Upcycling wooden pallete for a herb garden

Living in an apartment with limited space and wanting to have herbs handy for meals made me creative & I looked for a wooden pallete for this herb garden project.

I found what I needed in a residential bin & I carted it home. I scrubbed the wooden pallete with sandpaper, used some soft twist garden wire, which I bought from the hardware shop, to secure each herb pot to the wooden pallete.

The herbs featured in the photo are rosemary, mint, chilli, basil, parsley & indian borage.

This is a simple idea for a small space.

Ernest Zacharevic’s Exhibition: Art is Rubbish

These neat neon lights greeted me at the entrance highlighting the exhibition theme of using materials that are available to create art, materials which some might discard as rubbish. What a great idea!

As soon as I heard of Ernest Zacharevic’s graffiti art exhibition, I decided to head up to Penang. I am pleased I did. I feasted my eyes and mind on Ernest’s perspective of creating art from rubbish in Malaysia.

Self-Portrait?

Self-Portrait?

I wonder if this piece is a self-portrait of the artist himself? The usage of old wooden cupboards & a carburettor was used to create this piece. The self-portrait has a disjointed, ethereal & uplifting feel to it. On a personal note, I loved it because it gave the impression that his soul is ethereal although his body is a standard machine like every other sentient being. His feet are arched on tip toes as if reaching for a higher platform or purpose. Next to this portrait, on the right, are his framed paint splattered trousers, akin to expressing that gifting his art to people is his life’s centrepiece. *perhaps I’m reading too much into this. Whatever he means, I like these pieces.

Produce of Indonesia

Produce of Indonesia

The tenderness of this piece portrayed on a jute sack in the way this lady lovingly protects the baby’s head. This art piece makes me think of the hired Indonesian helpers in Malaysian homes who leave their own families to earn wages which are repatriated back to their home countries for their families livelihood. Ernest has acute cultural observations of Malaysia because he has fresh eyes of a traveller. This is a trait I can relate to because the local societal norms are an anomaly for a traveller who is accustomed to a different cultural perspective.

After being away from Malaysia, I’ve had to piece my own puzzle and I am sometimes startled by the pieces that I find amongst us. The next piece of art is an example of how I felt. I love how Ernest painted on wooden blinds.

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KL Streets

KL Streets

Similarly, I took this photo, on my way home from work at about midnight and it struck me how difficult earning a living was for this man. He is impoverished and has to use the effort of his legs to cycle, collect and sell recycled rubbish to make ends meet. When I saw Ernest’s art in the gallery, I remembered that particular evening.

Sculpture piece

Sculpture piece

This piece made me giggle because I was trying to capture an appropriate angle to photograph it to interpret what it meant to me. It is a dark sculpture of a desolate, limbless prisoner cowering under the great light of inquisition. Being Malaysian, it reminds me of the limits of freedom of expression thereby restricting individuals rendering us constantly answerable to the authorities.

On to slightly more cheerful & very cute portraits of playful children:

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There was more art outdoors. I thought it was funny how this kid was scratching his head, trying to figure out what this art contraption was.

What's this?*scratches head

What’s this?*scratches head

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All right! I’ll stop here. His artwork was a pleasure and I highly recommend going for it. The exhibition details can be found here and the Facebook page for this event.

The taxi driver was confused and did not seem to know the directions. I think this the best way to describe it: 59, Jalan Gurdwara, Penang opposite to Grand Continental Hotel and next to SRJK Kampung Jawa, behind Times Square, next to Aik Soon & Company.

This is a photo of the entrance.

Entrance to the Hin Company Bus Depot! Tada!

Entrance to the Hin Company Bus Depot! Tada!

The gates are locked in the photo above because I arrived about 45 minutes too early.

I managed to coax a photo and some conversation out of the really friendly artist, Ernest although he was tired and busy manning the gift shop.

with the artist!

with the artist, Ernest Zacharevic!

I am weatherbeaten by the Penang heat. Please excuse my boho-dishevelled look.

Ernest’s art is a delightful, thought provoking perspective.

Petronas Twin Towers Kuala Lumpur

9 am            Good Morning Malaysia! What’s for breakfast?

Teh tarik, tea with a touch of condensed milk & Nasi Lemak which is rice cooked in coconut milk served with a spicy sambal, anchovies, peanuts, cucumber & a boiled egg. Add a fried chicken for some protein goodness! Try not to fall into a post-prandial coma after gorging such a heavy meal. We had nasi lemak at Village Park, address is No 5, Jalan SS 21/37, Damansara Utama, 47400 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Phone:+60 3-7710 7860.

Nasi Lemak

We headed to the Petronas Twin towers for an aerial view of KL.

At the time of writing, Malaysians pay a concession price of RM 35 whilst tourists pay RM 80. Its advisable to book tickets in advance to free up your time. Link here.

The sky bridge is situated at the 41st floor of the Petronas Twin Towers. We were fortunate that it was a clear day. I reckon I saw my home from the sky bridge at the Twin Towers. We were then brought to the 86th floor of the Petronas Twin Towers which had a spectacular aerial view of KL city. I loved this perspective!

I loved how the pockets of green interspersed with the sky scrapers . It was a spectacular view of the city I grew up in.

Shadow of the twin towers SONY DSC

Hummingbird Bakery Coffee Cake or Stuck Bundt Drama

Cake Ingredients:

2 tablespoons instant coffee granules

450g unsalted butter at room temperature

450g caster sugar

8 eggs

450g plain flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Makes 12-16 slices or more

8 eggs! I’ve never made a cake that required so many eggs. I decided to bake this cake for a dinner party hosted by Lady K for 16 people. The cake was moist & the coffee taste wasn’t overpowering. It was quite heavy to transport. I walked in the slippery cold to transport this cake. A guest commented that it looked like, “A gigantic doughnut”. It garnered a lot of compliments & some people requested for the recipe. Evidence that a cake is delectable is when people reach for seconds.Now, that is a cake’s encore ♥

Note: I sifted the dry ingredients twice: flour, baking powder,cocoa powder.

25 cm ring mould, grease & dusted with flour*very important step!

START

  1. Coffee Essence: put 2 tablespoons of instant coffee granules + 170 ml water to boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Boil until reduced by half, then remove from the heat & leave to cool completely. Set aside a tablespoon for use in the glaze later.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325ºF) Gas 3.
  3. Put the butter + sugar + cold coffee essence in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) & beat until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  4. Add 1 egg at a time, mixing well & scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
  5. Beat in the flour + baking powder + cocoa powder & mix well until everything is combined & the mixture is light & fluffy.
  6. Prepare your ring mould! Grease & dust it. Pour the mixture into the prepared ring mould & smooth over with a palate knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until the sponge feels firm to touch.
  7. Leave the cake to cool in the mould for before turning it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: I made the error of not preparing the ring mould properly. I almost had a HEART ATTACK because the cake was STUCK to the tin & I had to leave for the party PRONTO

Gently lower mould into hot water. Obviously tin side down & nt too much water! Take a moment to Breathe.

Gently lower mould into hot water. Obviously tin side down & not too much water! Take a moment to Breathe.

What I did: I boiled hot water which I poured into a little bucket, then I gently lowered my lovingly baked cake to the water for a few minutes. Closed my eyes & hoped for the better. Then I deftly lifted the cake out of the bucket & flipped it over onto a wire cooling rack.

Et Voila! It worked!! Did a victory dance in my little kitchen & proceeded to hastily glaze the cake.

Et Voila! Bundt out.

Et Voila! Bundt out.

Hummingbird recipe proposed a vanilla frosting but I wanted a glaze because I felt that would be lighter, fuss free when transporting & quick to make.

Glaze recipe:

Glaze cake in sink

Glaze cake in sink

170g Icing Sugar, 4 teaspoons of peach rum, 1 tablespoon of water + 1 tablespoon of reserve coffee essence.

I used the peach rum because I had it at hand and decided that peach rum & coffee were complementary flavours. haha!

Note: Sift the Icing Sugar once to avoid lumps.

1. Combine the Icing sugar + peach rum + water + coffee essence. Then, use a balloon whisk to whisk until smooth.

2. I put the cake with the wire rack at the bottom in the kitchen sink & poured the glaze over it. I think this method is best because it is easier to clean the kitchen sink than a surface. It is an unsaid rule that your kitchen sink should be clean.

3. I sprinkled a pinch of cinnamon & a generous amount of brown sugar on top of the glaze.

4. I left my glazed cake to cool for 30 minutes.

Brown sugar

I hope these little tips come handy when you bake. Happy Baking!

Source:

Hummingbird Bakery Cheddar, Ham & Mushroom Muffins

Make & bake the muffins on the same day. It is very easy & quick to make: 30 minutes. I found the dough mixture very sticky & tough but the muffins turned out very well. It keeps for 3 days.

If you would like a vegetarian version, I reckon sun-dried tomatoes & olives are wonderful substitutes for ham.

Scrummy Savoury Muffins

Scrummy Savoury Muffins

Source:

Hummingbird Bakery Green Tea Cupcakes

I baked these on the eve of Chinese New Year for a little dinner party hosted by Lady M. Baby M, Lady M’s niece demanded 2, that’s when I knew it was good.  The cupcakes had a nice little crusty top which led to an absolutely fluffy cake.

Note: Put the milk and green tea to infuse in the fridge overnight or for a few hours.

Frosting Note: I only used 200g of icing sugar in the frosting because I ran out of icing sugar. This turned out for the better because it wasn’t too sweet & had the slightly bitter taste of the tannins in the green tea. Lady M & I liked it because the flavours were more balanced. Although the icing did turn out a freakishly Frankenstein green shade because of the lack of Icing sugar compared to the shade of the green tea cupcake in the book that has a lighter shade of green.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Source:

Hummingbird Bakery Nutty Apple Loaf

This Nutty Apple Loaf is crumbly & moreish. Its a quick recipe which takes about 30 minutes or less to assemble. Note: this recipe requires for an overnight refrigeration. Baking the loaf for breakfast is a brilliant start to the first meal of the day! The wonderful sweet scent a fresh loaf permeating from the kitchen is heavenly. Once baked, the chunks of melted chocolate & soft apple pieces form this delectable loaf. What a breakfast treat ♥

Source: 

Bea’s German Chocolate Cheesecake

Bake worthyCake Ingredients:

600g of Hobnobs/Graham crackers, 100g unsalted butter melted, 800g cream cheese, 225g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 50g cornflour/cornstarch, 250ml whipping cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

25cm/10-inch cake pan, greased and baselined with parchment paper
10-12 slices

Note: I took 2 days to make this cake.

This was a very big and rich cake. It was the pièce de résistance for the little tea party I hosted on the 4th January 2013. After the first attempt, I halved the size of the ingredients to bake a smaller cake for Lady J’s birthday party on the 19th January 2013. Both times, it was a hit. Have a go!

Note: you can make your own dulce de leche or purchase a jar from the store. I couldn’t find any dulce de leche in the supermarkets so I decided to substitute that ingredient with salted caramel.


1. Preheat the oven to 125°C (240ºF) Gas 1.
2. Make the Crust. Crush the biscuits until you get fine crumbs. To do this I put the biscuits in a bag & bashed it with a rolling pin or smack it with a wooden spoon. Then, I put the crumbs into a bowl and crumble the biscuits to a finer texture. This can take about 30-40 minutes. Be patient, put on a nice song and dance on the spot while your hands are busy. The texture feels like sand between your fingers. Just imagine yourself at a sweet beach!
3. Add the melted butter, the amount you will need varies. Test by grabbing the mixture and squeezing into your hand to make a ball, then releasing your hand. The mixture should hold its shape but also fall apart when touched slightly. If it doesn’t hold its shape, add more butter otherwise the biscuit will dissolve into the cheesecake and you will have no crust.If it holds the shape too well, add more biscuits to absorb the butter, otherwise your crust will be too hard.
4. Press the mixture down into a prepared cake tin & pat down until level.
5. Put the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat until well mixed and the sugar has been dissolved.
6. Slowly incorporate the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until throughly combined before adding the next. Scrape the side of the bowl regularly to make sure that everything is incorporated. Sift the cornflour/cornstarch into the mixture and stir until throughly combined.
7.Add the cream and vanilla extract and mix until combined.Pour the mixture into the pan over the crust. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour until the middle is slightly jiggly and the top doesn’t look shiny or wet anymore.
8.Remove from the oven and and let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Note: Refrigerate overnight.
10.Unmould the cheesecake by turning it upside down on a plate or board, then uprighting it again.

yummy.

yummy.

Topping
Ingredients:
Fudge Icing + store bought caramel/dulce de leche + 5 tablespoons shredded coconut (do not replace with desiccated coconut) lightly toasted + 75 g pecan halves slightly toasted and crushed + melted dark or semi sweet chocolate for drizzling.
1. Spread a layer of fudge Icing over the cheesecake. Warn the dulce de leche/caramel slightly and drizzle over the fudge icing in generous dollops. Sprinkle in the pecans, coconuts & melted chocolate all over.
Fudge Icing
250ml whipping cream, 65g golden syrup, 350g dark chocolate (70% cocoa) chopped into pea sized pieces, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 75g unsalted butter cut into cubes and chilled.
Note: Do adjust the amount you need accordingly.
1.Put the cream + golden syrup into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
2.Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. As soon as the cream mixture comes to a boil, immediately pour it over the chocolate. Set aside for 1 minute.
3. Using a small balloon whisk placed in the middle of the bowl, stir with very small motions. Don’t stray from the middle of the bowl. You are making an emulsion by whisking a large amount of chocolate at the bottom of the bowl & slowly adding small amounts of cream to it. Stirring in larger motions will incorporate more cream than necessary and will result in a grainy texture. Do not incorporate air as, as that will result in shortening the life of the icing. Keep stirring in small motions-it will look like nothing is happening until eventually, a thick, glossy mixture forms. Gradually stir in wider motions to incorporate more cream into the emulsion until it’s fully combined.
4.Add the vanilla extract and butter & mix until it is well combined. Set aside to let the chocolate stiffen into a firm consistency before using.

Source: 

Dubai Desert Safari

An overnight stop in Dubai en route to London seemed a sensible excuse for a stopover. I had a comfortable stay at Ramee Hotel & booked the desert safari through them.

Desert safari experience: we were cruising along the highway when the driver stopped the vehicle to deflate the tyres of the 4WD. We were strapped into our seat belts & ready for some off-roading or dune bashing! It was exhilarating & I giggled uncontrollably. If you are toying with the idea of dune bashing, I suggest to eat nothing before the safari because you just might feel a bit queasy during the rumbly ride.

We were driven to an area in the desert designated for more activities such as riding camels, quad biking and so on. I got on the camel & when it stood fully on its legs, I squealed like a piglet because I didn’t expect to get up so high. Then I decided on a whim to go quad biking. I was a bit apprehensive at first so I rode the quad bike quite slowly but I felt confident & drove a lot faster.  Wrong move! The bike flipped & I sprained my ankle. Boom!
The next day I was wheeled into breakfast & around the airport in a wheelchair. It was worth the bravado, though.

Belly dancing

India Illuminates

I had a great time in India. As we travelled up north, I loved how the people, language & food changed. On the Indian train, we befriended some locals & they offered us food. People were friendly & warm. The multitude of different cultures which unites India makes it beautiful & unique. I loved the music & there was a rhythm to India.

Poverty was a novel & difficult experience which made me feel helpless. It was hard to see child beggars & groups of children picking up rubbish at the crack of dawn. It made me think of my grandparents & the reason they left India for Malaysia to seek a better future. I loved my grandparents & they always spoilt me even though they didn’t have a lot. I thought of my mother & how life was difficult for her. My life is a stark contrast to everything they had & I have grown up knowing this. I suppose, the extent of poverty never really registered in my life in such close proximity until I saw it in India. A mother came up to Subhen, asking him to buy her milk for her child. He went to the shop with her & was surprised to find that milk formula costs a lot of money. Although he put on a brave face, I know poverty affected him equally. Most of the time, I was handing out biscuits & sometimes money. I don’t know if what I did was right, but what stayed with me was their faces. I still remember them: that girl who boarded the bus asking for money.

I am usually an extremely paranoid person but I felt safe in India. Probably due to the fact that I had Subhen for company who sometimes joked that he was my body guard & occasional bag porter. I am grateful to have found an awesome travel companion. I could not have asked for better. I learnt about Indian culture history & Hinduism from him. He taught me how to hike by telling me to “trust my feet”. Encouraging me to go white-water rafting when I was having doubts. Making me eat when I really didn’t feel hungry because I was scared or exhausted. He was always there, keeping me grounded & taking perfect care of my well being. Such a friend is hard to come by & I remain grateful.

awesome friendship in jeep to Leh singing Hindi songs.

Awesome friendship in jeep to Leh singing Hindi songs.

Travelling India was a revelation: different facets of my personality I never knew existed surfaced. I learnt that I often underestimate my abilities, I love the thrill of bargaining, I enjoy hiking & that I am tough. I can deal with dirt as long as I have antibacterial wipes. I wear a hoodie in public transport because I don’t want to touch anything. I only sleep in my sleeping bag or cotton liner. I don’t use any pillows. I deal with uncertainty by laughing it off. Hiccups are part of the journey. I can be present & look for beauty in unexpected places. I’m great at packing & organized. I always have food, a head torch, chapstick, plasters & perfume with me.I am brave & real growth happened when I stepped out of my comfort zone. I am finally moving towards the things that I wanted to do, disregarding fear.

Heroine seeking adventure.

Heroine seeking adventure.

A random stranger I met before my trip said, “India beckons when you need it the most & it will be revelatory”. He was right.

India illuminated my life- gave me perspective about myself & the lives of others. I felt connected & curious about the culture. Since then, I have read a short book about the brief history of India & I am completely fascinated with Indian history, art & culture.

Book: 

A far cry from learning repetitively about  “Tamadun Islam” also known as Islamic Civilization & only 1 year to learn about world history. Don’t misinterpret, I do not mind learning about Islamic civilisation but we spent a disproportionate amount of time on it. Ah, I’m just pleased I’m free from mental torture, time to educate myself about the world.

Malaysian History Syllabus.

Malaysian History Syllabus.

After travelling India, I felt ready to start the next phase of my adventure, to travel solo in Europe.