Saturday, 21 January 2017

Working on cold winter's day

Dear Family & Friends

It's been a cold winter's day, but always very bright and sunny:) The sun is positioned much lower in the winter season...to me, that's God's grace for mankind to get a bit comfort and warmth for the season. Despite the very sunny day, the temperature records -7C! ..and we have some work to do in our tiny apartment.  

we finally got connected to electric supply to enable us to start work

There's some delays in our plans to get it all ready before then, but it still works out well for us. This winter we are more free to undertake the interior works...the building contractors were ready with the electric power supply.We're more concern of having to work in a freezing situation, so a portable heat blower was in mind. Yet, we realized that despite the freezing temperature outside, inside the apartment was not too bad as the sun shines right through. A real blessing indeed. 


sunshine steaming thru the apartment - keeping us warm as we work:)

Our work chores have now changed according to what the season dictates. No more outside gardening for me...instead, me and the two teenagers are busy with our home projects like knitting, crocheting, and sewing, From time to time we are also called to help in the apartment interior works... sanding walls and painting. An extra helping hand is always needed somewhere. 

knitting an orange colour scarf:)

Yes, our CEO at home is keeping us all out of idle mischief...but saying that...he is also pampering us with lots of winter holiday breaks! We're off to yet another weekend break in the mountain to enjoy food, and a 5 star hotel facility offers. Perhaps we might check out the ski lift, although no one is interested in skiing. I definitely just want to be in the warmth:)

Hope you are also taking the time and chance to enjoy with your family whenever opportunities arises too:)

Yours

Monday, 16 January 2017

Birthday wishes do come true


Dear Family & Friends

Sometime ago I had my birthday wishes come true. Every happy occasion is a great excuse to unite our family even more. Perhaps it's a good excuse to go out for a family meal...but with the ongoing winter deep freeze and temperature that hovers around minus 15C,  plus the  thick snow everywhere...it was wise that we stay home where it is safer and warm.

snow drift on roads as we experience deep freeze

For me, a birthday cake is enough to qualify 'party time'.So,  I went and purchased a very special Italian handmade cake a day ahead. And for the birthday meal...my plan was just to have a bowl of steamed rice with egg omelet and stir fried broccoli. It's what I wanted and nothing else...except for birthday cake dessert. We're all happy about that.

the best convinient birthday cake
On 'the day', I started the day with my usual cup of coffee...but my little girl insist that I have to have her special breakfast: bread toast with peanut butter....simply because it was my birthday.

nothing better than this:)

By lunch time, my two girls kept on reminding themselves that they mustn't make mummy do any work. Between the two of them, they took on my very simple lunch meal plan and added extra special twist. They were so happy and excited to turn it into egg/avocado sushi roll instead. We ran out of wasabi...and they used lemon grass paste with mayonnaise instead. I was so proud of my girls. They were creative in their ways and most of all, they just want their mummy to have the best of a happy day. We all enjoyed our very simple meal by the log fire. It was truly good:)

my most precious birthday gift - don't you think I look so cool?

After we had the very special birthday cake, everyone looked so satisfied and very happy....Then, my little girl came to hand me a painting she secretly worked so hard the past days. It was a picture of me!!...a very beautiful one too! Oh....it was so special. I can't stop admiring the best gift there is in the world!

The love I receive from this little family overwhelms me. I am very very blessed in life indeed. Birthday wishes do come true. God is so good to me:)

Yours

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Mountain Holiday in Bulgaria

Dear Family  friends

A mountain holiday is ideal for the winter, specially attractive to skiers but it's also nice to go in the summer to cool down. Recently we visited Bansko, a popular ski resort area. I find it very tourist-y, with too many hotels and restaurants...but then you have more choices to pick for your stay.

Pirin Mountain Area

We walked to an old town. Since the area is now a holiday destination, old residential houses are turning into bed and breakfast business or souvenir shops.


water channel all the way from the mountain top

Water ways ran through the town, flowing from the mountain vicinity.

old bulgarian house

There's a few really old traditional houses with their architectural beauty ... the way they used to style them in by-gone days. 



painting souvenirs

This old town is a no car zone area. The old path is paved with uneven stones. I can imagine how the donkey/horse and cart wobbles through it all. Now, many shoe prints goes up and down these alley ways.

clay pot souvenir shop

Traditional clay pots all very ornate and very attractively displayed in most souvenir shops. Perhaps the colour is too bright to match the home kitchen. Every time I wish I could take one back home with me. but I never do.

We had lots of snow since our visit to this mountain area...I suppose at this time, it's even more busier with people coming to enjoy winter sports.

We had our share of winter break...so now, we're happy to just enjoy and stay at home on cold winter season. Hope you keep safe, comfortable and happy too:)

Yours

Friday, 6 January 2017

The art of making chinese dumpling

Dear Family & Friends

When we lived in Bejing, I learned to enjoy eating jiaozi (dumpling). If I were organized enough in the morning, I could even buy a few for my preferred breakfast...because it makes a merry heart:) 

Once, a local family invited us to their home to teach me how to make them. It all looked easy and they made a lot at a very fast rate. It was a family activity:)

Each dumplings individually filled and sealed artistically by my own hands!

Sadly I didn't pursue and practice making this myself...With our first baby to look after, plus a situation where cooking was not a need or priority that time, I never bothered. Food was cooked for us on weekdays and we were always eating out on weekends!

Here they are all cramped into my tiny frying pan...

Oh the good old days...but how I miss this food now. After searching for more knowledge...I relearned making them. It's really easy to do and I am even perfecting my pleating and folding skill...It's not essential, if it's not perfect...it's only for aesthetic reason. It took me a while to learn how to make it beautiful but with many practice...it was only for good because we ended up eating jiaozi on weekly basis!


....browning beautifully in no time at all:)

We pan fry it brown or boil it till it floats...whatever way, it's good. I also have the freedom to fill it with veggie or meat fillings...or even sweet fruit fillings. There is the 'traditional way'...but I don't live with a system, nor would be happy to be in a box when doing things. Being creative is always fun.

If you want to make this, you can get more information on how-to here: http://cookingsimplechinesefoodathome.com/2011/04/71-jiao-zi-chinese-dumplings-chinese.html

It's bitterly cold here but that's is expected...it's our winter season. We had snow overnight and  we're expecting temperature to go down to -17C these few days. With dry winter air, it actually feels better than what it really is. Hope your new year is going on head start with all good things:)


Yours

Monday, 2 January 2017

aspirations for new year 2017

Dear Family & Friends

No new year's resolutions for me because it's just not effective. What I do instead is to have a wish list and hopeful projects to work for. I write it down and I tick the list as I tackle my dream in whatever little step I give to it. I aim to fulfill this within the year.

This year, I hope to focus more on making our home garden more productive, at the same time, find ways to make it efficient. I am going for a more natural gardening. If nature will be favourable and I end up with more produce, I would like to share it with others in the city, to give them the taste of a more affordable good food that we have in our village.



Just look at this picture, somewhere in eastern europe...I find it inspiring. You can see the city in the far distance. Then, there's the village houses so full and beautiful with their respective productive food source right in their backyards. I just love the idea:) There's something in it that will certainly push me to fulfill my 2017 aspirations.

Hope you have a peaceful 2017 year ahead of you and don't forget to keep working and aspiring for the better...May you have all the success as you work on it:)

Yours

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The making of fresh veggie wraps

Dear Family & Friends

Our family is not really keen meat eaters, although we are not vegetarians yet we eat very little meat and would prefer more vegetables. Fresh Spring rolls is one of those dish I do that is packed with veggies. I find this very time consuming to make so I don't do them as much as we want. 


Veggie rolls brings joy for my family...their eyes literally sparkles as they eat this!!

Spring roll is also known as popiah or lumpia. It can be eaten fresh or deep fried. The fillings can vary with either minced meat, seafood prawns etc... but we really prefer it with veggies. Any mixture of stir fried finely shredded vegetable leaves or grated roots or seed sprouts of your choice will do. 

assortment of stir fried veggies precooked for spring roll filler

Today I cooked a big pot of shredded cabbages,sweet pepper and other root veggies on hand. Set this aside to cool down a bit before using it with the wrapper.

Home- made spring roll wrapper is 100% better than those store bought ones

Normally, you could find this wrapper sold in Asian stores...but as we don't have any in this country, I have to make my own. It's basically made of flour, cornstarch, salt and water. Mixed to a very watery consistency. Then, pan fry on non-stick pan to form a very thin crepe - one at a time till you have enough. Yes, it's time consuming to make, but it taste so much better than the store bought  ones. Nothing beats it's freshness.



When wrappers and veggie fillers are cooked, it's time to wrap and roll them one by one.



Fill the crepe and fold it from the top, and both sides to keep the fillings in.


It would be better if every one rolls their own...but normally I would roll them all so it will be ready to eat. Yes, I spoil the opportunity of giving others the skills of wrapping up their own food.


It took me hours, to do all these....but we ate it all in just a couple of minutes!

my imperfectly wrapped veggie roll ... 


If I find more time on hand...I will do this again for the love of my family...but for the moment, we will be happy to patiently look forward to the next spring roll meal - whenever it will be next!!

Having meal time with your family is always a good thing...simple or extravagant meal is not important as long as you enjoy them together: Wishing you and your family happy meal times and with all best wishes for a successful and healthy new year 2017!

Yours

Friday, 23 December 2016

Our winter weekend break at the base of the Pirin mountains

Dear Family & Friends

Our CEO at home has been treating us with a few weekend family trips! He finds the short weekend family holiday more fun and relaxing...and we three ladies couldn't fault it either! It's only a good thing...it knits the family together with much contentment in life. It's always good to work together and play together too! 

A good breakfast and dinnerbuffet choice on offer

Living in Bulgaria is a great advantage for us. It's reasonably cheap and there are so many beautiful places to go, plus, we get exceptional weather...a proper summer, autumn, winter and spring...no crazy surprises. Easy trips to seasonal sea or mountain trips to choose from. Otherwise, the daily village scene is also good.

salad buffet

For this winter weekend break, we went to a four star mountain resort hotel. It was more of an eating holiday. We were provided with a buffet breakfast and buffet dinner too! The choices on offer were good! We always try to avoid the holiday crowd by going at the earliest or latest possible part of the season, but in this case, we were caught up with early holiday makers already!

selection of  meat buffet

Even though the mountains are not ready for the skiers - just yet, the hotel was fully booked. Besides the food buffets...the hotel have indoor pool facilities, sauna, spa, that's enough to entertain us if we were not busy with eating!!

pasta, rice, potatoes - carbohydrate food buffet section

For our family of four...we got an apartment hotel accommodation. a big one! With three double bedrooms, three balconies, a kitchen with oven and washing machine, a laundry room, a dining room, lounge, and two toilets- with a bath and shower! The apartment is on two floor levels!

just one of the 3 bedrooms we got

Nope, we did not splash out...it wouldn't be as much fun if we did. You know a 'value for money' always adds extra joy. This one certainly did. For all inclusive breakfast and dinner buffet food, facilities and accommodation, it was just 20 euros per person!

and another one with a balcony facing the tall mountain view

The best thing was we all enjoyed our time together. Our little family always enjoy each other's company...we're mostly united and in agreement with everything we do. Having a short weekend holiday is also very relaxing...it's not too indulging that will lead to boredom...but just enough to have a little break to get ready for another week to come.

I was caught relaxing in the lounge with my feet up!!

Saying that, I think our super kind, loving and generous CEO is going to put us all to work next weekend...I just hope that it's not going to be too cold to do our given task. I'll let you know about that later too;P

Hope you have a good family time too. Stay united with your family unit... for there's nothing else better than that:)

Yours

Sunday, 18 December 2016

A visit to a Permaculture Garden

Dear Family & Friends

One cold autumn's day, we got the opportunity to visit a permaculture garden open day event. We are very keen on this gardening method because it's more natural to do so. 

sharing and learning from each other

I read and watched so many videos to guide me along, but this is my first time to actually see a garden demonstration with other like-minded people. 

a pond to encourage a balance garden system

My fear of putting a pond in our garden is reassured. I wanted a pond to give home to frogs so they can eat the pest such as slugs and snails...on the other hand, I don't want to make a habitat for mosquitoes. I've learned that if you make a proper pond specifically to home the frogs...no mosquitoes will survive either! So... a natural pond building project is on my garden wish list now.

never leave soil exposed to wind and sun...mulch and let plants grow as cover

I'm not really attracted to a clean manicured garden. It's lovely to look at...but it is a lot of work to maintain. I just can't see the logic behind it and it's too much for me. To see veggies and flowers growing together in random to benefit each other is more appealing! Basically, it draws beneficial insects to take care of the garden pest and diseases. Soil is enriched which means our food is much more nutricious in it's content too...plus...lesser work por moi:)


mounting soil to create beds and trenches to hold water next to it


I've seen swales and mounted garden beds in demonstration. It's all makes sense and I really have to focus on implementing this as we have very dry garden. Mulching is a key issue. I want to direct my work energy in a more efficient way when gardening.

recycling what you have to use in the garden...forget about buying garden furniture

There's also the importance of understanding how some trees and shrubs can improve soil and retain moisture. In a forest, everything grows by itself in a rich and abundant way, with no human help nor intervention. No chemical fertilizers nor spray needed!

free leave mulches falling from existing trees - nature's beauty

Putting a lot of mulch in the garden is only a good thing for water retention and soil nutrients. So...don't sweep the garden clean...it's not necessary. Our soil is supposed to be dirty...that's why we also refer or call it 'dirt'.

propagating herbs to fill up one's garden is a good, cheap, and easy option

Working with nature is easier...I need to be wise and work is not about slavery. Keeping things simple is best for us. To solve my thirsty garden situation for next year, I started making swales while the ground was soft. All that digging kept me real warm on a very cold day but I didn't managed to finish all that I intent to do. It was time to have a break. The old body is going to groan badly tonight but tomorrow is coming with another sunny day to carry on.

All for today.. hope you have a good day too.

Yours

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Never hungry in the kitchen

Dear Family & Friends

A few weeks back, our neighbor was still pouring in more sweet pepper...I can't freeze them as our chest freezer is full to the brim by now. So, we had a lot of sweet pepper meals throughout the week and the next! Oh...no one minds...in fact, we all just love stuffed sweet pepper!

stuffed sweet pepper

I simply stuff it with cooked risotto style rice. Mix some minced meat, onion, garlic and lots of herbs. Then, stuff the cleaned and hollowed out sweet pepper. Basically, you can fill it with anything you like...I just use my imagination! Smaller sweet pepper can be filled with with scrambled egg and cheese fillings - it's YUMMY too!

Stuffed sweet pepper that is slightly pan fried and steamed, but you can just bake it in the oven too

After stuffing the sweet pepper, I put it in a frying pan to pan fry it a bit to get some burned marks , then, add a little water to further steam cook it. Or you can just bake it in the oven till the sweet pepper is cooked.

one big delicious omelet from our hens

The week was busy. So we also had a few quick meals like egg omelet which can be filled with various chopped up veggies and herbs. It's best on a hectic day.


Kohlrabi from our neighbor's garden

Our neighbor also introduced us to a root vegetable that we never had before, the kohlrabi. It taste a bit like daikon radish. You can eat it fresh as salad after peeling off the tough outer skin, but I prefer to grate it and cook it like the Jewish Latke. Use kohlrabi instead of grated potatoes, mix a bit of flour, egg, salt and pepper. Then, pan fry it like little pancakes. It is delicious.

more cabbages from the neighbor's garden - my first homemade sauerkraut
Yes, we are bombarded with so many good veggies from the next door garden!! When Boris (our neighbor) ask our girls if they like the fruits and veggies he have been passing on to us, the girls always says: 'Thank you Uncle Boris...we like them all very much'. He gets so happy and you know what will happen next...more and more fruits and veggies drops in.

Having received a lot of cabbages, I decided to try making sauerkraut. A blogger has been so gracious to post on how to make sauerkraut. You can check it out here. https://lachattegitane.blogspot.bg/2016/11/making-sauerkraut.html. I followed her guide and this year we had our own home made, healthy sauerkraut:) Yummy...they're so good and easy to make:)

Counting our many many blessings each week and we give thanks. Hope you stay blessed too:)

Yours

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Preparations for next year's garden

Dear Family & Friends

For me, autumn seems to be the saddest season of the four we get in a year...but saying that...the cheerful perennial flowering plant - Chrysanthemum, flowers at this time of the year. I have so many of these plants lined in our garden and it does bring in a lot of cheers when most of the other plants starts to go  into deep sleep.

my new pink chrysanthemum gift plant from a sales lady in a garden shop

So, this year I planted more chrysanthemum, adding a few more new colour varieties too. I propagated a lot of the old ones to line up every nooks in our garden as well. If nothing else, next year will surely be a cheerful autumn season when they all come into bloom!

planted a long line of chrysanthemum to form a mini hedge

The man in our house has plan to upgrade the little hut in one corner of our garden for next year. Perhaps we will turn it into a summer kitchen?! With this in mind, I decided to change and upgrade the garden area leading to this little hut too. I will put a new pathway in the middle of this garden, under the cover of the lined grape vines. It should look good...

creating a new pathway under the grapevine area leading to the little hut at the end

There were three bushes of gooseberries in this area where the new pathway goes. We had to relocate them to a more sunny location, in between fruit trees in our newly created mini orchard. We were so happy with the outcome. Out of the three bushes, we managed to divide it into nine more gooseberry plants:)

lined up gooseberry bushes in between fruit trees

There are many division and propagations to do at this time of the year. It is the best way to fill up the garden with plants without spending a single penny!

We find gardening a very satisfying job...like my husband says: 'Annie lives in the garden!' If weather permits, I surely would! For now, our winter season has already arrived. The first snow of this season has already poured in...nothing much I could do. Hope you still can find some happy gardening days where you are!

Yours

Friday, 2 December 2016

Buying fruit trees from lady joy

Dear Family & Friends,

Last week, I wrote about planting our fruit trees...but there was a 'before' story to that.

The last time we were at this garden shop, they didn't have any fruit trees available as it was a bit too early to be planting them. so, I promised the lady that I will be coming back later in the season. Thus, when she saw us again...she was so happy and she said in a surprising voice: 'oh...you came back just as you said you would!' Ah..you just have to love her:)



As I choose fruit trees for our mini orchard, my ever so faithful man was pushing me to hurry up as he needs to be back home at a certain time! ...I am aware of that, but this sales lady was trying her best to instruct me on to how best plant the trees and offered to trim it as I said we would plant it on the same day! She was ever so helpful...but here I am pressured in between a rushing man and a pleasing lady. I had to tell the shop lady to hurry and finish our transaction ASAP.

I quickly returned the pen I borrowed from her to write down the varieties of trees I got. 'Wait' she said, 'you can keep the ballpen' I answered 'oh, no need'...She replied:'please keep it. I have plenty of them.' That conversation took a minute!!


As I picked up and carried the bare root trees to our car, she said I must have a plastic bag to put them in. I once again said 'oh no need' as I'm being pressured with time. She insist that I wait as she searches for one! That took another minute! In the end she found no bag...and gave me a plant tray to place the tree roots on top. Oh whatever...she's just one extra thoughtful lady!

While waiting for her to give me back my money change...she asked if I would like to buy a pot of Chrysanthemum that she was tidying up when we first arrived...at half price, and she would give me another pot for free - a gift! I said 'no thank you'....because I have around 40 chrysanthemum plants already in our garden! But she took a minute to choose 3 pots of different chrysanthemum colours and insist I have them all as gifts!


It's not the usual thing people do in a developed country...but I find Bulgarian people can be very giving! My little family suspected that she must have short changed me for all the free gifts...no she didn't!  I suppose she found some joy in our meeting today for some reason. As for the man who's so in a hurry....he did had ample time, more than enough to even have a cup of tea before hand. As for me, I survived another pressure crossfire.

What a good day! I'm just taking my day at a time..and always try to stay as cool as a cucumber. Wish you do the same and always remember to chill out and have a good day! Hope you have a good one too!

Yours