35 Before 35: Progress report 5

The last time I reported on where I’m at with my 35 before 35 list was my birthday last year! You can read that post here if you’re interested. With precisely two months until my next birthday (33! Yikes!), I thought it was about time I updated you all on my progress. Not that I’ve managed to cross much off entirely, but I’ve at least made some progress on the reading front. Here’s what I’ve done since 13th August 2015:

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

I had to go all the way back to the progress report before last to see where I was up to before! I had previously read six non-fiction books, now I’m up to 12. I had actually read Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes, Victorian London by Liza Picard and Dear Fatty by Dawn French last time I updated, but apparently forgot to include them in my progress report. Since then I’ve read Everything You Wanted to Know About Rugby But Were Afraid to Ask by Iain Macintosh (which I actually bought for Jan) and Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid.

 

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

I had read 20 last time, now I’m up to 21. I read Apfelrosenzeit by Anneke Mohn. It was okay but not brilliant.

Number 18: Bake 10 different types of biscuits

Again, I had to go back to the time before last. I didn’t say how many types I’d baked them though, but research tells me it was 4. I’ve since baked Spiced Oat Cookies and Maple Pecan Nut Cookies, which makes six. Four more to go!

Number 20: Attend a World Cup rugby match

My dad actually managed to get us tickets for three rugby matches during the world cup in England, so I’ve more than completed this one!

RWC 2015

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

I’ve been trying sooo hard to read Big Read books lately! Last time I was on 13, now I’m up to 27! Not going to list them all here. I’m currently reading The Magus for Megan’s reading challenge and I’m part-way through The Unbearable Lightness of Being as well (started it a while ago), so I’ll hopefully be adding more to the list soon. Still over 100 to go 😮

Number 24. Go to 5 different Christmas markets (other than Karlsruhe and Durlach)

So, I originally excluded Karlsruhe and Durlach since I lived there and the idea was to go further afield. Based on the same principle, I excluded Basel last year. But I still managed to complete this item: I had been to two already so Colmar, Rheinfelden and Bern last year makes five.

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

I’d managed 18 last time (which was only 2 more than the previous check in). Thanks to a looong flight to New Zealand and back, I’ve actually managed a few more since last year and I’m now up to 27. Woo hoo!

That’s everything this time. I’m not sure I’ll actually managed to complete the list before I turn 35 (can’t see me actually affording 3 OU courses in the next 2 years!), but that’s okay. I already feel like the list has helped me make the most of my time. Next progress report… when I remember! 😉

Why I will not be taking up biscuit decorating for a living…

Last night, I thought I would make biscuits for Jan to take to work with him. I still have loads of food colouring left over from when I made blue cake, so I decided to decorate them. The idea was to surprise him with something relevant to his company, plus some standard Christmas biscuits. Unfortunately, I was forgetting one very important thing: I can’t actually draw on paper with a pencil, never mind on biscuits with icing and melted chocolate! I’ve forbidden Jan from actually taking any to work because I’m so embarrassed by them. Which, of course, doesn’t prevent me from uploading them to my blog for the entire Internet to see. Logic… not my strong suit! So, everybody meet my baking/decorating fails:

First I made some Christmas biscuits:

DSCN4561

Then I attempted to make gingerbread robots. Bear in mind I don’t own a robot cutter so these were improvised. Very, very improvised.

DSCN4563

Jan’s comment was “It looks like you’ve been doing some baking with an eight year old.” I think he was being generous… personally, after making the Christmas ones, I thought “I wish we had a two year old who I could blame these on!”.

On the bright side, I now get to add almond biscuits and gingerbread to my tally of biscuits baked for my 35 before 35 challenge. And hopefully I’ve given you all a good laugh to help you get through the final two days of the week…

35 Before 35 – Baking: Maple Pecan Nut Cookies

DSCN4418The first Sunday in advent is coming up, which for me – not being at all religious – is an excuse to drink tea and indulge in the first round of Christmas goodies. I decided to bake biscuits rather than buying stuff as an excuse to try out the cutters I bought last year and had only used a few of. I used a combination of this recipe, which somehow has something to do with Pippa Middleton, and one I already had. Unfortunately, it seems I should have replaced the egg in my other recipe with the maple syrup from the linked one – that way, I might have ended up with a more biscuity type dough rather than a soft, cookie one (yes, American readers. The word cookie exists in British English, but it refers to a specific kind of biscuit, not all of them!). If you want to use this recipe, make your dough into little balls before baking so you end up with nice round cookies. If you try cutting shapes like I did, you’ll end up with shapeless masses…

Maple Pecan Nut Cookies

Ingredients:
225g unsalted butter or margarine
225g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
1 egg
4 dessert spoons maple syrup
50g pecan nuts
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder (1 tsp if using German Backpulver)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Method:
1. Cream, the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar together in a large bowl.

2. Add the egg and maple syrup and mix to form a creamy batter. Break up and stir in the pecan nuts. (If you’re lucky enough to have a food processor, you can use that to do the breaking, but don’t make the nuts too small – you want nice chunks of pecan nut, not ground pecans!).

3. Sieve in the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix into a thick dough (you’ll probably need to get your hands in at some point to bring it all together properly).

4. Roll the mixture into 2 balls, wrap them in clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour.

5. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 160° C/fan 150°C/gas mark 3 and line a baking tray.

6. Form the dough into smallish balls, place on the baking tray(s) and bake for about 8 minutes or until the edges start turning brown (bigger cookies may take longer).

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CUT THESES BISCUITS INTO SHAPES! If you do, this:

DSCN4411

Will turn into this:

Oh well, they may not look very pretty, but they’re incredibly tasty. In fact, I’m not sure they’re going to survive until Sunday…

35 Before 35: Baking – Spiced Oat Cookies

I mentioned in my latest photo an hour post that I had been baking healthy biscuits (cookies), partly because I was intrigued by the idea of making biscuits with apple sauce to replace the sugar and partly because I’ve only baked 4 out of 10 types of biscuits for my 35 before 35 challenge so far! The recipe in question was a BBC Food one by Anthony Worrall Thompson, which you can currently find here (until the BBC takes it down…)

Supposedly each biscuit has 82 calories, although I used butter rather than his “baking spread” (which is later referred to as plain old “margarine” in the actual method!), so I’m not sure whether that makes a difference. Plus I used wholemeal spelt flour rather than normal wholemeal flour because that’s all Aldi had. Also, I doubled the recipe because 12 didn’t seem like very many biscuits. This was my first batch:

Not meatballs, honest!
Not meatballs, honest!

As you can see, there are 15 on that tray. The second tray then contained 20 (I placed them closer together because I couldn’t be bothered with a third batch – turns out that wasn’t a problem as they barely spread anyway!).

I flattened them “slightly” just like Anthony said (the photo above is pre-flattening) and the end result came out like this:

(Yeah, my food photography skills are non-existent.) NOT very biscuit/cookie like! Next time I’ll just squish ’em properly flat before putting them in the oven!

The end result was not as spicy as they smelled – although after a few days in an air-tight container the spice has come out much more – and more savoury than sweet. You don’t notice the apple sauce at all! Also, they’re not particularly hard/crunchy. The texture is actually almost cake like (think Yorkshire Parkin without the stickiness). They’re still surprisingly moreish though – I had to put them away on Saturday to stop us eating them all before dinner!

I probably will make them again, but next time I plan to add some nuts, seeds and dried fruit and call them “muesli biscuits”. Then count that as one more towards the challenge because that will be a totally different biscuit, right?

Also, in the process of making these, I discovered that mixed spice is not a thing in Switzerland, then when I tried to make my own I discovered that Allspice is not a thing either (or rather the only kind I could get was some gourmet version that cost about 15 francs… for Allspice! What the hell?!)

So, that’s half of my types of biscuits baked. Woo hoo! Next up will presumably be something Christmassy unless I try out my muesli biscuit idea before then… watch this space.

A Photo An Hour: 17 October 2015

October’s installment of Jane and Louisa‘s Photo an Hour linkup was yesterday, and for the second month in a row I actually remembered to join in despite having nothing particularly exciting planned. Jan was out for the of the day at a practice session for a choir he’s performing a concert with at the end of October and I have no friends here so it was just me, myself and I. Here’s how my day went:

10 a.m. I’m up! To start the day, the obligatory cup of tea and some porridgey stuff I spotted and found intriguing.

11 a.m. I want to go out so I’m taking a shower (hey, that’s almost a line from a song! Not intentional, promise!).

12 noon. Finally made it out. Now it’s cold I have to dry my hair, so getting ready takes ages. Plus I had to go back for my phone so I would actually know when it was time for the next photo!

1 p.m. Leaving the shops (photo actually taken slightly after the hour because I was in Aldi at photo time and I was afraid of getting in trouble for taking photos – lots of staff were hovering around!).

2 p.m. Walking home (I need the exercise). This is actually a side street as it was a bit more interesting than the main road I was walking down.

3 p.m. Just finishing my rather late lunch. Scrambled eggs with courgette (my idea of a healthy meal), a slice of toast with chickpea spread on (not pictured because I’d already eaten it) and of course a cup of tea.

4 p.m. A spot of housework! Not the most exciting photo, but I was hoovering at the time so what else should I have done?

5 p.m. I found a recipe for “healthy” biscuits (cookies) and was determined to bake them. Just a few of the ingredients gathered here – I then had to make my own mixed spice because it doesn’t exist here apparently.

6 p.m. Lining the baking tray with my new permanent baking “parchment” (clearly it’s not parchment, but Teflon).

7 p.m. Jan came home and made us each a cup of tea. Check out the matching mugs!

8 p.m. Cooking tea. Chicken with bulgur and beans.

9 p.m. Jan put the rugby on, so here’s the Haka.

Beer10 p.m. Half time nearly over. Drinking beer.

I went to bed just before 11 and decided not to stay up for the extra ten minutes and take a photo because I was convinced I had an even number. I was wrong. Symmetry ruined, grrr!

A photo an hour: Saturday, 21 March 2015

I managed to quickly upload these photos last night before Jan took the computer apart so that I could spend my lunch break writing up Saturday’s photo an hour. The chosen date happened to be the day of our leaving party, so for once the photos aren’t just drinking tea, cross stitching and doing housework! However, I also forgot to take any more photos after the party started so the day ends at 9 p.m. 😉

8:30 a.m. Faaar too early to be up on a Saturday, but I have loads to do. But first a cup of tea is needed! (Will there ever be a photo and hour day that doesn’t start with tea? I doubt it!)

9 a.m. (switching back to on the hour because I prefer it). Trying to find a recipe for the evening’s vegetarian option. It shall be curry, but which one?

10 a.m. Showered and dressed. How amazing are these tights?! I fully expected them to be ripped by the end of the evening, but they lived to see another wearing. Woo hoo!

11 a.m. Crushing biscuits, a.k.a wishing I owned a food processor!

12 noon. Melt chocolate, melt!

1 p.m. Taking a break from the kitchen to put together another box to be filled with things from the spare room.

2 p.m. Back to baking. Mixing flour and cocoa powder together.

3 p.m. The dairy-free chocolate and coconut cupcakes are out of the oven. Now they just need to cool so they can be frosted. Also, look at my fabulous new cupcake holders!

4 p.m. Switching to savoury food. Time to make cheese scones. (And immediately after taking that photo came the thought “Aaargh, it’s 4 p.m. and I haven’t even started peeling the potatoes for the curry yet!)

5 p.m. The potatoes are peeled and chopped, so I’ve decided to make a start on the chilli while I wait for Jan to return from the shops with the remaining curry ingredients.

6 p.m. Curry and chilli coming along nicely. (Please ignore the stack of dirty bowls in the background that I hadn’t got round to washing yet.)

7 p.m. First batch of sausage rolls done!

8 p.m. Moving things over to the table.

9 p.m. Finally everything’s ready (ages after our guests arrived)… let’s eat!

Aaaand that was it as far as photos are concerned. I didn’t get to bed until 3 a.m., but a photo an hour ended there. A very busy day, but the food was yummy! (I’m just glad the chosen date wasn’t the next day, otherwise this post would have consisted of 12 photos of half-packed boxes with different contents!)

You can see who else joined in this time on Jane’s and Louisa’s posts. Thanks for hosting, you two!

35 Before 35: Progress report 3

It’s been a while since I last updated you on my 35 before 35 progress. Seven months, to be exact. Since then, I’ve actually done quite a bit, so I thought it was time for another summary.

Number 7: Complete a cross stitch picture for myself.

I finished this one in September. It’s actually four small pictures, but I’m allowing it to count. For various reasons, they’re not up on the wall yet, but I completed the stitching and that’s what counts!

One of the four pictures
One of the four pictures

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

I was on three last time and now I’m up to six! I read The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel by Nicholas Ostler, Captain James Cook by Richard Hough and The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. The last one was quite short, but fascinating!

Number 14. Go back to Austria and finally try Marillenknödel.

I must be the only person ever who managed to live in Austria without trying this amazing traditional dish, which is why it ended up on my list. During our trip to Vienna in June, I finally managed to consume some, and they lived up to every one of my expectations!

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

The last time I updated, I’d read 10 books. Now I’m up to 17 thanks to my boss bringing in a load of German translations of Swedish crime novels that she wanted rid of. The alternative would have been for the books to go in the bin and there was no way I could let that happen! You can see what I’ve been reading in German here.

Number 18: Bake 10 different kinds of biscuits

I’ve only baked one more type of biscuit since my last update, but they were delicious! I baked Pistachio and Cranberry Cookies just a few weeks ago.

Number 20. Attend a world cup rugby match

Obviously there hasn’t been a rugby world cup since I last updated, so I haven’t completed this yet. But my dad phoned the other day to say his application for tickets had been successful so I’m going to all three of the matches at St James’ Park! We had originally asked for tickets to two matches, but my dad bought us some for the third anyway as our Christmas/birthday presents so we’re only paying him for two.

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

I was up to 8 (or 7 and two thirds) before, now I’m up to 9 (or 8 and two thirds). I still haven’t managed to finish the 3rd book in the His Dark Materials series because it’s too large to take on my commute and I’ve barely found time to read at home. I did read The Beach by Alex Garland though. I’m also still reading Middlemarch – I’m half way through now and it’s still boring as hell!

Number 29. Visit a continent I’ve never been to before.

Can you perchance guess what continent it was? Did my never-ending series of Taiwan posts maybe give you a clue? That’s right! I visited Asia for the first time in August.

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

This was originally 15 films, but after I watched film number 15 I decided that was too easy and changed it. Last time I updated you, I’d watched 5 films. Thanks to movie nights with friends, I’m now up to 16. You can see all the films I’ve watched here.

Aaaand that’s yer lot, for now. Not bad progress I have to say 🙂

35 Before 35: Pistachio and Cranberry Cookies

One of the snacks I made for my friends on Saturday night was Pistachio and Cranberry cookies. You can find the recipe on the BBC Good Food website, so I won’t plagerize it here.
Unfortunately, I made these biscuits on Photo an Hour day, and I was so focussed on taking a photo on each hour that I was halfway through the dough-making process before I realised I should probably take photos of the biscuit-making process too. I had dirty hands by that time though, so I wasn’t able to pick up my camera until the dough was almost ready.

Dough rolls
Dough rolls

By the way, when you get to the part of the recipe where it says “you may not to get your hands in at this stage”, replace the word may with will! Without using hands, there is no way of making the mixture into a dough.
After refrigerating, the bottoms of my rolls were a bit flat from where they’d been sitting on the plate, which meant the biscuits I cut from them weren’t exactly round…

Slightly deformed...
Slightly deformed…

Here they are again after baking. I left lots of space between each one in case they decided to spread, but they didn’t much.

biscuits

The finished article was very tasty. The bicuits themselves taste almost like shortbread and the mixture of cranberry and pistachio is a good one. I especially liked the ones where the pistachio was on top and had been roasted slightly in the oven. Mmmm!

The finished article
The finished article

That’s four types of biscuits down, six more to go.
For those who missed them, here are the previous biscuits I’ve baked for the challenge:

Honey Gingerbread Biscuits
Chocolate Brownie Biscuits
Chocolate Cherry Cookies

A photo an hour: 11 October 2014

I feel like I only just did a photo an hour post, but the September one was, in fact, nearly a month ago and yesterday it was time for the October version.
I actually got up at 10:30, but again I wanted to take my photos at full hours, so my first one is from 11.

11 a.m. Making breakfast

Toaster

12 noon. Out of the shower and on my way to get dressed.

PJs

1 p.m. Off to the supermarket for a few bits.

Trolleys

2 p.m. I woke up with the urge to bake, so now I’m back from shopping that’s what I’m going to do.

Baking

3 p.m. The cookie dough is chilling in the fridge, so time for a bit of cross stitch (I should really have been doing the dishes at this point, but whatever).

Snow cross stitch

4 p.m. Just finished hoovering

Hoover

5 p.m. Making a couple of baked potatoes for Jan and I to eat.

Potatoes

6 p.m. Preparing some snacks for movie night – this will be sausage rolls.

Sausage rolls

7 p.m. Snacks and a film… now all we need is for our friends to show up. (The sausage rolls were still in the oven at this point).

Snacks

Aaaand after 7 p.m. I forgot to take any more photos. For the record, our friends showed up and we watched Zombieland followed by Dogma. All the food was devoured (apart from a few cookies that I had for breakfast this morning), everyone left at midnight and then I went to bed.

For more Photo an Hour posts, see Jane’s blog Is That You Darling. Next month’s Photo an Hour will be taking place on 8th November. If you would like to join in, make a note of it now 🙂