Sunday, 30 July 2017

Movie Review: The WAR for the Planet of the Apes

When I saw the trailer of The WAR for the Planet of the Apes, I was like YESSSS. I have been a fan of such action-packed movies, but this was just something different from monstrous animals eating up people. I love how the storyline portrayed the never-ending conflict between human and animals (apes), and it wasn't all about the action.

On a side note, reading the movie title makes my tongue twisted, such a long title! 

Rise. Dawn. War. 

Here's a really quick summary of RISE & DAWN (Spoilers alert)

RISE. Scientists were studying a new drug on chimpanzees that is potentially a cure for Alzheimer's Disease, and the chimps were shown to become smarter. However, one of the chimps went on havoc trying to protect its baby (unknown to the researchers who think that it's the side effect of the drugs). They were told to shut down the research and to kill all the chimps, except for an infant chimp named Caesar who was adopted by Will. Years later, Caesar grew up among humans and has inherited its mother's intelligence. Unfortunately, he was placed in an primate shelter due to his wild attacks out of defence for someone. At the shelter, Caesar was tormented, and he eventually found a way to escape and made use of the drugs to increase the intelligence of the rest of the apes. In the process, many humans and apes were killed, escalating the conflict between both parties. They escaped into a forest, with the ending credits showing that the drug has caused a widespread virus over the globe, thus endangering the human population.

DAWN. The virus has spread all over the globe, leaving with just a small group of humans who are genetically immune to the sickness. On the other hand, Caesar became the leader of its pack while Apes and humans stayed separated in their own territory for years. A group of people entered the forest in hope of searching for a solution for a long-term power source, and injured one of the chimpanzees out of panic and fear. Caesar let them off with the mindset that the apes do not want war with humans, and are only out to defend their home. Koba, on the other hand, disagreed with Caesar due to his hatred towards humans. Caesar and Malcolm then came to an agreement and allowed humans to enter the forest for their power source. However, Koba created more conflicts and misunderstanding between the two parties, causing the chimps to attack and subdue the humans. Malcolm eventually rescued Caesar and they made it in time to save the humans and expose Koba's doings. At the end of the rescue, Caesar and Malcom acknowledged the mutual friendship but also understood that this war will never end.

And the war continued...

With years of accumulated hatred, humans were never trusting towards the chimpanzees. However, Caesar strongly held to his belief in finding peace with humans. 

The story build-up was very intensive and I love how Caesar's character was so complex, almost like an human-being (maybe even smarter). And how he was so benevolent and forgiving towards the humans despite their several attacks. 

The show made me feel that humans are so evil and cruel at times, and how unforgiving they can be. I was really sad when some of the apes were killed (so unnecessarily) because of mistrust and hatred. Human and apes are unaccommodating towards each other due to their differences, but the story showed how evilness and greed can take over a human's mind causing us to be as beast-like and no different from an ape. On the other hand, an animal's thought process can be as complex as a human being's.

The story was slightly draggy but necessary to build up the plot, and I was enjoying every moment of the show, secretly rooting for the chimps to win the war (even though I'm human). 

I particularly enjoyed parts of the show where different tactics were used for their escape route, and I can't help repeating at the back of my mind, "Wow, so smart.."

Planet of the Apes is not just any ordinary "humans vs animals war" movie, it is packed with action and emotions with some touching scenes that makes you want to tear especially if you're an animal lover. You might think that this is a serious movie, but there were scenes that actually amused me as well! 

Rating: 4.5/5 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Primero STÄRKÈ™ Single-Back Ergonomic Office Chair Review

A proper and comfortable room/office chair is really important to me. Why? Because I spend several hours sitting at my desk every single day. Simple as that. Why shortchange yourself with a substandard chair when you can have better choices with Primero? I have been enduring my old chair and it has been irking me for the past few months because of its peeling. I even put an old shirt over because I have no money to buy a new chair. (KIDDING LA, I just didn’t have the time to source for a better chair).

Primero has kindly sent me a Starke Single-Back Ergonomic Office Chair to review.

They also have a range of other furniture - sofa, table, laptop riser, stylish lamps and more! SHOP here for more. 

Although my Princess theme room is in pink and white and the chair does not perfectly blend in with my other furniture, there are still some white parts that matches my room colour. Besides, black seats also mean that they are less prone to dirt and thus making it more durable. 

It's top quality mesh is also imported from Germany - which means great for comfort and breathability and is especially suitable in Singapore's hot weather. Comfort > Design!

Don't mean to start being gross here, but I feel that PVC leather material seems to have an issue with its durability when you sweat a lot. Yes, I do sweat in such crazy hot weather and especially since I always work in the kitchen. On the other hand, this kind of material seems to be longer lasting!

The Starke Single-Back Chair also has a superior Lumbar Support design that aids in good sitting posture. Plus point? It comes with an adjustable head rest! Now you can finally take a deep breath after completing a challenging project, safely lean backwards and let out a loud sigh of relief without giving way to your neck.

I never appreciated head rest that much before.

My bf came over and the moment he sat down on my chair, he didn't want to return the chair to me. Such a bully. 

My STÄRKÈ chair doesn't come with an adjustable arm rest and I don't actually feel that there is a need to have it for myself; the height and angle is perfect for me. But if you prefer to have it, it is available under the options which comes with an additional fee. 

As I have mentioned earlier about "good posture", the chair was pre-installed with a Lumbar lower back support to correct one's seating posture and ensure that the spine is supported correctly and naturally. 

Photo from Primero
Just a point to note: Not everyone can accept the level of hardness that comes from the back support, at least not for me. It is easily removable with a screwdriver though, and I removed my back support on Day 1. Just a small warning: the remaining chair parts may be poking into your back if you lean too much against it. After all, the support has been removed. I didn't feel that it was an issue for me since I am using a cushion and I have no issues with my posture. With a comfortable cushion I could still enjoy the full comforts of my chair. 

Take a look at my work desk area! 

Check out some of their other items too! 

Thank you Primero once again!

Click here to read more if you would like to know more about good sitting posture and ergonomics! 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Tsukada Nojo | Beauty Collagen Ramen (Plaza Singapura) + Short Rant

Whenever my friends ask me what do I want to eat, my answer will most likely be "Hmm..Anything but preferably not RAMEN". I don't hate the taste of Ramen. I think it's pretty okay. But comparing to my whole list of other cravings, I would rather spend my money on something I like better. Tsukada Nojo is one of the rare restaurant in which I would suggest going for lunch because of its Beauty Collagen Soup.

Every friend that I introduce to Tsukada Nojo, ALWAYS ask me the same question (At least most of them), "OH! This is the collagen you always post is it?"

Yes it's the same Beauty Collagen Hotpot, except that Ramen is served instead of hotpot during lunch hours, which is also more price-friendly to my pocket.

There are 3 types of soup base Bijin Men Shio (Original) - $16.80, Bijin Men Shoyu (Soy Sauce) - $17.00 and Bijin Men Hokkaido Miso Butter Corn (Miso) - $18.00.

Pick from 3 types of noodles - Beauty Noodle, Thick Mochi-mochi and Thin Tsuru Tsuru Egg Noodles.

I went straight for the Original soup base because nothing beats the original taste of the Collagen Chicken Soup! I didn't want to have additional flavors messing with the soup base. In case you still do not know what is Beauty Collagen, their soup is made from boiling the bones of Jidori chickens in Japan and is known to contain a generous amount of Collagen!

The soup base of Bijin Men Shio is exactly the same as the hotpot served during dinner. It's a good alternative if you are craving for the soup but don't want to join the horrendously long queue in the evening.

The soup is quite thick and flavorful, tastes best before adding any ingredients into it so you might want to give it a try before placing your noodles into the soup. It's really addictive and many have told me that they love the soup after trying it once. The chicken meat itself is really springy and tender, and you can top up meat, noodles, vegetables if you feel that the portion is too little for you. Personally, I find it perfect as the soup can be quite filling if you're finishing down to the last bit. Or top up for more collagen soup!

Bijin Men Shoyu was a little disappointing as it covered the original taste of their signature collagen soup. It tasted like any other ordinary ramen. On the other hand, the Bijin Men Hokkaido Miso was something different, with a strong buttery corn flavor to the soup. It gets a little too oily towards the end. If you're into butter + corn, you can give this a try! Beware of the oil though!

We also had the Nikumaki Rice Ball as our appetizer - Cheese and Yuzu-mayo ($3.80 each). Overall it is quite a filling appetizer but nothing too impressive.

Short rant:

One of the staff (let's call her Staff A) was really friendly and kept joking with Jamie because she ordered everything different from us, so that the 3 of us can taste the different soup broth. I was quite disappointed with the other staff though (Staff B).

Pat & I arrived at the restaurant earlier and we informed Staff A that our friend was late and whether we could enter the restaurant first (knowing that they had a strict rule that all guests must arrive before entering the restaurant during dinner hours).

She said okay, and we proceeded to order appetizer and drinks because we were hungry. Staff B stepped in to inform us that our dining duration is only limited to 1 hour. We were quite surprised because we weren't informed from the start and she stated that it was written at the entrance. Fair enough (Even though I feel that they should remind customers VERBALLY).

So I proceeded to ask if the 1 hour starts from the time our food arrive or from the time we sat down. She said that it was from the time we ordered our food. In which we have already did so. I told her that we were waiting for our friend so can we halt our order otherwise we wouldn't be able to finish within 1 hour. She insisted for awhile before asking how long more will she take to arrive.

I thought that was totally unnecessary! Before I go on, let me emphasize, the restaurant was only less than half filled and there were plenty of seats (It's not a buffet). I feel that it was not a very nice gesture to patronizing customers who are sincerely keen in dining at the restaurant and not hogging the seats for other reasons. Perhaps they could have said something like "The lunch duration is set to 1 hour limit, however we can allow you to stay a little longer if there are no other people waiting in line."

Thankfully, Jamie was already reaching so we let go of the issue and decided to just quickly eat and head to dessert place after for a better experience.

Well at least, the meal was still delicious. 

Monday, 17 July 2017

Experiences That Online Home-Bakers May Face | Monice Bakes

Every job has its ups and downs, and as of this moment, I am still thankful that I chose the unconventional path of running my own online baking business. It's not always a smooth sailing perfect journey and here are some struggles that online bakers may face, with a couple of positive experiences that makes it all worth it.

These are collated from my personal experiences and may not represent all online bakers.

1. The unwillingness to reject orders 

I really dislike the idea to reject my customer's orders and I always try to squeeze in as much as I can, including the most last minute orders unless I really have no time or energy. I believe it's not just about the extra profits I earned but I also value every customer. I can't bring myself to disappoint them, especially if they really trust me to bake for their important event. I also trust brand loyalty, and believe that they will come back for more if they genuinely like my service and cakes.

2. One-man lady show 

There's a never-ending bucket list to expand on my business. There are so many different types of desserts, flavours and designs to experiment. I haven't got time to try on cake pops, steamed cakes and so much more. The list just goes on forever. Not forgetting that I am actually keen on trying out dessert table services. But there's only one of ME. Most home bakers manage the business themselves, at most with minimal help from family members. Sometimes I wish I can do more.

3. Repeated Designs

Sometimes I get repeated requests over the week. I think Tsum Tsum is a very good example. As much as I enjoy baking, I do wish that I can work on newer designs. I'm definitely not complaining. It's natural for people to order designs that are available on your portfolio since they have some samples to refer to. But I really love it when customers trust me to design anything for them! Sometimes spontaneous creativity works even better! 

4. Copyright Issues

This is such a common issue and I'm quite sure other bakers face this struggle of customers sending an design request taken straight from another baker's photo. Sometimes you can even see the name of the bakery. I understand from a customer's point of view that it's only possible for them to use photos found online as a reference since they may not be able to describe or draw out their design in mind. Unless the design is very straightforward and commonly made (such as a normal ombre cake with rosettes), I will usually tell them that I can do a similar design to their photo.

5. Running Out of Storage Space

Space is never enough, especially my fridge space even though I already have 2 fridges at home. I have cabinets filled with ingredients and I'm so guilty of over-shopping on Taobao for decorations and prop supplies. It's an online shopping heaven that helped to improve on my cake photos. I'm glad that I still have leftover space in my room drawers and cabinets for cake boxes and decorations. Sometimes I have a difficult time tracking my stock inventory and I just can't stop buying!

6. Competition

With convenient platforms rising such as Carousell and also the perception of making easy money, there is a rising trend of home-bakers. This is surely unavoidable as it happens in any industry. The only way is to stand out from the rest and also maintain high quality standards from every aspect of the business. Ultimately, customers will return if they like what you sell. 

But then there is also this fear that the bubble might burst anytime since trends change overtime.

7. Unfortunate Hiccups

There are bound to be minor hiccups whenever you bake, especially when cakes are so delicate that any small miscalculation or error may ruin the cake easily. I'm no baking goddess and I make mistakes at times, causing me to redo the whole cake. This is also a reason why I buffer time for my baking orders and ensure that I do not overcommit. Sometimes, you also have to work your creativity to save the cake if it's only slight design mishap. In fact, some spontaneous changes actually turn out looking better than before!

8. Receiving Challenging Requests

I can usually judge if I am able to handle the order based on the requests sent in from the customer. And if I am not confident with the complex design, I will speak the truth and reject the order. It is quite demoralizing to admit that you're not good enough in some ways but it's always better than overcommitment, leading to angry and dissatisfied customers. Sometimes losing a few orders is better than losing your reputation.

9. Passion and Joy

Despite the above struggles that I face as an online baker, nothing makes me happier than to know that everything I am fighting for is worth it at the end of the day. Not many are lucky enough to find a job that they sincerely love after all. I receive a huge deal of satisfaction despite some hiccups along the way, and having appreciative and grateful customers really make my day. On top of that, I also get to escape from the mundane 9 to 6 working hours.

10. Never-ending Desserts to Munch On

It's also a plus point that I get to eat some extra desserts when I have leftovers! (I'm becoming a glutton!) But oh wells..

Let me know if you have the same or different experience from me!

Visit my page for more cakes and desserts!

Monice Bakes is collaborating with My Cozy Room for a spa-themed cupcakes giveaway. There will be a total of 3 winners! HURRY! Giveaway ends on 27 July. 


Friday, 14 July 2017

Mcdonald's Nasi Lemak Burger with a Local Singaporean Taste

The beauty about Food Fusion is about bringing two standard dishes together to create something entirely different. Unfortunately, not every combination turns out to be the perfect couple. I've heard of Nasi Lemak Cupcakes, Nasi Lemak Sundae, and even Nasi Lemak Risotto, but seems like none of the following is as viral as the current Mcdonald's "NASI LEMAK" Burger. Apparently it was already drawing long queues on the first day. 

It was a really impromptu supper so forgive me for the poorly taken photos using my phone.

I was quite disappointed that the Bandung McFizz was already sold out when I visited the outlet on the first day; couldn't complete my Nasi Lemak meal perfectly with the Bandung!

First bite on the burger and I am in LOVE. The cornflakes crunch on the tender crispy chicken really resembled the Fried Chicken Wings. And I could taste the subtle coconut flavors combined with the sambal sauce for that extra kick. I wish there was more kick in the spiciness level though! I'm not a fan of the overly cooked fried egg though, but fast food being fast food, I won't be too fussy on that. 

Perhaps they can step up their game by using Pandan leaves to wrap the burger in order to complete the perfect imitation of Nasi Lemak? Nevertheless, their main star - the crispy juicy patty combined with the other Nasi Lemak ingredients is sufficient to make this Mcdonald meal viral. 

Verdict: 4.5/5 stars 
(I will definitely return for more!)

The Criss Cut Fries is not really tied to the Singaporean taste theme but it was a good alternative to the usual fries, with a nice crisp and flavoring to it. 

I haven't got a chance to try out the rest of the dishes - Bandung McFizz, Coconut Pie and Chendol Mcflurry. Can't wait to try it out soon! 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Wilton Cake Decorating Course 3 at Bake-it-yourself (BIY)

I am back with another Wilton course at Bake-it-yourself. Since I already have the prerequisite certificate for Course 1, I can choose to take Course 2 or 3. Course 3 had a perfect class schedule for me! Weekends are my busiest days of the week due to my baking orders, and I prefer taking up classes on weekday mornings.

I went for this class with great anticipation as I was not really very familiar with covering cake with fondant and I have not tried doing gumpaste flowers.

DAY 1:

Here's my course kit and I am so grateful that I didn't buy much of the stuff out of impulse. Otherwise I would have duplicated items. The dusting pouch was particularly useful for me as I have been using the "budget" method with a bowl and spoon. Everything in this kit was quite new to me except for the rolling pin. 

Nur was my instructor for Course 3 and she taught me some basics about fondant and gum paste, and the difference between both. For a short summary, gum paste hardens a lot better and is more effectively used for figurines or flowers. Fondant, on the other hand, does not really dry up completely especially in Singapore's weather. It's better used for covering cakes. You can even do 50-50 gum paste and fondant to create something that is in between. 

This is the base for flowers and I was taught to use wholemeal raw spaghetti to support the topper. I still prefer using toothpick or skewers though. 

And we had to cut ribbons out. I really love this colour which resembles Tiffany Blue! Some of my ribbons broke when I brought them home though ):


Day 2 was definitely more interesting as I get to work on 3d flowers like roses and calla lily! (FINALLY!)

These flowers look so complicated and it never occurred to me that it can be that easy just by following the simple steps from the course book. 

The blue ribbons are supposed to look like the ribbons from a gift box and the tissue papers were used to hold the ribbons in place while it's drying.

I feel that my flowers were a tad too thick hence the petals don't look that convincing, it kinda resembles styrofoam roses. But it was my first try after all.

From Day 2 onwards, the other student resigned from the course so I had the whole class to myself. It was a little lonely but thinking from a positive side, it was like having a private 1-on-1 class with my instructor.

DAY 3:

Carnation flowers are one of my favourite to make! They're quite easy to follow because of its natural messiness and I didn't have to be very precise unlike rose and Chrysanthemum (the book called it the MUM flower).

The mum flower was the most complicated out of all because the stubborn petals just didn't want to stay in place until the edible glue has set.

The daisy was one of the simplest to do but I didn't really fancy it. And I didn't expect myself to actually use it in my finale cake. But I did.

I also modified one of the ruffles technique and made it into a rose, which is actually a simpler version compared to the pink ones that I did.

My assignment was to complete 5 flowers of my own choice and cover the cake with fondant. I decided to do a lot more for my own existing orders as well! Learning from my previous mistake, I rolled the gumpaste into a thinner layer and the petals look way better this way. I also added a tint of yellow to make the pink less vibrant as I was going for the coral pink. Love how the flowers turned out! 

And this dummy styrofoam cake is a really good investment if you are always making flowers like these. You can always reuse it again and again! And it's only less than $10. I think it definitely made my job a lot easier. 

I have always wanted to learn how to cover a cake with fondant. I tried it before but it wasn't easy as I didn't use the right technique before. I think the type of fondant really plays a huge part as well. Wilton brand gum paste and fondant are so much better, so is the price tag.. 

How is it better?

It's more malleable and doesn't break as easily. I even left the cake in room temperature (without aircon) for the entire night and it looks absolutely fine the next morning. I know it's kinda gross to leave a cake outside for the more than 24 hours but I wasn't going to eat this cake anyway since it was given to me a week ago. 

The most challenging part of the process is to actually lift the whole piece of fondant onto the rolling pin as it feels like the entire thing is going to tear on me. Any breakage on the fondant and I will have to redo the entire piece again. 

I'm quite happy with the cake as a first official try! 

Day 4 (FINALE):

The most exciting part of the course was to assemble all the flowers on the cake! 

Never thought that doing the dusting effect with a brush can make the flowers look so much prettier! If you look closely, you can also see that the ruffles border also have some pink shading, making it look more 3D than before. 

A photo of my finale cake with my instructor, Nur!