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EDITED: This recipe was featured on Cook Blogg share link party on 2nd January 2018, check here.
Christmas is a time of joy and fun for everybody, the same is for me and my family. A lot of fun activities take place inside and outside our house during the Christmas season or I should say for the whole month of December.
The first one is the decorating of the Christmas tree, which my grandkids really like and surprisingly, every year they bring in some new ideas for the decoration of the tree. Some of the ornaments are made by them in their schools every year, under the supervision of their teachers and some ornaments we buy from the shops. This year we got a white Christmas tree.
The other fun activity inside the house is the elf on the shelf, every morning the kids are so excited when they look for the elf and really enjoy all the places they find elf sitting. The next activity which they really like is the opening of the gifts on Christmas day, which they get from Santa.
Apart from these indoor activities, we go shopping, which is a lot of fun during this festive season because shops and malls are decorated with Christmas decorations and lighting. Another fun activity which we do as a family is a tour/ride of the neighbourhood area to see the decorations and lights of all the different houses. Some houses look really beautiful with a lot of decorations and colorful lighting. There is so much effort and money that goes into these decorations, it is commendable that people put in so much effort during these dark nights!
The other attraction in our town is the Airdrie festival of lights, which is one of Canada’s largest light displays. This festival attracts visitors from the past 21 years and is open to the public from 6-9 pm every day in the month of December. If you are nearby and interested in this event, here is the link.
There is another family-friendly fun activity that takes place in Calgary is the Calgary Zoo lights. These lights are the center of attraction in Calgary, and a highlight during the December holidays for many Calgary families. So these zoo lights are a package of fun and learning activities for the kids. A lot of activities are taking place at the Calgary Zoo, even in the winter months, they are teaching children about the migration, hibernation, conservation and behavior of all types of animal. Here is the link
Coming to the recipe, this Christmas instead of baking any cookies I made this – a dried fruit cake. This is a very simple, tried and tested recipe in which I have used buttermilk. I am very sure; if you try this recipe you will enjoy this cake as I did. To make instant buttermilk, take one cup of milk and add one tbs of lemon juice/vinegar and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature and the buttermilk is ready.
  • 1 and a half cup (200 grams) all-purpose flour/white bread flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar (150 grams sugar)
  • 2 cups dried fruits (300 grams)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (115 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • Grease a cake pan with some butter and sprinkle flour on top of it.
  • Heat the oven to 190 degrees C.
  • Sieve the all-purpose flour with baking soda and add sugar and cardamom powder in it, now mix the dried fruits in it.
  • Mix all wet ingredients-butter, essence and buttermilk.
  • Now mix all the wet and dry ingredients together, mix well and pour the batter into the greased tray and bake for 50 minutes, till the toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool on a cooling rack, slice and serve.
13 ways one type of exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug we have

13 ways one type of exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug we have


Want an all-natural way to lift your mood, improve your memory, and protect your brain against the decline that comes with aging?

Get moving.

Exercises that get your heart pumping and sweat flowing – known as aerobic exercise, or “cardio” – have significant and beneficial effects on the brain and body, according to a wealth of recent research, including a new study published Thursday.

“Aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart,” according to an article in a Harvard Medical School blog.

Here are some of the ways cardio is such a boon for our bodies.

The most recent study on the benefits of exercise found that workouts may protect your immune system from some age-related decline.


For a small study published this week in the journal Aging Cell, researchers looked at 125 amateur male and female cyclists aged 55 to 79. They compared those individuals with 75 people of a similar age who rarely or never exercised.

The cyclists more muscle mass and strength, and less body fat and cholesterol than the sedentary adults. The athletic adults also appeared to have healthier and younger-looking immune systems, at least when it came to a key organ called the thymus.

The thymus is responsible for generating key immune cells called T cells. In healthy people, it begins to shrink starting around age 20, and T cell production also starts to drop off around that time.

The study found that the thymus glands of the older cyclists looked like they belonged to younger people – their bodies were producing just as many T cells as would be expected from the thymus of a young person.

“We now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer but not healthier,” Janet Lord, the director of the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the UK’s University of Birmingham, said in a statement.

Cardio also tones your muscles.


It was initially believed that when it comes to building muscle, cardio paled in comparison to exercises like resistance training, which are designed to help you gain strength. But a recent review of 14 studies published in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews found that on average, men who did 45 minutes of moderate to intense cardio 4 days a week saw a 5%-6% increase in leg muscle size.

“Aerobic exercise, if done properly, can lead to as much muscle growth as you’d expect with resistance exercise,” Ball State University exercise scientist Matthew Harber, who authored the study, told Men’s Fitness.

It raises your heart rate, improving heart and lung health.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Aerobic workouts, especially swimming, train your body to use oxygen more efficiently, a practice that gradually reduces your resting heart rate and your breathing rate – two important indicators of cardiovascular health.

A 2008 study compared blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other heart health metrics across close to 46,000 walkers, runners, swimmers, and sedentary people. The researchers found that the regular swimmers and runners had the best metrics, followed closely by the walkers.

Cardio exercise may even help reverse some heart damage from normal aging.


Many of us become less active as we get older. Over time, this can lead some muscles in the heart to stiffen. One of those at-risk muscles is in the left chamber of the heart, a section that plays a key role in supplying the body with freshly-oxygenated blood.

A recent study split 53 adults into two groups, one of which did two years of supervised exercise four to five days per week while the other simply did yoga and balance exercises. At the end of the study, published in January in the journal Circulation, the higher-intensity exercisers saw significant improvements in their heart’s performance. Those results suggest that some stiffening in the heart can be prevented or even reversed with regular cardio.

“Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past 5 years, this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life,” Benjamin Levine, the author of the study and a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern, said in a statement.

Aerobic exercise benefits your mind, too — it can lift your mood, for example.


Aerobic exercise “has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress,” according to an article in the Harvard Medical School blog “Mind and Mood.”

The reason aerobic workouts lift our spirits seems related to their ability to reduce levels of natural stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to a recent study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. Activities like running and swimming also increase overall blood flow and provide our minds fresh energy and oxygen – another factor that could help us feel better.

Heart-pumping workouts appear to have a positive impact on your gut.


A small study published in November suggests that cardio exercise changes the makeup of the microbes in our gut.

Those microbes play a role in inflammation levels, which can be an early warning sign of illness.

The researchers had study participants exercise three to five times per week for six weeks, and observed increases in their concentrations of butyrate, a type of fatty acid that helps keep our guts happy by tamping down on inflammation and producing energy.

“These are the first studies to show that exercise can have an effect on your gut independent of diet or other factors,” Jeffrey Woods, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois who led the research, said in a statement.

Cardio may improve cholesterol levels, too.


A large recent review of research on how cardio affects cholesterol levels looked at 13 studies on the topic. It found that aerobic exercise was tied with reductions in LDL, which is also known as “bad” cholesterol because it can build up on the walls of your arteries and raise your risk of heart disease.

Cardio exercise was also linked with increases in HDL, also known as “good” cholesterol because it mobilizes the cholesterol in your blood.

“Prolonged moderate-intensity aerobic exercise should be recommended as a starting point for those who have previously been sedentary or are new to exercise,” the authors wrote.

Aerobic exercise helps prevent and manage diabetes by improving the way the body uses blood sugar.

Getty Images / Anthony Kwan

Several studies have found that cardio exercise helps people both prevent Type 2 diabetes and manage its symptoms – mostly by improving the way the body uses blood sugar.

A large Chinese study found that even modest changes in aerobic exercise (20 minutes of mild or moderate activity, 10 minutes of strenuous activity, or just 5 minutes of very strenuous activity 1-2 times per day) cut participants’ diabetes risk by close to half.

A single session of cardio has been found to increase insulin action and glucose tolerance for more than 24 hours; one week of it can improve whole-body insulin sensitivity.

Cardio workouts may even improve the look and feel of your skin.

Unsplash / Haley Phelps

A study from researchers at McMaster University found that people over age 40 who engaged in regular cardio activity tended to have healthier skin than their sedentary peers. The overall composition of the regular exercisers’ skin was more comparable to that of 20- and 30-year-olds.

It’s not yet clear why our workouts appear to play a role in skin health, but the researchers found elevated levels of a substance critical to cell health called IL-15 in skin samples of participants after exercise. That finding that could shed light on why cardio seems to make our skin look better.

Workouts may reduce the symptoms of depression.

Flickr/Ali Samievafa

In addition to boosting the moods of healthy people, aerobic exercise may have a uniquely powerful positive impact on people with depression.

In a pilot study, people with severe depression spent 30 minutes walking on treadmill for 10 consecutive days. The researchers found the activity was “sufficient to produce a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression.”

Cardio appears to guard against some age-related decline like reduced brain connectivity.


As we age, the brain – like any other organ – begins to work less efficiently, so normal signs of decline begin to surface. Our memory might not be quite as sharp as it once was, for example.

But older people who develop Alzheimer’s disease often first enter a stage known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which involves more serious problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment.

A study published in May looked at adults with MCI between the ages of 60-88, and had participants walk for 30 minutes four days a week for 12 weeks. The results showed strengthened connectivity in a region of the brain where weakened connections have been linked with memory loss. That development, the researchers noted, “may possibly increase cognitive reserve,” but more studies are needed.

Aerobic exercise may help protect against memory difficulties in people undergoing chemo as well.


In a July study, researchers examined hundreds of breast cancer survivors to see if activities like walking and swimming have an effect on “chemo brain,” a commonly reported side effect of breast cancer treatment that involves memory loss and difficulties focusing.

They gave nearly 300 breast cancer survivors accelerometers to track their activity, and provided them with an iPad app that featured quizzes designed to measure their attention and memory. At the end of a week, people who’d done aerobic exercise every day were significantly less tired than those who did little to no exercise, and also performed better on the app’s quizzes.

“The message for cancer patients and survivors is, get active!” Diane Ehlers, the lead author on the study and a professor of exercise psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, said in a statement.

Cardio may also be tied to increases in the size of brain areas linked to memory, but more research is needed.

Bob Ramsak/Flickr

A study of older women with MCI found that aerobic exercise was tied to an increase in the size of the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory.

For the study, 86 women with MCI between 70 and 80 years old were randomly assigned to do one of three types of exercise twice a week for six months. Some did aerobic training (like walking and swimming), others focused on resistance training (like weight-lifting), or balance training.

Afterwards, only the women in the aerobic group were found to have significant increases in hippocampal volume, but more studies are needed to determine what effect this has on cognitive performance.

Familiar fare yet different

Familiar fare yet different

THERE’S something so quintessential about nasi lemak in Malaysia that it ceases to be a cliché, despite the increasing proliferation of nasi lemak-flavoured or scented products in the market, the most recent being Miss Malaysia Universe’s nasi lemak dress.

However, not every plate of the spicy, sambal-topped coconut rice is created equal.

That’s why Mamalee restaurant in Damansara Uptown, Petaling Jaya, which specialises in Malaysian cuisine with a Penang flair, is such a terrific find, especially for out-of-town folks working or studying in the city.

Located above a tyre shop, the pork-free restaurant is a family-run affair, providing an added layer of homeliness to the casual atmosphere and food.

The restaurant was opened by the Khoo family, which hails from Penang.

“We’re all family, from the chef to the cashier and waiters,” said Alice Tan, one of Mamalee’s co-founders.

Tan’s husband, Cavin Khoo – the son of the real-life Mama Lee after whom the restaurant is named – helms the kitchen where mouthwatering dishes like its signature nasi lemak salted egg fried chicken (RM12), and nasi lemak butter milk fried chicken (RM13) are cooked fresh.

The two dishes come with the regular toppings of peanuts, cucumber, fried anchovies, hard boiled egg and fragrant red sambal sauce, which is on the sweeter side.

However, the main star of each dish would be the tender leg of crispy fried chicken, smothered in a yummy choice of irresistible salted egg or luscious buttermilk sauce, served with fluffy but firm rice.

For more familiar side dishes to go along with your nasi lemak, try the hearty spicy sotong (RM7) or prawn with petai (RM8).

Another dish to try is the restaurant’s jiu hu char (RM5). Made with a humble blend of finely shredded jicama, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, and morsels of chicken meat, and cooked in a pan with a sauce till aromatic, the dish might appear like regular popiah filling but the addition of cuttlefish truly elevates it into a fuller flavour profile.

Eat it with rice or wrapped in a lettuce leaf, and give it an added kick with some sambal belacan and a squirt of green calamansi lime juice on top.

If you love the pungent taste of garlic, you will also love Mamalee’s chicken lobak (RM5).

Wrapped in crispy bean curd skin, the sweet succulent chicken is countered with zesty minced garlic, and pairs wonderfully with the sweet chilli dipping sauce it comes with.

As for dessert, Mamalee has got you covered with a warm bowl of bubur cha cha (RM3.50), filled with a colourful medley of sweet potato and delightfully chewy pink tapioca jelly.

You can drop by Mamalee’s restaurant to get a taste of Penang nasi lemak yourself, or get it delivered by placing a minimum order of 15 boxes, at least one day in advance.

For more, visit Mamalee Facebook page.

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