Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Remembering the snow in 2010

2010-12-18 15.03.52

2010-12-18 12.11.54
our winter wonderland garden

2010-12-18 12.15.28
view outside our flat

dec snow 2010

I recently upgraded to a new phone and was transferring all my camera pictures from the old phone to my laptop and found these pictures.

These were taken exactly 2 years ago today, just days before we leave for Scotland for Christmas. What a difference in temperature this year - much warmer and no snow on the ground. Today's temperature: 8 degrees.

I remembered waking up and going straight to the garden and took pleasure in walking in the fresh snow - hearing the snow crunch and leaving my footprints in the snow. It was also very exciting to see families out in force building snowman in Highbury Fields...it certainly adds to the Christmas spirit.

These pictures are getting me all excited about our trip back to Scotland this weekend - cannot wait!

Monday, December 17, 2012

If the shoe fits - Tracing the outline of a shoe

Picture from Dos Family amazing blog, found many months ago and saved in my laptop!

This picture stopped me in my track and transported me right back to my younger self, way before my teens. It also puts a huge smile on my face.

It may look like a non-descript picture of an outline of shoe somewhat hastily drawn behind a used envelope but it brings back so many good memories because half way round the world, more than 20 years ago, my dad used to do exactly the same – tracing the outline of my shoe.

I vividly recalled him tracing my siblings’ and my slippers on random pieces of paper – sometimes drawn behind a used envelope, calendar or torn pages of a company’s annual report book - often the night before he goes away on holiday with the best intention of coming home with presents for us. It was always dad who did it, never mum.

Shoes aside, whenever my parents travel, they tend to bring home little gifts for us when we were much younger. Dad has a tendency to buy us the latest fashionable item from the country he visits which more often than not, is never in-fashion/cool in our tiny town at the same time. These pieces of clothing tend to be relegated to the back of the cupboard before the annual clothes purge to the charity bin.

He once bought my sister Ida and I some lurid printed mid-drift tops from Indonesia, accompanied with his famous quote ‘Better wear these things now when you are young; please don’t wear these bare-backed, pusat (navel) showing tops when you are 40. People will talk and they will say - did you see Charlie’s 40 year old daughter wearing that top!!??’ Oh that used to give us the giggles but now as our ages are closer to the 40 mark instead of our teens, it sadly, cannot be truer!Wise words papa!

I remember my first pair of Doc Marten shoes dad bought for me from London. It is quite possibly one of the last few pairs of shoes he bought me before the holiday presents stop as we turn ‘fussy and difficult to buy for’. It was the 90s, it was the coolest shoes to have at the time and he was going to London so Ida and I put our orders in. He took our slipper measurements on paper and came home with the goods – Ida received a black ankle boots and mine was Mary Jane style. We feel like the coolest people in Melaka...even in 30 degrees heat in Malaysia we wore our black leather Doc Marten with pride.

The Doc Marten shop must have left an impression on dad. He came home and told us all about the store– the biggest of its kind at the time in Convent Garden. He told us about the size (it has 4 (or 5?) shop floors), the range of shoes, the customers who shops there (punks with spiky hair!) and the shoe lift! When he puts his orders in, the shop assistance send a call for the shoes and the shoes arrived in its own shoe lift! A shoe lift!! Dad was well impressed!

Unfortunately the shop shuts down as the trend died away shortly after. I don’t venture to Covent Garden much now but whenever I do, and if I passed by the building where Doc Marten used to be, I am always reminded on the shoe lift and my first Doc Mart that dad bought me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Tree 2012




We bought our Christmas tree last weekend! The initial agreement was to not get a tree at all as we are spending Christmas in Scotland and we have no plans for a get-together in our London flat this year. That agreement was scrapped the minute we find ourselves in Columbia Flower Market and being surrounded by Christmas trees. Not sure any tree but gorgeous huge trees that smell of pine a mile away! We got straight into the Christmas spirit, desperately yearning for a tree (and a bigger house to fit those massive trees!) and agreed to get a small-ish tree as a compromise.

Instead of lugging home a tree from the market we decided to get one at our local area where unsurprisingly none of the smaller trees are to Scott's liking and he is adamant we should get a 5-feet tree instead. So the plan for a small-ish tree was scrapped once again and the boy went home happy.

He took charge of it all, sawed a good inch off the bottom, soak the tree in water, put up the lights and decorated it - all by himself. He was in his element! I have to be honest though - I think the tree needs a few more bells and whistles to make it stand out. I was going to get more baubles but in a rare role reversal moment, he told me not to as we might not be in London for the next Christmas (storage issue-boo!). 

So I kept myself busy and made a wreath for our front door instead.

Friday, December 7, 2012

My weekly World Wide Web treasures

Nutella Pie Pops - on my list!

Sucker for typography - check out the video on how the artist created her chalk magic here

Chanel's Metier d'Art show in Edinburgh - strong Scottish influence on the clothes - drool on here and here. I want that sporran style bag! Scott....Xmas present maybe?

This video is beyond funny for Instagram lovers

This minimalist ad is cracking me up!! Check the rest of the ads here - Happy Friday!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The cold snap






The weather turned very cold this week - dry, crisp air but thankfully not too windy or wet. We had a fairly warm autumn so I guess it is about time the weather turns. It reminded me of the weekend we spend in Scotland not too long ago when we were there for Gregor and Sorcha's wedding. It was also a cold  November day - dry and crisp with the sun streaking through.

We spend the morning of the wedding outdoors on a treasure hunt (part of the wedding plan!) in a grand country pile where the wedding was held. We coupled up with Ross and Nat who just came back from their 8-months travel in Asia so there was lots to catch-up on. Unsurprisingly the boys got competitive and we collected all the things on the list including a token empty bullet casing, hoping for a grand prize with our 'extra find'. We later found out there wasn't a prize....it was a rouse to get us walking the ground before the wedding!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First Christmas dinner for 2012

xmas dinner





For the last 5 years since we graduated from university, a group of us uni mates will meet up for a big Christmas dinner reunion. We rotate houses and do it potluck style to minimise the cooking stress on the host. The host always provide the main course while the rest cook/bake/buy the starters, desert and cheese. This year was our turn and we had our Christmas dinner last weekend - the earliest we had ever done so far as conflicting diaries dictates.

In typical fashion, Scott took over the kitchen as he doesn't trust me (to put it mildly, we have different 'style' of cooking - he is an anal cook, while I am from the 'bish bash bosh - agak agak' school of cooking). Tempers are bound to flare and unsurprisingly some choice one-liners were exchanged in the heat.

Me: * carefully lines the roasting tray with aluminium foil then puts the roasting rack on before heaving the turkey on it*
Scott: Where in the instructions does it say use a roasting rack?!?
Me: It doesn't...I didn't want the turkey to swim in it's fat half way through
Scott: Where in the £$%^&*()" instructions does it say use a roasting rack?!? *Tries to put the turkey in the oven, rips the aluminium foil, spat some abuse, takes it out and removes the roasting rack
Me: £$%^ £$%^ &*^$!!
Scott: %%& *^%£ !£$%!!

Should the turkey be roasted on a roasting rack or not? Is it in the instructions? Trivial but yes....different 'style'.

In instances like this, we practice our fail-proof 'time-out' session (marriage tip #1: 5 minutes of not speaking really does work instead of carrying on with the verbal abuse, Marriage tip #2: husband always apologies first), calm down before our first guest arrive and pulled out the stops on the main course.

We served:
- turkey (of course)
- duck (a surprise 'bird' for the evening)
- roast potatoes, celeriac and carrots
- roast maple Brussels sprouts with pancetta
- red cabbage braised with pears
- homemade stuffing
- naked sausages (meaning not pigs in a blanket but your bog standard sausage-ha!)

We had Mediterranean tart to start, apricot pie & chocolate cake for dessert and a huge platter of cheese with Port. The aim is to reach food coma before the music starts to burn off some calories. We often have an interlude between dessert and cheese and do Secret Santa. This year's top present goes to the horse head and Wayne Rooney's mask. It provided endless un-PC dancing moves involving the horse and Wayne with strong cocktails being originally mixed by your's truly Scott.

The party ended rather abruptly when the porter rang the doorbell at 2.30am and told us off for singing 'Jenny from the block' a wee bit too loud. Bring on 2013 xmas reunion!

Friday, November 23, 2012

My weekly World Wide Web treasures

One day I will own a summer holiday home / caravan with pink kitchen cabinets. One day...it will happen...one day.

Folded leather basket :: a minimalistic DIY
DIY leather basket: Looks do-able and I do have leather scraps lying around, no excuse not to try this out

101 Kitchen Substitute - bookmark!

We are hosting an early Christmas dinner for our uni mates this weekend and I am in charge of the greens -  I am making Maple Roasted Brussel Sprouts with pancetta! Oh myyyyyy

It is Friday and you are Awesome!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Whisky tasting in Islay, Scotland


Islay distilleries



Islay whisky tour




A couple of days before we flew to Glasgow for our holidays, Scott woke up one morning and told me he had a bad dream. He dreamt that we had our holiday in Islay and he didn't visit any of the whisky distilleries! Oh the boy was upset! The primary aim of visiting Islay is to do a 'whisky crawl' and be merry.

Every day was planned with military precision. The boys wanted to visit as many whisky distilleries as possible while for us girls, it is also about getting some good chow to line the stomach. We (ok, not so much me) would pore over the island map and plan our route making sure we have potential lunch places en-route to these distilleries. On the first day, we drove by a house with a 'home-made tablet' sign outside, we made the boys stop the car, ran to the house under the rain dodging peacocks in the garden (random but true!) and grab some for the car ride. A little sugar fix is always good for the soul!

There are 8 distilleries on the island and we visited 6 - Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich and Kilchoman. Each distillery offers whisky tasting and we had most of ours for free with Bruichladdich being the most generous! Scott was extra smug about this as he gets double measure of this 'liquid gold' since I am not a whisky person and my tasting dram gets passed on pretty swiftly to him!

We did 2 tours of the distilleries - Bowmore and Laphroaig. As the brewing process is similar I did not have a preference for one over the other though we did get to see how the malting of the barley is done in Laphroaig but not in Bowmore. The malting process is an interesting one for me as it is fairly labour intensive compared to the rest of the processes involved. The soaked barley are evenly spread out on the ground and it has to be turned every 4 hours to encourage germination. This is now done by a machine though some distilleries try to maintain tradition (e.g. Bowmore and Laphroaig) and malt 20% of their barley using the traditional way whereby a man has to turn over the barley with a shovel every 4 hours!

My top 2 favourite whisky distilleries are Bruichladdich and Laphroaig. Bruichladdich blew me away with its branding and design - it feels fresh and current with a crisp font and color. It wasn't immediately obvious that a Bruichladdich bottle holds whisky in it if you are not familiar with the brand. The aqua colour stood out. There are many speculations on how the color came about but on their blog, they said that it was simply inspired by the colour of the sea outside the distillery (OMG yes they have a blog - how progressive for a whisky company!). I think the branding appeals to the younger whisky drinkers but may have a tendency to alienate its older clienteles. But we 'get' it and and to quote Jenna - we fell for it 'hook, line and sinker'! We left the shop with 6 bottles of whisky, 1 bottle of gin (mine!), a scarf, a cap, and a hipflask....Yup, we 'get' it.

Laphroaig is another favourite but for the exact opposite reasons of why I love Bruichladdich. It has a great museum detailing its history, it feels traditional without being stuffy and it has some clever marketing up its sleeves. They encourage you to be a 'Friends of Laphroaig' - a free membership that comes with a free 1 square foot plot of land around the Laphroaig distillery.  In the museum, you are provided with wellies and waterproof jacket and are encourage to walk the land to find your plot. Once you have found it, you are provided with your country's flag to 'mark your plot'. You can see flags of  various countries sticking out of the empty land surrounding Laphroaig - it inspired you to find your plot and leave your mark too. They also offer the opportunity to choose and bottle your own whisky directly from cask which is such a great idea. I would have bought that experience as a present for Scott if I had known it was on offer. I obviously did not do my extensive whisky research!

I initially thought this holiday would be mainly for Scott but I actually had a great time and would love to visit again. We had a great holiday home, good food, bought 8 bottles of whiskies and I personally came home with a bottle of gin and a tea towel. Not bad...not bad at all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Islay , Scotland














You know what they say about Scotland...if you are lucky and the weather is fine, Scotland is one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Unfortunately the weather is rarely fine in Scotland (based on personal experience!). 

In our early dating days, Scott tried to change my perception of the weather in Scotland. I clearly recalled him telling me that palm trees grow in Scotland and his granny has them in her garden in Aaran. I wasn't convinced - I am not sure how those palm trees survive (he wasn't lying, there are palm trees) but they are clearly a different type to those I am familiar with in Malaysia! As luck would have it, the first time I visited Scott and his family, Scotland was experiencing a heatwave and I remember going for walks in inappropriate footwear traipsing around Culzean Castle and Loch Lomond.

But they are right – Scotland is truly beautiful when the weather is right. We spend 4 nights in Islay last week and it was bliss. We flew to the island from Glasgow and we were filled with anticipation in the tiny propeller plane whilst overlooking the sunset landscape.

Jenna (sis-in-law) found the amazing house we rented at Port Ellen (the southern tip of the island) – underfloor heating, beach at our doorstep, fireplace, full length window and sliding door with views of the beach and remote enough that there is no mobile signal.

We spend our days walking and whisky tasting and are often back in the house for a cuppa late afternoon and chill on the sofa with a roaring fire before dinner time. On our second night, we ordered lobsters from the local fishmonger and she drove by the house with the 2 lobsters in her hand, still alive and wriggling, no plastic bag! Free range, green and value for money at £15! We initially made the mistake of putting them in the tub with hot water, thus ‘waking them up’ but we got smart quick and shove them in the freezer to ‘put them to sleep’!

We got lucky with the weather on our first day, the wind is still and you can feel warmth from the autumn sun on your back. But often the weather changes during the day and the in-between offers the most breath-taking view of the island. The clouds changing colour, the distant mist, the moody landscape, the sea salt in the wind and if you chance it for a second too long, that ‘wind’ might drench you. We caught sight of a beautiful rainbow after the passing rain on our first day.

I was hoping to see seals on the beach as apparently they are frequent visitors to the island. The last time I saw seals was in Sea World in Gold Coast Australia! Oh my, we got lucky and saw 4 seals playing hide and seek with a dog in a cove! The seals would slowly surface to air and the dog, standing on a rock close to the water would look out for them. When the dog caught sight of the seals, it would bark and the seals would disappear back into the water! The seals will slowly resurface again until the next bark. Those seals was a highlight for me.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Orange Buffalo Wings




Let's just get to the point with this one - my favourite bit of a chicken is the wings - not drumstick  or thigh and definitely not the breast meat which I consider the most bland bit of a chicken. Shock horror but yes, too much white meat that can easily go rubbery/stringy. Brown meat all the way for me.

It always baffles me when I shop for chicken in any supermarket in the UK and you get the usual - breast meat at  extortionate prices, thighs and drumsticks marginally cheaper and and and....no wings. Where are the wings?! Do they end up in some cheap sausages or exported to China? The only time I ever see wings being sold is during BBQ season but it is often the basic range that carries it. Where have all the free range wings fly to?

Ponder, ponder, ponder...

Then one fine day Arya mentioned The Orange Buffalo Wings food truck at Brick Lane and I just had to check it out. The 'Orange' must be referencing the colour of the spicy coating of these hot wings - and boy are these babies hot! I was chancing it by ordering half the wings in original sauce (which is hot enough for me!) and half in a 'back-counter' sauce which pretty much killed my tastebuds.

It was a messy affair, I had orange sauce all over my hands, my top and even in my hair (it was windy, lesson learnt) - and they cleverly provided kitchen roll and hand sanitizer, but a good one nonetheless. They serve the wings with a portion of fries that comes with blue cheese sauce and celery which in my opinion is a redundant '5-a-day' garnish (maybe because I dislike celery).

The truck is permanently set in Brick Lane and I think I am due another visit soon for my wing fix and to show some love during the cold winter months. These boys are mad...but I am glad they are mad about wings