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Gingernuts

If you’ve read a number of my books, you’ll notice that my heroes often select a gingernut, when offered refreshments at afternoon teat-time. This has confused enough copyeditors (and a few readers) to make me realize that gingernuts are not common in the USA. 

So to clarify, they are biscuits (cookies if you’re in the USA). I don’t know why they’re called gingernuts, but that’s the English language for you. 
And to add to the confusion, there are no nuts in gingernuts. There is, however, ginger.

They’re very popular in the UK and Australia and elsewhere, and as well as home-baked versions they’re widely available in supermarkets.

Yesterday I was in the mood to bake some biscuits (cookies). It’s part of an ongoing experiment to learn to work with the very fancy oven in my new home. I’m used to the kind of oven where you simply choose a temperature and then bake. Not this oven, which has all kinds of cooking and baking styles. So when a friend came around to visit I thought I’d try making biscuits.

I planned to make gingernuts, but it turned out I had no ground ginger — I threw out quite a few aging spices when I moved, and clearly I hadn’t yet replaced them. Nor did I have any fresh ginger in the fridge. I did have some Japanese pickled ginger, but didn’t think that would do the trick. What I did have was a small jar of candied ginger (also known as crystallized ginger — cooked in sugar then dried).

So instead of trying to make gingernuts with no proper ginger, I decided to make ANZAC biscuits and add spices to them. ANZAC biscuits are dead easy and I almost always have the ingredients in the cupboard, so they’re a good fall-back biscuit. Plus they’re yummy.  So I mixed up a batch of ANZAC biscuits, and added spices to it — cinnamon, allspice, mixed spices and ground pepper, and I threw some of the candied ginger into the blender, chopped it finely, and added that to the mix. (No exact quantities, I’m sorry, as I just made it up.)

These are the biscuits I made  — basic ANZACs with added spices and bits of candied ginger. They look a bit rough and rustic, but that’s because they’re made with rolled oats and coconut, among other things. There’s a recipe here, which also gives you the background as to why they’re called ANZACs. It also gives you an alternative to golden syrup, which is a household item here, but not in the USA.

Yesterday the biscuits tasted very nice — we ate them warm out of the oven — but I couldn’t really taste any ginger. That was okay, because  as it turned out, my friend wasn’t a big fan of ginger. But today I can really taste the ginger, and I like it so much I’m going to add those spices and ginger to every ANZAC biscuit I make in future.

Tawny Frogmouth chicks

On the Word Wenches’ blog the other day we were talking about the birds we like to watch, and I mentioned tawny frogmouths, an Australian owl-like bird (but not an owl) that is brilliantly camouflaged — it looks like a scruffy piece of bark or a branch, until it opens its eyes and looks at you. 

They mate for life, and are good parents to their chicks, which as you can see from this photo of three little chicks, are adorable. At my old house I sometimes used to see a pair of tawny frogmouths sitting on a high branch of a gum tree with a half-grown chick between them.

I sent this pic to the other word wenches, and Christina Courtenay commented that they looked like some of the stuff that came out of her dryer. LOL. And Mary Jo Putney commented that they looked like Jayne Ann Krentz’s dust-bunnies from her Harmony series written under the name of Jayne Castle. Other friends have talked about the dust-bunnies often, but I’ve never been able to buy those books on kindle. However, because of our conversation, I checked again — and lo! several were available. So I’m finally catching up on the dust-bunnies — and visualizing tawny frogmouth chicks, with a few more legs.

Twigs & Memories

 I’ve had this arrangement, in various forms, in my house for a number of years. It’s just a bundle of curly willow twigs that I grabbed from my friend Keri’s garden some years back. She had a big pile of prunings of it, and was quite bemused when I ferreted through her pile and took a bunch home in my car.

I love twisty branches and interesting natural shapes. I guess it’s in my blood, because my grandfather used to collect interestingly-shaped driftwood and mount them on pieces of slate. I still have several pieces of his, and I love them. He used to drill a hole in them and my grandmother would put in a plastic flower. I didn’t like plastic flowers, so I tossed them.

Anyway for some years I just kept them in a vase in the entry hall of my old house. And one year someone came to the door selling poppies for Remembrance Day (11th November) and I bought a poppy in memory of my dad. And then I bought another two in memory of two of my uncles, who were his good buddies and in his unit. They later married his sisters and became my uncles. 

And because I wasn’t going anywhere to wear these poppies, I on a whim, twisted their wires onto the curly willow twigs. And I liked the effect.  Guess Nana’s plastic flowers had left their influence. <g>

Since then, every time I’ve come across someone selling Remembrance Day poppies, I’ve bought a few more and added them to my twigs. When I look at it I think of my dad, and my various uncles.

The poppies are slightly different every year — one year they had a brooch attachment on them — but I just twist them on with florist’s wire. And I weigh the vase down with river stones and glass marbles, because the twigs are quite long for such a small vase and it can easily overbalance. But I like the vase being small and black —it suits the  arrangement I think.

For years nobody commented on my twigs and poppy arrangement. Now I’m in my new home, and the arrangement is in the living-room instead of the entry hall, and several people have commented on it.

One person said, “Oh I like your japonica arrangement,” (Japonica is also called flowering quince).  I love it when it flowers in early spring, with pretty blossoms on bare, elegant branches.  Another friend, who I sent some photos of my new house said “OMG I love those flowers  under the picture — what are they?” And when I explained, she asked me to grab some curly willow twigs next time I visited Keri and she’d put Remembrance Day poppies on them for her dad.