Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

No trick or treaters this year, unfortunately - it's blowing like the dickens out there and pouring rain to boot, but we had our own little Halloween celebration inside.

You'll remember from last year's gala that we like to make spooky food for dinner on October 31st.

eyeball salad, witches fingers, vulture wings and scary soup (with a big wave to Sandra in Korea!)

dirt pudding with cookie ghosts and gummy worms

Is your mouth watering yet?

The boys carved pumpkins too. (Boy13's on the left, Boy10's on the right)

and of course we lit up the yard a bit to confuse the neighbours

Back to "normal" tomorrow.

Monday, October 30, 2006

the ghosts of Halloween past

Not to be outdone by the (cute as a button) Big Finn, this small Canuck has decided to post her own bunny costume picture, plus a couple more images of me in my young and carefree years. Not that young, mind you. It was the early 80's and I was in my early 20's. Could life have been any better?

This first one was in my second year at the ol' alma mater. I lived at the student residence so when we weren't studying, we were partying. Can you believe it? Mausi was a party animal. My mother sewed those pink bunny ears for me when I had a part in a 6th grade musical and I kept them all those years knowing they'd come in handy some day.

Me (yes, I also had a white fluffy tail) and my partners in crime - Muffy the candy-striper and Buffalo Jill.

This one was taken a couple of years later when I was sharing an apartment with a couple of girlfriends. The 6ft tall Minnie Mouse didn't live with us, thank goodness. I'm the dead looking one on the right. As I recall, we took the bus downtown wearing those get ups. Those were the days.

And last but not least, me as a wrinkly pumpkin in the mid-80's. I think one was supposed to wear an inner tube inside of this costume, but really, would YOU walk around with an inner tube around your middle? Not sure who carved that sad looking specimen next to me.

We'll be carving much happier looking pumpkins this afternoon in celebration of Halloween tomorrow. Who knows, I may even dress up.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

by special request

Marianne, my lovely friend and fellow Canadian resides in beautiful New Brunswick, one of the Maritime provinces on Canada's East Coast where they have puffins and gorgeous maple trees and all the Timbits you could ever want. Marianne asked me to post some pictures of the fall foliage in our area. Well, what she really said was, "Sugar, [that's what she calls me] I want to see the pictures with the leaves and berries - I prefer your pics of turkeys and marble cakes but I need some nature shots so I will stop wanting to bake things after I read your blog!!!!"

Isn't she funny?

So I went out yesterday and had a look around and this is what I found. Around here, it's not so much about the changing leaves as about the berries and seed heads that the plants produce in fall. The trees we do have here - oak, ash, beech, poplar, birch and chestnut, tend to have fairly small leaves that go quite quickly from brown to yellow. I did manage to find a few interesting leaves though, along with some colourful shrubs.

I grew up calling this tree a mountain ash, but have since discovered that it goes by many other names.

mountain ash leaves

mountain ash covered in berries

In German this one is called an Essigbaum, a "vinegar tree". It is quite invasive and will take root just about anywhere, sending out underground shoots.

sumac leaves

Rose hips are often used to make tea or jelly in Germany. They are extremely high in vitamin C. Mr M has been drinking Hagebuttentee or rose hip tea since he was a little kid and he rarely gets ill. And when he does get ill? More rose hip tea, of course. He says it helps no matter what's wrong with you. I wonder if it could bring about world peace?

rose hips

The Oregon-grape is native to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest and was brought over to Europe where it is used as a decorative shrub. Makes me feel right at home! The "grapes" are edible (but taste pretty awful raw) and can be made into jam.


These firethorn berries belong to a bush that Boy10 won in a raffle at a Christmas Market a few years ago. He wasn't all that thrilled with his prize, but we planted it in our garden and it has grown into an impressive, if very prickly, shrub with tiny white flowers in the summer and beautiful yellow berries in the fall.


Cotoneaster has very pretty ornamental berries and can be used as a ground cover or hedge.


The leaves of the Japanese and Virginia creeper turn such beautiful colours in the fall. The Japanese creeper was trailing down our neighbour's fence, and the Virginia creeper is ours, growing at the front of our house and all over the railing of the deck in the back.

Japanese creeper

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper

Along with a few asters and dahlias, these crysanthemums are the last of the flowers in the garden this fall. I love their deep red colour.


So there you have it, my dear! Do I get my Timbits now?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

playing with fire

The weather was gorgeous this weekend, warm and sunny and just plain enjoyable. And what better way to take advantage of all that than with a weenie roast? Funny how males both large and small seem to have the same fascination with fire. We don't have any lighters around the house and it luckily never occured to our boys to play with matches (which were well hidden in any case), but they sure do love to sit outside and stare into the flames. Cave man stuff, I guess. Today they made MY lunch for a change!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

what the world needs more of

Found this over at Philip's.

Go hug someone.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

chick magnet alert

Boy13 got the braces off his teeth today. Lock up your daughters.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mausi's got a bun cake in the oven

What a difference a word makes, eh?

Nope, there aren't going to be any new additions to this little family, 'cept maybe a dog, so anything that happens around here between two consenting adults behind closed doors is strictly for recreational (as opposed to procreational) purposes. Yes, it's true, people over 40 ARE still sometimes able to summon up enough energy to...you know.

But enough of that. Out of the bedroom and into the kitchen to talk about my second favourite pastime - making something out of nothing, aka cooking.

Lately we've been trying, with the emphasis on trying to "live a healthy lifestyle" and "eat a balanced diet" but sometimes pure lust gets in the way and we just can't help ourselves.

Last week Mr. M came home from work, looked deep into my baby blues with his brown puppy dog eyes and said, "Mausi, if I shower you with diamonds and pearls will you bake me a Marmorkuchen in that new cake pan you bought when we were on vacation? Pleeeeease? I really, REALLY need cake right now."

And who was I to deny a man in need?

Ahhh, Marmorkuchen - marble cake. Every German boy's dream and pure heaven with a cold glass of milk. If you're not familiar with this cake, you'll be pleased to know that just like ratatouille isn't made with rats, marble cake contains not a single marble. If you remember to brush after meals, your teeth are safe with me.

Since the arrival of baking powder (mass production began in Germany in 1898), cakes like this are often baked in a Gugelhupf (say Google-hoop-pfff and you've got it) pan. You might know it as a tube or Bundt pan. It's really all the same thing although the design may vary somewhat. A traditional Gugelhupf cake , however, is less sweet and more bread-like, made with yeast, raisins and nuts.

Of course you can bake marble cake in a different pan, but somehow it's just not the same. My kitchen is pretty well stocked with bakeware - I've got loaf pans and quiche pans and flan pans and muffin tins ad infinitum, but can you believe that up until August of this year, I never had a Gugelhupf pan? And guess where I finally aquired one? In Vancouver. Actually, my mother bought it for me after asking if there was anything I really needed. ("Besides a new life, you mean?" "Yes, besides that.")

We were checking out all the home decor places and there it was, a nice, sturdy black Gugelhupf pan. And what was stamped on the outside? Why "Made in Germany" of course. *sigh* You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave, I guess.

The weird thing, though, was that this pan was cheaper than any of the ones I'd seen in Germany. Well, cheaper if you disregard the thousand euros or so that I paid for my plane ticket, but as I think I've mentioned before, math was not my strongest subject.

So I was happy, Mum was happy and Mr. M was positively delirious. Cake will do that to a guy, I've been told. I'm beginning to think that all this "understanding the male psyche" stuff may not be quite as difficult as it seems. Looks like the way to a man's heart really IS through his stomach. (I'm still waiting on the diamonds and pearls, though.)

If you, too, want to experience new heights of ecstasy, try out this easy recipe .

Friday, October 13, 2006

home is where the heart is

I picked up one pale, tired and slightly cranky Boy10 from the bus today. They were 45 minutes late but not everyone got the message in time so I and some other parents arrived a bit early. I was lucky and was invited to spend 3/4 of an hour sitting in some other mother's heated VW van talking kitchen renovations. Whoo.

The little boy and his big smile

Mr. M bought him that giant heart yesterday when he was out shopping. It's made of Lebkuchen and says "I miss you" on it. These Lebkuchenherzen are really popular at festivals and markets and you can get them with just about anything written on them. Boy10 was so pleased that he ate half of it as soon as we got home.

Here are the dreaded boots and socks.

Yes, the socks had, in fact, been stuffed into the toes of the boots since Wednesday and the odour is incredible. Incredible in a bad, bad way. Nasty doesn't even begin to cover it. I'm very sensitive to smell and almost keeled over when I took everything out of the sandy plastic bag Boy10 had used to transport his wet stuff. Time for the detox chamber.

There were also souvenirs. They did not smell.

I think I'm going to claim the cool coffee mug as my own.

So now that that's all over with, the boys have got 16 days of fall break ahead starting tomorrow. That means no homework for them and sleeping in every morning for me. Could life get any better? Wait, don't answer that. But being able to sleep in is ONE good thing, right?

Time to go fire up the washing machine...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

1,000 watts

It's been awfully quiet around here this week. That's because our resident chatterbox and bundle of energy Boy10 has been away on a five-day class trip to a youth hostel in the small town of Otterndorf on the North Sea in the region of Cuxhaven close to the mouth of the Elbe River.

Boy13 is enjoying the silence - no one following him around the house, coming into his room and touching his stuff without permission or making silly faces at him from across the dinner table, but I think he does miss his little brother a tiny bit.

The school kids explored the village, did some biking and visited an indoor wave pool. But the big highlight, at least for Boy10, was taking part in a Wattwanderung - wadlopen (really a Dutch word) or mudwalking as it's more commonly called in English. Whatever you call it, involves slogging through the muddy sand of the Wadden Sea at low tide and getting very, very dirty.

Boy10 phoned us last night,(as he had done every night since Monday - I think he's homesick!) and told us that the Wattwanderung was really great and that his rubber boots and socks got completely wet and muddy. In the summertime, many people go mudwalking in their bare feet, but it's a bit too cold for that at this time of year, so rubber boots it was. I've heard it's the most fun when you sink in right up to your knees and Boy10 apparently achieved that goal. Concerned mother that I am, I asked him what he had done with his soggy socks, if he had perhaps hung them up to dry somewhere. "Nope." he replied, "I just stuffed them back into my boots. And, sorry, but my pants kind of got wrecked too." I can see I've got my work cut out for me when he gets back. ChicagoKarl's kids did some mudwalking earlier this year and just look how they ended up. Boys will be boys, I guess!

Just a note on the pronunciation of Wattwanderung should you ever have the chance to use that word in casual conversation. The "watt" part isn't pronounced the way the English word watt would be, it's more of a "vhaaahhhht" sound. Say it with me - vhaaaahhhtvonderoong. Got that? Perfect. I knew you could do it.

The children arrive back in town tomorrow at lunch time and I'll be there to pick up my muddy little guy. I've missed him and can't wait to see his 1,000 watt smile when he gets off the bus.

same as it ever was

This is the kind of week I'm having. (I also just love this weird, weird song)

And yeah, how DID I get here??

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

It's that time again. The time when my American friends say, "Huh? Oh, that's right, you crazy Canucks celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Go figure." Yep, second Monday in October and don't you forget it.

But I'm not in Canada any more so why bother celebrating at all? Well, because tradition is important to me and I want my kids to be aware of their heritage. And besides, there's nothing they like better than to sit down to a special dinner with our little family. We do eat together every day, of course, but they look forward to the fancy meals the most.

This year's feast which we had last night since Boy10 is away on a field trip this week. I try to keep it small because there are only four of us, but I like to have a lot of variety.

The bird is surrounded by brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash with brown sugar and nutmeg, red cabbage and bacon-wrapped green beans. Fiber and beta-carotene, baby! Yeah! Stuffing was vetoed long ago by three out of four family members (not me! I love stuffing but my hips don't!) and none of us really care for gravy, so I dispensed with both of those. And can you believe it? This year will go down in history as the first year that I forgot to make cranberry sauce. I must be getting old - I can't remember a thing anymore if I don't write it down.

For dessert we had, what else, pumpkin pie, made from scratch with that lovely Hokaido pumpkin I bought on Saturday.

I had a bit of extra pie filling so I poured it into some little ramekins and baked it like that. The recipe for the pie and for the green beans (which are REALLY good and must be tried) can be found at last year's Thanksgiving post.

I know I whine sometimes, but I do have SO much to be thankful for, including the many wonderful friends who have come into my life, especially in the past few years. You all know who you are and I thank you.

you must be out of your gourd!

Fall is in full swing here right now and I needed a pumpkin to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving so on Saturday we took a drive to a small farm one town over. The farm is known for its unattended "U-pick" flower garden where you pay for your bouquet on an honour system, but until our neighbour mentioned it to us, I had no idea that they also sold pumpkins, squashes and the like.

After I saw their huge selection, I couldn't let it go at just one measely pumpkin and we came home with this assortment. Aren't they just beautiful?

First to the ones in the basket. The large green one in the back is a bottle gourd, the smallish pale one a butternut squash. The stripey one is a spaghetti squash, and in the front we have the vivid orange Hokaido pumpkin.

The squash outside the basket to the left goes by the name of Turk's Turban, which says it all, doesn't it? And to the right we have my very favourite - the Speckled Swan gourd. I'm just totally in love with this gorgeous creature and kept giving it little pats on our way home. "Stop caressing that gourd right now!" Mr. M had to say, "people are going to think you're weird!" Heh. Like they don't already.

As lovely as they were, I was forced to sacrifice two of my treasures to that bizarre annual ritual known as Thanksgiving dinner. They were willing victims, though. Never said a word. If you know your vegetables you may have guessed which two met their maker today. One more will be in for it later in the week but I'm trying to be casual about it so the rest of them don't catch on.

We had a little harvest of our own as well.

The grapes are ripe and there are just tons of them this year. The vine actually originates under our neighbours' house but grows over to our side (we live in a duplex) so when we moved in here and built our deck we cut a hole in the boards, letting the vine grow through, and now it has reached all the way up to the top balcony and we can look out our bedroom window and see the grapes hanging there. With this year's bumper crop we may just be making some wine. If it turns out you're all invited to come on over and get really drunk have a taste.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

babes in the woods and oh, my aching back

Boy, what a week. All of us except Boy10 got struck down with another one of those mystery diseases that lasts from Wednesday to Friday and leaves you feeling like you just might throw up any minute. Boy13 and I had it better than Mr M, though, who actually DID throw up on Wednesday evening after he came home from taking the boys to Oktoberfest. Eeew. He blamed it on a bad bratwurst but I still think it was a nasty virus. Along with the nausea I was also treated to intense joint and muscle pain, including an evil backache. That would have been fine if I could have just hung out on the sofa for three days, but no, Boy10's class had planned a picnic for Thursday afternoon and the little guy really wanted to go so I downed a travel sickness pill and off we went.

The outing had been organized by two grade 11 students, one girl and one guy who are responsible for Boy10's class. It's a nice idea - If the 5th graders have any difficulties or questions at school, they can approach these two for help if they don't feel like going to a teacher.

We were set to meet at the bus stop in the next town and we were the first ones there. S, the older girl, arrived just after we did and my brain promptly shifted into social anxiety mode. There I was shuffling my feet and staring at the ground until I suddenly though to myself "Hey, wait a minute, you're supposed to be the adult here! Bring out the small talk, dammit!" Then the rest of the group arrived with their children - mostly mothers, a couple of fathers. More social anxiety. I had only seen these people briefly at the first parents' meeting at the beginning of the school year and didn't know any of them.

But I got over my anxious self and actually did strike up a few conversations during our half hour hike uphill through the woods. Can you say half dead? I was REALLY happy to sit down on our blanket when we arrived at the picnicking field.

The kids seemed to enjoy themselves, although the balance was tipped heavily in favour of the girls. There are 19 girls and 12 boys in Boy10's class and only three of the boys showed up. Those three survived, however, and a good time was had by all playing badminton, soccer and Twister.

While I was sitting there on the grass, I observed our hosts, two 17-year-olds, mere children in my eyes. I found myself thinking how young and innocent they looked and silently wondered if they were getting up to all the mischief I got up to when I was 17. All that and more, most likely. Scary, scary thought.

Friday we had our friends over for dinner and I cooked up a storm to take my mind of off of my severely compromised state of health. T and K brought their 16 yr old daughter with them since she is between boyfriends at the moment and had nothing better to do. She spent the evening on our computer surfing the net for chihuahua puppies, her new passion, seeing as the the boyfriend thing wasn't working out too well. She says she's had it with men, but I told her to keep an open mind. You know what they say: Boyfriends are like elevators - another one always comes along. Geez, I sure wish I could go back and be 16 again.

Moving right along, it's Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and you know what that means, don't you? Food!! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

you asked for it

A couple of days ago an anonymous commenter (I'm very sorry to hear about your mother, BTW) requested the recipe for the plum cake I made last week. If you can read German, the original recipe is from the Dr. Oetker site and here's the English translation I sent to Carol way over in Washington State. If you don't do metric, there are tons of converters out there on the web that can help you with the amounts.

Zwetschgenkuchen - Plum Cake
yeast dough:
375 g all purpose flour
1 package dry yeast
50 g sugar (I think I would add a bit more next time because the plums were very tart)
1 package vanilla sugar or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 medium egg
200 ml lukewarm milk
50 g butter or margerine, melted

plum topping:
about 2 1/2 kg Damson plums
granulated sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on after baking

Now, I just threw the dough ingredients into my bread machine on the dough cycle and let it go to work. You can also do this by hand following the traditional yeast dough method.

When the dough has doubled in size, roll it out on a rimmed baking sheet. Mine is about 15" by 15" and the dough spread out fairly thinly. You could also do this in two springform pans, I suppose.

Halve and pit the plums, making a small cut in the narrow end of each plum half to keep them from bursting while they are baking. Then lay the plums out on the dough in an overlapping fashion.

Bake at about 400°F (200°C) for 20 - 30 minutes until dough is golden and plums seem coooked. Remove cake from oven and sprinkle with sugar (mixed with a bit of cinnamon if you like) after it has cooled down a bit. Nice served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

And then...the lovely Maribeth asked for the Schweinshaxe recipe and I thought I'd share it with all of you.

I found the recipe here at Marions Kochbuch which has tons of other great German recipes. Here's a translation so everyone can get in on the fun.

Schweinshaxe - Pork Hocks
1 kg (about 2 lbs) pork hocks
20 g (4 tsps) pork lard (I used olive oil!)

1 onion
1 bay leaf
1 tsp juniper berries
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1/4 L (1 cup) water
1/8 L (1/2 cup) beer

2 tsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Slash fat and skin on pork hock in a diamond pattern and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Heat fat in a large dutch oven and brown hocks well on all sides for about 10 minutes. Peel and quarter onion and add to pot along with spices. Pour 1/8 L boiling water over all and place uncovered in oven. Roast for about one hour, turning hocks occasionally and basting with some of the beer. Add a bit more water if necessary. When done, remove hocks from dutch oven and deglaze pot with remaining water and beer. Bring to a boil and add cornstarch, stirring until thickened. Season with pepper and salt to taste.

Et voilà! (or viola, as some people on the internet have been known to say) Your guests will think you just came back from Bavaria.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

move to Germany and gain 30 lbs. without even trying!

I managed to hold out until now, but it IS Oktoberfest time, after all, and Mr. M had been whining about not having had a good German meal for soooo long that I broke down and made his favourite tonight - Schweinshaxe - pork hocks. He claims he only eats them once a year but he is wrong and I can prove it (for once)! Thanks to my blog I was able to check and found that the last time he indulged was in January 2006. I even wrote a post about it.

Anyway, I made three smallish ones this time, seasoned with onion, bay leaf, juniper berries, cloves and, of course, beer. Oktoberfest beer, naturally. Potato dumplings and sauerkraut rounded off the meal. If you only eat the lean meat and discard the fatty skin (or give it to your husband and let HIM clog his arteries) this meal probably won't kill you.

In other artery-clogging news, I tackled still more of those silly plums on Friday and made this cake.

It's really, really easy and actually fairly low-fat (if you leave off the whipped cream!). You can use almost any kind of fruit you like, fresh or canned - the amount will depend on the size of your pan. I've used peaches with great success and I'm sure apricots would also be lovely. I fiddled a bit with the streusel recipe and added a bit more butter along with some flour and a couple of spoonfuls of rolled oats until I got a consistency I liked. The glaze is optional, but since this cake is not too sweet, I think it adds a nice touch. I prefer a thinner cake so I made mine in a 10-in flan pan.

Streusel Plum Cake (from The Lighthearted Cookbook by Anne Lindsay)

1/4 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cans (each 14 oz/398 ml) plums, drained, or 2 cups halved ripe plums

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp soft butter or margarine
1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup icing (confectioner's) sugar
1 tsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Grease 9-in/2.5 L square cake pan. (or use greased 9 or 10 in. springform or flan pan with removable bottom).

In large bowl, cream together butter, sugar and egg yolks until fluffy. Combine flour and baking powder; beat into egg mixture alternately with milk. In separate bowl, beat eggs whites until stiff but not dry; fold into batter. Turn into prepared pan. Halve and pit plums and arrange over top, cut side up.

Streusel topping: In small bowl, combine brown sugar, butter and cinnamon; mix well and sprinkle over fruit.

Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven for 35 to 45 mins (depending on size of pan used)or until top is golden and toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.

Glaze: Combine icing sugar, milk and vanilla; mix well. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Peach: use 2 fresh peaches, sliced into wedges or 1 can sliced peaches, thoroughly drained

Apple: Use 2 apples (peeled or unpeeled is your choice), sliced into thin wedges

Pear: Use 2 pears, sliced into wedges or 1 can sliced pears, thoroughly drained.

Copyright © 2005-2012 by 'Mausi'. All rights reserved. It's not nice to steal.