Sunday, June 27, 2010

Baking project no.1 - Beach-themed cake


This Mama did bake!!! After many, many, many hours nipping and tucking (including some sacrifice of sleep), this is the result! I thoroughly enjoyed piecing everything together and would definitely do it again! It's not perfect but I'm satisfied with it being my first attempt.

I chose a beach-themed cake for my niece since it was celebrated at Hard Rock Hotel, Batu Feringghi. It is a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and toasted walnut bits sprinkled on top to make them look like sand on the beach and finally decorated with fondant characters. I got the inspiration for the decoration from this image found online by jsantoso.  There are some amazing decorated cakes there! The bikini girl here is soooooo cute! Mine is no where near even though I made not one but three girls before I called it quits.  My girl has an unproportionally big middle and her face cracked a little from the erm.. lack of moisturiser and too much sun???? ;-P

The little crab is my favourite. It might have been my niece's favourite too as it went straight into her mouth! I also like the little white and red float, sand bucket and rolled up towel. The octopus kinda collapsed on me a bit...

I really like the part where I get to put on the little details such as the bikini ribbon on the girl's back and the embossing on the towel.

I couldn't find black colouring in the shops for the hair and eyes so I had to mix all the colours I have to get a somewhat greyish-black colour.

The carrot cake tasted alright but it was a little on the hard side. Not rock hard but not soft enough. I wonder if it is because I had to bake it earlier and put it in the fridge overnight.

We only had a small party so I didn't mind the height of the cake but would have preferred if it had been double the height. 

The birthday girl blowing out the candles

Compost update

It's been almost a week since I started a compost heap in one corner of our little garden. The last few days, I've been watering it (yes, you have to keep it moist enough for it to decompost) as well as feeding it more 'food' ie. vegetable peelings, fruit skins, dried leaves....

Today, I took out the wire and removed all the scrap to 'turn' the compost. This is supposed to introduce more oxygen to help with the composting process. There are some articles that suggest that turning a compost may not be necessary like this one.

While I was turning the compost, I noticed a few things. The leaves of the ginger plant as well as other plants with the same type of leave texture as shown in the picture seems to decompose slower. They probably need to be chopped into smaller sizes to speed up the process. Branches should also be only a few inches long. The orange peel were still very intact but to be fair, they were only added a few days ago. Anyway, as a general rule, the smaller the items, the faster they decompose.

Contrary to common initial perception, the compost was kind of sweet- instead of foul-smelling even though some of the items were rotting away.

After giving the compost a good mix, I then re-wire up the mesh and place the compost back in while giving it another round of watering.

Many would think that it's complex to set up a compost but if I can do it, you can too as it is fairly easy. Mine is simply made up of wire mesh secured into a loop and covered with a pot dish which acts also as a weight to keep the compost material down. As mentioned in my previous post, there are tonnes of articles and videos online to help you get started. Here are some:

For a video guide on how to make a compost bin, try this video.

For a video guide on how to compost, try Garden Organic's two-part video. They are a little lengthy but detailed and presented clearly.
Part 1
Where to put your compost bin - What can and can't be composted - Filling the bin - Compost activators - Getting the mixture right - Hot and cool composting
Part 2
When is the compost ready - Using your compost

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

J.Co Donuts Round 2!

Left to Right (Top Row): Miss Green T; Alcapone; Coco Loco
Left to Right (Bottom Row): Hazle Dazzle; some dark chocolate on the outside coffee cream inside doughnut; some doughnut covered with nuts and chocolate...

All yums!!! If you like chocolate; nuts; coffee and green tea that is.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This Mama started a compost heap!

I was watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on Escape to River Cottage last night. He basically left the city to live in River Cottage and reared his own sheeps, pigs, cows, chickens and planted his own crops. Back to the basics of living! He mentioned last night that the older he gets, the more he wants to re-use refering to what to do with leftover food.

Just maybe two days back, I was thinking to myself that as I'm growing older, I'm collecting more 'rubbish' to be re-used or recycled! Right now, I have a few washed and dried empty milk cartons for a little project for Baby O. I also have a bag of bread crusts (leftovers from Baby O) in the freezer waiting for a suitable recipe. I was trying to collect the skins and ends of vegetables to make vegetable stock but collect them now for my little compost heap!

There are plenty of helpful websites and videos online to show you how to get one for yourself. Even if you don't have garden space, you can get one started with just a bucket in your kitchen! I found a little corner in my garden for my bin. It is basically a holding bin made up of wire mesh. I then fed it with the dried up plants, grass clippings and some plant trimmings (Mom graciously helped to clear the garden during her stay here. Thanks Mom!). Voila! Now it needs to be watered for the magic to work. Fingers-crossed, we shall have some nice little compost in two to six months' time!

This Mama better get baking!

It's been some time since my last post. There are probably 10 drafts in my folder now and more in my whatever-that's-left-mommy-brain-harddrive. Time management. How do u moms do it? You blog, cook, work, care for 2 (or more) kids... How???

Anyway, I've been even busier with visitors these 2 weeks. My family was in town to keep us company as dear hubby is away on a business trip. His family will then be in town after that till he comes back. So I'll have to take them around a bit while discovering new places and routes (since we have the car to ourselves!), making sure everyone is fed...

At the same time, I discovered Hong Yap Trading Company cake supplies located along Jalan Siam. Have been wanting to bake awhile now with the extra time (yeah, right!) I have in my hands. Thought of starting with either Father's Day or my niece's birthday on the 24th. Got some ideas in mind and then went all gung-ho and bought RM100+ worth of goodies! The main bulk of the cost is from the ready made 2.5kg fondant which costs about RM40. Hmm... time to learn how to do it myself??

Ok, less talk more work now. Let's see if I can whip up something decent enough for us to eat in a few days' time!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

90 Days for Mums Campaign (Hurry! Ends 6th June 2010)

In conjunction with the International Women's Day 2010, the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) has initiated a campaign to increase the existing paid maternity leave in Malaysia from 60 to 90 days. Having experienced a longer maternity leave in the UK, I am all for the campaign and would like to urge all Malaysians to sign the petition and support this progressive call along with me. The petition is open to all Malaysians worldwide. International organisations/non-Malaysian individuals can contribute to this campaign by writing letters/statements of solidarity and support to NUBE.

According to this petition, Malaysia is so far behind when it comes to breastfeeding and caring for a mother's well-being. Our neighbouring countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Singapore have a minimum of 90 days paid maternity leave to begin with (Singapore has 112 days!). They have also made it compulsory for companies to provide nursing rooms for their employees or grant a breastfeeding mother two 30-minute breaks to provide for her child.

I remember when Baby O was turning 2 months old, I was extremely glad that I didn't have to prepare myself to return to work. Other than being able to spend more time with my new baby, I felt that I was still not fully recovered physically to be able to work. I kept wondering to myself how could mothers back in Malaysia return to work just after two months of maternity leave!? Well, I could if I don't have a choice I suppose. And then maybe develop Post-Natal Depression after!

Well, my point is, we, mothers definitely need the option to be off work for at least 90 days post-delivery to enable us to recover not just physically but emotionally and mentally as well. If you are a mother/ daughter/ partner and wish for the best for yourself/ your friend/ your sister/ your spouse, then please view and sign the petition by clicking here. They need 1 million signatures by 6 June 2010. So hurry!!!

This Mama discovered J.Co Donuts! Yum!

Visited the Queensbay Mall J.Co Donuts & Coffee branch for the first time about a week back and have been craving for it ever since! Finally managed to get some today. Half a dozen to be exact.. I know, I can be greedy sometimes... Well, it's get six for the price of five (RM12.00 or RM2.40 each) anyway. Since it was closing time, there weren't many choices left. I like the Avocado Dicaprio and it's just my luck that not many people seem to fancy it too much as there were more of it left than others. Maybe because it is too creamy inside? Although creamy, it's not too sweet. Which is how a nice little flavoured doughnut should be. Glazzy (sweet honey glaze) is the simplest yet may just be the nicest! You can savour the melt-in-your-mouth softness of the doughnut with a subtle hint of honey glaze. Perfect with a cup of tea! In fact, if you buy a beverage at J.Co's, you get a Glazzy free! I also bought the JCrown Almond (almond on white chocolate) and JCrown Donatella (almond on dark chocolate). I liked the crunchy almond bits (would be better if there's more!) but the 'crown' wasn't as soft as the other doughnuts. I actually don't really fancy doughnuts too much as I found Dunkin' Donuts too hard and Krispy Kreme too sweet. J.Co has definitely changed my perception of doughnuts!

J.Co also recently launched J.Pops Baby Donuts. A box has 12 best-selling flavoured bite-size doughnuts to share or all for yourself. I might just indulge in a box one of these days!

Ok, beside the sinfully delicious doughnuts, J.Co also offers beverages such as smoothies and JCool Fat-Free Yogurt with a selection of fresh fruit toppings you can choose.

I was pleasantly surprised to know that J.Co Donuts & Coffee is an Asian brand started in Indonesia with branches now in Malaysia and Singapore. Cool! Will definitely be back to try the Hazel Dazzle (hazlenut chocolate + coffee fudge),  Miss Green T (green tea), Coco Loco (dark chocolate inside and out!), ....................
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