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November 2015
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January 2016

End It Like Beckham

I am not totally au fait with the whole soccer area, but this year has definitely thrown me a curve.  Mixing the baseball and soccer metaphors there, but it hasn't been a bad year, just tricky sometimes. In good news for me, my knee and its muscles seem to be healing at last: slowly albeit. It seems a cruel twist of Fate that the best treatment is heat, and it is so hot already. Mr Beckham seems to have exited his soccer career with grace and dignity. I am hoping for the same for 2015 and me!!!

It has been very hot, too hot to do much more than just be, and do what has to be done. We had a very merry Christmas and my mum and aunt came to visit as well. I have given away all pretence of being on time for Christmas and it has been very freeing. My family and friends are exceedingly understanding.

Gilly has received so many presents. She likes the edible ones best!! She has buried a few more big rawhide bones, but likes to actually eat the Christmas Cracker kind. Click Play to watch the little slideshow.

 There have been many, and varied, crafts this year. Not much garment knitting, but I sewed four good dresses that I wear all the time. And I am up to almost 70 shopping bags. Not all of my craft is in the collage, but it is a good representation.

Craft 2015 ish

Here are the last bags of 2015.

Last bags of 2015

I also sewed a bed for MrsDrWho's cats, well Caramello mainly. I found the colourful cat material and then the coordinating yellow and green. Gilly loves the bed. I can see that I am going to have to sew a larger one for her. She insisted on lying on it all afternoon, even though she was sure she shouldn't. I wasn't cross with her, she just looks very worried.

Cat bed, or is it

WeeMrSingapore has decided he likes "bling" so I baked him some Bling Biscuits: choc-chip chocolate fudge biscuits with chocolate ganache icing, painted with edible gold liquid and topped with a golden lozenge. Wow!! The 'gold' liquid is so very golden!!!

Bling biscuits

Our usual New Year's Eve is spent filling in all the days and dates in the Buffy Diary. This year I am down to my last Buffy Diary. There is only one left. I have looked all year to buy some more, to no avail. I shouldn't complain, I had a store of 15. I found an excellent solution: in Target there was a diary with the same clippy things as the Buffy Diary. Yay!! So I covered my diary with contact, removed 2015 and replaced it with the new innards for 2016. There were no days or dates to fill in and I had no coloured dots or stars. So it was a leisurely alcoholic ginger beer and some Brie and crackers, just crackers for Gilly, and our job was done.

New year's eve

We are looking forward to a week of mid 20s temperatures, starting on Friday. If it is too hot, I might have to visit MrsDrWho for some air conditioned cold. MrsDrWho gave me STAN for Christmas and so I have launched into a The West Wing marathon. As long as there is a cool breeze and a cup of tea we will be OK.

Not long to go now. We have watched the Children's fireworks through the trees already, but I think we will be in bed before the midnight explosions. Happy New Year, 2016.


The Force Asleepens

Gilly is pretty sure that she missed two whole meals somehow. Yesterday everyone went to bed, they got up at 11pm and went out in the car while she stayed home, then everyone went back to bed again at 3am. Finally we woke up and went for a walk at 8am. She is sure that somehow she missed out on a breakfast and dinner!! She has been playing with her rawhide bone. It is dug up, carried about and then reburied again. It is almost 8 weeks old.

Gilly and her bone

MrsDrWho, MrsSingapore, MissSingpore and I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers). It was excellent: on a par with VI, V and VI and streets above I,II and III. The film started at 12-01am and we had assigned seats so there was no frantic queueing. We saw a lot of ardent fans, there was a beeping R2D2 and the ushers were all Stormtroopers. Lightsaber wielding people had their photos taken outside.

Star wars 2015

The audience was very well behaved and the cinema was air-conditioned, which was so wonderful. We are having a heatwave, it will be 33*C tomorrow. Hopefully a cold front with rain will come through on Sunday. We saw the 3D version and it was not too 3D, you didn't have to duck all the time. I can't wait to see it again. I think Disney can have a Gold Star for their first effort.

I wore my new Star Wars dress. It has a little pocket for keeping the Star Wars music player, but I can't find it, so I just had to hum the music instead. I am very pleased with my dress, I like the green border, I think without it the dress would be all busy print and no focus. The plain border grounds it.

The Star Wars dress 2015

The dress has the bodice I sewed for my Hawaii dress, and a knife pleated skirt. The skirt is almost 4m wide and I made 2.5cm knife pleats. I am exceedingly pleased with the way I inserted the zip. It doesn't interfere with the pleats at all.

Dress zip and pleats

I have been sewing Christmas shopping bags. We are a crinkly plastic bag free State, so we all need shopping bags. I have to make one for The GardyGardeners tomorrow.

Christmas Shopping bags

Last week I went to MrsDrWho's class until recess time. They made Ungingerbread Houses. The houses are hugely OTT. They children were very good at listening,  following instructions and sharing. Teaching for me is like riding a bike, once I am there with a class it just seems right and proper: I made them instantly quiet and sitting up straight when I said: "As soon as everyone is quite I can give out the ziplock bags." Who knew I still has The Power??

Ungingerbread houses 2015

Well, that's all. The heat is very wearing. We have the evaporative cooler filled with water and some ice to blow cold air during the night. And this afternoon too. We caught up on sleep. I had been doing well with my Christmas preparation, but the hot weather has put a spanner in the works. I am lucky that my family and friends are so understanding. They say things like:"Oh, how nice to get a present after Christmas!!"

Tomorrow I am baking a Sticky Gingerbread Cake and the last in my new Christmas baking for Friday Food. I have no idea what it will be. I am sure Gilly will be ready to help.

Gilly is happy on her walk


Friday Food: Hot Chocolate on a Spoon

Oh hot choc on a spoonWhy, you may ask, would someone in Australia be making Hot Chocolate on a Spoon for Christmas? Well, that would be because even though Summer officially started on the 1st of December, and the Cricket Test against The West Indies is taking place, Hobart is expecting snow on the mountain. It was 12*C the other day, that's 53*F.  A bit nippy you would agree. Hot water bottle and hot chocolate weather in fact!!!

I found a plethora of various recipes. I went with a basic chocolate/icing sugar/cocoa mix. I used good dark eating chocolate with a high cocoa content 50% or more, pure icing sugar and a mixture of Dutch processed and ordinary cocoa. Icing sugar mixture has cornflour added, so it may make a drink cornfloury.

Another option is to use a chocolate fudge, like my No Thermometer Chocolate fudge recipe. I did worry a bit about that keeping well in Summer because it has cream in it. Maybe it could be frozen?

I had a bit of a disaster when there was too little chocolate to make my mix come together. That's what I get for averaging out a few recipes. I have fiddled and fussed about and I think the amounts given should be OK. I added some more chocolate and put the bowl back over the not simmering water in the saucepan and gently stirred till the mixture came together. It worked out fine.

I 'set' the hot chocolate mix in the bottom of some plastic cups. I just didn't seem to have the right container. I realise now I could have put it into a small rectangular tin and then cut out pieces. Maybe next time.....

You can use a plastic spoon or an icy-pole or lollipop stick. And I added a marshmallow as well. I cut a slit right through, from top to bottom, with a very sharp, hot knife. I made a label. If I knew how, I would make it into something useful, but as it is I will add it at the end and it can perhaps be downloaded? I really have no idea. The label explains that you heat 250-300ml of milk whichever way you choose, and then plop in the spoon and swoosh it around while the hot chocolate dissolves, and maybe the marshmallow, and Bob's your Uncle: Hot Chocolate!!

 

Hot Chocolate on a Spoon    makes 6-8

  • 250g good dark chocolate
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 80g pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 6-8 plastic spoons or sticks
  • marshmallows

 

Melt the chocolate. I melted mine is a heat-proof bowl over some simmering water instead of the microwave. Stop heating the chocolate while it is still holding its shape.

Melt chocolate

Stir gently until all the lumps disappear and the chocolate is lovely and glossy and smooth.

More melting

Now add the cocoa powder and the sifted icing sugar. Here is where I had my slight disaster.

Oh dear

And so I added some more chocolate and reheated it over the hot water in the saucepan.

There, I fixed it

I weighed my hot chocolate mixture and it was 380g.  I decided I would make 7 Hot Chocolates on a Spoon @ 50g each. I could have added a little more chocolate and made 8. I divided the mixture between the cups and pushed another cup into that cup to flatten the fixture. It worked really well. Then I put a spoon in it. This is where you could add some crushed candy canes, or little chocolate bits and bobs as decoration.

In a cup

I rested the cups in a muffin tin and popped them in the freezer for half an hour or so.

Refrigerate

To release the Hot Chocolate on a Spoon I dipped the bottom of the cup ever so briefly into some hot water. They popped right out. I added a marshmallow. 

And a marshmallow

Finally, I put the Hot Chocolate on a Spoon into a cellophane bag, and added my label.  Stick a spoon in us, we're done!!!

Hot chocolate on a spoon

And here, for your viewing pleasure, are two labels.

Label

Label 2015 2


Friday Food: Fruit Mince Bites

A fruit mince biteI have been poorly this week, what a surprise, but I feel better at last. Better enough to bake some Fruit Mince Bites: the third in my try-something-new-for-Christmas baking. They are basically little shortbread cases filled with festive fruit mince. The smell wafting through the house as these cool is tantalising - Christmas to a T.

They are also easy to make and quick to bake. I found the recipe on taste.com.au and it is from Super Food Ideas December 2007.

I only needed to buy a jar of fruit mince and I was away. I already had a mini muffin tin which has 24 little holes. The recipe says it makes 24. I only made half the recipe and managed 16, so I think it is quite economical. I substituted cornflour/cornstarch for the rice flour. You could use a fig jam or some other festive filing. Lemon curd would be delicious.

It is always round about now that I remember I wanted to make my own fruit mince. Oh well, maybe next year!!

Dust these with icing sugar upon serving- warm or cold. I think even piping hot with custard, and/or ice cream and/or custard. Dusting too early means the icing sugar will just disappear into the 'bite'.

 

Fruit Mince Bites    makes 24-30 ish

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 60g rice flour OR cornflour
  • 1 tspn lemon zest
  • fruit mince, a cup will be plenty
  • icing sugar for serving

 

Preheat the oven to 180*C. My mini muffin tin is non-stick, so I didn't need to grease it at all.

Butter, vanilla and sugar creamed

Cream the butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy: about 5 minutes.

Add flours and lemon zest

Sift in the flours and mix to combine. Add the lemon zest. Continue to mix until the dough comes together.

Make the little holes

Using a 20ml tablespoon, scoop out a level spoonful and roll into a ball. Pop into the tin and then using your finger, or the end of a wooden spoon handle eg, poke a hole in the centre shortbread. Stop before you reach the bottom of the tin!!

Fill and bake

Spoon in about a teaspoon of fruit mince. Bake for 12-15 minutes. I waited for about 12 minutes when the edges started to turn a little golden brown.

And cool

Leave to rest in the tin for about 5 minutes. Mine came out very easily all bar two. I just gave a little twist and eased them out. For the last stubborn two I used the tip of a sharp knife to encourage them out.

I think we have pretty much established that I am not terribly good at presentation, or present wrapping, so here's a pretty Christmas border to distract the eyes.

Festive fruit mince bites