Learning mac-speak!

So I bought my MacBook nearly 3 years ago now but I’ve only just actually started exploring what it can actually do.  Why buy such an expensive piece of kit?  I honestly don’t know.  I blame Alan as he introduced me to the iPhone (I did have a first generation iPod Touch but I looked at that as my mp3 player and game console all in one instead of a communication device really), and my romance with Apple products began (yes, I’m one of those geeks that can happily spend time at the Apple Store moving from one table to another playing with the new gadgets and looking – very longingly – at the new iterations of the MacBook Air).  I used to be a PC person, and I still am for work, but at home, I am mostly a Mac person (although, that being said, I do have a Samsung Galaxy S2 tablet, which I love, really!  That being said, however, if anyone offered me a new iPad Pro, I’d give up my android tablet in a heartbeat!♥).

I’ve just learned to add text to a picture from my Photos folder (yay me and Google!).  I found loads of instructions on the internet but the Mac tips on Here’s The Thing by Ben Patterson is the easiest to follow.  Here’s the link to the article if you’d like to take a look.

And here’s my newly minted header image!  Ha!

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Comfort reading

There are books that you just pick up and read and it feels like being enveloped in a soft, warm duvet.  These are my comfort books.  Over the years my comfort reading list has evolved and my current list has been my go-to list for a few years.  I had titles by Ingalls Wilder, Austen, Brontës, Keenes, and Blume in my list when I was growing up.  I think these will always be my duvet day standbys, but now that I’m (way) over the age of majority, my tastes are a bit more varied.  I find myself reaching for the following books:

The Languedoc Trilogy by Kate Mosse

LanguedocTrilogyIt’s a series of books that are set in Carcasssone, in the Languedoc region of France, near the Pyrénées.  I find myself repeatedly drawn to books that have a bit of historical fiction in them and these definitely hit the spot!  They are an excellent read.  I started with, of course, the first book of the trilogy, Labyrinth.  Once I’d read this, I knew I had to get the other books to read.  So I moved on to read Sepulchre and Citadel.  It’s not difficult reading, even with the history and the Occitan language inclusions.  I’ve read each book about twice now.  Next on my to-read list is Kate Mosse’s Winter Ghosts, which is also set in the Languedoc region.

Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling

HarryPotterbooksSo who hasn’t read the Harry Potter books?  I fell in love with the world that J.K. Rowling created.  I first started with the Scholastic Books version and moved on to the Bloomsbury editions which I enjoyed the most.  It had all the British references that makes Harry Potter Harry Potter.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

EatPrayLoveI was still in the Philippines when I watched Oprah Winfrey interview Elizabeth Gilbert in 2007.  Oprah waxed lyrical about the book, how the insights changed her life.  That piqued my interest but I didn’t necessarily think it was going to be this mind-blowing read.  It wasn’t until I moved to England that I actually read the book, and I read the book at just the right time.  I read it when I was at a crossroads of my life and needed to make a lot of difficult decisions about the direction I wanted my life to take and who I wanted to have in my life when I moved forward.  It changed my life and helped me get a different perspective.  I still read the book, when I need to be inspired or need to think about things differently.  Yep, the book is amazing like that.  I even did an Oprah – I bought the copies of the books and sent it to my friends so they could read it too!

Julie and Julia: My Year Of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

JulieandJuliaI love this book but I think part of the reason I love this book is because I really did love the movie and I so loved Amy Adams in it.  Amy Adams made the character relatable and made me want to read the book (mostly because I love to cook, read cookbooks and I have a blog where I can be, more often than not, self-deprecating).  I think Oprah liked the book as well, which was another factor (I do love Oprah’s book club choices!).  I know there are a lot of reviews about how bad Julie Powell really is, how selfish she is and self-centered and all that.  But when I read the book, I found myself wanting to find out how she managed to dig herself out of the hole she put herself in.  I mean, I know that she had an affair (this wasn’t in the movie), but Julie Powell in her book certainly wasn’t a flat character!

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris

thehappinesstrapI was introduced to this book by my therapist.  I needed counselling because I was fast approaching a burn-out at work and I was getting more and more sick because of stress and it was affecting my performance and my psyche.  I absolutely loved this book because it allowed me to learn how to tackle my worrying (most eldest children will be able to relate to the pressure that we put ourselves under to be perfect, how we all constantly worry that we won’t measure up).  The most important thing is that it taught me to think about my worrying differently.  I think I’m a long way away from not being a worry-wort (I think that’s what makes me good at my job – I worry about the future too much!) but I’m getting better at dealing with the stress that worrying brings.  It is a different approach to therapy.  I still read portions of it when I have moments.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

TheGirlOnTheTrainI LOVE this book.  I bought it off Amazon because it was about a girl who rode a train everyday.  Hello! My daily work commute involves me getting on a train for over an hour to get to work.  It was something I thought I could relate to (no spoilers so that’s all I’m going to say).  But I didn’t expect this lovely little thriller to grip me in the way that it did.  I couldn’t wait to get home so that I could read more of it and find out how the story unfolded.  I nearly missed my several times because I was so engrossed!  Am so looking forward to Paula Hawkins’ second book.  This was an amazing debut!  I would suggest reading it before the movie hits the screens (Emily Blunt’s in it!) because they’ve changed a few things in the screenplay.

Fruitcake oatmeal cookies

I was craving cookies.

I knew I had enough ingredients in the cupboard to whip up drop cookies.  I leafed through my cookbooks for inspiration and decided on oatmeal raisin cookies as the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook was making my tummy growl in anticipation!  I started to get the ingredients together and found a bag with about with still a third of the mixed dried fruit and peel languishing in my baking supplies basket.  So instead of following the recipe in the cookbook, I improvised and put together what I call a cupboard cookie recipe – because you’re basically using ingredients you find in your cupboard!

Ingredients:

  • 135g unsalted butter, room temperature and softened
  • 80g soft brown sugar
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 190g plain flour
  • 80g oatmeal (I used wholegrain rolled oats, but quick cooking oats work too)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 110g of mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 70g ground almonds, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C
  2. In a bowl, mix flour, oats, dried fruit, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ground almonds (if using), until well-incorporated.
  3. Because my hands get tired really quickly, I now, more often than not use a mixer, but this can be done by hand (it’ll just take a lot of elbow power) first with a pastry blender (which I will always call a pastry cutter) and then with a balloon whisk.  Cream the butter and sugars until the mixture is smooth and a light brown colour.  Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until well-combined.
  4. Add the flour and dried fruit mixture to the sugar and butter mixture until combined and you can no longer see the flour.
  5. Drop batter, a heaping tablespoon at a time, onto a lined baking tray (Useful tip: if you’d like more uniform-sized cookies, use an ice-cream scooper.  I use a 45mm one.).  Make sure the cookies are evenly spaced.  I bake 6 cookies per tray.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 11-13 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit in the baking tray for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Makes 24 cookies.

Fruitcake oatmeal cookies

The Cecil Brewer staircase

I love it when a store has a photogenic feature.  It makes for a great marketing opportunity!  Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road has such a feature.  Heal’s first opened its doors in 1810, at a different location.  But as luck would have it, the Heal family produced an amazing architect, Cecil Brewer who designed their flagship store on Tottenham Court Road.  The store is a large, open space filled with beautiful things.  I am always tempted to take a bowl, or a mug or a plate or a set of place mats to the counter and take the beautiful thing home to my tiny flat!  I haven’t succumbed to the urge yet, but I think it’s only a matter of time until I allow myself the indulgence.

Apart from being responsible for the architectural masterpiece that is the Heal’s flagship store, Cecil Brewer was responsible for creating the beautiful spiraling staircase that so many photo buffs have photographed.  It’s a star feature on Instagram for people visiting London.

I visited Heal’s primarily to look for Duralex cups because I wanted to bring them back to the Philippines as it carries a line of clear glass cups and saucers that my dad loves.  But apart from the Duralex cup hunt, I really did want to take a photo of the Cecil Brewer staircase.  I took a photo before, but I wanted to take a better one.  So after checking on the cups, I went to the back of the store and took my photo of the staircase from the foot of the spiral looking up at the beautiful light fixture.

I loved this latest photo.  Mostly because it was very quiet at Heal’s on the day and I had the spiral staircase all to myself (for a while, anyway).  After posting it on Instagram, a few days later, the picture got featured on Culture Trip London‘s (amazing) Instagram feed.  To say that I was tickled pink is an understatement.  The only word to describe how I felt was the Filipino word kilig.  It’s nice to be recognised like that.  Ha!  I’m really pleased that I’m taking noteworthy photos because it’s so much fun learning how to use a camera, properly!

The Cecil Brewer Staircase, Heal's London

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Featured!

I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages.  I got featured by one of the Instagram hubs as their picture of the day.  This might sound like small fry for some people but for someone like me, who is learning to take proper photos, being featured on the Instagram account of the UK contingent of my camera brand is a huge deal.  So I am sharing the photo!

Yay me!  Thank you Olympus UK for choosing my light trails photo as your Photo of the Day on 20 July.  You have no idea how much of an honour it is.

Oh and of course, thank you for creating such an amazing line of cameras!

Light trails

Where chicken is not a laughing matter: Absurd Bird

A version of this review was published on TripAdvisor and my other blog Panasian Kitchen.
I haven’t forgotten about my chicken bucket list.  Alan and I have been working our way through the list,  I just haven’t actually sat down to write my thoughts on the visit.  Thankfully I have photos to remind me of the visit.  With my memory, it would’ve have been difficult to write a review!
Absurd Bird is found on 54 Commercial Street, near Spitalfields Market, in London.  The buses go through Commercial Street so the location is commutable.  I’m not too certain about the parking, but I’m sure there is a way to find space for your vehicle.
IMG_4554You come into an interesting space with the bar in front. The seating spaces are interesting. There are interesting booths and long tables with homey upholstered benches. The space is great because one wall is made up of huge glass panels allowing the natural light to come in. The light fixtures are very interesting – gilded bird cages!
The food is definitely no laughing matter.  I’m thankful Mr Hyde sent me a mailshot that featured a discount for Absurd Bird.  It was the prompt Alan and I needed to go pay Absurd Bird a visit!

MrHydecouponAlan ordered the fried chicken sliders with a side of sweet potato fries.  The sliders have the same crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside chicken in them.  Every crunchy bite of the chicken was amazing!

SlidersThe sweet potato fries are yummy with a capital Y.  They were so crispy! I very rarely find crispy sweet potato fries. It was heaven in every crunch!

Crispy sweet potato fries I ordered the chicken and waffles with a side of coleslaw. The yummy sweet-sour coleslaw is more a salad sized serving instead of a side-sized serving and is a perfect side to the chicken.
Chicken and waffles You get 3 crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside pieces of chicken and 3 fluffy pieces of sweet waffle. You also get a small pot of maple syrup and (HURRAH!) a small pot of gravy!
ColeslawIt is excellent value for money and what we ordered was delicious! While we ordered on main meal and side each, I think what we ordered would have fed 4 people. The servings are generous and they are certainly worth every penny you pay for.

We didn’t order any alcoholic drinks but they serve lagers and cocktails I think.  If you’re attempting to limit the amount of calories and keep hydration simple, you can opt to just have tap water for the table.  They’re happy to do that for you as well.

Tap waterThe staff are amazing and very attentive without being helicopter servers (i.e. they don’t hover!)!  I found it refreshing that they knew their product and our conversations with them were natural and they were very helpful with suggestions.  I loved it that we got a chance to relax and enjoy the food that we ordered.

Generous portionsI am definitely going back for more of their chicken and waffles!