Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Eggless Lemon Cake

A few days ago, I set out to make a cake to use up some lemons from the garden. I placed the ingredients on the counter, only to realise that I had run out of eggs. After some searching I found several recipes recommending condensed milk as a substitute, which was great, because we had so many cans stashed in the cupboard (a result of unplanned shopping at Costco)!

I used this eggless vanilla cake recipe and made some tiny changes - I added the zest of one lemon and replaced the 1 cup of water with half cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice with half cup of water. My cake took about 40 minutes to bake instead of the original recipe's recommendation of 25-35 minutes.

To be honest I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but one slice and I was sold. It was beautifully simple. It wasn't too sweet and it was neither too crumby or heavy. I will add even more lemon zest and juice the next time for a stronger flavour.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

DIY Tank Maxi Dress

Let me let you in on a secret. I've been living in maxi skirts and dresses this past summer because I got myself some tan lines on my thighs. I got them when I went pipi picking at Venus Bay a couple of months ago, and they still haven't fully faded. They sit at an awkward spot just above my knees so I can't really wear shorts or my standard above-knee skirts without them showing.

I bought a grey tank maxi dress from Yesstyle (no longer available) a while ago, and one day I decided to recreate the same style minus the hi-lo hem in black. After all, a black maxi dress will be a versatile piece that I can easily dress up or down in different seasons.

It must have been of the easiest and quickest pieces of clothing I have sewn. It's pretty much an elongated version of a loose tank top.


Lightweight knit jersey fabric
Matching thread

What to do:

1. Cut out the front and back pieces of the dress, using a tank top as a pattern for the necklines and sleeves. The shape of the pieces should follow the contour of your body, wider at the bust, nipping in at the waist, and then flaring out slightly at end. Add about one inch all around the pieces to allow for seam allowance and hemming.

2. Hem the necklines for both front and back pieces.

3. Hem the sleeves for both front and back pieces.

4. Pin both pieces right sides together. Sew along the shoulders and the sides.

5. Flip the dress right side out. Hem the bottom if desired.

I can only say that the dress is really, really comfortable. It is flowy and lightly skims my body. The slight flare at the bottom also gives it a nice swing when I walk.

As opposed to the unadorned version shown above, here's a picture of me wearing it for a walk around my neighbourhood. I paired it with a denim jacket, tan belt and tan heels and was good to go!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Blue Lotus Water Garden, Yarra Junction

The real reason we drove to Warburton was to visit Blue Lotus Water Garden in nearby Yarra Junction. Daddy had been wanting to go for a long time, so as soon as all our days off coincided, we made the trip.

Entry into the retail nursery and gift shop is free, but if you would like to wander through the gardens, there is an entry fee of $16 for adults (kids under 16 go free as long as they are accompanied by an adult!).

The garden spans 14 acres, with several attractions such as lakes, ponds and glass houses housing many different species of lotus flowers and water lilies. You will get to see some exceptionally interesting plants such as the giant amazon lily pads (large enough to hold the weight of a little child) and 'crocodile' plants (large leaves with thorns on every surface). There's plenty of space for a picnic or barbecue, great for a get-together.

Here are photos of some of the beautiful flowers we came across.

We spent a good two hours or so roaming the gardens, discovering lotus flowers and lilies of all sorts. We did expect more flowers to be in bloom, but even then, the beauty and vibrancy of what we saw were striking.

The shop also carries interesting products such as lotus honey, lotus leaf tea and lotus pods that can be used for decoration.

The gardens are open till 7th April 2015 so be sure to visit before then!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Walk: La La Falls

In keeping with one of my new year resolutions to visit at least one new place each month, hubby and I spent a little over an hour driving to Warburton during the long weekend. We had about an hour an a half to spare before meeting up with my parents and brother at the Blue Lotus Water Garden, so we decided to go on a short walk to La La Falls.

It was already about 9:30am when we arrived on Irruka Road, but we were the only ones in sight. Once we got down from the car, I immediately felt like I was being swallowed up by the splendour of the forest. It was full of tall, towering trees where you needed to tilt your head as far back as you could to see the top.

We walked through many leafy sections which formed a canopy that looked like it belonged in movies.

45 minutes later, we arrived at the waterfall. It was beautiful, especially given the relatively small effort it took to reach it. Along the way, we kept hearing the sounds of the waterfall, and when it was finally in sight, we could only let out a contented sigh. We took several photos to commemorate our successful journey (be careful, the rocks are slippery!) and headed back.

The walk was estimated to be 3.2km and would take about 1 to 1.5 hours. I was so confident we were going to do it in much less but I didn't account for the incline all the way to the falls. At about the 500m mark I was already all puffed out, eep! On the plus side, the journey back to the car was nice and easy. We managed to complete the walk in a little over an hour. 

I've been enjoying all the walks and hikes that we've been on because not only do they bring me to new places, I also get improve on my landscape photography skills. This time, I learnt that even though I have steady hands, I should have brought a tripod along to fully capture the motion of the water. 

Till next time!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Soban, Oakleigh

Friday night is almost always lazy night. Sometimes I resist the temptation to eat out, but more often than not, laziness trumps any sort of self-discipline. Last Friday night's eating adventure involved an impromptu visit to Soban, Oakleigh along with hubby and my parents. None of us had ever been before, and I thought it seemed like a great time to try someplace new.

We decided to get four main dishes to share, and the first one was good old samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup). It was the perfect, hearty indulgence on that rainy night. The broth was rich and nutritious and there was plenty of soft meat to go around.

Next up was haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) which had a reasonable mix of seafood (e.g. mussels, shrimp, squid). What I found interesting was the flour that was used in the batter. I can't pinpoint what it was exactly but it was slightly coarser and denser that others that I've had. Regardless, it was still quite light and crispy, and the dipping sauce made it even better!

One of the rice dishes we ordered was the stone pot bibimbap (mixed rice). For toppings we had beef, cucumber, spinach, bean sprouts, carrots and of course an egg. We weren't too adventurous and added half the amount of chilli pepper paste, but that was enough to bring the flavour out. I don't think the pot was hot enough, so the bottom layer of rice wasn't crispy.  This made it no different from a regular bibimbap, but I was actually happy about this because I'm personally not a fan of crunchy rice.

The other rice dish we ordered was the nakji dupbap (spicy octopus over rice) and oh my goodness, this was definitely my favourite dish of the night. That octopus was one of the juiciest and most tender I had ever had. We were probably so used to eating overcooked octopus that we initially suspected whether it was still raw, but no, it was just cooked to perfection. Even the rice was super tasty. I was scraping the bowl clean while hubby just gave me this really amused look.

We were a little bit naughty and ordered a bowl of red bean sherbet to share. The dessert was mediocre, as we found the red bean and mixed berries topping to be a little too sweet. Also, the mango slices were obviously frozen before and hadn't been thawed properly before serving. 

Don't let the small shop size fool you as it can get really busy if all tables are full. There was only one staff member on the floor doing everything from taking orders, distributing cutlery, serving dishes and taking payment. The dishes did take a little long to arrive but nothing unreasonable. I'm not in a position to comment on authenticity (having never set foot to Korea) but we all loved the food that night. Prices were fair, portions were generous, and flavours weren't overbearing. We will definitely be returning!

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