Tuesday, October 17, 2017

HOTA

Hi friends,

Have you heard of HOTA? Of course not. I've probably heard of HOTA except I've conveniently forgotten it. HOTA or the Human Organ Transplant Act came into effect in 1987. It is an opt-out system to allow for kidney, liver, heart and cornea in the event of a brain death. I remember back then I felt really yucky about having my organs removed after death but I was too lazy to do the paperwork for opting out of donating my organs. I have to say it was a good call on the part of the committee to come up with an opt-out system. Thanks to it, lazy people automatically become organ donors.

Having forgotten I am an organ donor, I was rudely reminded of it recently when a mail came for my son. He's turning 21 next year (so fast!) and I guess HOTA was in a hurry to reel in one more potential donor. I felt it is my duty as a mom to educate my son about HOTA. So I read through the booklet that came in the mail and I bravely broached the topic of organ donation with son. Surprisingly he couldn't care less. I think he said 'whatever'. So once he turns 21, he becomes an organ donor. Later when I recalled how I broached the subject with son, I realised I forgot to mention he would be saving lives.

I don't know if hubs is an organ donor. When I asked him, he said he had no idea. Knowing him, he probably didn't do the paperwork either. There is one big disadvantage to opting out but I doubt it's something people think about: you receive lower priority on the waiting list should you require an organ.

Not every death results in organ recovery. It has to be a brain death and it must occur in a hospital. The organs need to be suitable and of course there must be suitable recipients.

I read through the history of HOTA and realised that Muslims were excluded at first for religious reasons. In 2004, non-accidental deaths were included. In 2008, HOTA was amended to include Muslims. In 2009, the age limit of 60 was removed.

Interestingly, HOTA using the opt-out system to consent to organ donation did not lead to an increase in organ transplants. With a low opt-out rate, you would think it's a success story. In fact organ transplant has remained low for the past 10 years. 58 transplants were carried out in 2015 compared to 69 in 2006. I read this article that says presumed consent is the issue as the HOTA database does not differentiate between those who did not opt out and those who chose to be a donor. For doctors who are in a position to harvest organs, it becomes an ethical as well as emotive issue.

Last month there was a story in the papers about a heart donor's parents who met with the organ recipient to listen to her heartbeat. To be honest, I was quite emotional when I read the story. After I learnt more about it, I wondered how with donors/recipients info being confidential the recipient manage to "connect the dots" to track down the donor's parents? I also thought about how I would want things if I were in their position. (touch wood) I think this might surprise you but if anyone in my family donated an organ, (again touch wood) I really, really don't want the recipient to track me down. Similarly, should I donate my organs, I don't want the recipients to show up in front of my family. That's too weird.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

September

Hello,

I know it's October. I just wondered where September went. Ah yes, I remember now. It's slowly coming back. I crawled into my cave to work on my bag pattern and before I knew it, I had stayed inside for a month. It seems I'm incapable of multi-tasking. So I had to stop running, eating healthy, clean the house and generally neglect any housework. I did continue with the laundry. The constant rain in September made it a challenge. Once or maybe twice my daughter had to wear a dirty skirt to school. She was pretty upset. I told her that during my school days, I wore the same uniform to school 5 days in a row. It's strange how my daughter doesn't get less upset every time I tell her I had things worse off!

Ah where were we? Yes, it's as if my life had to come to a standstill in order for me to write my bag pattern. Anyway, I've stopped work on the pattern. (No prizes for guessing which bag it is. I've made this one a gazillion times.) Might make some little changes in the layout/instructions before it's published sometime in October? The editing never ends....

https://www.instagram.com/p/BZvspWSD8fx

On Monday I ran for the first time since mid August and I sucked. I couldn't even endure 0.6km more to hit 5km. Yesterday I started wearing my fitbit again and I only registered 2500 steps. I'm so lazy now. Last night I boasted to hubs that I would not go to sleep until I hit 10,000 steps. Oh boy, I hope he was only pretending to listen to me. The only exercise I've been consistent with is my weekly swim. I tried doing it twice a week but it was too much hassle. The swimming is supposed to strengthen my neck muscles and hopefully prevent my headaches. Today is swimming day but it's cold so I'm still thinking about going. I wish we have indoor heated pools. I hate getting brown spots on my face from exposure to the sun. Lately brown spots have been sprouting all over my face. It's like puberty all over again.

I haven't weighed myself in ages. I know I've gained a lot of weight, probably back to 60kg again. I don't want to know. Yet. What about you? Anyone gained weight? No? Just me?

I stopped going for acupuncture. I couldn't tell if it was working. I mean I still get headaches. The doc asked me to take 2 pills when it gets bad. Unfortunately, 2 pills give me terrible nightmares... I'm going to get a new doctor for my headaches. It seems my headaches are not life threatening so I have to see a family doctor instead of a specialist. The new doc is just one train station away so I'm not unhappy about it. All I really want is to stop getting the damn headaches. When I become a senior citizen, I don't want to be whining about headaches. Because I'm sure there will be other ailments to whine about.

via
Speaking of headaches, we had a presidential election in September. Except there was no election. The government decided it wanted a Malay President this round, so you kinda have to be Malay to be in the running. Plus if you are in the private sector, you need to have managed a company with a minimum shareholder equity of S$500 million. The government put up its own candidate, a Speaker in Parliament and also a member of parliament in the constituency I live in. (she resigned to run for president) To cut the story short, 3 candidates submitted their intentions to run for president but only one was considered eligible (the one put up by the government). Which means it was a walkover and that's how we got Halimah Yacob as our new president. In Singapore, our president has some limited power. What her powers are I'm not really sure. It is a very well paid position. I believe her salary is over 1.5 million dollars. (it's less than what the prime minister gets) Anyway, it's a shame how Halimah Yacob became the president. I believe she would have won in an election. I would have voted for her. I mean, first female president, rite?

I started decluttering like crazy recently. I'm making up for neglecting my home in September. My efforts at decluttering will not result in any major visible changes in my home because we have reached hoarding level. Still, I try.

Yesterday I decided I will get rid of most of the cards (a few hundred) I had kept in a large container - stuff from my teenage years to early twenties. The reason? I wanted to use the container. I read through every card I was throwing and believe it or not I had forgotten most of the people who had sent them to me. I don't know if it's old age or amnesia from the medication I took in the past but I have no recollection at all. As I was going through the cards, I found a "hidden" declaration of love from a guy I had no romantic interest in mostly because he was always, always trying to get me to love Jesus. There was also a very weird card from this person (I can't remember who as there was no name, just a signature) asking me to call him if I wanted to "tie the knot". Is that a marriage proposal? I haven't the faintest idea who the person is.

Not long ago I told hubs about this classmate I was close to in secondary school and I was telling him it was weird that we didn't keep in touch at all but out of the blue I was invited to attend her wedding decades ago. Then when I showed up at her wedding, she forgot who I was. Anyway, I realised that we never lost touch at all. In fact, she sent me many cards over the years and in each card she would write about what she was doing. From the things she wrote I could tell we still remained sort of close. Strangely, I never remembered that. In my memory, we never kept in touch after we left school.

Another amnesia story - this girl, Irene was my best friend in secondary school until one day we were caught playing truant <cough, cough>. She was the mastermind and also the big fat mouth who got us caught. Anyway, I was punished severely by my teacher and family. She on the other hand denied everything and got away with it! She told me I was dumb for admitting it. Anyway, I thought we never kept in touch after the incident but it turned out she had sent me a card a few years later asking me to double date with her ex-boyfriend (on/off). Her ex wanted to introduce a guy to me. I have no memory of any double date with them so I must have declined. I do remember her ex-boyfriend was very gangster like. In my memory, we never communicated again after the truant incident. I think our brain is quite selective about which memory we choose to keep!

I found many cards from this very sweet guy I used to know. Have you ever done this? Facebook stalk a person you used to know? I searched his name and ridiculously he existed at my first try! There were a couple of photos and man does he look old now! I wonder if anyone has Facebook stalked me?

In the end, I kept some of the cards because they were too precious to throw! But it's a tiny fraction of the original number, around 50 or so. In another 10 years, I should make another attempt to throw the rest of the cards. By then, I may have totally forgotten everyone.

This trip down memory lane has made me remember how much life has changed since internet and social media. Do people still send cards nowadays? I get digital cards now and then and don't be surprised but I get very angry when I receive them. Because it's such a hassle to unlock it. So don't send me any.

Catch you soon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Milk Kefir Bread

To be honest, I have some doubts about milk kefir used as a leavening agent for bread. If you search the net, you will notice that many milk kefir bread recipes include the use of a tiny bit of yeast. At Bakerzwork class, the one recipe I made which used milk kefir did not turn out well. It was heavy and under baked.

Over the weekend, I made a Milk Kefir bread using this recipe I found online. I never got to the stage of baking because after mixing, the dough was very limp. I gave it a lot of time to develop but in the end, the dough had no strength at all and I was certain it would be a failure. So I dumped it.

Yesterday I decided to give Milk Kefir another shot. This time I did something differently. When making the milk kefir starter(or levain), I used very strong bread flour.

I used Waitrose white bread flour which had a 14.9% protein. I usually use Prima Unbleached Bread flour which had a 13.1% protein. I'm not entirely sure about this but I believe a higher protein flour generates more gluten. Based on my first milk kefir failure, there seems to be a lack of gluten in the dough. For my main dough, I still used Prima Unbleached Bread flour.

This is my milk kefir. I did not really pay attention to how long I fermented my milk kefir grains. I do know it was definitely less than 24 hours. When I remembered to harvest it, there was some separation of whey. I was given a tiny teaspoon worth of milk grains at Bakerzwork. At first the grains did not grow at all. I was a bit worried but at last count, I have 2 tablespoon's worth. Unlike water kefir grains, my milk kefir grains multiply rather slowly.

This is my milk kefir starter after sitting on a table overnight. The weird holes you see are the bubbles. This starter is quite active.

I was feeling rather adventurous and decided to put all my money on this recipe I found online.

The amount of dough was enough to make a sandwich loaf (680g) in my pullman tin and the leftover I made a boule. Which was a mistake. I'll explain later.

 My boule after shaping.
My boule before baking.

I baked the sandwich loaf first. I shaped the dough into a batard which surprisingly fit the size of the pullman tin. After a few hours, the dough only rose a bit but I was tired of waiting so I baked it.


The bread turned out quite well. The only mistake I made was after removing the bread from the tin, I returned it to the oven to brown the top, I placed it upside down. Unfortunately, the top was not stable enough and when I removed the bread later, the top had become lop sided.

This was the first slice I ate, still warm and it was delicious. The crust was very nice and I felt a bit guilty I didn't leave it for hubs.

Remember I have a boule. The mistake I made was this. I wanted to bake the boule on my baking stone and to get the baking stone hot enough takes time. Meanwhile my dough was ballooning up. I think it was over proofed.

In the oven, it didn't spring up much but it got wider. I thought it was gonna spill out of the oven because my oven is not very deep.

I didn't try the boule last night because it was late. This morning I had a slice and I have to say, it's not as good as it looks. There's a bit of under baking near the bottom. Demmit! After all that effort to get the baking stone hot enough...

Overall, the taste of my milk kefir bread, both sandwich and boule is not as good as the sourdough bread I made last Friday. At this point, I don't know if I will pursue milk kefir bread. I think I may have bread fatigue.

Friday, August 25, 2017

My First Successful Sourdough Wholemeal Loaf

Friends,


I'm bursting to tell you the fabulous news. Yesterday afternoon, I baked my first successful sourdough loaf. I can't express how freaking happy I am. I'm blinking back tears as I write this. The feeling of success is so fantastic, it's better than winning the $758 million Powerball jackpot. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. The money is better.

I've been observing my sourdough starter and I started to notice a pattern. In Singapore weather, after a feed, within 5 hours (give or take) it could triple in volume. I read somewhere that it's less sour if you use the starter before it starts to collapse so I used the starter when it had expanded 2.75 times.

I tried this recipe by the Nasi Lemak Lover (Sonia). You can try it and see if it works for you.

Everything went so well for this bake.
Before bulk fermentation - look how silky the dough is. I managed to use the mixer to beat the dough until I achieved a very stretchy windowpane. What's the secret? Patience.

 This was after dividing prior to shaping.

When I bake in a pullman tin, I like to make two braids and twist both like a rope. FYI, the size of my pullman tin is 8" long, 4.5" wide and 4" deep.

By the time I finished shaping, it was 11:30pm at night and I didn't fancy staying up to wait for the dough to proof so I put it in the fridge. The next morning I noticed the dough had not expanded as much as required so I left it on the table and went for my weekly swim.

I guess I was away around 3 hours and by the time I reached home, the dough had proofed so much it nearly reached the top. I quickly put it back in the fridge while I got the oven to reach the right temperature. Honestly, I was thinking I may have screwed up the dough! But it was my lucky day.

The bread smelled so good when it was baking. Can you see the lines made by the braids?

This bread does not use any water except what's in the sourdough starter. Instead it uses fresh milk. I used Hokkaido Fresh Milk which is a luxury. It's not necessary to use expensive milk but I was feeling rich...

The inside of the bread was so soft and perfect. NOTHING was under baked. The taste was good. I could detect a hint of a tangy flavour, most likely caused by putting in the fridge overnight? But it's ok, I rather like it. Next time I will make this loaf again on the same day and see what's the difference.

 
 

My family finished the whole loaf by noon the next day. Yes, of course we had luncheon meat sandwich. I will definitely make this loaf again and before I forget, a big thanks to Mom of Momshoo for her sourdough starter. If I had continued with my own concoction, I think I would still be struggling. Now all I need is to make a successful rustic sourdough and I'll die happy. No, no, I'm kidding. Not yet. I still have the water kefir and milk kefir shit going on as well.


I have another story to tell you. Last night I baked my second attempt at Pain Au Levain. I had lost track of all the starter and dough I had prepared and realised I had a Pain au levain dough sitting in the fridge for over 2 days. I was afraid it would collapse so I brought it out with the intention to bake. Indeed, it didn't look very stable. Anyway, I made a boule and decided to bake it anyway just to see even though looking at the dough I could tell it would be a failure.

I had run out of parchment paper and used CleanWrap instead. Usually I wouldn't use this to bake because I noticed the paper turned brown at high heat. But I didn't have any other paper.

The bake didn't go well as expected. I noticed there wasn't much oven spring. Towards the end of the bake, I tried to turn the bread because the left side of my oven is very hot. To my horror, the bread burst into flames. Yes, flames, fire. It was so frightening. I quickly switched off the oven. Then I screamed for hubs to come. Unfortunately, in his hurry he hurt his foot. Poor bugger. Meanwhile I was still screaming because the fire was getting bigger. Then I realised it was the paper that was burning and my oven wasn't on fire. By then hubs had reached the kitchen and at first he wanted to put out the fire with water but soon the fire went out by itself after all the paper had turned to ash. The experience really shook me up. I think the Universe wants me to take a break from baking so feverishly.

I'm going to look for parchment paper soon. I used to be able to get them at Cold Storage but one day they disappeared. Very strange. I wonder what other bakers in Singapore use? I may have to get them online but don't you think it's ridiculous that it's so hard to find parchment paper in Singapore?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Failure is not an option

After I had attended the one-day class on water and milk kefir bread, I was itching to make the water kefir boule at home. Many times, making the same thing at home resulted in very different results. I know that from experience.

I fermented my water kefir for 3 whole days. See how powerful it was on the third day?

My water kefir starter looked fine, maybe not as stretchy as in school.

My dough was manageable, nothing went wrong.

My water kefir boule even had the oven spring. Certainly it didn't rise as much as in school but it rose.

Once the bread had cooled down, I cut a slice and my heart immediately sank. It was dense. None of the open crumb was present. And the worst part - the bottom looked under baked. I ate some and I want to say the taste has improved tremendously from my last home made water kefir bread. There is no more weird taste so I'm thankful for that.

I didn't have the heart to ask hubs to eat the bread. Instead I dug out the soft bread and gave him the crust to eat. The crust did turn out very well! I think secretly hubs just wants to eat bread crust. I have already begun another water kefir starter to take another stab at making the tasty bread I made at the school. The one thing I know which wasn't so right was this: after mixing the dough via a machine a fair amount of time, I could not achieve the same stretchy windowpane which I could at the school. This time around, I want to be more patient.

In late June, Mom of Momshoo gifted me with some sourdough starter. I didn't have much time due to my pastry classes but I managed to bake one sourdough boule. I forgot which recipe I used, probably a very basic one.
The result was shall I say not too bad compared to my previous disasters. At least there was oven spring! I didn't know when's the right time to use the starter so I kinda did it randomly. The bread tasted a bit tangy but it was edible. Overall still not a success as I could see the texture of the crumb was not exactly right.

This week, in between my sewing and photographing of bag pattern steps, I made a few sourdough. A few! Ha ha. I'm always working on one thing or another so I set my timer to keep track. Sometimes a timer goes off and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do!

I got this book from the library and I wanted to try loaf bread using sourdough. The first recipe Soft White Bread almost made me cry. The dough was soupy. After hours and hours, it was still soupy. I left it in the fridge overnight and it was still soupy. So I threw it away. It's so much easier to bake soft white bread using commercial yeast but I so want to conquer the sourdough mountain. I tried again, this time using the Muscovado Sugar and Light Wheat Bread recipe. I've never used muscovado sugar before. It looks like fine brown sugar. Again after hours and hours, very soupy. I don't know why! I didn't even bother putting it in the fridge and simply junked it.

Third time's the charm? I tried Pain Au Levain. This time success. Sort of. But nothing to shout about.

This was my sourdough starter. It smelled nice and was frothy. It looked right to me but honestly I don't have a clue.
I tried to compensate for the usual under baking but the crust got a bit charred.

Crumb shot - not too dense and yep, some under baked parts. Taste wise - a huge improvement. No weird taste and I couldn't even detect any tangy. And amazingly the bread tasted better over time. Having said all that, the texture is still not great. I couldn't follow the book's method of using a covered pot to bake the bread because my oven is very small and I tried putting in my clay pot but the fit is tight. So I used my baking stone instead. I do believe baking stone works just as well.

The last sourdough recipe I made was from this book Modern Baker. I tried the basic sourdough recipe and it turned out very different.

The dough was very, very soft and sticky and extremely hard to handle. I couldn't even shape it. I just rolled it around with a scraper. After putting it in the fridge over night, it grew to this size.

I wanted to compensate for the under baking and put it in the oven a bit longer but I forgot to cover the top and didn't set the timer so it got pretty charred. The crumb? I still see some under baking and the taste is just okay. I don't think I have the skills to handle such soft dough yet. Maybe in 2 year's time?

Overall, I liked the taste of Pain Au Levain best. I'm preparing another sourdough starter to give it another try. I do get quite tired of so many bread baking failure. But I haven't gotten discouraged yet. Failure is not an option. I'm going to die trying.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Crochet Up A Storm

Has this happened to you? You want to sew but your mind keeps wandering and you do anything but sew.

The last time I worked on my bag pattern was before I attended the Puff Pastry classes and that was in June - almost a lifetime ago in my current state of mind. After puff pastry, I had Danish pastry and croissants classes and that ended in early August. So I had a good 2 months break from sewing. After my classes ended, I thought I could dive right back into my bag pattern. So wrong. I read my notes, looked through what I had already written in Indesign and nothing. I couldn't motivate myself to get the groove back. So I did the only sensible thing I could think of.

I dove into another craft - crochet. You may think it's crazy to engage in another craft when it's sewing I should be doing. Let me explain. This is a strategy I have employed before. When I can't get into the mood to do sewing, doing another craft helps. I don't exactly know the science of it but getting the creative mojo back via another craft will somehow kickstart my sewing mojo. I chose crochet because it's a craft I am comfortable with. I'm not very good in it but I can make stuff and understand instructions. I mean I wouldn't choose a craft that I would struggle with like knitting because that would not work.

Here's what my crochet mojo produced! Grannies and hats.

I started with a simple hairband for my Journey Girl doll - Dana. What did I use? I think it's treble crochet(US).

I felt kinda guilty that I was always making stuff for my dolls that I made a similar hairband for my human daughter. She was very happy with it.

I had these small amount of yarn that was not enough for any big project and I just wanted to get rid of them so I made grannies.

I did not give this granny enough thought. It looks weird and messy.

This one was just to use up the itty bitty bits of yarn. These grannies are good for my dolls to sit on.

Then I decided to make the granny larger so my dolls could lie on it.

I gifted the large granny to my TangKou doll. I forgot to keep her in the box and she's a bit grimy. Also, I didn't even make a decent dress for her, just something slapped on. Poor girl. Does she look creepy or does she look like she's saying: SAVE ME?

I don't know if you know this but Lammily is my favourite doll. (shhhh) The reason is she's a very hardy doll and extremely low maintenance. I don't keep her in a box. I made her a hat. It took like 5 minutes to make it because she has a small head unlike the TangKou doll.

Lammily's hat is mostly double crochets(US). On her, the yarn looks bulky but they aren't.

Dana got a hat too. Gosh, I'm spoiling her.

Anyway, I took a break from sewing to write this post. Yes, I did it. I dove back into working on my bag pattern. Mission accomplished. Thank you crochet.
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