Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Bag Pattern - Forever 19 Shoulder Bag Pattern
Dear friends,

In your mind, how old do you see yourself? When I was in primary school, I saw myself much older because being the second youngest in a family of 9, I was often not allowed to do this and that because I was not old enough. So I wanted to be older and mentally conjured an older self. Then I got older and I realised that in my mind I stopped growing at the age of 19. After I got married, I still felt I was 19. Then came two kids and still age 19. My youngest child turns 18 this year! Honestly, I don't know when I will start to see myself as an older person.

Why 19? I'm just guessing that 19 was my coming of age? That was the year I finished school and went out to work. 19 must have been a pretty traumatic year since I stopped growing older in my mind!

Last month when I was working on my bag pattern, I decided to call it Forever 19 Shoulder Bag. It's not a difficult bag to sew, very good for beginners. I've made many variations of this bag to sell at craft markets in my previous life. (Remember MAAD and VivoCity?) This curvy version was the most popular. The bag comes with two interior pockets - one slip pocket and one zip pocket.

I used a Lecien fabric print of teapots and cups. Anyone else crazy about teapots and cups fabric print?

The bag pattern is available for sale at my Etsy shop and Craftsy shop. If you prefer to buy it off my blog, you can click on the "Buy Now" button below (ecommerce by Payhip). Read my faq if it's your first time buying from my blog.

Oh, you should buy the pattern like now because I'm offering a discounted price of $5 until this Sunday 25th June 2017. (usual price $8) No need for coupons, price has been adjusted at Etsy, Craftsy and my blog. I hope you enjoy the photos. My girl modelled for me.

Buy Now

Lastly, big thanks to Lynnelle for her help with testing. Check out her version below.
Psst. Anyone noticed Lynnelle's shelves with the thingy to hold the spool of thread? I throw mine in containers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Donate your books

Let me ask you a question. Are you like me, incapable of walking past a bookshop or pop-up book stall without buying anything? I thought so. Oh remember I made a resolution not to buy any more books? Ha ha. What utter rubbish.

I already own a lot of books. Some still wrapped in plastic! I think I'm a compulsive book buyer. Despite the current digital age we live in, I'm never into digital books. I enjoy the feel of a book.

Unfortunately, I don't live in a large apartment. Space is precious. Right now I have books lying everywhere. Just two weeks ago, I simply couldn't resist the awfully awfully low price of new books at a pop up - 50 cents to $5. Are you kidding me? I dragged hubs there and came home with 7 or 8 books. Most are still wrapped in plastic.

So the only sensible thing to do is to get rid of some of my old books. In the past I tried giving them away. But you know what? People don't always want your old stuff. Then I sold some to the karang guni man (recycling). He gave me like $1.50 for a huge bag of books. Later he confided that he doesn't care for books and he treats them as trash. So what's he saying? He was doing me a favour? I didn't like the idea that the karang guni man was trashing my books so I decided to find better homes for them.

Woodlands Regional Library

I go to the library quite often and I notice there is a Book Exchange Corner at some of the libraries. What you do is you leave the books you want to donate which are hopefully in good condition on the shelves and anyone can take the book. Seriously, no conditions. I myself have found a number of good reads. Strangely the Book Exchange Corner is not available at every library. Just at the following locations:
Ang Mo Kio, Woodlands Regional, Bedok, Geylang Easy, Marine Parade, Tampines Regional, Bukit Merah, Jurong Regional, Jurong West, Queenstown, Bishan, Central and Toa Payoh.

Once I was at Central library and I saw two men grab EVERY book from the shelves. I get the feeling they did not take the books to read. The Book Exchange Corner can only work if people take what they need and not grab the books to sell.

Another thing is at Woodlands Regional library, I often see sales brochure or religious pamphlets. I'm not talking about one or two pieces but a whole stack. I think that is so rude. Sometimes I get so irritated by the behaviour of locals.

 I left these books at Woodlands Regional library. I hope they find the right audience.

Jurong Regional Library

At Jurong Regional library, the space for the Book Exchange is smaller but so much more civilized. Maybe it's because the shelf is very close to the security guard?

Near Ng Teng Fong Hospital

Anyway I've discovered two other places where I can donate my books - Dignity Mama Stall. Dignity Mama Stall sells pre-loved books and the stall is run by youth with special needs and their moms help to provide guidance and co-work with them.

There are 3 drop off locations - NUH Medical Centre, Dignity Kitchen and Ng Teng Fong Hospital. You can get the address here.

I go to NUH Medical Centre almost weekly for acupuncture so it's convenient for me to drop off my books. The other location, Ng Teng Fong Hospital is also quite close to my home and seriously, my family goes to that area a lot. So bit by bit, I will slowly move my older books to Dignity Mama. Which will give me room for more new books.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Water Kefir Bread

Help! I have become a fermenter.

In early May, I went to Bakerz@Work Academy to attend a water kefir demo. Firstly, let's settle this. How to pronounce kefir. The folks at the demo say "kiefer" as in Kiefer Sutherland. If you go to youtube, you will hear all sorts of pronunciation. I lean towards kur-fear. It sounds more natural to me based on the spelling. Anyway, however you pronounce it, water kefir culture is quite fascinating. Or weird if you're not into it.

The class was quite chaotic. The attendees came with all sorts of experience. Some had zero experience like me while others had dabbled in it. After a while, some people asked all sorts of questions and of course it confused the hell out of me. The person giving the talk focused on answering questions and I couldn't make much sense of it. Later a chef came and he wrote down the process and that made things clearer for me. We were all given some water kefir to drink and I wasn't put off by it because I've had it before. It's kinda like a lame version of apple cider vinegar.

water kefir starter
In the second half of the workshop, two chefs came to show how to make bread using the water fermented with water kefir grains. I like that the chefs weren't stingy with sharing of knowledge. My experience making bread at BITC was the total opposite. Can't ask this and can't ask that. By the way, BITC, the school where I learnt to bake has closed. Very sad about that but you know, the writing was on the wall.

The chefs used a mixer that I've never seen before - Ankarsrum Original Mixer or AO. It is kick ass. I was drooling. See here if you want to see the mixer in action. The mixer alone costs $1,399. The add-ons are relatively cheap. But I'll never be able to own something like this.

These are water kefir grains. I was given some at the workshop to start my own home fermentation. These grains are called blessings for reasons unknown to me. The grains are reusable and they also multiply when given sugar water. Yeah, the multiplying part is kinda creepy.

There is one rule in water kefir fermentation - no metals allowed. Other than that, just feed the grains with boiled water (cooled of course), raw sugar and sucanat. (I have experimented with mineral water and the result is better; not sure why.)  If you go to youtube, you will find all sorts of different formula. I'm following the formula given at the class and the only thing I dislike is having to use sucanat because it's hard to get and it's not cheap. Bakerz@work does sell it at their supply store. One day I'll substitute it with cane sugar or something.

This is the shop owned by Bakerz@work. It's tiny but packed with goods. It's on the ground floor of Shaw Tower.

Later, I found using paper towel to cover, sealed with a rubber band works better

The whitish stuff on the surface are bubbles.
This was my very first fermentation. After 24 hours, you have to separate the grains from the liquid and let the liquid ferment another 24 hours. (second fermentation) During the second fermentation, you can add fresh or dried fruits to the liquid to give it flavour. After the liquid has completed the second 24hours fermentation, you can use the liquid to add to flour to make your starter.

Because the grains multiply each time you ferment, you end up with a lot of grains. I usually throw the excess away. I have drunk the fermented liquid several times and I cannot say with certainty my gut health has improved. On the internet, people talk about how beneficial this drink is. I would still see a doctor if my gut were sick and not try to treat it by drinking this fermented water. Anyway, I'm more interested in making bread than drinking the liquid. Interestingly, hubs refuses to drink it. This is a guy who eats and drinks anything and he rejects water kefir...

When you use water kefir to make your starter, you don't have to use commercial yeast. This is my third starter. The first two weren't so active.

This is the first loaf of bread I made using water kefir starter. Can you see how flat the bread is? I think my starter was not strong enough. The bread didn't taste great. Just okay.

This is my second time making bread with water kefir starter. I think it was under baked. The taste was a bit weird.

This was my fourth time baking this bread and my best effort. The taste though, I've grown to dislike. I have however, grown to like drinking the fermented liquid. It's like light soda.

The whole of June I haven't done any baking or fermenting. I don't know if my grains have died in the fridge. I was too busy with my bag patterns. I think I'm ready to dive back in and this time I hope to get a better tasting bread.

Making water kefir bread is a lot of work.
Day 1: Feed sugar water to grains
Day 2: Remove grains and continue fermenting
Day 3: Make starter using water kefir and flour
Day 4: Make bread

If you are interested in this water kefir thingy (and located in SG), you can join this fb group: SG Fermentation Friends. Look under "Files" and there's lots of info. You can also find people who are willing to donate their grains. There is another fb group which I'm in but you need to attend the water kefir workshop in order to join the group.
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