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Scribbles from our Travels: Day 4 – Margaret River

Last night, we all put on our parkas and braved the cold to admire the multitude of twinkling stars in the deep dark night sky. The night sky in Australia seems to have more stars than that in Singapore.

I’m pretty sure there is a scientific explanation for that, but searching google has turned up a million articles, none of which articulate an answer to my satisfaction. Sheesh.       

Anyway, this morning while DH’s parents head out to the township; mum, the kids and us head to The Berry Farm, on a friend’s recommendation. They have some interesting jams – boysenberry and port jam, anyone? 🙂

The kids are none too interested in jams and dips, so DH brings them to the playground (yet another playground!) while mum and I taste the samples.
We also try their strawberry liqueur, but the alcohol content in liqueur is much too strong for me.

Leaving with some shared purchases, our next stop is Voyager Estate. But before that, a mini adventure – a tree had fallen across Rosa Glen Road in the space of the hour we were at Berry Farm.

There was another car in front of us but after surveying the situation together, both DH and the other driver concluded the tree was too big to move, plus we didn’t have the right tools, so after ringing at the door of the nearby property with no answer, she rang for assistance on her mobile phone, and after that we took an alternative, but longer route back out to the main road.

It strikes me that we take for granted the accessibility we have in Singapore. In our compact city, many alternatives prevail, and response to a call for roadside assistance is almost instantaneous. And we’ve grown to expect that kind of instantaneous service response.

Failing which anyway, one can always find many other people around to help or commiserate about the situation. As opposed to out here, where it’s rural and deserted, and where no one was home at the nearest property, and the other properties are way way way down the road.

When we finally arrive at Voyager, DH’s parents have already been there half an hour, and had explored the Rose Gardens.

Some pics from our Voyager Estate lunch – yummy! 

We’d kept all our accommodation bookings to as budget as we could, and our flight tickets as well, because we knew this lunch bill was going to set us back a fair bit.  But in the end, DH’s dad insisted on paying it all…  Thanks, Dad! 

Voyager Estate - Girt by Sea 2009 Cabernet Merlot

 

Estate baked mini loaf and dukkah with Fini olive oil

 

Char-grilled Tenderidge eye fillet with potato dauphinoise, broccollini and Cafe de Paris butter

 

Seared duck breast with green bean and grape salad and muscatel sauce

 

Margaret River venison with roasted pumpkin pappardelle, beetroot puree, sauteed spinach and chocolate infused jus

 

Mount Barker chicken breast with onion soubise, sage butter and zucchini ribbon salad with sumac dressing

*****

After lunch, we drive south to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, as the grandparents want to see again, the meeting of the Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean.

Here’s an interesting pic DH took of a compass showing the distances of different places from the lighthouse.

While we’re there, we spot some black flecks or shadows, glinting in the sunlight against the distant waves. 

Whales? According to the books, Augusta is the right place at this time of year to be whale-watching, so hm, who knows? 😉

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Scribbles from our Travels: Day 3 – Fremantle – Margaret River

When we checked out of Mariner’s at 9:40am this morning, the plan was to drive non-stop to Margaret River and lunch there, but around 11.10am, DH’s dad signals for our convoy to stop for coffee and to stretch our legs.

We stop at a roadside café just before Bunbury, which is connected to a petrol kiosk and has a playground out back. The kids must think Australia is playground paradise – it seems as if we find a new playground every day.

After sipping our lattes, we vote to just settle lunch here.
It’s 12:40pm when we get back into our cars for the next leg of our journey. All fed and happy, the kids doze off.

Around Carbunup River, DH and I decide that an after –lunch impromptu chocolate stop might be nice.

Oooooooooooh chocolaaaaate… 😛

So with happy thoughts spurring us on, we zoom happily down Bussell Highway and the turn off to Harmans Mill Road.

I should state, at this juncture, that all the maps are with us. The grandparents had entrusted us solely with the navigation and itinerary planning, so they had no idea whatsoever where we were heading, up until we turned into the parking lot of The Margaret River Chocolate Company.

Oooooooooooh chocolaaaaate… 😛

Milk choc, white choc, dark choc - I wanna eat 'em all....

Having satisfied our flavonoid dietary cravings requirements for the month week day, we drive over to Margaret River Providore, which is under the same ownership as MR Choc Co. Aside from a whole range of jams, spreads, dips, olive oils and the like,

Providore also has a pretty vegetable garden, which we spent a good forty minutes wandering in.  It was a good opportunity to show the kids that their veggies come from a patch, and not off a supermarket shelf.

Just look at that beautiful eggplant…

And this is an asparagus fern.

The asparagus spears that we eat are actually the immature fronds of the asparagus fern.  This is because once the buds start to open, the shoots quickly turn woody.  

The fern dies off completely in winter. It starts growing again in spring, and you can pick the spears right through to summer. 

The fruit is a small red berry, about 6 to 10mm in diameter and is poisonous to humans.

I learnt something new today. 🙂

After that yummy detour, we check in at Sunflowers Farm at 4pm. We’ll be here for four nights.

The kids head straight out to grab two buckets with bread, lettuce, and grains to feed the farm animals.

The grandmothers set to dishing up a four course home cooked dinner, with persimmons, watermelon and custard apples for dessert afterward.

And that, is all of our plans for the rest of the evening. It’s all grand.

Happiness is eating a cookie you baked yourself-Part II

Where: Home
When: 7:30pm, Sunday evening
How to create your own ToTT experience for the kids at home (caveat: you’ve to do your own dishes and kitchen clean up 😉 ):

Make up a batch of cookie dough. Click here for the original recipe. I added a tsp of vanilla essence to mine.
Toss in raisins and crushed cornflakes. Knead into dough.

Portion out drop sized cookies onto baking tray. Press down flat if you like your cookies crunchy, not so flat if you like ‘em chewy.

Into the oven for 12 minutes at 190 deg C. Cool for 8-10 minutes.

Go to sleep with a smile, dreaming of crunchy cornflake raisin cookies with cold milk for the next day’s breakfast!

Happiness is-eating a cookie you baked yourself :-)

Where: ToTT, 896 Dunearn Road, Singapore.

When: 2:00pm – 2:30pm, Sunday afternoon

How:

  1. Select your preferred cookie flavour – vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry.
  2. Select a standard filling of your choice – chocolate chips or peanuts, or top up for premium fillings like macadamia nuts. Make payment ($12.85 for a tin).
  3. Pour out the cookie dough, mix in the fillings.
  4. Using the ice cream scoop provided, portion out drop sized cookies onto the baking sheet. Press down flat if you like your cookies crunchy, not so flat if you like ‘em chewy.
  5. Into the oven for 15 minutes. Cool for 8-10 minutes.
  6. Walk out with 16 yummy, freshly baked cookies in a tin…and hope they last the trip home! 😛

I’m not saying we’d do this all the time. It is still much more economical to bake from scratch at home.

But with free parking on weekends, a fairly reasonably priced bistro menu, and an air conditioned kitchen that you don’t need to clean up afterward, gotta admit this is a pretty fun way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon!

wild iwonderbee weekend

Last week, I was functioning on pure adrenaline and very little food, and even less sleep.
Today, the adrenaline has left my system and I.am.tired.

Oh but it was all worth it. 🙂

We’ve come to call these kinds of weekends the iwonderbee weekends. Typified by an insanity streak to do the largest amount of tasks in the shortest amount of time, setting oneself the greatest amount possible of challenges and working within the craziest amount of constraints. It isn’t that I purposely set out to do it, but I seem to find myself in these situations where an idea grows bigger, bigger and bigger and because I get so pleased with the concept mushrooming in my head, the determination to execute it becomes more and more entrenched till it will bug me to no end until I finish the project.

Anyway…the story…about the wildest iwonderbee weekend we’ve ever had. 🙂

*****

Saturday March 5 – DD’s birthday party was scheduled for Sunday March 13. She’d asked for a chocolate horse cake, and to the best of our abilities, we were going to make that for her. Since we started experimenting with making the kids’ birthday cakes a couple of years ago, we’ve never looked back. In itself, the planning, conceptualizing and making of is fun.

The only challenge was, as you remember, we’d moved house. We had no kitchen.

I called up the carpenter and begged, pleaded, negotiated in very broken (and probably highly amusing) Mandarin to have the oven installed ASAP. Broadly, he said there was no way it could be ready, and then somehow through the tangled mixed Mandarin and English, he said “Your countertop won’t be ready for another week or so.”

I pounced immediately on that last statement.

“Did you say countertop? Just the countertop? Oh la la, I don’t need a countertop! I just need the oven installed! Can I have the oven, just the oven?”

He must have thought I was out of my mind, but maybe that made him take pity enough to agree. Good enough for me! I lost count of the number of times I repeated the date, March 10 and made him promise and promise and promise over again that it would be done. 😉

*****

Tuesday March 8 – It is a loooooong day at work but I rush home as fast as the public bus will take me (which is not fast enough!!!).

Anticipation built to a crescendo, I jump off the bus steps, brace a 100m dash home in high heels, fly into the lift counting the floors impatiently, rummage for my keys and scratch hurriedly at the door lock, before falling into the kitchen and exclaiming, “Oooooh! My oven! My oven! My oven is here! Yippee! Hurray! Thank God!”

But…where is the plug point?

*****

Friday March 11 – It’s taken three days to get the electrician but the plug point is installed. Finally. The oven works. Hallelujah!

But here comes the next spanner in the works. DH and I have been shifting boxes about till 2:30am every night to locate the box with my baking tools. It’s tiring work and it’s been unfruitful because the box just can’t be found.
We’re both exhausted from lack of sleep. And I am sad.

Two hours later at 10:30am, I pull up my socks. I need to make a chocolate horse cake for my daughter. And I shan’t give up without a fight.

I sms two of DH’s aunts and one kindly offers to pop by in the evening with her electric mixer, mixing bowl, measuring spoons and a square baking tin. I ring DH and we plan to make a stop at a baking supplies store a couple of train stops away from home, after work.

At 6:35pm, I walk in to the baking supplies store and start checking off all the things I need to buy, while waiting for DH to arrive.

It bothers me to a fair degree that I will have duplicate tools after we finally unpack and locate the box. I don’t like spending extra money, but it is what it is.

The store owner is friendly and helpful, and the light-hearted conversation helps diffuse some of the stress I’ve been bearing. He listens sympathetically to our story and patiently points us to all the things we’ll need.

After handing over $69.05 for an assortment of tools and ingredients, we sink into the car and drive home to pick up the parents and children to get dinner.

*****

Saturday March 12
8:30am – Bright and early start! The first cake does not rise. It comes out as flat as a pizza delivery box, and that is probably a good description of the state of my heart. Aiyaa…

So, round 2. Whirr up a second cake. In total I’ll need two 8-inch squares so I’ve got my work cut out for me this morning. When the mix is ready, I realize I forgot to buy a spatula. Oh well, I reach for the rice cooker scoop. It’s white. It’s plastic. Which is all the resemblance it has to a spatula.

Hm. It’ll have to do.

It doesn’t do very well. Gah.

I also realise I forgot to get skewers to test if the cake is done. We decide to make the best of a bad job and use a fork instead.

11:45am – The cakes are cooled. I put them in the fridge to cool and we head out to get some lunch. We still have a full day ahead of chopping, cutting and mincing for the rest of the menu. 

10:30pm – The kids are asleep and I start sifting the icing sugar for the cake frosting. Because I couldn’t find my recipe book, I downloaded a recipe off the internet. I hope it works.

12:30am – It doesn’t work. At this kind of consistency, that ain’t no frosting, that be pancake batter. Drat.

DH, bless him, zips out of the kitchen, saying that he’s going to try opening up more boxes to find my recipe book. Fifteen minutes later, he appears at the kitchen door, waving the book triumphantly.

It was in the first box he opened! Praise God! But it’s really late and we’re both too tired.

There is a Chinese proverb that goes “Tomorrow will be better”.

Yes. Tomorrow will be better.

It’s time to wash up and sleep .We have to be up early for church tomorrow.

*****

Sunday March 13
9:00am – I have butterflies in my stomach thinking about the many things that have to be done, but for what it’s worth, I have learnt through many experiences with my Lord to know that if I put Him first, He will take care of everything for me. So I will worship, and I will listen to His word.  The sermon message befits the situation – our pastor calls us to be still, and look to God.

11:30am – We head to a nearby hawker centre for lunch. It’s cheap and fast and easy to find parking. Lunch is done by 12:45pm and we’re off home for the marathon ahead. I’m raring to go. 🙂

4:15pm – The alarm on my phone rings, and we’re only part way done.

DH, my mum and I feel like contestants on a hybrid of Food Network Challenge and Amazing Race! All of this is complicated by the fact that we don’t have complete sets of utensils and only an electric multi cooker to conjure up our menu with. 

And hmm…at 4:30pm, we realise no one thought about what we were going to serve the food in. Oops…heheh. More scrabbling around in boxes to find crockery! 😀

The good news though – kids have napped, DH’s done a fantastic job of frosting the cake, party favours are packed, games resources are prepped, two dishes are done, one is midway and the fourth is on its way to starting (once we mince the garlic). Whoo hoo!  We’re on the home stretch!!!

5:30pm – All the guests have arrived.

The kids are playing. DH has their collective attention on the game at hand.

I arrange the table while mum puts the finishing touches to the last dish.

It is finished. Happy iwonderbee.  🙂

The cake!

In my world: “Mummy, you eat it!”

DS has recently been insisting on having his fruit like strawberries and grapes whole (as opposed to being cut into smaller pieces and the seeds removed from the grapes). 

On one hand, I’m pretty happy about him discovering the joys of using his teeth, (although I still keep a close watch when he’s eating grapes). 

On the other, though, I’ve been discovering a number of these random little bitten through fruits on the table, on the floor, or handed personally to me, with an accompanying request for a brand new grape or strawberry. And when I hand it back and ask him to finish it up first, he’ll push back and insist that I eat up the half chewed fruit!! 

In season or not, grapes and strawberries are pretty pricey a punnet…so don’t waste, right?

So I am now, officially, one of THOSE mums who pops my child’s half-masticated food into my mouth, without missing a beat. 

 

*****

Sometimes in the middle of cleaning the rooms, I discover little gems left behind by the children. This Friday series was started with the intention of celebrating the imagination and creativity in a young child’s world…and hoping that it’ll bring a little ray of inspiration and joy to your day, as it does mine.

Love letters for my grandmother

This weekend marks the start of the new Lunar Year of the Rabbit. After visiting round DH’s family, we will return to my childhood home to visit my parents. And already, as I envision us unloading the kids and our bags from the car, and walking into the kitchen (that’s always the first room in the house I gravitate to each time I arrive home), suddenly my mind is filled with memories of my paternal grandmother.

Chinese New Year always meant a bustling time in my childhood home. Ah Ma and mum would spend hours in the kitchen and backyard, making all kinds of Chinese New Year goodies to fill the traditional eight treasure tray.

And of the myriad variety of cookies, there are but three nearest and dearest to my heart.

*****

Kueh bangkit, baked in wooden trays. Little white powdery cookies in the shape of flowers or animals with a pink or red food colouring dot on top. Store-bought ones today are nothing like the ones grandma made. Made right, they melt gently upon your tongue, and five are never enough, because we’d want one each of every design.

Golden pineapple tarts – baked to crumbly perfection, topped with aromatic homemade pineapple jam, brewed carefully over the old two-ring gas stove which has since been replaced with a new and shiny twin.

And best of all, kueh kapit (“love letters”), crispy wafer thin egg rolls baked over Ah Ma’s charcoal stove out in the backyard, with Ah Ma herself fanning the coal fire, and busily spreading a thin layer of batter on the iron molds.

It was hot and hard work – one had to work quickly, and keep a close watch on the fire so the love letters wouldn’t burn.
Then as quickly as they come off the stove, with her bare hands, Ah Ma would peel the circles off the hot iron, and fold them while they were still pliable, in half and half again to form delicate fan shapes, that once cooled, would be delightful wafer-thin pastries.

My job was to cut circles of tracing paper and carefully arrange layer upon layer of love letters, alternated with tracing paper, so that the love letters would not chip or break. The tins would have to be packed and sealed off quickly with one last circle of tracing paper to keep the love letters crisp throughout the whole fifteen days of Chinese New Year. To savour them, one would have to flick the tin cover off with the back of a spoon, pick out a precious few, and quickly reseal the tin so the rest of the love letters would stay crisp.

****

Ah Ma passed away of stomach cancer when I was in upper primary.

If I’d known then what I know now…I’d have been more diligent in observing how to make the kueh kapit instead of just being satisfied with sneaking a piece or two as I packed the tins. I could go learn it from the internet now, or from a cooking school…but it’d never be the same.

I know one is not supposed to cry at Chinese New Year because one should think happy, joyous and prosperous thoughts to set the tone for the year ahead. But I can’t help it. I’m not even sure what triggered the memories of Ah Ma and her love letters.

Ah Ma, I guess I won’t know right now, if you know that your grand-daughter is penning these thoughts onto her web log. But I guess that somehow the Lord who lives in me, and Whom you are with in heaven, will help us bridge that chasm between the mortal and the eternal. And that He’ll let you know that I’m thinking of you and crafting my version of my love letters for you, this Chinese New Year.

Photo credit: asiaone.com