising flour with wholemeal flour, and add a bit of baking powder to help it rise a bit more.

Preheat the oven to 175 °C (350 F). Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. It usually turns a pale, cream colour at this point. Beat the eggs, add in the vanilla essence, and add it slowly to the mixture. Make sure to mix in the eggs well each time, as adding them in too fast can cause the mixture to curdle.

TIP: If your mixture does curdle, don’t worry! Folding in the flour after that usually fixes it.

Fold in the flour using a metal spoon, and add in the chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into paper cases lightly dusted with flour. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes turn golden brown. If you’ve added wholemeal flour, they will usually look darker.

2. Chocolate chip cookies with dulce de leche

Chocolate cookies with dulce de leche by Linda Lomelino

Photo from Call Me Cupcake by Linda Lomelino

Linda Lomelino’s blog Call Me Cupcake is one my favourite places to visit whenever I want to try something new. Her photos are beautiful, the recipes are easy, and they all sound so delicious!

After lusting over these cookies for weeks, I finally spent some time making the dulce de leche the week before, and got down to making the cookies on Sunday. Making the dulce de leche was rather troublesome, but the cookies were worth it.

TIP: If you’re using the microwave, keep an eye on it! I ended up putting it in for 1.5 minute intervals instead, after the mix boiled over once and made a sticky mess. It took a while longer, but at least I only cleaned up one mess.

They’re an addictive blend of sweet, salty and chocolatey – A had one bite, and couldn’t stop snacking on them.

Drinks and hong baos

Survive CNY with some mojitos

It’s been non-stop madness since Monday, but that’s Chinese New Year for you! Lots to prepare, people to see, plenty of food to eat – it feels good being with people I love, but we all still need a quiet moment to just – be.

A and I did all the obligatory CNY greetings on the first day, so we were feeling rather wilted by late afternoon. Most of our favourite bars and cafes are closed over the CNY break, but A makes a mean mojito ;)

Coffee table - CNY style

A makes a mean mojito

A’s Mean Mojito (makes two)

  • 1.25 limes (A cuts the lines into quarters first, so that’s 11 quarters)
  • 3 tsp of brown sugar (to taste)
  • 10 – 15 mint leaves (if they’re smaller, use 15)
  • 90ml brown rum

Muddle the limes, brown sugar, and mint leaves together in a cocktail shaker. Add 90ml of brown rum and stir with a bar spoon. Split into two old-fashioned glasses, top up with crushed ice and a splash of soda.

TIP: Be gentle when you muddle, and remove all the lime seeds first. You want the limes and mint leaves squashed, not smashed.

I think this has got to be one of favourite ways to relax after a crazy day! If you try this at home, let me know what you think ;)

Adding some CNY colours with origami

The weeks leading up to Chinese New Year can actually make me feel like I’ve had enough of the decorations, before CNY actually begins!

Still, it won’t feel like CNY at home without some colour – even if it’s not traditional-style ;) I love doing origami – partly because origami paper is always so pretty, and because I like the smell of the ink on paper.

Origami butterflies, cranes and flowers for CNY

We covered part of the TV wall with origami flowers, butterflies and cranes – three of my favourite designs. I did think of using patterned paper, but I didn’t have any in colours I wanted. We ended up putting them up in a gradient – from light orange to red.

I did the origami from memory, but you can find really easy to follow origami instructions here – my go-to resource when I feel like making something new.

Remembering moments like this

My boys

I’ll paint you mornings of gold

I’ll spin you valentine evenings

Though we’re strangers till now

We’re choosing the path between the stars

I’ll leave my love between the stars

‘As the world falls down’ by David Bowie, cover by Signe Tollefsen

Falling in love with Osaka – The food

This January, I was determined to go somewhere… anywhere really. I had to get away, clear my mind, and feel free. I didn’t have to think about getting back to work, or what I left behind. For the first time in a long while, I could travel with no worries at all. Only problem was, A had a ton of work to clear, and my friends couldn’t get off work. Fortunately, my parents had a week to spare, so we bought three tickets to Osaka ;)

Sunrise over Osaka

I’ve travelled alone with my parents before, but never to places that needed a plan. Since I had a week to get ready, I decided to follow in my friend S’s footsteps, and organized our entire trip using Google Docs. From arrival to departure and everything in-between, I’m so glad I did because it would have been a mess otherwise!

A and I snowboard in Japan very often, and we always spend a few days in and around Tokyo. After this trip to Osaka, I ‘m thinking of spending more time around Osaka instead :p It could be the amazing food, the fact that Kobe and Kyoto are so close, or because the people we met in Osaka were so friendly.

With so many reasons to love Osaka, here is part one of my favorite moments – there are plenty more gems for you to discover ;)

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” George Bernard Shaw

Three unforgettable dinners (without scary prices)

If you’re planning a trip to Osaka, start by planning your meals first! They were the highlight for us, and the top reason why we can’t wait to go back. I’m not a brave eater. I’m usually very picky, and I can’t eat a lot. However I think that I tried more new types of food this trip, than I ever have before – and I loved every morsel. If you’re looking for an easy way to plan some meals in Osaka, here are three places you cannot miss. All three places have Michelin stars, yet none of the dinners cost more than 10,000 yen each, including sake. Pretty amazing!

Kigawa

Reserve a counter seat, and go for their omakase. You don’t need to know what you’re eating, because you’ll love every bite. Actually, I think it might be better not to know – I had blowfish  milt which tasted amazing, but I may not have tried it if I had known what I was eating ;)

TIP: Kigawa is on a lane off Shinsaibashi, so try to arrange dinner after shopping around that area. The closest train station is Shinsaibashi, take the Daimaru exit.

Tenshige

Like most fussy eaters, I only eat certain vegetables. However when you’re seated at the counter across from the stern-faced chef Nagai, you’ll eat anything he puts on your plate. I’m glad I did – it’s the first time in years I’ve had sweet potato, and definitely the first ever I’ve had lemongrass tempura. Every single piece was crisp and light, and the tempura batter complemented the fresh produce perfectly. Even my mum – who eats even less than me – finished all 11 varieties of tempura. I don’t think I’ll be ordering tempura at other Japanese restaurants any time soon.

TIP: Chef Nagai may look stern, but he’s really nice once you get to know him. Tenshige is a tiny restaurant, so reservations are essential.

Rokukaku-tei

Feeling excited at Rokukaku-tei

Kushiage (or Kushikatsu) is a Osaka dish – crumbed and fried sticks of goodness that taste amazing, especially in winter. At Rokukaku-tei, the dinner set menu comes with 20 different types of sticks – or until you ask them to stop. I was full after ten, but I couldn’t stop without trying them all! The sticks were lightly battered and fried, and not oily at all. I’m craving them right now, that’s how delicious they were. Sigh.

TIP: If you’re having Rokukaku-tei for dinner, try to have a light lunch. Your tummy will thank you.

Another reason why I love Osaka – it’s just a short train ride away to Kinosaki Onsen, Kobe and Kyoto ;) I’ll leave that for my next post!

Discovering poetry can twist your insides

Watching Korean dramas is like eating rich, dark chocolate. It tastes so good, but I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be having it – or spending my nights watching it! I guess there are worse things to be hooked onto, and at least sometimes, the dramas lead to something interesting to explore. In this case, Korean poetry. Even after translation, the words tug at my heart and make me feel kinda of bittersweet and strange. I’m not sure what it is I’m longing for, but the feelings are there. Perhaps that’s the magic of poetry – bringing out emotions that we choose to ignore, or want to forget. I wonder how the poem feels like, read in Korean…

I found an English translation of Azaleas by Kim Sowol, translated by David R. McCann (from The Silence of Love).

Azaleas

When you leave,

weary of me,

without a word I shall gently let you go.

From Mt. Yak

in Yongbyon

I shall gather armfuls of azaleas

and scatter them on your way.

Step by step

on the flowers placed before you

tread lightly, softly as you go.

When you leave

weary of me,

though I die, I’ll not let one tear fall.