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The F Word


Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I'm still reeling from our week's holiday. No, it wasn't hectic but my brain and tummy is in overdrive from all that wonderful culture, art and food of the last week.

So much has happened and I will try and describe our holiday in a few F words. Not that one, these:

F is for Ferrari

This is of course the main reason why we were in Italy. To visit the museum followed by the Hubby's private tour of the factory. My birthday present to him. Which most of you know by now so I shall just zip it before I keep repeating myself ad nauseum.

I do want to say that I did send Hubs over the moon (twice over, I think). Thanks to S and her hubby's help, I am now the Bestest Wife in The Whole Wide World and Beyond. I only hope he remembers it when I have to explain why I need yet another whatever when my wardrobes are already creaking at the hinges under the pressure of its contents.

F is for Florence

Florence is a wonderful city. It truly is. There's always something to see, do, eat or buy. I don't even know where to start. It's one of those things where you've got to experience it for yourself. We had to pace ourselves on account of Sonny-boy where museums were concerned. We did manage to visit the Pitti Palace and Palatina Gallery, a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition where they focused on Leonardo the scientist, the Duomo and lastly the Ferragamo museum. Which leads me to the next F word.

F is for Ferragamo

Yes! After years of wanting to visit the museum, I finally got my wish! My love affair with Ferragamo shoes began when I was a pimply teen oogling at fashion magazines. I promised myself I would own a pair one day and after recieving my first official paycheck at twenty, bought myself a pair of black Vara patent pumps. I couldn't afford them of course but since I was living with my parents, I didn't have to worry about things like rent. Needless to say, I was on a tight budget for the rest of the month. Things are a little different now but I still get the same rush when I walk out of a boutique with one of them red paper bags. Over the years, I've gone on to their bags and wallets too. And yes, I've also bought other designer shoes but I always, always go back to Ferragamo shoes for its comfort, quality and quiet, elegant style.

The museum itself is a must-see for fans of shoes, not neccessarily of the Ferragamo brand. It consists of collections of photos and shoes dating back from the 30s to 70s. You see the originals or mock copy made for specific stars and get to study the handiwork and material used up close and personal. As a former fashion student and ardent crafter, I thought I was going to pop from excitement. I took mental notes and tips for future personal use. There was also a screening room complete with LCD screen and plush leather seats featuring the life and work of the man himself, Salvatore Ferragamo. We all enjoyed it immensely.

F is for Food

Mamamia! What can I say? Tuscan food is the best in the whole world. No, make that Tuscan and French food. Hubs and I, who are not luncheon people, actually had daily 2 course lunches followed by 2 or 3 course dinners in the evening, not to mention the in between meals and snacks. We just ate and ate and ate. And ate some more. We've always enjoyed Italian cuisine and certainly gave our digestive systems a good workout. Our legs too, from all that walking. Which probably explains why I didn't gain weight from the week's excesses. *silent prayer of thanks*

I had a food game plan before we left. I wanted to cover all the major food groups, namely: Pasta / Risotto, Carpaccio, Seafood and finally, Pizza. I did manage to get all sorts of variations on my list but there was still one item missing on my Pasta list. I couldn't find pasta in cream sauce made from the black ink of squid. It's an Italian specialty and I absolutely love it, even though you end up with black lips, tongue and teeth. The dish itself is quite frightful if you're seeing it for the first time. It's just one big black mass.

Anyway, it was our last day and I had just about given up all hope until we went to this restaurant called La Posta (came highly recommended by Beau Lotus) for lunch. It's called La Posta because it's situated oppostite the Post Office (duh!). Imagine my glee when I saw Tagliatele Nero something something (I can't remember the rest of the name *blush*)Tagliatele! Nero! Magic words! May I have that please?

Lunch was simply super. We dined alfresco on the sidewalk and opted for a long lunch. For the first course, I had carpaccio of smoked duck while Hubs had a cold plate of Parma ham and sheep's cheese. It was then followed by a Beef Steak ala Florentina for Hubs (again, another recommendation from Beau Lotus) and Tagliatele Nero something something for me. Sonny-boy had his beloved Tagliatele in Carbonara Sauce. We were all uncharacteristically quiet during the second course. But only because we were all focused on our plates. To shut us up like that can only mean the food is either beyond excellent or we are beyond hungry. That afternoon, we were not hungry.

The only drawback of being papmered gastronomically is, upon returning home, everything you taste resembles sawdust. Yes, even your own cooking.

The holiday is over.

*****

P/S: Photos to follow, as soon as I sort through them.

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The Visit




For someone who's never been on a blind date in her entire life, this was really weird. Meeting someone I've never seen but because of her online journal, feel I know her to some extent. And as the modus operandi of most dating or matchmaking bureaus (I'm just guessing - I've never had need of one. If anything, my social life was too hectic. Just ask my mum), I emailed a family photo of us to her and even called her twice. Just so she knew I was legit and well, because that's the polite and proper thing to do.

So there we were, at Beau Lotus' front door. We missed her front gate once because the house number was not very prominent. However, I did recognise the gate and the house from photos posted on her blog. Being the smarty pants we were, we hadn't asked her for instructions, relying instead on our Tom Tom (a navigational system thingamajig).

Everyone, from husbands to kids got along from the get go. The two older boys disappeared into Eldest Son's room to play Need For Speed:Carbon, Denominator, Whatever on the PS2 while the men sat outside to discuss manly topics. S and I headed towards the kitchen where she was preparing lunch and I was standing respectfully by the side. Women can get territorial when it comes to kitchens, don't you know? Baby Boy and Baby Girl hovered around us whilst playing. I only have one word for Baby Boy - Sniper. He kept shooting rubber darts from his gun, may I add, with 100% accuracy at me. Mostly at my nether lands. I predict a bright future for him in the army. I also had to gently tell him a couple of times to please not step on auntie's shoes okay? to which he responded with blank stares and blissfully continued to ignore the said request. Oh well.

Lunch was fantastic. Indeed, I would not have expected anything less. We flagged off with buschetta and a platter of cured hams and cheeses out on the patio and when we were ready, adjourned indoors for the meal proper.



For starters, there was Venus Clams in White Wine Garlic Sauce,


followed by - joy of joys - duck! In orange sauce! Canard à l'Orange


This was accompanied by Gratin de Chou Fleur (Cauliflower Gratin)and Pan Fried Potatoes.



For dessert, S made a lovely Tarte Tatin served with a scoop of ice cream. Lekker!




Beau Lotus is exactly the same in person as she is on her blog: take-charge, frank and straight to the point. She is also very kind and thoughtful and is a wonderful cook and person. Yes, and boisterous too. I say this with affection - you can hear her laugh a mile off.

Thank you S, for you and your husband's supberb French hospitality. We felt right at home and hopefully, get to do this again some time in future. This time, at our place, of course.

*****

Oh, and we didn't just meet on Sunday. The next day, whilst Hubs was on his private Ferrari factory tour, S and I (with Sonny Boy in tow) met again for a quick bite in a cafe in Maranello where the factory is situated.

And as if that wasn't all, at the suggestion of S's husband, both families met up yet again for dinner at a restaurant (a favourite haunt of theirs) later that evening. The food was great, the company even better, I couldn't have asked for a better start to the holiday.

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We're Off To See The Wizard


Thursday, October 18, 2007


We're off to see the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
You'll find he is a whiz of a Wiz! If ever a Wiz! there was.
If ever oh ever a Wiz! there was The Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things he does.
We're off to see the Wizard. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


( Follow The Yellow Brick Road from the movie The Wizard of Oz)


So we're off this Saturday to visit Beau Lotus who's a wiz in the kitchen, specifically, What To Do With Leftovers as shown so creatively this week. We won't be following the yellow brick road, more likely the autobahn and the Emerald City is of course, Italy.

This is the big birthday surprise I've been hatching for the Hubby. A trip to Modena aka Ferrari central. His birthday won't be till next month yet but I've had to work around Sonny-boy's autumn holidays which fall next week. On the itinery is a visit to the Ferrari museum. And, to up the ante just that little bit, I've thrown in an exclusive tour of the car factory too - one of those things not opened to the general public. This is where I must thank The Lotus herself. She got her husband to help arrange it. I have no idea what tactics you employed, my dear Lotus, but know that I am eternally grateful. We can't wait to see you and yours on Sunday, asian groceries, kueh lapis and all.

The Hubby is understandably super duper excited. Personifying the 'fan' in Ferrari fanatic, this trip is the Mother of all Birthday Presents for him. I'm so glad I can do something special for him. As mentioned previously, he made me see stars for my birthday earlier this year, it's only right I should send him over the moon for his.

From Modena, we will be driving on to Florence and spend the next four days there. Now it's my turn to get excited because I love museums, history and culture. I've shortlisted some places I we want to see. I'm also hoping with the Hubby all softened up from his birthday treat, he'll be brandishing his credit card with wild abandon when we hit the shopping streets. Ah, one can dream.....

See you later, alligator!

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Flavour Of The Moment





Pureed dried chilli - my favourite condiment of the moment, a little something which I discovered not long ago at the Turkish grocer.


It sets the tongue on fire, yes, even my jaded nonya one which is all but chilli proof. It has a lovely deep roasted flavour and puts an immediate zing to any dish which calls for chilli paste. On the other hand, you can also do what I do, use it as a dip and eat it neat with your meals. Just make sure you've got a tall glass of iced water by you too. You know, just in case.

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A Little Bit Of TLC




Oi. My neck feels extra snug and cosy today. That's because it's being enveloped with TLC, Tender Loving Crochet, from a very thoughtful friend.


K, who's on a crocheting trip at the moment, made and sent me (among other things) this pretty neckwarmer thingamajig. It's sew gorgeous and will most definitely be put to good use this winter.



Thank you, K. I love the scarf and I love you.

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Scissor Keep


Wednesday, October 17, 2007



A little stitchy talk now.

Just as every cook need good appliances to help him or her along, so does your average crafter or needleworker. More so if they are as fanatical as yours truly. I've got just about every gadget known (give and take a few) in cross-stitchdom and still counting. I wonder if I should be saying this here - don't want the Hubby to have concrete proof on where the money really goes to each month.

One of my prized possessions in my work basket is the Gingher embroidery scissors. The average Gingher scissors cost a pretty penny. Last year, I bought a modestly priced one because I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Right after the first snip, I became an instant convert and am now lusting after some of their fancypants printed ones which I hope to make mine someday.

The other gadget to have is a scissor keep. It's this thing, be it a charm, tassle or little stuffed cushion (cross-stitched or embroidered of course), that you attach to the handle of your scissors. Asthetics aside - it's always nice to surround yourself with beautiful things while creating something lovely - it serves a practical purpose. Most embroidery scissors are small and sharp. As such, they easily dissappear into the recesses of cushions, couches and what not. You want to be able to spot your scissors rightaway and not find them the painful way ie, via your nether regions.

I got tired of my current keep and decided to do something about it last Thursday. I found these decorative little shoes at a store and pounced on them. Using the Rococo era as inspiration, I put together some beads and threw in a ribbon for good measure as well.

I love it, love it, love it.

Note: Please click at thumbnails for a better view

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Soto Ayam





Recently, I posted an entry about my mum's Soto Ayam. Her recipe comes with different spices and is rather full-bodied, in aroma and taste.

Last week, I tried out a different version. This is similar to the generic ones sold in hawker centres or food courts in Singapore. It does away with all the spices using instead a strong chicken stock base, shallots, garlic, galangal(blue ginger), tumeric and lemon grass. It wasn't too bad at all and I rather enjoyed it. The Hubby did too, which was just as well because we ended up attacking it for the next two days.


In this instance, I served it with tung hoon (mung bean vermicelli), chopped hard boiled eggs and a good dose of chilli sauce made up of chilli padi and dark soy sauce. Lekker!

Mini gripe: The photos were taken on an overcast day so it doesn't really show the soto ayam at its best. In real life, the broth is thicker and more yellowish (almost green even) in colour.

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I'm Still Here (And The Underwear Quiz)


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Just a quickie post to say I haven't fallen into my mixing bowl and got lost in there. I'm still here on terra firma, it's just that I've been busy with stuff. Also, the Hubby and Sonny-boy have taken it upon themselves to hog the 'puters (we have two for a family of three, go figure) all weekend. No matter, since it means I'm queen of the telly and can do my precious stitching.

Anyhow, I do have have some pics of what I've been up to, some culinary and some crafty which I want to share here but don't have the time now. From now till my next update, what about amusing yourself with this silly quiz?

You Are Lacy Panties

You're one seductive chica, but you've also got a ton of class.
You are like a pinup girl, with timeless beauty and sexiness.
Men are afraid to talk to you, knowing they'll be addicted to your charm immediately.
Only a true manly man, confident in himself, is your perfect match.



I almost choked when I read my results.

Pin-girl? Timeless beauty? Sexy? Me?

Eh?

Pinch of salt, I tell you. Pinch of salt. Make that a kilo for "addicted to your charm immediately". Back in the day, yours truly wasn't always that charming, especially with men who didn't know how to take no for an answer.

One thing's for sure, I do love lace and I do like confidence in a man, something which the Hubby has buckets of. *shameless wifely plug*

Alright, tea break's over. Got to get ready for the 30 minute dinner dash now.

Later!

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Last Night's Dinner


Wednesday, October 10, 2007



This is a variation of the salmon meal we had recently. As the tarragon hollandaise and bearnaise sauce are almost kissing cousins in terms of taste, I thought it would work wonderfully well if I substituted the fish for a steak filet. The vegetables remained the same partly because I'm still trying to perfect my witloaf cooking technique. I swear we are going to have witloafs spilling out of our ears by the time I'm satisfied with myself or the season is through - whichever comes first. And much as I like to try new things, some places are a no-go area. Like the Domain of the Bearnaise Sauce for instance. I leave it up to The Masters while I stick to my taste-alike version. How difficult is it? Well, chefs taking a cue from overpaid supermodels, won't give it up for less than two persons at restaurants. It's an extremely time consuming sauce which takes a certain level of skill to make. And if done properly......

Enough said.

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A Fish By Any Other Name




I don't know if you've ever faced the same problem as me.

Being a foreigner in any country, and not speaking or understanding the language initially, can pose quite a challenge when doing groceries at the local supermarket. Especially when fresh produce like meats and fish are concerned. Especially fish. Many a time I would be stumped with the Dutch name, trying to figure out the English translation. First I would try to recognise the fish. Six out of ten times it's a no-go since all fish, unless it's salmon or eel looks the same to me. Then I would try and see if the Dutch word sounds remotely like its English counterpart. For example, zalm = salmon; ansjovis = anchovy; zeebaars = seabass, makreel = mackeral. At this point, the odds for success get lower, say, three out of ten times. For example, if you didn't speak Dutch, would you know kabeljauw was cod? Or zeeduivel is monkfish? That braam was pomfret? And so on and so forth.

Not one to be defeated, I did some research on the internet (couldn't see fish for a while after that) I found these two really helpful sites which have become my go-to reference of sorts.

Site #1 tells you the names of various fresh water fish in all the major European languages. Just so you don't mistake your common carp from the common perch, it even has corresponding colour photos.

Site #2 reads like a who's who list of the underwater world. It covers just about everything except seaweed and plankton. Languages include English, Dutch, Spanish and French.

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New Lip and Nail Colour


Tuesday, October 09, 2007



After my bout of Madness, I decided it was high time to calm down and go for serenity with Lotus Rouge.

Apologies to S, for the wordplay. It was just too irrisistable. You may thump me later but not too hard - I bruise easily.

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Tiramisu





Tiramisu literally means "Pick me up" in Italian. How apt! Nothing like a spot of coffee, alcohol and sugar to get the blood going.

I found this out when I was searching for the website from which this particular tiramisu recipe I've been using for years was from. Lazy me wanted to create a link rather than type the whole thing out. It's just as well because the recipe has been updated. Instead of raw egg yolks, Chef John V. (I don't know who he is but I sure want to thank him for this superb recipe) has added an extra step whereby the yolks are cooked in hot syrup. Wonderful! With the salmonella scare out of the way, we can now have our cake and eat it.

I've tried out many classic tiramisu recipes but for me, this is the definitive one. It's full of flavour, not too rich and best of all, easy to make. All you need is time. The longer you let it sit in the refrigerator before serving, the better it tastes. I normally make mine early in the morning so I can bring it out after dinner. Leaving it overnight is great too because by then, the lady fingers would have had fully absorbed the espresso, rum and Marsala mixture.


Tiramisu does not last very long in Cookalot. This is one of the few desserts we three agree on (Sonny-boy only gets a couple of mouthfuls on account of the coffee and alcohol). I made this for a small dinner party on Sunday as yet another set of in-laws came to visit. This time it was R, Brother-in-law #4, his partner C and their cute toddler V. I was making Laksa that evening and knew it was R's favourite so I got Hubs to invite them over for a bowl.

Dutchess' serving suggestion: Best eaten with a big, fat dinner fork.
Even better if you don't have to share.


On Sunday, I was most gratified to see everyone clean out their bowls, especially since I spent all morning and a bit of the afternoon over rempah and gravy. The tiramisu went down well too. I did remember to selfishly set aside an extra portion for myself though - to be savoured slowly the next day while watching Oprah and sipping hot tea.

Now, that's what I call a "Pick me up".

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De Lindeboom


Monday, October 08, 2007


De Lindeboom (English translation; The Linden Tree) did not fail us on Saturday night.

And because it was a celebratory night out, we opted for a four course dinner (waistline be damned) and Hubs picked a fine bottle of wine from the restaurant's private collection. Sonny-boy chose his beloved combination of chicken nuggets and Belgian fries served with home-made mayonaise. A word on the mayonaise - it is heavenly. I've tried to replicate it at home but with no success. I know they add dijon mustard in it but there's this missing X ingredient I can't seem to place. I guess you don't go to cooking school for nothing.

So here's a run down of what we had. I would have quoted the menu off their website but it hasn't been updated yet - they still have the summer selection.

Appetizer

Consisted of two thin slices of raw Japanese tuna steaks marinated in oil and coated with sesame seed, a creamy dipping sauce with hints of wasabi and a fresh garden salad topped with diced mangos and river crayfish.

Warm Starter

Normally one would have a salad at this junction of a four course meal but we thought we'd live dangerously and opt for a warm fish plate instead:

European Pikeperch filet on a bed of tomato and cheese risotto with saffron sauce and steamed mussels.

I very almost went to heaven. I love seafood.

Entree

The kitchen gods answered my prayers. There was game. Well, only wild boar since it's not truly game season just yet. But still.

The entree was rather hearty, rustic almost. It was made up of two succulent filets of wild boar topped with a muscovado sauce containing raisins and baby onions, served with courgette, brussel sprouts, mashed potato and pickled red cabbage. As a finishing touch, it was garnished with strips of deep fried sweet potatoes.

Now it was Hubs' turn to attain Nirvana. He loves meat.

Dessert

Hubs had the cheese platter. It came with some salad greens, grapes and grained bread. There were six varieties of cheeses in all to be eaten in a certain order to really savour the experience. The cheeses went from mellow, to medium to oh-my-chianti heavy and then back to medium again.

I had the other option which, like the appetizer, came in three sections. Starting from right to left : a pure cocoa mousse topped with strawberries and a sprig of mint, a scoop of home-made vanilla ice-cream on a wavy, arty-farty wafer biscuit and lastly, a slice of warm pinapple poached in a Marsala (or some other dessert wine, I couldn't really tell) and cinnamon sauce.

If I hadn't been transported to heaven by the warm starter, I was most certainly there by now.

The staff took their time with the dinner service and there was a good fifteen to twenty minute wait in between courses. This was to be expected for course and that's when we get to chat, people watch or just enjoy the moment together in silence. Sonny-boy was entertaining as usual - he's got quite an imagination and kept us in stitches. Our very own stand-up comic. He's at the age where kids are still very innocent but savvy enough to make jokes or just be witty. However, he's been catching me by surprise lately with sudden bursts of maturity - sort of like a sneak preview of the man he's going to grow up to be in years to come. Then I get a bit sad but that's for another day.

So.

I'm sorry I don't have food pics of the evening. I can't seem to bring myself to whip out the camera when we go to the nicer places. For one thing, I find it embarrassing, an ettiquette faux pas of sorts (I don't know how the other food bloggers do it but kudos to them for pulling it off). Secondly, some establishments don't like it if you take food photos so I prefer to err on the side of caution. In any case, I hope the descriptions were good enough for you to imagine what it was like.

Here's a little something you don't need to use your imagination over - what I wore for dinner:



A silk organza blouse tucked into...

a satin pegged skirt, both by Zara.

A pair of satin stilleto pumps from Bolatti (not a very well-known brand but they make super comfy heels) and matching clutch from Swarovski.

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Posh Nosh


Friday, October 05, 2007


One of the things my husband and I like to do as a couple is eat out. Because of his hectic work and travelling schedule, we don't see much of each other, so eating out is a time where we reconnect and bond. It's also like going on a date: we make reservations, get dressed up and dine in relatively fine style. And since we don't like to rush, these little dinners can stretch into three hour affairs. The general rule of thumb is: the posher the place, the longer the meal. We don't mind though because it gives us a chance to talk. And that's the way it's been since we met.

Tommorrow evening is no different. Well, except we have something to celebrate about. No, I'm not pregnant but I prefer not to disclose the reason as I just want to savour the moment privately with Hubs since it's an awfully big thing. Life changing, one might even say.

The restaurant we've picked is called De Lindeboom New Style Restaurant. It's a chic establishment which serves fusion cuisine and is one of our regular haunts. You know you're a regular when you call up to make reservations and they know whose name to place the table under before you even say it. You also know you're a regular when again, without prior arrangement, you get your favourite table - window seat, facing the church courtyard. Every time. The other nice touch is, whenever we arrive, the owner, if he's not busy, is there to greet us and take our coats. If he had been previously engaged, he'll make it a point to come by our table later at least once or twice to make small talk or check if we're enjoying our meal. Ditto with the other staff. And that is why we enjoy fine dining - it's not just the food, it's the service and the ambience. In this case, the interior of De Lindeboom is very modern and chic. Lovely pebbled leather chairs to sink into while you enjoy the equally lovely view of the old church and it's courtyard next to it. Soft lighting, candles and other tasteful decor touches round up the entire atmosphere.

Being foodies, Hubs and I have a weakness for good food, just like being shoe mad, I can't resist designer or rather, well designed shoes. More often than not, this means going upmarket; even better if there's a Michelin star or two plastered over the signboard. It all seems rather frivolous but hey, whatever rocks your boat and leisurely fancy pants dinners rock ours.

And where is Sonny-boy when we dine out? Unless it's an anniversary or a dinner date, he's right there at the table with us. We've taught him from day one to behave and sit out long dinners since eating out plays a huge part in our lives. People used to be amazed at how a three year old could stay put for two hours in a restaurant (fancy or regular) and i)not scream his head off and ii) not run around and wreck havoc on all and sundry. It's all training, I always say, and a strong will (ours) and even thicker skins and deafer ears (again ours and ours). We had our fair share of tantrums and run-ins but we stuck to our guns and as a result, we can now take him anywhere.

So.

I'm really looking forward to tommorrow. On top of the family time we'll be sharing, I wonder what De Lindenboom's autumn/winter menu will have in store. I hope there's game although it's still a tad too early. Well, we'll soon find out.

In the meantime, please excuse me while I go figure out what to wear.

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Been There, Stitched That - Mirabilia


Thursday, October 04, 2007


As you already know by now, I'm a stitchaholic. I spend almost every free minute huddling over my sewing frame, putting needle to fabric. But I don't just stitch anything, you understand - I have certain themes and topics which I enjoy and others which I will never touch, in this lifetime or the next.

My all time favourite designs are from Mirabilia. Its designer, Nora Corbett, does wonderful work. Everytime I stitch one of her pieces, I find myself transported to another ethereal world. At the moment, I'm working on "Lady Of The Mist" and another project which I'm not going to name as it's going to be a present and I'm sure the intended party reads my blog.

Anyway, here's a slideshow of the Mirabilia projects I've completed so far. I'm working on another slideshow which features all the other stuff I've stitched in the past eight years or so. Or at least, the ones I have photos of. Enjoy!

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Facebook


Wednesday, October 03, 2007



You read the title of this entry and you're thinking, Oh gawd, she's discovered Facebook and is going to wax lyrical about how wonderful, how funny it is.

Well, I'm not.

In fact, I'm putting out this special entry to inform my meagre list of Facebook friends that I've deactivated my account simply because I don't like it and have no use for it whatsoever.

*shock* *horror* *gasp*

You mean you don't like Facebook? How can you even say that?

Yes, I can. And I'm probably the only one on the planet who says it. That's fine, I've always moved to the beat of my own drum.

I know it's the hottest thing right now (so are leggings, ewww!) and I do agree it's fun but only if you're into that sort of thing. Well, I'm not. I'm a very private person and not at all into networking (it's not as if I have to anyway - those were the days - and I'm very happy with my select, teeny, tiny group of friends). The way I see it, thanks to the internet, the world has become smaller. Now with Facebook, it's almost claustrophobic. Every Tom, Dick and Harry knows every Lisa, Jane and Mary.

Besides, if I want to buy my friends or family drinks, cakes, gifts etc, I'd rather do it in real life. And if I want to poke, bite, throw thing or animals (poor sheep), slap, whatever, the people I dislike, I'd prefer to do it in real life too.

The other thing is, Facebook takes up alot of time. I mean, alot. Time which I already don't have or can channel into doing real activities, not virtual ones.

Now, back to the privacy issue. Why would I blog if I'm so private? Well, the thing about blogging is, while I can't really control who reads it, I can control what appears on it. I've always enjoyed writing since young and it's nice to talk about things one finds pleasurable, in my case, food. I do include snippets of my personal life but only the inconsequential bits which I don't mind sharing. You do not know half of what really happens in Cookalot. For the select few who do, you know how wacky, surreal or unbelievable things can be at times. Or how I have my low points when things don't go my way. For me to open up so candidly, it's something you have to earn.

So to all the users of Facebook, go on out and enjoy it. Me, I'll just crawl back into my niche and do things the old-fashioned way.

Oh and the pic in this entry - it was taken by Sonny-boy himself. *proud mum beam* It's been cropped of course, because like I've said before, if you want to see what I look like, you've got to meet me in person.

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The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 2:27 pm

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Vanilla Panna Cotta With Balsamic Berries


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


This is such an elegant and grown-up dessert. I love it - each and every whopping 878 calories per serving of it. The panna cotta on its own is deliciously rich and creamy. Eaten with the balsamic berries, however, sends you to heaven and then some.

I've made this a few times and each time it was well-recieved by all. This is prepared only for parties or dinners because of the time involved. Also, you don't seriously expect me to finish six to eight servings all my myself, do you? My hips and tummy doth protest.

There are as many variations of panna cotta as there are shoe stores in Italy but this one is a favourite. The recipe can be found in GoodFood magazine, May 2007 issue and it comes from celeb chef James Martin. It is moderately easy - helps if you have some kind of kitchen experience though - and can be halved, doubled, tripled or quadrupled. I've personally tripled the recipe for Parents-in-Law's birthday party this summer and it turned out super. Just keep the proportions right and you'll be fine.

Vanilla Panna Cotta With Balsamic Berries


For The Panna Cotta



You Need:

4 leaves gelatine
125ml milk
grated zest 2 oranges
2 vanilla pods, split
140g caster sugar
1.2l double cream
75ml vodka

For the Balsamic Berries


You need:

200g strawberries, hulled
140g raspberries
100g blueberries
3tbsp good-quality aged balsamic vinegar
25g caster sugar

You do:
  1. Soak the gelatine in the milk and leave to one side. Place the orange zest, vanilla pods and caster sugar in a pan. Add 800ml of the cream and bring to the boil. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by a third.

  2. Meanwhile, remove the gelatine from the milk and place the milk in a pan to warm gently. When warm, return the soaked gelatine and stir to dissolve. Add to the warm cream, then pass through a sieve and leave to cool.

  3. Lightly whip the remaining cream and fold into the setting mixture, together with the vodka. Pour the mixture into 6-8 dariole moulds or ramekins and place in the fridge to set.

  4. While the panna cotta is setting, make the balsamic berries. Place all of the berries, vinegar and sugar into a large bowl and toss together. Allow to marinate for 2-3 hours, tossing occasionally.

  5. Remove the panna cotta from the fridge and loosen the edges with a knife. Alternatively, dip the moulds very briefly in hot water to loosen. Tip the panna cotta into the middle of the plates and spoon the balsamic berries around the edge.


Note:

  • On this occasion, I replaced the blueberries with blackberries. You don't have to follow the list of berries strictly. Just pick whatever rocks your boat.

  • I've omitted step 5 because I set the panna cotta in wine glasses instead of ramekins. Firstly, I don't have the gumption nor time of loosening 16 panna cottas onto plates. Secondly, served in a glass is visually more pleasing and easier to wash up. Okay, load up since the dishwasher does the actual cleaning. You know what I mean.

  • Any leftover balsamic berries is lekker with pancakes and vanilla ice-cream. I promise.
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    The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 3:11 pm

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    Mom's Overture by Anita Renfroe




    This is just hysterically funny.

    I literally fell off my chair shrieking with laughter from watching this clip so kindly posted by a fellow mum of a parenting forum. Thanks B, and yes, this is what pretty much spews out from my mouth each day too!

    So grab yourself a few minutes, sit down and enjoy this little ode. But please do not eat or drink while watching - we do not want to choke or have the contents of our mouths spurt out by accident.

    You have been warned. *Haha*

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    The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:52 am

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    Dinner For Six - Irish Beef Stew


    Monday, October 01, 2007




    We had an impromptu dinner party on Saturday. I knew I was going to make a stew that evening and it was more like, who can we invite to help us polish the whole lot off? Our victims guests turned out to be Brother-in-law #3 and his two daughters - Niece #1 who just turned seven and Niece #2 who is three. The two girls get on fabulously with Sonny-boy. Especially Niece #1 who's a bit of a tomboy.

    So.

    The Irish Beef Stew recipe I wanted to try was from Beau Lotus. Her recipe is straightforward and easy to follow. The only eventful thing that transpired was when I asked Hubs to open a bottle of red wine - for a bit of added flavour (Lotus' french influence coming to play). Hubs wanted to do the honours so I let him with incessant reminders of only a little! Only a little, okay? What are you doing??? I said only a LITTLE!!! My dear husband went and poured something like almost one and half cups of wine into the stew. This is just after I emptied a whole can of Guinness Stout into it. Heavens to Murgatroyd! I didn't want this to turn into another case of the French Onion Soup Incident. It didn't fortunately - hours of simmering killed off any alcohol nasties lurking within. What I was left with was an extremely rich and flavourful stew - super for the cold weather.

    To round up the meal, I made a Garlic Butter Risotto. I added some pine nuts for extra crunch. I don't know if this dish exist or not because I made it up in my head that morning. I figured it would go very nicely tastewise and it did. And because we all need some fibre, I threw in a salad as well. For the kids, I made Spaghetti in Cabonara Sauce which they attacked with relish. No doubt from the earlier hours of playing, running and screaming (my ears are still ringing).

    And what's a dinner party without some bubbly? I set out a bottle of non alcoholic apple flavoured champange for the kids. We like to start them young, don't you know. *heh* The grown-ups had a more sedate bottle of Chilean red. For dessert, we had Panna Cotta with Balsamic Berries, a little something which I prepared earlier on in the day. I will elaborate on it in a future entry because a yummy dessert like this deserves its own header and you will see why.


    By the way, even with all our gallant efforts, I was still left with a lot of stew. Actually, almost four large servings which I've since tucked into the refrigerator. I shall resurrect it again as a mid-week meal because according to Lotus, it gets better with time and according to the Dutchess, so do some people.

    By the way, this recipe is a definite keeper. Thanks S!

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    The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:26 am

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    I Could Rule The World






    How cute!

    In my case, it should read "Sugar" instead of Coffee. This is a stamped cross-stitch kit from Dimensions and is available here.

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    The Dutchess of Cookalot whipped this up at 10:15 am

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