Monthly Archives: September 2012

Vanilla cupcakes

Ingredients (make 12 cupcakes)

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ cup (185mL) milk

Icing

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Sprinkles or lollies to decorate

Steps

  • Preheat oven with fan to 180°C or without fan for 200°C.
  • Place cupcake papers in two 12-hole cupcake trays.

  • In an electric mixer, beat butter for 2 minutes until pale in colour and creamy. Add sugar one third at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about a minute between each addition. Add the vanilla essence and beat until combined.

  • Sift flour and baking powder and add half to butter mixture with half the milk, mix until well combined. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.

  • Divide batter evenly between 12 patty cases.

  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, Cupcakes are baked if they spring back when lightly touched in the centre. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring.

Icing Steps

  • In an electric mixer, beat Cream butter until pale and smooth. Add the milk and half the sifted icing sugar. Beat until well combined. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. The mixture should be a spreadable paste; if it is too dry, add some more milk, if too wet add more icing sugar.

  • When cakes are cold, spread generously with icing and dip into sprinkles or decorate with small lollies.

  • If you like, you can use piping for icing and decorations.

I made them for Teej along with chocolate cupcakes.

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Indra Jatra

Today is Indra Jatra.

Indra Jatra is one of the biggest religious street festivals in Kathmandu. The festival of Indra Jatra takes place in September each year and heralds the end of the monsoon season. It is primarily in honour of the rain god, Indra. It is also known as Yenyā in Newari/Nepal Bhasa.

The 8 day long Indra Jatra Festival begins on the 12th day (Dwadasi) of the bright half (Shukla Pakshya) of the lunar month Bhadra and concludes on the 4th day ( Chaturthi) of the dark fortnight of lunar month Ashwin but the most important day is the 3rd day when the procession of Kumari -the Living Goddess and other deities are taken out.

According to an ancient legend, the young Indra, disguised as a farmer, descended to earth in search of Parijat, a white flower, his mother, Dagini, needed to perform a ritual. He found the Parijat, but was caught while trying to take the flower by the owner of the meadow where he found the flowers. He was bound and imprisoned in Kathmandu until his mother, worried about his extended absence, came looking for him. When the city folk realized who they had imprisoned, they agreed to release Indra but on the condition that he would return to the earth every year during that time and be displayed as a prisoner for 7 days and that he would provide enough rain (dew during winter) for the crops. So, during this festival, images of Lord Indra are displayed for 7 days, but in captivity. Dagini promises enough dew throughout the winter to ensure a rich crop and to take back with her to heaven all those who had died in the past year.

The Indra Jatra festival thus honours the recently deceased and pays homage to Indra and Dagini for the coming harvests.

People from all over Nepal, mostly those who live within the Kathmandu Valley, gather at Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu. The first day of the festival is viewed by a large number of people. It begins when a huge, carefully selected pole, carried via Tundikhel (Kathmandu’s parade ground), is erected outside the Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu. A flag of Lord Indra is tied at the apex of the pole.

A young male goat is sacrificed to the forest deity before the tree is brought down to carve the pole. The giant facade of Aakash Bhairab, which remains hidden behind the caged bar throughout the year, is opened today for the next three days. Local Newari ethnics pour the home brewed beer into the mouth of Bhairab and people compete to get a sip when the drink spouts out. People display the images of Lord Indra and make sacrifices of goats and roosters. There is a brief dances during the pole erecting ceremony.

Classical dancers also assemble at the spot, wearing different kinds of traditional masks and costumes and dancing around the courtyard of Hanuman Dhoka to celebrate Indra’s visit.

On the third day of the festival of Indra Jatra, the living goddess Kumari is taken out in a procession in a chariot. Kumari – the Living Goddess of Nepal comes out from the seclusion of her residence and tours the city on a temple chariot. Along with Kumari, other deities like Ganesh – the elephant headed God, and Bhairav are also paraded throughout the city.

Kumari is greeted from the balcony of the old palace by the president. The procession then continues out of Durbar Square towards Hanuman Dhoka where it stops in front of the huge Seto Bhairab mask. The Kumari greets the image of Bhairab and then, with loud musical accompaniment, beer starts to pour from Bhairab’s mouth! Getting a sip of this beer is guaranteed to bring good fortune, but one lucky individual will also get the small fish that has been put into the beer – this is said to bring even more good luck.

Numerous other processions also take place around the town until the final day when the great pole is lowered and carried down to the river.

Guest blog : My hope for my daughters

Thank you Sid for writing this beautiful post for my blog. You can check his blog on Dad Knows . You will realise when you go through his blog why I think him more as a dad than anything else. He is a proud father of two gorgeous gals, Audrey and Anna. 

Thank you to the lovely M for inviting me to write a guest blog post.  Hers is such a beautiful and smart blog, and while I was delighted to have the chance to be a part of it I knew I’d have to create something better than my usual to be worthy of inclusion here.

So what could I write about that would be of interest to nepaliaustralian’s readers?  I haven’t traveled the world like M has, with gorgeous photos and great stories to share.  My knowledge of Nepali culture is limited, and residing in the Great Lakes region of the United States, I’m about as far from Nepal and Australia as one can get without involving NASA or ESA.  Further, I have no experience getting accustomed to living in a foreign land or trying to mesh two cultures or backgrounds together.  I started to think that I really was not a wise choice to help fill up this space, and that maybe M wasn’t as smart as I’d been giving her credit for.

However, when I asked what she’d like me to write about, M replied that (because of my blog) more than anything she thinks of me as a dad, and that it would be fine if I wanted to share something about my daughters.

Ah!  I was then tempted to write that what I want for my daughters as they grow up is no different from what parents in Australia or Nepal – or Colombia, or Ghana, or Estonia, or anywhere else – want for their children.  Can I really say that, though?  Do I really know that for sure?  Definitely not.  I can only assume, and making assumptions about people in different parts of the world can be terribly closed-minded and has all kinds of potential to be wrong.  So then, what?

Well, as bloggers I think we’re all encouraged to write about what we know, and what I know about is my daughters and what my hopes for them are.  So that’s what I’ll write about here.  What I want you readers to do is consider your children – or, if you’re not a parent, the children of the world – and what your hopes for them are.  If I’m right, M has readers from all over the world, and if a few of you respond in the comments below, we might have a fascinating glimpse into all the different hopes and priorities we humans have for our children.  More importantly, I’m hoping we’ll find out that, regardless of where we live, our wishes for our children aren’t really all that different.

First of all, since the moment they were born (and before), I’ve wanted to protect them and keep them safe.  In twelve years, that hasn’t changed one bit.  I may be overprotective at times (it’s what dads do, no?), and fully expect that as the girls become teenagers I’ll get even more protective.  There are scary and dangerous situations and people in the world, and the more independent they get, the more our children need all the wisdom we can pass on to them.  Audrey and Anna will always be my little girls, and I won’t ever stop wanting to keep them safe from harm.  That harm will change form over time – from bullies in elementary school, to strong and overexcited boys in high school, to peers and adults who would take advantage of them at work or in myriad other situations.  Eesh – just writing that makes me want all the more to hold them close.

Safety and protection are not always within our control as parents – some other things, though, are.  It’s been entirely up to my wife and me to provide a loving and happy home for our daughters – and I’m the first to admit that I’ve not always been great at this.  Loving my daughters is easy; giving them a fun, carefree, and happy home isn’t always so easy.  I get tired.  I get frustrated.  I get grumpy.  It’s maybe taken me twelve years, but I think I’m finally getting better at realizing that’s probably what they want more than anything.  Speaking of what’s in our control, no matter how rotten their day at school may be, children should be able to come home and feel safe, secure, happy, and comfortable.  Home should be a refuge for them – the place they can relax, be themselves, say what they want (well, within reason…), act goofy, and feel free to talk about their fears.  I always want them to feel like they can come back home and feel at home.  If they can return home and let their worries and fears just fade away, then my wife and I have done something right.

I also want our girls to grow to be kind, respectful, compassionate, and intelligent ladies.  I can only guess about the rest of the world, but where we live those qualities are scarce.  They’re doing quite well as far as intelligence, and do okay with kindness, but, hoo boy, we’ve a long way to go to get them to be as respectful as we think they can be.  I suppose this wish for my girls is just as much a wish for the rest of the world and anyone they come into contact with!

Another thing we’re having trouble with is instilling in those girls the value of hard work.  Oh, I’m sure they’ll get it someday, but I would really hate for them to become adults and still expect everything to just happen for them, or expect that things will always be easy.  In both cases, they won’t.  The sooner the girls learn that, the better.  (Wish me luck, please!)  I hope that they will never be daunted by the prospect of hard work, and that they’ll be willing to put in as much effort as they need to accomplish their goals.

Something else the world is terribly lacking is respect and compassion for all the other living things that share the planet with us.  I’ll be so, so proud of my daughters if they continue to be as concerned about the welfare of the planet and all its residents as they seem to be so far.  Even at their young ages, the two of them seem to have an inherent concern for all animals – certainly more so than most adults in our society.  My hope is that they never lose that.

Image courtesy universetoday.com

Finally, I’ll mention those things that are almost totally out of our control.  I have no delusions that any of this will happen anytime soon, but I still wish it for my children and for all children all over the planet:  a world with no war, suffering, hunger, disease, or inequality.  I want them to grow up in a world where humanity works together for the good of all, and where religion and culture and nationality and appearance and language and local customs are no more than points of interest that bring us all together.  Will it happen?  I have my doubts.  Can it happen?  Can that kind of world be embraced by everyone?  I think it can happen, and I also know it can start with my Anna and Audrey as much as with anyone else.

For sure I could go on for days about what I want for my children, but this will do.  It’s up to you now.  What do you wish for your children?  What hopes do you have for them, and for all children?

Please click here if you are interested to write a guest post for me.

Shellac nail polish

During my last holiday I really wanted to be low maintenance so I decide to go and do a Shellac nail polish manicure beforehand. I had heard so many ads about this polish that I decided to give it a go.

Shellac is the brain child of a California company called Creative Nail Design, more commonly known as CND. The company says it spent five years perfecting the product. Shellac is frequently described as a hybrid of the popular gel manicure.

According to the ads, the new polish is smudge-proof and lasts for weeks without chipping. That is what I was hoping for when I got it done.

It was actually quick. They just removed my old nail polish, did some trimming and added just a thin coat of polish on my nail. Then they let it dry for 10 seconds and put another coat on with two minutes between the two coats of colour and the top coat.

Then I went on my holiday.

But to my disappointment, my Shellac experience was not as I was promised.

My nail polish chipped on the very next day after I got it done. I was really annoyed but thought if I am careful, then it might last longer, as promised.

To my disappointment, this is what may nails looked like after 4 days.

And this is what it looked like after 10 days

 My verdict: Not going to pay more for this as my normal manicure lasts longer than this.

When I went to the company website, CND (Creative Nail Design) says any problems with chipping, peeling, or nail damage are typically caused by someone who is not licensed, not properly trained or not following the manufacturer’s specific instructions for application and removal. You may also encounter people who claim they’re providing a Shellac manicure, but are using a different, “similar” product.

I am not sure what my salon was using, but they are usually fine with their other services so I don’t know what happened with this product.

You may also like :

*Black nail polish *Hot Trend Chunky Statement Necklaces *Spring Cleaning and Shopaholic

Assisi : Italy

On the way to Rome we stopped over in a beautiful town in the province of Perugia called Assisi. It is the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d’Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death.

We arrived in Assisi in the morning. The city was beautiful and peaceful. The bus left us in a parking lot and from there we had to walk 30 minutes to the Basilica of San Francesco which is located on top of the hill. As we ascend up the hill, the place looked amazing with a green landscape and ancient buildings. It looked really pretty like I was walking in the gallis (narrow streets) of Kathmandu. The place is cleaner and more organised compared to Nepal but the place looked like it was frozen in time.

As we walked towards the top, we saw so many souvenir shops, little pizzerias and some dress shops. There were lots of tourists enjoying gelato and pizza in the little streets which had no foot or motor traffic.

On the top of the mountain was the Basilica of San Francesco and is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Mino. We decided to go inside but as soon as we entered we were stopped. I was wearing a dress with open shoulders and AS was wearing his hat. The guy told us I need to cover my shoulder and AS has to take off his hat. As my scarf and jacket were in the bus in the parking lot, we didn’t see any point going down and coming back again wasting more than an hour so we went to a nearby shop and bought a scarf to put over my shoulders. Then we made our way inside the church again.

In the main area of the church, there were lots of people praying. The architecture of the church was ancient and there was so much history behind the place. The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cavallini. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period.

We saw the tomb of St. Francis and explored the ornate upper and lower churches, admiring the frescos and architecture. Pictures weren’t allowed inside of the church, but it was fine when we were outside in the courtyard.

On the way out, we went to the souvenir shop and bought a small statue of San Francesco as a souvenir from Assisi. From there we descended to go to the parking lot to meet our tour bus. There are many other interesting things to see in Assisi as well like 14th century castle “Rocca Maggiore” which overlooks the town and is very impressive in a grimly medieval fashion. Inside there are some historical displays, including a collection of weapons in the armoury. But we didn’t have time to do more sightseeing so we just rushed to the bus. On the way down, we went to a pizzeria and grabbed a quick-lunch (2 slices of pizzas) on the go as we realised that we were almost late for our bus.

Please click here for more photos.

Jamie Oliver’s Dan Dan Noodles

Another recipe form my favourite chef Jamie Oliver 20 minutes’ recipe. This serves 4 people.

Ingredients

  • 400g minced beef  (I used chicken mince)
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan pepper
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 5 medium dried red chili
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 300g dried egg noodles
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey ( I used normal honey)
  • 4 medium bok choi
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 small bunch spring onion
  • 1 lime, quartered, to serve
  • 100ml vegetable oil

Steps

  • Crumble your stock cube into a large pan of water and get it on the heat.

  • Place a wok on a medium heat and crumble in the dried chillies. Toast for a minute or so. Add the vegetable oil, then pour all of the chillies and most of the oil into a bowl and put in one side.

  • Turn the heat up to high and add the mince. Stir fry for 10 minutes or so until crispy.

  • Peel and finely slice the garlic.

  • Trim and chop the spring onions and grind the Szechuan peppercorn in a pestle and mortar. Cut the lime into wedges for later.

  • Tip the noodles into the boiling stock and separate them with tongs to ensure they don’t stick together. Cook according to packet instructions.

  • When the meat is done, spoon any fat out of the pan. Add the honey and stir fry for another minute until all the mince is coated and sticky. Pop the wok in the oven to keep warm.

  • Cut your bok choi into quarters lengthways and drop them in with the noodles for the last minute of cooking.

  • When your noodle and bok choi are cooked, scoop out a cupful of water to keep.

  • The drain in the colander. Tip your noodle, bok choi and the cup of water back into the hot pan.

  • Add your raw garlic, soy sauce, ground Szechuan peppercorns and as much chilli oil as you dare and give everything a good m ix together. Cover with a lid.
  • Put the noodles in a bowl. Get your wok of crispy meat out of the oven and spoon the meat over the top of your noodles.

  • Drizzle with a little extra chilli oil then scatter each portion with chopped spring onions. Serve with lime wedge for squeezing over.

 

The noodle was really yummy.

You may also like :

*Jamie Oliver Szechuan stir fry with chicken and brown rice *Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Tikka Masala *Jamie’s Italian : Restaurant Review

Hanson are back and in Australia

I am sure you remember Hanson. If not, listen to the following song to refresh your memory.

Yap they are three brothers Isaac, Zach and Taylor who were so popular when I was growing up. Their song MMMbop was an anthem of every party then.

Hanson’s 1997 album Middle of Nowhere went five-times platinum. Their singles such as Where’s the Love and MMMbop set the charts alight. I used to love them and my favourite was Taylor, he played the piano. Ohoo his long blond hair :). Also Zach was such a cute kid.

After their success in music, they suddenly disappeared. Anyway, the good news is that they are back into music after a long time and are in Australia right now. I was listening to my local FM station and it felt so good to hear their interview and MMMbop after such a long time.

Now they are all grown up and are family men with kids. I can’t believe how time flys by.

They are in Australia as a stop on their Shout It Out World Tour 2012. How great is that! If you were a fan of Hanson, check if they are coming to a city near you.