baked quinoa & veggie casseroleyouAlright, first things first: I am NOT in any way an expert in the kitchen. Although I do recognize that sometimes I can make decent food too, especially when I’m starving to death and left with no choice! 😂

Having said that, I’m quite a lazy cook so I prefer fast and yummy recipes—something I can prepare in maybe less than an hour. Thus, I personally find boiling, stir-frying, and baking most suitable for me and my needs.

I tried quinoa for the first time and tell you what… I’ve no regrets! I just took everything else I had in my fridge that time, popped them all in the oven, and voila—one super easy, quick, and healthy quinoa casserole. I hope you guys can try to make one too so here you go with my simple recipe!

Baked Quinoa Casserole with Thyme Chicken (Serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

Quinoa Bake

  • 1 cup cooked red quinoa
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • a handful of baby spinach
  • a dash of olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • lemon for garnish

Thyme Chicken

  • 4-6 pcs chicken fillet
  • thyme
  • salt & pepper

  1. Marinate the chicken fillet with salt, pepper, and thyme. Set aside.
  2. Pre-cook the quinoa until slightly soft. Cut the veggies while waiting.
  3. Put the medium cooked quinoa in a pan or casserole. Add broccoli, corn, and beans.
  4. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cheese. Bake at 180°C for about 30 minutes.
  5. While waiting, pan fry the marinated chicken until slightly golden.
  6. Once cooked, take out the pan from the oven, top with thyme chicken and baby spinach, and garnish it with some lemon slices. Enjoy!

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Korean Face Masks? Absolutely!

Photo Skincare Pinterest Graphic

Note: This article was originally written for Jetspree on 17 November 2017. Reposting here on my personal blog for portfolio keeping and documentation purposes only. 

Ever dreamed of having that frustratingly flawless and radiant skin you see on your K-drama and KPop idols? Sure, it could be a combination of genetics, lifestyle, surgery, and whatnot—but we have to admit: it’s their *obsession* with skincare too.

Standing at the forefront of skincare research, South Korea’s exports of these products are continuously soaring. In 2015 alone, the country has exported more than $2.64B worth of cosmetics and skincare goods, a new high, according to the Korea Customs Service. (Source: BBC)

Yes, that sure says a lot. The range of products keeps getting wider and wider too, so use this article as a guide! Check out our list of face masks we’re 100% sure your skin will thank you for:

1. Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

Let’s face it—most of us live extremely busy and hectic lives. Bad news: stress and fatigue shows on our skin. Good news: products like this exist! With its SLEEP-TOX™ technology, this holy grail is clinically-proven to purify and rejuvenate your skin as you sleep, helping you achieve a bright, moisturised, and well-rested appearance the morning after. Seriously, who doesn’t want that?

Tip: Use it after washing and applying toner and emulsion. Gently massage an appropriate amount over your face. Leave it on overnight and wake up looking like Song Hye Kyo. Ok maybe not, but you get the point. 😜

Why we love it: Aside from the excellent reviews, we love it simply because it lives up to its promise of moisturising and invigorating the skin. It’s like waking up from a good night’s sleep, even if we all know you didn’t. Heh. The calming scent is a big plus, too!

2. Skinfood Black Sugar Mask Wash-Off

Many of us underestimate the power of exfoliation. A lot of us know how to wash and moisturise our faces, but not everyone knows how to exfoliate properly.

Not sure where to start? We recommend Skinfood’s most sought-after product—the Black Sugar Mask Wash-Off! Featuring organic black sugar granules, this crowd-pleaser is highly effective in scrubbing away those nasty dead skin cells, revealing that clean and healthy skin beneath.

Tip: Exfoliating too much can leave your skin dry and irritated. Sensitive skin? Once a week’s perfect. Normal and combination skin? About 2-3 times a week. Also, remember that it’s best to exfoliate in the morning since the skin renews itself overnight!

Why we love it: The mask’s texture is coarse enough to remove impurities, but not enough to damage your skin. Also, the sugar in this product is enriched with vitamins and minerals to make sure your skin is hydrated during exfoliation.

 

3. The Face Shop Real Nature Sheet Masks

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Image Source: eBay

If you’ve been to Korea, you know that you simply can’t go home without any facial sheet mask in your luggage. The choices are pretty overwhelming—from fruits and vegetables to snail mucus (yes, you heard it right) face masks—name it, they have it.

Can’t pick one? Go on and try The Face Shop’s bestselling sheet masks! They all do a
straightforward job of intensely hydrating and moisturising your skin leaving it soft and supple. Like a baby’s. For reals.

Tip: Do some research to see which one suits your skin type (and #facegoals) best. Some are tailored to hydrate and nourish, some are to brighten, minimise pores, and so on. Also, remember not to wear the mask on too long as it can actually suck back the moisture from your face, making your skin’s condition even worse. Yikes!

Why we love it: It comes in cool variants such as lemon, pomegranate, mung bean, bamboo, honey, kelp, avocado, calendula, lotus, rice, red ginseng, Lingzhi mushrooms, and more. Oh, and of course don’t forget newcomers potato and tea tree!

 

4. Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask

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Image Source: eBay

Scoria, a pure and rare volcanic rock formed as lava cools after a volcano erupts, is one heck of an ingredient known to be really effective in absorbing sebum and washing away impurities from the skin. Thank you, Mother Nature!

Now, we don’t really want you to go out of your way to wait for a volcanic eruption in Jeju or something—Innisfree’s bestselling Jeju pore clay mask is derived from mineral-rich scoria (6,020 mg of Jeju volcanic clay) and is something you should definitely give a shot right now if you’re after that smooth and poreless skin (yes girl, we mean no whiteheads and blackheads, too!).

Tip: This product comes in two types: the original Jeju volcanic clay mask which is great for controlling sebum, and the super volcanic clay mask which is great for cleaning up and minimising pores. Take your pick!

Why we love it: Innisfree guarantees that these products do not contain artificial fragrances and imidazolidinyl urea, an antimicrobial preservative commonly used in cosmetic products, which is found to trigger allergic reactions and release formaldehyde, a human carcinogen.


Can’t wait to get your hands on these exclusive items? Get yours from Jetspree now!

Jetspree is a guaranteed safe and hassle-free way to get your favourite products from anywhere in the world. Built on a reliable and trustworthy global community of buyers and travellers, Jetspree makes sure you get anything you want from overseas without any worries. 100% money-back guarantee if your request is not fulfilled. No questions asked. What are you waiting for? Make a request now!

 

My Happiness Jar 💞

Snacking doesn’t always have to be unhealthy!

I snack probably way too much and feel guilty about it around 90% of the time. I love eating chips, sweets, biscuits, and a lot of junk food, and pretending I’m surprised when I realize I’m gaining weight. 🤣

But glad nuts came into my life! Wahaha! I still snack as much as before, but this time, I feel less guilty about it. 😋

Malaysia does have quite a lot of options for nuts and seeds. But being the usual practical consumer (see cheapskate) that I am, I did some research to find excellent quality ones for less. And voila~ I found out about Mahnaz Food!

Established in 1996, Mahnaz Food is a big importer of high quality nuts, dried fruits, juices, oils, confectionery, spices, and more. According to their website, the brand continues to grow in Malaysia, and has currently over 14 branches throughout the country.

Here’s their list of products for retail and wholesale:

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You can conveniently shop from their website, but you may also visit their branches in the following areas:

  • Shah Alam
  • KLCC
  • Midvalley
  • PKNS Complex
  • Jalan Ipoh
  • Alamanda
  • Subang Parade
  • JB (JBCC)
  • JB (DCM)
  • Melaka
  • Ipoh
  • Kelantan

I bought my goodies from their shop in Alamanda and I’m really happy about it! Took home this 800g jar of mixed nuts for RM50+ which had pistachios, almonds, cashews, and walnuts in it! (Not a big fan of peanuts so this thing’s really for me) 😊💓

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Snacking has never been this fun and guilt-free at the same time! #nutsovernuts

Mahnaz Food

  • 1700 816 106
  • 1300 800 134
  • 03 5192 7405
  • 016 222 6866

Additional Links:

Ichiro Sushi Bar – A Hidden Gem in 1U

Hi! This is gonna be my first review here on my personal website http://www.kitbayron.com and I’m defo looking forward to writing more!

Likewise, it was my first time dining at Ichiro Sushi Bar, a Japanese restaurant at Isetan Eat Paradise, 1 Utama.

The restaurant doesn’t have a lot of seats but it had this nice Japanese vibe, complete with cooks and servers happily greeting you upon entering. There was also an open counter where you can watch the food being prepared in front of you.

Ordering was self-service. The waiters would leave a tablet on the table so you can browse through the e-menu. The service was really fast too so I’d say it’s a good idea to come here when you’re really hungry and can’t afford to wait!

I’m a big fan of unagi, so one of the first things that caught my attention on the menu was this Dragon Roll, which was really tasty and also reasonably priced at RM19.80 per plate. One thing I also find quite unique about this one is the cream cheese inside.

We also tried the Volcano Roll, which had crabstick, raw scallops, and fish roe in it. I don’t really eat anything raw or even half-cooked but this one was quite a surprise. There was an excellent balance of flavours, and is definitely worth the try. A plate costs RM19.80.

And do you see that beautiful, golden slab of fish above? Well, it’s nothing much… just regular salmon belly. Regular enough to make you drool and ask for another plate.

Three words: Grilled to perfection.

It was a tad bit too salty when eaten by itself, but the fish was really fresh. The skin’s crispy and the meat just melts in your mouth (ohhh la la!). I love salmon so I might be a bit biased here, but nope, I’m not. I’m definitely recommending this one. 😋

The salmon was also quite affordable. A yummy, generous portion only costs RM15.

To cap the nice dinner off, we ordered Green Tea ice cream. I have to admit this wasn’t the best matcha ice cream I’ve ever tried, but it wasn’t bad for RM6 per serving either.

Con: It wasn’t that creamy and it had more of an icy texture to it. Pro: the sweetness level was perfect. Not too sweet.

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That’s bout it! I’d probably give this place a 9.0 out of 10, which means I’m coming back for sure! Wanna try the nigiri and other sushi next time. 😊

Note: Restaurant is pork-free.

Ichiro Sushi Bar

2nd Floor, Isetan Eat Paradise, 1 Utama Shopping Centre, 1 Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama City Centre, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Business Hours: 11AM – 10PM

Tel: 03-7726 5899

Young Sampaguita Vendors in UPLB: An In-depth Story

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With a small, brown eco-bag hanging on one shoulder and a bunch of sampaguita leis on
hand, 8-year-old Rica tries to juggle school and work in order to help her family. After buying them from the supplier, Rica then sells the leis at mornings and at late afternoons, just before and after she goes to school. She sells them for 10 pesos each.

In UP Los Baños, young children selling garlands of the said flower has been a common
sight. From late afternoon to evening, they are scattered all around the UPLB gate up to Vega Centre offering the flowers to passersby, or at times, asking people for leftover food and drinks. However, aside from being sampaguita vendors, most of these children are also full-time students and family members.

A loving daughter and sister
When their father died, Rica and her siblings had to help their mother out on daily
expenses, especially since the money the latter gets from doing laundry is usually not enough for them. Furthermore, they have to take care of two sick people in the family: Rica’s grandfather, who is currently dealing with health issues related to old age; and her little brother who was born with asthma.

The siblings usually take turns in selling sampaguita. However, Rica is still very young so her mother allows her to go back home as soon as she sells at least one lei. And whenever she gets free time, young Rica enjoys watching cartoons on TV—just like other
children her age.

Although not her full siblings, Rica loves her brothers and sisters very much—especially
their youngest, Miguel. “Peyborit po ng kapatid ko, si Miguel, ng prutas. Kaya po pag may
prutas po ako binibigay ko po,” (My brother loves fruits. So whenever I get some, I always give it to him.) she says. Also, apparently, this younger brother of hers was also the reason why Rica dreams of becoming a doctor in the future.
Aside from being a doctor who could cure his brother’s asthma, Rica also dreams of the
day when she could wear a Cinderella costume and celebrate a grand birthday celebration, just like what she sees with other children.

Education and fulfilled dreams
Once she finishes high school, young Rica says she would love to go to UP and start
fulfilling her dreams there. However, it seems like a far-fetched dream—for at this point in time, education already means struggle for Rica and her family.

She’s currently in Grade three, but she still couldn’t read and write. Also, she still hasn’t
fully understood the concept of time and date; so she doesn’t know her birthday, nor what time she’s supposed to go home every night. Good thing, she’s quite good at Math—a skill so useful in her everyday selling of her sampaguitas.

Going to school or selling sampaguita on the streets is a big challenge for the young
girl—all the more, doing both at the same time. However, no matter how difficult it may be for her, she strives really hard to be able to help her family and to reach her dreams.
“Minsan piso lang po baon ko, nagwa-1-2-3 na lang po ako sa jeep,” (Sometimes I go to
school with just one peso. I then ride the jeepney without paying.) Rica says, giggling. She
usually spends this peso on a tiny bag of chips.

To make things worse, the young girl often gets into trouble too. She says: “Dati po
pinagbintangan po akong nagnakaw ng 300 pero hindi po totoo… wala po akong kinukuha… pinagbibintangan po ako, araw-araw po akong pinagsasabihan…” (One time, they accused me of stealing 300 pesos but that isn’t true, I didn’t steal anything, they kept blaming me every day.)

Situations like this aren’t new for Rica, but even at school, she gets blamed and accused for things she said she never did. Some other kids bully her, too.

A reflection of current society
While most children are busy with their iPhones and expensive toys, here are these young children—students by day and vendors at night—persistently offering sampaguita garlands to passersby even if they’re often ignored.

Most of them are doing this to help their families pay for necessities like food, health care, and education. One might ask: what if these kids had “better” opportunities in life? What if they had easier access to things such as education? Would they still have to compromise? Perhaps they could be spending their time studying in school, playing with other kids, or having fun with their families at home—but here they are, in the streets of Los Baños, selling fragrant flowers amidst the smell of polluted air and all the hustle and bustle around them.

From seas to streets

We normally see them in groups, wearing bright, colorful sarong as they roam
around busy streets. But most of the time we see them hopping on and off jeepneys,
performing music out of the beats from an improvised drum made of tin cans or PVC pipes and their young voices, singing some lyrics most people seem not to understand at all. They would pass around shabby pieces of white air mail envelopes with a note asking passengers for loose change. They used to be nomads of the seas; but now they have settled the streets as well.

They are the Badjaos, also called the sea gypsies or sea people of Mindanao. It has
been very common to witness them in such a scene every day; young teenagers and
children scattered around places, fearlessly walking around in barefoot, going against rules, and ignoring all the negative reactions of people, and all—just to earn money that would help them all get through the day.

We went to Calamba City knowing there were many Badjaos there. However, in the middle of our search, we found out that most of them don’t stay there anymore after the authorities asked them to leave. Just when we were about to give up, we found a woman carrying a small child around her arms. She was standing along the sidewalk, getting in the way of passersby. In a glance, one would suppose they were indeed Badjaos.

She was meek and compliant when we told her what we were going to do. But as
soon as we asked if she is a Badjao, she started to keep on pointing to the child’s foot. It was wounded, and it was as if she wanted us to provide money so she could take the child to the hospital. It honestly did not look that serious (except that it might lead to an infection), so we promised to help her right after the interview.

First, we took them to a canteen to eat something. We secretly shoot glances while they were eating; and somehow, it felt great to see how much they enjoyed the rice and fried galunggong (mackerel scad) that they ordered. Watching them in that state brought about a mix of emotions—pleased because even in the littlest way we have helped them, and at the same time, sad because that was all we could do.

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Granting her request that they’d be interviewed after eating, she then asked us to
follow her. Despite telling her that it would be fine to do the interview in the eatery, she
insisted we go to another place. When asked why, she would keep murmuring: “Masungit yan,” (They are not friendly!) with her brows and lips puckered. We turned to the canteen owner, and she gave us a confirmation that it would be okay to conduct the interview there. However, we had no choice but to run after the woman, who was then already meters away from us.

We did fear that she might actually run away from us, so we did not mind dashing towards her. Following her was literally an escapade—she was carrying someone with her, but she walked unbelievably fast. She hastily crossed the street, paying no attention to the fast cars, to the overpass above us, and most especially, to the traffic officers on duty that time. They were already on the other side of the street when we suddenly heard a loud whistle as we tried to avoid the approaching vehicles. Fortunately enough, the officers allowed us to jaywalk after we explained to them that we needed to run after the woman; granting we would never do it again.

When we finally reached a secluded area, she immediately invited us to squat down
with them on the floor. She said: “Sabi ko sa inyo maganda dito, e,” (See, I told you it’s nice here.) with a seemingly mocking smile on her face. We did as we were asked, and she again started to point towards the wound on the child’s foot. We, again, gave her a hint of assurance by telling her we would deal with it afterwards.

We were not really sure why, but she was evidently uneasy and distracted all throughout the interview. She could not comprehend some of our questions well, and so most of the time, she just nodded in response. Her name’s Malabato and she came all the way from Zambales. According to her, the child she’s with is Ito, her only child. They both didn’t have an idea how old they were. When asked how they got to Laguna, she answered: “…lumakad lang.” (We just walked.)

Apparently, along with other members of their tribe, they went to the cities in hopes of a better life. She’s already an orphan. As soon as her parents died, she left their home in
Zambales and decided to settle and earn a living in Laguna. When asked what pushed them to do that, she quickly motioned her hand towards her mouth, fingers squeezed together as if eating, and said: “…walang pangkain.” (We have nothing to eat.) It was heartbreaking.
She confirmed our assumption that back in their place of origin, fishing was their
main source of livelihood. The name Badjao actually refers to a group of “boat-dwelling”
and “sea-faring” people that dwell not only in certain parts of the Philippines like Zamboanga, Jolo, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-tawi, but also in other parts of Southeast Asia such as Borneo, Indonesia, and Myanmar.

Some people think that they beg money for a syndicate—probably because their
population in urban areas grows rapidly through time, and because their way of soliciting is, in a way, similar to that of scamming and defrauding operations. However, there are also some who still believe that these indigenous people are also victims of their own circumstances—especially considering that they left their lives on water only to find out that life in the city is pretty much harsher and crueler than what they used to have.

If one would look at Malabato and Ito, it is worth mentioning that they were not as
dirty as the other Badjaos we usually encounter. They neither had dirt stains on their body  nor that “foul” odor most people believed they have always had. Malabato was distinctly beautiful—with her round eyes, high cheekbones, and even complexion. Likewise, Ito, with his curly and messy hair, looked cute and innocent.

For a moment, I started to think about this little child and what could he possibly be if he was given better opportunities in life. If we would just look closely, we could definitely see a lot more; far beyond what we generally know with these people.

The rest of the interview did not go on as smoothly as it began. Malabato was in a
hurry; and while we were in the midst of asking questions, she kept asking if they could already leave. After merely 3 minutes of question and answer, we could see how much she wanted to get away. Her eyes kept on wandering as the child sitting next to her remained oblivious. We asked for a little more time and she agreed—but unfortunately, she became all the more impatient and uninterested. Furthermore, she seemed to be more confused in dealing with our questions. There was even a time when she said Ito is her brother, when in fact, in the beginning of the interview, she claimed she is Ito’s mother.

To sum up the interview, we asked her where they usually sleep. She pointed towards the overpass across the street; which immediately made me think of a typical scene in an overpass that is filled of either illegal vendors, or ignored beggars.

And just when the camera stopped rolling, Malabato, with all her might, started to ask
alms from us. Each of us already gave her a quite reasonable amount of cash, but it didn’t seem enough for her. From a very bored stance during the interview, she suddenly became frantic as she kept on asking for more. She even asked if we could buy her a pair of shoes, since she was in barefoot all along.

I was pretty surprised but I didn’t want to create another negative impression out of them, so as we parted ways, I just looked around me and reflected on how difficult the lives of this people must be—living in a completely unfamiliar place, away from their comfort zones; just like an animal taken out from its natural habitat.

Of satisfaction and annihilation

Of satisfaction and annihilation
The river flows.
the young boy –
with curly hair on top of his swarthy and frail body
whose collarbones and ribcage protrude,
whose guts eat themselves out of crave,
feels the cold gush
in his mouth and throat
The river flows.
the middle-aged mother –
with slanted, inscrutable eyes planted on her fair face
whose family got eaten by the enormous waves,
whose heart endures the aching and longing,
recalls the sight of lifeless bodies
skin swollen and wrinkled