Merry Christmas!

Bunny-wabbit Christmas greetings!

It is snowing here in Lyon and definitely the epitome of a white Christmas. So far, a good start to the trip. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Eva took to the flying – she was her usual toddler self on the flight from Singapore, had a snack – we bought our own – on the short flight and joined us for dinner at KLIA airport. Because our flight was at nearly midnight, we found a quiet corner near the gate and allowed her to take a snooze while we wait it out for boarding. She ended up sleeping…right up till it was time to board the plane.

We ran into some problems then as we were booked behind the front rows (where they place the bassinets) and no one wanted to switch their seats with ours. The flight attendant, Jim Liew/Lim was very apologetic about the whole thing and while waiting for the matter to be resolved, we found out that we had forgotten Nil’s suit – the flight attendant from the previous flight had forgotten to pass the suit back to me and so Nil had to check if they found it or not and so forth. Turned out that they didn’t so it meant lodging a report once we land in Paris. Gah. In the meantime, our seat problem was resolved by the fact that we got placed in a row of four empty seats – I suspect it was because there was a monk seated in the row which meant no women. Turned out to be a good thing as Eva had her own seat and could sleep better plus we had more space for things like eating and so forth. She slept for most of the flight up till four hours before we landed whereby all she wanted to do was nosy around and what-not. We came well prepared with a book, but found added help in the packs of snacks, paper tray and tissues. She occupied herself well with those things!!!

Once we landed in Paris, the weather shocked us! It was utterly chilly and I thanked myself silently for having the initiative to buy the stroller footmuff and as well as a sweater to tide Eva through. She burrowed herself in the footmuff while we waited for the TGV train at the platform. Standing in the cold at 8am in the morning was not my idea of fun although seeing steaming hot breaths coming out from people brought back memories of life in Switzerland which I sorely missed. On the TGV, after some snacking, Eva fell asleep again in my arms – I guess it had something to do with the fact that I was asleep as well!

We arrived in Lyon two hours later and since then, I must say that my daughter has surprised me at every turn. She is embracing the weather well not to mention the food – she loves foie gras!!!!! Although she is still on Singapore time, she takes instructions well and understands the rationale behind “everyone is sleeping so Eva should sleep, plus no sleep, no go out”. I’m really proud of her and hope that the coming days will continue to be this wonderful (sans the little accident with me forgetting to bring some accessories for digital cameras – BAH)!

In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas…from Eva, Nil and myself!

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New additions

I decided to give myself a little treat and join an unclub spree over at JulieSpins. She organizes a spree every month dedicated to those of us who don’t have the energy or finances to be part of a fiber club. One other advantage this spree has over fiber clubs is that we have a general idea of what to expect so we can opt out, if the colours or items are not particularly attractive.

This month’s unclub featured merino-cashmere-nylon bleed rovings and a humbug-silk. I wanted to bulk up my stash with some rovings meant for lace so I’ve been stashing up on silk-blends, and Julie’s colours have been very vibrant and rich. My pretties arrived on Monday but because my postbox can’t take anything thicker than the usual bank bills and such, I got a delivery notice instead, which meant that I’d have to wait till the weekend to get them.

The wait was definitely more excruciating than trying to figure out how to install a home theatre system but definitely worth it. As you can see, they are very pretty and I can’t wait to get started on them…once I finish my Ivy sweater, of course!!!

JulieSpins Unclub Dec 10 85% Humbug BFL - 15% Silk

JulieSpins Unclub Dec 10 85% Humbug BFL - 15% Silk

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Baby berrylicious tart

Baby berrylicious tart

Note to self: homemade pastry ALWAYS trumps commercially made pastry, unless of course, you suck to high heaven at making pastry. The Pampas commercial pastry I bought was too salty and there was just something synthetic (in Gordon Ramsay’s words (from one of the Kitchen Nightmare episodes)) about it. I guess the fact that it was made with margarine instead of butter had something to do with it; yes, I’m a “butter-snob” – I like to have real unsalted butter on my toast, unsalted butter in my baked goods. No salted butter for me please…can’t seem to understand why people here love the stuff. There’s already too much salt in food these days. Gah.

Of course if you’re pressed for time like I was during that particular period of the day (juggling an active toddler, housechores, mad rush on my knitting), commercially prepared pastries do seem god-sent. All I need was bring it out to thaw, cut into squares, line the tart cases and trim off the excess before adding in my filling. None of that crumbing butter with flour, mixing the dough, refrigerating it to harden the dough again and so forth.

Still, I am all the more convinced now that all that effort is really worth it. Because ultimately, what made this dish utterly rotten was the fact that the pastry was just horrible. *sigh*

Baby berrylicious tart

2 slices commercial shortcrust pastry (I’d go for homemade pastry or at least unsalted commercial pastry)
A handful of blueberries
A handful of raspberries
5-6 medium-large strawberries, roughly chopped
4 eggs
200ml cream
1/2 tbsp golden syrup

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C.
  2. Cut up the pastry, line the tart cases with them and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove when ready and set aside to cool.
  3. Mix the egg, golden syrup and cream until well combined.
  4. Divide the berries equally in each tart case and fill with the egg-cream mixture (to nearly full).
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is golden-brown. Remove and serve warm on its own or freeze to keep for another day.

Baby berrylicious tart

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Molasses rhubarb-berry crumble

Molasses rhubarb-berry crumble

I had some berries leftover from the tart I made over the weekend and thought to quickly use it up before it started to rot. At SGD7 for a punnet of raspberries, I wasn’t keen on letting that money go to waste. My original idea for the berries was to use them in a lemon-berry muffin but after a long day at the office and a possibly long night working on my old projects and used gym equipment reviews, I didn’t fancy slaving in front of the oven and opted for a dessert that would be quick to assemble, bake and is also child-friendly. So we settled for a crumble instead.

The end result was a very chewy, textured crumble – the oats gave it some crunch and the molasses lend a very rich, chewy feel to the crumble. Coupled that with the oozy and sticky berry juices and the tartness of the rhubarb and you have the right crumble. Nil likes his just on its own but I prefer mine with just a tad dollop of cream or even ice cream. Eva? I reckon she’s just like Nil – she likes it on its own.

A rather nice end to a quiet yet busy Monday evening, if you ask me.

Molasses rhubarb-berry crumble

Approx 1/2 cup plain flour
Approx 1/2 cup rolled oats
Some butter
3-4 tbsp molasses sugar
1-2 cups berries (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry – but you can use others)
1 cup chopped rhubarb
Some lemon zest (less than 1 small lemon)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 °C
  2. Prepare the rhubarb by peeling it lightly and cut into 2 cm pieces. Sprinkle regular/brown sugar over, toss well and set aside for 20 minutes. When ready, strain and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible.
  3. Pour the berries and prepared rhubarb into the pan and sprinkle some lemon zest over the mixture.
  4. Rub the butter with the flour and sugar to form crumbs. Sprinkle over the berry mixture and make sure that the entire surface is covered well. Do not pack down as this affects the texture and density of the crumble.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft. Serve warm with some cream or ice cream or as is. Keep leftovers in the fridge and warm up in the oven (covered) when needed. Keeps for two to three days (covered).
  6. Serve warm or freeze to keep for another day.

Molasses rhubarb-berry crumble

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Lemon-orange cake

Lemon-orange cake

If I could do this all over again (not too sure if I would considering that I’m up to my neck in camcorder reviews), I would make a couple of changes to my adapted recipe below. For starters, I want a more intense tangy flavour to the cake. The recipe below called for a very mild citrus cake that was neither flavoursome or sweet. Disappointing really although it could be salvaged with some frosting. But I’m not a frosting fan, so more orange-lemon flavour in the form of an increase in the amount of grated zest. I’d go for two small lemons and one entire orange. I would also stick to the recommended amount of sugar called for in the recipe – that a full 3/4 cups plus 5 tablespoons (or maybe omit two to three tablespoons) but I definitely would not replace caster sugar with brown sugar. Reason being that as I was creaming the butter, I could see melted brown sugar collecting below the sugar-butter mixture.

A note though – the cake doesn’t keep very well unless stored immediately in an airtight container – so best to eat it fresh. Perhaps with a cup of tea and a drizzle of either marmalade jam/glaze or honey.

Lemon-orange cake
Adapted from Exclusively Foods’s Lemon and orange cake

1 1/4 cup self-raising flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter
Slightly less than 3/4 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
Finely grated zest from one small lemon and half an orange
4 tablespoons (80ml) citrus juice (we use 2 tablespoons orange juice and 2 tablespoons lemon juice)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius (150 degrees Celsius fan-forced).
  2. Grease the side and base of a 20cm diameter (inside top measurement) round cake pan. We use a springform pan for easy removal of the cake. Line base and side of the pan with non-stick baking paper.
  3. Using an electric mixer or electric hand-held beaters, beat butter and sugar until very pale and creamy. This could take up to 20 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a few minutes after each addition. Don’t rush the addition of the eggs as the mixture will be more likely to separate and develop a curdled appearance. Add the zest with the last egg.
  5. Add half the flour and stir until just combined. Repeat with remaining flour. Mix in juice.
  6. Spoon mixture into prepared pan and spread evenly.
  7. Bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until a thin-bladed knife or wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. The cake should spring back when lightly pressed in the centre.
  8. Store in an airtight container. Best eaten on the day it’s made.
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Wholemeal cheesy muffins

Wholemeal Cheesy Muffins

This recipe is long overdue and I have forgotten any notes except for how spring it is – almost like cheese bread! And now back to my regular programming of assignments like yakima bike rack.

Wholemeal cheesy muffins
From Muffins, Scones & Teabakes by Periplus

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 egg
60 gms butter, melted (unsalted)
3/4 cup milk
2 tsp French mustard
extra shredded cheese

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 °C and prepare a muffin pan by lining it with paper cups.
  2. Sift the flours together in a large bowl and stir in the cheese. If your wholemeal flour is rather coarse, sift only the self-raising flour.
  3. Combine egg, butter, milk and mustard and mix well.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mix gradually and fold – not stir or beat – until all the ingredients are just moistened. A lumpy dough is absolutely fine as a smooth batter can result in a dense muffin.
  5. Spoon each batter evenly into each muffin tin – two thirds full – and sprinkle extra grated cheese over the tops. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden.
  6. Serve warm or freeze to keep for another day.

Wholemeal Cheesy Muffins

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A little breather.

With the Christmas sale now under way over at the Etsy store, I finally have some time to focus on my handmade toys. I contacted the designer and got her input on cottage licensing for the store. While she is indeed very generous with the terms of usage for her patterns, she has placed a limit on the number of finished toys I can sell at one time. I respect that decision and will abide by it. Still, it won’t stop me from stocking up on these toys. All I’ll do is finish selling one batch and just list the next batch.

Still, all these limitations are beginning to tempt me into looking at designing up my own patterns. Judging from the construction, it shouldn’t be too hard although I foresee most of the work going into drawing up the blueprints and sizing the toys. It is a process that is time-consuming, somewhat like designing a shawl from scratch – something I did back in Switzerland.

I should go back to this portion of the process – it is something that I do find enjoyable and worth the effort because if I were to come up with my own design, I can do what I like with it and not be constraint by copyright and intellectual property laws. Many others would not think twice about abusing this but it is people like that who hurt designers and the market for those of us who use such patterns. In my early knitting days, I was shameful unaware of this but now, I try not to repeat it again. In fact, I remember coming across a Lowyat.net business owner selling handmade crochet booties made from a pattern I swear was not for commercial purposes, and was quite tempted to drop a note to the designer about this. After seeking some insight onto the matter, I dropped the issue, mainly because I wasn’t even sure if it was the right move to make and didn’t want to come across as a moral police.

Anyway, perhaps in my spare time (if I have any hours to spare), I might tinker around with some stitch ideas and sewing patterns. But in the mean time, it’s the “manual labour”-type work plus assignments like best colon cleansers on top of everything else that will eat up my time.

For now, I have a little breathing space-time and I mean to enjoy it. 🙂

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