A French Baguette, An Incidental Bake

There was much feasting this holiday season. We had family over for Christmas dinner and friends over to warm up our new place. I found myself spending more time in the kitchen than usual. Either that or I was frantically searching for new recipes.

A couple of girlfriends came with a bread machine the other day and I was thrilled. Yes, I am at that stage where receiving kitchen appliances excite me.

After putting the kids to bed one night, I decided to check out my new toy.

I was glad that It didn’t come with a 100 page manual in 10 different languages. The recipe that came with it looked simple enough for a non baker to understand. According to the recipe, you just need to put all the ingredients in the stated order, press a few buttons and voila! A freshly baked bread will be waiting for you for breakfast the next morning. The simplicity got me even more excited. It had been a long day and I was deadbeat but I thought how difficult could it be to measure the handful of ingredients and dump them into the machine. I could do everything in a jiffy and surprise the kids with a freshly baked loaf for breakfast the next day.

I took a quick glance at the recipe and picked out French bread as it required the least number of ingredients and could finish in just less than 2 hours! (I later realized I made a mistake, it would take more than 3 hours to complete)

I carefully measured everything, making sure they were added in the correct sequence. It took me less than 15 minutes. I happily texted my girlfriends and thanked them again for the wonderful gift. And left the machine running while I packed up the cardboard box that came with the machine.

It was then that I heard a rattling in the box. I took a closer look and found a small metal piece that looked like a part that should go into the bread pan. It turned out to be the kneading paddle! My heart sank. What was I thinking, trying to knead a dough without a kneading paddle?! There goes my first loaf of bread!

The heating coil was already red hot by then and I swiftly transferred everything onto a mixing bowl. I was ready to throw everything into the trash but my friend who was still on the chat had some experience at making bread suggested that I should try hand kneading.

I took her advice and gave the mix a quick knead, much like an attempt to resuscitate. Thereafter, I left the dough in an oiled bowl and cling wrapped it. I wasn’t hopeful that what I had done would be enough to save the dough. I was quite sure I had ‘killed’ the yeast knowing how fussy yeast was. Too hot, it dies and too cold, it remains dormant.

A quick search for a French bread recipe on the Internet yield so many different recipes. Unfortunately my brain at 12 midnight wasn’t capable of finding the closest match for the recipe that I had used especially when I had to do unit conversion.

Surprisingly the dough that had been sitting in the bowl for the last hour had grown in size. Ideally it should have doubled but I wasn’t complaining, the dough was still ‘alive’!

Without much delay, I turned the dough onto my kitchen top and started rolling it out, like what I saw in the videos. I wasn’t sure but I thought some kneading shouldn’t hurt.

I divided the dough into 2 and rolled each out into rectangular shapes before folding in the sides and sealing up the edges. I made a few slashes on top like on most baguettes. The oven temperature was set to 190 degC and for the next 30 minutes, (the timing was a rough guess, an average bteween 20 to 40 minutes) I planted myself in front of the oven, anxious to see how the bread would turn out.

After what seem like a long while, the alarm finally went off and 2 loaves of good looking bread emerged. It was already 1am in the morning.

The colour of the crust looked about right but it wasn’t crispy enough and the inside wasn’t as fluffy as those we like from Cedele. I was glad they were edible and didn’t taste like some rocks or stones. It was decent enough for my boys to gobble a whole loaf for breakfast the next morning.

And that was pretty much how I ended up making my first loaf of French baguette. An incidental hand knead loaf that I wasn’t even sure how to replicate! It was a mishmash of everything that I could gather on the Internet when my brain wasn’t functioning 100%.

IMG_4986Then again, I really shouldn’t be making bread the labour intensive way since now I have an all singing all dancing bread maker machine sitting in my kitchen!


Note : In case you are adventurous enough to give this a try using the labour intensive method, these are the ingredients I used

1. Water 260g
2. Salt 6g
3. Oil 9g
4. Sugar 12g
5. Bread Flour 400g
6. Yeast 5g

Good Luck!


A Tree, A Stall And A Christmas Wreath

I can’t believe it’s 3 days to Christmas. It’s been a maddening rush this school holiday with the renovation of our new place, house moving, a trip to Australia and before we know it, it’s just a couple of weeks more before school reopens.

Amidst all the packing, unpacking and tidying up loose ends around the house, shopping for a Christmas tree was like the last thing on my mind. Didn’t help when the weather had been wet. Just the thought of packing a drenched fir tree into the car made me tired.

I wouldn’t mind having a tree like this again but we don’t have a backyard here and a dead tree branch this big would probably be very sick. Humid weather and sick tree don’t seem like a good combination for the house.

A couple of days ago, while I was clearing up my boys’ nature pile, I discovered some good looking tree branches and twigs collected while we were overseas. The oldest among them was probably a branch of pine wood which my elder boy picked up at Yellowstone National Park some 8 years ago.

I decided to put some of the nicer tree branches together and thought I could almost make out the shape of a Christmas tree. The boys thought it was pretty cool, but we needed more branches in order to make a taller tree. So that afternoon we took our bikes to East Coat Park and the boys’ job was to bring back tree branches that could fit into our ‘tree’.

My elder boy wasn’t hopeful as he was quite sure the park cleaners would have cleared away the fallen branches. I was more worried that the branches were either too damp or infested with bugs. He was right as it was hard to spot any tree branch on the cycling track. We had to go off the track and even so, we could only find a few twigs, nothing like what we had in mind.

We came to a big field and noticed a few big trees standing at its far corner. We decided to ride across the field to try our luck, hoping that the cleaner might have missed the secluded corner.

Lo and behold, there were indeed some big branches lying around the tress. It looked almost like parts of the trees were ripped off by the recent storm.

With some teamwork, we managed to break off some of the smaller branches and carry them on our bikes to the nearby jetty. We spent the next hour or so peeling off the barks.
What lay beneath the damp and often lichen ridden barks was smooth, solid and unspoiled wood. If not for the storm we had the last couple of days, these healthy branches wouldn’t have fallen.

We brought them home and managed to work through most of the branches except those more stubborn ones which require us to use a sharp knife to get the bark off.

We chose some of our best sticks, strung them together with string and that was more or less how we got our Christmas tree this year.

Apart from the Christmas tree, we made a Christmas stall using one of the cardboard boxes kept from the house moving.

Someone was thrilled to have a stall to sell his knick knacks. He named it ‘Marcus Christmas Stall’ and had hours of fun playing with it. He planned what to sell, came up with the price list and we had some lessons on money.

Hopefully our pretend play would help to ease him into Primary school, which is starting in a couple of weeks’ time, and buying his own food at the school canteen would be like the scariest thing.

Last but not least, we made a simple Christmas wreath using Nespresso capsules. It was the simplest wreath I have made thus far.

I have always wondered what to do with these pretty Nespresso capsules. When I chanced upon this wreath on the internet, I knew I have to make one.

If you are a Nespresso drinking family like us, you will probably gather enough capsules to make this within a week.
Here are the things you need

1. 13 used Nespresso capsules

2. a cardboard ring of about 7.5 cm in radius and 2 cm in thickness

3. ribbon to coil around the cardboard ring

Put these 3 items together and viola, you get a cute Christmas wreath!

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Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

May the simple joys of life warm your heart and fill your home this holiday season.


Our other DIY Christmas wreaths
Burlap Christmas Wreath
Toilet Paper Roll Christmas Wreath
Dried Twigs Christmas Wreath

This entry was posted in craft.

Home Away From Home

We went for a vacation in Western Australia in a big party of 7 adults and 4 kids; almost everyone from my side of the family went along.

Not too long ago, this wouldn’t have been possible because of my Dad’s health. With a clean bill of health, he was able to pick up life from where he left off. He was able to join us for the trip though he and my mom probably suffered quite a bit from the chaos and madness created by their 4 grandchildren, all boys, packed under the same roof.

The last time I visited Western Australia was like 2 decades ago and I seriously don’t remember things being as expensive as now. I was shocked that 4 pieces of sushi cost 10 bucks at the airport. That was pretty much my first impression when we disembarked.

Part of the reason for this trip was for my sis and her husband to relish fond memories of their dating days. This time round they had their 2 boys to complete the experience.

It was their first time traveling with their teething 10 month old and an active 3 year old. Seeing them brought back memories of our trips when the boys were younger. Frankly, I don’t remember it being such an energy sapping task but then again, my memory for such things can be quite short lived.

I do recall packing lots of snack and books during those trips because they were about the only entertainment the kids would get during long car rides. Bumpy car rides and snacks make a potent mix to lull the kids into lala land.

Things then were a bit simpler without iPads and electronic games. These gadgets might seem a quick fix to boredom but often rob them the chance to use their imagination and learning how to deal with boredom.

Apart from playing with their little cousins, the boys spent much of their time poring over books we brought along. My elder boy finished more than half a dozen books he borrowed from the library during the 10 day trip and the younger one was in love with his Mr Men books and dinosaur drawing book.

We drove from Perth down to Albany before heading back to Margaret River and Perth again. The good thing about moving around was there were new things to keep the kids excited every few days.

We had a pool table in one of the houses we rented and a table soccer in another and the space we had was like the best thing for them. They could run and play and play and run.

It was summer but it was still too chilly for tropical inhabitants like us. We went to the beach and I couldn’t take the cold water. The boys wouldn’t mind though and would have headed for the water if we let them. They love the seaweed strewn shore and fine sandy beach and got all soaked playing with the crashing waves.

Because we went in a big group that needed at least 3 considerably big rooms to sleep comfortably, we decided to rent vacation homes instead of staying in hotel rooms. It worked out to be cheaper and it was so much more convenient and comfortable. It was one of the best decisions we had made for the trip.

The house that greeted us at Perth was a 2 storey house with 4 bedrooms. It could comfortably sleep 10 and came with a fully equipped kitchen that would have made any housewife drool. There was a small swimming pool in the backyard and a display of colourful surf boards for anyone who was brave enough to ride the surf at the nearby Scarborough beach.

It also came with an indoor pool table which everyone had fun playing with, including the littlest among us. With 3 mothers in our group, mealtimes were well taken care of. We had home cooked dinner everyday with fresh groceries from the local farmers’ market. It almost felt like we never left home.

Then at Albany, this gorgeous house greeted us. A single storey house that could accomodate 10.

A dreamy house that was perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It felt almost unreal. It was like one of those houses that you only see in Hollywood movies. Marcus called it the long house because it had a long corridor with the master bedroom at one end and the rest of the bedrooms in the other end.

It was built like a green house with full glass panels in the living room and kitchen area. I was initially worried that we might be baked by the summer heat trapped in the house. Thank goodness it was wet, windy and cold, so the heat was good for keeping us warm at night.

The fireplace was a good save and we spent evenings crowding near the fire and playing cards. Apart from warming the house up, the boys learned how to set up a wood fire. They even figured out how to cook some food in it and we had tasty sweet corn and sweet potatoes roasted for our drives and hikes in Albany.

Our last stop was Margaret River. The house at Albany was hard to beat and the 4 bedroom house at Margaret River paled in comparison. It was a decent house that reminded us of our place in the States. It was in a residential area just outside town center and a short drive to everything. But it looked so normal, so regular, and without character.

Apart from the farmers market, we did the touristy stuff when we were there, such as visit to a brewery, animal farm, cave, chocolate factory and an olive oil soap factory which was the best place to shop for anything made with olive oil.

My husband and I managed to go for a jog one evening while we were there. We were unfamiliar with the area but we had google map and runkeeper. We wandered off the paved road and onto a trail which led us into the forest. The sun was setting and the light was glaring right into our face. Thankfully the breeze was cool and the air was dry. We jogged for 45 minutes but it felt like a 5 minute jog in Singapore weather.

IMG_3277 (1)-001
This was us, trying to balance on a fallen log to cross a huge puddle of water. It was a refreshing jog and we wouldn’t have had the experience if we hadn’t gone off the beaten track.

And I sort of like it this way. No matter how well planned a trip is, it’s always good to leave some room for spontaneity and impromptu- ness because that’s when you get surprises. And I love surprises. You never know what you’re gonna get … and that’s the fun of it.

Last but not least, I thought it is only right that I include this to make this post complete.

The house in Perth though big and spacious needed a thorough clean up to get rid of the sticky floor and canine stench. The house in Albany needed to have its water heaters replaced so that it could supply enough hot water for everyone to bathe. Lastly the house in Margaret River needed the pest control guy to come in urgently to get rid of creepy crawlies, especially the 8 legged kind.

Although it was good to go on a holiday with family and strengthen bonds, nothing beats coming back to the comfort of our own home.

I guess I am not much of a traveller afterall.

This is still the best.


Our Accommodation in Perth
The Lookout Scarborough Beach

Our Accommodation in Albany

Our Accommodation in Margaret River
Forest Walk

This entry was posted in Travel.
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