O’s 3rd Birthday Celebrations

Last week was O’s birthday week. My little baby has just turned three. I can’t believe how fast time has gone since I brought her into this world. It’s been amazing seeing her grown and become her own person. More often she is coming out with funny and interesting thoughts and questions and I am realising that she is becoming who she is separate from myself. In some ways dealing with a 3-year-old is easier, but it also has its own set of challenges that means having more patience than ever.

O was extremely excited for her birthday for a while before it came. She had many, many toys on her birthday list and a recently new obsession with ginger cats. Cats are seriously all we talk about at the moment. She has acquired a clowder of toy cats, but we don’t have plans of buying a real one at this stage. Something else she really wanted was a bike and a Frozen birthday party. Since her birthday is during the week I took her out to brunch on the day, had a little family party and other big Frozen themed party over the weekend.

 

For the small family party, I made afternoon tea. Since Octavia had pancakes for breakfast I thought I better serve something savoury as well. She prefers snack plates, so  she eat different things and keep going back for more. This worked perfectly and I was surprised how much she ate from this platter. I did keep replenishing the platter since there was about 10 of us. I made homemade sausage rolls with organic pork sausages, homemade ham and pecorino cheese pastry rolls, sushi with leftover homemade organic crumbed chicken and avocado, baked pecorino and added ajvar, spelt crisp bread, oranges, vegan cheddar and nitrate-free free-range leg ham.

The cupcakes I made were from my trusty Chloe’s Kitchen’s recipe book. Whenever I have to make desserts, I usually consult my Chloe Coscarelli collection of recipe books. These are Banana Cupcakes with Lemon Icing (see recipe). They are extremely quick and easy recipe to make when you have leftover bananas. They are spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves and are topped with icing made with lemon juice and zest. They were a big hit and left everyone wanting more, but I made sure there was only one per person to make sure the kids and the prediabetic seniors didn’t get a sugar high.

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Pasta with Lemon Cashew Cream Sauce, Mushroom and Zucchini

This recipe was not meant to be the star of lunch today. It was just meant to accompany the Roasted Carrot Hummus from my new amazing cookbook, Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy, Vegan, however, it was just so delicious I had to share it.

 

 

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Book Review: Sèrene

Today I bring you another book review from one of my favourite colouring books of all time. This is Sèrene by Indonesian artist, Nicholas F. Chandrawienata. I first saw completed coloured pictures from this book a little while back on Instagram and I was intrigued by the uniqueness and intricately of the artwork. Unfortunately by the time I seriously looked into buying this book it was completely sold out. However, the artist did do a reprint not long ago, which is how I got my beloved copy of Sèrene.

Nicholas F. Chandrawienata is a freelanced illustrator, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. His artwork is so intense, yet delicate and mostly based on figures with intricate clothing or backgrounds. The majority of his work is black and white, with plenty of detailed shading and cross-hatching, which is a dream for any colourist.  You can see his amazing artwork on his Instagram account.

So far, Nicholas has released three colouring books. I am not sure what came first since there are been a few reprints. These include Sèrene, Fantasia (US and Chinese editions) and Eirene. Although they are all very much true to Nicholas’s style, they are quite different.

Sèrene is quite a large book in comparison to others, measuring 34 x 24 centimetres. It has a soft cover, featuring one of the illustrations found in the book. It is bound at the top of the book, which allows the book to lay down flat. There are 32 black and white illustrations which mostly landscape, but there are a few in portrait. The paper is just fantastic. It is thick, white, single sided, so you can really use any medium you like. Most of the pictures are of a single woman, but there are a couple with two or three women. Each woman has a unique face, expression, clothing, jewellery and embellishments. There is also a variety of close-ups, busts, half body and full bodies images. Each picture is also named and this is printed on the back of each image.

I have made a video flip through of this book which includes all of the pictures I have coloured. Below you can see all these completed pictures and find out how I coloured them. I  am very proud of what I have coloured so far. I really think this book has brought out the best in me and I look forward to colouring more from it. Any more completed pictures from this book will be added to my Serene Gallery.

 

 

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Bugis: a shopper haven

Last time I wrote about my Singapore trip we were visiting the amazing Muslim quarter, Kampong Glam.  I also mentioned in that post that the same day we the Bugis area. It is only a short walk from Kampong Glam, so a great way to fit in two neighbourhoods in one day if you’re strapped for time on your trip. It’s also a great place to do some shopping, which why I was so excited to visit this part of the city.

Bugis has an interesting history before it’s redevelopment as a retail district. Prior to the arrival of the British, there was a large canal which ran through the area. Indonesian peoples known as Buginese would sail up and trade with Singaporean merchants. Later it also became home to many hundreds of Japanese Karayuki-san (prostitutes). During this time there were issues with overcrowding and terrible hygiene, leading to many cholera outbreaks. As a result, the slums were cleared and many buildings were demolished and rebuilt. After the Second World War, the area became known for the trans woman that would gather in the area in the evenings. This was a popular tourist stop for Westerns, who came to drink, eat out, night market shopping and gawker at the trans woman. It wasn’t until the 1980’s the area had a major makeover, which included modern shopping malls, restaurants and nightclubs.

 

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Easter Colouring in Romantic Country

Happy Easter all! This past week I wanted to do some colouring to get into the spirit of Easter. I went through my colouring book collection, looking for Easter pictures and I found a couple in my Romantic Country series by the Japanese illustrator, Eriy. I got these books for Christmas and hadn’t had a chance to colour in them yet. So this was a great opportunity to try them out. They are such beautiful books and I can’t wait to do a bit more in them.

I don’t want to do a review of these books but I will tell you impressions of these books. All three books in the series are part of the same adorable story, which is split up into chapters. The paper is great quality and the line art is just gorgeous. I believe it has all been hand-drawn using a toothpick. The print isn’t very dark but the lines vary in width.

The two pages I have coloured are from the first two books, Romantic Country: A Fantasy Coloring Book and Romantic Country: The Second Tale: A Fantasy Coloring Book. These were the only dedicated Easter pictures. There was nothing in the third tale related to Easter. While colouring these pages I did find the line art a little hard to cover, so I tried to use blend gel pens with a pencil. I am not sure I did the best job. I was a little rushed to finish them, so I’m not really happy with my results. I intend to do a couple of tutorials in these books to get the hang of being the best method to colour in them. Chris Cheng has some beautiful finished pictures that she filmed videos on, so I will probably do a couple in the near future.

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Good Friday for Pasta

I hope you’re having a great Easter weekend. We are spending the weekend at home, cleaning, toilet training and cooking. On Good Friday I decided to was a great opportunity to make fresh pasta, while I had a couple of grandparents home to watch my tot. I love making pasta, but its something I don’t do often. However,  recently I was catching up on Gastropod episodes (my favourite podcast channel) and I listened to Remembrance of Things Pasta: A Saucy Tale. This really got me yearning to make homemade pasta.

So I finally got out the handwritten Italian recipes that I learned while studying in Milan. As part of our Food and Culture course at the university, we had about five cooking lessons that taught us how to make regional dishes. We actually had to write the recipes in Italian, while we watched and help the chef making the dishes. So with a little help from my Italian dictionary, I refreshed my memory on some of those delicious and more unusual dishes we made.

One of the dishes I prepared was Culurgiones Campidanese. This regional Sardinia filled pasta, typically containing potatoes, pecorino cheese, casu ‘e fitta (Sardinian cheese), mint and pepper, but it varies from town to town. It is served with a tomato sauce or butter and sage and can also be grilled or fried. The town of Ulassai  (Ogliastra, Sardinia), until the 1960s, only prepared this filled pasta on the day of the dead (sa di e ir mortos). Other towns throughout Oglisstra and Barbagia regions also served this dish for special occasions, such as giving thanks at the end of a wheat harvest and to honour their ancestors. The culurgiones is a symbol of esteem, respect and friendship.

The recipe that we made at the university didn’t contain cheese, possibly because some of us were dairy free. Since I’m a big lover of Pecorino cheese (a hard sheep cheese), next time I would add it for a bit more flavour. The culurgiones were filled with potato, mint saffron and black pepper. So I have shared my translated and hopefully accurate account of this recipe for you today.

For the shape of this pasta, I consulted this Youtube video. I’m not sure I nailed the shape but I haven’t had as much practice as these ladies.

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Book review: Summer Nights (Sommarnatt)

Hi there, I have another colouring book review today from a gorgeous book, which I have been working in off and on for a while. I have also released my first Youtube video, which is a flip through of Summer Nights and includes all the completed pictures I have coloured so far. I intend making more videos in the future, for the rest of my colouring books. So stay tuned for more and bare with me as I am still learning how to make videos.

This book is by the Swedish colouring book illustrator and artist, Hanna Karlzon. This book is the English edition of Sommarnatt, which was her second colouring book. If you’re a long time colourist I’m sure you are very familiar with this book and Hanna’s others books, which are very much a favourite in the colouring community.

I have previously done a book review of her first colouring book Daydreams (Dagdrommar) so I will try not repeat myself too much. If you want to know a bit more about the artist, my impressions of that book and my completed coloured pictures, please check out it.

The format of this book is the same as the rest of her colouring books. It has a hardcover with gold foiling details. The paper inside is a high-quality off-white paper and has 96 double-sided pages, with 85 illustrations to colour. The art in this book was inspired by the summer Scandinavian evenings. It features starry night scenes, whimsical gardens, sea creatures, beautiful girls, bejewelled insects, ornate birds and more.

I really cherish this book, as I do all of my Hanna Karlzon books. It just has a great range of art in Hanna’s signature style, with plenty of variety so you don’t feel like your colouring the same kind of images. Since this is a summer themed book, it really inspired me to go bit crazy with brighter colours then I would normally choose. I took a few risks, trying different techniques and colours that I normally wouldn’t use and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Below is my video flip through and all my finished coloured pages in the order in which  I coloured them. I used a variety of mediums that I have detailed below. All of these coloured pictures, plus any extra I do in the future can also be seen in my Summer Nights Gallery. If you are interested in where to purchase this book, see the end of this post.

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Brief Gold Coast getaway

Last weekend we had a little getaway to the Gold Coast. It was only for one night, but it was nice to get away even for this short time. We booked it before we realised I had extra homework and an assignment to prepare for uni. So I had to bring some of my work with me to the beach and didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked. I thought I would still share some of the highlights from our little trip.

When Brisbanites want to go to the beach they usually head to the south to the Gold Coast or north to the Sunshine Coast. The Gold Coast is only about an hour from the centre of Brisbane, so it’s a popular choice. There are quite a few neighbourhoods in the Gold Coast region, so you can always see a different beach and discover a new restaurant.

On this trip stayed at the Sheridan Grand Mirage Resort at Main Beach, Southport. This strip of coast features SeaWorld, Marina Mirage Shopping Centre, Federation Walk Coastal Reserve and theirs a stack of touristy activities and restaurants there.

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Kampong Glam: eclectic, spirited Muslim Quarter

On day four of our Singapore trip, we went to explore the eclectic and colourful neighbourhood of Kampong Glam. It is named after the Malay words for ‘village’  ‘gelam tree’ (Paperbark tree), since these trees used to grow in the area. This neighbourhood was formerly the home of the Malaysian aristocracy, prior to British colonisation. However, after the treaty was signed it became the designated settlement for the Sultan and his court as well as the Malay and Arab communities. Today it remains the Malay and Muslim enclave a and is known for being a trendy neighbourhood, rich in history and culture.

We arrived in Kampong Glam in the morning to have breakfast. Then visited the Sultan’s Mosque, did some shopping at Bussorah Street and Haji Lane and later returned for dinner and dessert. In my next post, I will detail our visit to the Rocher (Bugis) area, which we also did the same day.

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Tanjong Pagar: Koreatown

Last time I left you we were at the Singapore Zoo (day 3). Well after a big day out,  we decided to do a low key dinner in the trendy in the neighbourhood Tanjong Pagar. This is a historic area within the Central Business District. Its name means ‘cape of stakes’ which references the wooden stakes that held up this former fishing village. Today it is a colourful thriving area where you can find great nightlife at Tras Street, best Korean food in Koreatown, great hawker food at Maxwell Food Centre and Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and amazing views at the Pinnacle@Duxton.

 

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Chickpea pasta with Cherry tomatoes and Pecorino rind

Today I bring you another 15min meal, which is easy to put together. I used one of my favourite ingredients that I recently discovered, pecorino cheese rind. I remember reading a while ago to keep Parmesan rind for sauce and soup. It’s meant to give great depth of umami flavour.

I try to stick to sheep and goats cheeses since I have an intolerance to cows milk and cheese.  So my cheese of choice is always pecorino, which is a hard Roman sheeps cheese. I buy the imported cheese from Costco, rather than then Australian blends that usually have cows milk in them. I have been saving my pecorino rinds for a while and adding cubes of them to red pasta sauces. I recently found they are delicious to add to fresh tomato or olive oil to coat the pasta. They melt a little and have a chewy texture and nice cheesy taste.

For this dish, I also used Chickpea fusilli pasta, which has extra protein and fibre, then regular pasta and gluten-free. Semolina fusilli pasta would also work fine, which is my usual go-to. I had organic cherry tomatoes, which were so full of flavour. Cherry tomatoes are usually sweeter and delicious then regular tomatoes, but you could always use diced tomatoes instead.  For the vegetables I just used some zucchini and silverbeet, which complement the pasta. You could use your favourite veggie combination to add to this dish or no veggies at all if you prefer.

Chickpea pasta with Cherry tomatoes and Pecorino rind

(vegetarian, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

200g Chickpea Fusilli Pasta (I used San Remo Pulse Pasta)

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 zucchini, diced

1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, quartered

1-2 garlic cloves (optional)

5x5cm piece pecorino rind, cubed

3-4 silverbeet leaves, spines removed and sliced

Sea salt & Black Pepper to taste

Method:

  1. First, boil the pasta water and cook according to packet instructions. To cut down time boil the water in the kettle first. Add sea salt to the water. Drain when ready.
  2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and saute the zucchini, cherry tomatoes, garlic Cook for a few minutes or until they start to soften. Add 1/2 a ladle of pasta water to make a little juicy.
  3. Add the pecorino rind and cook another couple of minutes.
  4. Add silverbeet leaves and allow to wilt, before turning off the heat. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Add pasta to the hot pan and coat with ingredients. Serve immediately.

*Serves 2

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Restaurant Review: Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers

Recently we visited one of my favourite restaurants and Brisbane’s first gnoccheria,  Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers. They first opened in Paddington about a year ago and are still one of the best and busiest place to get homemade gnocchi. We have visited them a few times, but I haven’t been often enough since they are usually so busy that without a booking you need to get takeaway. Unfortunately, they are a little too far from my place for UberEats, but Marco orders their food to his work all the time. I actually first came across Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers when they had a food stand in the city. The gnocchi was delicious and the cannoli was so good. So I was thrilled when they established a permanent restaurant.

So we visited Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers recently on a busy weeknight with a friend, who hadn’t tried them before. We did make a booking, to ensure getting a table. The restaurant is actually very small, with a limited amount of tables outside and some bar stools inside. I have noticed that they seem to have added more tables since the last time I visited, which is good to see. The menu itself is also quite limited since the star ingredient is gnocchi. However there is a good selection of sauces that you can order, so there is something for everyone. I have also noted that they run special sauces for a limited time. Each gnocchi dish does come with a slice of ‘Italian mopping bread’, which you can always order more of. They do offer a few sides, which look like some nice complementing dish.  Additionally, they have a great selection of desserts (which I’ll get to later). I usually don’t comment on prices, but I have to say their prices are very reasonable. Especially since most Italian restaurants in Brisbane charge between $20-30 for a main sided pasta or gnocchi dish.

Since we already had a late lunch we thought we would just share a few dishes. Last time we visited we had ordered the Bolognese, Duck Ragu and Wild Mushroom dishes. The stand out for us was the Bolognese sauce. So this visit we decided we had to order that one as well as a couple others dishes we had yet to try. Those were the Creamy Pesto and Prawn and Cherry Tomato Sauce. The boys love their bread, so we had to order a few more for them, but like I mentioned each dish came with a slice of fresh Italian bread.

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Gnocchi with Traditional Slow Cooked Bolognese
Gnocchi with Prawns and Cherry Tomato Sauce
Gnocchi with Genovese Style Basil Pesto

 

The food was just as good as I remembered. The gnocchi were so fresh and pillowy and the sauces were each so full of flavour and really complemented the star ingredient. You can just taste that it is all freshly prepared with love and using traditional recipes. I can’t say which was my favourite this night since I really enjoyed all of them. I did quite like the butterflied prawns, so definitely will order that one again. Octavia was just loving the Bolognese and polished off most of the dish.

 

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