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Thursday, March 26, 2015

BAKING: Vaniljekranse (Danish butter cookies)

Apart from the local kuih kapit, Danish butter cookies were my favorite - assorted shapes and textures encased in little stacks with paper cases, then all arranged in a deep blue round tin. It never occurred to me how expensive they were until I starting doing grocery shopping.


I always loved how delightfully crumbly they were. Rich, but still light enough to melt in your mouth at the first bite. My favorites were the textured circle shape and the plain rectangle cookie. *starts hallucinating*


I don't know about other places, but it costs about MYR20-30 for a tin of these cookies, which is quite pricey IMO. So when all else fails, you Google a recipe for Danish butter cookies.


I came across two recipes on two different websites. Nordic Food & Living uses almond flour and a vanilla bean, while Wallflower Girl used vanilla bean paste and icing sugar in place of granulated sugar. I chose to use the latter because it seemed simpler.




You will need:

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 130g icing sugar
  • 310g plain flour
  • 1 large egg (the recipe called for free-range)
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence (the original recipe uses vanilla bean paste)
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • granulated sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
A few things I'd point out first is to make sure you use a sturdy piping bag - I used the disposable plastic ones, and the nozzle popped out toward the end. Piping the cookies out requires a bit of elbow grease, but the rest of the process is a breeze.


The traditional method would be to shape the cookies into circles with a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle, but you could use a cookie press, or just spoon them into dollops onto the baking sheet. I used a twisted star nozzle instead of a traditional star nozzle.


To make them:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180'C, and line one or more baking sheets with baking or parchment paper (anything that will help the cookies lift later).
  2. Cream the butter and icing sugar till creamy.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients except the milk. I put in the flour last as I didn't want to overwork the gluten, but it might be wise to do it alternately. Adjust the texture with a bit of milk, no more than 2 tbsp. It should form a sticky dough that clumps to itself.
  4. Put your cookies on a baking sheet. They should be no more than 5cm in diameter, and don't spread out too much, so you could cramp them on the tray just a little.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Mine took 12 minutes at the most, and the gave a nice golden brown color to the edges of the cookies. I kept most of them blonde, though.
  6. Let them cool a little on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar.

They soft when they first come out of the oven, but will continue to firm and crisp up as it cools. As for the ones I made, they were lacking a little in that rich butter flavor, and they were crunchy instead of the firm and crumbly that they're supposed to be, but I attribute that to overmixing of the dough.


It was surprisingly easy. Even the part I dreaded the most - folding in the flour - took little to no work at all.


A few things to be aware of would be to make sure to use really good butter, as well as a good quality vanilla, since these are the determining factors of whether the cookie will come out tasting good.


Best washed down with a glass of milk, or as an accompaniment to a cup of tea or two. For best results, dip in melted chocolate or Nutella.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tinterland Selfiii Coffee & Bread, Seri Petaling

I like to call the newly developed area in Seri Petaling the Radin Bagus area, since all the roads are named Jalan Radin Bagus anyway.


Among the several cafes that popped up following the subsequent shoplots after Jalan Radin Bagus, Tinterland Selfiii Coffee is one of them. The unique selling point of this cafe is suggested in the name of the cafe - you can order a cup of coffee with your selfie on it, making it more special than any other barista coffee art.


Tinterland is located in the more "rural" part of the new shoplots, but is on the same row as Coffea Coffee - just turn in from Jalan Radin Bagus opposite Super Chili Pan Mee, go straight on and there it is.


The entire cafe uses mostly wood accents - wooden board floors accented with angular metal details. The cafe is divided into the indoor and outdoor section, with bar-style tables with tall stools, and tables for various party sizes. A wooden shelf displaying loaves of bread that makes the place seem like an actual bakery.


As opposed to other coffee joints, the staff comes to you with a menu as you take your seat. And as opposed to a lot of other coffee joints that I know, Tinterland has little to no local staff, which is what I prefer personally, as it's a little hard to order customized coffee if you can't effectively communicate with your server or barista.


I went there at a little over 11.20 p.m. with my SO, so there wasn't much of a crowd. Lighting indoors was yellow, but bright enough to give off a nice, almost homey ambiance. Dainty individual cakes and desserts as well as full sized cakes are displayed next to the cashier counter.


A selection of hot coffees and teas in pots, as well as iced beverages and frappes are available, as are some actual meal options, which I didn't bother to browse the menu for (so much for being a blogger).


I made the embarrassing mistake of heading straight to the cake display where I was greeted by a member of staff, who I assume is also not local. While I attempted to order an opera cake and coffee, the staff informed me that I had to order coffee from the staff that attended to us, and then refer to the staff who served us for the cake.


First of all, there were a few staff standing around when we sat down, and while we were in plain sight of each other, NONE of them approached us with the menu, but continued to just stand around staring at us.


When one of them finally did approach us (with atrociously long nails), I tried to order the opera cake from him, but he directed me to the cake display. With some difficulty, we got what he was trying to say - you first order your coffee from your server, then you order your cake from the counter with a referral to your server (to identify bills, I guess).

This was how it was served to us - on its side. Immediately unimpressed.
The opera cake was pretty much unceremoniously delivered to us while we were ordering our beverages. An opera is basically a tiramisu, but in cake from - almond sponge soaked in coffee, stacked in between layers of chocolate and hazelnut cream. The most notable other opera cake I've tried was from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and that was how I defined a good opera cake - moist, rich, with thick layers that adhered well to each other.

Opera cake right way up - MYR 10. Easily shared between 2-3 persons.
At first I thought they resorted to using some sort of rolled out bread as the almond sponge, but it turned out to be just rather unattractive-looking sponge. I think something they could have done to improve the aesthetics of the cake was maybe to sprinkle some cocoa powder over the top a la tiramisu, or drizzle melted chocolate over it. I liked the orange chocolate ball decor, but perhaps there's another way to put it on the cake than an unattractive splat of chocolate.


It wasn't too rich, but it seemed to me that it had been in that fridge for an entire day. There wasn't too much of a coffee flavor except for one particular bite halfway through, and the layers started to fall apart three-quarters of the way through.

A photo posted by Kellie Low 紫倩 (@thecheanie) on
Banoffee Frappecino (left) - MYR 14.90; Lychee Lemonade (right) - MYR 12.90

I ordered a lychee lemonade for my SO, and a banoffee frappe for myself (toffee, not coffee). The lychee lemonade was decent, but tasted a little too much of lychee than lemonade. The frappe was decent for the first few sips despite the very artificial flavors, but then it the absurd amount of sugar in the beverage just leaves your tongue numb and your entire digestive system upset. I worked out about 4 hours later, but still felt really sick halfway through.


To be honest, the only reason why we went to that cafe was because I originally planned solo coffee at Coffea Coffee, but the SO wanted to join, and he had some stuff to do that delayed the plan. Coffea Coffee closes at 12 a.m., so I assumed their last order time is at around 11 p.m. Tinterland's closing hours clocked at 2 a.m., so yeah.


In conclusion, not a place I would visit again. Hipster cafes make better cafe and edibles.


No charges for service and/or government tax applicable. WiFi password: selfiii123


Location - 6.5 / 10
Atmosphere - 8 / 10
Food/beverage quality - 4 / 10 (terrible... just terrible, especially for my frappe)
Price - 7.5 / 10 (pretty much the same as other novelty coffee prices)
Value for money - 4 / 10 (I could better coffee and cake elsewhere for almost the same price)
Service - 4 / 10 (slow staff, communication problems, attitude can be improved, etc. etc. etc.)


TINTERLAND SELFIII COFFEE AND BREAD
No. 29, Jalan Radin Bagus 3,
Bandar Seri Petaling,
57000 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel.: + 6016-666 7033
Operating hours: Monday - Sunday, 9.00 a.m. - 2.00 a.m.


Info taken from: Tinterland receipt and OpenRice.my
Photos taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Edited with Adobe Photoshop CC (apparently you can still use it after your trial ends)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A letter to them

Dear girls,


It's so easy to put the blame.


Redirect the fault away from your self.


Away from your selfishness and foolishness.


From your lack of responsibility and appreciation.


To just say "it wasn't my fault".


But it doesn't spare you from the regret.


The unexpected pain that comes with it.


Years ago I told myself this wouldn't happen.


People around me cautioned again and again that it would.


And now it has.


Part of me wants to vanish from existence.


The other part of me wishes I were never that foolish.


I thought I was cool.


I thought it was being so mature and different from other girls who were bent of fashion.


I thought I was in control.


But I wasn't.


Dear girls,


You might tell yourself now that you won't regret it.


You will deceive yourself saying that the one who will marry you won't mind.


You will brainwash yourself into thinking that it's part of a normal youth.


It's not.


It's one of the most degrading and foolish things you could do.


To let boy after boy take advantage of you.


Thinking that you're toying with them.


When in reality...


You're the toy.


The very cheap and willing toy.


Easily obtainable with no value whatsoever.


He won't like you after that.


He won't call you back.


He's got what he wanted.


That's it.


You've diminished your value by freely giving him your body to use.


Dear girls,


Don't be the fool that I was.


Who now hurts the person she loves.


By tarnishing not only my own value.


But by bringing shame to the person I love.


Just for a moment of adrenaline.


A moment of selfish pleasure.


A flash of selfish satisfaction.


It will destroy your future.


Of standing at the altar.


Of creating a family and home.


Of being together.


Not physically.


Not digitally.


Flirt by all means.


But NEVER undress for him.


Unless you can't bear a day without seeing him happy.


Unless you wished that the one hurting was you instead of him.


Dear girls,


I undressed for men whom I didn't love.


I succumbed foolishly to their sweet words despite my instinct.


No desire of the flesh is worthy of the shame that will come with it.


When he tells his friends how you did it for him.


Or how the people around you start distancing from the "slut".


Talking with your friends won't help.


Saying sorry won't ease the pain.


Feeling regret doesn't change the fact that you were once promiscuous.


It will come back to haunt you.


The truth is not something that can be buried and forgotten.


===


Many nights I lay awake in thought.


What if things happened differently?


What if I chose the better path to every fork I encountered?


But then perhaps I would never have met him.


And never would have truly loved.


Nothing in literature or media represents the truth.


The truth hurts.


Karma will teach you these lessons through pain and regret.


Through wisdom and self-value do you avoid the despair.


This isn't about misogyny and the suppressing of female desires.


It's about protecting the person you love from the shame and hurt that came with you irresponsibility.


He might not mind, you say.


But no man fancies whispers of shame.


The past shall remain in the past.


But sometimes...


The past can also hurt...

Monday, March 16, 2015

How-to: DIY text heart with MSWord & Paint

Like every other social media addicted girl, I turned to Pinterest when I was looking for ideas for a gift as a token of celebration of our first year as a couple. The gift idea morphed into a DIY project as I scrolled through search results for "anniversary gifts for him".

The next idea was a heart made completely out of words, and ideally, all these words should say "I love you", and in different languages for an interesting twist. Kind of life a play on typography (you design peeps understand).


I didn't read much into it, though - I got what information I could from the pin, and didn't search any further and kinda hit-and-missed my way through doing the entire thing.


If you have PhotoShop or Illustrator, I don't think this would be much of a problem. However, for those less equipped (such as my humble self), here's one way to do it using Microsoft Word and Paint.


1. Decide which languages you want to use and get them in their native calligraphy/writing


What I did was just get a bunch of "I love you" translations off Google Translate for a half hour. My SO has a thing for Vitas, so I made a point to include Russian, and the more obvious English, Mandarin, and Korean.


Get all your text and put them into one Word document. You could do it straight in Paint, but doing it in Word first gives you more room for creative typography in terms of color and sizing. Try to have the words you want to stand out within the shape of the heart - a rough estimate would do, but try to center the key words.


2. Ctrl-C + Ctrl-V + Ctrl-S

Get in a full page of text (I had a couple of lines repeated), edited it in color and/or size as you like, then select it all, copy, and paste it into Paint. I changed the font, evened out the text sizes, and justified the spacing, but left it all black.


Adjust the size of the canvas to fit the text. Once you're happy with the overall fitting, save it as a PNG file.

I saved mine as a JPEG file, while turned out a little pixelated when I continued to process and print it. Usually, PNG is used for electronic publishing, and JPEG for printing, but since I still had to use the image it should've been saved as a PNG.


3. Put the words into the heart

Draw the heart while holding down shift for a nice, square-aligned heart. Then adjust the size accordingly.
Once you have the PNG image saved, draw up a new page on Word. Go to Insert, then Shapes, and find the heart shape. Draw it as big as you want, then change the Text wrap to Square so you can move it easily.

Select the heart and Shape Fill with the PNG you just saved.
Remove the outline to complete the word heart.
I was going to print it for A5 paper, so I resized it to about 11-13cm in width. Set the Shape Outline under the Format tab to None, then click on Shape Fill just above Outline, and select Picture... from the drop menu. From the pop up, find and select the PNG you've saved, and voila!

I used this as a cover illustration, but you could use this for a greeting card as well.
If you're unsatisfied with the result, you can always go back to step 2 to make changes, then follow through until you get the result you like. I used this as a cover for the DIY one-year journal that I made for him.


Ps. The width of the heart in the screenshots are different because I went back to recreate the heart for this post.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Gift idea for couples: DIY relationship journal

I'm a sucker for gifts, and I like my gifts to reflect the amount of thought and effort that I like to express via my gifts.


Of course, a well-chosen store-bought gift, especially when it is something that your partner has been wanting for a long time but has been holding off on purchasing it, is as good as - if not better than - a handcrafted gift.


For our first year together, I wanted to hand-make something sentimental as a token to celebrate our first year. I Googled "anniversary gifts for husband", and I clicked into a Pinterest page filled with all sorts of DIY gift ideas - from couple mugs, to papier mache picture frames, to quaint personalized gifts. For the life of me, I can't find the exact page, though many pins looked very familiar.

I got a bit of dirt on the cover, and got a little cheesy with the wordings LOL
I bought a ton of colored construction paper because I wanted to do something like a book/album-like thing, but I had no solid idea how to go about it. I combined two ideas I got from that Pinterest page: 1. a relationship journal that serves to chronicle our relationship through the past year, and 2. a unique piece that incorporated the mushiness of a relationship with typography design (how to make this would be in another post).


I made mine in A5 size, because I'm a sucker for cute things, and the size was more suitable since I focusing on some of our more memorable days and moments together, punctuated with a few thoughts handwritten in the blank space.


I used:
  • A4 sized colored paper (approx. 70-80gsm would give nice, solid pages)
  • steel ruler, cutting mat & box cutter
  • scissors & A LOT of double-sided tape (or glue, but be aware that it might leave patches on the paper)
  • printed photos
  • custom-made paper labels
  • black gel pen (I used black because my pages were already colorful)
  • resin stickers (or any type of stickers you like)
  • 1x A4 sized thick card (used as cover)

I wanted to focus more on the highlights of our relationship. We both use a couple app called Between, and we organized a lot of our photos according to date, so I thought why not use that?


Here's the step by step process of getting this project done:


1. Planning

I had to decide which occasions to include and which to leave out, and how to organize them. Then I had to lay down a plan on how arrange the elements. I opted for date and title labels as opposed to handwriting them, because my handwriting gets skewed sometimes, and I didn't know how to make them stand out from the rest of the text.

A rough sketch on rough paper was made for the first few pages - there wasn't any extensive, in-detail formatting, but the titles and dates were to be on the top right of each page.


2. Page arrangement

It might help to have some sort of angled ruler or similar that can help you with the folding. I selected a few sheets of a few colors respectively, then folded all of them in half (one sheet of A4 paper is equal to two sheets of A5).


Fold them all tight, then use the box cutter to slice through them, making two sheets of A5 paper. I arranged all of them in non-consecutive colors, so I won't have two of the same color in the range of 3-4 pages at a time.


3. Photo collecting and printing


From the key occasions that I selected, I chose at least one photo each, from Between, Facebook, Instagram, and my own photo albums. Double and triple check for repeats - I scanned through the photos but still managed to print an extra copy of a few photos.

Select all (Shift-A), right click, then select Print... A dialogue box should pop up, prompting you to choose your style of printing, your printing quality, paper quality, etc. Since my book as A5, the photos had to be small enough to fit into the page nicely. Also, I made sure to uncheck the Fit picture to frame box because I didn't want any photos cropped.

I printed 9 photos to a sheet of 70gsm A4 sized white paper, then meticulously cut each and every one photo from 9 sheets of paper with a box cutter and steel ruler.


4. Custom-made date labels

I have a mild case of OCD where my tables in MSWord has to be all uniform and with adequate spacing. I made one table for each type/category of labels - the dates, the occasion, and I did one for the page numbers, but by the time I had the dates and occasion labels cut out, I gave up on them. LOL



I made a point to use 0.5 point dotted lines as the table outlines so it wouldn't be as hideous when I got round to cutting it. 


5. Adhesive backing

About half to three-quarters of a standard roll of double-sided tape was used to stick everything to the pages - the labels as well as the photos.

For the photos, I used a small square in each corner. For all the labels, a small knob at each end, and one more in the center for the longer ones. I contemplated using the gluestick for this, but I tried it on another DIY venture and the adhesion wore off after just a while.


6. Content

After arranging all the photos in chronological order, I set to work labeling each page with a date and the appropriate occasion title, then the relevant photos. Then each page was slowly filled with any thoughts and feelings that were synonymous with that particular day/occasion.

Every now and then I put in a resin sticker that I got at Mr DIY.


7. Cover and binding

I was aiming for the look of a spiral bound journal-type look, with a wrapped hardcover. What I used for the front and back cover was a piece of A4 thick card that was sliced in half much like the book pages.


I DIY-ed the cover illustration, printed it out, then wrapped it around one piece of the A5 thick card, securing with more double-sided tape. Some extra white paper cut to size was used to cover up the back of the cover. I didn't bother with wrapping the back cover.

As for the binding, it was done at a printing shop opposite my old high school, for less than MYR5.


===


So there it is. My projects usually come out looking almost there but lacking something, but I was proud of this particular one. The cover could've looked better, but yeah.


Hope this served as a reference to some of you guys or gals who's into putting a little sweat and blood into a thoughtful gift for you significant other.



Photos taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Edited with Fotor.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Our first year

I'm blogging less and less, partially because I run out of inspiration halfway through a post and give up on it, and also because I have nothing in particular to blog about. However...


On 8th March 2014, he became the first person to ask me to be his girlfriend, while holding my hand. Other relationships started over a screen, regardless of the platform in which it happened, and all followed with a very awkward first meeting - yes, first meeting.


Our celebration of the occasion was partially unplanned - we planned dinner back where he made me his then-very-much-mushy girlfriend, but the later part of the night was planned during the dinner itself. I made him a little spiral bound relationship journal, chronicling our year together (of which my forgetful self did not photograph).

A photo posted by Kellie Low 紫倩 (@thecheanie) on

We both agreed that the baked rice there was our favorites, and we had that with a side of baked mussels. I had just planned on dinner, but an anniversary date wouldn't have been complete without a romantic date to somewhere with a lot of lights.

Digital light displays.
We planned to visit i-City after our Sekinchan trip, but we more or less just stayed home and collapsed sleeping after that trip, and it was the perfect occasion.


I don't think I'm the only girl who's ever fantasized of having a romantic date in the evening surrounded by lights, then imagining a camera panning around you like in an Asian drama. However, it was a weekend and it was packed.


MYR10 per ride per person. They take a photo of you before you get on (if you're attractive), then you can pay another MYR30 for one photo, or MYR50 for a photo and keychain printed with your photo.
Our relationship was filled with a lot of firsts, especially on my side. This was the first time I officially dressed up for an anniversary dinner, went to i-City, and took a ride on such a tall Ferris wheel. I don't really have an issue with heights, but blame Final Destination and for putting paranoia into my psychology.


But it was thrillingly romantic while it was terrifying for me. I guess one part of being a healthy couple is to leverage off the psychological fear of Ferris wheels of your partner and keep jokingly threaten to rock the entire cart a la Morita Shinobu in Honey and Clover.



We walked around, took a lot of photos. I wanted one of the Ferris wheel photos, by the way, but MYR30 just for a photo in a cheesy cardboard frame seemed a little bit too expensive.

Queen of bear statues and peeking belly fat LOL
One part of the entire area was more of a family-friendly park, with double-decker carousel (!!!) and a fish-feeding pond. Walking around that area, and some areas in Genting Highlands is a bit nostalgic. I haven't been completely deprived of such privileges as a child, but I didn't get it as much as other kids in school that bragged about playing with snow and all that. Hell, I only knew shisha existed on a rather embarrassing occasion during foundation.


Call me emotional, or melodramatic, or whichever adjective that floats your boat. The whole night I was close to tears - after everything that we've been through, all the arguments and everything... we were there, having dinner together as a symbolic gesture for our first year together.


I gave him his present after we finished our food, and despite how embarrassed I am at people reading my work in front of me, I wrote as I felt when I was putting the book together. The regrets, the gratitude, the feelings that went into the relationship and hence the book as it recounted our entire year together...


Granted, the year hasn't been altogether smooth. Complications - mostly from my side - arose quite frequently, from loose ends from a previous "relationship", to just downright ignorance and bitchiness.


But regardless of how many arguments and meltdowns we have, he still takes me in his arms, dries my tears, and kisses me saying "I love you". No relationship is a smooth sailing ship - a sailor will not know the sea unless he encounters storms. Without challenges, obstacles, and difficulties, a relationship will never grow.


We became unlikely friends when we met, and he saw me go through one of the darkest and most tumultuous parts of my life. In fact, he was the one I'd call out for drinks outside his place right after work, then I'd rant from dinner time to some hours past midnight.


Sometimes I get scared. Scared that he'll grow tired of my insecurities, my idiosyncrasies, my clumsiness and forgetfulness, the little things that shouldn't matter but bug me constantly. Then he reminds me that he chose me over so many others for a reason - that he loved me, even if I continue tripping over flat ground.


===


All photos taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Edited and watermarked with Fotor.com