christmas cupcakes

1 Jan

H and I made some cupcakes for Christmas and picked the worst 2 days to do it. It turned out to be such an adventure.

Dec 23 was a scorching hot day in Melbourne – 40 degrees, ouch! We wanted to head to Ballarat the next day so I had no choice but to bake the cupcakes that evening when it was ‘cooler’.

We were hoping that Christmas Eve would be cooler and left decorating the cupcakes for the morning before we drove to Ballarat. What an ordeal it turned out to be.

There were 36 cupcakes to be decorated and my first batch of buttercream icing came out well. I followed the recipe very accurately. Then the snowball started to roll down the hill. Here are the issues we wrestled that morning:

  • It was still considerably warm that morning so the buttercream started getting runny at some stage.
  • We had to pop the icing and the cupcakes in and out of the fridge/freezer and soon enough we started to run out of space in there.
  • With 36 cupcakes, we ran out of icing and because we were pressed for time, I had to make a batch on the fly. This probably explained why the next batches went runny faster than the first perfect batch.
  • I decided to get creative and make Christmas tree cupcakes with strawberries on top of the cupcakes for the shape – I didn’t want a tower of buttercream icing and thought it was a nice surprise. BUT, halfway through the frenzy, some of the strawberries started sliding off the cupcakes. Disaster! Hahahaha. We managed to get them in order eventually.
  • Somehow I didn’t have enough strawberries for all the cupcakes. Good thing I had a back up plan.

Setbacks, challenges and mishaps aside, they turned out great!!! Everyone was impressed by our creativity and they said it tasted great. I just wish I had a photo of the kids eating them and all the parents in a mad flurry to keep things clean. It was awesome to see them with green mouths from the icing. LOL. 

Here are some snapshots of the finished products.

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on tonight’s menu

31 Dec

Last day of 2012! Boy, what a year it has been. Judging from all the Facebook updates, everyone is remembering all the good things from the year and equally looking forward to what the new year has in store.

H and I are spending NYE in the quite confines of our apartment. We decided to make a simple meal tonight consisting of:

  1. Home made basil pasta – even the basil is home grown. Yay me!
  2. Home made pasta sauce – we have 1.5kg Roma tomatoes sitting on the kitchen table begging to be turned into Sugo. I’m not entirely sure yet but it looks like it will be just the plain tomato sauce on the basil pasta with feta (and maybe bacon).
  3. Baked goats cheese that will make use of some of the sugo. This will be yummy on the quinoa sourdough bread we bought from Prahran market yesterday.
  4. Caprese Salad with baby gourmet tomatoes, baby bocconcini, and more of that home grown basil.
  5. For midnight snackies, we just have mixed fruits (cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries), crackers, a few different kinds of cheese, and dips.

I suspect (and expect) to gain at least 3 kilos after today’s meals! Hahahaha. If all goes well, I’ll post the photos and recipes so you can try it out too.

What are you having on the last day of 2012?

2012 in retrospect

30 Dec

So we’re down to the last day or so in 2012 and as I am sure most of you guys will do/are doing/have already done, H and I have been thinking back to the year that was. Here is the quick and dirty for 2012 with monthly highlights:

January – All I remember from January was flying back to Australia with a new haircut and a really bad case of upset tummy.

February – Nothing too monumental apart from a tiny event that, in hind sight, started the chain of good events in my career.

March – My blog is born!!! This is the month I also started my balcony garden with my asparagus and when I started my diet/fitness program.

April – Mommy and my sister M come for a visit. Lovely 3 weeks hanging out and showing them around. I gained back all the weight I lost in March and more!

May – Nothing much apart from a weekend away at Daylesford.

June – Spent H’s birthday in St Helens Tasmania. We had lots of food and lots of quality time together. Binalong Bay and Wineglass Bays were stunning!

July – Christmas in July spent in the Philippines. The brood was once again complete as my sister, R2 (only because she has a twin sister and it’s easier to say R1 and R2) and I flew home for a couple of weeks.

August – Pretty much the last quiet month of the year. I resigned from the company I had been with for 4 years (counting Vietnam).

September – MASSIVE month. H and I started new jobs and we got engaged!

October – I went back to Poi classes. This time I enjoyed it a lot more than the first time. Probably because I got to do more fancy tricks.

November – We got our visa! Well, really it’s my visa but H is very sweet in always saying it’s his too. As of November, I am officially a Temporary Resident of Australia.

December – December is always a massive month for us. This year, my birthday was an auspicious one because it was 121212. We also went to H’s best mate’s wedding. Then celebrated our 2nd anniversary as a couple. And last, but not least I got to spend my first aussie christmas / the first one H and I got to spend together.

All in all it was a great year. There was a bit of drama in the first half of the year but things definitely picked up in the second half! There is so much to be thankful for in 2012 and definitely a lot more to look forward to in 2013.

Here’s to looking back to the year that was and looking forward to the new year… Happy New Year everyone!!!

wedding ironies and how 2014 became our wedding year

11 Dec

Okay, so I didn’t mean for my first wedding post to sound like I’m complaining. I just wanted to air out some of the hard questions we’re facing. LOL. I promise this one should be more… ‘factual’.

On the up side, we’ve narrowed down the ‘when’ part with a 2014 target. That one was easy because 2013 was easily ruled out for practical and superstitious reasons.

Growing up in a predominantly Catholic country, most people find it quite ironic that we have very unreligious superstitions. This particular one is called sukob. From what I know, if someone in the family gets married or dies, no one can get married that year because of bad luck.

My personal explanation for this common belief/practice is that it’s very expensive for the families to have more than one big occasion in one calendar year. For weddings this probably started back when the girl’s family had to give a dowry. Traditionally, this was done to cover the expenses of taking care of her for the rest of her life but, again it evolved as a way to formalise the engagement.

The other big family expense is when someone dies and the whole village comes to pay respects to anyone who passes away and the wake is literally a 24/7 catering marathon. As the years passed, I guess it just became common practice with a justification of “bad luck” to cut the explanation short. BUT, don’t take my word for it. This is just my personal theory. I am sure there are sociologists and historians that would have more facts to explain it.

As always, I got sidetracked… back to why we can’t get married in 2013. H’s brother is getting married in March 2013, thus ruling out the entire calendar year for us to have ours. Plain and simple. Don’t ask any more questions. Hahaha. I’m perfectly fine with this because I didn’t like 13 anyway (personal preference and nothing to do with 13 being an ‘unlucky’ number) and it gave us time to save up for the wedding.

There was also no way we were going to get married in 2012 despite several strong suggestions to have it on 12-12-12, which also happens to be my 31st birthday. This year is out of the question simply because there wasn’t enough time to set that up, and we aren’t in a position to do it financially either.

So that’s how we very quickly decided to get married sometime 2014. I think the choice of month will depend on where and what season will be good.

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For more information on Filipino courtship and wedding practices, try wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courtship_in_the_Philippines). I might try and write about other traditional wedding practices like the pamamanhikan, if I have enough to say about it other than we’re not doing that. LOL.

the first of many (wedding) decisions

9 Dec

Three months into the engagement, H and I still don’t have a definite answer to the question, Where are you getting married?

See, H is a true blue Aussie. He grew up in Ballarat (Country Victoria) and has lived in Melbourne since moving out of home. I, on the other hand am Filipino through and though. Apart from the 11 months I lived in Saigon and the 3 years I’ve lived in Melbourne, I’ve spent all my life in Manila (Philippines).

Which brings us back to the question, where do we get married?!

We’re very aware that wherever we have it, there will be important people in our lives who won’t be able to make it – doesn’t make the decision easier.

So why don’t we have two then? Are you kidding me!?!? The answer to that one is simple; we can’t afford two weddings especially when we have clear plans for what we want to do after the wedding, and beyond the honeymoon.

Take my word for it, we’ve been round and round and round in thinking and discussing this. It’s a hard one. We’ve even tried to ask for others’ opinion and as soon as we take them through our thought process, even they don’t know what to say.

Of course, at the end of the day, it is our decision and we can do whatever we want. It is a decision we have to make and will have to stick to. We can’t make decisions to please everyone – not that we’re trying to, but this one is very important to us.

Back to the drawing board!

the (almost) complete proposal story

8 Dec

I just wanted to share a more detailed story of H’s proposal because I’m very proud of how he made it so personal and unforgettable. This could be good inspiration for the boys – something out of the box, personalised, simple, sincere and super inexpensive.

H and I haven’t been together for a very long time – almost 2 years now, but we’ve always been sure that we want a long future together. In fact, we’ve spoken about getting married and hypothetically discussed what we wanted that day to be like, so in a way we both knew that he was going to ask me eventually and I would say yes.

I guess this put more pressure on H to find a way to surprise me and make the proposal extra special and unforgettable. And like I said in my earlier post, his perfectly personal proposal definitely swept me off my feet!

I was on my first week at my new job and flew to Sydney for work for a couple of days. Thinking back, he did (unintentionally) drop a few hints that Friday;

  • Asked me what my papa’s email address was and lamely covered it up by saying he thought he got an email from him but it was just spam. I thought it was just a random thing and really didn’t read into it at all. Little did I know he needed it so he can email my mom and papa to ask for their blessing. Post-proposal, I read the email and it made me cry all over again!
  • Unusually interested in very specific details of my return flight and what time I would be home. I dismissed this as just being extra sweet and protective of me. Poor guy though because my flight got moved up a few times! I was originally supposed to fly home Saturday noon but ended up on a flight back Friday night which didn’t leave him much time to prepare. Plus I played an unknowingly bad joke on him by saying I was around the corner when I was really 20 minutes away. Apparently he was half way dressing up when I said that and I nearly gave him a heart attack. Hey, how was I supposed to know!!!
  • Asked me what size sheets we use at home. Now this stuck me as weird but I was too distracted by work to ask why and just gave him the answer. Odd question, but I eventually found out he bought new sheets to cover the tables at the apartment and he wanted something we could use again. Practical. I love it!

Back to the proposal…. when I came home late Friday night, this is what welcomed me:

First there was a note by the front door welcoming me home, asking me to leave my bags by the door, freshen up and get comfortable. He said that when I’m ready, I should meet him in the lounge room for his ‘first exhibit’. (On a side note, H reads comics and likes to draw and I have always tried to bully him into putting up an exhibit, or selling his work but he would always refuse). Anyway, back to my story (I keep getting side tracked!)…

At this point, I knew exactly what was going to happen and I was starting to freak out in the inside. I remember thinking that it’s a good thing that I had my nails done earlier that week but really bad timing that I was wearing lawn bowling clothes from the office event earlier that day. For some reason I didn’t think of changing my clothes. I was freaking out so much that I just wanted to find out what was going to happen next.

I walked towards the lounge room door, both scared and excited, then screamed at it, “What’s going on in there??? You’re freaking me out!!!”

He opened the door and I saw he was wearing his suit and heard he was playing one of the Feist albums in the background. My first thought, I SHOULD HAVE CHANGED MY CLOTHES!!!

Too late now…

I walked in and found 12 A2 sheets up on the wall. As soon as I realised what it was, I started crying. He had drawn a comic of our story – how we met, how we got together and what it has been like since. It was obviously a condensed version but he captured the best details and moments that I was laughing and crying the entire time I was reading it. I think I must have read it 3x because I was too nervous to find out what was at the end of it – even though I knew EXACTLY what was at the end of it.

The last page on the wall read: and that is why, with no hesitation nor fear, the boy for the second time in his life, manned up and said four little words…

He turned me around to face the opposite wall, and then there it was. On the wall, another drawing of a big ring that said: will you marry me?

He said “Mahal kita” (I love you in Filipino) and gave me a box and got down on his knees. At this point I told him he’s not begging me so he really shouldn’t be on both knees, just one.

Up to this point, I wasn’t paying attention to the box he handed me. I didn’t realise it was this distinct blue box with a white ribbon around it. I pulled the ribbon off, saw Tiffany & Co, stared at him and said “You didn’t get me a Tiffany ring… this isn’t a Tiffany ring… stop it. It’s just a box, right?!” To which he responded, “If I knew you would be happy with just the box…” Hahaha! I don’t know how I managed not to faint at this point because I held my breath for what felt like a few minutes while I was taking the black box out of the blue one. I gave it to him and asked him to open it. Inside was the most beautiful ring – MY ring.

And I said yes. OF COURSE I WOULD SAY YES!!!

I could not have imagined a better proposal. He made it truly ours and no one else can have that kind of proposal. No fancy restaurants, no hot air balloons, no rings hidden in desserts, no flash mobs. The moment was exactly about what mattered the most: US.

Hope you enjoyed my story. I apologise if I went into too much detail. I just think all his hard work needs to be documented and shared and in case I haven’t made it obvious enough, I’m so proud of H for making it one of the best surprises of my life.

maybelline eyestudio master precise ink pen eyeliner

1 Dec

I have been using the Maybelline Eyestudio Master Precise Eyeliner for several months now and I obviously LOVE it. It makes things go so much quicker in the morning and even after months and months of use, the tip is as good as new. I was initially worried that the tip might start ‘fanning’ like the felt tip pens do after a while. No such thing with this.

Lately I’ve noticed though that it hasn’t been putting on much product and I have to give it a bit of rest after a while. I suspect I’ve almost used it all up and it’s time to buy a new one. Again, not surprised because I’ve used it everyday since I bought it!

The Woods of Windsor

27 Nov

H and I found ourselves at Woods of Windsor a few Fridays back. We’ve always wanted to try it and were lucky enough to get seats.

After looking through the menu and having a hard time picking what to eat, our hostess suggested the degustation menu. Perfect! We added a couple more entrees and ended up eating one of the most amazing meals ever.

Extra Entrees:

  • Coffin Bay Oysters with Mignonette Dressing
  • Zucchini Flowers with goat cheese, beetroot and pine nuts

Degustation Menu:

  • Queensland Spanner Crab with shaved foie gras, compressed melon and wild herbs
  • Smoked Kingfish with tomato tartare, pickled celery and mustard seeds
  • Crispy Duck breast (I wasn’t able to get the whole thing!!! But it was so good.)
  • H got the Peanut Butter Bar dessert with raspberry sorbet and salted peanut caramel. Really bold and contrasting flavours but he loved every bite.
  • I got the Summer Berry Pudding dessert with clotted cream, berry granita and pop rock candy. Mine had a combination of fresh and freeze dried berries – the textures in my mouth was out of this world.

I really loved the feel of the place too. It was special without being hoity toity. I can’t wait to go back for another great meal.

Here are some photos…

 

pest control weekend – help please!

18 Nov

First I discovered aphids on my tomatoes, and now I think my strawberry plant has red mites! WAAAAAH! This is turning out to be an intense gardening weekend.

My strawberry lives indoors because My tomato plant is in the balcony. I was told that I should keep these 2 plants apart because they can be harmful to each other. However, because I think it’s considerably drier indoors, I’ve now attracted the mites.

Here are photos of the strawberry leaves. Any suggestions on how I can fix it?😦

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fine webbing at the edges of the leaves. today it has also started to discolour one of the biggest leaves of my plant!

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underneath one of the leaves

I had another look at my tomato plant and I think my zealous spraying yesterday has damaged some of the leaves – at least the ones that were badly infested with aphids. I’ve cut them off now and will probably wait until tomorrow before I spray anymore and only if there are aphid survivors.

tomato plant invasion!

17 Nov

I have been quite busy during the week that I haven’t had the chance to take a close look at my plants.

From afar, I’ve only noticed that my tomato plant now has 3 stems coming out of the soil. This makes me a little worried because the pot simply won’t be able to fit all of them. I think this happened because when I transplanted it I had buried the lowest stems under the soil because I read in several places that this helps build a good root system. And now I appear to have 3 plants. Here is what it looks like as of this morning. The thickest one on the right is the original one, the left one sprouted last week and the thinnest in the middle was discovered only today.

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I have huge doubts but I tried to (carefully) dig with my finger to see if they are 3 separate plants or if somewhere deeper in the soil they share a main root system. No luck – I didn’t want to compromise anything by digging too deep.

Any ideas / suggestions on what I should do?

BUT! That’s really not what I have to share today. While I have been pondering on what to do with the 2 new sprouts, I didn’t notice until this morning that I had aphids on my plant!!!! I was gutted. I read in several places that these little critters can cause so much damage to plants. No wonder some of the leaves were curling.

Thankfully I remembered that one of the easiest way to get rid of them is soapy water and oil. I put 2 squirts of hand wash and a bit of canola oil with water in a spray bottle then went to town on my tomato plant. While I was doing this, I kept thinking “Die scum aphids, die!” Hahahaha. I had to do this a few times this morning to make sure I got them all. I think I’ll have to do the same again tomorrow.

While the aphid massacre was happening, I also noticed a small (but fairly fat for its size) worm. Thankfully it died along with the aphids. I don’t think it was a hornworm, but then again it was very small to tell. If you like Where’s Wally, you might see the dead worm in the photo above, towards the bottom of the photo. Too bad he’s out of focus.

Hopefully I have fixed this problem. I’m really looking forward to growing tomatoes!

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