Simply Creative in Singapore

I haven’t checked my last post, but it has been a long time between writings. Last December, we moved to Singapore. Pre-pandemic. Today isn’t a food post (although I could write plenty of those!) or anything about the home, it’s about getting out of the home, something we’ve all experienced bouts of longing for at various points this year.

From the oasis of the Ginger gardens, to the beautiful Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage emerging from its lake, my favourite place here has to be the Singapore Botanic Gardens! So here are some photos, some today, some from a few months back.

Some moments of beauty in a challenging year💜

Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, Singapore Botanic Gardens

Back to the blog (and the book behind it!)

It’s taken me a while to find the time to get back to writing. Also finding the inspiration – sometimes you wonder if the blogging is worth it, are you creating something worthwhile? Do you have what it takes to build your blog the right way? If there is a right way…

So I was in the library the other day, and a book caught my eye. BORN TO BLOG * by Mark W Schaefer and Stanford A Smith. I wanted to feel like I was ‘Born to Blog’ – like blogging came naturally, so I picked up this book, and here I am blogging again. I have plenty of books at home about writing a better thesis (and I have to say these were incredibly important to my writing process) but nothing specifically about my new chosen medium of blogging.

What did I learn?

A lot – but more than anything I felt completely encouraged in my blogging – the premise of this book, as the authors put it, is that ‘anyone – with a little coaching – can blog’ (p5). The ‘blog skills quiz’ provided by the authors is fantastic, and helps you to discover what kind of a blogger you are – so I am a ‘teacher’ followed by a ‘curator’ – makes sense, I do like writing ‘how to’ kind of posts! I learnt that keeping it simple with blogging is okay – Schaefer and Smith reassure the reader that ‘the most effective blogs are managed using minimal guidelines and straightforward objectives’ (p83). Phew. I know I am one for making things more complex than they need to be! In terms of turning your blog into a business, the authors also encourage readers to ‘give away your best’ (104). I find this a really helpful reminder – and definitely on my music blog I do a lot of this. Also, they encourage the reader not to hurry to monetise their blog (p124). Funnily enough, I find this tip incredibly liberating – I can just worry about building my blog for now, and let the business side grow slowly over time. Definitely helps me prioritise my thoughts, and focus mostly on the writing for now.

There is plenty more in this book for anyone who wants to build their blog, whether for business or personal reasons – like creating a content calendar, what kinds of content you could create, choosing a platform, using social media, and more. The stories of bloggers and their blogs which are interspersed throughout are also very encouraging, and gave me the sense that yes, I could blog too!

Highly recommended for all bloggers out there!

 

*Please note this is an affiliate link

Malaysian curry

This might seem like an obvious kind of dinner to post about, but before I met my husband, I had no idea about making curry like this. To me, curry was all about dahl, vegetables, chickpeas and the like (Indian is probably my favourite cuisine in fact).

The curry described below is a straightforward kind of meal to make, using sauce from a tin. Doesn’t sound so appetising…but it’s pretty tasty.

Ingredients:
Tofu (I often use the Soyco Japanese Tofu sold in the supermarket), cut into small pieces
1-2 eggplants, cut into cubes
1-2 sweet potatoes, cut into large cubes
Several tomatoes
Buk choy/ green beans/ other green vegetables, chopped
Yeoh’s curry sauce
Rice to serve with

Put the rice on pretty early, as this recipe is very quick to make!

Fry the eggplant lightly – then I put a bit of water in the bottom of the saucepan to cook it a bit more before other ingredients are added.

Mix in the sweet potato, cook a little further.

After about 5 minutes, pour in the tin of sauce, and maybe a tin’s worth of water. Stir in the tomatoes. Bring it all up to a good heat and then simmer for around 10 minutes.

Malaysian curry
Add in the green vegetables on top of the curry mix, and then cook for around another 10 minutes or so, tossing in the tofu in for the last few of these minutes, just to warm it. See how cooked the sweet potatoes are, then use that as a guide as to when to turn the stove off.

Serve the curry over the rice (of course).

There you go. Fussy eater version of this dinner = rice, plain tofu, plain vegetables with a taste or two of the curry (if and when requested)!

Weekend Places: Garden world

I’ve been meaning to write the next in my ‘Things to do on the weekend’ series for a while. Finally, here it is. We’ve been spending a lot of time at nurseries lately, and there is one which is my favourite: Gardenworld in Braeside. So here’s a post about the fun things we like about this nursery, and why it’s a great place to visit for those in the outer eastern suburbs.

Flowers 3Gardenworld 2Peacock and cyclamen

  Firstly, the range is huge! We have been looking for some particular kinds of proteas lately, and not many places we checked had the kinds we were after, but Gardenworld had heaps! The only difficulty was choosing. We ended up with a trolley full of susaras and pink creams, and now we’re looking forward to their colourful blooms in our garden next Autumn and Winter.

Gumboots
Anyway, the plants are gorgeous and plentiful, and there are homewares, succulents, pots…all kinds of things.

And…dinosaurs! Lots of fun for kids (although the giraffe
was our daughter’s favourite on our last trip). But the best nursery fun (for toddlers) would have to be jumping up and down…in muddy puddles…so do bring gumboots…

Finally, the cafe – it’s fantastic, with a variety of sweet and savoury options, and they make a good babycino!

Babycino     Gardenworld cafe      Cakes

One vegetarian and two pies

Everyone has ideas about what motherhood might be like before it happens to them; hopes, fears, dreams…Once upon a time I imagined a busy kitchen, a lot of cooking and lots more happy eating. We have the first two, but it’s taken me more time to achieve the third. We have one vegetarian in the house (me), and two who eat meat (one of whom is a typically fussy toddler, so plain foods all the way!) The offshoot of all of this is that every planned meal, apart from a few favorite vegetarian dishes which we all eat, comprises two similar dishes, one without meat, one with, and a deconstructed version for the fussy eater, which all get cooked at the same time. And which require a minimum of meat handling…something I really, really dislike! So here is the first post in my recipe series: one vegetarian and two pies, the first being an adapted vegetarian crumble-turned-pie and the second, a more traditional chicken and mushroom pie (which I have never tasted, but gets the thumbs up every time!)

Vegetarian sweet potato pie

The original recipe which I have based mine on can be found on BBC’s Good food website. The crumble topping is delicious, but I don’t have time for it normally, and I’ve left out celeriac, as that is often missing from my local supermarket’s shelves. I always start all the chopping from this pie first, given there is so much to do!

Ingredients

  • 1-2 leeks
  • 2-3 small sweet potatoes
  • 1 potato
  • 1-2 carrots
  • Vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 200ml crème frâiche
  • 1-2 spoonfuls of mustard (I use whole grain)
  • Frozen peas or other mixed vegetables
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (and egg to glaze)

Slice up the leeks, dice the potatoes and carrots. Take the puff pastry out to thaw.

Cooking sweet potatoes and leeks

Put them all in a large saucepan, cover with stock. Bring to boil, then simmer until tender. I always go too far at this point – you don’t want the vegetables to be too mushy, but it’s not the end of the world if they are! While the vegetables cook, I normally start with the chicken pie (well that’s probably why I overdo the vegetables…)

Okay, when vegetables are done, I scoop out the excess stock, so there’s just a little bit to help make the sauce. Mix in the crème frâiche, mustard to taste (not too much for me) and flour. And then the frozen vegetables for a bit of extra green.

Spoon it all into a lightly oiled casserole dish, and place the puff pastry lid on top. Don’t forget to make a hole for the steam to come out! Glaze with beaten egg and place in oven at around 200 deg celsuis for 30 minutes, or until pastry is crispy and golden brown.

Wow, writing that recipe has made me hungry. Okay here’s the second one:

Chicken and mushroom pie

Ingredients 

  • 1 leek or onion
  • Around 300g diced chicken
  • Several handfuls button mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Vegetable stock
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (and egg to glaze)

Put the chicken in a saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Once cooked, I get a fork and shred the chicken just a little bit more.

Moe leeks!
In the meantime, slice up the mushrooms, and onion or leek.

Sauté the leek and mushrooms until nicely done, then add in the chicken, and stock and flour, just so there is enough liquid for the pie.

Line the base of an oiled casserole dish with one sheet of pastry. Place the chicken and mushroom filling in, and put another piece of pastry on the top. Again, don’t forget to make a hole in the top and glaze with the egg (it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do this, but it just gives the pie crust a nice glow). And then into the oven, 200 deg celsius for 30 minutes.

Two pies

 

Chicken triangle

For the fussy eater, some of the chicken gets cooked in puff pastry. Eventually I am sure she will eat some of what we are having…eventually!


Potatoes, paints and butterflies

Ok, crayons and play dough have been in use for a long time now in our house. Sticker books are pretty popular too. But paints are a new level of artiness for us!

The first time I tried out our new (non-toxic) paints with my daughter, she really just wanted to watch me paint. And still, I was amazed how quickly paint got transferred to objects which were not the paper. And, in the same vein, it has taken me several times painting to remember that yes, I actually need a smock too – even when using the paint with water books!

By the second time the paints came out, I had more of a programme in mind: what we could do, and an idea on how to use the paints. Most of these ideas are pretty basic, and things which you may have tried in primary school many years ago, like me. Nonetheless, it did take a bit of remembering for me to come up with this little list!

  1. Finger painting / hand printing – I resisted this initially, because of the mess, but it was less messy than I imagined. Finger painting didn’t really produce much of an exciting result, but the hand prints in different colours looked pretty nice!
  2. Potato printing – I remember this activity from my school days (mainly because it was one of the few times I forgot to bring my smock into art). At home, we just cut a potato in half and did some nice coloured stamping with that. Of course you can make shapes, but the potato can be pretty slippery to hold, and not so good for those with sensitive skin.
  3. Butterflies – Dot some nice, colourful splotches on one side of the paper and fold it over – and voila, there’s your butterfly. Was reminded of this activity on a tv show the other day!

So three really simple ideas – things you probably remember from your early  days, but maybe, like me, had forgotten about!

Enjoy your painting!