Tuesday, December 28, 2021

September to December 2021

Hello people,

I didn't realise I've been gone so long. But aren't you glad 2021 is almost over? What a dreadful year it's been. And we all thought 2020 was bad. Hahaha. I'm really looking forward to 2022 (just to get out of 2021) even though next year is the Year of the Tiger which is traditionally not a lucky year but I don't believe in horoscope so there!

Anyhoos, in Singapore we never managed to transition to endemic because Omicron made its appearance and refused to leave. Our social gathering/household visitors/dining out is still capped at 5 people which is fine for my family because we're such loners but for others, it must be a torture. (how to partay with 5 people?)

2021 has been super bad for our health. Hubs and I - we've now become people who have to take pills every day. For me, my protein in urine thing turned out positive consistently so my doctor said better check on my cholesterol as well. I was rather confident the results would be good because in a previous test<ahem>, the doctor said it had improved. I was wrong. My cholesterol had become alarmingly bad. I thought about it and I realised that I had been indulging in far too many Chinese pastries and tarts and upon some research, I discovered they contain trans fat. As a result of my greed, I now have to take 2 pills daily - one for cholesterol and one for the urine. I was determined to lower my cholesterol and I immediately cut out ALL pastries and tarts. In my next blood test, the doctor said my results were exceptionally good. I was so pleased with myself! But I have to continue with the medication for now but if my cholesterol remains exceptionally good in February, I may get off it. The urine meds I'm afraid I have to take for life. It's either that or lose a kidney.

Compared to me, hubs had it way, way worse. Firstly, his gout on his foot refused to stop hurting. It would get better and then return and repeat. Then it spread to his wrist. That was frightening. His company doctor was a blood sucker who only wanted to squeeze as much money as he could out of hubs. We kept asking for a long term treatment plan but it was always the same answer, next time, wait, wait. And the fees were so expensive. We really felt like suckers. Finally one day hubs made up his mind he didn't want to be treated by the con-doctor anymore. I was happy about that but also really worried because without long term treatment, the gout could return easily. Luckily I was able to persuade hubs to see a doctor at the clinic I go to. And it is so much cheaper. No nonsense treatment and no unnecessary tests. Hubs has more meds to take daily - uric acid control, cholesterol and high blood pressure. So I win.

Food became a big headache because a gout diet is an impossible diet - you can't eat so many things. At first hubs ate a lot of plant based meat and avoided real meat and seafood. After much suffering and a talk with a dietician, we realised that plant based meat are highly processed and bad for cholesterol as well. So now hubs decided to eat a little chicken, a little fish but to avoid all other meat and seafood especially sardines and anchovies. 

My frozen shoulder has improved a lot. I can now do nearly everything with my left arm. I can wear my bra myself although I do need my right hand to help out when the bra line is high. I no longer feel pain and the best thing is I'm able to swim. At first I started swimming with a float. Then I tried without a float (breast stroke) and I could do it. I try to go swimming once a week as my muscles are still weak. I don't know how much longer it will take to get my shoulder at 100% again. There are 2 movements which my arm is still quite weak at. Hubs has asked me when I'll stop my physiotherapy because it is rather costly. I'm very reluctant to quit. I feel a bit like a freak because my left arm can't rotate as well as my right arm. But realistically, I've spent enough $ already and maybe I should let nature do its healing. I'm (fake) sobbing as I write this because I really don't want to give up physiotherapy yet.

Both my kids finished their fall semester successfully. I'm very thankful. My daughter had it really tough. A very difficult year for her. But she made it through. One last semester to go. The good news is she managed to get a job before graduation. I'm so proud of her. 

Okay, enough about my personal life. I made a few pieces of tops for my daughter but based on her review, it's unlikely she'll wear them.

First I made a shirt. A real shirt with collar and sleeves and buttons and cuffs. It was hard but I managed to get the fit right. This shirt was the muslin in case you're wondering why I choose such a colourful fabric.  I couldn't believe it but I got the fit right at first try. I made a "mistake" with the buttonholes. I thought it was odd that the buttonholes turned out a bit too long for my liking. After sewing ALL the buttonholes, I decided to read the sewing machine manual and guess what? There is an option to sew a customised length. I'm an idiot.

Then I sewed a T-shirt. I used the Basic Instinct T-shirt pattern here. You need to subscribe to the newsletter to get the pattern. What I like about this pattern is the sleeves FIT the arm hole. On many patterns, they never fit but this one does. What I don't like about this pattern is the neckline is too high. But you can fix that easily. Mine is slightly lowered. The design is quite boyish. All the seams are serged and the hems are twin-needled. 

There was a time when I would buy remnants from Spotlight. This moustache jersey fabric was one of those remnants I had bought and regretted because there's too little of it. I finally used it to make a muscle tee. Pattern is by Fancy Tiger Crafts. It's an easy sew very much like a T-shirt. Serged every seam, twin-needled every hem. Instead of sleeves, bindings are used which is perfect for this fabric because I didn't have enough to make sleeves.

I made a few embroidered brooches. I don't need more brooches but I was going through a period when I felt very nervous about something and I needed to keep myself occupied. 

I found a pig I had appliqued on a piece of calico a long time ago and decided to do something with it and use up some of my scrap fabric. I regretted the brown fabric and the binding. Otherwise I rather like this piece even though it didn't use much scrap fabric.

I attended 2 baking classes on my list. The first one I attended was Artisan and Decorative Bread. It's an advanced class and was rather challenging as most of the dough was very wet. I was quite disappointed we only made one loaf of sourdough. And literally nothing was taught about sourdough. It was just a levain you add to your dough instead of yeast. On Day 1 I had this teacher whom I knew from way back when I did cake classes. He speaks with a heavy accent and is super hot tempered. But he knows his stuff. One thing I learnt from him is this. My window pane stage which I've always thought was correct has always been wrong. He pointed to a part of the dough and said you see that? Mix some more. And true enough, The window pane he wanted was a much clearer membrane. From day 2, we had another teacher, also with heavy accent. I didn't have as much confidence in the second teacher. But I managed to make the required bread even if they were kinda ugly. The class was small - only 7 girls. I had a nice time baking with the girls.

The second class I attended was Cafe Bread. It's an intermediate class and covers wholemeal flour, rye flour and inclusions like fruits, nuts and bean paste. On Day 1 we had a teacher who thankfully didn't speak with an accent. I think he's good at baking but he didn't share much with us. One thing I leant from him is dough temperature is very important. I usually disregard dough temperature when I bake but now I'll take care to always use cold water because Singapore weather is hot. From day 2, we had another teacher who is an ASS. The worse thing is, he's a passive aggressive ASS. OMG, I couldn't wait for the class to end because it was so unbearable listening to his random rants, idiotic jokes and nonsense. So much nonsense came out of his mouth. And the class was dragged over 4 Fridays so the torture was prolonged. What did I learn from him? Absolutely nothing. He is a "throw everything into the machine and mix" kind of baker. The class was bigger - 12 of us. I didn't enjoy this class at all. 

There's just one more bread class I want to attend - a dedicated sourdough class. I've looked around and there are a few. They aren't government funded like the ones I've just taken so I have to be mindful of the cost. (they don't come cheap) I hope to get a place next year and improve on my sourdough baking. 

Next year I also intend to dedicate more time to use my fabric scrap. I seem to have increased my fabric scrap over the past two years. My goal is to finish 2 pieces of something made from my scraps every month. If I make 2 per month, I should have 24 by December next year. I look forward to that. 
Lastly I shall leave you with this story. I have super sensitive skin which when triggered will result in incredible itch and when that happens, I go insane. To avoid that I apply this Bioderma cream on my face. I always have a tube of this cream wherever I go. I never take chances. The cream is not cheap so I try to squeeze every little drop out of it. One day I was on the train when I felt my jawline itching. I immediately reached for my Bioderma cream and it was a tube that had very little cream left. I banged the top of the tube on my hand several times before opening it and guess what? There was an explosion of cream everywhere. Did I mention I was on the train, sitting down with other strangers? Fortunately most of the cream had landed on my bag and the floor. Then I noticed there was a giant white glob on the thigh of the girl sitting next to me. And she was wearing black tights. The glob of cream was huge. Most people would inform the stranger what had happened, offer an apology and quickly exit the train. But I'm not most people. I did the unthinkable. I reached out and proceeded to use my finger to rub the glob of cream into the girl's tights hoping it would disappear. Now, it never occurred to me if the girl had noticed the cream on her thigh. Because suddenly a total stranger was fingering her thigh. She gave me a strange look and tried to see what the hell I was doing. Thankfully at this point, I realised I could be arrested so I stopped rubbing her thigh and apologised. Then I tried to explain about the exploding cream. I showed her the Bioderma tube and used my hands to mimic an explostion. I'm so lucky the girl was very forgiving. She gestured to me it was alright. Either that or she didn't want to bother with this crazy lady anymore.

See you next year.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

What I made in July and August

 


So I was terribly unhappy with my scrap fabric situation. Slowly over the years, I've thrown away some tiny scraps which aren't useable but there's so much left. In fact it keeps growing because I keep buying new fabric and using them. It's an endless cycle but I wanted to at least try to use a tiny portion of the scraps in small art quilts so I'll have something pretty to look at instead of heaps of scrap fabric. 


The first quilt I made is a no-brainer. Birds flying in the sky towards the sun. The formation of the birds were ripped off Singapore's national day fly past. Just imagine the birds as small planes flying towards a Singapore flag. The birds were kept simple - raw edge with running stitches. The sun was originally an applique but I wanted something shiny so I sewed sequins anchored by seed beads. And as always, I got tired after a few sequins but had to keep going because I disliked unpicking more.

I noticed that I tend to make quilts with birds flying in the sky when I'm not feeling great. Such as being in a pain cycle or just sick of living. Making birds quilt somehow make me feel better and less trapped. So that's kind of my therapy. 

Speaking of feeling trapped, here in Singapore we were finally allowed to eat out a few weeks ago. Not being able to eat out is very upsetting especially since we've had the freedom to eat out taken away a number of times already but what can you do? To be honest, we don't eat out that often, maybe once a week. It's just that having the option to eat out makes life so much better. Has the new covid-19 variants reached your country? We had a new wave of infections and our leaders got cold feet and brought back some restrictions. On paper, Singapore isn't going to pursue a zero covid-19 case strategy anymore. Instead, we're aiming to live with covid-19. Did I say on paper? That's the aim but when we will really move from pandemic to endemic is still up in the air. Regardless, one thing won't change. We, in Singapore will have to wear masks in public for a long, long time. 

Do you guys use an oximeter or know what an oximeter is? We were given one per household to monitor our blood oxygen level. If the blood oxygen level is between 90 to 94, you have to see a doctor. The device is not super accurate because I've gotten 94 before and when I test again I got 96 and then 98 when I used another finger.  


Here's the next quilt I made with lots of scrap fabric. The quilt started with the orange fabric. I've used this orange fabric frequently in my quilts. There was so much of it and slowly I managed to use up most of it. I had 5 pieces of the orange fabric cut into squares lying around forever. Finally I stitched 4 of the squares with some other remnants into a patchwork of sorts. I joined the patchwork to a piece of calico and after that I had no idea what to do with it. That was in 2019. The pieced fabric sat in my storeroom waiting for me to be inspired. I would look at it from time to time, audition some fabric but nothing came to mind until last month when I suddenly decided I would applique a vase of flowers. The applique is turned under and I used my usual loosey goosey method of applique - draw the shape on the right side of fabric, cut it with a small seam allowance and applique away. The backing is my mother's batik. I have tons left. <sob> 

I love how this quilt turned out. It makes me so happy to look at it. So bright and cheery.

I wanted to knit very badly but projects that take a long time aren't good for me at the moment. So I knitted 2 beaded cuffs. Joining both ends of the cuff together was the hardest part. I can never do it neatly.

In July, I got bitten by the beading bug and spent some time making pendants using a plastic bead, a stone and a crystal rivoli. This video explains how to bead around a rivoli quite well. For the Galaxy pendant (bottom pic), I followed this video. Why do I keep making these pendants when I've nowhere to wear them to. And of course when I heard Beads etc was closing down, I went and bought myself more beads even though they weren't discounted! 


I made another blouse just to test the fit. My daughter has narrower shoulders. I wanted to make a bodice (similar to what I made here) that fits both of us. That way we can share clothes!

Finally, some update on my frozen shoulder. It is healing slowly. I've continued with my therapy sessions and daily exercises. One setback is I hurt both my elbows. It's probably due to wear and tear and some of the exercises I had been doing. So for one week I stopped all housework and cooking. It coincided with hubs being down with gout and he couldn't walk for one whole week. He went through such excruciating pain it made me very sad. Because he couldn't walk, he couldn't go to the doctor to get strong painkillers. Instead he used over the counter painkillers which barely worked. The "good" thing that came out of the gout episode is hubs can finally relate to my pain and how one can feel so hopeless and helpless when stuck in the pain cycle. Still I hope he doesn't suffer like this again. One parent with pain issues is enough.

This month there was a small breakthrough in my recovery. I was finally able to reach behind my back all the way up to my waist. I still can't wear my bra but at least I can bring my hand behind. Also, I can now open both my arms wide at the sky. You can't imagine how happy that made me. <I'm almost normal> I'm now at the worst and hardest part of my frozen shoulder recovery - loosening my shoulder blade. Every time the physiotherapist tries to loosen it, it hurts like %$#@. If only I could tolerate the pain, I would be healed by now. Instead we have to do it slowly, bit by bit. I have to go to the swimming pool soon for some water therapy. I'm not allowed to swim because I will get injured. Instead the focus is on strengthening my arms. Gosh, I hope I don't get sun spots!

 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Basic Bread

Since 2017, I've been trying to attend a Basic Bread class. I would sign up for it and somehow things would happen and I would not be able to attend. Finally one day I managed to get a confirmed class and was ready to go for the class. Then a phone call came to inform me the school was closing down and therefore the class was cancelled. I decided to give up on the class because I've been baking bread for a few years using knowledge gained from friends, youtube, instagram and blogs so I probably already have basic bread baking skills. Instead I tried signing up for intermediate/advanced bread classes. Unfortunately, I was always told to take the Basic Bread class before attempting the more difficult bread classes. Which brings me back to square one - the damned Basic Bread class.

To me, the Basic Bread class is a jinxed class. It's like the Universe is conspiring to prevent me from taking the class. Last year, yup, during the pandemic when vaccines weren't available yet, I signed up for the Basic Bread class. Remember the baking school which closed down? It had reopened under a new management (before the pandemic) and I had been thinking about giving it another go. Except it was hard to get a place. So I waited and waited and finally I was given a confirmed class starting end March. 

Great right? Except I had my frozen shoulder and March was the period when it hurt the most and my left arm was super stiff. I kept thinking I should withdraw from the class but in the end I decided to go for it. The Universe was on my side for once. One day before the first class, I had my first appointment with my physiotherapist and he managed to reduce my pain and made my arm a little less stiff!

So all the stars aligned and I went for my first class. The first thing that happened when I was entering the classroom, I banged my left shoulder onto the door and almost died. Yup, the damned jinxed class. Fortunately, the pain went away after a while and I need not pull out of the class.


There were a total of 4 days for this class from 9am to 6pm on Saturdays. The last day is purely assessment. Every day, there is some theory and we bake twice - once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The pace is leisurely. 

On day 1, we baked a pullman loaf and an open top sandwich loaf, both with bread improver. We worked in groups of 3 and we shared one mixer. So the weighing of ingredients, mixing of dough was done together in our group of 3. Once the dough was divided, we were on our own. We didn't have to handle the oven as the teacher did it for us. Our teacher was pretty patient and doesn't hesitate to help whenever required. I've had very lazy teachers before! I was a bit worried that I would have problems doing lifting, carrying of trays. The Universe gave me a young couple in my group. They did all the heavy lifting and washing up. I was very, very thankful.


On day 2, we baked an open top sandwich loaf, this time without bread improver so we needed to do a 1 hour bulk fermentation. The 2nd loaf was also an open top loaf but we did a sponge and dough method and for shaping we braided the dough.


On Day 3, it was French bread and soft bread roll, using bread improver. In terms of shaping, I learnt the most because we made 4 different shapes.


On day 4, for assessment, we baked an open top sandwich loaf and French bread. For the French bread, the teacher wanted to make it more interesting so we did a sponge and dough method. We used a different kitchen and oven and our bread turned out a bit lighter than usual. Our bread mould was also different. At the end of the day, there was an oral assessment for each of us. Everyone passed. It wasn't difficult at all and I didn't even study for it. All you need to do is pay attention during the class and of course be able to bake the bread. On assessment day, we worked in twos and I was paired up with a total stranger. She was omg so fussy. She disagreed with me frequently and wouldn't stop mixing the dough and I wanted to cry. Finally I put my foot down and stopped the mixing. Thankfully my bread turned out fine. She wouldn't stop handling her own dough and her bread ended up really ugly. But since it didn't affect me, I couldn't care less.

I'm so glad I finally attended the Basic Bread class. Despite having baked bread for a few years, I did pick up some knowledge and skills, particularly in shaping which is my weakness. Of course the best part is I paid $0 for the class as it is a WSQ funded class (90%) and the remaining 10% I used my Skillsfuture credits. 

I thought I'll share some stuff I picked up from the class:

Bread improver: It's used only when you are short on time. You can skip bulk fermentation if you use bread improver but it doesn't improve the taste of bread. I would never use bread improver because I bake at home and I should make the time. Plus I'm always chasing the taste of bread so I tend to take the longer route to bake bread just to improve the taste.

Bread tin - The teacher doesn't use any formula to calculate how much dough goes into a bread tin. Instead he relies on the info given by the manufacturer. The loaf tin we used were 450g to 550g so that's the amount of dough we could use per tin. In class we used 500g and to be honest, I did notice the bread sank a bit after it was demoulded. I was hoping the teacher could show us a scientific way to calculate dough per tin.

Yeast - I've always thought low sugar (10%) and high sugar (>10%) yeast could be used on any kind of bread recipe. It turns out low sugar yeast can be used in any bread recipe but high sugar yeast can only be used in high sugar bread recipe. Glad I got this sorted out.

Internal bread temperature - Checking for doneness of bread is done using a thermometer. 95 deg C to 98 deg C is considered baked. Of course colour is another factor. I now obsessively check my bread using a thermometer. 

Bulk fermentation - How to tell bulk fermentation is done? Poke a finger through the dough and the hole should stay and not close up immediately. Previously I've always used 1 hour as a gauge.

Final proof - How to tell dough is ready for baking. Press the dough and it should spring back slowly. If it springs back quickly, it needs to proof longer. If it collapses, it's over proofed.

There are two more bread classes I want to attend. Hopefully all the stars will align for me once again. If you live in Singapore and you're either a citizen or PR, you can sign up for wsq classes. Just google. There are lots of options. Don't be afraid of the assessment. Like I said, pay attention during class and you'll pass.
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