Monday, 31 December 2007

December Roundup

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I am hoping They are right, because I haven't done much else to endear myself to you, dear reader. I have been a very bad blogger indeed. I can only promise I will try to make it up to you.

This month has been a topsy-turvy (whose December hasn't?) and I present to you a wrap-up of a few Moments of Significance.

1. Catering a friend's 50th birthday weekend gathering.

I somewhat rashly promised to do this back in, oh about August, and it all came back to bite early in the month. The party went for 3 days, and there were between 15 and 25 people to keep happily fed. Bbq one night, finger food for several hours, buffet dinner the next night.

Luckily it was held at the Birthday Girl's newly renovated country lodgings in Jamberoo, with a shiny new whiz-bang kitchen, and ample capable and willing sous-chefs on hand (capable meaning capable of taking orders!).

It all went swimmingly: no disasters, too much food (phew!), everyone happy, especially the Birthday Girl. And lucky me, she presented me with a little something: Secrets of the Red Lantern, one of my recent wish-list cookbooks.

2. Doing the Wiggle Groove.

The Wiggles came to Canberra, and of course we took PJ along. He got into it a little more than last time, and even took me down to the mosh pit at the front of the stage for a while. No dancing, just absorbing the atmosphere.

But it's still a very serious business, this Wiggles thing.

Note to ACT govt and operators of AIS arena as a venue: SORT OUT THE FARKING PARKING. What a shambles - and they socked us $5 for the privilege of sitting in traffic for more than 30mins coming in and going out. Total Shambles doesn't even come close.

3. Holidays at Nana and Grandpa's.

We arrived back home last night after 2 weeks staying with my parents at Corowa on the Murray River in southern NSW, for Christmas and the aftermath.

Highlights include:

  • Catching up on lots of sleep, as PJ sleeps in Nana and Grandpa's room. (Mind you, he sleeps through almost every night for them!)
  • Seeking relief from the summer heat by going for a swim

  • My Dad's World-Famous paella, cooked, like most of his creations, on his Weber:

  • Keeping PJ up til 9pm on Christmas Eve to walk around the corner to see the christmas lights. The animated Reindeer head that spoke to him by name freaked him out a little, but otherwise he got right into it.

  • The usual present excitement - PJ totally got the idea of gifts this year and we couldn't put anything under the tree until he went to bed on Christmas Eve because anything wrapped clearly needed to be unwrapped Right. Now. and was obviously for him. PJ very democratically played with all his gifts in turn, but I think the winner was this digger, made by his Grandpa:

  • I scored very well indeed on the gift front: an Ipod (once I figure out how to use the mongrel apple thing); not one, but THREE cookbooks (Delicious. 5 nights a week, My China by Kylie Kwong and Margret Fulton's updated tome); socks from my MIL; a gorgeous brooch from my parents. Lucky, lucky me.

  • A very decadent Christmas lunch, as prepared by the whole family
  • A lunch cruise on Lake Mulwala which captivated PJ

  • Eating fresh blackberries and icecream

4. Deadline Knitting

My brother, 6pm on Christmas eve: "Hey Georgie, you know how I'm going to Detroit in 2 weeks - don't suppose you fancy knitting me a beanie do you?"

Me: "Why not. Would you prefer this yarn, or this one?"

10am Boxing day: one beanie and one happy brother, thanks to Taph's TTWC. No photo, but hey, its a beanie.

5. Planning Failures

You would think that after my catering triumphs (see 1), I could organise knitting projects for 2 weeks. But no. Sadly, there was little other knitting aside from the emergency beanie, despite ample opportunity. I took 4 projects - one, I'm not happy with and will probably frog; the second, Beloved's Jet jumper, stalled because I didn't bring any more balls other than the one I was already halfway through; both the third AND the fourth, I didn't bring the patterns for.


6. Coming Attractions

I opened with an apology for my lack of blogging these last weeks. I hope you can forgive me when you see that I've been a little busy - and tired - growing this little critter:

Sorry about the crappy scan. Due July 3rd. Unlike my pregnancy with PJ, I have been nauseous and dizzy, and tired like Ive never felt. But now hopefully things will be on a more even keel and I will be back to my knitting, blogging, commenting self.

If I missed catching up with you before, I hope you and your loved ones had a very happy and enjoyable Christmas (or celebration of choice), and my best wishes for a gute rutsche (good slip) into the New Year.

Friday, 7 December 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

and Christmas around here means Spritzgeback! German christmas biscuits. Last year Bertie's parents were with about now, and my MIL taught me how to make them. So last weekend at our place it was all hands on deck.

I wont reproduce the recipe here, because, as you will see, there is some specialist equipment involved, and I'd never heard of this particular use before so Im not how widespread it is. (of course I can add it if you roolly want).

Spritzgeback are basically a shortbready biscuit - butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, eggs, touch of milk. The dough is made the day before it's baked, and stands overnight somewhere cool (yes, clearly a northern hemisphere recipe).

Then you give it a good mix and start cranking out the biscuits.

Pirate Jim was very keen to help this year. Note the concentration manifesting in the poked out tongue.

As you can see, the traditional method is to use a hand-turned mincer, with a special form on the front, to squish the dough out into the right shape. We've tried rolling out the leftovers and using a biscuit cutter, but sadly it doesnt work.
You can see it a bit better here:

That long flat bit to the side is a series of different shaped holes that that give you different shaped biscuits as the dough gets forced through.

You get a long snake of formed dough, that is then cut into short lengths before baking.

After about 15 minutes in a moderate oven, they come out all nice and lightly browned.

And becasue there are very few things in thie world that arent improved by the addition of chocolate, you can then paint one end. Very traditional, Im assured.

And then, the pay-off: enjoying them with a cup of tea!

Unfortunately, despite making two batches already, I'm going to have to go back in and make another couple. It seems Santa has been sampling the goodies at our place already.

p.s. if you're up for some more European Christmas baking, Kuka's been making some yummy treats over her way too.