21 December, 2012

Baking For Christmas

Finding the right present for family friends is not easy. My principle of gift-giving is that, I don't give people things that I don't even want for myself. So, I like to bake, I like to eat, I like simple and thoughtful things. I have been doing some test runs for baking cookies and Swiss Rolls for Christmas. I think they make great Christmas presents. This year, I baked about five Swiss Rolls and five batches of cookies. 

This one is for my best friend and her family. The cake is a Mary Berry recipe (self-rising flour, caster sugar and eggs) and the filling is butter sugar (icing sugar and butter). I don't really like using fresh cream and jam because they make the cake soaky and I need the cake to last for a bit longer. So, butter sugar is a good filling. But, remember, the less filling the cake has, the more ice-cream you can eat with the cake! Oh...and I put the Swiss Roll on a plate that I brought for the family.

And this is a Chocolate Roulade. Again it's a Mary Berry recipe. It is a flourless cake. The first time I did it, I failed epically! I skipped a step and the cake collapsed when I rolled it! That's what happened when you don't read the recipe thoroughly! So this time, I read the recipe again and again and again. It worked! Yay!! The Chocolate Roulade has character because it has cracks! But my friend and her husband love it! Awesome!

And these are the cookies that I baked. This is the first time I used the Lighthouse Cakes, Biscuits and Pastry Flour. I just used the Stunning Short Bread recipe on the packaging. I used this recipe three times already, and it's awesome! Simple! Easy! Yummy! I bought some paper bags from the shop, they are great! Such a nice tiny gift I reckon! 

06 December, 2012

Christmas Pressies - Show Them You Care

I have done all my Christmas presents shopping for this year! I have also finished wrapping all the presents! Even I can't believe it! Except those who will be receiving Christmas biscuits and Swiss rolls or banana cake. So, I'd rather leave more time for baking this year and avoid doing things at the 11th hour. 

There is nothing worst than not knowing the person you are getting a present for. I think it's important to remind yourself this -- treat people the way you want to be treated. I for one, would never get anything that I didn't even want myself. If you are spending the time, money and stress, that person has got to be meant something to you. Finding the right present is not easy but the process tells you how much you know, care and love that person. And trust me, that person will know if and when you don't give a crap. Presents don't have to be expensive, but they have to be thoughtful. If you don't know that person well, FIND OUT!

It's super hard when you have to buy a present for someone who doesn't have a hobby at all. I know right?! But it happens! Buying something practical is always helpful. You can't go wrong with things like kitchen gloves, aprons, scarfs for all seasons and there is always something you can buy at IKEA! For a family, I usually would bake a cake and/or biscuits with a bit of a festive theme. I love wrapping cakes with nice Christmas ribbons. Macaroons are still trending this year, so if you are quick enough, you can buy an Adriano Zumbo Gingerbread House. There was a picture on their Facebook page. I think it costs about $70.

For couples -- parents, silblings cousins or newly weds -- I would definitely consider tickets for shows or a super nice dinner. Tennis season is coming up in Australia, so that could be a good way to go. If you are in Melbourne, you can consider dinner at the Press Club or Vue De Monde. If they are wine lovers, I'd just go for the best Champagne there is! 

If your shopping experience is boring, it's likely that you will get something boring. My advice is to limit the 'boring' time, because the more you shop, they more bore you will get. It will get to the point you hate this present before you know it! Get this done as soon as possible! The keyword is practicality.

This year, I find myself buying more presents from Dymocks and TVStoreOnline. I opt for books than usual. Buying presents is like a cycle, there is like an unseen set of things you buy for everyone from one or two places. It's easier to have more choices than having no choice. My sisters and best friends are into cooking, reading, TV, travel and simple things in life. They know their stuff and they do their own research. If I am going to a pub quiz, they are on my team. Jamie Oliver's cookbooks and DVD cannot go wrong; any French dessert books written by French chefs cannot go wrong; any travel related books about France, Japan and USA cannot go wrong. If you know they are planning on going somewhere, it's always good to get a pocket travel guide (Timeout, Eye-Witness or Lonely Planet) and a Moleskine notebook. If your friend has pets, it's not a bad idea to get something for their pets. I always get something for my God Dog. 

Getting a present for a brother is easy and the most fun!! That is, if you have a fun bro!
TVStoreOnline has unlimited t-shirts to buy! A good designed t-shirts cannot go wrong! Just look at Sheldon Cooper's! Even if the guys are not a huge TV fans, there is always something you can get for them too. Say, if they are a medical professional, it's not a bad idea to get them something House or Scrubs related. The NBC Store sells this amazingly simple but cool Dr House scrub set. What I love about The NBC Store this year is that they have just realised some new Revolution t-shirts. I was there not long ago, and they said they won't have any Revolution merchandise until the show stabilized. I found out yesterday that you can now buy a range of t-shirts designed for the show. Check them out here!

And if you know someone who is a Supernatural fan, The Essential Supernatural: On the Road with Sam and Dean Winchester, is the one to go for. This is the ultimate visual guide for all fans of the show. It includes behind-the-scenes photos, exclusive production art, posters, maps, blueprints, and exclusive cast and crew interviews. You have to be quick and get it from Amazon. Or alternatively, you can contribute towards their next Supernatural convention. Just saying!

19 sleeps to go...!

05 December, 2012

Billboards; Broadway; Arrow; Revolution

bill·board n. A panel for the display of advertisements in public places, such as alongside highways or on the sides of buildings; the advertisement or message posted on such a panel.

I am a little obsessed about photographing billboards when I travel. To me, it is a sign of civilisation, like MacDonalds or Starbucks. Fast food, media saturation and overpopulation could be a sign of doom for some, but I find them fascinated

I could sit on the steps of TKTS in Time Square and just look at the surround billboards and listen to the soundtrack of West Side Story all day! Billboards are not just advertisments of shows or products, but there is a story behind each billboard. For long running broadway shows such as Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Wicked, Lion King and Chicago, there are millions of behind the scenes stories and audience stories from around the world. The magnitude is beyond the theatre business, these stories are part of our grassroot culture. I'll have a bit more on Wicked and Boardway in coming weeks.

I was in New York City in October 2012, everytime I turned a corner I saw the poster of Arrow and sometimes Revolution, which are two of the new television shows I am getting into this Fall. It's not everyday that I get to see my favourite shows being heavily advertised on the street, not to mention in the Big Apple. This is special to me, all we have here in Australia is..well..we don't see them at all, except may be on the bus sometimes, like A Game Of Thrones, which is on Foxtel here. 

I took this for my friend Nicole. She loves Miles.

At the NBC Store
I understand for a big network like NBC, they can spend money on advertising a new show such as Revolution, which is kicking ass in the rating department. But for a smaller networking like The CW, I am just impressed that they spend this kind of money to push a superhero show like Arrow, which is also rating well for the CW. I see others like Beauty and The Beast, but I don't care so much about that. And I wish I see a Supernatural billboard somewhere, that would totally made my trip!

Stephen Amell is pretty.

Time Square, just outside Starbucks
New York -- on my way to the West Village
New York -- somewhere
New York -- on my way to the West Village

Chicago -- Michigan Ave.
More billboard photos can be found via my Flickr.

Storing My Memory in the Cloud

Richmond, London.
I used to have a digital camera like everyone else. It's compact, it's great for parties and travelling. But the more I take photos over the years, the more I see things and feel the scenaries differently through the lense of my camera. It captures not only the landscape or the people, but each image reminds me of the moment of capturing the photo -- what happened that day, how was the train ride, what I had for lunch, what I saw and what I didn't see, the weather, the sore feet, the random sweater I brought that day

Richmond is a beautiful place. Everything about London is so Harry Potter and Love Actually to me. Richmond is located in south west of London. My brother-in-law was so eager to show me the deers in the park. We saw none, I was disappointed. But instead we had a nice lunch at the Petersham Nursery. If you are looking for country style furniture, you will be inspired.

Petersham Nursery

It was a bit of a surprise, because I was expecting to see deers, but I think we saw sheeps instead. And then we accidentally found the very country-like Petersham Nursery. Their menu is very homey, delightful and warm, which is always good for a cold winter day.

A typical winter day in London can be dark and depressing, but I like it. I love winter! I love wearing winter beanies, scarfs and boots. Every time I visit London, it happened to be near Christmas and I love Christmas. The day I went to Richmond was awesomely sunny, at least for awhile. We took a slow walk around the park and we saw the sunset.