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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Photo courtesy of my sister J who took this while she was in Copenhagen, Denmark in January 2012

DSLR gets a bit overrated these days. Expensive camera and lens are purchased yet I doubt a lot of the owners actually know how to operate them. My sister sent me a set of film pictures she developed recently after her trip to Denmark, and its so lovely.

It’s a habit of us both to sit in the living room and go through books after books of photo albums of our family archive during holiday. The colour on films might have washed out with time, but the vivid bursting colours and sensations remains. This prompted me to think: “Maybe sometimes the simpler the better – I will just use one of those disposable camera on my next trip!”

Easter holiday had started, I’ve been a good girl so far, getting started on my essays. Found some cheap tickets so will be heading to Amsterdam for 3 days (in time to catch the flower show in Keukenhof!) and then skiing in France for a week. Updates might be slow but I assure you a good quality photo/travel post will be up soon!

Why is it still so cold in March? Bring it on, Spring!

Until then,

xoxo

You’ll notice that I talk about food a lot, even though I’m not really a big eater. I think about cakes, analyze pastries and mentally masticate all manner of edible arts and crafts — which is how I really see food. I always feel a bit embarrassed at being classified a “foodie” though–cringe! That word scratches me the wrong way like a rusty fork. I guess it’s because I think it gives the impression that I just want food in mah belly; or that it seems gluttonous when there are starving children in the world and, besides, more “important” concerns. Like politics and money; or art and philosophy.

Freshly Home-Made Chocolate Scones

 

So let’s talk art and philosophy here. Making food — or really, crafting it — is something that’s important to me, because it’s creative, it makes me think and learn about other cultures, from British pies and roasts to Southeast Asian spices. It’s also important to me because it makes other people happy.

Food plays a huge role in life which, in every culture, is charted by rituals — from the basics of breakfast-lunch-dinner, to holiday feasts which have their own traditional commandments — turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, goose/ham and Christmas pudding for Christmas, lamb and chocolate easter eggs or a marzipan-cloaked simnel cake for Easter.

One of my favourite rituals — which I know we’ll ALL agree on here! — is obviously a regal, so quintessentially English, Afternoon High Tea.

At my office we’ve started doing cream scone Fridays to celebrate our survival of yet another grinding week at the Press Office. At 4pm — just when our last nerve start to frizzle out — the kettle flips on and the scones come out, along with the ABSOLUTELY NON-NEGOTIABLE clotted cream and Bon Maman jam. Three times of the last four scone Fridays we had homemade made-that-morning scones by Leyla and me (last Friday they came from Selfridges, huge and slightly dry but soft and buttery).

I woke up at 6:30am without the alarm even going off — my basest instincts roused me. It was time to whip up some fresh scones to cheer up my colleagues after another long week. I made chocolate scones. Yes, that would be scones, but CHOCOLATE. The recipe, published on the Financial Times Style section two weekends ago (click here!) was by Rose Carrarini of the famed and fab Rose Bakery, whose original scone recipe is the ne-plus-ultra. This was no more difficult than a plain one — all it took was a good scoopful of Green & Black’s organic cocoa powder (the only brand I use now — it really makes all the difference). Fa-boom: an absolutely luxurious treat, fluffy and cocoa-kissed. With a soft mount of clotted cream and raspberry jam, the scones were bites of heaven that lifted everyone’s moods immediately.

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I think about how stressed my colleague had been — many little things that conjoined and conspired, successfully, to foul her mood the past two weeks (and which has gotten me down, too, with the negative vibes it spreads in the small office space). But the scone ritual is also a little thing that makes a huge difference in a positive way. I’m also reminded of my friend Hattie’s humble scone ritual — she studies at Oxford University, where a sweet little tea room called (coincidentally) the Rose serves warm, oven-fresh scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Every Friday after her last class of the week, she walks to the Rose for a moment of calm and scones.

Start your own ritual.

Make something and enjoy it. It doesn’t have to be food; maybe a trip to the newsagent’s to pick up the latest fashion or design magazine and a quiet place to read it.

But I definitely recommend a freshly made scone.

Try it — they are so much easier and faster to make than you’d think!

RAINBOW CAKE!

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So I’ve been feeling down lately. The weather is springing up but let’s face it, we’re within the last few inches of winter and are coming out the other end pretty ragged and worn out by the dark and cold; the grays, blacks and dark-blues. This winter is also the season I’ve just spent settling into my first 6 months of a new first job, and while I’ve adjusted to many new tasks and peculiarities of office life, there are many more that keep challenging me… and, especially, my self-confidence.

I got home this Friday night and sunk into my bed in the fetal position. The only thing that could get me up was the thought of baking — no, not ’cause I wanted to depressingly dunk my face into sweets. Just the act of baking — of transforming simple ingredients into a lovely, beautiful and enjoyable treat — is so therapeutic.

I didn’t get around to it as I didn’t have enough of the ingredients at home, so I indulged in my addiction — googling recipes online to discover new ideas. I started with this rainbow cake. How ridiculously, screamingly optimistic is that?! I’m seriously considering making this for a friend’s birthday soon. Oh, there’s also tie-dye version, which is like the Ben&Jerry’s to the above photo’s Martha Stewart:

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Just wanted to put this up as I’ve been oddly lingering over it for a heinous amount of time. It’s 2:30am and I should hop into bed as I’m selling cakes tomorrow at Sloane Square maret — my weekly gig on behalf of my friend’s independent cake company. 

I’ll report from the field, with snapshots, tomorrow as I sell (and occasionally nibble) my way to some extra pocket money (see Jane’s post, below). Spring’s arrival means SAVE UP — you’re gonna need it for good stuff to look forward to: a steady supply of Pimm’s, picnic bounty, a breezy dress, new swimsuit (a girl never has enough, no matter how many she buys EVERY summer), and holiday travel… many reasons to be optimistic.

 

Links to the cakes:

Top, http://www.incrediblethings.com/art-design/rainbow-cake/ 

Bottom, http://cake-decorating.lovetoknow.com/cake-decorating-techniques/tie-dye-birthday-cakes

 

For those who know me personally, some might think its such an irony for me to talk about saving up, considering the disastrous behaviour i have when it comes to retail therapy. I don’t really need to prove your wrong, I don’t really care, but I would like to let you know what I feel about the subject.

We need to talk about money, how to save up for your dream trip and maximizing your satisfaction and happiness.
This method applies to other things you want to do as well, whether its buying a new dress, a new video game, a new car, or hell, even a down payment for a house!

It all boils down to one thing:

If you want it enough

This entry is not those articles that teaches you how to save up or how to maximize profit. No, it might not even work for you. It’s just me sharing with you what I hope to achieve in hope of completing something on my bucket list that I yet to tick off. It might resonate with you, it might not, but who knows?

I’m seriously working on being disciplined in whatever ways: academia, social, life. I am a believer of plans, but I’m a sucker at carrying out – well, that’s the thing that I hope I can change.

So how does this work?

Let’s say I’m going to Vienna, Austria for a 4 day trip in late April. My budget is £250 all inclusive, but say I only have £150 that I can spare from my bank account right now. And spending any extra just wouldn’t make me happy.

That’s a whooping £100 I have to save up! But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible…

Here’s how my plan works:

  1. Firstly work out your monthly spending budget. If you’re a student living out like I am, some essential spendings can’t be spared: accommodation & bills, transport, food – these are the basics. Also identify any particular spending patterns you have, such as eating out, buying monthly magazines, or your daily dose of coffee or cakes. Jot them down.
  2. Work around them: You probably can’t spare the accommodation & bills, but how about transport? Is there a cheaper way to get to school? Organize lifts? Walk to school instead of taking the bus? You’ll be saving a hell lot of money if you save on transport (especially in the UK where transport is just so ____ expensive). How about food? What do you usually buy in your weekly grocery trip? Do you buy a lot of junk food, cookies, chocolates, crisps? Swap them with cheaper and healthier options such as biscuits and fruits, instead of going to the supermarket go to your local market which most likely have cheaper options. You might also want to take this chance to cut down on meat if you are a serious carnivore like me, or you can just switch for more reasonably priced alternative. For example, 3 chicken breast fillets in Tesco costs at least £4 (usually £6 when normal priced) – but chicken wings and chicken legs are nearly half the price, about £2 for big box! Challenge yourself to try something different, or change to a healthier eating routine. Buy more veggies instead of meat (not saying totally cut it out), that definitely helps on keeping a healthy figure. For me, there’s nothing much I can cut on transport as I walk to school already, but I do realize I buy a lot of meat in grocery shopping, and I’ve tested myself I don’t actually HAVE to have meat everyday, so changing my shopping pattern a bit doesn’t harm. This probably means I can save about £2 per trip. I usually make 2 or 3 trips to the supermarket per week, so I can save at least £4 per week. So on…
  3. Identify spending patterns: I’m not a big coffee addict, but I figured out I usually drink a cup of Mocha sort of every other day when I’m in school, which may mount to £4-6 a week. For me, it’s something that can be substituted/ gotten rid of, so instead of coffee, I can substitute it with tea or even better, just water. I don’t usually buy lunch or dinner in school, sandwich is expensive and I can make a much better and filling lunch for myself. Spare the laziness in the morning and the annoyingly long queue at the cafe, make your own packed lunch, healthy and simple! This can save up a lot! I don’t shop for clothes very often, but when I do, I usually end up not buying what I need but what I want, which can be slightly devastating to my bank account. Cut that, think thrice before buying/ clicking your mouse. Or just save the money for the next big thing you want.
  4. Stick to your plan. Like all things and all plans, nothing works if you throw them out of the window. If you made a decision to save up, stick with it!

See, the thing is, a lot of people find saving up a chore, an unpleasant thing. But if you flip the coin and think it from another point of way, saving up is fun! How do you maximize your satisfaction and happiness? Create different ways to enjoy the most out of spending the least! Walk to school or work and breathe in the fresh air, explore different seasonal food and recipes, go for free museums/ exhibitions/ concerts, invite friends to eat at home instead of dining out, rediscover the simple joy of gratification. If you think it worths all the effort to save up and enjoy the fruits of your goal (for me, a rewarding trip abroad), by all means enjoy the process of it! It may make you see things differently!

Hopefully by the end of April I can achieve my target. Fingers-crossed! 😛

Until then,
xoxo

P.S. Another exciting getaway coming up in March, stay tuned! 😉