Back from Japan Vacation

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It's been almost a week since we returned from our 11D10N vacation from Kansai, Japan. We didn't tour the most of Kansai region, just Osaka, Kobe (Hyogo) and Kyoto. In fact my main aim was to bring hubby to the Kobe Luminarie (had been to the Luminarie back in 2003 during a homestay programme and was mesmerized by the atmosphere then). Apart from the Luminarie, there's of course the shopping, dining and onsen experience - reasons why I love Japan!
During the 11 days, weather was a cool 10 to 15 degree celsius most of the time, didn't experience snow unlike our vacation last Dec :( I remembered there was snow when I was in Kyoto during the same period in 2003. 残念! When we touched down at Changi Airport on Christmas eve, the first thing that hitted us was the hot and humid weather, we were literally sweating the moment we stepped out of the airport. The cool and dry weather was something we definitely missed.
This vacation was generally more laid back, didn't do as much planning as I did for previous trips where I would meticulously planned an itinerary, mapped places to go and all. Armed with my ever trusty Mook Kansai Travel Guide, we planned our travelling on a day-to-day basis; woke up as late as we wanted, ate as and when we felt like it, shopped as much as our hands and luggage could carry, played as much UFO catcher as we could... a journey without extensive planning was challenging, fun and relaxing. I guess just what we needed.
The great thing about holidaying during winter was the dry and cool weather, we walked really a lot but didn't feel least bit tired. Daylight was really short though, sun began setting at 4.30pm. Downside in Japan, most shops don't open till 11am and close at 8.30pm or 9pm other than eateries; which means my shopping time was limited :p
Kansai, Japan 14 - 24 Dec 07 Itinerary
Will blog about the highlights of each day of my journey... could take some time though. Coz I'll be going off for a dive trip in a few days' time :p Yes I seem to holiday a lot but when opportunities come knocking, I must grab them while I can, shouldn't I?

Early Christmas Bakes: Lemon & Gingerbread Cookies, Spice Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I have been baking fervently from last Wednesday to Saturday, despite a rather hectic work schedule. My close friends and I are celebrating an early Christmas this year as many of us have other commitments during the Christmas period.
My contribution would naturally be Christmas cookies and cupcakes :) It has been intense but I can only blame myself for being overly "ambitious", wanting to bake cookies, cupcakes and cream puffs in just 3 nights and 1 day. In the end I managed to pull it off with rather satisfactory results considering it was a first time effort.

Presenting my luscious Lemon Cookies and Classic Gingerbread Cookies and Spiced Chocolate and Sour Cream Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, learnt at Joycelyn's Christmas Decorated Cookies Class and Christmas Cupcakes Class.
Didn't have much time to decorate the cookies which require intensive meticulous "worksmanship". Some simple icing outlining did the trick equally nice.
Had wanted to make the cute fondant snowman and penguin. But the fondant was a nightmare to handle. After a while, it became sticky and I couldn't shape it at all! Could be due to the hot and humid kitchen so shifted to an air-con room but failed too. In the end, I just made do with dusting of chocolate powder in the shape of a snowflake.
My 4-tier Christmas goodies - cupcakes, custard cream puff and rolled cookies.

Realised I still left a lot of cream cheese frosting after the party. Not wanting to waste, so back to more baking. This time round, mini Spiced Chocolate cupcakes.
I think I have enough of baking for now... looking forward to my vacation in Kansai soon!

Easy Comfort Desserts by Shermay

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Despite my busy work schedule, I specially took a half day on Friday to attend the Easy Comfort Desserts 2 taught by Chef-Owner Shermay herself.
Actually I'm not so much into the chocolate desserts, I'm in solely for the Self-Saucing Sticky Date Toffee Pudding and okay, maybe Egg Nog. Ever since I tried the Sticky Date Toffee Pudding at Marmalade Pantry, I couldn't forget the orgasmic taste. Opps, I think I'm a little too exaggerated here? But that was the first time I enjoyed a dessert so much.
Although the presentation looks pretty humble and is different from what I tried at Marmalade Pantry, it tasted rich with a moist texture. And is really easy to make. I love it!
Dense dark bittersweet Valrhona Chocolate with Grand Marnier. There are many ways of presenting dessert as demonstrated - in a large bowl, garnished with chocolate shavings and raspberries.
Or in chic looking expresso cups or mini glass (candle holder in fact).
Variation from the chocolate pots - a light & rich chocolate mousse which can be piped into store-bought tart cases lined with dark chocolate and topped with rasberry and icing sugar.
With gold leaves and gold dust - definitely impressive enough to create an impression if you are serving this to guests.
Or better still, serve the mousse in a martini glass. Anything served in a martini glass creates a wow factor it seems.
Cream Brulee which is essentially vanilla-infused egg custard with a crispy caramel crust baked in a ramekin and is always an all-time favourite of dessert lovers. It's really easy to make as well :D

And of course, the cooked version egg nog, supposedly a rich creamy Christmas drink garnished with cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. I love the creamy richness of the milk, cream and egg. The rum and spices add depth to the drink and I confess I'm quite hooked.

Do we drink this only during Christmas? I guess because it goes really well with the Christmas Stollens and Puddings. Yummy... must drink as much as I can this Christmas.

期待离开这里,体验不一样的人和事

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还以为十一月会是轻松的一个月,工作上较为松懈,我可有多余的时间整理那多得数不清的数码照片,再追加落后的部落格。

没想到却病了。一向自认健康宝宝,该一、两年没病了吧,这一病却整整一个礼拜多。到现在似乎没完全康复。

所以呀,这几个星期对写部落格有些意态阑珊,对许多事务也感到精神颓靡, 欲振乏力。唯一能让我振奋的是打麻将,哈哈,真有点不好意思的说。不然大多时间都窝在土豆网和youtube看台湾偶像剧或综艺节目,有点没建设性。不过阿Q 一点,加强了退步的中文也不错啦。所以今天就用中文练习一下,真的好久没用中文写东西了。

接下来两个星期可有得我忙了。与好友的圣诞聚会, 需要烤些蛋糕,饼干和买礼物。后个礼拜放自己一个大假,前往日本的大阪京都,需要计划行程和收拾行李。超期待的“關西趴趴走”,但因为一去就十天,最好是把手头上的工作交待处理好,这样才能玩得尽兴

期待离开这里,体验不一样的人和事。回来后,希望能收拾心情,重新出发。