Saturday, 31 January 2015

acquisition analysis: navy pleather sleeves coat

Image from

I purchased this coat in November 2013. I have learned a lot of things since spending one winter literally living in this coat.

I liked this coat at first glance because a friend got a coat with leather sleeves and she looked stunning in them. Her coat was a classic shape, yet edgy at the same time. It had the I am nice but can be naughty sort of vibe, and such a contradiction in a coat are something that I find endlessly intriguing. had several colour options available, and I picked the navy (as pictured), that looked like black. As you can tell, I wanted the coat to be as monochromatic as possible. And yes, just like the other coat I purchased recently, I bought this coat in the middle of (Australian) summer, when it was smelting hot.

I lacked a lot of insights when I purchased this coat, one of which being the lack of shape. This coat was cut like a boyfriend coat, straight up and down and thus erred on the side of edgy and trendy rather than edgy and classic. Somewhat thankfully, I purchased the correct size (can be a hit and miss with online shopping), so the shoulders fit me well, and the sleeves were perfect length, and so was the coat itself. The only issue is the lack of shape on the back, which isn't really an issue for me because I could pull it off, but inconvenient because all the images I had at the back of my mind do not match the reality of this coat.

Needless to say, I struggled with this. I could find combinations that worked, after a lot of trial and errors and even so, my options were limited. But I was determined to wear this coat during winter because I did not want to purchase another coat, so I alternated between this coat, the red coat I used to own (and have retired since) and another coat that I bought during the winter of 2012.

Composition of this coat:
Body: 52% Wool, 38% Polyester, 5% Viscose, 4% Acrylic, 1% Nylon
Lining: 100% Polyester
Sleeve: 84% Polyester, 14% Viscose, 2% Elastane.

The composition is okay for the price that I paid (it wasn't full price), and that said, I don't think I would have paid full price for this coat. Sydney winter is often mild at best, so this coat is sufficient for that purpose. It is probably more of an autumn/spring coat for those in colder climates. As a general rule, I try to maximise the wool content of the coats that I consider purchasing. The higher the wool content, the higher I expect the price to be. If the wool content is less than 50%, it would be an autumn/spring coat for me.

You know what they all said about 'investing' in your coats? I hate to say that they were right. The red coat, as much as I loved it, disintegrated after 2 winters, because it was, well, el-cheapo. The issue with el-cheapo stuff is that they often represent good value per wear, but do not stand the test of time. They disintegrate, or start showing their age, within the first two seasons :( which brings home the point of quality first.

This navy coat is yet to disintegrate on me - because I've only worn it for one autumn and one winter. The colour, unfortunately, is a tad too dark for spring, so I have not worn it since last winter. At best, I estimate that this coat would last me another 2 years before it starts showing its age. To be completely honest, I am not sure that I would hang on to this for that long - I plan to retire this at some point post winter 2015.

The most important lesson is to buy quality coats - this is so important because the two times that I've done this so far (they were both Karen Millen coats), these two coats have lasted for more than 2 years and they seem to be holding up well. One of these coats is a compliments magnet, year after year, despite being a classic colour (not black, but not a bright colour either).

Will I consider another navy coat? Yes, of course. Navy is a friendly colour in my closet, it rivals black in its versatility and reliability.

Will I consider altering this coat to give it a more 'feminine' shape? Errr... probably not. I don't love it that much to spend more money to alter it. This sounds really bad, I know, but it is also the truth. I bought it thinking that I didn't need alterations at all, so I wasn't mentally (and financially) prepared for forking out further sum for alterations. That said, if the coat is of a better quality, then I would have considered altering it for a better fit, rather than trying to making it work in its current form.

Will I buy it again? Knowing what I know now, no. I learn a lot of lessons on online shopping and buying coats from this incident, so all in all, it has served its purpose well. I try not to dwell so much on the opportunities that were supposedly lost from this one endeavour, largely because the cost per wear is low enough for me to consider it an okay purchase (plus it got my creative muscles working again). However, if the coat is a better quality, with higher wool content, less synthetic mix and genuine leather sleeves, then yes, I would consider purchasing it again.

All in all, this purchase highlights the importance of buying quality for me - and this also marks the end of me purchasing random, low quality stuff (because I regard their prices as low enough to warrant further consideration). Graduating from the idea that a low price gives me a free purchasing pass is a very long, painful process, and I am glad that I have been actively trying to overcome it. A purchase is a purchase, the item will end up as part of my closet, and I'd like it to earn its spot through quality and versatility.

acquisition analysis is a series of entries that centres on the practical side of how to maximise your marginal utility when spending your money. it is not primarily directed at the financial side of things, rather, on refining my buying skills, specifically on how an item would fit into my life. after all, if it is true that i get to design my life, then it follows that i need to be more critical in both adding and subtracting what's in it. furthermore, i personally believe that in order to maximise one's resources, acquisitions (or purchases) have to be of a strategic nature, instead of a mere time-filler. i admit that at this stage, i am yet to formalise an acquisition process, so one of the goals would be to come up with my acquisition process after i analyse a few of my past purchases. this should make for an interesting exercise because i note that some of my acquisitions do not necessarily stand the test of time. some items that i purchased turn out to be of a terrible quality, despite meticulously taking care of them. lots of lessons to be had!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

How I buy (thought process of wardrobe development)

Some reflections on wardrobe development I started questioning my wardrobe intensively approximately three years ago, or to be precise, in Feb 2011. We were at a dinner with a dear friend who just told us of his engagement to one of the most loveliest person I’ve ever met in my life, and we got talking about clothing, wardrobe and the like. I wanted to take my style up notch, that’s what I said.

That was an inaccurate statement on my part. What I really wanted was and still is, to be able to dress with more ease. You know when people say it has to look effortless? I actually want it to be effortless, not just appear to be so.

I started reading into this a little bit more closely, starting with evaluating my shopping habits, and then my wardrobe. One of the lessons that I found is that realising the mistakes that I’ve made after a lifetime of somewhat mindless shopping can be disheartening.

Because this is how I used to buy: hey, item looks good, price looks good, buy. No consideration was given at this point in time in terms how I would wear it or whether it would integrate with the rest of my closet. There were items that I’ve bought that still have price tags on them (ugh, cringe).

One of my goals is to make less purchase errors over time. The beauty of a shopping ban is that when it’s in place, it means I make less error, so it’s a nice shortcut to achieve the goal. I can either put myself on a permanent shopping ban, or learn how to buy properly.

This is like one of those things in life that you don’t learn in school: how to buy, how to determine what you really need, how to curb your wants, how to determine a good deal, how to maximise your utility and the like. Life skills that are useful, but no one actually thinks about putting these into the curriculum because, well, it is so … personal.

[I get that parents are supposed to teach their children these skills, and this is not a criticism of my parents. It is merely an observation on my part that I have never reflected on these issues until recently, and that is all. On the grand scheme of things, all parents struggle with parenting related issues on a regular basis, so I’d say, cut them a bit of slack, okay. They cannot and will not teach their children everything they are supposed to know.]

How I buy 

These days, I follow this year's shopping guide and apply the wardrobe principles describe in, get inspired by the wardrobe choices displayed by and read the musings of the incredibly talented

I don’t have any gaps in my wardrobe that I’ve identified so far (which means I probably do have some, I am just not aware of them). So, if there is anything that I do choose to buy, that’s because (1) I am ‘upgrading’ or (2) I am exploring a new style/silhouette or (3) I am adding an accent colour. I sort of know what style works for me and what doesn’t, and I’ve chosen my colours and I make a point to stick to neutrals (this, I think, is a side effect of getting older). Most importantly, I try to stay true to my style as often I as I can, rather than being sucked into trends.

Once I’ve identified the items that I would like to buy, I give priority to quality of construction and material, and of course, price. It has to fit within my budget otherwise, well, it’s out. I purchased my very first 100% cashmere jumper this year and it is a dream (ok, late to the party). Since then, I am constantly on the look out for anything cashmere.

How do you buy?

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Life through instagram: birthdays

Happy long weekend guys!

weekend brunch with mr squishy cheeks is the best! 

This just happened yesterday - belated birthday celebration for yours truly! Mr squishy cheeks is getting bigger and bigger, but I haven't aged a day. He is currently the only baby in our crew, so we are, understandably, a tad obsessed. Thankfully, he likes cuddles. The jury is still in whether he looks like mom or dad. When he is not sticking his tongue out, he has this pensive look about him. And in the above pic, well, just caught him during a rather grumpy moment. And yes, don't we all wish we can just scream when we want something, and two adults would come into our service?

As it turns out, there are quite a few birthday celebrations in January, so it is fitting that an overdose of cake and dessert is imminent. Not that I mind, because, seriously, who can say no to sugar all the time? We do 'clean eating' or whatever you call it because we want to be able to eat dessert guilt-free, or at least relatively so. For the record, I did not have dessert because I was tipsy post a glass of wine, which I did not regret at all. I spent the rest of the day in a state of deliriousness. Happiness in a glass of wine - what more can you ask in life? Oh, of course, the best of company and the kindest of friends, the ones who simply 'get' you, no questions asked. I got very lucky in this life. Thanks for the love guys. Nado neo mani mani saranghae.

early birthday celebration for mi amore
hope all your wishes come true dear

I don't really care when I get to celebrate my birthday, really, and of course, if I can, I probably stretch the celebration all year long, because #yolo. But if I were to pick a preference, of course that would be an early celebration, because, maybe, just maybe, it indicates eagerness to celebrate. No, not really. I just wanted to take my friend out on a nice lunch and Contrabando was having an express lunch deal, with the sweetest cider I've ever tasted so far (not that I've tasted many).

And while we are at it, candles - they make everything doubly, triply special. Like you are glowing in the midst of darkness kind of thing. Or maybe, it's just an instagram filter.

A note on instagraming or facebooking or twitting someone else's picture (i.e. someone who happens to be in same frame as yours) - maybe ask them if it's okay before you actually upload the pic? It's only polite that way. I will not dream of writing Social Media 101 ever, but it bugs me when someone deliberately posts an unflattering photo of anyone. Like seriously? If you are ever in doubt, just be kind as often as you possibly kind (read: don't be a moron).

my friend baked yest and took the cake to the office today.
i know i shouldn't, but i took a bite and i now want to eat the whole thing.

My friend baked one of the most delicious chocolate cakes that I've ever tasted my whole life. I am not a big fan of cakes, just that I've been exposed to a lot of cakes in the recent years. Her cake was so moist and tasty that I had a bite and it was nicely summarised by the above picture.

It dawned on me that growing up, the reason why I never liked cakes was because they were mostly terrible to eat. I mean, seriously, they were bland for the most part. It is very possible that the baker were trying to skimp on sugar, but I would rather attribute this to a lack of skill. Then again, I didn't have a high expectation of cakes back then, so I took it as all cakes tasted horrible. It pained me that I had to eat them because I felt somewhat obligated to like them - because they were like, errr, expensive. I can think of a few other 'delicacies' that I never quite liked growing up, but felt obligated to consume and enjoy just because they were expensive. Abalone, for an instance, is severely overrated in our household. And so is lobster, in my opinion; and any other exotic seafood, all of which used to give me the worst allergic reaction ever (some still do). These last few sentences do make me sound like a spoilt, ungrateful little brat, and in all likelihood, I probably was (and still am). I am today thankful that I don't find these things appetising as I have found the true love of my life that is fried chicken, which unfortunately, is a pretty bad thing to consume on a regular basis. It does, however, make one bad-ass birthday wish.

birthday wishes done right (minus the grammatical error)
And after all these feasting, I feel like I am fat. Like really, really fat. 

Have a great long weekend guys! 

Friday, 23 January 2015

acquisition analysis: vintage coach court bag

I purchased my very first vintage bag: the Coach Court bag in burgundy.

this is the image of the bag that was posted in the ebay listing - pretty good for a vintage bag circa 1980s, yes?

Initial thoughts (why vintage)

I was never into vintage other than the things that my mom passed down to me. I mean, old things generally do not appeal to my younger self, who was more into contemporary designs. And then, I got older and started appreciating timeless designs and this was when vintage bags begin to appear more attractive.

I think this is a good entry point for a vintage virgin. The bag was made circa 1980s, the era that I was born, so it was fitting that it is the first in my collection. I have been sticking to more classic bags lately because I’d like it to withstand the test of time. This bag has withstood the test of time for about 20-25 years and counting, and I am excited to carry it for the next 20-30 years or so.

Why this bag

I first saw this bag on approximately a couple of years ago. I toyed between the Court and the Willis (and for a brief period of time, the Station) before finally choosing the Court for its design. When comparing bags from the same design house, with similar designs like these, I go for the one that I love at first sight, which was the Court. The Willis has been alluring, and is still alluring so if and when I see the Willis in the colour that I want (navy), then I will definitely jump at the opportunity.

I wanted the Court in black, but got the one in burgundy. I like a burgundy-coloured bag because it is my one of my classic colours. When a bag is available for sale in the style that I want, in the colour that I want, within the price range I am willing to pay for its quality, the rest, as they say, is history. So colour, I suppose, is the one element that is flexible for me. If the style is right and the colour is 'one of my colours', then it's a good candidate for purchase.

The purchase

I saw this bag on within its first few hours of listing. I did not have an alert set up for this bag because there were just too many listings available on ebay, but the condition of these bags are generally appalling (but they are cheap, so really, can’t complain). So, I resigned to fate: if it’s a meant to be, it’s a meant to be. Meanwhile, I happily leave this bag on my lust list. I am a lot more relaxed with my lust list these days, a lot of items came off this list within a few months, so I try not to purchase unless the item has been there for at least 3 months. This is some serious waiting, and I find that I make more successful purchases this way. This bag in particular has been on the lust list for nearly 2 years.

Upon seeing the bag, I added it to my watch list and then continued browsing other things. The great thing about this time of the year is that I have plenty of time to browse and evaluate my watch list. I add things and subtract things from it on a very regular basis. This bag survived a few rounds of editing, which made it a serious contender for purchase.

As is the case with buying on eBay, you can never be certain of its authenticity, so you have no choice but to be really good at educating yourself on this. It is not rocket science these days, thanks to the number of people who write articles on how to authenticate anything (plus a Google search). And as a non-negotiable rule on buying anything on eBay: if the photos are not up to scratch, chance is that the seller is not up to scratch. Stay away from people who put a half-assed attempt of selling things on eBay store. These people give me the impression that their goods are not well maintained, because they are seemingly lazy in general. I don’t wish to encourage this sloppy behavior, so I just don’t purchase anything from them.

I took my cue from extrapetite's experience on buying a Coach Court bag. My bag is a good decade older than hers, but there are parallels to our experience. I won’t repeat the steps here, and instead encourage you to read extrapetite’s posting on how to buy a Coach bag.

Despite being a fraction of the price of my black bag, the usual acquisition criteria applied for this bag: good material and construction: leather, durable and affordable for its quality. I want this bag to be reliable and dependable as a polishing touch to my outfits, and again, to be something that I take care and maintained, not babied.

On the brand

Coach has been around for a very long time – for as long as I can remember. I used to have this infatuation with Coach products, which materialized itself in 2008 during my brief stint in the US of A. My taste has changed significantly since then, and I have since sold and/or gifted whatever I bought back then. Coach re-released their classic collection a couple of years ago, which was when I developed this fondness for the brand, and of course, the post from extrapetite on vintage Coach bags.

Other random observations

We walked into Coach at the QVB building the day before Christmas. One of my oldest friends (we had the privilege of growing up together) bought me a purse – he said, I wanted to get you something, and it was on sale. He was open to the idea of me exchanging it for something I wanted if I didn’t like it. I liked his choice because well, he picked it. But we were in front of Coach and it wasn’t too crazy and there was this bag I liked (which was bought my someone else – ugh), so there we were. I entertained myself with the new collection (wasn’t on sale), which I happened to like a lot, and would have bought had it not for the fact that I already have a similar styled bag. When we finally made it to the sale section, I found the zip top clutch that I have been wanting for a year now, in a different color, but I’ve been wanting an orange bag as of late, so… we exchanged the clutch he picked for the orange one, and picked the same styled clutch in pink for his sister.

This means two Coach bags within a week. Santa has been very kind this year.

acquisition analysis is a series of entries that centres on the practical side of how to maximise your marginal utility when spending your money. it is not primarily directed at the financial side of things, rather, on refining my buying skills, specifically on how an item would fit into my life. after all, if it is true that i get to design my life, then it follows that i need to be more critical in both adding and subtracting what's in it. furthermore, i personally believe that in order to maximise one's resources, acquisitions (or purchases) have to be of a strategic nature, instead of a mere time-filler. i admit that at this stage, i am yet to formalise an acquisition process, so one of the goals would be to come up with my acquisition process after i analyse a few of my past purchases. this should make for an interesting exercise because i note that some of my acquisitions do not necessarily stand the test of time. some items that i purchased turn out to be of a terrible quality, despite meticulously taking care of them. lots of lessons to be had!

Friday, 16 January 2015

acquisition analysis: yellow coat (JCrew Lady Day in Golden Sun)

I must have been in another planet when I ordered this coat, right smack in the middle of summer, when the night was hot, and I was literally sweating. Then again, it might as well have been the limited free shipping offer that J Crew had that was clouding my judgment.

This is the Lady Day coat that is hailed as the classic, most feminine-shaped coat from the J Crew line. It beats all the rest of the other coats: Stadium, Metro, etc - at least in my books. Full disclosure: this is a brand that I got familiar with by following a few bloggers, one of which is Jean from, who has been teaching me (from afar) how to build a cohesive wardrobe collection.

Outerwear, be it a coat like this, or a jacket, or a trench, is very, very important. I have been lucky to be able to build a collection that has been inspiring for me so far, which is probably why I find it easier to dress in the colder weather (despite not liking the temperature).

Colour: It is impossible not to notice the colour: bright yellow aka golden sun is not as bright in real life as it is in the pictures. I think a bright coloured coat literally brightens up a winter's day, and also has the added benefit of elevating your mood (winter's blues no more!). Note that this colour is not the warm chartreuse that's currently still retailing at full price at JCrew (at the time of writing). The warm chartreuse is, as the name indicates, more of a warm tone than the bright yellow (which errs on the cooler side of yellow). With the exception of my orange dress, I tend to stick to the cooler version of colours. This is a personal preference. I am a neutral, so I can wear either warm or cool colours, but personally prefer the cooler tones.

Fit/shape/style/comfort/quality/etc: This coat is made of 'double-cloth wool, which takes colour beautifully and is made exclusively for [JCrew] by Italy's Manifattura di Carmignano mill (known the world over for its exceptional woolen fabrics.' It is a single breasted, feminine, tailored fit, with length that falls around my knees (which is okay for me, but is designed to fall around mid-thigh, a sign that I probably should've ventured off to the petite collection). I wear a regular size 2 and it fits me well in the shoulder, with a suitable sleeve length (erring on the long side, which is how I like my coats). JCrew has a comprehensive review section whereby the purchasers of this coat give their feedback on the coat, including how it fits them. In fact, it is the feedback of one reviewer that sealed the deal for me:

"The tailoring gives you a really streamlined look, perfect for professional, formal, and casual occasions. The Thinsulate does the trick during the cold New England winters! This coat also wears really well, it doesn't really wrinkle with wear. I really like the fabric used for this coat as well. My cheaper coats pilled, collected lint, and look dingy after one season, but my Lady Day Coat always looks pristine! This coat is worth the investment!"

A lot of the reviewers mention that this coat run small, and I don't find it true based on my experience. They also mention that the sleeves run small, and this, I find to be true, although admittedly, they actually fit me well. I know I sound rather contradictory, and this is because most of my jackets/coats currently have sleeves that are too big, which I'd like to alter, but don't really want to fork out $50++ for each jacket for alterations (another contradiction). So, we'll see how this coat works out for me.  I am yet to wear this coat on a full day, so I can't quite speak for the comfort, particularly on the sleeves.

Price: this retails at approx AUD610 (at the time of writing) but I purchased this for less than that, thanks to the promotion that J Crew had at the time of purchase. JCrew has a different set of pricing for their Australian customers that is higher than their US customers (even after exchange rate conversions), and why this is the case is absolutely beyond me. I have bought a few things from JCrew at the end of last year because I have been intrigued for so long and I must say they did not disappoint. The different pricing does bug me, so I am going to lay off buying from JCrew for a while. I get that this different pricing schemes also exist for other retailers, including, so really, following my logic, I should just not engage in online shopping at all.

Concerns: I do admit to one concern and that is the lightness of the colour, which translates to how easily visible dirt would be on this coat. Granted that a dark coloured coat can be dirty without showing any signs of dirt, so this isn't about not washing them, but more about the light-coloured coats being more high maintenance.

Personal feelings: (need to find a better label for this) I have been eyeing this style of coat for the longest time. I wanted (actually, still want) a replacement red coat for the one that I donated at the end of last winter, and I stumbled upon this colour, fell in love and hit purchase. I have said previously that I wanted my purchases to inspire me, and this coat does because I could think up a dozen different ways to wear it even before I actually wear it (it's not winter yet).

So, in a way, this coat is a quasi mindful/impulsive purchase, enabled by a sale sign and free shipping offer. Jean from maintains a curated, well-edited coat collection, so I trust her judgment on this coat (from memory, she entertained buying a third colour but decided not to because it was, in her words, 'overkill').

Side note: while we are on the subject of coats, I entertained the idea of owning a peacoat by JCrew, in the same colour (golden sun) when it went on a deep discount (AUD178, from AUD420 - about 60% off - woot!). I almost purchased this because recently a blogger (forgot who, sorry, but it was not one of the blogs that I frequent regularly) wrote about it and said it was a staple, and I was sufficiently intrigued. This is a really good price, in a possibly versatile style, which I ended up not buying because ... I haven't thought much about it. I am glad I didn't purchase this because a week later I got the lady day in the same colour. Patience, guys, patience.

acquisition analysis is a series of entries that centres on the practical side of how to maximise your marginal utility when spending your money. it is not primarily directed at the financial side of things, rather, on refining my buying skills, specifically on how an item would fit into my life. after all, if it is true that i get to design my life, then it follows that i need to be more critical in both adding and subtracting what's in it. furthermore, i personally believe that in order to maximise one's resources, acquisitions (or purchases) have to be of a strategic nature, instead of a mere time-filler. i admit that at this stage, i am yet to formalise an acquisition process, so one of the goals would be to come up with my acquisition process after i analyse a few of my past purchases. this should make for an interesting exercise because i note that some of my acquisitions do not necessarily stand the test of time. some items that i purchased turn out to be of a terrible quality, despite meticulously taking care of them. lots of lessons to be had!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Life through instagram

There are a lot of stories behind my instagram photos, and I don't always get to tell them in the short captions accompanying the posts. These are some of those stories. 

On flowers

I am not normally into flowers, like ever. And yes, you read it right, I am not into flowers. Yes they are beautiful, yes they bring smiles to people's faces and all that jazz. I just don't like them. Le husb knows this very early on, and he bought me flowers once, and let's just say that he wasn't expecting my reaction. In retrospect, I must have appeared ungrateful, but it saved me from a lifetime of 'torture'. These days, I receive flowers randomly from various people I met. I am thankful for this token of gratitude (and there is this little voice inside that wishes for shoes instead).

For my last birthday, I was the delighted recipient of two identical bunches of flowers from the Little Flowers Company. A happy coincidence like this always makes me laugh, I mean, what were the odds of receiving the same bunch of flowers delivered at the same time? They were from three different people, one of whom had the most gorgeous manicure as pictured above.

On food preparation aka cooking

There are some people in this planet who plan their meals, and then cook them from scratch, and they seemingly effortlessly manage to do this on a regular basis as if it is just another part of living - and it actually is. I am trying to be one of those people. I have successfully incorporated some form of exercise routine over the past couple of years out of my desire to actually be healthier, and I do need to eat on a regular basis for the rest of my life, so it is probably a good idea to get into this whole cooking and preparing my food thing sorted out soon.

I don't believe that I have an aversion to cooking per se, but I do have an aversion to cutting things - fruits, vegetables, meat - anything. I have non-existent knife skills. If I can get away with cooking without doing much chopping, slicing and the like, I think it would be a lot easier to get a handle on. In fact, the cooking portion of the whole food prep thing is actually the easier bit - and also fun, because hey, I get to experiment! Needless to say, I tend to modify recipes - mostly out of necessity because I am (1) allergic to coconut and (2) gluten-intolerant.

The making of banana pancakes

successful kitchen experiment: banana pancakes with caramelised banana. doesnt look good, but le boyf likes! #banana #pancakes #bananapancakes #icooked

My friend gave me the recipe for Yotam's sweet potato cakes (here), which I tried to make a couple of times with varying degrees of success (the first was a disaster). I didn't actually modify that recipe per se, but I wasn't following it to the t, which was probably the root of the issue (and the subsequent sub-par result). I was talking to my friend's girlfriend about this, which led us to discussing what other forms of 'cakes' could we make - the most obvious being (white) potato cakes (duh), followed by the next candidate: bananas.

Fast forward to a few experiments later - there we have it. Scrumptious banana pancakes, devoured with varying degrees of eagerness, presumably because past the second experiment, we were pretty much banana-ed out. Despite frequent experimenting, I am afraid I still haven't gotten this thing figured out, thus the discrepancies in the quality of output. For those who are wondering, this is what I basically do:

  • Mash some super ripe bananas in a bowl. These bananas are the ones covered with brown spots, you know, the ones that you are tempted to throw away because they look so ... ugly. But they are perfect for this dish! 
  • Mix with a beaten egg and some flour (use gluten free flour if you are gluten intolerant, otherwise use the normal version). The aim is to get a semi thick consistency batter, so use your own judgment. I use one egg to two bananas to a handful of flour. 
  • Add your favourite 'topping' into the batter, the clear favourite so far being sultanas, but you can add any dried fruits you want (just chop them up first if they are chunky). I also add cinnamon powder for some fragrance, but you can skip this if you don't feel like it. 
  • Melt some butter and fry the banana batter. 
  • OPTIONAL: I chop up some bananas and cook them with some butter on the same pan (don't wash it first). This simple process caramelises the banana pieces beautifully. You can add sugar if you want, but I skipped it because I think there's enough (natural) sugar in the bananas. 

The making of chicken peri coke

I am not really sure on how this happened but I found a bottle of coke in the fridge that was fast losing its fritz. I intended to cook chicken that evening (due to some intense protein cravings) marinated with peri peri sauce, and thought to myself that adding coke into the mix might just be the thing that could get my creative juices flowing. I tried previously to cook garlic chicken lemonade, which was surprisingly nice, and I figured applying similar principles would work here.

(another) successful kitchen experiment: chicken-peri-coke doesn't look too enticing but le boyf likes! served with caramelised onion chilly sauce on the side. i obviously have been watching one too many cooking shows!#icooked #chicken

This one is actually so simple that it is rather embarrassing to disclose the details. Grab some chicken, pour some peri-peri sauce and coke and tomato sauce, with some garlic and onion. At this point, you have two options. First, you can let the chicken marinate for an hour or so, and then cook it however you want to (fry, grill, etc). Second (and this is what I did), quickly poach the chicken in the coke mixture, followed by a roast in the oven until the chicken is cooked. Add whatever vegetables you want - obviously, the root vegetables you have to cook with the chicken, and for other vegetables, like the capsicums above, you put in the tray about five minutes before the chicken is ready. Oh, remember to baste the chicken so that it remains moist, with the most enhanced flavour.

And to appear sophisticated, make a sauce to drizzle over the chicken from the left over poaching liquid (or marinate, depending on which option you used). If you have a lot of liquid, all you need to do is to thicken it - use diluted corn flour or butter and flour mix or whatever preferred thickening method you have up your sleeve.

And then, serve with rice, or bread, or whatever you want. We ate this chicken with salad and rice. One more thing, you gotta add salt and pepper to your liking. It really is doesn't matter when you add these, just make sure that you do. I successfully forgotten to add these during the cooking process, so I added them at the very end, no biggie.

On chocolate barring

I asked a friend to come over my place because (1) I missed her and (2) I wanted a taster to my kitchen experiments. Le husb is the designated taster in the house, and I think he has a tendency to be biased, you know, the whole when your wife cooks for you, you gotta be supportive by telling her that everything's nice kind of thing (happy wife = happy life). In order to entice her to come over, I asked her if there's any particular recipe that she wanted to try. She sent over 3 or 4 recipes (with pictures to boot!) and I picked the easiest one available because ... laziness.

#repost @angel_xin.yi with @repostapp --- Treats! Made from scratch with love by @drbelleb

The recipe provided I had to modify out of necessity. First, I took out all the coconut components (coconut oil and shredded coconuts). Second, I took out all the sugar components. I tried to make it gluten free, but didn't end up executing it as such, which really means, I can't eat much of these babies (without suffering in pain) which is okay because I don't have a sweet tooth.

This is also embarrassingly simple. Melt some chocolate of choice (white, milk or dark), mix with peanut butter and butter, then add in some nuts of choice, oats (the non-gluten free component here) and dried fruits of choice. Spread the mix in a tray and put in the fridge to solidify (takes about 30 mins or so). Then cut up into slices or pieces, then eat. Serve with tea or coffee, or milk!

Needless to say, this was a crowd popular, the 'crowd' being my dear friend, le husb and le husb's friend. I unfortunately forgot to ask my friend to bring these home for her boyf (who is my good friend), whom I'm pretty sure, out of jealousy, remarked that it was impossible for me to make low sugar chocolate bars. Oh well. His sentiment would have been accurate until these happened.

On Boo's birthday

Every household, I think, has a designated cook, just like every household has a designated CFO, or even CEO. I am obviously not the designated cook of this household because I am still figuring out this whole cooking thing. It was le husb's birthday and for some weird reason, I decided to cook everything from scratch. I made another batch of chocolate bars - slightly different because I added coffee into the mix to make the bars taste bitter. If I were to do this again, I would do it with a better quality cooking chocolate, like one with a lower sugar content, although I am not sure how this would affect the flavour/taste of all the additional material. The one combination I just thought about is one with orange zest and a dash of orange juice!

boo's birthday dinner cooked by me! turns out i can totally do this! #icooked
The rest was not so easy, probably because there were a few things to cook to make this meal. The couscous was cooked with chicken stock and dressed with olive oil and sultanas. The sultanas are optional, but cooking the couscous with chicken stock means it is erring on the salty side (hold off on the salt), so the sultanas add bursts of sweet surprises on the palette. The chickpeas were combined with sweet paprika and chillies, red capsicum, carrot and tomatoes to make this monochromatic dish. You can't really see it from the above picture, but I added chorizos into this mix (chop them first). If you want to make this vegetarian, just skip this. I honestly don't think the chorizos will make a difference to the flavour of the dish. To the left is beef stroganoff topped with spring onions. This is easier than I thought - onions, garlic, beef, mushroom cooked with butter and thick cream with some worcestershire sauce. The resultant output is a low sugar (could probably do without the sultanas) and gluten free meal!

If these were an indication of how we are going to eat our way through 2015, then I say that we are going to be extremely well fed!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Shopping guidelines for 2015

image from here

Happy new year! Wishing everyone the best for this year!

In an ideal world, this is what I am going to do this year. 

I am starting this year with a shopping fast.

I know I must sound like a crazy person given my experience with the fast in the past year. I admit that there is something intriguing about a shopping fast, which is why I keep coming back to it. I won’t recount the details of my shopping fast history here (you can look at the year in review, which gives you an idea of what happened last year); but will say the following:

  • I had done a fast for a month (twice: once in 2013 and the other in 2014) and found the aftermath to be uncontrollable shopping urges. I wonder if this is because the habit of not shopping has not yet been ingrained. 
  • I had done a variation of a shopping fast by getting rid of a number of items instead of a period of time. The result of this is a mixture of success and failure all at once. Success because I did reach the item number (I got ruthless), failure because it happened within a short span amount of time (like a few days), while I envisioned it to last a few months. 

This time, I want the shopping fast to be for a period of 6 months. That’s half a year. This is going to be interesting because I have never done a fast for this long, and is really a test of the first point of observation: will the habit of not shopping be ingrained after more than one month of abstinence. And secondly, will a prolonged period of abstinence result in a better, more streamlined wardrobe.

The only caveat I have at this stage is that the ban would be temporarily lifted if I were to travel. I promise that I will stick to the good quality stuff that has been occupying my lust list for some time. I don’t have any travel plans in the near future, so this should be interesting.


Upon reflection, however, the above is (unfortunately) unrealistic for me.

What's more realistic is some form of a shopping guideline, like this:

(1) Thoughtful acquisitions - no impulse shopping, everything must be researched and considered for at least 1 day. This habit is something that I've found to be personally useful when shopping, and tend to minimise acquisition errors. A more deliberate approach to shopping is something that I would like to continue to advocate for this year.

(2) Quality first - leather bags and shoes only, with the exception of sneakers and running shoes. Leather goods are the ones that age well and subsequently, in my books, are the ones that stand the test of time. For jewellery, minimise costume jewellery. This is rather annoying because I enjoy my fair share of costume jewellery, but they are often seasonal and of questionable quality, and therefore do not exactly fit into this criteria of quality first (ugh).

Disclosure: this post is inspired by the following shopping guidelines: