Baked Goodies

I am sure you have found your way over here because you had come across one of my cupcakes, cookies, or brownies. And I am glad you liked them enough to note the web address!

I take orders for baked goodies every now and then – whenever I end up with a bit of free time on my hands. I must say, usually my clients are the super supportive staff at my partners office 🙂

So if you are here to find out how to order more, my price list is here: SJmade Baked Goodies Price list
I must warn you though, I take on very few orders – please dont be disappointed.

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Note: Orders for Suva, Fiji only.

The One About the Birthday Prints

So we have just entered my birthday month and I have been reminiscing the grand time I had last year. My dearest threw me a birthday party and invited the 30 most nearest and dearest to me.

A number of gifts I received were beautiful fabric in Pacific Islands, Indonesian, and African prints. Most of these I had stitched right away, but never got around to posting about them.

Of the Pacific Island prints, I made straight dresses dressed up in belts or bows. The African/Ankara print was made into a fit and flare dress with off-shoulders.

The black batik print is what I haven’t dared to stitch yet. Hopefully I get the time to work on it before the next time I turn 30!

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The One About Golden Planters

A couple of years back I bought a little succulent plant from the ROC market in Suva. I am not much of a gardener nor am I a lover of all plants. My love is limited to palms, ferns, succulents, and cacti. And it seems my skills in keeping plants alive is even more limited. However for some reason, succulents thrive in my little urban garden. So much so that I have to keep on giving them away every few months so that I have at least one cups worth of space on my coffee table.

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To keep the plants in check, I trim them every now and then. The trims and leaves form new plants. And new plants require new planters. So I took to reusing old cups, and chipped dishes as planters, and soon I ran out of them. I also used peanut cans as planters, but that wasn’t enough. So then I had the bright idea of using food cans [especially tuna cans].

I collected the cans over a few months to have enough to transplant a bunch of succulents. Its important to peel off the label before cutting the can open otherwise the paper gets stuck in the upper bit of the can. Once the cans were clean and dry, I sprayed them with my golden spray paint. Let them dry and wallah!…I had myself some pretty looking planters for my tiny succulents.

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Succulents make great party favours. I have previously used store bought plastic planters, and gave them a rustic look with brown paper and strings. But these golden onces really up the game.

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The One About Sri Lanka

You know that feeling of wanting to be on the road soon after being back at home? Well, Vee and I aren’t too good with managing our itchy feet so we were scouting for a new cheap destination soon after our Indo-China trip last Nov-Dec. In the running were India, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Since we didn’t have too many leave days left [having been just back from a three week long trip], the destination had to be reasonable for a 10 day trip. So India was out as both of us felt we should do multiple states per trip and it could get overwhelming in 10 days. Similarly Philippines didn’t make it because Vee had wanted to do Bali and Philippines in the same trip to that side of the world – again too much for a 10 day trip. So we went with Sri Lanka and it turned out to be one of the best trips.

Having decided to take advance of the long Easter weekend and taking a few more days leave from work, Vee and I were set to celebrate our our dating and wedding anniversaries in Sri Lanka, 9 and 3 years respectively 🙂

So Sri Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean separate from India by Palk Strait. Truth be told, I know Sri Lanka because I know Ceylon tea and had probably seen some TV adverts early in my childhood. For those who know a bit about Hindu mythology, Lanka features quite prominently in the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana. And those who are into myths or mysteries of lost lands [example Atlantis, Hyperborea, or Thule]; Kumari Kandan aka Lemuria mentioned in South Indian literature would know a bit more about Sri Lanka. I do so because I read Sumathi Ramaswamy’s Lost Land of Lemuria in Year 1 of my undergrad years which started my fascination with narratives of lost land [this is a story for another time].

Now to the travel details, those residing in my island country would be glad to know that you could take a return trip from Nadi to Colombo for as low as FJD2,345. I booked with Fiji Airways and SriLankan Airlines during their sale period. Both airlines take excellent care of you and make travelling long hours a breeze. Our accommodation costs came to around FJD800 for the 10 nights in Sri Lanka. We used a mix of Airbnb’s and hotels [via Agoda]. And the total of our daily expenses despite heavy eating and tea tasting came to FJD1,500. So the whole trip was approximately FJD3,500 per person. That is inclusive of the dozen sarees I may have bought 🙂

These are a few things I thought to share [there are many other travel tips available online]:

  • Travel light if you plan on taking a train or bus.
  • Eat local food at local joints. Local food is extremely tasty and cheap. Even the most nitty-gritty food joint is reasonably clean. Look out for “Sri Lankan curry and rice” on the menu, the rice comes with 5-8 different curries – all for FJD10.00.
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Typical rice and Sri Lanakan curry serve
  • Indugle in the fresh coconut water. I over did it. You can get a coconut for FJD1.30 [100LKR]. So unless you are growing these yourself, these are a steal.
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That’s a happy me enjoying fresh coconut somewhere in Polonnaruwa
  • It gets hot an humid, wear cotton blends and carry an umbrella.

Side note: If you are planning on taking the train [and you should], you must book the seats as early as possible. Have a read up of the details on The Man in Seat 61. However, if you aren’t able about to book all your trips, do not stress too much. The unreserved seats will likely cost you approximately a dollar and some discomfort, but you can still travel. We were unable to reserve seats for the Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and Nuwara Eliya to Ella trips, so we ended up buying tickets for the unreserved cabin. Which is basically filled to the brim with people as there are no capacity limitations it seems. What you need to do is, put on your backpacks, navigate through the crowd and get on board as fast a possible. Better if there are two of you, so one can find seats and the other manages the luggage.

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Vee ready to board with both our backpacks.

This of course didn’t workout for us as I am no good navigating in crowded spaces. So even though Vee was carrying both our backpacks, he got on way ahead of me. Lucky for me, the people are extremely nice and one little girl gave up her seat for me [she sat on her mum’s lap], and shared strawberries with me. Vee got seats a few stations later when some passengers got off. Now because the scenery is so beautiful, so even if you don’t find yourself a seat, try and find a window and enjoy the views while the train chugs through the hills.

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Overall I felt completely safe and comfortable travelling in Sri Lanka; there were no instances of harassment or leering.  Everybody we met and spoke to, treated us with respect and care. I must say though, Vee got a few looks for conversing in English when he looks so Sri Lankan.

The One About the Overlap Dresses

It was a beautiful Saturday morning when I found myself [yet again] in Atlas somehow. To tell you the truth, it isn’t at all coincidental that we park in MHCC for our Saturday trips to the Suva market; it makes for an easy detour to Atlas 🙂

What caught my eye on this particular Saturday were these rolls of jersey fabric going for $4 a metre. Now, if you have read about my previous projects you would know that I LOVE stretchy fabric. It has the advantage of a fitted piece without worrying too much about zippers. Anyways, I bought a grey and maroon piece to be transformed into overlap dresses.

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The end results were slightly different from what I had set out to do. Firstly, I wasn’t sure the hanging overlap would look as good as it does in the sketch and secondly, I decided I wanted to wear the maroon piece to work, so I added shoulders.

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The One About The Great European Adventure

Early in 2016 Vee and I had made the decision to not be in Fiji for our birthdays (we have the same birthday). I had wanted to be in Egypt but things were still a bit unsettled in that part of the world so we went with Europe, a continent we had thought to travel when we had a bit more money. Unfortunately, with our itchy feet, it’s difficult to amass any substantial wealth; so off we went because there was no point in waiting for the bank balance to expand.

For this write-up, I will not cover each of the cities we visited but rather a generic overview of things to assist while planning a trip to Europe.

We almost always book our flights from and to Fiji months in advance, generally whenever there is a sale on the Nadi-Singapore-Nadi leg. The rest we fit in progressively keeping in mind sale periods and flight schedules. For this trip, we worked out the must visit countries, and then cities, and then the routes.

Routes

For our travels, Vee and I have very specific roles. I look into the travel and accommodation details and Vee works out the ground travel and city itinerary. Once we pin down our route, I look into accommodation options close to public transportation and interest points. The earlier you book the better. My go to site for accommodation searches and bookings are Agoda and Airbnb. Agoda because you collect points over time which can be used to discount bookings, and Airbnb because, lets face it, European hotels aren’t meant to be booked with Fijian dollars.

Side note: always read reviews of the places you are booking and take note of other travelers recommendations. When booking for our Venice hotel I had read that there aren’t any lifts in most of the smaller hotels because the buildings are old and its no fun carrying your backpack four flight of stairs. So I mentioned in my booking details that I prefer a room on the ground floor because I have a bad leg. Now this was done months before we checked-in so I was very confused (but pleased) to find we were provided a double door room with a huge bath (with seats and handles). It wasn’t until later in the night when it dawned on me that I am supposed to have a bad leg. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a bad knee, but not bad enough to warrant this lavish room. So for the reminder of the trip, I walked with a limp while entering and exiting the hotel.

The trickiest bit I found was booking intercity trains. Luckily, I found The Man in Seat 61 before I lost my sanity. Mark Smith, documents everything there is to know about travelling via trains in Europe and in many other countries. I am currently referring to his website for travels in Sri Lanka!

For the day to day itinerary, we used Sygic Travel. With Sygic Travel you could map out our itinerary or use itinerary templates. We simply looked at 2-3 day itineraries and picked out the items we wanted to do. Since this trip planner is map based, you could visualise the distance between your different interest points. Apart from Sygic Travel, Vee read numerous blog posts and TripAdvisor reviews for the attractions we were interested in. He listed out the approximate distance between the interest point (specially if we were to walk) and the entry fee.

Most of his work on Europe is available on this excel sheet.

Initially we were horrified at the prospect using public transport and getting lost in Europe. However, after a bit of online research, we found mobile apps which enabled us to navigate most of Europe like locals. We used HereWeGo for public transportation needs as it provided turn-by-turn navigation in offline mode as well. For walking around we used Maps.Me which allows you to download a city map for use offline. It provides walking distance and time between locations, as well as relevant information on nearest washroom or drinking water fountain for example.

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Overall, travelling across Europe can be easy, fun and less heavy on the pocket. Be sure to do a bit of pre-planning and leave the rest for adventure!