Sunday, October 4, 2015

Malaysia Food and Jewellery Shopping Highlights

I've recently visited Kuala Lumpur for work, and I've decided that I needed a specific post on that because I had more fun that I expected.

Let's face it, not all countries are created equal, so I can't help but have favorites. KL is one of the cities I have only been to for work, and I only wanted to go back to for work. A big factor for me, which determines whether or not I like a city, is the food and the shopping. 

The last time I was in KL, it was just a choice of Fried Rice or Fried Noodles or Noodles with Soup for almost every single meal that I didn't opt to eat McDonald's. Of course, I exaggerate, but you get the point.

It was such a different experience this time around when I visited. All my meals were good, and shopping was really good too! I had to ask myself if I visited the same city.

The first store I saw when I got off the plane, at KLIA
was Zam Gems! Hello, favorite store in Sri Lanka!!!

Note to self, arrive early at the airport on the way back.

Now, food-wise, our local colleagues took us to a late lunch on the way to a trade visit after our morning meeting in the office. We ate at Penang One. I am not sure if we were just starving, but everything tasted so good to me! Jul was so funny, she even told me that this was just ordinary food. I can't wait to try the good stuff if that's the case.

My favorite Char Kway Teow
Rice Dumplings which is like Machang (Pork Included) but better,
because there is a whole salted egg yolk in the center!
This is the bomb!
Then we had some curry noodle soup, also good.
The yam cake was good too.

For dinner that night, we met up with my friend Mau, and all my other friends who just recently moved to KL. We had dinner at The Daily Grind, a burger place in Bangsar Village.
We had Zucchini Fries
I ordered the Foie Gras burger, of course!
You really can't go wrong with Foie Gras, but I shared and only ate half.
Karl ordered the coffee-rubbed steak.
Thanks Cait for our photo.

Now, the real highlight of my trip, was really the Jewellery shopping at KLIA. Just keep in mind that the Malaysian Ringgit to Philippine Peso conversion has devaluated close to 20% since the start of the year! That's automatically a 20% discount. Then when I was there, the stores - selling with Malaysian Ringgit pricing were all on sale too! That's practically a double promotion!

Right beside Zam Gems, was Habib, a jewellery store whose promotion
was an illusion diamond 3-piece set (earrings, pendant/necklace, ring) for
virtually a steal! It was so cheap I even called my sister to ask if she wanted.
Then I moved on to Zam Gems. Look at those rocks. Drool.
Since I can't afford the big rocks, not to mention figure out how to use it,
I just brought out the photos of rings I wanted to have made, and showed
it to the guy, so he could bring out what I wanted.
After much choosing and weighing, I ended up with this stash.

Now, I can't wait to visit KL for work again. What a difference good food and jewellery makes. just saying.

Penang One
Jalan Puteri 2/6, 
Bandar Puteri, 
47100 Puchong, 
Selangor, Malaysia

The Daily Grind
1, Jalan Telawi 1, 
Bangsar Baru, 
59100 Kuala Lumpur

Saturday, October 3, 2015

My DIY Calligraphy Journey

I am pretty cheap about somethings. (snicker, snicker) Especially on things I think you can get for free, like learning a new skill for example. I am pretty self-confident (again, snicker, snicker - well, at least I know myself well, right?) and I honestly believe I can do anything if I put my mind to it.

And learning calligraphy falls into this category for me. 

There are quite a lot of calligraphy courses offered nowadays, some by famous calligraphers (and some classes offered by unknowns affiliated by the stores selling calligraphy supplies - uhmmm, is that dubious or what?). A course is roughly around Php2,000 with materials and snacks included, so I told myself, I should just teach myself calligraphy and save my Php2,000. Well, let me tell you how that worked out.

Starting out, you need to familiarize yourself with the tools you need.

There are two different types of calligraphy pens.
1. Ink Catridge based - Sheaffer has a line. You can buy it in a set, it's sold in National Bookstore. Just put in an ink catridge, and start writing. Sort of like a fountain pen, but you need to get used to the different nib tips.
2. Nib + Holder - there is a whole world of  nibs and holders out there. You buy them together or separately, buy some calligraphy ink, dip and write. The trick is to find the combination you're comfortable with enough to practice, practice, practice.

Then just download worksheets online, watch some videos for beginners, then you're set to go. You'll really learn more by trying and doing it.

I started out by raiding my brother's pen collection. He has loved pens (of all kinds) since he was a toddler, so he had a Sheaffer Calligraphy set and a Speedball (holder and nib) Calligraphy set that he never used.

So my running total so far, tools and work sheets - FREE.

The trick to doing calligraphy is figuring out the correct angle for the nib for the ink to flow freely, and the correct pressure to use to be able to produce thin up-strokes and thin down-strokes. You also need to practice on thick or smooth paper, to stop the ink from bleeding.

For a while, I parked this project as I got busy with work and travelling, then on a trip to Hong Kong, I discovered the calligraphy section, so I started buying a universal nib holder, some Brause nibs, and some J. Herbin calligraphy ink. (Aha!!! This is where my calligraphy tools addiction started!) 

Since I was practicing more for penmanship, I started buying
"learn cursive writing" practice books for Sofia (she's that age) and for myself. 

The real pressure came when I randomly offered my soon-to-be-married Best Friend to address all her wedding invitations by calligraphy and she calmly accepted! I swear I was practicing on my cursive writing book everyday! Hahahaha.
I discovered some useful tricks though. Find a subtle pattern to write on,
which addresses wobbly letters. Using Iridescent ink also helps, less bleeding.
Dr. Ph Martin's is a good brand, available in Scribe (Philippines).

After nailing all the wedding invites, at good enough quality I may add, I seem to have gained more confidence. I now love writing all my gift cards using calligraphy.
I even ventured into labeling jars for myself and for friends.
I started buying more calligraphy tools. This is my haul from Istanbul.
This is my haul from Taipei. Well, the calligraphy stuff is part of it.
Yes, I have calligraphy themed washi tape, and I can calligraphy on washi too!
Here, only the Iridescent ink works, and you need to dry it well.
I was so thrilled when a friend asked me to do calligraphy of his name
because he saw the work I posted.

I have even started practicing calligraphy with different mediums.
Brush pen calligraphy is also fun. In a way, it's easier than conventional
calligraphy because the ink flow is more predictable, but you have to have
good control over your hand pressure.
Then over the weekend I started practicing Watercolor Brush Calligraphy too.
This was much harder, you need to have way more control over the brush
because the bristles are less behaved than a brush pen.
But happy I got my Prang watercolor set for free from my sister this time!

Some of the blogs that have been really helpful for self-learning calligraphy are:
1. The Postman's Knock - great beginner tips for modern calligraphy, free worksheets available for download too. 
2. Julie Blanner - but she writes about a lot of things under the sun, so just follow the link to Calligraphy.
3. Locally, I follow The Fozzy Book. She doesn't do much beginner's tips and tutorials, but her work is so beautiful, it serves as an inspiration. She also posts her daily drills, so if you want to be as good as her just practice, practice, practice.  IG: @thefozzybook

This is my collection of calligraphy tools as of end- September.

So, did I really save money by teaching myself calligraphy? Hahaha. You be the judge. Good thing, it's not about what you've spent, but what you've learned.

I may have spent more on calligraphy tools than what I would have in a workshop, but then, I am pretty sure that even if I paid for and attended a workshop, I wouldn't be able to stop myself from buying more tools anyway. In fact, I've already bought a bigger calligraphy box. I'm just waiting to buy more stuff before I upgrade. I've started to call it my Arts and Crap Kit too! just saying.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Cabbages and Condoms for local Thai food in a quirky environment

One of my favorite Go-To-Restaurants for local food in Bangkok is Cabbages and Condoms. It's actually not a new place, so I was also quite surprised that I have never blogged about it. Probably since we've been frequenting it since before the blog was born.

Anyway, I though it was totally apt to have dinner here on one of the nights we were in Bangkok for Jem's bridal shower. She is getting married soon, so I am trying to write all my posts about that Bangkok shower trip before she actually does. Hahaha.

Cabbages and Condoms is on one of the alleys off Sukhumvit Road.
They have outdoor seats and indoor seats. We didn't have a reservation
so we were just happy to have any available table.  
Since it's a bridal shower, we had complete props!
We ordered all of Jem's favorite together with all my favorites.
Tom Khai Gai (Chicken cooked in Tamarind and Coconut Milk)
Spicy Beef Salad
Chicken Pandan
Bagoong Fried Rice
Fried Shrimp Patties
Corn Cups
And we may have said let's order veggies too, so we have something
light. Hahahaha.
Everything was good, but I don't remember being
impressed by the bagoong rice. I think they make it better
in the Philippines. Hahaha.

Tim's role was to finish every thing we order.
Matter of Pride. That's a slave's lot in life. But what a well-fed slave he is.
Condoms are used the decorate the place every where!
It's sort of an NGO project, so there is a lot of educational messages about
Safe Sex.
Don't forget to use one.
They will even give you one per person with the bill, and you're
welcome to help yourself to more.
They also have a gift shop with a lot of quirky merchandise.
And it seems like they have a resort some where too.
Perhaps this is worth visiting next time.

So if you're looking to have some good local food and some wholesome fun the next time you're in Bangkok, why not visit Cabbages and Condoms. just saying.

Cabbages and Condoms
Sukhumvit 12 Alley, 
Khlong Toei, 
Bangkok 10110, Thailand

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Super Easy Cold Brew Coffee DIY

Since the first ever International Coffee Day is being celebrated today, i decided to join the celebration by writing about my newest experiment, how to make Cold Brew Coffee.

Cold Brew coffee uses cold water in the brewing process, instead of the usual hot water, so you need to steep your freshly ground beans for a longer period of time. What normally takes 2 minutes, will take 24 hrs but as long as you remember to do it in advance it's very easy to do.

This project was inspired by Slurp's cold brew from the Japanese Cheesecake stall in Century City Mall.

My friend treated me to cold brew coffee and this bottle cost her Php185. Not too bad for good coffee, and in fairness, it was. But the clincher came when we saw that they were also offering a slice of Japanese Cheesecake with Drip Coffee for only Php103! It seemed so expensive by comparison so I brought home the bottle (I am sure that's part of the cost anyway!) So I could make my own version.

Making Cold Brew is very easy as long as you have things all you'll need, and if the coffee lovers around there are anything like me, chances are you'll already have them in your kitchen.

Things You Need:
1. Fresh coffee beans
2. Coffee grinder (in the absence of this, make sure you have fresh grounds that were ground coarsely)
3. French Press (ideal) or Mason Jar and sieve or the drip and filter apparatus

How to make cold brew coffee:
1. Ground some coffee beans (I think I used 3 scoops for a 300ml French Press)
2. Put in 1:8 ground coffee ratio or 16g coffee grounds for a 300ml French Press, then add the cold water until it's full.

3. Leave to settle for 24 hrs. I left mine in the fridge. Do not push down the French Press filter until the coffee is ready.
4. After 24 hrs, your cold brew coffee is ready to drink. If you're using a Mason Jar, just strain the coffee grounds out with a sieve or use a coffee drip and filter.

Voila! Coley's Cold Brew Coffee!

I was surprised it tasted so good, and on my first attempt too.

In case you are wondering, I used Batangas Barako Coffee Beans (bought from the Batangas Market), and I love my Hario Coffee Grinder (and I also love using my Hario v60 coffee drip in the office which would also work for this excercise.

In hindsight, the Php185 my friend paid to treat me to cold brew coffee was a cheap price to pay for OK inspiring this really easy to do at home project. just saying.