BAKE SALE!

I’ve never considered myself a “good” baker, I merely like to bake for leisure and for family and friends to enjoy the treats. But last week, I put my baking skills to the test.

I toiled in the kitchen for hours, had to throw away one cake, but still emerged from the kitchen with two cakes to sell. All this was for charity – the bake sale was an event organised by my company, and they had called for bakers to come forward to contribute.

I made two items of which I was fairly confident of making – a red velvet cake covered in cream cheese, and a banana pie. I even made my own cake toppers/buntings in an effort to make it look a little more attractive heh.

I must say, baking had never been that stressful – I made a joke and told my father that it requires a certain amount of confidence in one’s baking skills to contribute to the event. People made cupcakes, egg tarts, brownies, all the sweet treats you could think of.

I was very grateful to those who came forward to buy a slice – I was so worried the cream cheese would melt and turn out gross – but it all went well! I got good reviews and managed to finish selling everything within 1.5 hours, and we eventually raised more than $2k for charity. Wow!

Till the next bake sale!

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VEGGIE BURGER

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Before you go ugh at the sound of a soy patty burger, let me start by saying I once thought that way too. I vividly remember the first time I attempted having a vegetarian burger in Toronto – a fellow backpacker I met at the hostel was so enthusiastic about introducing the restaurant, I couldn’t bear to burst her bubble and say no, followed by “my idea of vegetarian is to eat fries – they’re made of potatoes, that’s veg isn’t it?”

I chose what was possibly the safest option – a mushroom burger. On a organic and vegetarian scale of a 1 to 10, I think it might have hit a 15. There was alfafa sprouts  (which just reminds me of armpit hair) sticking out, the bun was made of something I almost gagged at, and suffice to say, I didn’t finish the burger.

I steered clear of all things purely vegetarian after. In my mind, going vegetarian meant eating something that was bland and tasteless, and my stomach had to suffer.

That was three years ago.

Three years on… no, I haven’t gone full-on vegetarian. But I’ve realised the benefits of doing so. Let’s just say a weekend of eating meat 80% of my meals – steak, pork, duck – left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt lumpy, lethargic and I knew it was doing my body harm. I was so turned off by meat that I went vegetarian for lunch the week after, thereafter including meat in my dinner. What made me push on with sticking to my meal plan was perhaps the joy I found in preparing my meals, and also knowing what I like to eat, and therefore include in my lunch. I have since cooked items like tomato eggs, mushroom silken tofu, tuna wrap (I swear by these!), ramen etc.

At this point, I’m still trying to find a balance and search for ways to get protein. One good thing that’s come out of it – my complexion has gotten better, but on the flipside, I’m always hungry and may tend to snack more.

Weeks ago, my mom and I made a trip to VeganBurg – we went to the one in Eunos. I was pleasantly surprised, in fact, I kept raving about how tasty the burger was and how the patty tasted exactly like meat. You have got to try the Creamy Shrooms. It might not be the healthiest since the patty is fried, but I was so inspired that I attempted to make a veggie burger of my own – recipe obtained from WikiHow, the simplest recipe I could find.

VeganBurg
44 Jalan Eunos
Tel: 6844 6868

Enjoy!

VEGGIE BURGER

Serves 6

Prep time 24 hrs + 20 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes

400g soybean pulp
400g cooked brown rice
2 tbsp vegetable fat
1 onion, chopped finely
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
garlic or sage, seasoning
70g whole wheat breadcrumbs, covered in olive oil

  • To make the soy bean pulp: Soak the beans in water for a minimum of 3 hours. Boil the soaked beans for 15 minutes in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Drain the water and mash the beans in a blender until they are thoroughly combined. The soybean pulp is ready when the beans are blended into a stiff purée. Add water as needed during the blending process.
  • Mix all the ingredients together apart from the breadcrumbs. Mix until a thick mixture forms.
  • Shape into evenly sized patties.
  • Roll each patty in the breadcrumbs until coated.
  • Bake or fry the patties. If you choose to bake the patties, they will cook in an oven at 177ºC until brown. If frying, keep an eye on the patties and turn over when each side browns. Best fried over a low heat to prevent burning.

Notes

  • The burger was a little bland – I would have mixed an egg in, or added some carrots, perhaps chopped chillis or even more spice. I had to resort to adding a little ketchup to the burger and it tasted good.
  • Add Worcestershire sauce for that added punch

NEW ZEALAND 2013 (QUEENSTOWN PART 1)

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Continuing where I had left off from my previous post on Christchurch, we finally got to Queenstown that night, and we  were STARVING!  What I really liked about Queenstown is that everything is congregated in the city centre – there are residential areas further out towards Arrowtown, but the heart of the town is where everything’s at – you get your bars, restaurants, supermarket, ski shops, souvenir shops etc. The best thing is, that it’s all within walking distance. It was really easy for us to grab food before we left to ski every morning, and we didn’t have to take the car out every night just to get dinner.

That night, we chanced upon Brazz Steakhouse Bar and Grill. And can I say that it was just amazing! I expected something tacky, perhaps something like Hooters with average steaks. But our entire table was just wowed by their food and for what it was worth (which isn’t actually a lot) Andrew and I ordered the chicken and ribs combo, and you get to choose your sides. I tend to order a medium to well done for my steaks but Andrew likes it medium-rare. Brazz did their steaks so well – the meat was soft and cooked so well without any of the blood oozing out (that’s why I tend to steer away from a medium-rare). It’s clear why the place was packed with people, locals and tourists alike. Brazz had such a homely feel to it and I dare say it has one of the best steaks I had in my life! Definitely a must-have while in Queenstown.

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Brazz Steakhouse Bar & Grill
1 Athol St
Queenstown 9300
New Zealand

The next morning, it was an early start of all of us – I think we really pushed our body to the limits when we were there. We were skiing almost everyday. I also tried snowboarding for a day. Since Queenstown was 4 hours ahead of Singapore and Perth, that meant waking up at 3.30am Singapore time (7.30am Queenstown) every morning, and thereafter getting breakfast and lunch for the day and hitting the slopes at 9am (5am Singapore time). It was pretty crazy but our bodies adapted to the time difference pretty well. Suffice to say, we slept really soundly at night.

I was really excited on the first day to hit the slopes because of many things. I’ve only experienced snow once, that is, in Austin three years ago, but it was a really rare event, or so I heard. And also, I was able to pick up a new sport! Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m not the most athletic person, in fact, I’m the last person you would associate with “athletic”. But I was game!

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There are a few ski resorts around like Cadrona Alpine Resort but I would recommend The Remarkables for beginners. It’s about a 20 minute to 30 minute drive from town, depending on the number of cars heading up that day. It’s high up on a hill, and imagine my fears when there weren’t any barricades on the slopes just in case a car took a wrong turn. There are buses that head up there too. Alternatively, you could hitchhike, which I saw a number of people do! 😉

When we finally got there, it made the travelling all worth it. As I looked at the snow-capped mountains against the clear blue skies, I felt so small. I stood in awe as I took in the wondrous sights, all of which are God’s amazing creations.

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Since we were new to skiing, we decided to take a private lesson from the ski resort, although on hindsight, the boys felt that we could have managed on our own. Boys will be boys! From my perspective, a lesson (they offer group lessons too) would be good – to learn the basics as well as safety measures. I cannot emphasise how important that is! I fell so many times while skiing, that I ended up with so many bruises. I sprained my knee too.

Never take chances, as silly looking as they may be, the helmets are really crucial. We would see a helicopter fly in almost daily to take someone who might have injured their back or worse, spine, to the hospital. It was crazy!

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We rented our ski gear (including jackets and pants) from the ski resort on the first day – it wasn’t cheap. You would be better off renting your gear in town, where prices are significantly cheaper. At times, you might get a discount if you rent it for a minimum of 3 days or if you stayed in a hotel/hostel they’ve partnered with. Admittedly, it is a pricey activity. I guess it is especially so for someone like myself who stays in such a humid country with no need for winter gear whatsoever. On top of the ski gear that I had to rent, we had to pay a daily admission fee (half day/full day) to use the slopes.

When you’re skiing, the lesser items you have on you, the better. I risked taking the camera up to the slopes with me on the second day, simply because I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the vast area. We kept some cash/credit card in our pockets, but everything else stayed in the car.
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It was really cold, especially when the wind blew in our direction but thankfully I had a good jacket and pants with me, so much so, that all I wore inside were my cotton thermals. It’s best to come fully dressed to the ski fields – the toilets are far away from the parking lots and the lockers were a hassle.

Some other things to have so that you’ll stay warm:
1) Gloves! (it made a huge difference to my fingers)
2) Woollen scarf
3) Ski googles
4) Beanie (I had a helmet and that was enough for me)
5) Lip balm

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We stayed on the baby slopes on the first day and ventured to the beginner slopes on the second day, and even then, it was tough. I think the toughest part is maintaining a reasonable speed while you head down a steep slope as you try to steer clear of knocking into someone else.

The slope paths are clearly marked out and there are different slopes for various levels of difficulty. That said, I was really impressed by the kids! There were kids who didn’t even come up to my knees but they were navigating the slopes with such ease. Plus, they were all bundled up in thick clothing and were so cute!
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We tried snowboarding on one of those days. Man, it’s so much harder to pick up than skiing. There’s so much coordination in place as well as balancing oneself! Move too far forward and you’ll fall. Similarly, you lean a little too far back, you fall again. I think what is worse is the fact that your legs are strapped to the board, and so when I panicked, I would just fall to the ground on purpose to stop moving forward. That meant more bruises hehe. I didn’t look as cool as I hoped I would be, haha!

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Bruises aside, skiing and snowboarding was a lesson on life in itself. I think it applies to any sport really, but perhaps I was in a situation where I couldn’t just quit in the morning, leave and take the bus back to the hotel. I had an entire day of skiing/snowboarding ahead of me.

The phrase “if you fall, you pick yourself up” couldn’t get any more literal than that. I fell so many times, and sure, there would be passersby, Andrew or his friends offering a helping hand at times, but at the end of the day, it was really dependent on what I wanted to do with that situation and what I hoped to achieve. Do I sit there and sulk or do I stand up and try again?

Snowboarding was extremely frustrating, but it showed that as long as you try again, you’ll get there eventually.

There was that incident where I was all alone on a particularly steep ski slope – Andrew had already reached the bottom and he was there patiently waiting for me. I fell in such a position that had I moved too much, I would tumble down the slope. I felt so vulnerable at that point. I couldn’t call out to Andrew for help, he was too far away, I think I was close to tears even. But I told myself that no one can help me except myself and God. I said a prayer, and tried getting up and skiing down again for what Andrew claims was more than 5 times and it took close to half an hour, but alas, I still fell and wasn’t making much improvement. Alas, I took my skis off and walked down the slope, HAHA.

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Of course, food had such a huge part to play in order to keep us full for the day – hot, comforting sandwiches and pies from Fergbaker was a must every morning. It’s just next to world-renowned Fergburger, which has great burgers.

If you haven’t tried Fergburger, you haven’t been to Queenstown! IMG_0407

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Fergbaker/Fergburger
42 Shotover Street
Queenstown, New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND 2013 (CHRISTCHURCH)

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The past week has been crazy – heading for rehearsals, then having three hours of sleep before I wake up for work, squeeze in whatever sleep I can, and rehearsals again. The cycle continues. But I know as tiring as it may seem, this is all part of the process, and just small sacrifices I have to make in order to live my dream. I’m definitely cherishing each moment of Trojan Women, and I know that when it all ends… which is in about 10 hours after the last show tonight, I’ll feel this sense of emptiness. But Trojan Women will be for another post.

Meanwhile, I have some time on my hands before I head off for the day, and thought I’ll continue with my travel posts. Plus with some wholemeal banana cake and a hot cup of milo… perfect to update the blog! So I spent a total of about 2 weeks in Perth and New Zealand. We managed to get really cheap flight deals from Perth to Christchurch via Qantas. The trip to NZ was all quite spontaneous really, but I’m glad we did it. The sights, the sounds… it was all so beautiful.
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We caught the late night flight from Perth and made a quick stopover in Sydney before we arrived in Christchurch the next morning. We had intended to stay a night, spend some time exploring the city. I was travelling with Andrew and his brother and friends. It was such a diverse group.

We rented a car which we would use for our entire time in New Zealand.  This time round, we stayed on the South Island (New Zealand is made up of two islands, the North and the South, although I read in the news recently that they have now been given proper names). The North Island would be your places like Auckland etc, next time round perhaps!

Driving into town, we were reminded of the earthquake that struck Christchurch a few years ago, and the remnants of it. You hear stories of people leaving, the town being deserted. To be honest, they were right. We stayed at Hotel Ibis, which is the heart of the city, and at night, it was a ghost town. We had to take the car and drive to the nearby suburbs which was a little more bustling with pubs, steakhouses etc. Hotel Ibis is one of the few hotels operating in town, I reckon if you have a car, you’ll be better off staying in a nearby motel (which we did on our last night, just before we headed back to Perth) – it’s cheap, cosy, and really decent.

One of the highlights of the new Christchurch is definitely the containers – it’s not your usual cold-looking, dreary containers. Called Re:START, it’s a wonderful initiative in supporting the local community and helping businesses get back on their feet. There were cafes, clothing shops etc.

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A good portion of the area that was struck by the earthquakes was still left in its current state. It’s not easy walking past these areas thinking whether there were casualties, what the people were doing when the earthquake struck.

We made a quick stop at Riccarton Mall to stock up on water and food. It’s about a 10 to 15 minute drive from town. A huge mall, which might be the biggest in the city, it has everything everything you need – sportswear, supermarket, clothing, hairdressers etc. I’m really glad I did some reading before our trip – and saw Beatrice Tan, a local blogger’s post on her trip to New Zealand. That’s how I knew Riccarton Mall existed, hehe.
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The next morning, it was an early start for our drive to Queenstown which was an approximate 7 to 8 hour drive including stopovers and lunch. We had to fill our bodies up for the first half of the day, and we went to Strawberry Fare, once again a recommendation by Beatrice.
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The food was really tasty and ingredients were fresh. Andrew and I opted for fresh fruit instead of bacon for our Blueberry Pancakes. I’m really not a fan of bacon, and what more, mixing my sweet and savouries. We also had the Big Breakfast, and we were stuffed from those two dishes. Our exchange rate may be almost 1 to 1, but you’re definitely paying much more for food than in Singapore. Our big breakfast was about NZ$20 and our pancakes was NZ$18.

Strawberry Fare
19 Bealey Avenue
Christchurch

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There are many scenic routes you can take on your drive south to Queenstown. I didn’t bring my driving license along (I don’t know why, but I tend not to bring my driving license, but just my IC), and thus wasn’t able to contribute and help out with the driving. The boys took turns instead, yay!
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On our drive down, we stopped by Lake Tekapo, and which one website calls it “every photographer’s dream”. It truly is! The weather was right, and the river glistened as the rays of the sun bore down. The water was clear, and we stopped to do what almost everyone would do: skip rocks.
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A must see when you head to Lake Tekapo is the Church of the Good Shepherd, built in 1935. It’s a small church which probably can’t accommodate more than 30 people. But it’s a quaint little place. You can go in to take pictures, but still bearing in mind, that it is a place of worship.

The church against the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains and the winding roads, was just like a scene out of a Korean drama. I can imagine it already – boy meets girl at the church, boy breaks up with girl for a reason he cannot reveal, and they meet years later at this same place by coincidence. Haha!IMG_0266

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Thereafter, we continued our drive along to Queenstown – we tried to reach there as fast as we could (without speeding of course!) because we didn’t want to get stuck driving in the night, or having ice form on the roads which would make it extra difficult for us.

Queenstown up next!

#OFES MAGAZINE BY SECOND OPTION

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I’m really excited to blog about this – the launch of #OFES magazine by Second Option.

It’s a brilliant idea by my best friend, Yeong, who has a never ending flow of creative juices, as well as an extremely determined spirit. From the brainstorming stage to the designing of the magazine, this was done single-handedly by Yeong. She’s amazing, and I’m really happy to see things come to fruition for her. This goes to show that if you have a dream, live it and work towards it!

#OFES, which stands for Outfit for Every Story, is a new platform and community to showcase the different fashion styles and OOTDs in Singapore. Hey, Singaporeans shouldn’t be known just for their slippers and shorts trend. You’ll be surprised at how fashionable girls are in Singapore. #SingaporeRepresent!

Looking good is hard work. Whoever says they wake up looking like a goddess must be lying. So #OFES is in a way, paying homage to the fashion community in Singapore – it features a prominent fashion blogger each month, as well as your everyday girl, who deserves her moment. But more than just clothing, it is also a community to share the latest fashion trends, makeup tips, fitness news etc.

In this edition,

#OFES featured Elaine Jasmine of joyfulskies.blogspot.sgShe shares challenges she faced in her blogging and modelling career, her fashion inspirations, and more.

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Also ideas to spruce up a simple outfit with a simple splash of colours or accessories…

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As mentioned, #OFES is part of Second Option – here’s some of my favourite items from the store.

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And to celebrate the launch of #OFES, Second Option is offering 20 percent off all items when you include the discount code OFESMAG.

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