Reading again.

Being on a self-imposed holiday without any knitting or craft of any kind means one thing – catching up on my reading.

The last time I picked up a book was months back and it is safe to say that I miss it terribly. One could always suggest that I settle for e-books which are plentiful but it’s not the same. After all, boardgames like Risk don’t give you the same feel as online games like Dead Island or Starcraft. (Having said that, I should break out my birthday present from my parents – they bought me a tab! – and use that for my e-books!)

Anyway, I got Nil to take me into town yesterday to get some English books. While they are not common, you *can* find some in large cities like Paris and yes, Lyon although selections are limited unlike back in Malaysia or Singapore where you have rows and rows of nothing but English books. Here, I have to contend myself with two rows of the books. In contrast, you would find a whole section of translated manga books. Heh.

I settled on two titles by Cecilia Anhern and one by Sophie Kinsella. Unwilling to spend more since I had already bought five books over BookDepository.com, I thought it better to wait for the arrival of the books than to purchase more. The recent hike in VAT for books (from 5.5% to 7%) meant that books were a little bit more expensive than usual. Most paperbacks would be in the 10-euro plus bracket instead of below and suddenly, some titles are hitting 20 euroes. Eeks indeed. Still, I must admit that dollar for dollar, reading is quite inexpensive here. Everyone loves the book store and Nil’s family is no exception – from his late paternal grandmother with her first editions to his uncle with his shelves of paperbacks.

Y’know, there is something about thumbing through a book on a cool summer afternoon out in the garden and even more commonplace to doze off with a book in hand (or on the face).

Ahh, the joys of reading.

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{ 34°C }

Bees busy buzzing!

We are seriously seeing some high temperatures this week – all hovering around 34-35°C. While it wouldn’t have been an issue in Dole, currently, the entire family is spending a few weeks semi-house-sitting for my mother-in-law. Nil calls me “Mabel’s self-imposed vacation”.

That means I spend less than two hours on the Internet each day, juggling assignments on precision instruments, emails and Facebook. I didn’t have time to pack my knitting or spinning so I’m left with just reading. It isn’t a bad thing at all. It has been quite a while since I last read anything and the environment here is good – garden, some breeze…

It has been good playing catch-up with some titles especially Christian titles by Max Lucado so much so that I ordered a few more titles via Book Depository. With any luck, I should have fresh titles to digest by this weekend.

Hopefully Nil is taking care of my plants and making sure that the house in Dole is still in relatively good shape. In the meantime, I’m hoping (and praying) for cooler weather. The following week looks to be cool so it’s just one more day to go.

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Mixed berry sorbet

Mixed Berry Sorbet

Summer has been knocking on our door for a while now and I finally succumbed to the call of the sorbetiere or ice cream machine. A picnic outside on wooden tables and such wouldn’t be complete without some ice cream! With the summer sales still going on, I took the plunge and bought a housebrand ice cream machine with the intention of making my own sorbets. Commercial sorbets have gelling agents which I’m not a big fan of and some have milk or soy components which I can’t take. Homemade, it would appear, is the best route for me and my elimination diet.

Since berries are in season, I decided on a mixed berry sorbet – raspberry, blackberry, strawberry and blackcurrants. I based on my recipe loosely on the one I found here and replaced the lemon juice & zest with my recently harvested orange-ginger fruit enzyme, orange flower water and vanilla extract. To make this sorbet even more unique and flavourful, I used a mix of sugars – 1/2 cup white sugar, nearly 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup palm sugar – to give it a less “refined” taste that comes with white sugar. For the mix of berries, I settled for 1/2 cup raspberry, 1/2 cup blackberry, 1/2 cup black currants and 1.5 cups strawberries.

First impressions on the ice cream machine
Cooling the bowl is very important. Preferably over 12 hours and if you can wait for 24 hours, that would be even better. The ice cream base has to very cold so that means sitting out in the fridge for the night. Because of the above timing, I’d make my base around the same time as I’d chuck the ice cream bowl in the freezer to freeze.

Then when churning the ice cream, try to keep the bowl/machine cool so this means working away from heat sources and in the coolest room possible. I covered my bowl with towels to help keep the cold in and since today was a chilly day, I left the windows open too.

If all else fails and the ice cream still doesn’t set, then have no fear, resort to old fashioned way and process it with a hand mixer or whip. You won’t have to repeat it a few times tho – maybe just once and it’ll be good to go!

Home-made blueberry ice cream
Based loosely on Tartelette’s recipe here
Ingredients

3 cups berries
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup fruit enzyme (orange)
1/4 cup orange flower water
A dash of vanilla

Method

  1. Wash all the berries and toss in a large pot with the other ingredients. Bring to a boil before simmering for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, blend (and strain if you don’t like to have bits and pieces – personally, I think it adds a nice texture to the sorbet) and chill overnight. Cooling is important especially if you’re using an ice cream machine so the mix has to be cold.
  2. Process according to your ice cream machine’s instructions.
  3. If you’re not using an ice cream machine, place the chilled mix in a container (leave room for expansion) and place in the freezer. After two hours (or when the edge has set), remove from the freeze and beat in a food processor/mixer or using a hand mixer or fork until it is smooth. Repeat this at least twice.
  4. Leave your ice cream (machine- or hand-made) to set in the freezer for at least a few hours (at least six to eight hours). Dish out as it is or decorate with some fresh berries or fruit.
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Tangy Fruit Enzyme – Part II

Harvested fruit enzyme!

That’s not my original fruit enzyme. The original fruit enzyme didn’t turn out well – there were black spots on the top and after two weeks, I wasn’t confident about the results so I started a new fruit enzyme with just oranges, lemon, kiwi and some ginger.

I made some adjustments this time around to the quantity of sugar and honey. I used about 300-400 gms of sugar and three heaped tablespoons of honey (only on the surface) for 4 medium sized oranges, 2 lemons and about four to five kiwis. With the advice of a friend in mind, after I finished layering the fruits and before adding in the sugar, I pressed down to remove as much air and space as possible from each layer, making it ultra compact.

The result is an orange-kiwi fruit enzyme that smells yeasty (hubby thought I made beer!) yet had a delicious orange taste to it. Very refreshing! I drink mine with some water although you can take it neat. After we finish with this, I might make a strawberry-lemon enzyme just to see how it would taste!

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Back to the spin!

I’m back on the spinning wheel despite having to deal with a sticky Noah. It will serve to give me a break from focusing on his eczema (and the treatments that we are putting him through) and just to make me feel like me again.

Now, I don’t think I’ll be religiously spinning like I did with the Tour de Fleece last year (yes, the last time I was in front of the spinning wheel was last year!) so I can expect to see the finished yarn in, if I’m lucky, a few months’ time. Why? Holidays, children, assignments on motorcycle apparel etc – those will cut into my spinning time.

Having said that, my parents are scheduled to touch down for the summer in less than two weeks! Time to spruce up the place again!

Back to the spin!

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