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We've been...curing things.

[pause to let the bad pun soak in. pause a bit longer. there. that should be good.]

Back in mid January, [ profile] madbaker posted about his foray into lamb bresaola, and it looked so good and sounded so easy, there was nothing to do but try it!

So, I missed the "boned" part of the "leg of lamb" phrase, and got a lamb leg with a bone in, so the first thing to do was try to cut the leg out. I've never done this before and my knives are not very sharp, so it was rather a mess (on the up side, we have a leg bone with bits of meat on it in the freezer for the next time we make soup). Nevertheless, 5 days after reading the recipe, we had this:


Into the fridge it went for two weeks; in the meantime, I sourced Prague powder and bull bung, so that when the two weeks were up, I was ready for this:

ready to hang

And then it was time to hang!


I hung it 31 Jan at 1092g, with a target of 765-710g. After two weeks, it was at 909g; another two weeks, it was 788g:


I let it hang one more week, and it was 758g and so tasty looking:

ready to open

The moment of truth!


Not having a vacuum sealer, I confirmed with [ profile] madbaker that I needn't replace that step with something else. Instead, I wrapped it in brown paper and put it in a ziplock and put it in the fridge. But we had to wait one more day before we ate it, because after breakfast yesterday we went out to the new house, and then ended up not coming home for supper, and I didn't think it was fair to slice into it without Joel. So we finally sliced it up today:


So good, so tasty. Cannot wait to make it again!
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Yesterday, we clocked through four or five Moody Blues albums, as well as the War of the Worlds rock opera featuring Richard Burton and Justin Hayward which I only found out existed last weekend (HOW ON EARTH DID I LIVE ON THIS PLANET NEARLY 34 YEARS AND NOT KNOW OF THIS WONDROUS THING?!), and mixed up carrot cake for Joel's birthday cake, complete with three extra cupcakes (because Gwen gets both cupcakes AND cake for her birthday, so clearly dad needed both too), purple frosting, six candles all right next to each other in a line up in the upper left corner, pink and purple nonpareils, and about half a container of Star Wars sprinkles (I left the room for about five minutes).

We also did a recipe my friend Sarah had posted on Facebook: Melt peanut butter with a bit of icing sugar, spread on ginger snaps, put in fridge until hard. Melt dark chocolate, dollop on top of peanut butter, put in fridge until hard. Very easy, and tasty.

Today, we put on another Moody Blues album, played War of the Worlds again, made two loaves of buttermilk honey bread, and steamed some mussels for supper. We'd planned to go to the fishmonger yesterday and get fresh fish for supper, but when we got there, nothing looked exactly right -- and then I saw the bags of mussels, and realized we could do a treat for Joel. He loves them, and it's been ages since we've had them (I'm not sure we ever had them in Heidelberg). His birthday was Friday and much of my celebratory planning was rather last minute, so I was happy to find something else I could throw in to make things special.

I am pleased to report that not only did Gwen gamely try the mussels without much persuasion, she actually ate a goodly number of them (she also tried about three that she spit out half-chewed, and one she opened up and refused to eat because of its beard -- but a four-year-old's first time eating mussels? She wins.)

I also went over to the new house ("that's not 'home'! that's the new house! it's not home until our things are there!" Word, Gwen.) with Joel for a few hours -- it's been maybe a month? Or more? since I was there, because Joel just gets so much more done when Gwen's not there. But today he was ready to put the cupboards back up on the kitchen walls, and we wanted to eye where to put the drawer handles and look at more paint chip samples. She actually did really well -- we were there for over four hours, and much of that she entertained herself upstairs, on top of having entertained herself downstairs at home for 1.5 hours this morning before Joel and I got out of bed. Sometimes I feel like she needs my input on her play EVERY THIRTY SECONDS and I despair of her ever growing out of it, but then days like this happen and I am reminded that (a) playing by yourself is a skill that you develop and (b) she doesn't get to see me all that much, really, and she does simply just love playing with me. But days like this help me have a bit more patience.
aryanhwy: (Default)
Today's music & cooking antidote to a long weekend (made longer by the fact that a) Gwen is ill; b) I am ill; c) Joel is ill; d) Gwen was home from nursery yesterday, so I got TWO Saturdays this weekend [grand]; and e) between being sick, some lingering jetlag, dealing with Gwen being sick, and grief, I haven't gotten to bed before 1:00am (and sometimes much later) for a week or so) was Asia's self-titled album (so what if Christmas is over? I can still listen to Christmas music. What, that album isn't part of YOUR Christmas music repertoire? Hmph. YOU never "decorated all the generals" as part of your traditional Christmas traditions) and starting up some lamb bresaola a la Madbaker:


Two comments so far: 1) damn it smells good. 2) Next time, I should pay more attention to the cut of meat I'm ordering on the internet, and ensure I get one without a bone. Ah well, I eventually got the bone hacked out, and it's now sitting in the freezer awaiting to be turned into something, soup most likely. Thankfully, no one is going to score me on my butchery skills. (Speaking of butchery: I asked one of the butchers in the Marketplace today if they carried beef bung (intestine). They carry pork and lamb, but not beef, and when I asked if they could order it, the answer was "not really", because if they did, they'd have to order the whole thing, and that is A LOT of intestine.)
aryanhwy: (Default)
Following my new parenting rule of thumb, that if I'm dreading a weekend cooped up at home with Gwen, I should put on some music and cook, today Gwen and I are making cream of mushroom soup and listening to Styx. Gwen has been asking for mushroom soup for a few days now (and also ice cream soup and cake soup, but we're sticking with the ones I'm likely to find a recipe for on the internet), and Joel is out at the new place working so he can't complain about my horrible taste in music.
aryanhwy: (Default)
Yesterday Gwen and I went to the covered market to buy some buttons for a dress I'm making her. As we past the fishmonger she told me "and then we'll buy some fish!" That surprised me a bit, but then, on reflection, I realized that every time we've made fish lately she's eaten quite a bit, whereas quite often if we have beef or chicken in some form (other than sausages) she can hardly be persuaded to have more than a bite or two. So I figured why not, we were going to be on our way home after button shopping, if she wanted to have fish we could get some and make it the next day for supper.

So we looked at all of them, as she insisted we get fish with eyes on it (so, no tuna, pre-cut salmon steaks, eel, or shellfish), but NOT fish with eyes AND teeth (i.e., the huge fish head with jellied eyes and 1/2 cm saw-like fangs). We ended up with two of some type that wasn't labeled, but was probably some sort of trout, about the length of my forearm. The fishmonger kindly gutted them for me, and this afternoon Joel fileted them. We had a bunch of leftover fresh thyme from when he made bouillabaisse last week, so I sliced up a lemon, and stuffed each fish with thyme and lemon. That sat all afternoon and then this evening after we got back from the new house, Joel and Gwen made salads for everyone and I fried the fish up in butter -- 1 min. per side -- and had an excellent quick satisfying meal. Having fish which isn't microwaved (sorry, mom) always feels surprisingly adult to me. We have to keep trying to remember just how quick and easy it is, and given that Gwen seems to like it so much, definitely worth doing more often.
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It occurred to me it might be interesting to keep a running log of things I've made over the course of this year. So this entry is going to be post-dated (sorry for those of you who read this journal via the main page, rather than through a feeder, since it will always show up on top).

Jewelry and metalwork )
Scribal stuff )
Sewing and embroidery )
Other )
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I've always liked cure meats -- bacon, prosciutto, parma ham, serrano, hard sausages, etc. -- and thought it would be cool to make them sometime. But a lot of what you read makes it seem like it's a complicated, highly finicky process involving things like saltpetre. Then I found this recipe for duck hams, I think via FB, and thought "hey, that looks easy!" So Joel brought back two duck breasts two weeks ago, and I happened to have quite a bit of fresh rosemary already on hand, and we tried it.

I had hoped that they'd be done in a week (as the page indicated), and then I could take them to Yule Ball to share, but what we found out was that Durham is really damp. (We bought a hygrometer. Before our dehumidifier arrived, it could get up to around 80%.) After a week, they'd each lost only 12-15%, so we hung them up again, unsure of exactly where, so they sort of rotated around the house, ending up hanging from a cupboard in the livingroom.

Yesterday I took them down to weigh them again, and immediately felt a change; they were stick and rubbery, the ends rather like jerky. I weighed them, and both had lost slightly more than 30% of their weight. I sliced a few slices, and it was delicious -- awfully salty, especially the ends, but really tasty, with both the rosemary and the thyme coming through strongly.

It was a friend's birthday party yesterday, so I sliced a large piece from the middle and wrapped it up in brown paper as a gift. Funnily enough, about 15 min. after I posted a picture of it on FB, he commented on it, "oooh, can I have some?" So it was a very apropos gift. :)

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The phrase "cooking like there's no tomorrow" is taking on a new meaning in this household.

If all goes well, in exactly three weeks, Gwen and I will be on a boat to England. (We will, however, have left Germany three days previously). A consequence of this is that we're trying to use up food -- food in the freezer, food in the fridge, food in the cupboards, because it's easier that way than trying to move it. (We've already had a "help the Uckelpeople drink through their liquor cabinet" night a few weeks ago.) I already mentioned to Joel this morning that I wonder how long we will be in England before we have used up (a) all the food products we bought in Germany and (b) all the food products we bought in the Netherlands.

This afternoon sitting at the park I decided I wanted to make brownies; however, it being a Sunday I had to bake with what I have at home, none of the grocery stores are open. I knew I had a couple of left-over chocolate bars at home, which could be used in lieu of baker's chocolate, which along with whatever cocoa powder we still have would work just fine. While digging through the cupboard to find said cocoa (turns out since moving here we managed to use up one box of Dutch cocoa, but the other one is still 2/3 full), I also found about half a box of De Ruijter chocolate shavings, which I'd bought years ago in a fit of wanting chocolate chip cookies but being unable to find chocolate chips. They're now...7 years old? Alas, that's rather too far beyond their 'best by' date and they taste a bit curdled. Guess they won't be going in to the brownies, but rather the trash.

Still, one less thing to move.


Joel used up the last cinnamon stick in what we're making for supper. He put "cinnamon sticks" on the grocery list.

The following exchange then occurred:

Me: "I don't think we should buy any more cinnamon sticks before we move."

Him: "Is this because you don't think we go through them fast enough, or because you don't think we should move them?"

"Because I don't think we should buy things that we're not going use before we move and then have to move them."

"I don't really think it matters. The amount of mental effort it would take to try to use up groceries before we move just so that we don't have to move them is not worth the amount of space it would make, probably less than a box."

"But it bothers me, and it takes up a lot of my mental effort being bothered by this and the desire to get rid of as much stuff as we can before we go."

"I don't really believe that."

"That's because it's my mental distress, not yours."

"It won't cost me any extra effort to pick them up, and you probably wouldn't even notice."

"But I would. And then I'd think, 'Why did Joel buy cinnamon sticks? We're not going to use them before we move! That's just one more thing to move!' Or actually, what I'd think, given that we're having this conversation, is "Why did Joel buy cinnamon sticks? We talked about the mental anguish it would cause me! And he went and bought them any way!"

"Fine. I'll find a recipe that requires a cinnamon stick to make before we move."

Ah, people, that's love right there, that is.

[Nearly 20 minutes later, while I am typing this up, out of the blue Joel says, "You know, not buying cinnamon sticks now will mean that the next time we want them, we won't have them. I guarantee it."]
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We've been to or been invited to a couple of parties since we've moved to Heidelberg, and been to or been invited over to people's places for dinner. We've also had a number of newer SCAdians enthusiastic about the idea of trying some medieval recipes, and I've wanted for awhile to expand my horizons in that realm a bit further with a view towards someday being prepared to cook a lunch for a smallish event. All of that came together this weekend when we put out an open invitation to people to come and cook on Saturday (and Sunday morning) and then eat Sunday afternoon. I picked an afternoon slot because I wanted enough time to make hot dishes in the morning, and reheat or finish anything we hadn't finished the day before, but didn't want to be so late that people would come expecting a full meal.

At SCA night last month I handed Marika The Book of Sent Sovi and told her to note down the recipes that looked good. I also figured that we'd make the chicken fritters that we'd made before, since then I had at least one recipe that I knew worked, and I've wanted for a long time to try some of the things in the two Anglo-Norman culinary MSs edited in Speculum. So we had rather a mixed bag, but the theme was mostly "Spanish" (from the Anglo-Norman cookbook I specifically picked "Spanish Food" to complement the theme).

I decided I didn't want to do any large meat dishes, but simply do a number with chicken breasts in them and the rest be vegetarian. We were really lucky that of all the people who said they were coming we had no serious allergies, and only two intolerances to work around -- one doesn't eat wheat, another pine nuts.

The cooks came in waves on Saturday, which turned out to be a good thing because while our kitchen is big it's not that big, and while I'd planned 7 dishes to do that day, there were often times when we were all hanging around twiddling our thumbs. It was really quite relaxed.

What I did in advance was type up each recipe on a separate piece of paper, so there was lots of room left for us to put notes regarding quantities, substitutions, and method. Afterwards, I sent each recipe down (we had the meal out in the courtyard -- thank goodness the rain held off! -- because there's no way we could fit that many in our apartment!) with each dish so that people could both know what was in each dish, and see just how little, in some cases we had to go on.

So, here are the dishes, with the translations of the recipes into modern English and then my notes from our versions. Throughout, we used store-bought almond milk (unsweetened) and apple cider vinegar for verjuice or sour grape juice. Unfortunately, we ended up without saffron, so we just went without.

Boiled Chicken with Lemon Sauce
Book of Sent Sovi IV

If you want to make lemon sauce, make almond milk of peeled almonds with chicken broth. Cook it in a good pot with ground spices, ginger, and saffron, and a lot of white sugar and lemon juice. And let it boil a lot. This sauce should be colored, and it should be served with roasted or boiled chickens, and it should have plenty of sugar and lemon juice, so that each of the flavors attracts the other. And flavor it with salt, spices, verjuice, and sweetening.

Boil 6 chicken breasts for 10 minutes. Cool, and slice thin. For the sauce, mix apple cider vinegar, ground cloves, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, fresh ground black pepper, sugar, lots and lots of lemon juice, and ~400ml almond milk. Boil over low heat until the sauce turns slightly syrupy.

Rio was in charge of this, so I have no idea what the relative proportions were except that there were a lot of ground cloves -- there was no worry about having no saffron, because there is no way the saffron could've overcome the brown of the cloves -- and the end result reminded me very much of mulled lemon juice. It was amazing -- sweet and sharp, spicy and vinegary, and excellent over the chicken. It was a favorite, and I'm so glad we have leftovers!

Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Cookbooks

Take fine flour and sugar and make pasta dough; take good cheese and butter and cream them together; then take parsley, sage, and shallots and chop them finely, and put them in the filling; put the boiled ravioli on a bed of grated cheese and cover them with more grated cheese, and then reheat them.

Marika brought her pasta machine so I put her in charge of that. Her basic pasta recipe involves 2 cups white flour, 3 eggs, a pinch of salt, and a dash of olive oil, to which we added 1-1 1/2 T white sugar according to the recipe. Mix, and let sit for 15 min.

For the filling (which we made in two batches because I didn't know how far one batch would go; the quantities given are for the two batches together), mix 400 g frischkäse with 6 shallots finely chopped, ~4 T unsalted butter, two bunches parsley (mix of flat-leaf and curly) finely chopped, and dried sage (because we were unable to get fresh).

The ravioli were made and then boiled and then layered in a glass baking dish with ~300g grated parmesan. This then sat in the fridge overnight and soon after people started arriving I splashed olive oil over the top and put it in the oven at 200 C for ~20min until the cheese started melting and some of the raviolis started browning. This was also really well received.

Eggs with Parsley Sauce
Book of Sent Sovi, X and XI

If you want to make parsley sauce with eggs, take onions, parsley, water, salt and oil, and set it to cook. And grind a little of the onions and parsley and spices, and grind it and mix it with some broth; and set it to boil with verjuice. When you take it from the fire, put it in and stir it, and put it cleanly in bowls.

If you want to make parsley sauce in another way, take eggs beaten with vinegar and put them in a good pot with the broth and with the sauce [i.e., from the previous recipe], and put it to boil and stir continually with a large spoon. When the pot is boiling, take it from the fire. Flavor it with verjuice, salt, and spices, and one can put in a little sweetening. The eggs that you serve at the table should be fried whole, served in bowls on top of the parsley sauce, for this is how they require it.

The idea of mixing the eggs into the sauce seemed complicated to me, so we didn't. Also, I couldn't really figure out how to make 7 fried eggs stretch amongst ~30 people (I realized rather too late that we should've had 1-2 l more almond milk and 1 package more eggs than we actually had). So, Sunday afternoon I co-opted someone who knows how to hard boil eggs (Jan), which we then sliced and served with the sauce. The sauce was 2 white onions, finely chopped,1 1/2 bunch chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 C water, 1/4 C apple cider vinegar, lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper, all cooked together with a small amount (1/4 - 1/2 t ?) of bouillon.

At one point I tried to take some out and grind it in the mortar and pestle, but that didn't really work, so I didn't bother any further. This was stored in the fridge overnight and served cold. It was not to my taste at all, but both Joel and Markus picked it out as one of their favorites.

Garlic Cheese
Book of Sent Sovi XVIII

If you want to make garlic cheese, take dry white cheese and grind it together with garlic. When it is well ground, put in a little oil or mix it with lukewarm water that has not boiled. If you put in four or five egg yolks, it will be even better, especially if it is served with meat.

We weren't serving with meat, so we omitted the egg yolks. I also didn't remember that it specified "dry cheese" when I was shopping, so I ended up with 200 g frischkäse, into which 1 head of garlic was pressed. If you like fresh garlic, this was awesome; it was great spread over bread.

Tender Chickpeas
Book of Sent Sovi LII

If you want to prepare tender chickpeas, wash them well. Take almond milk, and cook them with the milk and oil and salt; and put in one or two onions scalded with boiling water. When they should be cooked, put in parsley, basil, marjoram, and other good herbs, and a little ground ginger and a little sour grape juice. This is the way to cook them when they are tender, but not among the first [of the season.]

If you want to prepare the most tender ones, boil the almond milk with oil, salt, and new onions, and the herbs listed above and ginger and sour grape juice. Put in the chickpeas, washed with hot water, and they’ll be done right away.

We parboiled 3 white onions and then roughly chopped them. These with 5 cans of chickpeas were put in a pot with enough almond milk to cover (in retrospect: too much), with a splash of olive oil, about 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, a good deal of fresh basil, dried marjoram (we didn't have fresh), ground ginger, and apple cider vinegar. Cook until the chickpeas are tender.

We made this yesterday, but then I reheated it today before serving.

Chicken Fritters With Cheese
Scappi's 16th C Italian book via Maggie's redaction (see link above)

Cut chicken breasts into strips and boil for about 10 min. Shred them with two forks. Break two balls of fresh mozzarella into pieces and mix it with the chicken. Grate about an equal amount of parmesan and add along with 2 T cinnamon, 2 1/2 T sugar, and fresh black pepper -- lots and lots and then some more. Mix in 4 eggs until it all holds together. Make a paste of another 4 eggs and enough flour (we used rye so that Ayme could eat them) to have a thick paste (better thick than thin). Roll fritter mixture in balls the size of egg yolks, coat in paste, and fry.

We made these yesterday and then served them cold (except for the ones eaten hot off the pan.)

Mushrooms in Sauce
Book of Sent Sovi XVII

If you want to make sauce of mushrooms that are boild, pressed, and fried with oil, make the sauce like this: take onion, parsley, vinegar, and spices, and mix it with vinegar and a little water. Make pieces of the mushrooms, to fry, or serve with a fried mixture, and then put them in their sauce, or serve them grilled with salt and oil.

I realized this one rather sounded like the parsley sauce for eggs, but over mushrooms instead, so I decided to just cook everything together. 2 large white onions, chopped, ~600 g sliced mushrooms, 3/4 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley (parsley was one thing we had to go out and buy more of mid-day yesterday), 3/4 C water,cinnmon, cloves, pepper, ginger, salt: Fry onions in olive oil with a dash of cider vinegar, add mushrooms and parsley and spices and cook down.

These were made the day before and served cold.

These next three dishes were served hot, and so made soon before guests arrived.

Broom Pudding
Book of Sent Sovi XXIV

If you want to make broom pudding for fast days, make almond milk and strain it and put it in a good pot. After that, take flour made of ground rice and pass it through a sieve of silk, and then mix it with the milk; it should be nice and clear, so it cooks well. Then, when you have to take it from the heat, put in saffron so that it turns the color of broom. Take cinnamon and cloves, and put them in to cook whole; there are some who do not want the pieces to appear: take a good cloth and wrap the spices inside. Boil it all the while. You can put in, if you wish, a bit of old oil. Then, at the end, take cleaned raisins and put them in the pot. Flavor it with salt.

It should be quite thick, like porridge, and it should have a lot of sugar, to overtake the flavor of the rice and almonds. And you can put in, per every four bowls, a pound of almonds and as much rice as fits in a mustard bowl. If one likes it, one can put in toasted pine nuts, and these one leaves to boil. After that, one distributes enough pudding for the bowls. Take care that before you put in the pine nuts, they [the pudding] should be a little cooled off.

ARG! I just realized we forgot the raisins! Ah well.

This one rather confused me, until I decided that it must in fact actually have rice in it, even though it doesn't state it explicitly, so I decided to make it like a risotto/rice pudding. This is the one dish we would have really liked the saffron for, since the result was very white, and should have been yellow, like a broom flower.

Heat oil in a stock pot, and toast ~1 C risotto rice in the oil until translucent. Add 1 liter almond milk and some (2-3 T?) rice flour, 1 T white sugar. Cook the rice until it is thick and creamy. I ended up adding in maybe ~1 C more broth (we'd run out of almond milk), to keep it liquid enough until the rice was cooked. Towards the end, I put in two cinnamon sticks and a few shakes of whole cloves, plus some salt. The result was thick and creamy and sweet.

Spanish Food
Two Anglo-Norman Culinary Collections

Almond milk, rice flour, capon meat, a measure of ground pistachio nuts put on top, seasoned with ground cloves, to enhance the aroma of the pistachio nuts; the color, yellow.

Yeah. That was the whole recipe.

We sliced 4 chicken breasts and boiled them in some almond milk with rice flour and 1 C chicken broth (again, insufficient almond milk at this point), alongwith 1/2 t ground cloves. Cook until the sauce reduces and thickens. Serve with chopped pistachios on top.

This one was surprisingly good.

Slices of Cheese
Book of Sent Sovi XLIV

If you want to serve slices of soft cheese, make slices of the cheese that are quite large. Then take the leavened dough, as it is said above [in the previous recipe] and mix it with egg yolks and beat it a lot with a spoon. And then spread it over and under the slice of cheese, and put it in the pan with the grease said above. Turn it over often. When it should be cooked, take it out and put sugar over and under it.

This one was another hit. I took two balls of fresh mozzarella and drained on a paper towel, then sliced in about ~3mm slices, and drained some more. The dough was made from 2/3 C warm water with 1 t sugar and 1 packet of yeast, left to proof, and then mixed with a scant amount of rye flour (all that was left) and ~1 - 1 1/2 C rice flour (rye and rice again so it was wheat-free). Add 1 egg, and then enough more warm water to form a thinnish paste (not liquid, but too sticky to be kneadable dough). This was left to sit and bubble, being stirred occasionally, while we waited for other things to happen. Then, just as everything else was being plated up, Joel heated up vegetable oil, coated the slices, and fried them. He said the trick was to (a) make sure the oil was hot enough and (b) only turn them once, otherwise the dough splits and the cheese oozes out.

All told, we served 32 people (4 of which were kids, and some of whom were late-comers and thus didn't get much) for a total of about 55EUR. If I had had about twice that and doubled many of the recipes, I don't think anyone would've gone hungry. Many thanks to my co-cooks: Joel, Gwen, Marika, Rio, Nicole, Mike, Ayme, Jan, Julie, Anji, Autumn, Joël!  Note that "I" in these recipes mostly refers to my decisions, not my actions -- much of this was physically done by these lovely people.
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It's the afternoon coffee break during the conference, and I've just gotten back from the grocery store, where I purchased 2 jars of creamy peanut butter, 80g of cumin seeds, and 80g of ground cumin.

One of the strangest effects of living in Europe that I've found is our increasing tendency to do routine grocery shopping in other countries. It started when we realized Dutch sausages were uniformly disappointing (even fresh ones from the butcher shop!) and pretty much anything we could get in Germany was better, so every time one of us went to Germany, we'd pick up a package to bring home. Then we discovered how much better German bread was, and often a loaf or two of that would come home.

After Joel spent a month in Paris, we discovered that -- while not quite staples -- French cheese and French dried sausages are totally worth picking up every time we're visiting. Not to mention the fact one of our favorite tea suppliers is based in Paris, and they actually sell bar soap in France (we simply couldn't find bar soap in the Netherlands, and so would bring it back in bulk from the States. Buying it in France was a lot easier when we could.)

When I spent a month in Copenhagen, I discovered Lurpak brand butter, with sea salt flakes: The best butter I've ever had. We've since found Lurpak in other countries, but never that particular variant, so whenever I'm back in Copenhagen, I stock up if I can.

We could get decent brown sugar in the Netherlands, though it's not the same as what you can get in the US. In Germany, however, the selection is pretty mediocre; none of it is dark enough for Joel's tastes, and he puts a spoonful on his oatmeal every morning. When we were in the UK in December, we discovered the joys of Sainsbury's brown sugar, and came back with a ew kilos. Now, we pick up a bag or two whenever we're there and have space in our bags.

And now, recently we discovered that peanut butter is not to be found in Germany, at least, not in the ordinary grocery stores. This isn't too surprising, they don't have the peanut culture that the Netherlands does, but it does make having PBJs difficult. Conveniently, just a few weeks after Joel finished up the jar we'd brought with us when we moved, here I am back in Amsterdam and able to stock up. Cumin, on the other hand, is something we've been looking for since we've moved, as we increasingly used up our stash (one jar of cumin doesn't last long when you use 3 T per batch of chili: And there is no way you can make chili without cumin). "Cumin" in German is "Kreuzkümmel", but just plain "kümmel" is "caraway", a similarity which has resulted in us having enough caraway to last us for a long time, but still no cumin. Even the Asian stores didn't carry it!

I managed to pick up the last two bottles at the particular Albert Heijn I stopped at today,so we should be good for another season of chili-making -- or until we get back to the Netherlands again.
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After my nearly perfect meal the night before, I wake up not ravenous. Instead, I avail myself of the same breakfast that I'd had at our hotel in Elgin (the two are owned by the same chain): cinnamon French toast with maple syrup and bacon. Today our walk is leisurely, entirely flat and only 9 miles. We will finally, after nearly a week, be walking right down by the river.

As we head out of town following a slightly different path than we'd come in by, we find the street we should have gone to find supper the night before; it's one block over from the High Street, and seems to be quite the hoppin' place. However, neither of us feel to badly about where (and what) we ended up eating!

We cross the bridge and decend the stairs at the other end to the river side. As we walk, we regularly see fishermen down in the river; and also signs outlining etiquette:


After not too long, we realize that while we are on a path, we are not on the path. We scramble up an embankment and then pick out a path along the edge of what we think is a barley field until we eventually find our way to where we should have been all along. For some long stretch, the path goes through a farm which is quite the Big Do. They have sheep, cows, chickens, plus crop fields, and a number of signs up along the path marking out their status as a conservation farm, and discussing how they rotate their herds, or what they plant in the fields, to make their fields havens for wild birds and small game. It's heart-warming to read about these efforts.

We pass from this farm into another, and looking up see a strange structure in the distance:


We are not sure what it is, but Joel thinks it's a castle, and we decide to go find out. The fences here are not barbed, so it's easy to hop them and head up the hill. We come around at it from the back side and find that the front is full of construction equipment and "do not get too close" signs. We poke our head in the trailor to see if there's anyone who can tell us about it. Joel was right: This is a castle, Castle Roy, to be precise, one of the oldest of its type in the country, dating from the 12th C. The castle is in the process of being partially restored, so that the walls that are in danger of giving way can be supported. When we come around to the front, we see signs telling more about the history of the castle, and find something that first amuses us and then entices us: In a program to help raise funds for the restoration, square yards of ground within and without the castle itself are being sold! Ownership of land in Scotland entitles you to be called a "laird". You cannot do any improvements on the land, but you are allowed free entry to your plot with a guest, and you know what? A square yard is enough to have a picnic. Of course, we assume the costs are far too high. Nevertheless, I snap a picture of the URL.

By now, we are not far from Boat of Garten, where we intend to eat lunch. Boat of Garten appears from the outskirts to be a swanky, expensive, golfing town, and the main hotel downtown is testament to the city's glories:


The pub is offering a soup and salad special for lunch, which sounds fantastic. There are a few other people inside, but no one minds that we take up a large corner, divesting ourselves of gear and shoes. The waiter chats while taking our order, and upon hearing that we've come from Germany, his response is "Well, someone's got to live there". We laugh, because we have gotten such varying response to this fact on our trip!

From Boat of Garten, we walk through ancient pine forests, forests which have never been cut or cultivated in parts. It is amazing how old everything feels, old and still, even though the sun is shining, birds are singing, and there's a fair breeze. We pass through boggy marshes, one of which is like a mirror:


We arrive in town the earliest we've ever made it to a destination; it's not even 5pm. Our bed and breakfast is down what appears to be the main street, and we are welcomed with fresh tea and the most amazing Scottish shortbread with chocolate/caramel topping that I've ever had. Neither of us feel any compunction about eating it all. Internet access is best in the lounge, so we linger there while we drink our tea, Joel catching up on his mail, me poking around on my phone. Out of curiosity, I go to the website for Castle Roy. I am shocked to find how reasonable the prices -- 25GBP for a plot outside the castle, 50 or 70 for one inside; it is only if you want one of the 9 in the tower itself that the price jumps to 1000GBP. That's a bit much; but we're not looking above our stations. We like the idea of being able to contribute to the restoration of the castle, and decide that a square yard within the courtyard is within our means, and would make a lovely anniversary present. Soon, we will be landowners!

We leave to walk around the city to find a place for supper, and find, coming up the walk as we're going out, a face we recognize! The man who was on the same train as us, whom we saw at the bus stop the next morning was not a local to Elgin, to rather another hiker. He'd been making roughly the same treck as us, but without the extra spur to Glenlivet and Tomintoul that we did. He confesses our route may have been better: The part we skipped was so muddy the day he walked it, it was up to his knees. He suggests to us the family restaurant up the street, rather than the hotel down the street, and ultimately that is where we end up. We quickly realize this was an excellent decision: The place is packed and remains so all night long, amazing on a Monday night in a sleepy tiny town.

As we walk back to our lodgings, I stop a moment to savour the beauty.


I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be the last day of our journey. Our plan has been to walk from Boat of Garten to Aviemore on our final day, a walk of a mere 6 miles which should have been easy to do before our 11:30 train. But I calculate the pace we've been going the last few days, and realize that in order not to miss it, we would really need to leave by 7:00am, and neither of us want to get up that early. We look at the schedule at the bus stop; maybe, just maybe, we should wimp out and take the bus for our final leg, so as to ensure we don't miss our train. We are disappointed, but I argue that I would rather end the journey on a pleasant, relaxed note rather than with the stress and rushing of wondering if we'll get there on time.

We have walked around 80 miles. It has been quite, and empty, peaceful and calm. We have walked in silence, we have talked. We have mapped out a new alternative for our future that neither of us would ever have dreamed before doing this. We have walked in the sun, we have walked in the rain. Walking in the rain makes me think of being on a journey, on a quest. It reminds me of SCA events, where the rain is no reason not to continue to do the things you need to do, because they need doing. Poems have wandered through my head, and I look forward to revisiting my favorite book ever when I get home. We have learned to pick out the smell of distilleries on the wind, and to locate them on the map each evening. We have eaten well and slept like the dead. We have seen the heather moorlands that previously existed only in books. We finally know what gorse is.
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After Double Wars, Maggie posted a recipe that she'd made for the Laurel's luncheon, which she described as "medieval chicken nuggets". They sounded easy and tasty, so we made them yesterday for supper. I used 2 chicken breasts, which I cut into strips and then boiled for about 10 min. I then used two forks to shred them, mostly. I broke a ball of fresh mozzarella into pieces with my hands and mixed it in with the chicken. I didn't measure how much parmesan; it was probably slightly more than 1/4 C. I cut down on the sugar and added some pepper, and since we don't really have something quite right for deep frying balls, we rolled them into balls and then flattened them in the frying pan so that we had more like chicken patties instead of chicken balls.

They were tasty! We'd probably not do cinnamon and sugar for spicing in the future, probably salt and pepper instead, or a very strong poudre forte would work.

Pre-frying mixture:
Finished product:

Gwen really liked them!
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Today is (um. I don't know the name of the holiday in Germany. It's either eerste or tweede Pinkersdag in Dutch, which is I think...Whitmonday?) a holiday, so it's a three day weekend here -- the first weekend this summer where it's gotten over 30. The last two days were a really lovely classic summer weekend. Once I was able to resign myself to not getting anything done on weekends (and to the fact that Joel will never wake up early enough Saturday mornings for us to go grocery shopping together before lunch, so either Gwen and I will go alone in the morning, or I'll send him out alonein the afternoon), I've found them to be actually really relaxing and enjoyable.

Saturday Gwen and I went out grocery shopping as soon as she'd finished breakfast (oatmal with daddy), stopping along the way to play with Mr. Bunsen. She's getting better at walking part of the way, which means I can put all the groceries in the stroller which makes carrying them a lot easier. She's certainly a charmer when she's out walking down the high street. We stopped at a fruit stand to buy strawberries (planned) and cherries (impulse), and the vendor handed over two cherries for her to eat right away. Her enthusiastic "Mmmm!!!!"s as we walked along while she ate caused lots of smiles. Later on, close to home, she was striding down the street and intersected the path of a man who had a balloon (lots of places given them out as advertising), and he looked thrilled at being able to get rid of it via such an expedient method of giving it to a toddler. It was on a long plastic stick, and she walked the rest of the way home going "Up und down, up und down!", with appropriate movements of the balloon. We past a group of elderly tourists, who of course all got distracted by her, especially when she held it up and announced to them "Balloooooon!"

We had a bit of time before lunch so she played in the sand pit while I sat and read. Then in the afternoon, we'd been invited over to a barbecue at my officemate Andrea's place. She lives about half an hour (by bus) away from Heidelberg just over one of the mountains in a little town in the middle of trees. Her place is amazing; it's huge and gorgeous and has an awesome view, and has cherry and apple trees, four sheep, kiwi vines, grape vines, and enough white peach trees that she said she picked around 100kg last year. We have a standing invitation to come and help pick, come September, in exchange for as many peaches as we want.

The barbecue was well-planned; the other guys were a friend of hers with a 7-year-old son, and then two other people (and one of their's wife) from the cluster with their almost-2 and just-past-2 1/2 sons, Patrick and Noah, both of whom Gwen has met once before. This meant there were kids to play with other kids, and enough parents to patrol the boundaries that some parents could sit and relax and drink beer. Andrea's kids are older, but she had a few toys hanging around, and also brought out a tub and filled it with water. (Gwen, of course, was down to just her underwear in no time.) It's one of the first times I've had gotten to spectacte Gwen with multiple other kids so close to her age, for such a long period, which was quite interesting. Martin, Noah's father, at one point laughed when I told Gwen to do something and she completely ignored me, and said it was very nice to see that that happens to other parents of toddlers too. Later, Joel said that he and Martin and Joachim (Patrick's father) were talking, and that the latter two had been wondering if their kids' behavior was due to them being 2-year-old boys, or if it was because they were 2-year-old _badly behaved_ boys, and that, seeing Gwen, they'd come to the latter conclusion. (Which I don't think is fair at all: All the kids were really good, minding the parents in the important matters, playing well with each other, no fighting or pushing or anything, sharing well -- the only real difference came when we sat down to eat, where Gwen pulled up a little stool next to a tree stump on which I put her plate, where she sat and consumed a health portion of Greek salad, white bean salad, four sausages (the little breakfast sausage size), AND dessert (to be fair, we'd had a really light lunch, and early, and supper was later than we usually eat), while the other kids had to be chased around and begged to eat.) The other nice part about most of the guests being there with young children meant that around 7:00pm we were all ready to pack up and head home, so we weren't the ones leaving early to do with a kid while everyone else stayed.

Yesterday was low key, but really relaxing. After breakfast, I took Gwen outside to the sand pit, and she played there about 2.5 hours while I sat and read. There are two little boys who also live in a place abutting the courtyard (they have a balcony which has full view of the sand pit), one of whom is maybe 5 or 6, and the other perhaps 18 months. The elder one speaks both English and German, which is nice for me. :) They came out to play soon after we did, and while at first they were simply playing adjacent to each other, by the end of the morning they were playing with each other -- jointly filling and then dumping buckets of sand. The two older ones like to climb up on the shelf around the tree by the pit and them jump into the sand. Gwen counts to 19 before she jumps -- though she tends to miss 11, 14, 15, and 16.

Then it was lunch, and then naptime, and during naptime I finished the illumination for my coronation assignment (so, yay! I got somethingdone!). After naptime, we pulled out the little 1/2 pint ice cream maker that mom brought in May as a pass-me-down from Oma & Opa, and tried it. It really was as easy as it seemed, and the result was just delicious, and just the right amount to divide between the three of us as a quick treat. Since we still have cream, we'll probably make another batch today.  (I told Gwen this morning that we might make ice cream after her nap, and she responded, with an evil glint her eye, "It's naptime!", despite it being only about half an hour since she'd woke up.)

Having finished my book in the morning (I'd started re-reading the Harry Potter books a few months ago, and finished The Deathly Hallows), when I took Gwen outside to play some more, I was in need of a new one, so I took with me [ profile] hrj's Mystic Marriage, and lounged in the sun for another two hours reading that. Joel vacuumed up the house while we were out from under his feet and then came and joined us with a book of his own and two beers. (At that point I realized that I really should've been hydrating Gwen a bit better, because it was quite a bit hotter in the afternoon than the morning), and when I went up to get her some juice, I brought back down some cherries, too.

Then it was supper, bath, and bed for Gwen, and I made pizza, transferring our usual Saturday night scheme to Sunday. We'd just finished Farscape a few weeks ago, and gotten caught up on Downton Abbey, so it was time to start a new series. We've settled on Stargate, and watched the 1994 movie last night. Wow, was that a hilariously terribly early 90s movie! SO predictable! And the air force men are SO dumb! And the people who made the movie clearly don't know anything about, you know, SCIENCE. But it was perfect to sit and make snarky comments about with Joel.

All in all, a good day. As I posted on a friend's status on FB: "I spent about 5 hours sitting in the sun or shade (as the temp. determined) reading fiction. I made and ate ice cream. And now I'm curling up with a very nice man, with pizza and a movie."

Put like that, I can't really complain about not having gotten anything done this weekend.
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The other morning as we were waiting for Joel to bring the bike up from the basement, Gwen out of the blue stuck her arms out straight in front of her, and squeezed with her hands a few times, saying "Squeeze! Squeeze the pigeons!!" while doing so. I have no idea what prompted that, and it was just a wee bit creepy.


We made an awesome new recipe for supper last night: Pork in Red Wine and Ginger. Very easy, and delicious, and it smelled so good the entire time it was baking. We had it with rice.


Andrea's water has (finally) broken. I suppose it would be churlish of me to wish her a long labor so that my new niece or nephew ends up sharing a birthday with me. Even if s/he doesn't, it'll be close enough for me to have a good excuse to especially spoil this one.


When I was young, I used to complain vociferously about having wet clothes -- including swimsuits -- on when swimming or playing in the water. This afternoon, we went out to one of the playgrounds that has an awesome water installation, and though yesterday Gwen played happily there even after accidentally sitting down once so her pants and underwear were wet, today she insisted that they be taken off once they were wet, and ditto the shirt. So, yes, I was the mom at the playground with the wholly naked toddler running around. (But gosh she was cute. No, I won't be posting those pictures to the internet, just to her grandparents).


But the other day, I was the mom at the playground with the toddler dressed in a Viking apron dress:


Baba Tamara made this for her, and when it arrived in the mail she insisted on trying it on and wearing it the rest of the day (even though the shoulder straps at this point were only pinned on!). And then two days later another present came in the mail, a gorgeous hat from Auntie Stanza:


And I'll stop here because if I start posting all the cute pictures I've taken of her recently, we'd be here a long time.
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I think one just got formed last night.

Birgit had invited a bunch of people over for a "thank goodness January is over" party, partners and children included, and since it started in late afternoon we figured we'd be able to go for a few hours before having to get Gwen home to bed. (I also wanted to take the opportunity to meet her flat mate, whom she'd said would potentially be available for baby-sitting.) Incidentally, I have found having a child an immense crutch when it comes to social anxiety at settings like these. I always have something to pay attention to/occupy me when I don't have someone to talk to, and she often provides the topic of conversation, whether the person I'm talking to is also a parent or not. Hurrah! I haven't been to a party like this with so many people that I didn't know where I haven't felt nervous and stressed and non-desiring of going in years. There were a handful of other kids there -- a 6 month old, an almost 3 year old, a 1.5 year old, and one who was nearly 5. I'd brought Gwen's alphabet puzzle and a book along for her, and the other parents had brought assorted things, and as I sort of expected all the kids ended up playing with everything, which meant they were all happily entertained. I had the pleasure of realizing that Gwen is now old enough to be relatively unsupervised in situations like this -- I don't have to worry about her wantonly taking things off bookshelves, or chewing on cords, or going places she shouldn't. The people with kids were mostly in the livingroom, and Joel was quickly ensconced in a conversation with another programmer in the kitchen, and I was pleased to be able to say "Go find your father in the kitchen and ask him" and have her do so when she came to me asking for more juice or more cheese. And she being her usual gregarious extrovert self loved being at the party and was happy to stay awake and charming until nearly two hours after her normal bedtime.

I know that Joel likes it when we are able to get out and do these sort of things, it gives him a chance to talk to adults who are not me. It turned out that he's not the only one in this situation -- he found two other guys who are (a) spouses of cluster members, (b) working from home, (c) not German or very good German speakers, and from the snippets of conversation I overheard there was a flurry of exchange of emails and promises of "we should get together and drink beer! and talk! with people other than our spouses!" It sort of made me think that maybe the cluster should sponsor/organize some "meet the spouses/partners" events, so that all the people who are in Heidelberg only because their partners are can meet each other. Because heavens knows it's difficult otherwise -- especially for us with a small child to tie us at home. But we're hoping to change things this spring, and start inviting people over more often. Not big parties, just small dinner get togethers, but we like to cook, and we like to have people over, and if we know that there are other people out there who are in the same sort of social limbo as we are, we know that any invitations we send out to people we may not know that well will be well received. I'm actually looking forward to it.

The party was a "bring something to eat or drink if you want" sort of party, so in the afternoon, Gwen and I made a double batch of pretzels. I was really impressed. She wanted to help me roll them out, which previously was more "help" than help. I gave her a piece of dough to keep her occupied, and then was surprised a bit later when she said "mommy, here", and she'd pulled the dough into a narrow piece, and folded it over in a rough approximation of a pretzel! She actually ended up making nearly half of them. After that, she pointed to the spilled flour on the floor saying "clean, clean!" so I gave her a wet wash cloth and she wiped up nearly all of it on her own, and then we scrubbed at the table where we'd been working together until it was clean. For a not-quite-27-month-old, I was really quite impressed, her contribution to the effort was actually more helpful than not.

Today I'm trying a new recipe for honey buttermilk bread. It got started a bit later than planned since we all slept late, Gwen included (until past 10:00!). But it should be ready in another 15 min. to go into the oven, I hope. And hopefully I can keep Gwen going long enough to survive until it comes out of the oven, at which point we'll eat, give her a bath, and put her to bed. Because she slept so late, we tried to skip the afternoon nap -- which often works even when she wakes up earlier -- but about an hour or so ago I think she started getting pretty tired. Oh well.

deja vu

Jan. 26th, 2014 09:32 pm
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This weekend was remarkably like last weekend. One morning Gwen slept late-ish, the other she didn't. One afternoon we played outside for awhile. Saturday morning all of us went out on errands -- grocery shopping, Bauhaus, and then I stopped at the rock and gem shop. I was recently asked to step in to the Nobelese Largesse exchange that has almost finished up as a replacement artisan for someone who had to back out. I spent about a week looking through picture galleries to develop my ideas, and was pleased yesterday to be able to purchase everything I needed. I'm just waiting on some sizing info for my recipient, and I may even be able to get her gift finished up this week.

Saturday Gwen was still not feeling 100%, in that at one point she asked to lie down with me on the couch, so we cuddled together while we watched a few videos. At one point she squirmed around to face me, said "kiss, kiss", and then -- completely unprompted, which is still so rare as to be even more precious -- said "I love you. I love you, Mommy." There are some times when motherhood really is rewarding.

I spent most of today embroidering. My plan is to do a wreath of roses around the capelet I'm making, though I doubt I'll get more than a few of the roses done before Coronet (I won't get the barbs and leaves done before then, I'm sure, since I have no green, and am awaiting the next time that Mechthild dyes). This is the first time that I've ever attempted something so big, so naturally I started with the rose that's in the center bag, where, depending on what else I'm wearing, it can be hid by hair or veil. :) It's actually turning out rather well: Gwen peered over my arm once and said "flower!" so clearly it's sufficiently identifiable.


For Sunday supper, we again roasted cabbage, this time in the roaster with a slice kohlrabi, and did the same spice rub that we did on the beef last week, but this time on a pork fillet. It was good, though definitely better on the beef and lamb, but is quite possibly one of the least appetizing things I've ever cooked!

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...let me count the ways.

First, a preface. I mentally wrote this post while at the DMLBS conference in Oxford early Dec., about a month ago. I even got as far as jotting down notes so that I didn't forget any of the ways. But either I was at the conference, or going out eat with Joel, or sleeping, and then there were other things to write about here, and time passed, and I forgot about it, and only just now going through my stack of papers from the conference found my notes:

  • British pubs, British ales, British pub food. We love it all. Our first night there we went to a place on the west bank of the Thames suggested by Mark and Rachel, and it was great. West of the train station Oxford is very different from the down-town university area, but we actually enjoyed staying there quite a bit. There was a park nearby where Joel and Gwen played, and a community center which on Fridays (the day we were there) had kids' morning with singing and games, so they spent a few hours there and everyone had fun. This pub was also clearly a locals-only or locals-primarily; we certainly stuck out due to being unfamiliar and due to our accents---even though non-British accents are common in Oxford, they aren't on that side of the river. We ordered Gwen a salad of poached pears, goat's cheese, walnuts, and argula, which she loved, I got some mixed game and Joel got a pie, and we both had good minerally delicious local British ales. Sitting there, we both agreed that if we had a pub like that nearby, we'd probably eat there once a week.

  • Blackwell's, OUP, Oxbow books. 'Nuff said.

  • The Bodley. Cutest moment while we were walking around together before I went off to the opening lecture of the conference: We're walking along the side of the New Bodley and I pointed it out to her, that it was a library, with lots and lots of books, and aren't libraries a wonderful concept? Her reply was "Gwennie's library". Oh, my wonderful child, someday I hope that will be your library!

  • Brown sugar: Neither the Dutch nor the German quite do it right. We ended up bringing home about 2kg from Sainsbury's.

  • More ephemeral: Joel and I have worked really hard to build our threesome into the sort of family life that we want to have, to maintain the same sort of large-scale rhythms and routines as we had before Gwen came along, and for the most part we've succeeded. But it's been both work and hard. It's worth it to us to do the traveling that we do, but it's definitely not the relaxing easy pleasant vacation that it used to be. Everything is a lot more complicated, no matter how worth it it is. But for some reason Oxford is...easier. There was an ease and comfort and relaxation during our few days there that we hadn't had in a long time, even when we're at home. We got to sit and linger, to walk together and talk, to share good food. Because we were staying in a room we'd rented via AirBnB, all three of us were in the same room which meant that when Gwen went to sleep, the lights went off, and even though we continued to work on our computers for awhile, we were both in bed together, and that too was relaxing in itself.

I've actually got two more items on the list, but both of them are related more to the topic of "yes, we really do think that England is probably our long-term ultimate goal, not Germany, and here's why for reasons other than We Love Pub Food". I think I'll save them for another post.
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So, Gwen's daycare closed today and won't open again until the 2nd. Knowing this, and knowing what has generally tended to happen when I've been stuck at home with her for long periods I have:

- completely given up any idea of getting anything done. This way, if I do manage to do something, I can feel virtuous and proud of myself.

- stocked up the kitchen with random things for cooking and baking, since that's what I tend to do when I'm at home all day and I can't do what I'd really like to be doing (*cough* onomastics *cough*).

So you can expect plenty of food-related posts in the next few days. All the recipes can be found over on my food blog.

Thursday (I think?), Joel kicked things off by trying out a recipe that we got from Robert: Melt dark chocolate with some butter. Add port. Drink hot. Joel found it too rich (he also has decided he's not really a fan of port). I like it, even though it is so rich, though I'm still working on the same (not very large) glass. Luckily, it stores in the fridge and reheats in the microwave just fine. In fact, if you didn't reheat it, you'd have the world's most gourmet chocolate pudding.

Yesterday I made a half batch of cranberry muffins, and then did something which often results in failure, and created a recipe from scratch -- bacon-wrapped roasted Hokkaido pumpkin with onions and balsamic/maple syrup glaze:


When I put Gwen into her high chair and she saw her plate with cut-up pumpkin on it, she went "yum, yum!" and smacked her lips in anticipation.

We also made our standard red sauce for pasta.

Today I'm making something stemming from the fact that whenever Joel and I have cabbage, we always remark to each other "Gosh, we really like cabbage. Why don't we make it more often?" I've sliced up a head of curly cabbage which when Joel gets back from the store I'll fry up with onions and lardons. Maybe we'll make some egg noodles to go with it, since we have two bags that we received free from our grocery store as Christmas gifts. I also have a two liter bottle of cheap wine that is waiting to be made into gluhwein, and Joel will be picking up a pork roast for Christmas Day -- something I haven't made since a Thanksgiving years ago (2001, I think) when I hosted my parents for the holiday while I was an undergrad.
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In 2010, it ended up that no one entered the year-long kingdom A&S competition, which means there was, for the first time in a long time, no kingdom artisan for 2011.

In 2011, I decided to enter the competition, despite never having entered an A&S competition of any sort before. However, given the large number of entrants the previous year, I figured if I met all the qualifications (which at that time were entries in four (maybe it was three) different categories and at three different events), I had a good shot. Unfortunately, I fell at the last hurdle. I didn't time things right and so was unable to complete my final entry sufficiently -- I entered it at Kingdom University, which was the weekend Gwen was born. I was the only person who entered, so again, there was no kingdom artisan for 2012.

In 2012, I figured I'd try entering again...then in March Paul won Crown and I figured it would be a bit much to try to be queen AND try to enter the competition, so I didn't. Even though the requirements had been reduced to items in three categories at two different events. No one else entered that year either, so there was no kingdom artisan for 2013.

In 2013, I determined to enter yet again:

At 12th Night coronation, I entered Catalan nougat in the culinary arts category. Here is the documentation. I don't have a picture of this.

I didn't get anything together for Spring Crown, time just got away from me.

At Midsummer coronation, I entered:

  • In the textile arts category, I entered a 16th C men's shirt, here modeled by Joel:


    And here is the documentation.

  • In the research paper category, I entered a paper on Welsh household names

  • In the sciences category, a hoard of Anglo-Saxon and Viking wire rings, of which these were two:


    Here is the documentation, though I have not yet written up the "how-to" that I have promised some people.

  • In the fine arts category, I entered a calligraphed and illuminated scroll:


    The documentation for this is here.

I did not manage to put together a performing arts piece, otherwise I could've hit all six possible categories!

Having entered this many at 20 Year meant I didn't have to scramble to enter something at Fall Crown, which was nice. The winner was to be announced at Kingdom University, but a few days before that I got an email from Jahanara, kingdom MoAS, directed also to [ profile] hobbitomm, letting us know that we were the only two who'd met all the qualifications for entering the competition, and since neither of us where going to be there she wanted to know if we minded if the winner was announced in absentia. Therein followed a few days speculation wherein both of us were sure that the other person had won...which meant [ profile] hobbitomm was smug and complacent when he was proven right, and it was announced that I had won, and will be invested as kingdom artisan for 2014 at 12th Night Coronation.


It also later transpired that I also won the category-competitions for fine arts and research papers -- the latter I believe by default since I don't think anyone else entered one, but I think mine wasn't the only C&I entry, which means mine must've had some more merit. :)

Anyway, I promised people that while I was in the US I'd put together all my documentation to share, so now I have done so.
aryanhwy: (Default)
As the seasons change and fall comes around, I always get a hankering for caramel apples -- or rather, caramel sauce to dip apple slices in, because then you get more caramel! But it's rare for us to find a good caramel that we really like, in part because we both like our caramel really salty. (The last good caramel that we had was a jar we bought at the Salon du Chocolate in Paris in...2007? 2008?) I decided a few days ago to google for recipes to see about making our own, figuring that it would be a good thing to do today, since it's (yet another) national holiday, day care is closed, I have the day off work, and hence I've got three days in a row with Gwen. I found a few that seemed rather simpler than I was expecting, and I have a feeling that they are sort of "cheater" recipes. But, if they gave me something that tasted good, I'll be happy.

I made sure to run to the market last night after I got home, knowing it would be closed today, to get cream and brown sugar. Struck out on the latter: They apparently don't carry it (it's a lot harder to get brown sugar here, and even harder in NL, than it is in the US). Luckily Joel uses it on his oatmeal every morning and had a completely unopened bag, so I knew I wouldn't be using up too much.

I used this recipe, and it worked pretty well. It never really thickened up -- for a bit I was worried that if it cooled down all the way, it would turn into brittle (though if it would, it would be great with cashews), but now it's been sitting in the fridge for a few hours and it's thicker, but not brittle. We sliced up two apples and had it for snack this afternoon: Gwen approves, Joel thought it was decent, and I'm happy with the result though next time I'd add more salt, maybe some sea salt crushed up in the mortar and pestle, rather than ground from the mill. And is it strange for me to also feel like it's a bit too sweet? I'm not sure how to reduce the sweetness in something that is, essentially, sugar. Maybe more cream? Maybe more salt?

In any case, we've now got a yoghurt jar 3/4 full of caramel sauce, it'll take us awhile to finish it. (Or maybe not. I bet it would be good on waffles.)

All told, day 1 of the long weekend has been too bad; her nap was dismally short (45 min.), but she's spent a larger proportion of the day playing on her own than she usually does, so I've had the stamina to play with her and entertain her for all the other time she isn't. This morning we sat on the couch together for awhile going through books of illumination trying to pick out some ideas for my scroll assignment for coronation. She kept going "oooh!" and "wow!" and "super pretty!" pointing at the pictures, which was adorable. We also had a couple of hours in the afternoon of successful (clean-and-dry) underwear wearing.


It's November, which means time to decide whether to do NaBloPoMo this month. I'd say "go for it", except that I know there will be at least one day where I am unlikely to have any internet whatsoever -- the day I leave Kathmandu airport at 7:45am and arrive at Chicago airport around 5:30pm, i.e., 3:30am the next day Kathmandu time. There are a number of other days when I'm not sure if I'll have internet access, e.g., the entire time I'm in Lumbini. We'll see. But for now, I think I'll give it a shot. It's not like I won't have plenty to talk about.


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August 2017

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