Quantcast
DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: February 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013

DARK CHOCOLATE CHERRY MOUSSE CAKE!!

   This recipe was found at www.passionateaboutbaking.com .  I dessert that could be the centerpiece for your next party or gathering.



Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake



Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake


The base was intended to be a sponge until I added melted chocolate to it. I panicked since it wasn’t light as air and soft … so it got a good sugar syrup soaking. Was the right medicine for the cake. It giddily drank up the juices on offer and was just right a base for the balsamic cherries and mousse filling!





Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake



The mousse filling was adapted from a simple chocolate mousse recipe in my Thermomix cookbook. By the time I had the machine on, I was in panic mode again. Something told me that it was too hot for it to set as a cake topping. Goblets are different; chocolate mousse will always be delicious in any form, barely set in goblets





Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake



too.I had to do better and couldn’t take a cake chance and eventually added a spoon of gelatin. It worked a charm and I was thrilled to see it had set beautifully when I demolded it the next morning. The birthday boy was packed off with Mr PAB for a film and lunch, so I got adventurous and decided to pretty up the cake a bit!




Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake






Noel Cowards began playing in head “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun“. Boy was it HOT at 43C! A lace collar in the heat might well have been the silliest of ideas but there you are. That’s what I decided to do … and that worked too. Some more balsamic and fresh cherries on top, a sprinkling of pistachios, chocolate flakes and we were set for the lads 13th!!



Dark Chocolate Mousse.


Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake
Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake
Dark Chocolate Cherry Mousse Cake




We had a sinfully delicious cake by the evening, one that looked as good as it tasted. 5 star quality declared the hub! The kids absolutely LOVED it down to the last chocolaty crumb, the birthday boy quite happy. I was glad I set 2 goblets of mousse too to make sure that the mousse would hold; a runny mousse cake would have been a mid summer disaster! So glad I got it right!

INTERNATIONAL CIRCUS FESTIVAL OF MONTE-CARLO!!






    The Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo (International Circus Festival de Monte-Carlo) was created in 1974 by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to promote circus arts....for which he had a lifelong passion.  The first festival was held from December 26th to the 30th, 1974 under the big top of the French circus Bouglione, installed on what was then the Esplande de Fontvielle.  In the forward he wrote for the program, Prince Rainiers said, "This International Circus Festival was created thinking of the circus community, of this family of underestimated people, so that you, attentive spectators of their efforts and of their work, could know them better, and celebrate them better".  It was the first true circus festival ever presented in the Western world.






   During the Festival, a selection of some of the best circus acts in the business are presented twice to a paying audience and a Jury of circus professionals, journalists, and specialists...presided until 2005 by the late Prince Rainier III, and since 2006, by his daughter, Princess Stephanie of Monaco.  The Jury awards Gold and Silver Clowns, and since 2002 a Bronze Clown, in the form of statuettes sculpted by Paule Male'.  Other prizes and trophies are awarded by the City of Monaco, and various
corporations, press organizations, associations, and individuals.  The Festival presents about 25 acts each yer, in two different set of performances.  The awards are presented during a closing Gala performance attended by the Prince of Monaco, and his family and guests.  Traditionally, the Prince also attends every selection performance.  The first Gold Clowns, which in time became the equivalent of an Oscar, to the circus world, were award to Alfred Court, in tribute to his exceptional career, and to Charlie Rivel.






   In 1975, the Festival was presented under the big top of the Italian circus, Nando, Liana e Rinaldo Orfei, and from 1975 to 1994, under the big top of another Italian Circus, Circo American-Togni.  Since 1995, it has been held under a large, sedentary circus structure, permanently installed in what is now the Quartier Fontvielle, in Monaco.



Under the big top tent in Monte Carlo



   In 2006, the Festival staged an extraordinary tribute to Prince Rainier III of Monaco (who had passed away the previous year), with a five hour show that gathered the greatest assemblage of Gold and Silver Medalists ever seen (some of them performing at the same time, like the amazing juggling duet formed by Kris Kremo and Anthony Gatto, or Oleg Izossimov sharing the ring with The Rodions and Wei Baohua &Wu Zheng).  It was probably the greatest circus performance ever produced.






   The International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo is now held each year in mid January.  Presided by S.A.S. Princess Stephanie of Monaco, it remains today, without a doubt, the most important circus manifestation in the world, and it has become the annual rendezvous of the international circus community and of a large international audience of circus enthusiasts.

PATRAS CARNIVAL FROM GREECE!












   The Patras CarnivalPatrino karnavali is the largest event of its kind in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe. It has more than 160 years of history. The events begin on 17th of January and last up to Clean Monday. The carnival of Patras is not a single event but a variety of events that includes balls, parades, hunting of hidden treasure, kids’ carnival etc. Its apogee is in the last weekend of Carnival with the Saturday evening parade of carnival groups, the extravagant Sunday parade of floats and groups, and finally the ritual burning of king carnival at the St. Nikolaos Street wharf in the harbour of Patras. Its characteristics are spontaneity, improvisation, inspiration and volunteerism.

History

   Most people agree that starting event of the Patras Carnival was a ball given in the residence of the merchant Moretis in 1829. However the carnival, as most carnival events in the Mediterranean and the Balkans, is connected with ancient pagan rituals, as those to honour Dionysus. According to these traditions, in the heart of the winter, the faithful invoke the deity with special feasts and he is reborn in order to bring spring once again. In modern period, French troops of general Maison stationed in the city after its liberation from the Turks. Later on, and as consequence of the prosperity of the





city in the end of 19th century the carnival festivities take a more regular nature. The first carnival floats appeared in the decade of 1870s. Then the floats were exclusively creations of individuals, only later did the Municipality of Patras undertake to construct a large number of them. In the same decade, in 1872, with contributions of rich raisin merchants the celebrated "Apollo" Theatre is built, and it entertains carnival dances, as it does precisely today, because the theatre continues to have a central role in the carnival celebrations. In 1880 on Saint Anthony's day the first "mpoules" appeared (teams disguised that hang around in the neighborhoods and with humorous disposal joke with friends). This custom tends to disappear nowadays. Besides, as the historian of Patras Carnival Nikos Politis testifies, beautiful carnivals were organized during the belle époque as in the years 1900, 1907, 1909 with the attendance for first time of individuals of each social class and origin. This period also gave birth to the egg-war custom, with wax eggs stuffed with confetti (made with special machines) which the carnivalists threw from the balconies. Although this custom has disappeared today, it is considered to be the precursor of the chocolate war.
   The developments of the following decade were not favourable for the carnival; the continuous wars and conflicts (Balkan wars, World War I, Asia Minor campaign) send the men in the war front and brought economic crisis and desolation to the city. In the first postwar years the situation do not improve perceptibly, only some scattered events testify the arrival of Carnival. Obvious exception constitute the imposing and amazing carnivals of the years 1938 and 1939. Nevertheless, the World War II and the consecutive Greek Civil War bring a decennial obligatory interruption. In the beginning of the 1950s the first hesitant thoughts for a resurgence of carnival are expressed. The most pessimistic predict a failure: "nothing will be as before". However, the carnival is indeed reborn. The pioneer musical groups "Orpheus" and "Patraiki' Mantolinata" lead the effort. The Patras Carnival returns in the lives of the citizens of Patras but also all








Greeks, especially those that could afford (mainly affluent Athenians) to travel in Patras in order to participate in the carnival, as in its famous Bourboulia balls. In the same period the Greek cinema depicts snapshots of carnival in its films. Yet more historic scenes can be seen in prewar films. Still in the 1950s, the carnival becomes the object of attacks, as fanatic Christian and other misinformed moralistic organisations roll up to Patras from other regions of Greece during the carnival in order to denounce orgies, corruptness, "Sodom and Gomorrah", but they are prevented from creating trouble by the police. The completely unfounded accusations meet with indifference or a feeling of nuisance by the citizens of Patras and visitors of carnival. It is characteristic that the local church does not sympathise with the troublemakers since it knows that the carnival is a completely innocent recreational event. Yet, in the same period in certain cases censorship is imposed in certain carnival creations which upset the establishment with their humour. Finally in 1964 the year of king Paul's death the Carnival was cancelled.
   Under no circumstances could these limited exceptions shade the magnificence of carnival, which had already known Pan-Hellenic recognition while it also attracted the attention of certain international media. In 1966 the carnival was reorganized. The journalist Nikos Mastorakis introduces the Hidden Treasure Hunt in which 94 citizens of Patras and visitors with their cars take part. The first prize was won by a team led by a friend of the carnival from Thessalonica; his name was Alkis Steas and he presented the game starting from the following year. Thus, the late Steas became for decades the legendary presenter of the carnival, which was broadcasted by ERT and was watched by all Greek TV viewers. The presenter's expressions such as "the Carnival city of Greece", when he referred to Patras and "be happy" and "keep dancing!" when he







referred to the carnival groups, remain historical. In 1974 the modern phase of the carnival begins, as the revelers are convinced to abandon their cars and parade on foot in the streets (until then only floats paraded). Since then each year the spectacle climaxes, the carnival has become gigantic and hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Patras to witness the proceedings. From the early beginning of 2011, Carnival of Patras has its own Web TV channel, broadcasting live and on-demand videos in www.carnivalpatras.tv.

The Opening Ceremony

   Irrespectively of when the Triodion falls,the three-week period preceding the first Sunday of Lent, it is customary for the Carnival of Patras on start on the day of St. Anthony (17 January). The opening ceremony takes place on George Square and includes pantomimes and patters, dances, endless music and fireworks.


The Childrens carnival

   A spectacular, yet substantial, take on the traditional baby rally. The Children's Carnival includes a parade with the participation of masqueraded children's groups from nurseries, kindergartens, musical schools etc. Over 5000 children participate whereas the festival is completed by numerous game events and constructive activities. Their objective is to introduce the younger generation to the Carnival and to distinguish their abilities in artistic expression related to aesthetic or satirical masquerading. You can watch the parade live in www.carnivalpatras.tv.





The Bourboulia

   The most famous unique Carnival tradition of Patras is also its oldest. Women participate in the Carnival Dance Hall Ball without paying for entry while men must purchase a ticket. All the women are dressed in a dark dress with a mask called a "black domino" while the men will be in regular clothes. During the dance, women select their dance partner. Besides an encouragement for the women to act as the sexual aggressor there is also an equalization of the social classes, particularly among the women whose background as urban or working class cannot be distinguished. 
   It is an empowering female event which allowed escape from daily routine defined in narrow social terms. According to Mrs. Ntouli-Dimitropoulou in an interview given in 2006 to Christiana Grigoriou &Christina Metaxioti for their published research paper on "The Social Role and the Cultural Identity of Women in Patra" the special attention given by the women of Patra to their preparation for the Bourboulia " makes them all beautiful and they give-off a sense of self-confidence that they are the most beautiful women in the world. This is something magical.






   For most of its history, no photographs of the Bourboulia were allowed and while it is alleged that every woman in Patra has participated in the Bourboulia at least once, no one will admit it. Mrs Maria Iliopoulou, the first women recognized officially for her Carnival contributions by the Mayor of Patras has also been responsible for many years for the Bourboulia. She cites St. Mark's square in Venice as the source for the original costume design of the domino. While Venice needed heavy material in warmer Patras silk and satin were favored. The mask is very important to create the mystery. In fact, Mrs Iliopoulou believes the Patras Carnival Queen contest should wear masks as every Queen has her own beauty with her carnival uniform and thus her real appearance should not be revealed.



Bouboulina_attacking-Nafplion.jpg
Laskarina Bourboulina


History of the Bourboulia: 
   Official Carnival history of Patras usually begins with the first event being ball given in the Carnival season associated with the merchant class which was influenced by French Carnaval Balls and Venetian Carnevale Costumes of St. Marks Square.

The Saturday night parade

   This is also called the "Nihterini Podarati" [Night Parade on foot].In earlier years, only the Treasure Hunt groups could participate, without their floats. However, the last few years every group is free to join. Night, bright lights, an overwhelming stream of people, colors and high spirits combine, create a spectacular scene.


Closing Ceremony

    An extension of the traditional festivities based around the burning of the float of the Carnival King, with concerts, dances, a farewell to the carnival past, announcements about the carnival to come and countless fireworks. It takes place at the port on Sunday night and is also broadcast on TV.







   Following the Grand Parade on Sunday are important final events. This is the last Sunday of the Carnival and the eve of the first day of Lent or Clean Monday. The Carnival King is called upon to bid farewell to his subjects and to arrange a date for next year.
   The customary meeting of all crews will happen at the St. Nikolaos Street wharf the central quay of the Patras harbour. Tradition demands the announcement of the winners of the Treasure Hunt, the farewell of the Carnival King and burning of the float , announcements about the carnival to come, endless dancing and fantastic fireworks.   The show is broadcast nationally on TV as are both the Saturday and Sunday parades. 
The mayor declares the closing of this year’s Carnival and officially announces the next year’s theme. All festivities stop at midnight as everyone observes the beginning of Lent.

 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MINI RED VELVET CHEESECAKES!

Mini Red Velvet Cheesecakes



PREP TIME20 Min

  • TOTAL TIME3 Hr


  • SERVINGS16


  • Ingredients

    24
    thin chocolate wafer cookies (from 9-oz package), crushed (1 1/4 cups)
    3
    tablespoons butter, melted
    2
    packages (8 oz each) plus 4 oz cream cheese, softened
    1
    cup granulated sugar
    1/4
    cup unsweetened baking cocoa
    2
    teaspoons vanilla
    2
    tablespoons red food color
    3
    eggs
    1/2
    cup whipping cream
    1
    tablespoon granulated or powdered sugar
    Chocolate curls, if desired
    Directions


    1.   Heat oven to 350°F. Place foil baking cup in each of 16 regular-size muffin cups. In small bowl, mix cookie crumbs and melted butter. Divide crumb mixture among cups. With back of spoon, firmly press cookie crumbs in bottom of each foil cup.

    2.   In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in 1 cup granulated sugar and the cocoa until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and food color. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Divide batter evenly among baking cups (cups will be almost full).

    3.   Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until centers are firm. Cool 15 minutes (cheesecake centers will sink while cooling). Refrigerate in baking cups at least 1 hour; cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour longer before serving.

    4.   In chilled small bowl, beat whipping cream and sugar with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Spoon whipped cream on chilled cheesecakes. Just before serving, garnish with chocolate curls. Cover and refrigerate any remaining cheesecakes.


    Tips:

       Cheesecake freezes beautifully! Wrap airtight and freeze up to 5 months. Thaw in the original wrapping in the fridge 2 to 4 hours.
        Place a bar or block of chocolate on waxed paper. Make curls by pressing firmly against the chocolate and pulling a vegetable peeler toward you in long, thin strokes. Small curls can be made by using the side of the chocolate bar. Transfer each curl carefully with a toothpick to a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet or directly onto cheesecake. Don’t have time to make chocolate curls? Sprinkle whipped cream with baking cocoa.

    CHINESE NEW YEAR!









       Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade. The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family.
       Year 2012 is the Year of the Dragon by the Chinese calendar.













    The History of Chinese New Year

       The Chinese New Year has a great history. In our past, people lived in an agricultural society and worked all year long. They only took a break after the harvest and before the planting of seeds. This happens to coincide with the beginning of the lunar New Year.
       The Chinese New Year is very similar to the Western one, rich in traditions, folklores and rituals. It has been said that it is a combination of the Western Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. This is hardly an exaggeration!
       The origin of the Chinese New Year itself is centuries old - in fact, too old to actually be traced. It is popularly recognized as the Spring Festival and celebrations last 15 days.
       Preparations tend to begin a month before the date of the Chinese New Year (similar to a Western Christmas). During this time people start buying presents, decoration materials, food and clothing. A huge clean-up gets underway days before the New Year, when Chinese houses are cleaned from top to bottom. This ritual is supposed to sweep away all traces of bad luck. Doors and windowpanes are often given a new coat of paint, usually red, then decorated with paper cuts and couplets with themes such as happiness, wealth and longevity printed on them.
       The eve of the New Year is perhaps the most exciting part of the holiday, due to the anticipation. Here, traditions and rituals are very carefully observed in everything from food to clothing. Dinner is usually a feast of seafood and dumplings, signifying different good wishes. Delicacies include prawns, for liveliness and happiness, dried oysters ( ho xi), for all things good, fish dishes or Yau-Yu to bring good luck and prosperity, Fai-chai (Angel Hair), an edible hair-like seaweed to bring prosperity, and dumplings boiled in water (Jiaozi) signifying a long-lasting good wish for a family. It is customary to wear something red as this colour is meant to ward off evil spirits. But black and white are frowned upon, as these are associated with mourning. After dinner, families sit up for the night playing cards, board games or watching televisionprogrammes dedicated to the occasion. At midnight, fireworks light up the sky.
       On the day itself, an ancient custom called Hong Bao, meaning Red Packet, takes place. This involves married couples giving children and unmarried adults money in red envelopes. Then the family begins to say greetings from door to door, first to their relatives and then to their neighbours. Like the Western saying "let bygones be bygones," at Chinese New Year, grudges are very easily cast aside.












       Tributes are made to ancestors by burning incense and the symbolic offering of foods. As firecrackers burst in the air, evil spirits are scared away by the sound of the explosions.
       The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns, which is a celebration with singing, dancing and lantern shows.
       At the Festival, all traditions are honored. The predominant colors are red and gold. "Good Wish" banners are hung from the ceilings and walls. The "God of Fortune" is there to give Hong Baos. Lion dancers perform on stage continuously. Visitors take home plants and flowers symbolizing good luck. An array of New Years specialty food is available in the Food Market. Visitors purchase new clothing, shoes and pottery at the Market Fair. Bargaining for the best deal is commonplace!


    Traditions of Chinese New Year

       Even though the climax of the Chinese New Year, Nian, lasts only two or three days including the New Year's Eve, the New Year season extends from the mid-twelfth month of the previous year to the middle of the first month of the new year. A month from the New Year, it is a good time for business. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration material, food and clothing. Transportation department, railroad in particular, is nervously waiting for the onslaught of swarms of travelers who take their days off around the New Year to rush back home for a family renunion from all parts of the country.
       Days before the New Year, every family is busy giving its house a thorough cleaning, hoping to sweep away all the ill-fortune there may have been in the family to make way for the wishful in-coming good luck. People also give their doors and window-panes a new paint, usually in red color. They decorate the doors and windows with paper-cuts and couplets with the very popular theme of "happiness", "wealth", "logevity" and "satisfactory marriage with more children". Paintings of the same theme are put up in the house on top of the newly mounted wall paper. In the old days, various kinds of food are tributed at the alta of ancestors.











       The Eve of the New Year is very carefully observed. Supper is a feast, with all members coming together. One of the most popular course is jiaozi, dumplings boiled in water. "Jiaozi" in Chinese literally mean "sleep together and have sons", a long-lost good wish for a family. After dinner, it is time for the whole family to sit up for the night while having fun playing cards or board games or watching TV programs dedicated to the ocassion. Every light is supposed to be kept on the whole night. At midnight, the whole sky will be lit up by fireworks and firecrackers make everywhere seem like a war zone. People's excitement reach its zenith.
       Very early the next morning, children greet their parents and receive their presents in terms of cash wrapped up in red paper packages from them. Then, the family start out to say greetings from door to door, first their relatives and then their neighbors. It is a great time for reconciliation. Old grudges are very easily cast away during the greetings. The air is permeated with warmth and friendliness. During and several days following the New Year's day, people are visiting each other, with a great deal of exchange of gifs. The New Year atmosphere is brought to an anti-climax fifteen days away where the Festival of Lanterns sets in. It is an occasion of lantern shows and folk dances everywhere. One typical food is the Tang Yuan, another kind of dumplings made of sweet rice rolled into balls and stuffed with either sweet or spicy fillings.
       The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season and afterwards life becomes daily routines once again. This description is based upon the recollection of my own experience. Customs of observing the New Year vary from place to place, considering that China is a big country not only geographically, but also demographically and ethnically. Yet, the spirit underlying the diverse celebrations of the Chinese New Year is the same: a sincere wish of peace and happiness for the family members and friends.











    The History and Origin of Chinese New Year


       The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the Beginning of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coordination with the changes of Nature). Its origin is too old to be traced. Several explanations are hanging around. All agree, however, that the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means "year", was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year (Do not lose track here: we are talking about the new year in terms of the Chinese calendar).
       One legend goes that the beast Nian had a very big mouth that would swallow a great many people with one bite. People were very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering to subdue Nian. To Nian he said, "I hear say that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" So, swallow it did many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harassed people and their domestic animals from time to time.
       After that, the old man disappeared riding the beast Nian. He turned out to be an immortal god. Now that Nian is gone and other beasts of prey are also scared into forests, people begin to enjoy their peaceful life. Before the old man left, he had told people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year's end to scare away Nian in case it sneaked back again, because red is the color the beast feared the most.










       From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest of Nian is carried on from generation to generation. The term "Guo Nian", which may mean "Survive the Nian" becomes today "Celebrate the (New) Year" as the word "guo" in Chinese having both the meaning of "pass-over" and "observe". The custom of putting up red paper and firing fire-crackers to scare away Nian should it have a chance to run loose is still around. However, people today have long forgotten why they are doing all this, except that they feel the color and the sound add to the excitement of the celebration.




    Chinese Zodiacs










    Rat

    1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

       You are ambitious yet honest, prone to spend freely. Seldom make lasting friendships. Most compatible with Dragons and Monkeys. Least compatible with the horses.










    Ox

    1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

       Bright, patient and inspiring to others, you can be happy by yourself, yet make an outstanding parent. Marry a Snake or a Rooster. The Sheep will bring you trouble.









    Tiger

    1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

       Tiger people are aggressive, courageous, candid and sensitive. Look to the Horse and the Dog for your happiness. But beware of the Monkey.









    Rabbit

    1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

       Luckiest of all signs, you are also talented and articulate. Affectionate, yet shy, you seek peace throughout your life. So marry a Sheep or a Boar. Your opposite is the Rooster.









    Dragon

    1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

       You are eccentric and your life is complex. You have a very passionate nature and abundant health. Marry a Monkey or Rat late in life. Avoid the Dog.










    Snake

    1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

       You are wise and intense with a tendency towards physical beauty, vain and high tempered. The Boar is your enemy. The Rooster and Ox are your best signs.









    Horse

    1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

       Popular and attractive to the opposite sex, you are often ostentatious and impatient. You need people. Marry a Tiger or a Dog early, but never a Rat.









    Sheep

    1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

       Elegant and creative, you are timid and prefer anonymity. You are most compatible with the Boars and the Rabbits, but never the Ox.










    Monkey

    1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

       You are very intelligent and are able to influence people. An enthusiastic achiever, you are easily discouraged and confused. Avoid the Tigers. Seek a Dragon or Rat.








    Rooster

    1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

       A pioneer in spirit, you are devoted to work and quest after knowledge. You are selfish and eccentric. Rabbits are trouble for you. Snakes and Ox are fine.








    Dog

    1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

       Loyal and honest, you work well with others. You are generous yet stubborn, and often selfish. Look to the Horse or Tiger. And watch out for Dragons.












    Pig


    1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019


       Nobel and chivalrous. Your friends will be life long, yet you are prone to marital strife. You should avoid other Boars. Marry a Rabbit or a Sheep.





    Chinese New Year Symbols






    Duilian

       If you are a Chinese or have visited China, you must be familiar with the "Duilian"? Duilian are generally two long, vertical red strips placed parallel to one another on each side of a door, with poetic and traditional Chinese sayings written on them. The Duilian sayings wish good fortune and represent the wishes and expectations that Chinese people have from the new year. Traditionally, Duilians contains good luck phrases like Wan Shi Ru Yi (May everything be as you wish) or “Da Zhan Hong Tu” (May you achieve your great plan) or “Sheng Yi Xing Long” (May your business be prosperous).
      Though the Duilian seems to be a simple holiday decoration, it is actually one of the most important and revered Chinese New Year symbols. People in China commonly believe that duilians bring good fortune throughout the year. Many of them write their own duilian every year.








    Fish

       The fish is considered to be a lucky Chinese New Year symbol and is the most popular dish served during the occassion. A whole fish is served on Chinese New Year’s eve for the reunion dinner. Usually the fish is steamed. It is a good omen to leave the bones and head and tail intact. This symbolizes abundance and a good beginning and end in the new year.








    The Yule Log

       The Yule Log is an important part of the Chinese New Year celebrations and a lucky symbol of the festival. It is actually a log piece decorated beautifully with soft, red ribbons and glitter added to it for that extra zing. Thus adorned, the log is dragged to the fireplace. Traditionally, the Yule Log should burn for one whole night, smolder for twelve days (signifying the twelve months) and then be put out ceremonially in a regal manner. Burning the Yule Log is an indispensable custom for the Chinese New Year. It symbolizes the light coming back to conquer darkness.








    The Water Narcissus Flower

       Flowers are an important part of the Chinese New Year decorations. The two flowers most associated with the New Year are the plum blossom and the water narcissus. The water narcissus is considered to be very auspicious by the Chinese and also people around the world. This beautiful white flower which blossoms during the time of New Year symbolizes good luck and prosperity. The blossoming of the Water Narcissus exactly on the New Year day is believed to indicate good fortune for the ensuing twelve   months. The Chinese people decorate their homes with this flower and wait in anticipation of its blossoming, which they believe shall bring them good luck for the entire year and bless them with prosperity.








    Plum Blossoms

       Another decorative item for the Chinese New Year celebrations, the plum blossom is another major symbol for the festival. The plum blossoms burst forth at the end of winter on seemingly lifeless branches. They stand for courage and hope. In Chinese art, plum blossoms are associated with the entire winter season and not just the New Year.











    The RED Color

       The red color is an auspicious one in China and stands for life and prosperity. Thus it is used in celebrations in China. During festivals, most of the decorations around Chinese homes is usually in red color. The "Duilian" - one of the prominent decorative items and another major symbol for the occassion is generally of red color. Also, while presenting someone with flowers, red is the color that everyone goes for.










    Tray of Togetherness

       The chuen-hop, or "tray of togetherness" is a tray full of dried fruits, sweets, and candies. Many Chinese families keep this tray to welcome guests and relatives who drop by. Traditionally, the tray is made up of eight compartments, each of which is filled with special food items. Each of thee food items has a special significance to the New Year season. According to a very old Chinese belief, such a tray was kept by families in the times bygone which they used to offer to all guests and well wishers who visited during the New Year. Even today, this tradition is kept alive in many Chinese homes. It symbolizes the unity and harmony within the members of a family.











    Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    HERE'S A RECIPE FOR A SIMPLY INCREDIBLE BANNANA CAKE

       This recipe comes from www.this-is-irene.blogspot.com .  Another one of my favorite dessert foods.  Banana's!



    Moist Banana Cake









    Another easy everyday cake recipe today! To be honest, I didn't make it, I've still been pretty busy so mum's been doing the baking lately. This is just one of her specialty, when it comes to foolproof cakes, she's the boss, I prefer trying new recipes and ticking my to-do baking list even if it means some boo-boos on the way rather than stick to old favourites. Yes, I'm a fearless, courageous, risk taking young woman haha. So today, it's a super moist, non-crumbly banana cake. On her recipe book it's titled "exquisite banana cake", I think she got it the recipe from a friend but well, if it has "exquisite" in the title, must be something pretty special right?








    Another little secret: I only got the chance to photograph it on the second day, because it was pretty gloomy the day she made it. And by the time I opened the box to see the precious cake models for the day, shock-horror, they were already cut up in slices and in halves! This was quite upsetting because I had spent the whole of the night before on my bed thinking about how I should arrange the loaf before going to sleep. You know those moments just before you go to sleep and you just think about nothing or things that happened that day, and things you hope will happen in the near future? So yeah, for me, it was all about banana cakes that night. But luckily, I pieced them together skillfully and hid cuts with some shred of brown paper bag and dressed it up with some pink bakers twine I bought at Etsy. No one would've known it was already cut up right? 







    Mum also made one loaf with sultanas and the other without. If you want the sultana ones make sure you coat the sultanas with flour before folding them into the batter to prevent them all from sinking. Feel free to jazz it up with some nuts too, I'm sure walnuts and pecan would make it even more delish, if you're a nut-person. And how I wish I had fresh flowers blooming in my garden that I could just pick a few to enhance the setting for the shoots. Too bad I don't, heck, I don't even really have a white tablecloth, I just use a big sheet of white cardboard and sometimes when I need to, patch it up with some white A4 papers. Teehee, you didn't know that either. Man, alot of secrets are being revealed today... So anyway, in trying to make the setting interesting, I just made some iced chocolate (which yes, I had to drink the 2 glasses myself because no one was willing to help) and added some paper dollies and grabbed my rarely-used-tea-cakes-forks. I always thought it was always too showy to look good in food photos but I think considering the banana cake was pretty simple, it's a good complement! I just need to go prop shopping, pronto.










    Moist Banana Cake 
    Makes 2 loaves


    160g butter, softened
    dash of vanilla essence
    1 cup castor sugar (I used a mix of brown and castor sugar)
    4 eggs
    4 medium ripe or overripe bananas, mashed (to yield 1 cup mashed bananas)
    200g sour cream (light is fine)
    2 cups self raising flour
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. all spice
    1 tsp. ground nutmeg (optional)



    1. Preheat oven to 180'C and grease 2 lined loaf tins with butter
    2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until thick with a handheld beater
    3. Beat in egg, then sour cream and banana in medium speed until well incorporated
    4. Add all the dry ingredients to the mixture and mix slowly with a wooden spoon or spatula
    5. Bake for 40 mins until golden brown and skewer comes out clean













    I know everyone probably already have their own favourite banana cake/bread recipe. But if you don't or haven't tried a version with sour cream in it, I'd encourage you to try it out! It's super moist, and definitely moreish and filling. Perfect for brunch with some yoghurt or afternoon tea!









    I can't believe tomorrow's friday already AGAIN. I've only got 2 more exams left so after next wednesday, I'll be totally free freee freeee to bake whatever I want. Knowing that just feels great! See you later! x