35 Before 35: Progress report 7

A blog post two days in a row? What is this madness? I hear you cry! Well, it’s exactly a month until my 34th birthday (HELP!) so I thought I’d better check what progress I’ve made on my 35 before 35 list since my last check in – which was in January, apparently.

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I was up to 18 last time, and now I’m on a grand total of…. *drum roll* … 19. Yeah. I read A Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. I reviewed it yesterday.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 22, and now I’m on 24. So a whole 2 for this category.  Die Stille Braut by Barbara Wenken (okay) and Märchenwald by Martin Krist (really good!).

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I’d read 46 last time and now I’m on 56! Finally some real progress. I’m not going to list them all, so you can see all the Big Read books I’ve read here. I have 67 left to read… theoretically it’s possible, as long as I stop reading everything else!

Number 30: Learn to crochet or knit (or both)

I haven’t written a post on it yet, but I did loom knit a bunch of tiny hats (too small for even a newborn, but recognisable as hats) and one and a half socks for myself. Loom knitting isn’t exactly knitting, but the items are made of wool and look knitted so I’ve decided it can count.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before

I had made it to 29 last time… and now I’m finished! I’ve actually managed to watch all six of the films I still needed this year. I completed this item by watching Kajaki. You can see what else I’ve watched here.

Number 34: Drink champagne in Champagne.

Woohoo! I actually did this. Thank you Germany and your ridiculous amount of public holidays in the spring! I wrote about it here.

So, I have made some progress on the reading front, discovered a new hobby in loom knitting (because I totally need even more sedentary hobbies with the way the scales are looking!), crossed off one more travel item and actually managed to watch films for a change. With one year and one month to go, I obviously won’t manage everything (especially not all the travel-related items) but hopefully I will at least get all the reading crossed off. Wish me luck!

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35 before 35: Champagne in Champagne

Champagne

WordPress congratulated me on my anniversary this morning… apparently this blog has existed for a whole nine years today! So even though I didn’t intend to blog, I didn’t feel like I could let such a momentous occasion pass without a post. And what better way to celebrate than with champagne (albeit champagne that has already been drunk).

Whit Monday is a public holiday in Germany and Switzerland (or at least the parts that are relevant to us), which meant a long weekend. We didn’t want to let it go to waste, so with the Champagne region a mere four and a half hours’ drive from here, I decided it was time to check something else off my 35 before 35 list.

We were staying in Reims, but after arriving there on Saturday evening we decided to spend some time exploring other place and save Reims itself for the next day. First of all, we drove to a village called Avizes, where there’s a champagne company that one of Jan’s colleagues recommended (the one in the photo at the top of this post). Unfortunately they had already closed for the weekend so we couldn’t book a tour. We stopped in a little park just outside the village where even the landscaping featured champagne!

The next stop was Epernay… home of the (apparently) world-famous “Champagne street”. All the big names have headquarters there.

As you can see, it had started to rain by this point, so we were glad to head off and find some food (and actual champagne to drink!). We each chose the evening three course meal. Jan was driving, so he drank some delicious apricot juice, but I chose the version of the meal that came with three types of champagne. Sadly I don’t remember what they were, except that the first one did come from where it says on the glass. How’s that for a wine list though!

After breakfast the next day, we headed into Reims for a look around. I’m going to tell you about that in a separate post though, since there was no champagne drinking involved and this post is for the 35 before 35 item 😉 Instead let’s skip ahead to that afternoon, when we had a G. H. Mumm cellar tour booked.

We saw some of the barrels they originally used, each with the name of the village the grapes came from, learned about the villages where Mumm grow their grapes, saw all the different sizes of champagne bottle that exist (Mumm only has about 4 of them available!) and visited the museum.

Obviously the tour ended with a glass of champagne!

And that’s item 34 crossed off my list: Drink Champagne in Champagne.

 

35 Before 35: Mini Egg Easter Cookies

After nearly two years in Switzerland I still hadn’t baked anything for Jan’s colleagues, so this weekend I decided that needed to change! With Easter coming up, something relating to that seemed appropriate, so I found this recipe, bought Cadbury’s Mini Eggs and got to work.

The dough looked pretty with all the colourful bits of shell:

cookie dough

I didn’t have brown sugar so I used ordinary granulated sugar. It seemed to work okay. Here are some cookies waiting to go in the oven:

cookies

And here they all are, cooling on a rack:

Easter cookies

There weren’t enough for me to try one and for most of Jan’s colleagues to get 2 each, so I couldn’t tell you how they taste. They looked good though and my entire flat still smells yummy even as I type this (after the cookies have already left the building). At least there were a few Mini Eggs left over for me to munch on 😉

And that makes biscuit number 8 for my 35 before 35 challenge!

35 Before 35: Bourbon Creams

I came up with the idea of attempting to bake Bourbon Creams ages ago (it’s not like I can just buy them here after all), but in typical Bev fashion took forever to get round to actually doing it. Finally, over the weekend, I  remembered to google the recipe. All the ones that came up seemed to be the same so I just used the first link I had clicked on, which was this one. Apparently the original came from Jamie Oliver… I should have known right then that things were too good to be true.

The recipe said that, before kneading, the mixture would be “slightly crumbly” but “show the promise of coming together”. After adding extra milk, I managed to achieve “slightly crumbly”, then had to knead separate balls for each biscuit. That was the only way I even had a chance of getting the dough to not fall apart as soon as I started trying to roll it.

The recipe said the ingredients would make “about 14”. I’m not sure whether that meant 14 Bourbon Creams or 14 biscuit halves, so 7 Bourbon Creams. After much kneading and attempting to roll, then re-kneading because the bloody thing had fallen apart again and then re-rolling, I eventually ended up with this:

biscuits

Yeah… it also turns out I don’t have a rectangular cutter. Admittedly these biscuit layers are way too thick and if I could have rolled them thinner without breaking them I could have got more out of the mixture, but there’s no way 14 would have happened!

I baked the biscuits, left them to cool, made the filling and was finally left with this:

They were very tasty, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be making them again, at least not using that particular recipe. I think I’ll stick with Nigella for sweet treats from now on 😉 But even if I only actually ended up with four biscuits, I still baked and that’s good enough for the 35 before 35 list!

Eight types of biscuits down, two to go. Any suggestions?

 

35 Before 35: Progress report 6

It seems my last 35 before 35 progress report was on 13th June 2016! So much for regular check ins 😉 Time for another one then. Here’s what I’ve managed to do in the last 7 months:

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I had read 12 by last June and I’ve now reached 18. I’m not going to list all 6, but you can see them here. I need to get cracking with this one if I really want to complete by the time I turn 35! (Next year, by the way. Aarghh!).

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I had read 21, now I’ve read 22. Huh. I read Emmas Geheimnis by Liz Balfour, which would have been better if it wasn’t so predictable. I had only read one book in German between the last progress report and the one before that as well. Must try harder!

Number 18: Bake 10 different types of biscuits

I was on 6 before and now I’m on 7. The seventh was chocolate Christmas biscuits.

dscn9850

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I’ve been trying very hard to incorporate BBC Big Read books into all my challenges and have managed to increase my number from 27 right up to 46! And one of those was the ridiculously long Shogun. You can see the full list here. I now have less than 100 to go… 86 to be precise.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before

Last time I was on 27. I’ve watched two more since then: Mirrormask and Paddington. Six more to go. Watching films should not be this difficult!

And that’s everything. It doesn’t seem like much for six months! Apparently I’ve mostly just been reading.

1 year, 6 months and 27 days to go. Somehow I don’t think I’m going to make it to Slovenia, Champagne and somewhere to see the Northern Lights by then! Not to mention learning to knit…

Chocolate Christmas biscuits

Since this first December weekend was a rare one in which we had no plans, I decided it was time for some Christmas baking. After all, it is the month of all the sweet treats! I used Nigella’s recipe for Chocolate Christmas Biscuits, but I added in some cinnamon and vanilla along with the cocoa powder because I don’t see how just sticking some sprinkles on top magically makes a biscuit Christmassy! You can’t really taste the cinnamon, but I know it’s there and that’s what counts 😉

Here are some of the biscuits fresh from the oven:

Instead of making cocoa powder/icing sugar/water icing, I decided to melt white chocolate for the decoration. My initial plan was to make some of the biscuits look like Christmas puddings and just put some white chocolate in the middle of the others and then decorate with sparkly things, but I quickly got bored of that and started drawing random patterns with white chocolate. When you bear in mind that I did all my drawing with a teaspoon I think they came out okay!

Apart from the Christmas puddings, I think the Christmas trees are my favourite!

Have you done any Christmas baking yet this year? What’s your favourite Christmas biscuit (I still have 3 more types of biscuits to bake for my 35 before 35… give me ideas!)

Book challenge by Erin 5.0 – month 3

books

In the third month of Erin’s challenged I managed to read a grand total of two books. One of those books had over 1,000 pages though, so I feel no shame! Also, for one of the categories I ended up reading a book that was not included as a suggestion on my preliminary list. Sorry Erin! Here are the categories I completed in September:

25 points: read a book set in a country that you have always wanted to visit.

I literally just finished reading Shogun by James Clavell about half an hour ago! It’s a good job I had this week off otherwise there’s no way I would have got through it this month. My copy has 1,210 pages… that’s a lot of reading for just 25 points! It’s set in Japan, which is maybe not a place I’ve always wanted to visit (did I care about visiting anywhere when I was 5?), but I’ve definitely wanted to go there for a long time. I was reluctant to start reading this epically long book, but by the time I’d read the first chapter I was hooked. It did get tedious at times and I felt like it could have been a lot shorter, and the author’s obvious love for his main character also grated occasionally (yes, Blackthorne is sooo well endowed and so clever and can learn Japanese faster than anyone, ever. I get it!), but overall it’s a really good book. I gave it 4 stars (although I will never read it again… that is far too many hours of my life that I won’t get back!).

30 points: read a historical fiction book.

I originally suggested two tentative possibilities for this, but what I actually ended up reading was The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. It’s the story of a clan of Neanderthals who adopt a little Cro-Magnon orphan girl – you can’t get much more “historical” than that! There were a few things that annoyed me about this book – most notably the weird things the author felt the need to explain, like what hypothermia is – but I got through it quickly despite it being pretty long (495 pages) and I was always interested to find out what would happen next so I gave it 4 stars.

That’s five out of ten books read, and this month’s 55 points brings my total up to 90 points. One month, five books and 110 points left to go!

Both books are also on the BBC Big Read, so that’s another two books closer to completing that category for my 35 before 35 list.