Monday, 1 August 2016

Ondeh-ondeh Cupcakes

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Goodness gracious! It's been a year since I last posted on this blog. Over 12,000 visitors. THANK YOU for dropping in :)

I've been busying myself with learning new skills (baking, parenting and stuff, yeah stuff) and hitting the books. I'm pursuing two new courses that aren't related to each other - one for self improvement and the other to prepare myself for my impending return to the workforce, which I still have no definite date for. More on that later.

Today, it's going to be about cakes. Cupcakes, to be exact. Unless you're a native of Singapore or Malaysia, chances are you would not have heard about this spectacular cupcake - ONDEH-ONDEH CUPCAKE.

I would like to claim it as Malay in origin because it is a re-adaptation of a traditional Malay kuih or cake/cake-like dessert called Ondeh-ondeh, which is a green glutinous rice ball infused with the aromatic pandan (screwpine leaves) juice and filled with organic palm sugar affectionately known as Gula Melaka in Singapore and Malaysia. The ball is then coated with steamed desiccated coconut. The finished texture is chewy like Lamington except that it's a mini ball. When you finally pop it into your mouth, the caramel-like palm sugar will burst like the magical fireworks on the sky above Disneyland. In short, it is insanely delicious.

Ondeh-ondeh, a traditional Malay dessert of
pandan-infused glutinous rice ball with palm sugar filling
(Photo credit: rasamalaysia)

It is worth noting that when I say "Malay" it does not necessarily mean Malaysian in nature because there are many Malays who are not Malaysians, for example Singaporean Malays, Bruneian Malays, South African Malays, Australian Malays, etc. Malay is a race and culture (like Caucasian, Indian, Chinese) whereas, Malaysian is the nationality of one who is a citizen of Malaysia, the country. Confused already? No worries. I'll elaborate more on it in the future. Heheh.

So, back to Ondeh-ondeh :)

Somewhere out there and sometime along the way, someone remodeled this Ondeh-ondeh recipe into a cupcake of great ingenuity. Ondeh-ondeh Cupcake has been particularly popular in Singapore in the last year or so. I have been marveling at all the photos of it on social media before I finally took the courage to bake it for Eid last month. From then on, there's no turning back!

It has to be one of the most amazing cupcakes you will ever make in the history of your baking adventure, especially if you're a fan of coconut. Remember that palm sugar filling and desiccated coconut coating? They're combined to form the filling of this delectable cake.

The first time I made these babies, I decorated the frosting
with a drop of chocolate sauce

You can find the Ondeh-ondeh Cupcake recipe here. I made some modifications to give the cakes my personalised punch and preference (you should be honoured that I'm sharing with you my kitchen secrets. Haha!):

  • I use 3 eggs instead of 2 and I only bake with fresh eggs from our backyard chooks (store bought free range eggs are the next best thing)
  • I beat the eggs first for about 1 minute+, like I always do for all cakes, until they fluff up and increase in volume before adding the rest of the ingredients 
  • I sieve the flour to remove any lumps
  • I melt the butter in the microwave oven ("room temperature" doesn't work in winter!)
  • Save for the beaten eggs at the initial stage, I do not over mix the rest of the ingredients. This is to prevent a disastrous outcome when the cakes are cooked  
  • I reduce the oven temperature to about 165*C and baking duration to about 18 minutes (but your oven may differ in performance)   
  • For the frosting, I use thickened cream (Costco, Woolworths ones are my favourite) with about 4-5 tablespoons of castor sugar and coconut essence. You can do coconut buttercream frosting if you're up for it but I prefer the simple cream version as the cake is already very rich. You don't want the frosting to steal the show. The star of the cake is the filling. 
That filling is wicked. A cupcake like no other. Take my word for it!

I hope you will have a lovely time baking this cake. Let me know how yours turn out :)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

What is the "Singaporean Language"?

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Ten years ago on a flight to Europe, I was struck dumbfounded by a stranger for the first time in my life.

I was seated next to a friendly Caucasian lady. We chatted happily about our holiday destinations before she asked me, "You're from Singapore, so what language do you speak?" I was confused and my eyebrows creased for good measure. I mean, I had been speaking in English to her all along, wasn't the answer obvious? I relaxed my facial muscles, straightened my eyebrows and replied to her matter-of-factly, "English. English is my first language."

Like magic, the creased eyebrows migrated to her face. "Oh? Is there no official language in Singapore, like a Singaporean language?" she enquired.
I had to search my soul thousands of feet above sea level and articulate who I was linguistically. I had never thought seriously about it before, assuming everyone already knew Singapore was an English speaking country.

Fast forward to today in Australia, whenever I say English is my first language in Singapore, I still get a look of disbelief. These anecdotal evidences seem to suggest that to many in the western world, there is no known Asian country which regards English as its first language.

Just what is the "Singaporean Language"? I can't define it because there is none. But allow me to explain to you what languages I effectively speak, read and write, having been born and bred in the city state.

MALAY
Formally known as Bahasa Melayu, it is the NATIONAL LANGUAGE of Singapore. The national anthem, Majulah Singapura (Onward Singapore), which was written in conjunction with Singapore's independence from Malaysia in 1965 is in Bahasa Melayu, so are the state military drill commands and citations for state orders and decorations. Bahasa Melayu is my ethnic language, the language I was born to speak and which the Singaporean education system calls "Mother Tongue". It is a core module which all students studying the language have to learn and pass at school exams every year for 10 (some 11) years of formal foundational schooling. Bahasa Melayu is spoken mainly by the Malays who make up about 14% of Singapore's population. 

[Note: It is incorrect to call the language "Bahasa" because that literally means "language" in Malay. It must be referred to in totality as "Bahasa Melayu" or simply call it Malay.]

One of Singapore's outstanding pioneer Malays and Singapore's first President,
the late Mr Yusof Ishak (left) and wife
(Photo credit: Channel News Asia)

ENGLISH
I wasn't trying to sound westernised when I said English was my first language. My educational certificates officially marked the module as "English as First Language". It is a core and examinable module taught in schools for up to 11 years, which all students must pass as well as they could or achieve at least a minimum prescribed grade, without which advancement to the next educational level would be a big challenge, if not almost impossible in some cases. The Singaporean work and official correspondences are expressed in English. Singaporeans of various races largely communicate with each other in English. The language was first introduced in Singapore by the British in the 1800s and has remained as a major language in modern Singapore for economic reasons. That makes English the country's LINGUA FRANCA and WORKING LANGUAGE. It is a language I was born into, which I use as comfortably as I do Bahasa Melayu.

Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore's founder in the 19th century, at Boat Quay in Singapore.
Raffles had knowledge of the Malay language and was sent by the Governor to Malaya 

SINGLISH

"Language of the street" in Singapore, one which infuses words from other languages (namely Malay, Chinese, Tamil) with English. Sentences are often grammatically incorrect by formal English standards. It is a colloquial language which connects true blue Singaporeans with each other because no "outsider" is able to understand Singlish as well as Singaporeans do, let alone use it effectively. It is uniquely Singaporean, if you like. Maybe, just maybe, this is THE Singaporean Language albeit an informal one.

(Besides the above three languages, I also read Arabic but that's another story altogether).

It doesn't end there. There are two other OFFICIAL LANGUAGES which are widely used in Singapore.

MANDARIN
A language spoken by 70% of Singaporeans. Like Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin is a Mother Tongue module taught at school for the Chinese population.

Singapore's Chinatown all decked up to usher in the Lunar New Year

TAMIL
Another Mother Tongue module in the Singaporean education system is Tamil. It is the ethnic language of the Indian community, which makes up 9% of the Singapore population.

Singapore's Little India looking glorious for Deepavali

The Singaporean education system has made it mandatory for all learners to be taught English as the first language and the Mother Tongue (Malay, Mandarin or Tamil) as the second language, with English being the main language of instruction at institutions of all levels in Singapore. By now, you should already have a headache (in trying to figure out the linguistic combo of Singapore) and an inkling that Singaporeans are at least bilingual, if not multilingual. 

If you travel on Singapore's public transport for instance, keep your eyes and ears open. Public notices and announcements are expressed in all four official Singaporean languages: English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.

A public notice in Singapore which commonly features all four official languages.
Can you guess which is which?

As a melting pot of various cultures, Singapore is possibly one of the rare countries with so many official languages. Being multilingual and growing up with friends of various races have been very advantageous for me. Among others, it has allowed me to easily embrace human diversity and effectively take down cultural barriers in numerous social and professional situations - assets which have almost become a necessity in today's globalised economies. Thank you, Singapore for the foresight. 

As you celebrate your jubilee year on 9 Aug 2015, I wish you continued progress and prosperity as a nation. 

Happy SG50 birthday, Singapore!

The stunning and ultra modern Singapore skyline 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Kitchen Improvement Project - JUST GLIDE IT!

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For years now, my pots and pans are pretty much stashed away in the storage cabinet after use. Not in the neatest way, might I add. When the one I want is right at the bottom, you can imagine how I'd have to first move away everything that's on top of it. Did I mention having to bend down on a daily basis for this pots and pans retrieving affair? WAIT, WHAT? You find this familiar too? That makes the two of us. **high 5**

A few weeks ago, I decided enough was enough. I should put a stop to this daily torture in the kitchen. As I was thinking of ideas, my eyes zoomed in on my spice carousel. It's a neat ensemble all right but I've always felt it's an eyesore I must get rid of some day. I could put a nice potted plant to jazz up the corner instead or simply free up the space. There is the Bekv√§m spice rack from Ikea which can be had for a song, I know. The problem is, Ikea is under construction in Canberra as we speak. It is slated to open only in Sept. Should I wait? Patience isn't my strongest suit. 

So, what's a wife to do?

I tossed around some ideas, putting on a look of desperation that emphasised how I would love a more organized pots and pans storage system and a suspended spice rack - PRONTO. My husband fished out his iPad, made some research and headed to the DIY store. He loves exploring home improvement ideas as a hobby, so my dire straits bounced him off the wall.

Fast forward to a few days later.

From this...

TAA-DAAA!

... to this!

I was expecting something very simple but I was blown away by this super cool pots and pans organizer. It's so neat and professionally done. My husband is meticulous like that. I AM EPIC ELATED! **happy dance**

We call it Just Glide It.
Lovingly designed, crafted and constructed by my husband from scratch.

Just Glide It - a smart storage solution which every kitchen needs

Made from sustainable prime wood and other materials, Just Glide It is an excellent pots and pans storage system, which is so neat, practical and stylish all at once. No more struggling for a utensil, no more mess. It is easy to fix and use, and even easier to love - a clever cabinet-grade solution that every proud home owner should have.

As for the spice rack, I'm a very happy bunny. 

The spice carousel was fine and innocent but I wanted something SUPER FINE which will also clear up the space in this corner for a decorative item or to put my utensils on when I'm cooking

A suspended rack means I can still have easy access to my spice bottles without them acting like an eyesore and taking up space unnecessarily

My neighbour loves the spice rack so much that he would like one for his kitchen as well. We're the sort of neighbours who look out for each other, so my husband is going to customise one for him as a gift. He was also highly impressed with Just Glide It. "It's sophisticated and very well made!" he said. As soon as his wife confirms her interest, he is going to place an order for one. Awesome possum!

Just Glide It is available for sale in Australia. To purchase or for more information, simply email us at justglideit@gmail.com

Just Glide It is proudly Australian owned and made.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder but...

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Porcelain skinned Far Eastern icons.
Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi (left) and South Korean actress Song Hye-Kyo (right)

At a time when people are resorting to solariums to fake a tan, it is strange to be told that in a perpetually sunny country where glowing sun-kissed skin can be had naturally, women are shying away from the sun instead because of their 'fair, porcelain' complexion. This, if one Singaporean magazine writer is to be believed, that is.

Last weekend in one corner of social media, women were up in arms about this writer's definition of the 'perfect' Singapore girl.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary 
from time to time to give a misinformed 
beholder a black eye." – Miss Piggy, The Muppets

The main problem with her soundbite is that it purported to represent an entire nation's view of what female beauty means. The nation in question has long prided itself as a multi-racial society. Singapore’s population of more than 5 million consist of Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians (the four official ethnic groups) plus a whole lot of other ethnicities in recent times, no thanks to migration. 

The tirade of responses to the writer's opinion came largely from bonafide Singaporean women - unfortunately for her, it is the very same group of females she had attempted to speak on behalf of. Given the country's culturally diverse population, one will be hard pressed to single out a typical Singaporean beauty. Her inference that female Singaporeans desire to look like their far eastern counterparts could not be any further from the truth. Need I even ask if you really believed fair, porcelain skin is the classic complexion of a sunny island's inhabitants?

Miss Singapore Universe 2002, Nuraliza Osman
(Photo credit Pujangga Malam)

Miss Singapore Universe 2014, Rathi Menon

Singaporean Nadia Rahmat. One of 11 fresh faces picked by popular American fashion label
Marc by Marc Jacobs in a global talent hunt to star in its spring 2015 advertising campaign.

Affectionately known as The Singapore Girls. Cabin crew from one of the world's top airlines, Singapore Airlines

It is the writer's prerogative to subscribe to her own ideals of what 'beautiful' means but she should not have pinned it up like it was a consensual national standard. Above all, she has let slip a golden opportunity to educate the world on Singapore's unique cultural mix which has produced an eclectic mix of beautiful faces, quite unlike the homogeneity of the two countries she seemed to be hero worshipping.

The ensuing uproar on social media was therefore understandable.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Autumn Leaves Art for Preschoolers

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Autumn in my yard
I heard a desperate scream when I walked past our storage area this morning. "I'm suffocating! Does anybody care?!"

I went to investigate.

It was the art storage drawers - bursting at their seams from the mighty stacks of art work done by Cookie since the time she was able to sit up. In numerical terms, it's three years' worth of doodling, finger painting, paintings with various objects, crafts and so on. Extrapolate that by a frequency of about two to three times a week of art activities both at home and at her playgroups and playschool.

I've been holding on to every single piece like a forlorn lover refusing to let go of her beau's hand. No wonder even the drawers are screaming. I clearly need to detox the storage spaces. Like, pronto.
 
Until then, here's to more art work.

If you live in a tropical climate, don't let the absence of autumn be a show stopper to try out this art project with your little one. It is one of my favourites for Cookie. It teaches her about colour combination and to colour within boundaries, as well trains her in fine motor skills and dexterity. It is so simple to do and looks stunning in the end. The best part is, it is rather hassle-free to put together and uses a piece of scrap which would otherwise end up in the bin.

THIS. Yes, this.

The humble toilet paper roll tube.

Grab a few of these tubes. Simply cut out rings of about 3cm each. Gently bend each ring into an oblong-like shape. Other things you would need: glue, a coloured paper (I used yellow), a white drawing paper, paints (in autumn colours eg red, orange, green) and paint brushes.

By looking at the following photo, I'm sure you will be able to figure out the steps to assemble the items for your little artist. So, I won't bore you with the details. Just remember to glue the petals (the oblong shaped pieces) onto the paper and give them some time to dry before painting.

TA-DA! The result of Cookie's hard work. From a humble beginning to a frame-worthy autumn art masterpiece :)

I would love to see the outcome of your little one's effort. Send me your photos via email at lovepgblog@gmail.com. I'll be delighted to put up their masterpieces in a future post.

Have fun!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

{PROMOTION} What Men's Shoes Say About Them - According to Me

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When Marilyn Monroe said, "Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world", she probably didn't believe that shoes make the man. Who can blame her? Unlike women who can never have too many shoes, shoes tend to be an afterthought for most men.

Guys, inhale deeply. Exhale.

Good.

Now, read on.

Researchers at the University of Kansas found that people were able to correctly judge a stranger's personality traits just by looking at the person's shoes.

BAM! Shoes are a source of first impressions, guys. They aren't a trivial fashion accessory as you thought they were. They communicate everything about you.

These shoes are made for talking. Part of my husband's shoe collection.

With that, I am going to give it a shot and read you like an open book based on your shoes. Then, you tell me if I have been spot on or missed the bull's eye.

Deal? DEAL.

Loafers
Image conscious and high maintenance. You take pride in personal grooming from head to toe and nail the smart casual look like no one can. In tune with the latest trends, your friends count on you for shopping and styling tips. You admire Cristiano Ronaldo for his sartorial splendour more than for his sporting talent.


Sandals
Discounting the fact that sandals are a practical footwear solution for the sweaty, tropical climate (still, not an excuse to wear only sandals for all occasions), you are nonchalant and feel comfortable in your own skin. You're laid-back and do not see why you should succumb to societal pressure.


Boat Shoes
You are a conservative guy who holds fast to family values and tradition. But that doesn't mean you aren't capable of making people laugh with your silly jokes; you do so when in the right company. You're versatile and well-read. In all that you do, including fashion, you choose comfort over everything else.


Brogues
These shoes are always a visual delight. As the wearer, you are traditional, stable, confident, dependable and self-conscious. The husband and father material. Very often, you dress stylishly and maintain a pulled-together look. You are knowledgeable about diverse topics. You are also a gentleman and a loyal friend who knows how to show yourself (and hopefully others) some respect.
** Brogues are my favourite. Read to the end. I have great news for you. **


Sneakers (the Converse kind)
Easy going, simple and low-key. You don't take yourself too seriously, are fun loving and get along well with everybody. You are young or young at heart and a cool mate to hang out with.


Utility Boots
You are either a real hiking enthusiast who extends your passion to your fashion or a guy who hasn't climbed a flight of stairs for a while but wants to look like a toughie. Seriously, we're going to the burger joint for a quick bite, do you really need to wear those shoes?


Crocs Classics


Uhm. I'll just let the pictures paint a thousand words for this one.


Well, how did I fare as a 'shoe psychic'? :)

Now that you know how much your shoes can say about you, it is time I bring you some GOOD NEWS.

You can now up your stylish factor and confidence level by a few notches easily with brogues. Yes, brogues! Didn't I tell you they're my favourite men's shoes?

Here's the thing. The good people at Sole Perfect have put together a winning formula to bring you premium quality men's shoes at a fraction of the high end boutique prices. The shoes are handcrafted from high quality European leather by skilled artisans. Sole Perfect is the sole distributor of FURANO shoes in Singapore.

Especially for my Love Pray Grow readers, 
Sole Perfect is giving 10% discount for all purchases 
made on their website/Facebook
from now until 30 June 2015. 
This offer is open to all Love Pray Grow readers 
in Singapore and internationally.

Ladies, you're wondering what good this is for you, I know. How about rewarding the man in your life with a great gift from Sole Perfect this Father's Day? Might I add, a meaningful gift which speaks volumes of his personality without even saying a word.

Shoes by Sole Perfect

To enjoy this special offer, just follow these simple steps:

1. Like Love Pray Grow on Facebook
(Click here to get to the page)

2. Like Sole Perfect on Facebook
(Click here to get to the page)

3. Shop online at www.soleperfect.sg (you will be directed to their Facebook page. Don't worry, that's where you get in touch with them and buy from)

4. Quote "lovepraygrow" when making payment

That's all you need to do.

If you have further questions, Sole Perfect will be happy to assist. Just get in touch with them on their Facebook page today.

With your new pair of stylish brogues from Sole Perfect, you will be letting your feet do the talking.

Good talking, that is.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A Few of My Favourite Winter Things

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There are things in life which are beyond our control. Shopping for shoes The weather is one of them. I live in a city Down Under where I wake up to frosty mornings at below freezing point during the cold seasons. There's no ridiculous pile of snow blocking the front entrance, fortunately but it's still a far cry from the year-round equatorial heat I have been accustomed to in my birth country.

Rather than ranting about the harsh cold, I might as well see the glass as half full and make the most of this considerable yet refreshing change.

The rustic smell of burnt firewood which permeates the air, the binging on carb-filled food to justify the need for warmth (the reason why my husband bought me a treadmill) and the long coats that magically transform one from 'nay' to 'yay' in the style department are just some of the reasons to love winter in all its freezing glory.

Here's more.

Tall Boots
Boots are my serious winter obsessions. I have 6 pairs of tall boots and 4 pairs of ankle boots altogether. My latest addition is a(nother) pair of black tall boots, which was a Mother's Day gift of my choice from my husband. It could be Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or the mere fact that tall boots are just darn stylish. Either way, I cannot convince you why I need 10 pairs of boots for my... two legs.

Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Tea and Me
I love my daily morning coffee, afternoon green tea and occasionally, a mug of wickedly thick Spanish hot chocolate in between. My favourite is El Grande Jaffa Crunch from San Churro. There is something inexplicable about warming the body with those delightful hot beverages in winter. They tend to leave you feeling all nice and fuzzy like a chummy feline all ready to rest on her royal couch. (Note to the caffeine police: I drink more than 8 glasses of warm water daily regardless of season. So, don't arrest me for fluid offence)

Short Ramadan Fasting
Glory be to God, The Disposer of Affairs, the upcoming Ramadan will be my 5th winter Ramadan after decades of tropical Ramadan which were sometimes challenging. As daylight is shorter in winter, the fasting duration each day is only about 10 hours, ending around 5-ish in the evening. Extremely achievable even for beginners. The tranquil and long nights are perfect for additional spiritual reflection and pursuits beyond the nightly Taraweeh prayers.

Scarves and Beanies
These essential winter accessories are practical, smart and stylish. There are so many ways to rock a scarf. Whether around the neck or on the head, you won't go wrong wearing one. When in doubt, throw in a beanie for an instant winter fashion effect, even when at home.

Layering Fashion
When the sun decides to stick around, the winter temperature can climb up by a few notches and the reverse is true. You don't want to be caught ill-prepared for either situation, so wearing layers is the best and stylish bet. Pile up when you need more, remove when you don't. 

Snow Mountains and Sledding
I don't know of anyone who isn't thrilled with snow mountains. Even if you seem intimidated by the cold, you can't dispute how snow mountains make for an amazing photo backdrop. I have yet to pick up skiing so I'm contented with sledding for now. It's an annual winter fun I look forward to with my family.

Cosy Nights
I wasn't an instant fan of chilly nights.  In order to get a decent sleep, the bedroom must be warmed up with a heater all night long. As a result, my throat got dry, my skin became itchy and my body temperature was left confused. But over time, I got used to it and now, I believe cool wintery nights are what cosy and dreamy sleep is made of. Aaahhhhh.

No Geckos, Spiders and Mozzies
As much as I like animals, pests and geckos are a different league altogether. They come out in full force during summer to annoy (and scare me - the geckos and giant spiders especially) then they retreat to lalaland in the cold seasons. All I can say is, I thank God profusely for this peaceful break.