I love recipes that involve only a couple of steps. Especially when it comes to baking! This recipe was passed on to me by my mother, who is a terrific baker and would whip up the most extraordinary desserts in minutes! Icing on the cake right!? :)
She never really had the patience to spend a lot of time measuring or whipping or sieving and yet anything she made would taste so incredible. The ingredients would just come together so well! (I still dream of her Orange soufflé with those lovely delicious bits of orange rind. – coming up soon).
I, on the other hand, have always focused on the recipe, getting the exact measurements and making sure it looked exactly like it did in the book or photo and still struggle to get the taste right. With this one, I didn’t have to try too hard to get it to taste good. It is definitely a winner! Made a batch on the husband’s birthday as we had just returned from a trip the previous night and being a weekday, I didn’t have the time to bake an elaborate cake…like this 30 layer cake on his 30th -
This year, he just had to make do with these mini cupcakes!
Doesn’t look terribly disappointed now, does he? :)
Here is what you need to make these beauties -
* 4 table spoons of good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 large free range egg
* ¾ cup oil
* ¾ cup yoghurt
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the over to 180C or 350F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. The recipe makes about 24 mini cupcakes.
Mix all the ingredients in one large bowl and the batter is ready.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each two thirds full. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the tops spring back with touched with a knife.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before icing.
Simple icing -
* 1 can of condensed milk
* 4 table spoons of good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
Combine until smooth, decorate your cupcakes and watch them disappear! :)
From lovely lush Kauai, we headed on to our next destination – Oahu. The island of Oahu is definitely a very popular tourist destination. While we did not see many in Kauai, Oahu and especially Honolulu was flooded with tourists. The island is lot bigger than Kauai but just as beautiful. We were totally spoilt by all the lovely sights and incredible weather throughout the duration of our trip.
Here are top 5 sights not to be missed while visiting the island -
1. Lanikai Beach- After having read innumerable blog posts and articles about this beach, I could think of no better way to start exploring the island. Just a short distance from the busy Kailua Beach is this incredibly lovely beach. Parking can be a bit difficult since the area is primarily residential but a couple of rounds later, we managed to find a spot not too far away. At the end of the alley that led to the beach, we could see the glistening blue water. The blue I had only seen in photos and movies. It seemed unreal and in that moment I found myself feeling extremely fortunate for having seen some of the most magnificent sights over the past couple of days. Overwhelmed and excited, we decided to come back at 4:00 am the next morning to watch the sunrise. The experience wasn’t over yet.
We were the first ones on the beach the next morning. We picked a nice spot overlooking the Mokulua Islands and settled down to witness the grand spectacle. The sunrise was definitely one of the prettiest I have seen. We just sat there, the two of us, listening to the gentle waves and taking it all in. Later that morning, we kayaked out towards the Mokulua islands and spent the afternoon lounging in the sun. The beach is also great for snorkeling and paddle boarding.
2. Laie Point and the shrimp trucks – The drive along the North Shores is a must do in Oahu. The road gently meanders along the coast and the pretty blue water looks so inviting as you drive up the Kamehameha Highway (83) along the Eastern side of the island. Along the way, it passes a succession of small coves and bays and miles of white-sand beaches, some nearly deserted. There are some lovely snorkel spots and as you go further up north, the waves are ideal for surfing!
Oahu Revealed, the popular guide-book by Andrew Doughty gave us some great suggestions on places worth visiting, away from all the tourist traps. That is how we found Laie Point. According to local legend, this peninsula was originally a “Mo’o” or giant lizard. Standing upright ready to kill any intruder. After Kana (a legendary warrior) and his brother had rescued their mother from Moloka’i and had taken her back to Hawaii. Kana set out on a journey to kill all the Mo’o in the islands. In time, he arrived in La’ie where the Mo’o had been killing many people. Kana easily defeated the Mo’o taking its head. He chopped it into five pieces and flung them into the ocean. The pieces of the lizard’s head can still be seen today as five small islands lying off-shore their original names were Kihewamoku, Moluaaniwa, Pulemoku, Malualai and Keauakaluapa’a’a. (Source: “Hawaiian Legends” by William Rice, Bishop Museum Bulletin, Honolulu, HI 1923).
The rock formations are a stunning sight and beautiful to photograph. At Laie Point you can also see what the locals call “the hole in the rock.” Located in the rock island to the far left of the point, a hole can be seen in the middle of the island, which was created after a tsunami hit it in 1946. This is also the point where Mila Kunis and Jason Segel jumped off in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall‘. We didn’t see many cliff jumpers the day we were there because it was terribly windy and giant waves were crashing on the rocks! Would love to go back and jump off the cliff on a day when the waves aren’t as intense.
After about an hour of wave watching and some soul-searching at the tip of the cliff, we realized we were famished and we decided to go look for one of the popular shrimp trucks in the area. We chose Giovanni’s based on all the reviews and were not in the least bit disappointed. Hot fresh buttered garlicky shrimp was just what I needed. For non shrimp lovers, there are some other trucks in the area that have other options as well.
3. The spitting caves – On day 3 at the island, we started heading towards Honolulu, our final destination. We decided to drive along the southern coast for more scenic views and so we could stop at the famous Hanauma Bay. As luck would have it, the parking lot was already full by the time we got there so we just had to settle for a view of the bay from one of the lookout points. We had read about the spitting caves just a short distance away, so we decided to go check that out instead. It isn’t very easy to find as the access path is in a residential area and not very well-marked. I am glad we didn’t skip seeing this place because the natural rock formations really make this place stand out. The spitting cave is where the ocean smashes against a few huge rocks and there is a cave where the waves go in and the pressure pushes the water out. Quite an amazing sight and it wasn’t crowded at all.
4. Honolulu – Crowded and bustling like any other tourist city. Downtown Honolulu is literally a mixture of old buildings, new buildings, bars, shops and restaurants. We checked into a hotel right on Waikiki so we wouldn’t have to drive out much on the last 2 days of our vacation. It was nice to just walk around, catch some of the FIFA World cup matches at the local bars and sample some delicious Japanese food.
The day we arrived also happened to be the day of the Pan-Pacific Parade down the Kalakaua Avenue, the main strip next to Waikiki beach. The main street is temporarily closed down to vehicular traffic from Lewers Street to Kaiulani Avenue to accommodate this festive parade. Thousands of participants included colorful performers, taiko drummers, dancers, ethnic cultural groups, and high school marching bands. It was a true feast and we felt lucky to have witnessed it.
The next morning we drove up to Mt. Tantalus (Puu Ualakaa State Park) to get a glimpse of the lovely skyline of Diamond Head and the city of Honolulu. It is a beautiful drive up the hill and the views are just stunning! (Opener photo)
5. Pearl Harbor – What a beautiful memorial! The exhibits are great and the grounds are very well maintained. The atmosphere is somber and everyone so respectful of the site. There are four main exhibits and if you choose to see them all, it will probably take up most of your day. Do make sure to reserve a ticket to see the USS Arizona online a few weeks before your trip. A small number of tickets are also given out each morning. The office opens at 7:00 AM, but an employee recommended arriving at 6:00 AM to get in line. The tickets assign a time to view the film. Directly after, the audience boards a boat to the USS Arizona Memorial. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, they only had late afternoon slots available and we had a flight out that afternoon so had to miss seeing it. We did get tickets to the USS Bowfin, so we did an audio tour of the submarine. The tour was extremely informative and included personal accounts from veterans and residents to bring the story to life. This was very helpful, as I found the amount of information displayed quite overwhelming, especially in the submarine museum. Will definitely go back to visit the USS Arizona and USS Missouri on the next trip.
The trip ended on a very good note and I have just picked up a copy of Hawaii – The Big Island Revealed, to start planning a trip back to the gorgeous islands.
Sometimes a good holiday can be the perfect cure for just about anything. After months of slogging it out, I was feeling rather demotivated and worn out. In desperate need for a break, we decided to head out to Hawaii for one week. After consulting with friends in Hawaii, we decided to visit the islands of Kauai and Oahu based on the amount of time we had and the stuff we wanted to do. The husband and I love being outdoors, driving around, hiking or bumming at the beach and taking in all that nature has to offer!
The first island we visited was Kauai – green, serene and gorgeous! We took the first flight out and six and a half hours later, we landed at Lihue airport. Quaint and rustic, I fell in love with it immediately. We spent three nights at Kapa’a, around 6 miles north of the airport and close enough to pretty much all the places we wanted to visit. We spent the afternoon exploring Kapa’a, did a short drive up north to the sleepy town Kilauea and started planning the rest of our trip.
Here are the top 5 must do’s while in Kauai:
1. Nounou Trail aka The Sleeping Giant Hike - Local legend states that a giant who feasted so much at a party thrown in his honor, laid down for a nap and never awoke. When you see the mountain’s resemblance to a sleeping giant from the nearby town of Kapa’a you can see why the legend persists. This is a nice little hike if you’re in the area, and a great way of sampling some of Kauai’s exotic plant life and bird population. This vantage offers views of the ocean, Wailua River and Mt. Waiʻaleʻale. The trail can be quite slippery, especially after the rains so do bring sturdy footwear.
2. Snorkel at the beaches around Hanalei Bay – The stunning blue water calls out to you as you drive along the coast towards the North Shores and Snorkel Bob made it extremely easy to rent all the snorkeling gear. The calm, gentle water was perfect to dive into and explore the ocean bed. We did spot one big turtle, gently swimming along :). On our next trip to Kauai, we definitely plan to do a couple of boat tours so we can explore some of the sea caves along the Na Pali Coast.
3. Doors off Helicopter Tour - We decided to do a doors off helicopter tour of the island to see some of the best sights from the air, since everyone we spoke to recommended it. I spent the first five minutes after take off trembling in fear and refusing to let go of the seat. But slowly, the views just started getting so amazing that it took my mind off everything else! We got fantastic views of the Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park. The canyon is often referred to as the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Hawaii and rightfully so. It is a sight you definitely do not want to miss. We also saw the Manawaiopuna Falls, more famously known as the Jurassic Falls because it was featured in the movie Jurassic Park. The next main attraction was the famous Na Pali Coast. I don’t think I have ever seen a prettier coastline. I always thought that nothing could ever compete with the Pacific Coast highway but my jaw literally dropped the minute we got closer to the Na Pali coast. You can’t go to Kauai without seeing the Nepali Coast. Breathtakingly beautiful! Our pilot slowly steered inland over Hanalei Bay towards the center of the island and the Weeping Wall, a series of beautiful scenic waterfalls that tumble down the side of 5,184 foot high Mount Waiʻaleʻale. The summit is one of the rainiest spots on earth with a record 683 inches (17,300 mm) in 1982.
Be sure to book this in advance so that you can plan your trip better. We were extremely happy with our tour with Mauna Loa Helicopters. The tour can be a bit pricey but totally worth it. No photographs can do justice to the sights we saw :).
4. Taro Burgers and Shave ice – Never having eaten Taro before, I was extremely curious about it. Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside with textural crunch, the taro burger is a must try. I had never had anything quite like it and it was flavored perfectly. We tried them at a number of places but absolutely loved the ones at Kalapali Beach Hut in Lihue. A tiny shack-like but cute building but on the roof is a cozy two booths and bar style seating with a bit of view of the ocean. Shave ice is an ice-based dessert made by shaving a block of ice and coating it with flavored syrups. The fine texture of the ice absorbs all the syrup and makes one delicious refreshing dessert! Do try some local favorites like Pineapple, Lychee, Papaya and Guava syrups on your shave ice. Nothing beats the heat better!
5. Tree Tunnel and Poipu Beach – Very close to the old town of Koloa is the Maluhia Road Tree Tunnel. Definitely drive towards Poipu via this route. It is a mile long drive flanked by Eucalyptus Trees on either side to form a tunnel. The drive through is pretty amazing, have your camera ready as you drive into Maluhia Road from Highway 50. A short distance away is the Poipu Beach, quite popular with tourists and known to be a great snorkeling spot. We spent an entire afternoon here just lounging on the beach.
I already have a list of things I want to do on our next trip to Kauai, including hiking the The Kalalau Trail – an 11 mile stretch of coast is the original trail used by the Hawaiians who lived in Kalalau Valley and other valleys along the Napali. The trail provides the only land access to the Napali Coast on Kauai. Of course this would require some planning and conditioning but we hope to return to this magnificent island very soon.
Coming up next – Exploring the island of Oahu…
With my days getting busier than ever, I feel even more compelled to take a break and ogle at beautiful objects/places/crafts. There is just so much creativity in the world, and hardly much time to truly value any of it. Sometimes I wonder what the purpose of life really is. It certainly cannot involve just working your life away. There is so much to see, so much to take in and most importantly, so much to appreciate!
Okies, before I get lost in my thoughts, I shall cut myself short and leave you with some stunning finds that will surely recharge your batteries.
1. Gorgeous Light and Shadow Painting by Rashad Alakbarov. Would love a small one for my home!
2. Cheery Magnolias on a Dictionary page by FauxKiss.
3. The Bangalore Wallflowers have been transforming blank walls into beautiful pieces of art. They work in collaboration with the community and encourage people to contribute ideas and participate in the painting process.
4. I once owned a bag almost identical to this one. Hand made from recycled plastic. I bought mine from a small market in Manila. Dying to get my hands on another one.
5. Would you have the heart to put a fork into this lovely plate? This Malaysia based mother of two creates lovely designs with edible items to get her daughters to eat. She provides step by step instructions on her blog- www.eatzybitzy.com.
6. Yes, I believe Unicorns exist! Digital Drawing by SnowSkadi.
7. Art installation made by Ronald van der Meijs from 5,000 repurposed bicycle bells set on steel pins. As the wind picks up, the bells gently ring against one another!
8. The Magic Mountain Lodge in Chile. What an amazing experience it would be to spend a couple of nights here!
9. Paper art by Jen Stark that will blow your mind.
Have a lovely rest of the week! :)
This is an old DIY project that I didn’t find the time to document earlier but is one of my favorites for sure. The husband had this OLD boring brown ugly traditional dated hutch. I honestly didn’t care much for it and was all set to toss it. Instead, I decided to do a little experiment with the old piece. Never thought it would fit in a contemporary setting but well, take a look at the results. :)
Here is a picture of the top half of the hutch just before we got started on it -
(Yes I know the husband’s taste in furniture is definitely questionable!)
I decided to paint it an ivory white so it would add more dimension to the room and create that illusion of space as opposed to what it was currently doing – occupying all the space in our tiny dining space and looking quite hideous at the same time! Since it is a big piece, it did take time to take it apart, sand it properly so the surface was all even and then finally paint it. This was way before I had gotten comfortable using spray paints so we went the traditional route and spent about two weekends painting away. I bought brand new knobs from Cost Plus World Market and love how they look. I was initially looking for animal face shaped knobs for that whimsical touch but couldn’t find them anywhere. These ones work pretty well for now, especially the tiny patterned ones. Instead of using a traditional pull out knob for the drawers, I decided to use two small ones.
A fresh coat of paint and pretty new accessories did the trick! I love how it looks now and at some point I might remove the mirrors from the inside panel and experiment with some chevron patterned wallpaper for an interesting look. But that’s another project…
I recommend using Spray Paint as it is faster and far more convenient. Refer to my post Furniture Makeover DIY for details on what paints to use and tips for painting furniture.
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