Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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And a good time was had by all

I must apologise to those of you who have been awaiting my tea party report with bated breath (that would be all two of you then!). I meant to do this last Monday, but work and life and things got in the way and I just couldn’t find the time. But better late than never as they say!

So, a quick recap for those of you who’ve forgotten (or just don’t know) what I’m going on about.
My wonderful blogging friend Katy (whose blog you can find here) is raising money for The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, in memory of her friend Michelle’s baby boy Keelan. Katy is raising money by hosting tea parties… and having other people host tea parties for her. Could there be a better way to raise money than by eating cake?! Clearly there could not! Which is why I had to get in on the action and host my very own tea party.

I went for an afternoon tea type event. The entire German-speaking world seems convinced that we Brits drop everything at 5pm every day and sit down for a cup of tea and a scone. I have no idea where they get this from! I’m sure most of us would love this to be the case, but do any of you know anybody who actually does this? No? Thought not. Netherless, I decided to keep the cliche going and have people round for tea (and scones and cake and little traingualr sandwiches) at 5pm on 9th July.

I got up nice and early and started cutting teapot shapes out of colourful paper.

You can’t actually see from the picture, but the non-patterned shapes have tea quotes on them.
Having decorated the living room to my satisfaction I headed to the kitchen, where the carrot cake I had made the night before was waiting to be iced.

The Yorkshire Parkin I had baked the week before was still waiting in its tin. Amazingly we had both managed to avoid eating any of it – despite the fact the Parkin is my absolute all-time favourite cake. I love it even more than the richest and most deliciously gooey of brownies – and that’s saying something!

Yorkshire Parkin

I was secretly hoping people wouldn’t be too keen on it so there would be lots left for me, but (alas) it went down rather well. In fact, I saw one guy take three pieces. Success!
The donations tin was placed prominently next to a plate of melon (a contribution from a guest) and, to my surprise, instead of taking the opportunity to get rid of a few coins almost every guest put in a note! We ended up with 76 euros in the tin. Add to that a donation each from Jan and myself, plus the fiver someone who couldn’t make it gave me a few days later and I was able to transfer 95 pounds to Katy’s just giving page! Much more than I was expecting! And I received more compliments on my baking skills on that one day than I have in the entire rest of my life. Conclusion: The tea party was a resounding success!


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How hard can it be to find a date?

Very is the answer to the question above  judging by the trouble I’ve been having doing just that. I was going to have my charity teaparty on the first Saturday in July, except it turns out a seminar  we’re having for work is being held on that day. This weekend I have visitors who I’ve promised to show round Karlsruhe and the following Saturday there’s a live music performance in my local Irish pub that I really want to see. It starts at 8pm and I’m planning on holding the tea party from 5pm (the five o’clock tea stereotype, remember?) which rules that date out. A tea party that has to end after three hours isn’t a real tea party! So it’s looking like I’m going to have to postpone things til further into July… but not too far in as towards the end things get busy again with Das Fest (Karlsruhe’s big music festival) on the weekend of 24th July followed by another trip to England the weekend after that for the next wedding. I’m not sure where I would fit in time to bake in among all that, never mind hosting the actual party! So another date shall have to be sought. In the meantime, I’m still collecting ideas for stereotypically British tea party food. All suggestions welcome! Recipes too, if you have them…


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Let’s all eat cake…

My amazingly wonderful blogging friend Katy is on a quest. A quest to raise money for a very good cause.
In January, Katy’s friend Michelle lost her baby boy, Keelan, to what was diagnosed as sudden infant death syndrome. Instead of dissolving into a little pool of grief (which is probably what I would done), Michelle chose to remember Keelan by raising money in aid of FSID – The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID). The original plan was to take part in Mile in Memory, walking a mile in memory of Keelan, which Michelle and Katy duly did. The day of the walk ended up expanding into a whole event, with a raffle, cakes for sale, a bouncy castle and general fun for all the family. Bteween them, they managed to raise an amazing £6000 for FSID! I think you’ll agree that’s quite an achievement.

Originally, the fundraising was to have ended there. Then they learned that the FSID has come up with a new fundraising plan. The charity is turning 40 this year and they are asking people to celebrate their anniversary (and raise money) by having tea parties. How could anyone resist the idea of having a good natter of a cuppa and a piece of cake and not even having to feel guilty about it because, of course, it’s all for charity! So of course, after not much debate, the two of them put their fundraising caps back on.
And that’s where I (and you) come in.

Michelle and Katy are going to be arranging tea parties in memory of Keelan, of course. But that’s not the big plan. The big plan is as follows: have other people host tea parties as well, in memory of Keelan and in aid of FSID. The more tea parties the better. They can be small tea parties or large tea parties. Virtual tea partiesm birthday tea parties, teddy bears’ picnics… anything goes. As long as the hosts believe it’s a tea party it will be accepted.

Naturally, I want to help too. I am, after all, in a perfect position on put the “international” into the events. And that’s where I need your help.

The Germans (and quite possibly all continental Europeans) have the idea of 5 o’clock tea firmly fixed in their heads. I don’t know why, but they’re utterly convinced that every British person drops whatever their doing at precisely 5pm every single day and goes off to have a cup of tea and a snack. No matter how often I inform them that I have never in my life gone out of my way to have a cup of tea and 5pm and can’t think of even one friend or acquaintence who has they remain utterly convinced that this stereotype is true. I’ve managed to get them to admit that it doesn’t always rain in the UK and I’m slowly convincing them that English food can actually be quite good, but the five-o’clock tea myth persists. No matter that nobody in the English-speaking world seems to have heard of it – they’ve always heard about it, therefore it must be true. So I’ve decided to embrace the stereotype. Why not? At least it’s a nice stereotype. So, I shall be offering my friends afternoon tea proper British style in memory of Keelan. Starting at 5pm, obviously.

And this is where I need your help! I want you to tell me what foods instantly spring to mind when I say the words “Afternoon tea”. The more traditionally English/British the better. I already have scones (both cheese and plain) on my list, and I even know of a source for clotted cream here in Germany! I’m also thinkin Cheddar cheese sandwiches – cut into little triangles for maximum posh Englishness – shortbread and Yorkshire Parkin (the latter shall be made using my Grandma’s recipe. What could be more English). But I need more! Hungry mouths to feed and all that. All contributions welcome, especially from those readers out there who are not British. What do you think is an absolute must at an English tea party? In this particular case stereotypes are welcome! (But only good ones, please. That’s what we’re trying to reinforce here).

By the way, you too can host a tea party in memory of Keelan. Check out The Dormouse’s Last Stand to find out how…


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In which I am reminded of why I do not sew…

Once again the weekend has gone by far too fast. It’s Sunday evening already, back to work again tomorrow and as usual I haven’t even managed to get through half of the things I had planned to do over the weekend. This time, though, I think it may have something to do with the fact that Jan and I spent most of yesterday sewing. Actually, that sounds far too tame to describe what we went through. Let’s replace sewing with “4 hours of kneeling on the floor, needle and thread in hand, wishing I had never heard of the word costume”. Yes, you did read that right, I said four hours. I felt like a cripple afterwards. my knee was hurting again, my left leg had gone completely dead and my lower back was killing. And why did I spend my entire Saturday afternoon sewing on the living room floor? Because the boyfriend and I were invited to a birthday party last night with the theme “comics”. Jan decided to go as something called The Phantom Blot (no, I’d never heard of it either. Something to do with Mickey Mouse apparantly…) So he found instructions on how to make a black robe, bought a huge piece of black fabric for a ridiculous amount of money and made him a costume. I’ve never been so glad to finish anything in my life! It was worth it though. The robe ended up looking really good. I refuse to go through that again any time soon though… I’ve already told him he has to keep the costume and dress up as something involving a black robe at every fancy-dress party for at least  the next four years…
By the way, in case anyone was wondering, I went as Minnie the Minx. Predictably none of the Germans had ever heard of her. I thought I looked good though…


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Let’s talk about CAKE!

Well, the flat-warming-slash-birthday celebration thingy was a success. Jan made guacamole, which was delicious (and also happens to be one of the things on his 101 things list – yes, he’s doing one too). Almost all of my chilli was eaten, and two people even took some home in tupperware tubs so it must have been good. And I made flat-warming cake, which I am now going to share with you, my internet pals, because it’s just too damn good not to. It is also my entry for the cake category of the Belgian Waffle Village Fete and believe me, it beats aubergine bee hands down.

cakePicture number one shows the basic cake, prior to icing. It was supposed to be chocolate cake. It looks more like my Grandma’s Yorkshire Parkin… all dark and sticky. I blame this on the random German syrupy stuff that I used in place of golden syrup. (Note to people living in Germany – if you replace the golden syrup in a recipe with Grafschafter Goldsaft it will not turn out like you’re expecting. Trust me on this one!) Also, notice how thin it is. I expected it to rise more than that, but apparantly using extra baking powder in the absence of self-raising flour (which doesn’t exist in Germany) does not work. Who knew?

cake2Stage 2 in the cake making process… chocolate butter icing. I had to add extra cocoa powder to mine because it was far too ridiculously sweet, even for me. The recipe called for 175 grams of icing sugar with only 75 grams of butter and two table spoons of cocoa powder. 175 g of icing sugar is just insane!

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the finished product.I give you Flat-Warming Cake… or what happens when you let a person with no artistic talent whatsoever loose with M&Ms, little sugar stars and the mini breadstick things from those nutella dip cartons…

cake3It’s supposed to be my building, except one floor is missing because I ran out of space. My flat is on there though – the white window at the top. Also, check out my flower. And my tree. I am totally proud of them… in a half-amused kind of way.


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Preparing for another busy weekend

The other week when Jan and I were in Mannheim we saw a poster (in the window of the tea shop we went in) advertising an English picnic in Ludwigshafen. It’s a cultural event apparantly, organised by Initiative Buchkultur, an organisation whose aim seems to be to promote the publiscation of “nice, good and well-made books” (sorry, I’m translating from the German here) because there are too many “cheap” books (in terms of both content and the way they are made), bad translations and books that haven’t been properly proofread. Fair enough.

So the picnic is taking place this Sunday. There are various different activities taking place… croquet, some performance by a Sherlock Holmes club, English folk music and more. Jan is mostly interested in the English beer tasting session at 2pm; I like the sound of the cream tea at 5. And, one of the items on my 101 Things list is “have a picnic in a town I’ve never been to before”. I’ve never been to Ludwigshafen before (even though it’s only 55 minutes away by slow train!) so that will be another item to cross off my list. Excellent!
That is, of course, providing we actually make it to Ludwigshafen…

I’m having a party tomorrow night, partly as a belated birthday celebration and partly because I’ve been promising to host a flat-warming party for months. So, two birds with one stone and all that…
I’ve asked people to come early (7pm… that is early for a German party!) in the hope that the party will also finish early (around 2am instead of after the sun comes up would be nice…) but we shall see what happens.

Yes, another busy weekend ahead, and today is preparation day. I have been shopping twice… but still don’t actually have everything because I’m running out of money! The living room is swept and the kitchen has been mopped. So now I just need to finish tidying the bedroom (aargh, where am I going to put everything?!), do the dishes (ugh, just kill me now…) and make cheese scones for the picnic. Tomorrow I have to make chilli, nachos and chocolate fudge cake for the party so there won’t be time to make picnic food as well. Urgh, sooo much to do, and seeing it written down like this makes it seem like even more. I guess I’d better get on with it then…


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Party, Party, Party

I’ve been so busy the last few days. On Thursday it was my birthday (as you all know by now). The boyfriend and I went for a curry, which was delicious, then to the bar in the student residence where I used to live. Jan left at around 3:30am because he was going away for the weekend, but I was there until 8 o’clock on Friday morning. Then on Friday, once I finally managed to drag myself out of bed, I went and bought the ingredients for cheese scones which I then baked for the leaving party I was invited to that night. It was a night time picnic in the park, which was nice. And finally, last night, I was back in the student residence for a birthday party. This time I made cookies and stayed til around 2am. It was all good fun but now I think I’m partied out… at least until Saturday when I shall be hosting my own birthday party….


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To move or not to move… a question of money

There was a party in my building last night. The same party we have every year at this time. Each floor has something different to sell (mine did cocktails and shots, others do various beverages and things to eat). There’s a band in the hall at the top and music playing in the bar in the cellar. There were actually two bands this year, one made up of people who live or have lived in the building and one “proper” band who were paid for coming to entertain us. The boyfriend was involved in the first band so I spent the first half of the night up there watching them play and most of the rest of the night in the bar where I was down to do a DJ shift starting at 11:30. The party was good but not really worth blogging about (which would explain why I’m doing exactly that…)

And in other news, some of you may remember that I was determined to move out of my building at the end of this semester. Well, the form we have to fill in to do so arrived this morning. I have until 19th December to either tick the box saying I want to extend my time here by another semester or the box saying I will be moving out at the end of this one. Should I tick the latter I need to choose whether I will be out of here by 1st March or 1st April. Obviously we all know what I want to tick. The only problem being that I don’t know yet whether I’ll have a job by the end of March, or indeed by the end of January. Without a job there’s no way I’ll be able to afford to live anywhere else. Oh yes, and there’s the small matter of actually finding somewhere new to love to be sorted out as well. Time to start flat hunting maybe? Things would be so much easier if Jan hadn’t decided to go and move in with someone else last year…


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Struck dumb

The Christmas dinner went really well. My crackers were a resounding success, the turkey was cooked exactly on time and I actually managed to get my roast potatoes to go brown! (I have bad luck with roast potatoes). It was 6am by the time I got to bed, after the last few stragglers had left and we’d managed to wash and dry our way through the huge pile of dishes. Even after we’d filled the dishwasher with the smaller stuff every kitchen surface was still covered with things to be washed. *sigh*. We got through it eventually though, and Ess was kind enough to stay and help. All in all I’d say it was a good night.

Still haven’t managed to get rid of the evil cough/sore throat thing though. In fact, today I’m coughing more than ever and my voice is almost completely gone. Most annoying! I need to get it back in time for work tomorrow.
Anyone got any ideas on how to get your voice back fast, other than sucking strepsils and drinking warm water that is…


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In which I acquire a social life

I went to a party last night. Just a small celebration, about 15 people drinking beer and eating crisps. It was in my building, one floor above mine, so I didn’t even have far to walk home. J, the giy who’s party it was, had applied to a programme (Fulbright I think) that arranges student exchanges to the US. Yesterday he heard that he’s been accepted, meaning he’ll be given a stipend and sent off to study abroad for a year. I proofread his application for him (it had to be written in English) which is why I was invited to the party. Well, it was a reason. Hopefully not the only reason. So I got my much needed drink… plus several more. Jan and I didn’t get to bed til 4 o’clock this morning!

Then this afternoon I went to meet a friend for coffee. We went to a cafe called Zero. They do this amazing hot chocolate. Erakleon or something it’s called – sounds Greek but the menu claims it’s Italian. Anyway, it comes in random flavours like strawberry and lychee or white chocolate and hazelnut and it’s just incredible. It’s so thick that you can’t actually drink it. It has to be scooped up a bit at the time and eaten with a teaspoon. Heavenly! Really it’s not quite cold enough for such things yet (today was gorgeous – sunny and quite warm for the time of year) but I decided to treat myself anyway.

So I have actually managed to socialise two days in a row. And this is the third weekend that I’ve been invited to a party. I’d better watch out… at this rate I’m going to find myself turning into a person who has a life, and then when will I find the time to blog? ;-)

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