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Easter treats

Good morning, all. I’m sitting here, sipping my morning coffee (white no sugar) and eating a hot cross bun. Which isn’t hot, but is still delicious. 

They’re called”Hot Cross Buns”from an old rhyme, that goes “Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a penny, Two a penny, Hot Cross Buns.”  They’re very tasty, spiced with cinnamon and other spices and  studded with currants and sultanas.

I bought these ones fresh yesterday, and they’re still delicious. Once they start to get stale, they are equally yummy toasted. In my old house, my neighbors’ kids  once brought me some home-made hot cross buns and they were the best I ever tasted, but alas, I didn’t get the recipe. Still, the ones my local supermarket bakes are very yummy, so I’m not repining.

Easter is usually a social time for me, with friends dropping in to catch up. So if it’s lunch, or a “bring a plate” affair, there are some fun easter-ish dishes I enjoy making. I often make stuffed eggs, and I pinched these pics of Easter variations on that from the web. 

These little chickie boiled eggs are very cute, aren’t they? I’ve also seen much more complicated versions —one with  zig-zag cutting, instead of a straight cut, but whichever way you do it, I think they look great — and not too hard to make..

And I saw these on Facebook, too — see below —and thought they were very elegant. Boiled egg tulips with spring onion stems.

A friend was coming for afternoon tea on Friday, and when I whizzed down to the supermarket of course it was closed — Good Friday here is a public holiday, as is Easter Monday. So I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies, using a recipe from a friend given to me years ago, but for some reason I’d never tried it. It uses sweetened condensed milk, and I had a tin in the cupboard so its time had come. I have to say, the cookies were delicious. I’ll definitely make them again. But by the time I remembered to take a photo, they were all gone. An almost identical recipe is here. I found it by googling “Chocolate Chip cookies condensed milk” which saved my typing it up.  My recipe also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

I didn’t roll it into balls as that recipe says to — my mixture was too sticky for that — I just put blobs of the mixture on the parchment paper and they were fine. Also I baked them around 15 minutes+ at C 160 degrees fan forced, checking to see if they were a pale golden color. If you’re American you’ll have to work out the measurements. Most Aussies have scales to weigh ingredients.  1 stick of butter = 110grams,  and for choc chips I cup choc chips = 200 grams.  You do the math. <g> But if you use more choc chips, nobody will complain. I had large dark choc melts (different from choc chips? so I chopped them up a bit and they were yum.
And if you don’t want to convert everything, try this American version. But I make no promises for the final result. I haven’t tried it.’

I enjoy baking, but I generally only do it when I have someone coming, and then I give them some to take home. I gave my friend some to take home to her husband and son, and packaged up some more to give to my neighbor. That way I’m not tempted to eat cookies for the rest of the week.

There are lots of biscuit (cookie) recipes with easter-theme decorations. Last year I made some iced bunny bikkies for some little friends, but I’m not wonderful at decorating food.  They tasted good, though, which is the main thing.  I did love these, which were made for the children of the UK royal family by the royal kitchens.    So pretty. But my lack of food decorating skills aside,  I am very tempted to try making these gorgeous bunny bikkies, which you could do with almost any cookie recipe. I’ve also seen some pics where people have softened  cookies in the oven and let them sink into a muffin tray, so that they form a nest shape, and when they’ve cooled and hardened, they fill them with mini chocolate eggs or peanut  M&Ms.

Orthodox Easter usually comes later than the general Christian Easter, but this year a Ukrainian friend told me, “This was the first Easter we celebrated with everyone as our church moved the calendar entirely to align with Rome and away from Moscow.” 

I have quite a few friends from various orthodox Christian backgrounds, and I’m used to being given red eggs from some friends and the occasional elegantly decorated ones from others, and I’ve dyed eggs with onion skins and other things. But when I came across this chart — see below— I was very tempted to try some of these lovely variations of color, using quite everyday ingredients. I haven’t yet — I’m busy writing at the moment, but here it is for you, in case you’d like to try some.

Do you make or bake special treats for Easter? What sort of things to you do?



Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

While I’m all in favor of love and romance and kindness, Valentine’s Day has always felt too commercial to me. When I was growing up it was almost unheard of in Australia. We certainly didn’t exchange cards or do school projects making valentines. It’s very much a recent  phenomenon here, driven mainly by TV and other commercial groups.

So I’m a bit of a grinch about the day. To me, romance and love should be celebrated whenever the mood strikes you, and you shouldn’t have to buy presents, like perfect-looking red roses that have no scent, and chocolates. Chocolates are for everyone, to be eaten and enjoyed at any time, whether you’re in a happy relationship or not.

And that’s another thing  I dislike — the “couple-ness” of Valentines Day, the implication that if you’re single, or widowed or divorced, then you’re some kind of loser.

So go out and subvert the message — give chocolates or flowers or even just a hug to anyone you care about — your gran, the  retired teacher  who taught you so well, the old bloke across the road who watches out for you and brings in your bins, the librarians who work so hard to find you the right book, and who are defending people’s right to read whatever they like.  There are plenty more you could add to this list, but you get the idea.  Valentines’ Day should be a “Love Actually” kind of day — and if you haven’t seen that movie, watch it.

But I don’t feel that, as a romance writer I can let the day pass Completely unnoticed. So here’s a cute little cartoon that I pinched off Facebook. 
Happy Valentine’s Day.

Happy New Year

Happy Chinese New Year, that is, or as some prefer to call it,  the Lunar New Year.

I grew up with it being called Chinese New Year even though I know some other cultures have different names for it. But there has been a tradition of celebration and a dragon parade here dating back to the 19th century, starting in the Gold Rush towns, where there were large Chinese populations. (Photo by Sahil Pandita on Unsplash

In the state of Victoria, where I live, there was a very impressive  Chinese procession in the town of Beechworth in 1874 — you can see the engraving  here (scroll down).

And the city of Ballarat has one of the oldest surviving Chinese Dragons around. It was purchased in 1897, and paraded each year until the 1960’s, when it was retired to a museum and a new dragon purchased. If you want to know more about the history of the celebration in Australia, there’s a good article here.

There’s always a big celebration in Melbourne for the Lunar New Year. When I was in high school, my friends and I often used to meet up at a Chinese restaurant in central Melbourne’s “Chinatown” to celebrate several  friends’ end of January/early February  birthdays. A couple of  times the dragon entered the restaurant and cavorted around our table, much to our delight. And when my parents lived in Malaysia, I was lucky enough to be there for Chinese New Year and be part of a big, noisy, exuberant fun celebration.

I have another, quite personal reason for celebrating Chinese New Year — two years ago, I bought my new house on Chinese New Year, 2022, and it had been the luckiest purchase for me. Ever since, I have displayed a Chinese good luck token hanging on the front door, which is painted red (though not by me) a lucky color, )

I have more tokens hanging in the entrance.  And as you can see from this photo of my living room, I am partial to a bit of color. I even had my old brown lounge suite recovered in red, though not for lucky Chinese reasons. Everything in the house was beige, light brown and pale grey where I bought it, and though I know that’s probably fashionable, I like some color. I debated with a friend about a teal blue covering for the lounge suite, and this red, and though I loved the teal, we decided that the red would go with my rugs better. The bright cover on the couch is a length of fabric I’ve had forever, and I love it.  The cushions I also had before I moved. 
That’s Milly, in her favorite position, keeping watch out of the back door, in case a bird or a cat decide to attack me.

There was so much I want to say about Chinese New Year that I think I’ll blog about it on the Word Wenches on Monday. So I hope you forgive me if there’s a bit of repetition.