Saturday, 29 March 2014

Oven Express - Oven Cleaning, Sydney

If asked which part of cleaning the kitchen I dislike the most, hands down it would be the oven. Cleaning the oven is a tremendous chore as Jono and I duly discovered when we first moved into our house six months ago - the former owners left us a 'wonderful' surprise, an oven covered with gunk of baked on carbon, fat and grease; there was NO WAY I was going to use the oven in that state! Two cans of Mr Muscle Oven Cleaner and plenty of actual muscles later (not to mention suffering through the toxic throat-burning fumes), we managed to get it into an acceptable state fit for use. "Surely there is an easier way to clean ovens?" you ask. Well, as it turns out, you can outsource the task to a cleaning company that specialises in oven cleaning and one that I've had the pleasure of reviewing today is Oven Express.

Oven Express is a renowned oven cleaning company in Sydney that provides quality oven cleaning using eco-friendly and green products. Oven Express does more than just cleaning; oven detailing is included in their cleaning service which cleans out those hidden and hard-to-reach places in the oven, making it look spotless and as good as new after cleaning.

A customer service representative from the company called me earlier in the week to arrange a suitable time for the service and a text was sent with the confirmed date and time the day before. Dwayne from Oven Express arrived on time for our agreed 1pm appointment and with some tarpaulin and a bucket of cleaning products in hand proceeded straight to the kitchen to set up his workstation. "Sorry about the oven," I apologised, feeling slightly embarrassed at the state of my oven to which Dwayne smiled and assured me it was just a bit of grease and not that bad compared to some he has come across. Really?? You be the judge:

Our Omega oven in its 'BEFORE' state

Grease-stained glass oven door

Let's take a close look at the oven...

Dwayne assured me it was not as bad as some ovens he has seen (still a rather ghastly sight in my books!)

Dwayne was friendly and jovial and we chatted for a bit while I watched him efficiently remove the oven door and unscrewed the back panel of the oven to detach the fan for cleaning (I didn't even know you could do that!). The oven racks, back panel and fan were then taken back to the Oven Express van for deep cleaning while Dwayne returned to scour and clean out the oven using non-toxic oven cleaning agents. There were no fumes or that throat-burning sensation from the products which was great - better for both the customer and Oven Express staff.

Oven cleaning commencing in the kitchen - work area covered with tarpaulin, oven door detached, and oven racks and fan removed

Oven Express van

The van is well-stocked with supplies and also used for deep cleaning those nasty greased up oven racks

The cost for a standard oven cleaning service is $160 and takes between 1.5 - 2 hours depending on the state of the oven. I left Dwayne to work his magic and periodically popped my head in to see how he was doing - each time I took a sneak peak, he was working tirelessly on the oven. 

Dwayne working tirelessly on the oven

"It's finished," Dwayne announced happily. Any parts that were detached were reassembled in place, and there was no mess on the kitchen floor (they were collected and taken away with the tarpaulin). In just under two hours, Oven Express had turned my oven brand new again! I was SO impressed with the work Dwayne had done - the oven was spotless and gleaming. I could even see through the glass door! Just look at the results:

Check out the 'AFTER' state of the oven - I can see through the glass!

Just spectacular - the oven is SO clean it sparkles!

Thanks Oven Express for the fantastic oven cleaning service :)

I highly recommend Oven Express for your oven cleaning needs - they are punctual, professional, efficient and gets your oven looking good as new. In addition to oven cleaning, Oven Express also cleans BBQs, range hoods, stove tops and microwavesIt is without a doubt I will be using Oven Express' services again in the future :)  

The oven is so clean now I can't bear to use it - I want to keep it in its pristine state!

The oven cleaning service was compliments of Oven Express. Thank you Susan from Oven Express for contacting me.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

100 Happy Days Challenge (23rd March 2014)

Can you be happy for 100 days in a row? This is the question that 27-year-old Dmitry Golubnichy has posed to humankind in his project 100 Happy Days and since its launch in December 2013, over 350,000 people from all over the world have embarked on their personal journey taking on the 100 Happy Days Challenge by submitting a picture of what made them happy every day for 100 consecutive days. Being happy isn't easy - these days, we live such busy lifestyles and are in a constant chase for ever-rising demands that we often forget to stop and smell the roses and appreciate the little things in life. As mentioned on the 100 Happy Days website, 71% of the people who took on the challenge failed to complete it quoting lack of time as the key reason. In other words, these people were too busy to be happy. The other 29% who made the time and successfully completed the challenge on the other hand claimed to be in a better mood every day and started to notice what makes them happy. Some claimed to feel more optimistic and live in the moment, even finding love during the challenge.

I decided to join the wave of happiness seekers and signed myself up. My motivation: I want to be happier. I'm a generally happy person though a series of events in the past year at work and injuring myself snowboarding had knocked me off my pedestal - some days were clouded with negativity, cynicism and tears; I wasn't as happy as I could be. Taking matters into my own hands, I made being happier my resolution for 2014 and this challenge fitted in perfectly. Not only would it serve as a reminder of the things that make me happy and appreciative of life but also create a habit of recognising those things. Taking on a new challenge is something that makes me happy so this is my picture for Day 1:

Day 1 of #100happydays: Accepting the challenge of submitting 100 happy moments for 100 consecutive days by completing the form and clicking GO!

There are 3 ways for submitting your pictures:
1) Share your picture via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a public hashtag #100happydays
2) Use your own hashtag to share your pictures (to limit publicity)
3) Send your pictures to (to avoid any publicity)

I opted for choice #3 purely because this was my personal challenge, not a competition or a means of showing off how happy or happier I am. I will however be blogging about my journey every now and then during these 100 days so stay tuned to find out how I'm doing ;)

To add a little extra motivation, 100 Happy Days is giving away a little 100 page book with your 100 happy days at the end of your challenge as a keepsake to always remind you about the wonderful things in your life. Are YOU ready to take on the challenge?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Game of Thrones: Iron Throne Tour (19th March 2014)

Ever wondered what it would feel like to rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros? Well, you're in luck - as part the upcoming launch of Game of Thrones (GoT) Season Four next month, the Iron Throne is on tour in Australia; for today only from 7.30am to 3pm in Martin Place, you will be able to live your fantasies and have your photo taken sitting on the throne! Fortunately for me, Martin Place is my weekday train stop to work so I got to check out the throne before heading into the office ;) 

The Iron Throne looked as mean and chilling in real life as it is on TV - made from a thousand blades surrendered by the enemies of Aegon the Conqueror and melted together by the breathe of Balerion, the Iron Throne is a monstrous chair of twisted metal with spiky and jagged edges, and is the symbol of the king's authority (according to the storyline, that is). Uncomfortable as it sounds, that did not deter fans from lining up this morning for a cool new profile photo. There were props available which you can use (e.g. a sword), even actors dressed up as Drogo, Cersei, Joffrey and a White Walker to join in if you wish. Having a lone photo wearing Joffrey's crown on the throne was the pose of choice so far, though I did witness one lady being carried by 'Drogo' for a snapshot which got the crowd cheering!

Line to the Iron Throne at Martin Place

All hail the new Queen of Westeros!

For the super-fans, Foxtel is giving you the chance to win your very own Iron Throne - all you have to do is have your photo taken on the throne, then post it with hashtag #GoTfoxtel on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Come as your favourite GoT cosplay, reenact a scene from the TV show, or strike a funny pose - the most innovative photo wins so get those creative juices flowing and head down to Martin Place before 3pm to be in the running to win the prize!
The Iron Throne will be heading to sunny Brisbane next on March 28.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

My love for Brazilian food came about when I was living in Wellington. I had a group of Brazilian friends who would often throw parties and host get-togethers - everyone would come round to one of their homes and spend the day catching up, eating and drinking, even busting a few samba moves to the music playing in the background. I've been introduced to many delicious Brazilian fare, including some of my favourites, the feijoada (stew of beans with beef and pork) and churrasco (barbecue), both of which require hours of preparation and cooking. 

Whilst the main courses were being prepared, guests were treated with appetizers, and one that was often served was pão de queijo, chewy mini cheese bread balls made from cassava/tapioca flour, a staple from the state of Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. Pre-mix cheese bread from brands such as Yoki are easily found in Brazil and commonly used to make this savoury snack at home; I've not had much luck finding them in the international food aisle at my local supermarket and have resolved to make the bread from scratch. A quick Google search took me to SimplyRecipes who had a super easy recipe for pão de queijo which I tried out today. The results were delicious - little cheese puffs that were crusty on the outside but chewy and moist on the inside. Definitely one to add to my recipe collection!

Pão de Queijo - Brazilian Cheese Bread

Pão de Queijo - Brazilian Cheese Bread (recipe adapted from SimplyRecipes)

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 20 min

Makes about 30 small balls

1 egg, at room temperature

⅓ cup olive oil
⅔ cup milk
Scant 1 ½ cups tapioca flour
½ cu
p packed grated cheese of your preference
1 heap teaspoon of salt

olive oil spray

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180
°C fan-forced). Use the olive oil spray to grease a mini-muffin tray. 
2. Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth. You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender so that everything gets blended well. At this point, you can store the batter in the refrigerator for up to a week.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared tray with cups 
⅔ filled and bake in oven for 15 minutes until all puffy and just lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes.

Crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside

Traditionally, the pão de queijo is made with Minas cheese though it may not be easily sourced outside of Brazil. You can use a single type of cheese or a combination of cheeses - I used a mix of parmesan and mozzarella. Can't get enough of your favourite cheese? Sprinkle some extra grated cheese on the greased muffin tray before pouring in the batter. You can also add in some herbs or spices to this basic recipe to jazz it up. The cheese bread is best consumed freshly baked and warm; alternatively, reheat cooked ones by zapping them in the microwave on medium power for 10-15 seconds (still chewy and delicious minus the freshly baked crust). 

These little cheese balls are pretty addictive - I could so finish a whole tray of them on my own!