Lazy Pancakes

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Sunday cafe, 169 Hemingford Road, London N1 1DA

I love pancakes but am too lazy to make them. I prefer the American fluffy ones to French crêpes, but all the measuring and getting the right consistency is just too much for me in the morning.

In honour of Pancake Day, here’s a super easy and quick recipe for flourless pancakes, aka the lazy pancakes!

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Prep Time: 15 min
Yield: 9 mini pancakes

Ingredients:
1 banana (the riper the better)
2 eggs
Yup, that’s it! That’s all you need.

Instructions:
1. Mash the banana (with the back of a fork if you’re wondering how).
2. Add eggs and mix well.
3. Use a ladle to pour mixture to pan. Keep your pancakes small. Not only will they cook quicker, but they’re easier to flip as well. Another tip is to use a very thin spatula/turner/whatever you call it.

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I usually eat the pancakes as soon as they’re out of the pan while I make the next batch, hence the lack of a pretty pancake stack photo lol It’s a great way to use up that spotty banana in your fruit bowl. You can eat them with anything – berries, peanut butter, honey, syrup, whipped cream, but my favourite is nutella :9

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Children are (not) Maggots

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.” – Matilda, Roald Dahl

That, is the power of books. And that, is why I’m studying Children’s Literature. (Well, and because I love picturebooks more than children do!) Before I had the chance to take hold of a copy of Matilda, I came across the movie adaptation on TV one summer. I was seven. We have a copy of the book at home but I wasn’t entirely sure if I’ve actually read it. The story has always been so familiar to me. I reread it a couple months ago as an adult for coursework and was surprised at how different it is compared to what I remembered. I wrote an essay on becoming Miss Honey myself.

Last Saturday, I watched Matilda the musical with the Children’s Literature gang. I’m not sure if it’s normal but I cried, more than once.

***SPOILER ALERT***

No, I didn’t cry when I read the book or watched the movie, but the musical made me laugh out loud and brought me to tears. I loved the show before it even began – the staging was incredible! Book-like blocks of letter overflowed the stage, and if you look closely, you can spot words – it’s a great game for kids. Bookshelves were used as partitions, which in several scenes transformed the stage into a library. This is the best show for book lovers! The scene in which Mr. Wormwood tore up a library book appalled me; I gasped too loudly and was paralysed for a couple seconds…

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The pupils’ desks were hidden in the gridded ground. The first scene in the Year 1 classroom reminded me so much of teaching and my kids; little princes and princesses in their new uniform with their eager hands in the air (but instead of 9 pupils, I had 41 in my class lol). I cried when Matilda hugged Miss Honey for being nice to her. In Hong Kong, it’s ok for me to hug the kids and take pictures of/with them. Though it could be dangerous when group hug turns into an unintentional American-football-kind-of tackle, I do miss their smiles, I-love-you notes and drawings. I’ve kept most of them.

The songs were catchy and the lyrics were brilliant: addressing parents’ adoration of their precious little ones, empowering children, foreshadowing the reality/cruelty of school, and my favourite – looking forward to growing up. That made me cry. Swings were and still are my favourite. I remembered when I was little, I’d try to go as high up as I could (yup, I’m a thrill seeker since the age of 5), trying to touch the tip of the pine tree branches with my toes. When you’re little, you can’t wait to grow up and do things that adults wouldn’t let you do, such as “eat sweets every day” and “go to bed late every night”. Little did they know that growing up is a trap and the only thing you wish when you’ve grown up is that you never did. I cried again when Miss Honey sang her heart out in her cottage as the escapologist/her father joined her; it was so heartbreaking. I think music heightens emotion in a way that words alone cannot.

The musical was very faithful to the original text but with a few subplots; it’s all the better for it. Did I mention Miss Trunchbull was played by a man? Now that I’ve read the book, watched the movie, seen the musical and written an essay on it, I feel like my experience with Matilda is now complete.

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do it so completely crazy it’s unbelievable.” Matilda is my hero!

Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

“Harry’s mouth fell open. The dishes in front of him were now piled with food. He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and, for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.”
 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)

Twenty years after the first Harry Potter novel was published, I am now studying children’s literature in the most magical place that holds the legendary Harry Potter Formal. Though the food in Homerton isn’t the best (oh, but they make the best dessert!), the magic is in the details.

img_3113Along the corridor just outside the Great Hall, there were displays that only Harry Potter fans would appreciate: undesirable posters, old socks, potion bottles, muggle news and winged keys. Before you enter the Great Hall, there’s a coat stand for us to hang our invisible cloaks. If you were oblivious to all that and entered the ladies’, you’ll find Moaning Myrtle staring right at you while you’re trying to release yourself lol

The dining tables were decorated according to the four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. Though there’re no floating candles (the last thing we wanted was to burn down our beautiful Great Hall even though they’re building a new dining hall), Homerton’s Great Hall is pretty enchanting in candlelight.

Our awesome Graduate Tutor, Melanie, dressed up as Dumbledore was accompanied by the Dark Lord, who fashionably draped Nagini around his neck. The evening kicked off with the splendid performance by the Charter Choir, singing “Double Trouble” from the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. Followed by a brilliant short play, in which the Sorting Hat made an appearance. The script was epic – full of jokes on our rival colleges and university.

It’s been a long day and we were all nibbling wands, I mean break sticks, and popping Bertie Botts before food was served. Starter was pumpkin and ginger soup served in bread cauldron. Main was okay; I had garlic and rosemary roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and carrots. I couldn’t finish the chicken, but no matter how much I eat, there’s always room for dessert – a meal is not complete without dessert! It was chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream and butterbeer sauce. Crispy on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside, together with the chilled ice cream, mmm it was sooo good.

You’d think that’s the end, but no. Trainers brought in Minnie, a lovely gorgeous white owl, and entertained us wizards and witches by making it fly across/around the hall countless times. It was gliding so low that I was worried its feather would touch the candle flame. I’m not a fan of birds usually (I hate pigeons), but he’s the cutest thing ever!

After dinner, people flooded the corridors queuing up to take pictures with owls in the owlery. While waiting, a Canadian witch picked up a fight with me and we had a duel outside the Drawing Room. No muggles were harmed. In the owlery, there was a big owl and an owlet. I was having a staring contest with the big one, but its eyes were so dark and mysterious I felt like its staring into my soul that I had to look away. Baby Owlbert was adorable! hehe

Growing up reading Harry Potter and having watched all the movies and the play, it has been and will always be a huge part of me. I will read all the books to my children against their will lol If you haven’t seen the latest illustrated version of the first two books, you have to. They are so cleverly and superbly done by Jim Kay. Best present for Harry Potter fans!

“No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” – J. K. Rowling

 

Drink Coffee like a True Italian

What is your favourite smell? Is it freshly baked bread, the sea, new books or fried chicken? I love the smell of coffee. I don’t remember when it was that I first started drinking coffee, but over the years, my coffee habit has changed and it has now become an essential part of my morning routine.

I make my espresso with a moka pot, which was a gift from an Italian friend. It is the Best. Gift. Ever. for coffee lovers (from £13 on Amazon)! My coffee would be ready before I finish washing up, and (apologies to my flatmate) the kitchen would be filled with the aroma of coffee. After being disappointed by the cappuccino from the buttery, I decided to get a milk frother and make my own. Life is too short for bad coffee. Now I make better coffee than the buttery and have saved enough to pay for a May Ball ticket!

Coffee might be something you drink to keep yourself awake, but in Italy, it is a way of life. You can hardly find a place that sells coffee-to-go. People go into a bar in the morning, have a quick espresso with a pastry, banter with the barista and they’ll be out of the bar before your full English breakfast is ready. Some bars serve espresso with a glass of sparkling water. It is intended to cleanse your palate before you sip your coffee. Ordering an Americano is a dead give-away that you’re a tourist! Surprisingly, I haven’t seen any latte art when I was travelling in Italy. Could it be something that the Americans have invented, just like the fortune cookies? (Oh yes, we don’t have fortune cookies in Hong Kong, and no we don’t eat dogs) I’ve been trying to do latte art but it’s harder than it seems to be.

There is an unwritten rule in Italy – never order a cappuccino after 11am. It is because Italians view milky drinks as breakfast beverage. They believe that drinking milk after a meal screws up digestion. In contrast, an espresso after dinner is believed to help with digestion. I’ve tried and I still slept like a top (to be honest, it’s very rare that I don’t). Don’t order a ‘latte’ in Italy, because ‘latte’ means ‘milk’. Another tip is to have your coffee at the bar instead of sitting down at a table. Usually they have two prices, and you could probably work out which is which. If you’re too embarrassed to ask or too lazy too google what the differences between cappuccino, macchiato, latte, flat white and Americano are, here is a pretty simple visual representation:

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I haven’t been to a lot of cafes in Cambridge, but Savino’s on Emmanuel Street is definitely worth dropping by if you’re in town and are sick of the standard high street chains. The only problem is they are always so busy!

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Originally written for The Cambridge Student newspaper

Tiramissimo

Tiramisù is my favourite dessert – sweet, airy light and melts in your mouth. When my friends suggested to have an Italian-themed dinner party, I immediately volunteered to take care of the dessert. I found this really simple Italian recipe online which only uses 6 basic ingredients (I don’t like recipes that use more than 8 ingredients or use ingredients that cannot be found in my fridge/cupboard). Making tiramisù is so easy that it’s dangerous cuz that means I can now have it whenever I want to knowing how to make it myself!

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Prep Time: 15 min
Yield: Serves 6-8 (depending on how big your serving is)

Ingredients:
225g mascarpone
115g sugar
2 eggs
a regular cup of coffee (not metric cup, think coffee cup)
ladyfingers
cocoa powder

Instructions:
1. Beat mascarpone with sugar until creamy.
2. Add egg yolks one at a time to the mascarpone mixture.
3. Beat egg white to stiff peaks and incorporate it to the mascarpone mixture.
4. Quickly dip ladyfingers in the coffee and you can start layering: ladyfingers, cream, ladyfingers, cream, till you fill up your container. (I used Gü pots and they turned out really cute!)
5. Finish off by dusting it with cocoa powder. Voilà! Place it in the fridge to set and chill. Serve cold.

It was my first attempt at the recipe and my friends loved it. Nothing can go wrong really. I made parfait with the leftover ladyfingers, yogurt, fresh fruits and granola – they taste as good!

 

DIY Guide to Lettering

Who doesn’t like beautiful handwritten notes? I started writing calligraphy when my ex got me a calligraphy set. And then I got too lazy with the dipping and the cleaning, that’s when I moved onto lettering – more on the drawing and less on the writing with simpler, cheaper tools.

Lettering costs you almost nothing. All you need is a marker and paper – I’m sure you can find both in the abyss of your backpack/handbag. If you decided to get serious, you can buy brush pens in rainbow colours from art supplies stores (I ❤ Hobbycraft) or on Amazon. Here are some of the commonly used pens for lettering:

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My favourite is pentel touch. The softness of the tip is just right which makes it easier to control the thickness of your strokes. If you’re getting sharpies, make sure they are BRUSH TIP.

Inspiration is everywhere! If you pay attention, you can see them in the shops or on chalkboards and cards. The easiest way is to google “hand lettering inspiration” and you’ll get over a million results. If you use Instagram, check out letteringleague / paigefirnbergdesign / lissletters / typexsundry / bydawnnicole.

Now you’ve got your tools ready and your head full of ideas, it’s time to get started. Here’s a short and simple How-to video that you can begin with. There are so many free resources online that I wouldn’t recommend anyone to pay for an online course or a workshop. Here are two free stencils, UPPERCASE and lower case, for you to practise on.

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Lettering calms and clears my mind because I am so engrossed with what I am doing that I just forget everything.

There are so many ways to show off your skills – on notebook covers and envelopes, in cards or your lecture notes (maybe not the whole of it, just the title I mean; it’ll make revision a tiny bit more enjoyable). I like motivational quotes, so what I do very often is that I’d write them down on post-its and put them up. You can also do it on coffee cups but it’s a bit tricky because the surface is curved. My teaching friend once commissioned me to do personalized notebooks for her class. So it is possible to turn your hobby into a business!

Lettering is a lot like drawing. Keep practicing and you’ll be well on your way to creating unique and stunning text for any occasion 😉

Originally written for The Cambridge Student newspaper

Maybe I should… Yes, you absolutely should!

Have you ever had these random ideas that came out of nowhere, but then you pushed it aside and never actually get to do them? “Maybe I should take up dancing”, “Maybe I should volunteer” or “Maybe I should get a pixie cut” – ok, you really got to be extremely brave to do that!

One of the many ideas that popped up in my mind (mostly while I was in the shower) was “Maybe I should start a blog”. Well, you see, I manage two Facebook accounts, one’s private and the other’s for students and parents to keep in touch with me. In the latter, I’d share with them what life in Cambridge is like, in hopes of inspiring the kids to study harder (Aww I miss them).

Recently, I’ve created accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter and subscribed to various books/publishing related websites to network and keep an eye out for opportunities. Not to mention Lent Term just started and am now volunteering as a writer and sub-editor with The Cambridge Student newspaper, I have more than enough on my plate. After attending the publishing panel discussion last night and sleeping on the idea, I decided to start. a. blog . And now you’re reading it!

So you might (or might not) be curious about what made me do it. And here are my rationale: I thought I’d move what life in Cambridge is like here and this platform could also be my writing samples for future employers. I love watching movies, cooking and travelling, so I might share book and movie reviews/recommendations, recipes (I made tiramisu from scratch last Sunday and it was benissimo!) and travel journals/recommendations on this blog. My goal is to post at least once a week. (That reminds me of my goal of working out at least twice a week. I mean cycling counts, doesn’t it? It’s cardio!)

My point is, if you have similar “Maybe I should…” thoughts, don’t push it aside – DO IT! Follow your instinct. You’d rather look back and think “What was I thinking!?” or “I’m so glad I did this!” than “I wish I had done that”. Leave a comment below of your “Maybe I should…” – by doing that, you’re doubling the chances of making it happen!

Ciao. x

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