Monday, December 19, 2011

Rum (no actually, Whiskey!) balls - recipes & pictorial

I finally got down to making my rumballs. Actually I used whiskey instead of technically, they are whiskey balls :P I promised some friends the recipe so here it is (it's more approximate than exact measurements):

Makes about 80-100 small whiskey balls -
9x13" chocolate cake (I used Duncan Hines Devil's cake 'cos it was on sale)
2 cups of ground almond
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons of whiskey (I used Dewar's)
Chocolate rice for coating
Unsweetened shredded coconut for coating (I used Bob's Red Mill)

Make the cake by following the instructions on the cakemix box. Let it cool to room temperature and then crumble it up with your fingers. I actually made mine in 2 batches (1/2 cake and ingredients at a time) 'cos I don't have such a big mixing bowl.

As I couldn't find ground almonds....I bought the slivered one and put them in the blender on grind/pulse functions to grind them to a powdery form.

It's simple to put the whiskey cake dough together - all you need to do is to add the cake crumbs, ground almond, heavy whipping cream & whiskey together and mix them well such that they all come together. Test the mixture for the right texture. I'd suggest to add the liquids in parts so that you don't end up with too wet a dough (just in case!). However, if the dough is too dry, add more liquids but go easy on the whiskey :P You can chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 20min or so if you wish to, so that the dough is less sticky (hence your work less messy later on).

While the dough is chilling, prepare the coatings for the whiskey balls. I used chocolate rice and shredded coconut...but feel free to use other things like powdered sugar, cocoa powder, nuts or crushed candies etc. I toasted the shredded coconut in a pan over the stove (medium heat). Keep stirring the coconut and watch it closely 'cos the shreds do get burned easily. When the coconut shreds start to turn golden and smell's time to turn off the heat. I spread the chocolate rice and shredded coconut onto two separate cookie sheets.

Remove the whiskey ball dough from the refrigerator. I used a mini ice-cream scoop which made my job a whole lot easier. Scoop the dough and drop it on your palm. Use your two palms to roll the whiskey ball into a nice round shape. Then drop the whiskey ball into either of your coating ingredients and roll the ball to coat it nicely and set aside.

Here's how my whiskey balls look after being coated.

I wrapped the whiskey balls individually in red and gold foil. You can also just pop them into miniature cupcake liners. I bought some Christmas-theme tins from Michaels and filled them up with the little whiskey balls. I also added a note that lists the ingredients in case of food allergies.
Well...that's all for the whiskey ball making instructions. The little tins are all out to be delivered to RG's colleagues, neighbors and our helpful sanitation and postal workers today.

Friday, December 16, 2011

That darn flu.....

It's that time of the year, I don't mean the holiday seasons but FLU season!! I have been down with cough and flu for the past couple of days. Apart from the flu meds, I have been downing lots of 川貝枇杷膏 as well as hot ginger lemon tea.

I found these vit-C pops at TJMaxx last week for less than $5!! (retailing at Amazon for over $20) I've never had Vit-C that tastes so yummy. My friend from SG is visiting me in a couple of weeks time, I've asked her to bring over some Redoxon vita-immune....I think RG and I both need to put a good amount of Vit-C into our systems to fight the darn flu viruses.
Apart from the X'mas wreath....I haven't been able to hang up the xmas lights yet 'cos it has been cold out there and I'm not exactly in the best of shape to get out into the cold. I also haven't written/mailed out the xmas cards/presents or make chocolate truffles to be given away as xmas gifts to RG's colleagues and neighbors. I hope families & friends will understand if the presents/cards come a little late this year :P

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

If an apple a day keeps the doctor about 5??! (Apple pie recipe and pictorial)

I've been down with flu yet again :( The flu meds make me drowsy and to keep myself awake and productive...I decided to bake an apple pie (seeing that I have 5 golden delicious apples tucked away in one corner of the refrigerator, forgotten and almost frozen solid!)

And since I'm baking...I may as well go all out to do a pictorial for my dear readers out there (hello??? *echo*).

So the key ingredients are: 5 golden delicious apples (or most would use granny smith) peeled/cored and cut into thin slices, a dash of ground nutmeg, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tbsp of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp corn starch, 1/2 cup white sugar, 2 tbsp flour, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1 cup unsalted butter, 2 tbsp of water and 2x9" pie crusts (I used ready made ones but you can go ahead and make your own if you are more ambitious).

So I usually start by placing the bottom pie crust in the pie dish and then arranging the apple slices as nicely as I can. Next, I melted the butter in a saucepan over the stove and stirred in the flour and corn starch to mix. Then I added in water, white and brown sugar and continue to stir till the mixture became a caramel consistency. Do allow the mixture to come to a slight boil and then reduce to simmer briefly.

I used a big spoon to slowly drizzle the caramel evenly over the apple slices until they were nicely coated. I left a couple tablespoons of caramel behind to be used as a glaze for the pie crust. I put the saucepan back onto the stove with the warmer function on so that the caramel doesn't get hardened. Using a pizza cutter, I cut the other pie crust into strips and made a lattice top for the pie. Then I used a pastry brush to glaze the lattice top with the remaining caramel.

Finally the pie went into the preheated oven (350F) for about an hour. I placed the pie in the middle rack and just below it, I placed a cookie sheet lined with aluminium foil to catch the sticky drips. At this point, your job is all sit back and smell the awesome fragrance of the pie baking in the oven! An hour later, you are ready to dig in with your fork!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Xmas decorations on a budget

So what's a gal got to do when she's on a tight budget for her xmas decorations? (A) She uses what she already has; (B) She buys cheap stuffs; (C) She gets her hands dirty or (D) All of the above.

So using what we already have.....a big beautiful Holly tree in the yard!

With a pair of pruning shears and a pair of thick gloves....I went about to trim off some twigs from the Holly tree.

And at Michaels yesterday, I had bought a wreath for less than $2 and a big red bow for $0.99. The cost of Holly leaves/berries - $0.00. 

Ta-da! My $2.99 x'mas wreath....not too shabby huh? Well, sometimes, simple is best....especially when budget is tight :P
And the remaining holly leaves/berries, I just bundled up the twigs and tied a ribbon around them for hanging as wall decorations around the house. That is......errrrmmm FREE!

Lil red mushroom on my finger....

Can't believe it took me so long to finally buy a tube of glue from Michaels to finish off the ring pin cushion that I had made eons ago! Lil red mushroom and adjustable ring got married together by some E-6000 and here's the finished product....

Tried it on....perfect fit of course (the ring is adjustable silly!).

My sewing box is getting wayyyyy out of hand.....I have been having great difficulties rummaging through all the STUFFS to find what I need....some organisation is obviously needed here.....

....and the solution, a hanging jewelry organizer from TJMaxx. Now everything is sorted neatly and in plain sight...what a JOY!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Temperatures are dipping.....

The past weeks had been pretty warm, which was quite unusual. Finally the temperatures are dropping and it's starting to feel more like winter. Good thing however that on the northeastern coast, cold wintry days aren't dreary like in some other parts of the world. Like now, it looks sooooo sunny outside that you wouldn't be able to tell that it's cold unless you step out of the house. And it's the colder months when the sunrises and sunsets are particularly beautiful. Just the other day, I snapped this shot of the red fiery sky minutes before sunrise. It was most amazing! 

RG received his belated birthday present from his family...and it's an iPad2. I'm so jealous :P It even comes engraved with his name and favorite quote. It's the very first i-something in our household so that's a big deal!

Now apples aside....I found these weird looking dark brown tomatoes (called Kumatoes) at the supermarket. I don't really know what to do with them yet....will have to taste it first to see how best to eat them.

Got this big bottle of Earth Friendly hand soap for a great price at Ocean State Job Lot. It's not only gentle on the hands but good for the environment too. It's free of formaldehyde, petrochemicals, GMOs, phosphates, chlorine, ammonia and it's biodegradable and pH neutral. I'll re-bottle the hand soap into one of my foam pump ones to stretch my dollars even further :P 

RG needed a document bag to hold his stacks of I made him a simple fabric tote using this beautiful map fabric that I had bought awhile ago on etsy. He loves maps too so I figured it'd be a great fabric for him.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Upcycled map of NEW YORK cosmetic pouch

I'm kind of a travel brochures/maps hoarder. Wherever we travel to....we'll pick up tonnes of them. As my stash continues to grow at exponential speed....I was thinking hard if I could use the beautiful brochures/maps for anything else before resorting to dump some of them out with tomorrow's recyclables. And since I managed to make some cute stuffs out of candy and chips wrappers....I thought why not do the same with the brochures/maps. So here's my upcycled creation for today....I'm actually quite pleased with how it turned out. I mean...I love sewing and I love maps...and there's nothing more enjoyable and fulfiling than to combine these two of my loves. Now my cosmetics have a new home - and a darn cool one I'll say!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Refashioning - The 10-minute neck warmer

My friend JA showed me some lovely neck warmers online. Call me a moutain tortoise when it comes to winter fashion but I haven't really thought of using anything else apart from a regular scarf to keep my neck warm. JA has opened my eyes to many fashionable possibilities! And I do like the idea of a wearable neck warmer instead of having to twirl the long scarf round and round my neck which could get a little uncomfortable sometimes and not to mention irritating too when the hanging ends end up in all the wrong places like in my hot soup or worse - between the elevator doors!

So today, having a little time to spare, I set out to make myself a new neck warmer - using my old $2 fleece scarf. Nothing elaborate I told myself....I want something that's easy and fast to make and pretty too! 

This tutorial is gonna be so easy and quick I promise.

Step 1 - Fold the scarf lengthwise in 2 (right side facing) and pin the 2 edges together.
Step 2 - Machine stitch the 2 edges and remove pins.
Step 3 - Stick your hand into the scarf from the opening (where the frillies are).
Step 4 - Flip the scarf to the right side.  

Step 5 - Wrap the sewn scarf around your neck and determine where to place the button and then sew the button in place.
Step 6 - Where the scarf end is supposed to meet at the button, make a knot using the frillies and remember to leave enough space for the button to get through.

Step 7 - Wear and flaunt your new neck warmer that you've completed in less than 10 minutes!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New storm shutters

While we aren't threatened by huge sea waves 'cos we are located at the pretty sheltered Sippican Harbor....the very open sea frontage location does mean that we are quite exposed to strong winds & storms like the Nor'easters and Hurricanes.
My landlord used to board up all the windows with wooden planks prior to any major storms but he's having problems climbing the tall ladder while carrying the heavy plywoods now. So he decided to put in storm shutters that can be easily lowered and raised by a push of the button. I heard these shutters don't cost cheap. It's really nice how he is always on top of things to improve the house to make it more comfortable and safe for his tenants. He's a great landlord I'll say.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving and my Black Friday haul!

We were supposed to spend Thanksgiving with TP but unfortunately, she was sick. However, she had already prepared the whole turkey and sides for us so we popped by her place to pick up the food. That poor dear was looking kinda green in the face. I hope she feels better soon. TP had made turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cream onions and butternut squash. It was a great spread.....the only thing missing was HER :(  Anyway, we had promised that we are gonna have her over for dinner once she gets better to make up for her absence on Thanksgiving.

RG and I had a tad too much to eat and drink on that day and we decided to head to bed early as our heads were spinning. We weren't planning to join the Black Friday midnight queues anyway. However, the day after Thanksgiving, we hit the malls at Wareham Crossing before noon to check out the deals. The malls were relatively crowded compared to regular days but hardly a mob scene. Although we missed the doorbuster deals....we still managed to lay our hands on some great buys like the following.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Yo what's up?!

I'm almost ashamed to say this....but I finally passed the driving test after my third attempt! Most people would've gotten their driving licences in their late teens or early twenties but I'm only getting mine when I'm almost 40. When we were living in Singapore, I saw no need to drive at all.....that combined with my innate fear of driving/being in a moving vehicle....I had never attempted to learn to drive for the last 30ish years of my life. In the United States however, not knowing how to drive is like being disabled. So getting my driver's licence is like obtaining my freedom - the freedom to do whatever I want and go wherever I please. It may still take awhile before I'm totally comfortable driving myself but now that I have the little piece of plastic tucked safely in my wallet....I think it's a darn good start.

Apart from that piece of good news, this month also saw the reunion of old friends. An old friend of mine (classmate from secondary school) and his lovely family came to visit us. My friend is currently doing a graduate course at MIT and he's now living in Boston which is only about an hour's drive from us. It's always nice to have friends nearby. I made laksa and satay for lunch 'cos I thought they might be missing some SG food.

I don't know if I had blogged about this before but one of my mosT moST MOST favorite places to shop is TJMaxx (or Marshalls). I buy all sorts of stuffs from there and this month, I bought quite a lot of gourmet spices, sauces and oils. The prices are just too good to resist. For example, the white truffle oil is like $2-ish a bottle - how great is that! I also got myself the Misto olive oil works great. I need only to give it a few squirts and the salads would get nicely coated with minimum amount of oil. One trick that I've learnt to prevent the nozzle from clogging is to unscrew the cap to release the air pressure after each use.

Last week....we were crossing the Bourne Bridge to get onto the Cape when we witnessed this beautiful sunset over the Cape Cod Canal and Trowbridge. This time of the year, the sunsets are just amazing!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stretching the donation $

Yesterday, while we were at Shaw's doing our grocery shopping, RG noticed that they were having a thanksgiving food drive and suggested that we should make a small contribution. We saw that the Progresso soups were on sale at 4 for $5 (regular price is $2.45 per can). There's also an instant $5 savings if you were to purchase 10 General Mills items. So we bought 12 cans of soups for the food drive for $10 ($5 x 3 = $15 - $5 = $10).

Now let's see how we've stretched the donation $:

$10 would normally only get us 4 cans of soup at the regular price of $2.45/can.

With the sale + special savings, we managed to buy an extra 8 cans of soup, making it a total of 12 cans of soup for the Salvation Army food drive.

Shaw's made a sale of $15.  As you all know, Shaw's ain't doing too well and there have been news of the chain closing down and people losing their jobs. It is our favorite supermarket and we try to support it as much as we can.

In addition, our soup purchase earned us 40 box-tops for Education which works out to be a $4 donation towards our local elementary school.

So the $10 donation would actually benefit Salvation Army, our local elementary school as well as Shaw's. I'd say that's a win-win-win situation!

I'm currently trying to learn more about (extreme) couponing. Will see if there are other food products that we can buy at very good values to donate to the various food drives.

If you know of any good buys and coupons, do share them with me!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

September and October flew past...just like that!

This post is gonna be my report card for the months of September and October. Do pardon my tardiness with my blog updates.....what can I say, I've been a busy gal in fall - my most favorite season of all.
We celebrated the beginning of fall with the Bourne Scallop Festival. This was our third year attending the festival. This year, we brought along a good friend T with us 'cos she mentioned that she had never been to the festival all these years. We had a blast...everyone was enjoying their scallop/chicken meals and jamming to the cool music by the live bands.

See how big and plump the scallops were!
In the same weekend, we also attended the Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford. It was our first time attending the celebrations and we really enjoyed the harbor tour on a small vessel, the music performances, environmental exhibits, cooking demonstrations and many more activities.
Here's a fisherman showing off his catch to us as our boat passed by his fishing vessel.
And it was the very first time that I saw the hurricane barrier in such close proximity. According to the guide, the barrier is over 9000-ft long and 20-ft above median sea level and it's the largest stone structure on the east coast.
Me standing on the pier against the backdrop of all the fishing vessels.
With the harvest season, many farm stands and farmers' markets had sprung up.

Early October, our family came for a short visit! They stayed with us for a few days and we showed them around Massachusetts. We also did lots of shopping! Then we drove down to Newport (RI) and Princeton (NJ) together. It was a wonderful time catching up with them and us having fun together as a family. We took many photos in all the places that we had visited.
This was at the Princeton War Memorial.

In Princeton University.
On our back deck.
At the Plymouth harbor, the Mayflower in the distant background.
We also did a tour of the cranberry bog. Here's me scooping up some floating cranberries with my hand.
The huge truckload of cranberries behind them!
RG brought them on a tour of his campus.
Wanting to get to know his students on a more personal level outside of college, he invited all of his students, in small groups, over to our place for dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays - hence I've termed the little gatherings "Tuesdays/Thursdays with RG". While it was a lot of work, preparing and cooking dinner for the was all worth it 'cos the informal interactions were loads of fun and we got to know the kids better/the kids got to know RG better outside of class. Here are a couple of the photos that we took.

RG and I had our own little Deepavali celebration on the 26 Oct. We had rendang chicken, curried vegetables with basmati rice.

Although I didn't have time to do any elaborate fall and Halloween decorations this year....I still managed to throw together a few small ones.
I made these little creepy faces using my old nescafe jars and I bought little battery-operated lights to put in them such that they'd glow in the dark of the night.

And what's Halloween without candies??!! Actually the kids don't come to our house for trick-or-treat now that we are so far from the village center.....all these candies were meant for RG's students. This year, we also got some super yummy Lindt truffles from the newly opened Lindt outlet at Wareham Crossing apart from the regular stuffs that we'd buy at Target. I thought we over-bought but RG managed to give away everything! I guess even big kids in their late-teens and early 20s couldn't resist chocolates :)
We joined in the Halloween Parade in Groton (MA). Those 2 BLUE guys were hilarious as they were doing all sorts of funny stunts.
And we did a foliage roadtrip like we do every year - this time, we visited Worcester (MA) and Lowell (MA). In Lowell, we visited the Boott Cotton Mills museum. Being a big fan of fabrics of all sorts, I thoroughly enjoyed watching/hearing the looms and seeing how cotton fabrics are weaved. Of course, I couldn't leave the museum without buying a few yards of the cotton fabrics that had been weaved at the museum!

Although this year's fall foliage ain't as spectacular as the previous years', we still managed to find some beautiful foliage spots.
In Worcester, we visited the Ecotarium during the Great Pumpkin Fest. There, we saw like a few thousands carved pumpkins by school kids. That's me being silly.
Our nephew also visited us during his 1-week fall break. With him, we visited Provincetown on Cape Cod (MA) as well as Cambridge (MA).

Here's one of uncle and nephew enjoying their burgers and irish coffees at Kinsale Inn in Mattapoisett (MA)! In case you are wondering, the giant spiderweb was part of the inn's Halloween decorations.

It was a lovely sunny day (but cold) when we visited P-Town on the Cape.

We ate at Lobster Pot in's me tackling the steamed lobster. Darn it was hard to eat!

On the last day of A's visit, we checked out the 2 ivy-leagues in Boston - Harvard and MIT.

3 of RG's students were involved in a school's drama production and they invited us to attend. The students performed well and it was a great way to spend Saturday night.

Here are photos of RG with his students - can see that he's so proud of them! :)
Oh....we had our first Nor-easter in late October. Our area fared quite well actually....we didn't get much snow, it was mainly just wild winds and heavy rain. And thank god we didn't lose power like the hundreds thousands of homes all over New England as well as in NJ, NY and RI. However, we did lose a small tree in the storm.
I'm not sure why....but the sunrises and sunsets look particularly amazing in fall.
I love how the windows frame the outside view as if they are pieces of art canvas....and the art forms and colors change every second of the day. Well, you can have hanging wall art....or you can just have windows! I can't be more thankful for the wonderful views. If we have to leave this place one day, I know I will miss it very very much.

Can't believe how the 2 months had just gone by in a flash. Soon, it'll be Thanksgiving and Christmas....and another year would've come to an end. I must say it has been a great year thus far!