Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Instagram is Killing My Blog

 Who hasn’t heard of Instagram? Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock there was no escaping the news snippets about Instagram around a month or so ago. Even my 60+ year old mom, who’s social media participation is below average, is very much aware of Instagram.

For those not in the know Instagram is a free photo sharing application on the iPhone. In April 2012, it has also become available on the Android platform via Google Play. Think Facebook but limited to photos. Now, if you don’t know Facebook then you have a problem.

Instagram describes itself as ‘a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family.’ Couldn’t argue that!  Fast, yes! It’s almost instantaneous! Beautiful and fun, a big yes! The app provides filters that transform ordinary looking photos to something that looks and feels (almost) spectacular. Easy sharing to family and friends, yes!  I’ve even extended my audience to include strangers. It also allows the user to simultaneously upload the photos on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Just last month Facebook acquired Instagram for a whopping $1 billion (that’s why they were in the news). The forward thinking company obviously see a lot of value in it. Not bad for an app that’s only been out for less than two years. Not bad at all. But wait, there’s more, it now boasts over 30 million registered users (and counting).

Despite the title, I do not harbour negative feelings toward Instagram, in fact, quite the opposite. I love it! I love it so much it is killing my blog. What do I mean by that? I have been using Instagram as a substitute to my blog. It has become the micro version of my regular blog. The attraction? Less words but big impact. In fact, I have a bigger following on Instagram than I do on this blog. Make that 8 times larger. But I enjoy blogging. This site won’t be going down anytime soon. 

To celebrate my birthday last week (I’m now edging ever closer to 40) I asked my wife  (Cherry of Cherry’s Cakes) to make me an Instagram cake.  She excelled herself once again as you can see! Especially made with love…for her craft…and for me. Thank you sweetheart! Best cake ever!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pistachio Ice Cream Nostalgia

Summer is officially over. It may not seem so in Brisbane (where the average is still in the high 20’s) but elsewhere in Australia the temperatures have started falling. As I write this post it’s actually 1C in sunny Canberra (lucky them!).

If you’re from one of the southern states you might think it’s a tad late to be posting about ice cream. But luckily I live in the ‘smart state’ of Queensland where we get to enjoy this icy treat any time of the year. Yes, even in the middle of winter.

Anyways, my dear wife (Cherry of Cherry’s Cakes) gave me an ice cream maker for our 14th anniversary. I immediately put it to good use always with the intention of writing a post about it. Well, 5 months and several tubs of ice cream later nada post. Unless you follow me (@thebeancounter) on Instagram there was no way you’ll know of my recent ice cream exploits. More on Instagram in a future post…I promise.

A caveat before you continue reading, making your own ice cream can be much more expensive than buying straight off the supermarket freezer..and it is very addictive. Procuring the essential ingredients without the benefit of economies of scale can be costly. But knowing exactly what goes in your ice cream makes it absolutely worth it. And it is addictive because it’s easy. It doesn’t take a genius..really.

I’ve always wanted to make my own pistachio ice cream. Not just for the challenge but more so for the nostalgia this particular flavour brings. Back in the days before Super Malls the Quiapo district of Manila was the place to be. There I go to Coney Island Ice Cream (American name but apparently 100% Filipino) to get my fill of this curious green coloured treat. Those carefree days...when my biggest worry was getting more of the ice cream in my mouth and less on my clothes.

Apparently, to create the ‘best’ possible pistachio ice cream one must source a particular pistachio paste from Bronte, Italy. In this day and age of online shopping I did not see that as a hurdle. Anything can be delivered downunder…or so I thought. I'm not sure if it's Australia's ‘strict to the point of ridiculousness’ quarantine rules that caused this but I could not get Bronte pistachios anywhere near my brand spanking new ice cream maker.

The next best thing was to make my own paste... I couldn’t be bothered.

I ditched the 'best' idea and looked for a simpler recipe. I went back to Cusinart’s recipe booklet. What I found didn’t excite me but I gave it a go… And much to my surprise the result was pretty impressive. I made some slight modifications to simplify it further and make sure I do not waste my ingredients and this is what I’m sharing with you below. By the way, you need an ice cream machine that can hold 2 litres. Read and follow your machine's manual. If you have a smaller version please adjust the measurements accordingly.

Pistachio Ice Cream

1 cup full cream milk chilled

1 ¼ cup caster sugar

2 x 300ml Thickened Cream

1 x 300ml Double Cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 ½ cups roughly chopped pistachios

1. In a bowl, combine the milk and the caster sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved.

2. Stir in the thickened cream, the double cream, vanilla and almond extracts.

3. Turn the machine own; pour the mixture into the freezer bowl and let it mix until thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Add the chopped pistachios in the last 5 minutes of churning.

4. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If you prefer a firmer consistency transfer the ice cream to an air tight container and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's More Fun in the Philippines!

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love where I live. But when thinking of a tropical holiday there’s no other choice for me but the Philippines.

The Philippines has suffered from bad press for the longest time. I don’t care to detail them here. You can read about them everywhere else. As a consequence, the country did not appeal as a holiday destination. The number of tourist arrivals lagged behind that of other countries.

The Department of Tourism (@DOTPhilippines) of the Philippines launched a new campaign to entice tourists to travel to that part of the world. It’s about time! I think it’s imperative! It’s high time to tell the world, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”

According to the DOT’s Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr:

“Our strategy is simple: while other countries invite you to observe, Filipinos can promise a more heartfelt and interesting experience. Wherever you go, whatever you do in the country, it’s the Filipinos that will complete your vacation and will make your holiday unforgettable.”

I absolutely agree! There are good food and nice beaches all around the world but “It is More Fun in the Philippines” because of the people.

I like it.

I believe in it.

I am getting involved.

This new campaign is not without its detractors. ‘Copycat’ accusations are rife. The Swiss apparently used the same slogan back in 1951. Yup, 61 years ago!

And what’s with this misplaced nostalgia for the ‘WOW Philippines’ campaign? Did it actually succeed?

In support of this new initiative I’ve edited some of my travel photos to the Philippines. Here’s the first set of them.