Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Because I Want To

During my High School years, I've had great teachers who have inspired me. I will always remember my English teacher's famous quote: "Do it, not because you HAVE TO, but because you WANT TO!". She said that every time she was about to give us homework! (I repeated in my head: "I want to do my homework because I want to learn!")

fondant teddy bear

Come to think of it now, whatever we do, we should do it with passion! Saint Augustine said it clearly, "Love, and do what you like." I guess it's the only way to move forward, and have a purpose in life, if you haven't found one yet. Some are lucky enough to have found their passion. As a funny joke, they'd rather pay, rather than getting paid, to do what they like. They are heads over heal in their activities, whatever that may be. They do not count the hours spent, they do not count their failures, they are rejoiced at the successes... although sometimes they may neglect their own health.

fondant slippers

I guess the best way to find what you like is to try out different things, and try to think out of the box.

box of 25 small cupcakes

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Steamed buns

Have you seen such giant steamed bun (or "Pau" or "Bao") before (on the right)? The diameter measures about 20 cm (or 8 inches)!


Below is a large or regular size bun bought from another shop. The dough is very soft and thin, the best I've tried so far.


The filling is made of barbecued pork (or "char siu") with some chunks of lard. Every time I eat one of these, I would carefully pick the lard out and throw them away.


I've been wanting to make my own buns from scratch and omit the lard without compromising the taste! I need to make some extra research first before I start to cook :) I'll let you know how it went, lol!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fondant from Scratch


I finally made the fondant! I'm still surprised at how well it went. A friend of mine commented that the taste was better than the pre-made one from the store :)

What I noticed on the home-made, as compared to the pre-made, is that the former is softer (easier to shape), looks shinier and tends to stick easily. This little pink teddy bear, for example, did not need any spaghetti stick or edible glue for its head, arms and legs to stick to its fat body (this surprised me). If I had added gum powder, the fondant would have dried out faster. I'll have to try it out next time... I need to buy it first!

my fondant bear, bags, and slippers

Another point to remember is that the home-made fondant tends to absorb the color more (I'm not sure if this happened in your case). I used only one toothpick and see how bold the pigment looks. I had to add extra white fondant to lessen the pink (I couldn't get to the pastel pink color I wanted, so I stopped). I'll try out other fondant recipe and see how it goes.

This cute little sheep was (with my own adaptation) inspired by Mayen and Lorraine from Youtube. I used both the pre-made and the home-made fondant. Not very often do I amaze myself: this is one of the rare moments. I saw what other women did with fondant on Youtube (especially Mayen and Lorraine who are such great inspirations) and was wondering if I can do the same... YAY! I really made it!!! My friend, who's my very first inspiration into cupcakes and fondant, gave him a red tongue and he looks so adorable.

fondant sheep with sandwich, and hot chocolate

I tried to sculpt a Hermes Birkin bag by following a Youtube tutorial, but it did not work out. The result looked more like a hand carry bag, so I opt to follow my friend's version of the Channel bag instead =^_^=. It really looks nicer than the Hermes Birkin by the way.

As a starter, it's always helpful to follow a sample picture or figurine first. Once you're better at it, then you can let your imagination run wild and create your own original version :).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fruit labels

I recently received a forwarded email about fruit labels and I find it interesting to share it here.

If the fruit label has 4 digits and starts with a 4, it's a conventional fruit;
If the fruit label has 5 digits and starts with a 8, it's genetically modified;
If the fruit label has 5 digits and starts with a 9, it's organic.

This Granny Smith apple I bought is the conventional one :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Recycling old business cards

I had some leftover business cards that I wanted to recycle in a creative way. I searched on the net and here are a few links of how people re-use unwanted business cards. Some are innovative and others are hilarious, e.g. tooth picks and finger nail cleaners:
The most creative I found was the last link. I made my own mini-book by following their instructions :) Here it is (I find my ribbons are too thick):


What I used:
  • 20 business cards
  • pair of scissors
  • double-sided tape
  • ribbons
  • measuring tape
  • some scrap color papers
  • glue
I'm now deciding what to put in my mini-book.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Edible vegetable leaves

Some interesting vegetable leaves that are commonly consumed in Malaysia, and used in several stir fry or soupy dishes:

Amaranth or Chinese spinach or Bayam: it has high content of oxalic acid that inhibits the absorption of calcium and zinc, thus, should be avoided or eaten in moderation by people with kidney disorders, gout, or rheumatoid arthritis (wiki).

Chinese spinach 1
Chinese spinach 2

Sweet potato leaves or yam leaves (source of vitamin A, C and B2):

potato leaves 1
potato leaves 2

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Playdough - update

Here's an update of what I've done with my home-made Play-dough: a cookie monster, a teddy bear, and a rose :) Hmmm... as you can see, I haven't colored the dough blue for my cookie monster ^_^.


 Here are some observations I've made while practicing with home-made Play-dough:
  • The consistency of the Play-dough is very soft and doesn't stick in your hands, different from the fondant;
  • When the Play-dough dries off, it will shrink and the figure may become "disfigured" after a few days;
  • The fondant, however, will keep its shape and smoothness.
As you can see in the picture below (on the left), it is the very first teddy bear I made using fondant... with the help of a very kind friend/cupcake playmate/pen pal/kindred spirit, who taught me the knowledge of fondant ^_^. I used mustard seeds for the bear's eyes. I'm glad I made good progress on my second bear on the right (although using Play-dough instead).


After experimenting with Play-dough and getting a good start practice with it, I now feel confident for the next step: fondant! I've made some research on how to make your own fondant, and will try it out very soon. Although it is recommended to buy a ready-made fondant, it is in my nature to experiment it at least once, just to see how well I can do it. I'll let you guys know how it went!

Friday, March 19, 2010

How to store rice

Rice weevils hatched in the wooden bucket where we stored our rice... and there were plenty of them growing. First, I thought it might be because the rice was old (which could be one of the reasons)... but the second new rice package also got infested, even though I thoroughly cleaned the wooden bucket before use. For the third new rice package, I transferred it in a new clean bag before storing it in the same wooden bucket, still infested! I wanted to continue to use the wooden bucket because it was a gift, but I guess it wasn't meant to store rice (sorry, I do not mean to offend anyone here, again). So it's now time to go back to my family's way of storing rice: airtight container and cool place (this way we usually don't have any problem).

If you can't find a big enough container or if you prefer to take double precaution, you can transfer the rice into Ziploc bags and freeze them for 3 days, then keep them in the fridge (see picture). If there's not enough space in the refrigerator, store portion or all your rice in several smaller airtight containers.


You can try and leave the original rice package carefully sealed in the wooden bucket. Let me know how it went... I might not want to experiment for a fourth time :(

If your rice has already been infested with weevils, the best way to get rid of them is to dry out the rice under direct sunlight. When all the weevils have "walked" away, transfer the rice in an airtight container, and keep it in a cool place.

Hope this helps. If you have other suggestions, would be great to hear about them. Leave a comment!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Photoshop - Pen Tool

This is my first ever drawing on Photoshop. I followed the tutorial on photoshopdrawings.com. The most difficult part, I find, was using the Pen Tool to draw the frosting (I later found out that many do struggle with it). I cried for help, and DH came to the rescue. Here are his tips for using Pen Tool (this will serve as my notes as well. Can't find it anywhere on the net):
  • Take the Pen Tool and click on the blank canvas (starting point);
  • Click somewhere to the right of the starting point (you'll get a straight line, or "path"), but remember to hold on to your mouse and move it downwards, you be able to create a dome shape;
  • Release the mouse when you're satisfied with the shape;
  • Now, holding down ALT, and hover the cursor to the anchor point (second point created) until you see an open triangular/cursor, then click. This will remove the anchor point.
  • Continue until you create the frosting for your cupcake!
This cupcake version is DH's, much more sophisticated!:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Homemade playdough

I never thought I'd be playing with Play-Doh again! DH thought it would be a great way for me to practice my fondant skills, isn't he a genius?! I know, I know, in my previous post, I announced my cupcake overdose... but I'm already missing the baking! I guess this can be called a passion? Hmm... not so fast, let's say it's a hobby for now :) Okay, since I cannot bake everyday, otherwise we'd be eating cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I've decided to make a homemade playdough to play around with. This way, I'd find something else to do, other than baking but related to baking!!!

I Google out the recipe (source:pedagonet.com). Here's what I got:

1 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. salt
2 T. cream of tartar (despite the name, it's actually a powder)
1 T. oil
1 C. water
food coloring (optional)

What I did:


In a saucepan, whisk all dry ingredients together. Then add the wet ingredients, and cook over medium heat. While the mixture is cooking, stir with a spoon until the mixture clumps (this will take about 2-3 minutes).


Knead the dough on your kitchen counter until it becomes smooth (about 30 seconds). This is the amount of dough you'll get if you follow the above recipe.


You can add food color, by dipping a clean toothpick into the color and wiping it on your dough (don't double dip!). I separate my dough into smaller balls to get different colors.


This homemade playdough is great for kids to play with :)

The dough can be stored in an air tight container, or sealed with a cling wrap.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cupcake overdose

What's with the cupcake frenzy anyways? I admit that I went along with the crowd... for 3 weeks till today, I know I was a bit too late, but I guess I have enough of it for now (I think). After a cupcake 101 class, great exploration adventures of bakery shop supplies, tons of research on recipes, tutorials and baking basics, and very successful but exhausting cupcake baking sessions (did too much at once), I'm satisfied with all that have been accomplished so far. I've made a new friend, and I can now make beautiful and tasty cupcakes confidently for my family and friends to enjoy.

Baked this with a friend ^_^
experiment 4

What went from excitement and aspiration, to indifference? The ingredients.

Figure the amount of sugar, butter and flour, for the cupcake, and the shortening and coloring for the frosting (trust me, cupcakes don't taste as nice without the frosting). When you're hands on, you can really see and image that all those "unhealthy" ingredients are mixed together to then go inside your system (yikes!). And the time consumed to decorate your cupcakes (especially with fondant) can sometimes be horrendous! But the praises received are very rewarding! Even photographing your own cupcake can be rewarding. Luckily, we eat cupcakes on special occasions, and to bake them yourself does add a special and personal touch to them. I still enjoy baking and don't mind if people scrap off the frosting from my cupcakes.... I understand, and I do it as well for health reasons.

On to the next challenge? Finding a "healthier" cupcake version, reduced in fat and sugar without compromising the flavor. I'll go slower now.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mortgage Life Insurance


My uncle from Toronto passed away last week from a heart attack. He was still young, in his fifties. It is hard to believe that he's not physically here with us anymore. All of us are still shocked by what happened... my cousin, who seemed to be a macho guy, lost consciousness when he heard of the bad news.

It really hurts.

We later found out that my uncle left my auntie and cousins without life insurance and without a mortgage life insurance. You might be wondering "what in the world?".

The message I want to get across here is not to underestimate anything. Prevention is better than cure. If you are the bread winner of the family, do consider a life insurance. And if you have a mortgage to pay, do seriously consider either a mortgage life insurance or a term life insurance, so your outstanding mortgage would be either reduced or paid off without burden to your spouse.

Nothing is permanent in life.

Monday, March 8, 2010

How to change DSLR camera lens

When I bought my D60 from a friend, I was very lucky that she showed me the basics for changing the DSLR lens. She said "no matter what, I have to show it to you!". She's right, a single lens sometimes costs more than a camera body itself, and if you fail to take good care of it... ouch, it can hurt your wallet!


Last year, I went for a beginners' DSLR class and noticed that a student had an expensive camera, but didn't know how to change the lens appropriately. This caused opaque spots on all her pictures (they are not dust circles by the way), which can be dirt particles that landed on the inside of her camera lens :(. She recounted that she went to the beach and changed her camera lens there... Ahah!

I couldn't find much from the internet, so I've jotted the instructions down on this post. They are easy to follow:
  1. Put lens on table (rear lens upward, like picture above);
  2. Loosen the rear lens cap without removing the cap;
  3. Remove the cap from the camera body, body facing down!
  4. Remove cap from the lens on the table;
  5. Attach lens and camera by aligning white dots (body still facing down), then rotate lens counterclockwise until it clicks into place.
Points to remember:
  • When changing lens, always point downwards, to avoid dust particles inside your camera lens!
  • Avoid changing lens outside when it's windy.
  • Never touch your camera lens!
Hope these help!

Past post: Dslr for beginners (Oct.09)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Guide to Create a Facebook Fan Page

Organizations, and businesses are now using Facebook to promote their brands and products. If you're a start up entrepreneur, why not try it out! You get to reach out to a large network in a short amount of time. I've seen people using it to their advantage, and it worked out so well for them! Well, maybe you won't get orders, but at least you get exposure. Here's a simple (girls') guide to create your Facebook fan page:


You'll be prompt to this Facebook page:


  1. Select your category
  2. Type the name you want to give your page
  3. Click "create page"
  4. You can choose not to make the page public until you've decided of the right moment. 
You can then add information about your company, notes, pictures, and create events. Personally, I find it difficult to work around with the fan page, it's not very user friendly. I'm a bit embarrassed to say that it took me ages to find out how to get the boxes on the left side bar!

Boxes
On the tab area, click the arrow and add "boxes". Then select the tabs you want to move by clicking "move to wall tab".

Import notes from external blog
You can also import notes from an external blog, such as Blogspot or Wordpress. This is simple, go to Notes tab of your Facebook fan page, and click "Import a blog" on the right hand sidebar.

Fan box widget
Promote your website or blog with a Facebook fan box widget. Under edit page, select "Promote with a fan box" on the right hand sidebar.

Hope these help!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kueh

kueh lapis

"Kueh lapis" or "kuih lapis" is a bite size dessert from Malaysia. This type of "kueh lapis" is steamed. The main ingredients are rice flour, sugar, grated coconut, and coloring. It reminds me of the "khanom chun" from Thailand, which uses natural coloring instead, such as pandanus leaves (to create natural green coloring) and butterfly pea flower (to create natural purple coloring).

There's another type of "kueh lapis" (also also known as layer cake) which is the baked version. The ingredients differ from the steamed counterpart, as it includes normal flour, butter and eggs (around 18 egg yolks and 5 egg whites!!!). One of the famous layer cake is from Sarawak, the very colorful layer cake is mostly eaten during festive seasons. (Sorry, I don't have a picture of the baked layer cake at the moment).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Crudités

We recently received some friends over for dinner. One of the appetizer was raw vegetable platter (easy and fast). I didn't want to prepare all the dishes at the last minute, so I started to cut the carrots and Japanese cucumbers (can substitute with celery) in long strips (measured accordingly with the height of the glass that will hold the veggie strips for dinner), and soaked them in filtered water in a plastic container. I refrigerated the plastic container for several hours until the water is cold. If you don't have enough time, you can soak the vegetables in iced water too. The end result? Crunchy and fresh!

You can keep them in the fridge for the next day or two.