Jan 31, 2009

Heatwave and Mint Choc Chip

So far I've tried to do (or automatically scheduled) 5 articles/week. This one is an exception, in honour of friends on the other side of Australia who've been suffering severe heat in the past few days.

To my lovely friends in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, we're officially hotter than you guys! UK, USA, Canada, and China, I envy you. Enjoy the chill! My apology if I haven't mentioned your country. You're welcome to join the party! Hehehe...

It's mint and it's chocolate. It's cold and it's fluffy. 2 litre tub of Bulla Creamy Classics Mint Choc Chip made with fresh full cream dairy milk. I bought this as hubby is a huge fan of anything edible that contains chocolates and mints. I find it too creamy for my liking. Not minty enough. Waxy chocolate chips. Too much E numbers. Hubby can finish the rest.

Verdict: Musically Disadvantaged (= not for me).

Fresh whole milk, fresh cream, liquid sugar (sugar, water), milk solids non fat, compound chocolate flake (4%) (sugar, vegetable fat, cocoa, skim milk powder, emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavours) maltodextrin (from maize), emulsifier (vegetable origin) (471), vegetable gums (413,407), peppermint flavour, colour (102,133,160(b)). Contains 10.5% milk fat by weight in ice cream. Contains soy and wheat products.

Jan 30, 2009

Spring Cleaning and Olay Regenerist Mask

According to Chinese belief, you're not allowed to do any cleaning on CNY day, in case you're sweeping the luck away out of your house. If you really have to sweep something on that day, you're supposed to leave the dirt inside the house, to keep the luck. Thus you're supposed to do "Spring Cleaning" before CNY.

I personally think the real reason behind it is to give housewives a break, so they can join in the celebrations without worrying about house cleaning. Hehehe...

This year I got distracted. I did clean and tidy up the place, but I didn't do a big "proper" spring cleaning. So yesterday I thought I'll start by going through my skincare drawer.

I found a forgotten sample of Olay Regenerist Mask. Then I decided to use it while making use of our brand new massager. But not before reading and re-reading the ingredients list for many times, in case my sensitive skin reacted to it. I know, Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour on my part... better to be safe than sorry.

This stretchy mask claims it "helps reduce appearance of deep lines & pores", "firms skin". I still don't have lines (yeah, boasting my youthfulness) so can't verify that claim. I do find my pores looked smaller, my skin also felt firmer and smoother after application.

The mask juice (anti-aging serum) left a slightly sticky feeling, wiping my face with wet cotton pad solved the problem. Love the calming scent.

This morning my skin still feel smooth. No breakouts, which means my skin is loving it. A very pleasant surprise, for a supermarket brand it works well. I never thought Olay could be that good.

Verdict: Very Musical (= highly recommended)

Water, Butylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Glycerin, Panthenol, Isopropyl Isostearate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polyacrylamide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Sucrose Polycottonseedate, Tocopherol, PEG-100 Stearate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Alcohol, Allantoin, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Methylparaben, Palmitoyl PEntatpeptide-3, Carnosine, Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract, Sodium Citrate, Potassium Sorbate, Chlorphenesin, Fragrance.

Jan 29, 2009

Therapeutics Massager

Hubby has been wanting to buy a massager since he saw product demonstrations when we were in Singapore last year. Like other men he likes gadgets and love clever new things. Originally he wanted a hand-held device, but I wasn't keen on those as I find the vibrations annoying.

Last Saturday we ended up buying a mattress-style massager as a CNY gift from us to us.

Therapeutics Quilted Massager With Heat
Sunbeam, VB6500

Full body massager with heat to ease aches and pains.

Soft, quilted design with in built pillow for total relaxation.

4 separate massage zones: neck & shoulders, back, thighs, and calves. 2 settings/zone: normal and more intense massage.

The attached remote control helps me to target specific area of my body at the touch of a button. I especially love the heat setting for the lower back, I find it very relaxing and comforting. The only thing that I still don't like is the neck & shoulders bit. Somehow it doesn't do it for me. The rest are wonderfully fabulous.

Hubby loves everything, as expected. :)

It's best used on top of settee or bed as it creates more noise when being used on the floor.

The instruction book says not to use it more than 20 mins. Which is more than enough in my opinion.

Verdict: Very Musical (= highly recommended)

Jan 28, 2009

Ninety East Ridge

Akung's cremation is on Friday. One of my fond memories of him is seeing him sitting down reading newspapers, with a cup of black coffee on his side. So I'm typing this in memory of him.

I'm a bookworm. As my body needs food for nourishment, so does my mind needs feeding. From Natural Geographic to Asterix and Obelix, from books about cats to books about music, from Bible to cooking books, I read anything that takes my fancy.

"Ninety East Ridge" by Stephen Reilly is the latest fiction I've just finished reading.

Here's the blurb from the book's cover:

"In the middle of the Indian Ocean, the biggest, most ambitious engineering project in history is under way. In this hole in the ocean, Anna Spires and her elite team of social architects aim to build a new world, a better world. But while some share Anna's vision of utopia, there are others who believe she must be stopped...

Stephen Reilly's sweeping debut novel is a love story, a globetrotting adventure and a daring commentary of the choices we face, the choices we make and the choices we have no control over. It is a novel for the new millennium."

The book is set in Australia, somewhere at the far side of Fremantle, Western Australia. Not surprising, really, considering it's written by a Sydney born author.

At first I was a bit skeptical when I realized that he is the brother of the popular Australian action thriller author: Matthew Reilly. My skepticism was unfounded, I love the book! It's one of those books that could make me stay up until 2am, sacrificing my beauty sleep, because I so wanted to know what happens next.

Don't let the blurb fool you. Yes, the story is "framed" as a love story. Trust me, it's nothing like one of those disgusting soppy love story that I don't like. To me the book is more about the adventure of venturing to the unknown, about Anna Spires trying to realize her childhood dreams in building the "perfect" world. About dogged determinations to achieve what you set out to do. And the power of choices.

My verdict? True food for thoughts.

Book info:

ISBN 073291146X

First published in 2002

by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited

Jan 27, 2009


I had an eventful start to CNY.

Yesterday I saw two wonders. One was the wonder of nature (partial solar eclipse). The other one was the wonder of human's imaginations and inventions (fireworks show). Both are glorious things that can't be described by mere words and photos.

Another wonder happened in the middle of the night. I received news from afar, saying my grandfather has passed away. As expected. You see, my Akung (my dad's father) already knew his end was near. Yesterday he requested the family to call a pastor to come to his side to pray for him. That's how we all knew he would be gone sooner than later.

He had cancer. Already spreading around his body. Doctors said he would die in a matter of months, if not weeks. They were so wrong. He lived for another 5-6 years before his time finally came. Another wonder.

Am I sad? You bet. Sad, but not crushed, as I know he has gone to meet his Maker and to meet his beloved wife who had gone before him.

You know what, I'm glad that he has gone to a better place where there's no more suffering. It's good that he doesn't have to put up with the pains anymore. It's good to know that he's not having difficulty eating and drinking anymore. It's good to know that he has finally being released from his imperfect earthly body, waiting for the time when he can get a perfect body that can't be destroyed.

"Listen, I tell you a mystery:
We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed -
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

For the trumpet will sound,
The dead will be raised imperishable,
And we will be changed.

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable,
And the mortal with immortality.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable,
And the mortal with immortality,
Then the saying that is written will come true:
"Death has been swallowed up in victory."

"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Akung's faith in God sustained him, so my faith and my family's faith will sustain us throughout our earthly journey.

Goodbye, Akung! It's been good to know you. 'till we meet again!

(I Corinthians 15:51-57)

P.S. I'm proud that my Akung went out with a "bang", during CNY festivities! :)

Jan 26, 2009

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Gong Xi Fa Cai,
Hong Bao Na Lai!
(= Congratulations and be prosperous,
Bring me red envelopes filled with money!)

Ooops, as a married person I'm not entitled to receive the red envelopes. Only children and singles are allowed to collect them during CNY period. Of course they collect the hong bao from us, poor married ones! Hehehe...

Whether you're young or old, single or married, here's my gift to you: a link to a recipe to make fortune cookies. Yum!

Jan 23, 2009

Prickly Heat Powder

This made in Thailand powder is an essential product in our household. Many years ago we stumbled upon this powder in an Indian shop in Singapore, so it's an exotic enough find to make it to this week's article. It also has menthol, in line with my current minty theme. Hehehe...

It's the only product that helps soothe heat rashes and itching that comes from over-exposure to the sun during holidays. The powder also helps to cool us down during hot summer days.

Prickly Heat Powder comes in 4 varieties: Classic, Lavender, Herbal, and one with Anti-Bacteria agent. The scents come from natural essential oils. We stick to the Classic version as hubby refuses to smell "girly". Typical.

Verdict: Very musical (= highly recommended)

Menthol, camphor, triclocarban, perfume, kaolin, talc.

It's quite difficult to find them here in Australia. I've seen Asian supermarkets stocking them. It's worth the hunt though, I haven't found anything that could replace it.

Jan 22, 2009

Skin Food Black Sugar Mask

I stumbled upon this brand when I was researching totally unrelated thing on the internet. On my trip to Singapore last year, I found one Skin Food shop at Raffles City. Yay for me, though silly me couldn't remember which particular mask was being raved about! A brunette moment... That contributed to longer look-see session while hubby visited the nearby supermarket.

Since this Korean made skincare brand is supposed to be "natural" I went checking the ingredients of almost every single things in the shop. Nope, it's not totally natural, some man-made chemical included. I'm not complaining though, as they contain a reasonable amount of ingredients that are more than a token amount. Plus, the ingredients lists are generally shorter than many other products out there. Shorter list = lesser chance of getting an allergic reaction. So I got sucked and bought the Black Sugar Mask - Wash off.

The best way to describe it: a sugar based face scrub with lemon scent that could be left for 10-15 mins. as a mask.

The blurb on the packaging: "a nourishing mask with an intense conditioning action, delivering the perfecting properties of real black sugar. It revitalizes and firms up tired, dull, dehydrated skin.

I can't read Korean characters, so I can't give you the ingredients list. My apology for throwing the English sticker list out last year, I didn't know I was going to write a blog then. I can't see into the future! Let's put it this way, if I bought it, the ingredients must have passed my close scrutiny of the labels. Hehehe...

In the few times I've used it I think it works well as a scrub. Not too harsh, not too mild. Just right. Love the lemon scent. Does it moisturise my skin? I'm not sure. It's not something that gives my skin visible boost straight away like my favourite brand, Elemis.

Verdict: I'll give it a couple more tries before deciding whether it's worth re-purchasing.

Jan 21, 2009

Spring Rolls

I found this old recipe that includes precise measurements. Hubby mentioned the other day that according to the copyright training he had at work, list of ingredients can't be copyrighted. Only the instruction portions could be copyrighted.

Though I could be "borrowing" the ingredients list from elsewhere, all the cooking instructions in my articles are my own words, thus I'm SO going to copyright them! Hehehehe...

Anyway. Here goes the Vegetarian Spring Rolls recipe.

10 sheets frozen spring roll wrappers

2 cloves garlic - crushed
50gr mushrooms - chopped finely
120gr carrot - shredded
70 gr white cabbage - shredded

3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp light soy sauce
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
1.5 tsp cornflour
4 tbsp water

For sealing: mix plain flour with a little water.

1. Fry garlic in a little oil in the wok until the colour change. Discard the garlic.
2. Add mushrooms, cabbage, and carrot, stir for 1min.
3. Add seasonings and fry until everything turns thicker. Let it cool on a plate.
4. Place filling in the centre of spring rolls wrapper. Fold the wrapper to make a roll. Seal the end with the plain flour "glue".
5. Deep fry spring rolls over moderate heat. Make sure to keep on turning them to avoid creating burnt rolls! From experience I find that frying using coconut oil enhances the taste.
6. Drain, put in a dish lined with paper towels to absorb the extra oil.
7. Serve with sweet Thai chili sauce or Worcestershire sauce

Add cooked mince chicken for a meaty option. Enjoy!

Jan 20, 2009

Asparagus Soup

This is the most memorable dish in my Chinese cooking repertoire. Reason: it's the soup my mother cooks for special occasions or treats.

As in other Asian form of cooking, the amount of the ingredients and spices are quite ambiguous, there's no set amount like in Western cooking. A pinch of this, a tiny bit of that, a slice of this, a dash of that. I suppose it helps to "train" our taste buds. After some practice you'll get use to it in no time. In my opinion, it's good to have flexible recipes, that way you can always adjust the amount of spices according to your liking. It also encourages you to keep on practicing, doing trials and errors in order to perfect your favourite recipes.

The best cooking advice my mother ever gave me: always add a little bit of sugar in your cooking, it's the one thing that makes the difference. It's my late grandma's cooking secret. I've always done it ever since. So the cat is out of the bag! (Say, "thank you, Music!") Hehehe...

My mum's original recipe uses crab meat. Chicken makes a good substitute. For a vegetarian option, use mushrooms instead.

I find white asparagus give a softer taste compared to the green asparagus. I haven't seen fresh white asparagus around here, so I use fresh green asparagus or canned white asparagus.

Vegetable stock
Asparagus - chopped about an inch long
Sweetcorn (or baby sweetcorn)
Castor sugar - a teaspoon is good for a start
White pepper and salt to taste
Egg, beaten
Cornflour - mixed with cold water: a little bit goes a long way!
White vinegar
Parsley for garnish

1. Stir fry onions. Halfway throw in the garlic. Stir fry until both change colour.
2. Pour vegetable stock. Add chicken/crab meat (if used), asparagus, and sweetcorn.
3. Bring to boil, then simmer on low heat until the meat is tender.
4. Make sure the soup is hot (increase the heat if necessary) before pouring the beaten egg tiny bit by tiny bit while stirring the soup so the egg breaks up into "strands".
5. Add sugar, white pepper, and salt to taste.
6. Add cornflour mix until the soup is slightly thicker. Remember NOT to put too much cornflour, otherwise you'll end up with a starchy lump of solid!
7. Add a dash of white vinegar to taste.
8. Done. Garnish with parsley leaves.

Serve on it's own or with croutons for a more westernised version.

When we were kids we used to add tomato sauce and chili sauce to the soup. Nowadays I like to savour the soup just as it is.

Jan 19, 2009

7 days before Chinese New Year!

As it's a week before Chinese New Year, I'm officially putting my Italian stories on hold. Instead I'll be talking about all things Oriental.

For someone of Chinese descent I'm not very Chinese. I've never been to China. I'm not an expert in Chinese customs. My Mandarin is very dodgy compared to Kevin Rudd's. Sure, I look Oriental enough, being a light-skinned brunette with funny Chinese nose, though my big eyes with double eyelids betray my convoluted blood line.

There was some Western influence up in my ancestry line. Back in the olden days inter-race relationships were being frowned upon, it was considered as "contaminating" the royal blood pool. No one talks openly about it, for fear of bringing "shame" to the family. You can only cover things up so much though, as many people in my mum's family have naturally light brown/blond-ish hair. Personally I think there's nothing wrong with mix-relationships, if anything, I find people of mixed heritage are better looking! Hehehe... I suppose I could trace the exact origins of my ancestors if I were to go to China, as my mother's side of the family kept a close records of their ancestry, due to the said "royal blood".

There was also rumours about my paternal grandfather being the fruit of my great-grandfather's illegitimate relationship with his local Indonesian mistress. My auntie thinks the rumour is true. I suppose DNA test could have proven it for sure.

Hubby is 7/8 English, 1/8 Dutch. So our descendant's blood will be even more convoluted.

Yes, there's a point to my ramblings. I might not be a true-blue Chinese person and apart from his fondness of Chinese food there's nothing Oriental about hubby. One thing we know, we would like to keep some Chinese traditions (read: celebrations we like and food) alive in our household. Call it trying to get the best from both Chinese and Western worlds. Let's see, that will include but not limited to Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter, Mooncake Festival. Can you see the limitless food potentials?! Hehehe...

So here's to the countdown, 7 days to CNY (= Chinese New Year)! Yay! :)

Jan 16, 2009

Peppermint Foot Lotion and Lip Balm

Occasionally I contract a "foot in mouth" disease, when my mouth speaks faster than my brains. So I'll start this from the bottom to the top.

A little caution: I've heard about people being allergic to peppermint. So it's always good to do a spot test before trying any new things. As with other things, what I like you might not like, vice versa. So don't blame me if you don't like them! Hahaha... See, even my disclaimers are at the top, just to turn things around a bit.

I love it when pepperminty products deliver real pepperminty kick like this one does. The foot lotion "refresh and soothe" my tired feet, just like it says on the tube. I don't notice any moisturising effect, which isn't a problem as it never claimed to be.

Verdict: Very musical (= highly recommended).

Natural meter: 100% natural - LOVE! #

Ingredients *:
Water, sunflower oil, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil, beeswax, peppermint oil, stearic acid (vegetable fat), witch hazel, glucose (sugar), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), wheat germ oil, tea tree oil, parsley leaf oil, orange wax, tocopherol (vitamin E), rosemary leaf extract, menthol, sodium borate (natural borax), xanthan gum, sucrose stearate (sugar emulsifier), glucose oxidase & lactoperoxidase (natural enzymes).

I'm not a huge fan of lip balms/lip glosses/lipsticks. I could do without any lip products, or so I thought before I tried this lip balm.

I'm addicted to the instant hit of peppermint zing on my lips. Personally I think the fresh feeling stays longer than after using minty toothpaste. It's an essential part of my bedtime rituals now, I can't sleep without applying the lip balm first (after brushing my teeth, of course!)

On most days I only use it once a day, but the difference is noticeable: my lips are smooth and moisturised.

It also does everything it says on the tube:
- Soothing (yup)
- Cooling (absolutely)
- Refreshing (without doubt)

A word of caution: do not use if you're allergic to lanolin.

Verdict: Very musical (= highly recommended).

Natural meter: 100% natural - LOVE! #

Ingredients *:
Beeswax, coconut oil, sunflower oil, tocopheryl acetate & tocopherol (vitamin E), lanolin, peppermint oil, comfrey root extract, rosemary extract.

* found on my products, not sure why they're slightly different from the list on their webpage

# according to the webpage.

I love the fact that Burt's Bees products contain REAL natural ingredients and honestly says how many percent of the product is natural. Unlike some overpriced, overrated, over-hyped bogus "natural" products with misleading advert... don't even get me started on those... my beauty friends should know which particular brand I'm thinking of... The "ghost" of skincare past... Hehehe...

Jan 15, 2009

Tabouli Salad and Cats

Serves 4

3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cracked wheat/bulgar
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tomato, diced

3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
pepper and salt to taste

1. Pour boiling water over wheat. Stand for 20 mins.
2. Add parsley, mint, onion, and tomato.
3. Combine the dressing ingredients. Toss to mix.

For a more gourmet take: serve on top of lettuce, sprinkled with pine nuts. Enjoy!

= my favourite animals.

My sis gave us a Stuff On My Cat Calender for Christmas. Love it!

If you like cats, check out this webpage: http://www.stuffonmycat.com/

Jan 14, 2009

Florence and Kendal Mint Cake

Above is Basilica Santa Croce (= Holy Cross Basilica) in Florence.

Apart from the Basilica itself, most of the buildings around the Piazza are shops selling leather goods: coats, bags, shoes, etc. I remember entering one of the shops on the left side of the photo and trying on a gorgeous floor length black leather coat. The cutting was superb and the leather was very soft. I looked fabulous wearing it, even if I may say so. Hehehe... However, I was living in hot and humid Singapore at that time, so I couldn't see the point of buying the coat, no matter how tempting it was. Looking back, I should have bought it. I guess I was too young and naive to know the value of investing in a classic coat then.

The Basilica looks really ornate outwardly, so I was expecting the inside to be at least as nice as that. I was quite shocked when I stepped in, as the inside was very plain, grey and humble looking compared to the outside. I suppose I shouldn't judge the Basilica by it's cover... Inside are the tombs of famous people: Dante, Michelangelo, Voltra, Gallilei, Machiavelli, Lancio, Rossini, etc.

That's my only memories of Florence. Not much, I know. Perhaps it wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be...

As promised, this week is all about pepperminty things. So with much pleasure I present to you the recipe for Kendal Mint Cake, a hugely popular mint treat in England.

According to an article I read, the Mint Cake was created by accident in the 19th century. It's fame spread after being first sold at Kendal railway station. It's also popular with mountaineers due to it's energy content.

I'm no mountaineer but I love eating them alongside my chocolate drink. Somehow they always remind me of Lake District and wintry Christmas.

This recipe makes 16 squares.

450gr (1lb) granulated sugar
150ml (1/4 pint) milk
5ml (1tsp) peppermint essence

1. Butter an 18cm (7inch) square shallow cake tin. Place the sugar and milk in a saucepan. Bring very, very slowly to the boil over a very low heat, shaking and swirling the pan occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Place a thermometer in the pan and boil rapidly until the mixture reaches 140C (275F). Remove from the heat and add the essence, beating well until smooth and cooled slightly.

3. Pour into the prepared tin. As it cools, mark out squares with a knife. Once cold cut into 16 squares.

Clever idea: dip them in chocolate, leave to dry on top of baking paper. Voila: after dinner mint!

Jan 13, 2009

In Essence Detox Body Polish

So far I've managed to keep my pre-Christmas sale purchase a secret from everyone, including my closest beauty friends. Patience is a virtue, my friends!

Since Glossqueen is the most persistent of them all, this review is dedicated to her. I'd also like to thank her for inspiring me to include the ingredients list.

It smells exotic in it's container. Upon application: the minty smell permeates the shower room, uplifting my feeling while clearing up my sinuses as an added bonus. It does a very good job polishing my skin. The scrub melts away as a milky white liquid when in contact with water, leaving my skin pleasantly smooth. It doesn't dry my skin and doesn't leave an oily muck like other moisturising scrubs I've used.

For daily exfoliation, use this body scrub on damp skin. For weekly deep cleansing: apply on dry skin before washing in the shower.

Verdict: 5 star body polish. Very musical (= highly recommended).

Maris sal (Sea Salt), Glycerin, PEG-8, Oryza sativa (Rice) bran, Cocamidopropyl betaine, Beeswax, Cetearyl alcohol, Disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate, Butyrospermum parkii (Shea butter), Olea europaea (Olive) oil, Buxus chinesis (Jojoba) oil, Macrocystis pyrifera (Kelp) extract, Panax ginseng (Ginseng) extract, Citrus grandis (Grapefruit) oil, Mentha piperita (Peppermint) leaf oil, Citrus medica limonum (Lemon) peel oil, Citrus aurantifolia (Lime) oil, Litsea cubeba (May chang) fruit oil, Pelargonium graveolens (Geranium) flower oil, Zingiber officionale (Ginger) root oil, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, Silica.

P.S. My copyrighted topic of the week is peppermint. So I'll be reviewing other pepperminty products and posting pepperminty recipes in the next few days. What about Italy? Well, since my skin is nice and smooth now, I'll be talking about smooth leather coats to complement my look. Which brings me to Florence...

Jan 12, 2009

Mix Berry Coulis

I made this for a friend who is wheat-intolerant.

Today's post is supposed to be for the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Mix Berry Coulis, like the picture above (baked by moi). Unfortunately the recipe went missing somewhere in the cyber space, so you just have to be content with the coulis for the moment. Here goes.

Mixed Berry Coulis:

500-600gr frozen mixed berries

2 tbsp icing sugar

2 tbsp Cointreau (use lemon juice for non-alcoholic option)

Cook everything on medium heat until it boils. Remove from heat.

Serve on top of cakes, ice cream, waffles, pancakes, or fresh fruits.

Jan 9, 2009

Paintings and Sweet Revenge

It's difficult to start again after being distracted by the richness of the truffles. Being handmade objects I think they could be counted as works of art, therefore it was still in line with other things mentioned on the same day. See, I do stick to the subject. Hehehe...

So, back to Cappella Sistina (= Sistine Chapel), the greatest example of Renaissance art.

"Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving."

- Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 1787

I can't express it better. What I saw was beyond beautiful and more mind-blowing than seeing the photos in books alone. The attention to details, the mix of colours, etc. are truly proofs of Michelangelo's stroke of genius...

It took the experts 20 years to complete the recent restoration.



As you can see, the walls and ceilings are filled with frescoes. From the story of Creation to The Last Judgement.

Amongst the many well-known portions of the frescoes, The Last Judgement fascinated me the most. Firstly, the paintings took up the whole wall behind the altar - it was the biggest single fresco from that century. Secondly, a true story told by my beloved music history lecturer.

Biagio da Cesena, the Pope's Master of ceremony, criticised Michelangelo's paintings, saying, "It was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns."

Michelangelo responded by painting Biagio as one of the demons in hell, with the ears of a donkey, his body draped in a serpent. Upset by this insult, Biagio complained to the Pope. With a sense of humour, the Pope reportedly said, "Ah, you are in hell. That is too bad. If you were in purgatory, I could help you. But even I can't get you of hell."

So the picture stays. Michelangelo had his sweet revenge. The story is still told hundreds of years later, and the painting is still there for everyone to see.

Another interesting thing that stood out for me: the picture of St. Bartholomew holding his own skin. Gory, I know. If you look closely, the face on the skin is supposed to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself. Interesting.

Jan 7, 2009

Homemade Truffles

This recipe makes about 24-30 truffles

200gr dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
2tbsp Cointreau
60gr butter at room temperature (salted butter gives better result)
2 tsp cream
1/4 cup ground almonds
2tbsp icing sugar
cocoa powder for coating

1. In a bowl: microwave dark chocolate and Cointreau - use medium low setting. Microwave until the chocolate melts or nearly melting, soft enough to mix.

2. Remove the bowl. Stir. Add butter a little at a time. Mix well.

3. Mix in cream, almonds, and icing sugar.

4. Let the mixture cool down a bit, then chill for 15mins. or until firm enough to handle.

5. With damp hands: take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into small balls. If you find it too fiddly, put mixture straight into individual paper cases.

6. Roll balls in the cocoa powder. If you put it straight into paper cases: dust with cocoa powder on top.

7. Put truffles on a tray lined with baking paper. Refrigerate until firm.

8. Put truffles inside individual paper cases if you haven't already done so. Serve on it's own or with coffee.

If you'd like them to look fancier, roll them in a mix of cocoa powder and ground almonds or hazelnut pieces.

They will keep for up to 10 days if stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

The ones I made before Christmas disappeared very quickly. Hehehe...

City of Gold

St Peter's Basilica (taken from St. Peter's Square) at Vatican City. I arrived early enough to take the above photo without fighting with other tourists for the best spot. There weren't that many people yet in the vicinity. It did get busier by the minute. Apparently the Square gets super crowded on Sundays when the Pope himself appears on one of the windows to bless the crows. I'm not a Catholic and I wasn't keen to see the Pope from a mile away. No offence, the prospect of getting squashed in the crowd wasn't my idea of being blessed. Two ladies from my tour group went. They said the crowd was huge indeed.

Anyway. Vatican City is a walled city-state within Rome. Don't let the "humble" plain-ish looking facades deceive you. Considering it's the smallest city-state in the world, the richness within might surpass many countries in the world. Before my visit I didn't even know that there are that many museums inside Vatican... should have done my homework properly...

As I stepped inside the building one word came to mind: opulence. The intricate art works covered in or made of gold were plastered all over the place as if gold was cheaper than paint. I could smell, see, touch, and feel opulence. Pity I couldn't taste it, as there wasn't any Opera cake (a bit like tiramisu cake with real gold leaves on top) in there. Hehehehe...

I was surrounded by probably one of the most comprehensive art collections in the world. Being surrounded by amazing things created by gifted people should have delighted me. Nevertheless, that moment was one of those rare moments when I thought "too much of a good thing" was too much and too overwhelming for me. Everything was an assault to my senses. Beautiful statues, carvings and colourful frescoes (paintings) on the ceilings, magnificent sculptures, illuminated Bibles (hand-written, illuminated: the words are decorated intricately, some inlaid with real gold), tapestries, more arts, and more gold. The collections weren't something that could be digested in a few hours time, more like something to be savoured over the course of a week or more, depending on your level of interest. I wonder whether people who live there ever get "immune" to the sights...

One useful trick I read in a guide book: bring a compact mirror. I used it to view artworks on the ceilings without straining my neck. Handy!

My favourite amongst them all: the Sistine Chapel. The newest restoration of the paintings had just been completed not long before I went, so I was amongst the firsts to see the result. I didn't care about experts who said that the restoration wasn't historically accurate or something in that line. To my untrained eyes they looked amazing. Mar-vel-lous. I ran out of superlatives to describe it. Looking at it made me feel as if I was the most un-creative person in the whole world. More about Sistine Chapel later.

Jan 6, 2009

Roma, la Città Eterna

My Italian adventure started in Rome, the Eternal City. It's one of the most important places in Western civilisation, providing a rich background to the development of church music, which is the "ancestor" of Classical music genre as we know it.

Old buildings and historical places at every twists and turns, it was a feast for the eyes. I love old buildings and the intricate arts that come with them.

When I was little I told my mother that I wanted to be an archaeologist . She said, "No! It's a job that's too dangerous for a woman." So that was the end of it. If I were more determined, right now I could have been living in a remote part of the world, dusting artifacts covered with spiders' webs... shudders... glamorous it is not. Finding riches, solving ancient mysteries? Nah, I'd rather be an Indiana Jones in the comfort of my chair.

The Colosseum above is the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire, originally used for gladiatorial combat.

The size of the place is truly colossal. I could imagine the hustle and bustle of the Colosseum when it was full of people. Spectators chatting in anticipation, gladiators psyching themselves, slaves doing whatever they were supposed to do, lions being prepped (=starved?), vendors selling food and drinks - or did they bring their own picnic? What do you think?

* The top images: from a postcard I bought in Rome.

* Colosseum photo: taken by Yours Truly's own Olympus manual camera. Sad to say that said camera has had it's glory days. May it rest in peace.

Jan 5, 2009

Mie Pizza

mie = noodles (Indonesian)
pizza = well, you know, PIZZA! Hehehehe...

Strictly speaking it's not really a pizza, it's more like an Asian style fritata. I have no idea why the dish doesn't reflect the name.

It's a lazily clever way of making a quick meal in a hot summer day.

- Unhealthy option: use a packet of Indomie Mie Goreng, any flavour will do. I'm partial to the Sate/Satay flavour.
- Healthy option: use pasta
- 1 large egg

1. Cook the noodles/pasta.
2. Add the flavouring packets/mix Italian herbs to the egg, beat well.
2. Put the noodles/pasta in a microwave safe bowl. Pour egg mixture on top.
3. Microwave for 2 mins. (or until half-cooked).
4. Turn over and do another 2 mins. (or until both sides are cooked and the noodles look dry)
5. Serve with tomato sauce and mayonnaise. (Japanese mayo is the best!)

For an even healthier option: add cooked mix vegetables and sliced mushrooms before step 2.

For a restaurant look: add chopped parsley on top of Mie Pizza, with salad leaves and cherry tomatoes on the side.

There. Easy peasy.

Yeah, not quite Italian. Hehehe... Still, I thought I should get it out of my system sooner than later, while I'm hunting for my notes, photos, and postcards from my trip to Italy to refresh my memory.

I also have to mention that I went there while their currency was still Lira, during northern hemisphere's summer 2000.

P.S. Last night I played a quick game of Chuzzle. Lo and behold, I managed to zoom passed hubby's highest score. The computer must have felt guilty for making me scoffed the Chocolate Orange... Peace offering accepted. Therefore I'm declaring myself as the Queen of Chuzzle's TWO kingdoms! Classically Speedy... or is it Speedily Classic? Hm... Woohoo anyway.... (hubby said, "It's just a game..." No way he would have said that if he was the overall winner!)

Jan 3, 2009

Three C's

= Chocolate, Computer, Chuzzle

The Chocolate Orange is gone!!! I'm eating the last piece not long before typing this.

Opened the chocolate yesterday evening as I was feeling very stressed out when the computer game cheated on me and let hubby took the top spot on the high scorer board! Obviously the computer was on hubby's side, it kept on cheating on me, blocking my every move. Despite my efforts I couldn't beat hubby's score, my scores weren't even remotely close to his!!! Shame on you, computer, for being a traitor! Oh, the betrayal... the frustration... the distress...

So I HAD TO turn to the Chocolate Orange as my feel good booster... Hubby and I shared the chocolate equally, with me being the one who kept on pigging out on my share (due to the stress mentioned above).

As of this moment I'm declaring war with the computer, for letting hubby retaining his reign on Speed Chuzzle!

There are two modes on Chuzzle Deluxe: Speed and Classic. For the record I'm still the Queen of Classic Chuzzle. Hehehe...

Conclusion: computer upsets me, chocolate consoles me.
Back to Italy for my next post...

Jan 2, 2009

Belleza Eterna

= "Eternal Beauty" (Italian).

Leaning Tower of Pisa, pizza for lunch,
Brown murky water of Venice, yummy tiramisu for dessert,
Calming blue-green Bay of Naples, bottled water for drinking,
Dusty streets in Rome, dusky evenings in Como,
Leather goods in Florence, intricate glass blowing in Murano,
Posh boutiques and pigeon poos (yup!) in Milan...

Travelling in Italy was like travelling through the passage of time, re-living the pages of the history books and remembering important events from music history lectures. Each city or town has it's own identity to the extent that moving from place to place felt like moving through different countries.

My eyes were opened wide to the wonders of arts, the delicious simplicity of local Italian food, the beauty of the sceneries and historical buildings. Coupled with having an American girl as a roommate and meeting a strange Italian man (tall, blue-eyed, fair-skinned), it was an experience to remember.

Over the next few days (or weeks!) I'm going to share snippets of that trip. Even the act of remembering the places alone brought a warm fuzzy feeling to my heart. One word to describe it: Bellissimo (= very beautiful)!

Jan 1, 2009

Chocolate Orange

2009 is here!

I'm not one to make new year resolutions. Once, many years ago, I decided that I had to stop being a coffee addict. That particular year I didn't drink any coffee, not even a drop. Yep, I did get withdrawal symptoms, but no, I didn't give in. So I succeeded.

I still think resolutions aren't just for the start of the year. Perhaps the rebel in me thinks that resolutions are made to be broken. Or perhaps I just want to be different. Or plain lazy after eating too much cakes and chocolates during the festive season. Blame it on hubby, he gave me those chocolates! Hehehehe....

Nevertheless, I'm proud to say that Terry's Chocolate Orange is still safe in it's box... By the way, "It's not Terry's, it's OURS!" - ala Dawn French from Vicar of Dibley... Hahaha... I love her sense of humour... could be irreverent, funny regardless... Anyway, no matter where we are in the world, hubby always buys that chocolate orange, as a part of our own Christmas tradition. Very English, huh?!

Last night I was thinking of this prayer:
"Lord, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."
I can't stand injustice, bullying, and hypocrites. I would like to help people who are in poverty, both material and spiritual poverty. The weak and defenceless should be spoken for. Sometimes I see things I would like to change, but I don't have the courage nor the means to help facilitate it. Other times I'm too passionate about too many things I ended up frustrating and upsetting myself. This prayer reminds me to keep my feet on the ground.

Borrowing a friend's email signature:
"I may only be a person to the world,
but I may also be the world to one person.
Make a positive difference in a person's life."

Musical Rainbow

First entry, first day, first time blogging. Is it 1st of January yet? Nope.

Of all days I choose 31 Dec, the end of the year, as the day to start putting my thoughts into cyber paper. So here I am typing away on the keyboard. Not quite the same as moving my pretty paws on the piano or the organ, but pretty close. The difference is I'm not producing any music in your ears. I'm producing music for thoughts instead, or that's what I'm hoping to do.

Many years ago someone accused me of contracting a case of verbal diarrhoea. Hmm… not quite, I think… Though I have to admit there are times I have too many things on my brunette head that can't wait to be given a lease of life outside my brains.

As I reflect back to the years that have been, I can see that my life has been nothing but boring. Call it full of a rainbow of experience if you must.

As of today I have visited 14 countries and have lived in 5 countries around the world. Nothing much compared to a retired couple I know who have visited more than 150 countries. I didn't even realise there are that many countries in the world before I met them! My google search shows that depending on your source, there are between 189 to over 245 countries in the world. Mind blowing data. Based on that I've only travelled to 5-7% of the total. Very humbling indeed.

I digress. Back to my life. I have many interests. My cyber name "Music" isn't a reflection of my number one passion. I love cats, reading, eating, trying out new things, playing Chuzzle Deluxe, collecting perfumes and other nice smelling things, and there are numerous other subjects that I intend to write about in the future.

If you like my musings so far, do include my blog in your Favourite folder and stay in tune.

Today is the 7th day of Christmas, so I would like to end by wishing you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Yours truly,
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