Monday, 14 December 2009

Mincemeat Mania

Last week my other half rolled out the first batch of mincemeat pies. We then sat down and ate almost all of them. Just kidding. Only three each. As someone born and raised eating mincemeat pies, he said these were the best pies he's ever eaten. They are heavenly -- flaky, moist, fruity. On Tuesday one of my neighbours showed me how to make three batches of proper German Christmas cookies. On Wednesday, my husband and I erected a gingerbread house while my daughter and her friend decorated it. Yesterday we dived into the Christmas cake. Good thing I didn't make a Christmas pudding as I have given up watching my weight this holiday season!

Best Christmas Cake
Best Mincemeat
Best Mincemeat Pie Pastry -- see BBC Good Food 101 Bakes and Cakes
Best Way to Use Up Leftover Mincemeat

Monday, 9 November 2009

Poppies and lost sweethearts

Sailor Postcard, originally uploaded by Tea Potty.
Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday and we spent part of the morning at a wreath laying ceremony. It was a bit muddy and gray, but the trees were in beautiful autumn colour. Seeing all of those WWII graves really brought home just how many young men were lost from my grandparents' generation. Please remember Veterans' Day on the 11th November.

These were my grandmother's hankies. I understand that they were given to sweethearts during WWII. They're in terrible condition, but I decided to put them on display for Wednesday.

On a lighter note, our friends were here from England over the Halloween weekend. I managed to get a nasty head cold between cleaning, cooking, entertaining, and doing the tour guide and Halloween bit. It promptly snowed the following Tuesday all day long and, as you can see, our pumpkins look like I felt. Sorry gents, but you're off for composting.

I have managed to get myself thinking about Christmas. Tomorrow I'm tackling my mincemeat and, on Wednesday, the Christmas cake. Recipes and blogs to follow. No Christmas pudding, my husband didn't request one. I'm not sure if that's because we won't actually be home for Christmas or if it's because last year's was so incredibly alcoholic that I couldn't give my daughter a slice!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Pumpkin Picking

Last weekend was pretty miserable -- cold, wet and windy -- so we didn't want to spend much time outside. As Halloween is just around the corner, we decided to head to Karl's and pick up a second pumpkin. We did plant two pumpkin plants this spring and they quickly took over our small garden (and almost our neighbour's). Unfortunately, only one pumpkin has survived to maturity. Although he's pretty good looking, we felt he was a bit lonely and needed a mate. Thus the trip out.

Karl's is basically a glorified farm shop -- farm produce, gift shop, cafe, in-door and out-door playgrounds, horse rides, goats to pet, and more. I like it because it entertains my daughter while I get a good slice of cake! There was free face painting that day, so she was especially happy.

The weather this weekend is still miserable. We would like to go to our local amusement park tonight for the autumn light parade and fireworks, but the idea of standing out in the wet and cold doesn't sound too tempting. Maybe I'll twist my husband's arm and head off to a big craft exhibit in Lubeck! Yes, I'm still embroidering -- I'm halfway done with a Halloween picture. Hopefully I'll have it done in time.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Yet another hobby...

As my other half puts it, I must be the queen of hobbies. Yes, I'm still making jewelry and yes, I'm still learning crochet and knitting. Now I have a new hobby -- embroidery! Last spring I picked up two books, The Kitchen Linens Book and Make. Realising that my sewing skills extend to sewing on buttons and Girl Scout patches, I picked up The Embroidery Stitch Bible and have been teaching myself.
I started out simple, with a heart sampler, and have now added applique to my skills as well. The boat picture is from Cath Kidston's book; it goes nicely with my retro nautical bathroom.
I've been surfing the net and have been amazed by all the really talented blogs that are out there! Everyday I find new things to inspire me. I just found free embroidery patterns on the Victoria and Albert Museum (one my favourite places to visit). I now have a long list of projects to work on and can't wait to show you what I've got in store for Halloween!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Plum Crazy

I've been playing "Hostess with the Most-ess" lately with visits from my mother, my in-laws, and other friends. With a few weeks off before the next round of visitors descend on us, I'm trying to get a jump start on my Christmas goodies -- mincemeat, Christmas cakes and a Christmas pudding. Last year's turned out very well, but I did learn one lesson -- Christmas pudding doesn't need to be fed that much alcohol. It was just a wee bit boozy!

I did have some success this summer with my preserving. Thanks to a generous neighbour who, whilst on horseback, picked a very large bucket of beautifully sweet German plums, Zwetschgen. After making a batches of plum jam and spiced plum butter (which turned out more like a sweet and slightly spiced jam), I used up the last with apple and plum chutney. We really don't eat much chutney, so I'm looking for recipes that call for it.
My summer's strawberry jam is almost gone now and my lemon cordial disappeared ages ago. I'll make a couple bottles of that for next year. If I get the chance I'll be making chili oil to use up the last of our crop and a batch of lemon curd. Unfortunately I've lost our favourite curd recipe, so it's back to the drawing board there.

The weather has been very changeable here, so we haven't been very touristy lately. We did manage to visit Schwerin -- interesting city (as it's the only formerly East German city I've been to), beautiful castle (do get the audio tour), and v. expensive park.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Long days and terrible TV

Thank goodness for long days and terrible TV, the combination of which has made me very industrious this summer. I have managed to conquer some of my cooking hang-ups, acquire two new hobbies (like I need more), read a handful of books and improve my German. This is more than I usually accomplish in a year.

For the sake of brevity, I'll just address what I've been reading.

Though War and Peace still has me stumped, I've gone on to read lighter fare this summer. The Tea House on Mulberry Street was a quick read, though somewhat predictable. I'm glad I didn't actually buy it; it was a book swap. Another freebie, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People, intriqued me because of its setting in India. Unfortunately, I think it could have been a much better book than it was. The author's writing style, or lack of, was at times distracting and there were missed opportunities for character and plot development. As someone foreign to the culture, I hoped that there would be more detail to the setting (ie. history, background, sensory usage). For all that, a pleasant read.

My favourite, stylistically, was Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. As a fan of Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle, I was looking forward to this one. It was quirky and funny, but didn't have the same weight or substance of my two favourites. I did buy it and will probably keep it for a little while at least. I haven't seen the movie yet, but hope to soon. My next choice, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, was another that I relished receiving. I had heard much about it and couldn't wait to sit down with it. It was good -- a perfect balance of humour and heartache. I really loved some of the characters and wished that the book was longer just so I could read more of them. I only have one lament, the ending. After reading and rereading the book, I still couldn't feel or understand the chemistry between Juliet and Dawsey. A good read, go out of your way to pick it up.

Lastly, I'm slogging my way through My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. Yes, slogging. This is an anthology of "Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro" but should be described as a collection of stories about tortured and torturous relationships. I love short story collections, especially when I can compare and contrast the writing styles of such fantastic authors. This collection certainly does that, but some of the stories are either so difficult to understand or are so painful to read that I can neither enjoy the story nor the author's craft. Great love stories? No. I don't believe every love story should be sappy happy, but neither is love only a cankerous wound. I've come away from the book feeling that Mr. Eugenides has forgotten the reader and is primarily concerned with showing off how cerebral he is with such a collection.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The count down begins...

I know, I know. Good intentions and all that. Between settling in here, entertaining visitors, and taking care of a little one and the house, I haven't had much energy to sit down to blog. This excuse will soon evaporate! (I'll have to find a new one now). My daughter is off to kindergarten in September! Five morning a week all to myself. Where do I begin...

Oh, new hobby alert-- embroidery. EllynAnne Geisel's book The Kitchen Linens Book got me hooked. Oh and did manage to make two successful batches of jam, strawberry and plum. (I'm on a roll!)

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Es tut mir leid!

Many, many apologies! It has been ages since I've written -- time slipped by faster than I expected. Much has happened since my last post. My parents were here for Christmas and we moved!

First, Christmas was terrific -- lots of food, lots of sightseeing, lots of people to visit. In no particular order we went to:

  • Aachen -- cold/wet/foggy. Wisely arrived early for the Christmas market, which was v. good. Bought lots of printen and a Christmas cookie mould. Visited the Dom (for the third time).

  • Cologne -- overcast/cool. Last day of Christmas market. Crowds were blessedly minimal at the market but crazy in the stores! Ate half a pig at a favourite brauhaus. Bought a few presents and a pretty rose soap for myself.

  • Roermond -- clear/cold. Nice little town, worth the visit for the outlet stores. Found a great little toy shop.

  • Monshau -- clear/cold/windy. One of my favourite towns in the area -- a lovely little gem. Unfortunately the main attractions were closed due to the proximity to Christmas. Bought mustard from the historic mustard mill. Had a good lunch in the Rote Haus Cafe.

  • Dusseldorf -- wet/miserable/windy. Rose and I stayed home, but everyone else went to the Christmas market and antique shops.

  • Amsterdam -- clear/cold. One day is not enough! Did the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. Both worth a visit, but I really enjoyed the Van Gogh Museum. It was an excellent display of his work that illustrated the development of his talent and compared his work to that of his contemporaries. Hope to visit the city again soon!

  • Den Helder and surrounds -- spent a few days visiting friends and getting to know some of the Netherlands. Of course we visited a windmill and saw clogs being made. I hope to return again this spring to see the tulip fields!

As for Christmas, Rose was enraptured with anything remotely seasonal. She is still talking about Santa and singing holiday tunes. Yes, she did finally get her tiny pink bike with pedals! And, yes, my Christmas goose turned out perfectly.

I thinks that's plenty for now. Next time -- moving day, our new home and town.