Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lin Dai - Chinese legendary screen goddess

An exhibition of Lin Dai's clothes which included elegant qi bao pieces including this lacy, dark green number.

Lin Dai was the legendary movie queen of Hong Kong in the 50's and 60's. She made many movies under Hong Kong's Shaw studios and won numerous awards and accolades at the Asian Film Festival. My mum was a great fan of hers and told me that it was most tragic that she committed suicide in 1964 at the peak of her career. She was one of the most elegant actresses of her time and till this day, Hong Kong cinema still pay her tribute by organising festivals of her movies and exhibitions of her dresses which included a beautiful selection of qi paos.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Old Luggage

Picture via Sex and the City 2 coffee table book

Picture via Snail and the Cyclops blog

Old luggage evoke a time of elegant travel, a time where there wasn't a need to rush. Monograms were also commonly etched on these bags make them more personal and stylish.
Even though they have now been replaced by luggage of lightweight material with wheels which make them convenient to bring around, these old luggage have taken a new lease of life in homes today. Big and roomy, they provide excellent storage and organizing possibilities, adding a shabby chic look to the decor of a home. What's more, the interior of an old luggage bag can be completely refurbished, with beautiful fabric replacing tattered lining.

One decorating tip is to pile them one on top of each other to make a table, either as a simple one in the living room or a night stand beside a bed. I 've also seen some interesting uses on the web such a bed for a pet or a cabinet for toiletries when it is hung on the wall.
Luggage in an an array of shapes makes a nice picture, from the more common rectangular ones to the cylindrical ones meant mostly for hats.

Qi Paos

I love wearing dresses but I haven't got much patience to look for the right design and size. I have also never tried ordering a dress online as I am quite particular about the texture of the material. Natural fibres such as cotton and linen are my favourites and I need to feel it to get the assurance.

A dressmaker is the other alternative but they are not easy to come by these days as the trade is no longer as thriving as it used to be, especially in this day and age of ready made clothes. But I am lucky to have found one quite near my place who charges me quite a reasonable price. She specialises in making qi baos (think of Maggie Cheung in the Mood for Love) which are extremely elegant and beautiful but unfortunately, I do not have the figure for that and I can only admire the ones in her shop. She does however make other kinds of dresses for me and I am now quite thrilled to spent a weekend afternoon looking for the right textiles.
If only I could slim down sufficiently to wear a qi pao. Nah ! I love food too much to do that and will just content to whip up the DVD In the Mood for Love and dream :)

Vintage horses

Rocking horses have always been a wonderful part of childhood. The wooden ones in particular have the most lovely vintage feel and costs more as they mainly European in origin while most of the ones available today are made of plastic. While I was growing up, I remember having cane rocking horse that was made in China. It had a very kitsch Chinese country feel to it. And only recently, I fell for a wooden vintage pony painted with lovely yellow flowers. Though it wasn't a rocking horse, it was quaint and eclectic. I almost didn't see it amidst a pile of flea market clutter but I am glad I did just as I was about to leave.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Durian season

Saw lovely fushia baskets of durians being transported to the local stalls in Geylang recently. Durian is the king of fruits in Singapore and Malaysia. You will never be able to find a fruit that is so loved and yet so abhored, a fruit that is so pungent yet fragrant. There is rarely anyone indifferent to it. Singaporeans are willing to pay that little extra just to get the best durians and most of the country's supply come from Malaysia.When the season begins, baskets of this thorny fruit are delivered daily by lorries from Malaysian states such as Pahang to Singapore. Some of our favourite types range from those with D-prefix (D4,D11,D15 and the highly prized D24) to the highly branded ones with exotic names such as Mao Shang Wang (Mountain Cat King) .

The latter is considered the creme de la creme of durian varieties with a firm flesh and a creamy taste.It tastes bitter at the beginning but eventually gives way to a sweet ending.
So well loved is this fruit that many desserts have been created from it. Durian strudels instead of the usual apple ones, durian puffs instead of cream puffs and even durian crepes. It's a thorny love affair with a strong, lingering aftertaste.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I simply love some children's books. Sometimes I do wish my kids were still 5 years old and I can still narrate such stories in my own little way. One of these is the series of books about Madeline, a French girl who lives in a boarding school run by Miss Clavel, a nun who tries her best to keep her out of trouble. Madeline is only 7 years old, a little redhead who is known for being the bravest and most outgoing of the girls. Other characters include Genevieve the dog, an extremely intelligent dog with skills such as juggling and arithmetic. She was a stray until she saved Madeline from drowning.

Despite its French setting and French characters, Madeline was actually written by Ludwig Bemelmans, an American author of Belgian, Austrian and German origins. His first book was published in 1939 and when it became a huge success, he continued with more stories into the 1940's and 50's. The series continues to this day, written by Bemelmans' grandson John Bemelmans-Marciano. The books all start with the line "In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines ...". The story is written entirely in rhyme which makes it beautiful to read. And it all ends with Madeline saying "That's all there is; there isn't any more." Though there have been movie adaptations of Madeline, I firmly believe that the books are still the best.

That's all there is; there isn't any more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

When nothing but chocolate will do

Haven't been blogging much as I haven't felt any inspiration lately and it didn't help when I was down with the flu bug. Just when I was recovering from my what I call bland taste buds, that's when I bit into a bit of heaven, chocolate heaven to be more precise. I had a taste of the most moist, luscious and delicious chocolate cake ever at a little cafe called Old School Delights at 215M Upper Thomson Road. This cafe is less than a month old with a sweet old nostalgic tuck shop theme and the sticky chocolate cake I had was homemade by the aunt of the cafe owner. In fact, it was the first day she launched this new cake and it perked me up considerably. I enjoyed it so much that I forgot my usual blogging habit of taking a picture.

Most commercial chocolate cakes I've tasted these days are just not right, with some just having too much chocolate cream or mousse. Two or three digs at it and you know you've had enough. The right chocolate cake has to be rich and light at the same time, a contradictory balance. A rich topping,though not too much of it while the cake itself has to have a rich chocolate taste and light texture.
When I was feeling better, I decided to try a hand at making a chocolate cake. Chose a receipe from one of my many cookery books and what's unusual about it is that it can be made in a food processor. One of the more unusual ingredient used was sour cream which counterbalances the sweetness of the cake. The end result was a rich, immensely chocolatey cake which my husband and kids loved. It was different from the sticky chocolate cake in terms of the frosting but the cake taste and texture was quite similar. If anyone is feeling down or in the process of recovering from a bad bout of flu, a chocolate cake might do the trick. It did for me but then again, sweet delectables always cheer me up and I love chocolate :)

Chocolatey Chocolate Cake
For the cake
200g plain flour
175g soft unsalted butter
170g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150ml sour cream
40g best-quality cocoa

Put everything above into a food processor and process till you get a smooth thick batter.
Bake in an oven (180 degree C for around half an hour )

For the icing

75g unsalted butter
175g best quality dark chocolate broken into small pieces
240g icing sugar
2 tablespoon golden syrup
125ml of sour cream
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Remove the lumps in the icing sugar through sieving or blitzing in a food processor.
Add this and the other ingredients into the melted butter and chocolate and whisk.
Spread the icing over the cake using a knife or spatula.