As vintage as it gets 

This is my grandmother’s pearl ring, which I absolutely love. I have a bit of an old soul, and I can spend hours looking at vintage jewellery designs because I think they’re absolutely fascinating. There’s a very sophisticated air about vintage jewellery without any of the ostentatiousness that you find with pieces nowadays. Some people go for as large a rock as possible, surrounded by as much bling as they can get. But… There’s no real personality in that. In fact, I don’t even believe in buying real diamonds. But that’d a conversation for another day. 

I wore this ring to a cousin’s wedding, after having borrowed it from my mom. And I can’t wait to find the chance to wear it again. 

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The constant (and willing) state of pain 

I have been in a constant state of pain since about Chinese New Year in February. And I have to admit – I’m enjoying it.

I’ve had a battle with my fitness for a while now, and always had the usual excuses. Not enough time, too busy with work and the kid. Too expensive. Too lazy. Too tired. Not enough time. I blamed time a lot, could you tell?

But then, as I kept researching and finding different ways to try and get fit (even as my infatuation with running eventually turned to dismay as I got lazier and less motivated with it), I realised the only solution was one that could afford me some sort of flexibility but still well and truly kick my ass.

So, I hired a personal trainer. Actually, I hired Simon Pink Fitness.

Now I know the notion of a personal trainer seems very indulgent. But after working out the costs, it’s pretty much the same as joining a gym and getting a personal trainer there. Except in this case, Simon comes to my place and our sessions are scheduled according to my convenience – there are some days where I can’t make it, so we switch to another day, no problem. And that gave me no more excuses, and I had to do it.

Simon is an unfailingly cheerful man, which is good when you’re up at ungodly hours getting your ass kicked. Most times I feel like I’m about to die halfway through the session, but at the end of it I always feel stronger and better. He uses a combination of TRX ropes, elastic bands, skipping ropes and kettle bells (I hate those things) for the workouts, and every week is always something different, which I like.

It’s been about six months since I started, and I know my body is leaner and fitter. I can easily plank for more than a minute now before my arms start to shake, where before I think I’d have only lasted ten seconds. I’d show you some before and after shots, but I never did any because I’m not that sort. I don’t need a picture to know how much better my body is feeling. Also my goal was never about weight, it was about my health (the weight loss is an added bonus).

Also there’s no picture of me during a session because I’m too busy getting my ass kicked, and I always look a sweaty mess.

So it’s been six months. And this was probably be best decision I’ve made for me in a long time.

[I told Simon I was going to do a review. He said he wanted a 19 word one, so this is the TL;DR version – I got fit by hiring Simon. He kicks my ass. I love it and hate it. Best decision ever.]

Brainwashing in progress

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I was asked by my old school to go back and teach a couple of lessons about messaging in the media and how communications works. I truly could not ask for more fun topics to talk about (seriously, not being sarcastic) because that’s really the work that I do for a living. And I was quite amazed at the amount that these girls already know – I can’t even remember if I read the newspaper when I was in Primary 4! So every Tuesday for about 8 lessons, I’ll be teaching them all about how media works. And in some ways, it feels quite nice to be able to give back in this way. I enjoy the teaching (am also glad I don’t have to deal with any marking) and I hope that they’re learning lots from me, and that maybe, possibly, I might have inspired one or two of them to consider comms as a career next time.

Next up – guest speaking at a their secondary school career fair! More brainwashing to come.

My signature roast chicken

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This is a tried and trusted recipe that I’ve done quite a few times – roast chicken is something that little miss loves, so it’s a real no brainer and is actually quite easy to do. In fact, I’ve done it so many times I don’t use the recipe anymore and just go by feeling and whack it all together.

The marinade is simply tomato paste, garlic and olive oil blended together and molested generously onto the chickens. I generally tend to do this in the morning and let them sit for a couple of hours. There’s about 11 chicken thighs in this shot (I forget why I was trying to feed so many people), but lay them out on your tray, fill it up with veggies like carrots and tomatoes and anything else you want to roast with it, for about 45 minutes at approx 180degrees. Throw in some cherry tomatoes and roast for another 15 minutes or so. Depending on your oven or how many chickens you have, that time could change a little, so just keep an eye on them once it looks like they’re about done. These are a little burnt, unfortunately, but otherwise they turn out magnificently juicy.

This is a chocolate stout cake. It is the only chocolate cake you should make.

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First and foremost, I apologise – this picture doesn’t even begin to portray just how awesome this cake is. And Yes, it’s not even entirely in focus. But the point is, this is the chocolate stout cake from smitten kitchen, and it’s really the only ever chocolate cake you should make.

When I first stumbled upon the recipe, I found the idea of it very intriguing. I had a extra can of stout on standby from the time I tried to make Guinness Stew (it turned out mediocre, I’m gonna have to find another recipe to give that one a try again), and so I figured I should use it eventually before it expires and turns into something lethally potent.

So I tried it. It’s pretty easy to make, and is an absolute delight to eat. It’s one of those cakes that takes over all your senses, in a good way, and just makes you feel… happy. Or maybe that’s the stout talking. And if the cake’s in the fridge and you need to warm it up a bit (which you absolutely should) the smell that comes out after must be what heaven smells like.

The recipe has a ganache, which I did not make, and I think the cake does fine without it.

Here is the recipe from smitten kitchen:
1 cup (235 ml) stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ounces or 230 grams) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (65 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups (230 grams) all purpose flour
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (160 grams) sour cream
6 ounces (170 grams) good semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons (90 ml) heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Cake prep:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or spray a bundt pan well; make sure you get in all of the nooks and crannies. (Some people even go so far as to brush the inside of their bundt pans with melted butter–you cannot be too careful!). Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake to rack; cool completely in the pan, then turn cake out onto rack for drizzling ganache.*

Ganache:
For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of cooled cake.

My guilty pleasure – chai tow kuay (or carrot cake but not the cream cheese kind)

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Every since I was a little kid, this has been my ultimate favourite and comfort food. I could probably eat this for days on end if it weren’t for its not-so-healthy factors. Dammit. But seriously, nothing really healthy for you could ever taste this awesome.

Anyway, this is chai tao kuay, or carrot cake. There are two versions that you can find – a black and a white one. You’ll see them both in this picture. The black is a little bit sweeter because of the sauce they use, while the white tends to be a bit savoury. They’re both great with chilli, and as I’ve told a friend before, I don’t get racist on them – black or white, I’ll eat either one. With lots of chilli please.

My favourite one is at Ghim Moh market. I haven’t a clue what the store is called but if you head down to the temporary site where it’s at, it’s facing the old market. One day I’ll snap a picture and update this.

For now, I’m just gonna have to drool into my pillow.

The gourmet food company, and where I like my steaks

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I’m in two minds about doing this post – partly because it’s such a great place that I think everyone should go and visit it. But also because it’s such a great place that I don’t want everyone to go and visit it.

The Gourmet Food Company, is a family-owned business located in the heart of the CBD area. They serve lots of wonderful cuts of meat and at pretty damn affordable prices. I mean, seriously, have you seen the amount of money you need to pay here to get a decent steak? I’ve thought for years that it just wasn’t worth the price. And GFC has proven that I’m right.

So once in a while when I feel like I need a good steak, I come here and treat myself to one. They’ve also got great seafoods and other stuff. I’d go on and on about it, but I don’t want to make myself hungry at this time of the night.

And also that’s all I want to tell you about the place. Because I still want to keep it for myself.