Our Messiah performance on Saturday was a success, and heaps of fun if a bit nerve-wracking at times! Willie came along to listen, with Chloe and Celena and two friends. They brought me a bunch of flowers, which was lovely - one's first Messiah is a big deal, after all. ;)

A lot of the choruses rattled along at a cracking pace, which is exhilarating but also scary if you're not totally confident with your part. The period-instrument orchestra was excellent, and added a lot of sparkle and depth to the music. 
I loved Chloe's comment that the choir sounded "tight" - coming from a rock musician, that's a great compliment.

Here's one of my favourite choruses, the final "Worthy is the Lamb" and "Amen". These guys take it slower than we did, but it still sounds fantastic...

I'm nearly ready for Christmas! Jam Drops, Salted Toffee Almonds, and the all-important Pavlova have been baked. My mini-solo for Christmas morning choir has been practised (a verse of a carol called "Past three o'clock"). Tonight we'll wrap presents and put up a few decorations. And tomorrow afternoon, we'll go to Chloe and Celena's house for an "Orphan Christmas" featuring a vast vegetarian feast, cocktails, a performance by Booty Pageant, and a Slip 'n' Slide. ;)

Merry Christmas all!

Bicycles and pickles

Yesterday we had a very nice Saturday, in a wholesome sort of way. After a decent sleep-in, we biked to the library along the riverbank.

I rode Chloe's bike, and had a bit of trouble since it was my first time on a bike in years. Yes, you don't forget how, the riding part was fine - but swinging my leg over the basket was trickier than anticipated! I actually fell off once while dismounting, which was a bit embarrassing in a busy public place...

Riding is lovely though, especially when you get a decent stretch of people-free ground ahead of you and can speed up a bit. I'll need to get my own bike when the time comes to give this one back.

After we got home and had a tea-and-a-sit break, we went food shopping and picked up some ingredients for making pickles, which I've been wanting to do for ages. We ended up making 'bread and butter' pickles, which are amazing with cheese on toast:

It's a very easy and fairly economical recipe - mostly sliced cucumbers and onions, with vinegar, sugar, and spices. Willie did the chopping (sparing me from the dreaded onion-eyes) and I did the cooking part. I got the recipe from my Ladies a Plate book, and it's on the website too: Bread and Butter Pickles. The great thing about it is that you don't need to stand over a simmering pot for ages, you just bring it to the boil and you're done. :)

For some reason, preserving jars are hard to find in Australia - we had to buy a set online in the end. Next I'd quite like to try these Herb Jellies (when I'm up to a bit more of a challenge). I've successfully managed marmalade in the past, so why not?

Icy goodness

Inspired by Melissa of tiny happy, I bought some ice-block moulds and am amusing myself coming up with flavours. I'm keen to try her Piña Colada combo, next time the moulds are free!

Here are two mini 'recipes' of my own. I found they weren't overly sweet (which suits me), but you might want to add more sugar if you have a sweet tooth. Each recipe makes enough for 6 ice-blocks.

Apple Cinnamon
1 tin apple slices/chunks (unsweetened)
1/2 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Coconut Rough
1 cup milk 
1/2 tin coconut cream
2 Tbsp drinking chocolate powder (or more, to taste)

Instructions: Whizz all ingredients in a blender, pour into ice-block moulds (leaving 1/2 inch at the top for expansion). Freeze for 4 hours.

Now if only I could figure out how to eat them without getting drips down my front... Obviously I have not yet outgrown the need for a bib. :p

Hot crossless buns

Yesterday I made a very nice batch of hot cross buns with the crosses left off.
I was too lazy to put them on, and besides, they always taste disappointing compared to the rest of the bun! I used the recipe from Ladies, a Plate, my favourite baking book.

This is our Saturday afternoon tea, and a pretty Easter card my Oma made:

We'd planned to go to the Botanic Gardens this afternoon, but in the end a tea party was more our speed today. ;)

Experiments II

An update on my 'Experiments' post about my fledgeling crocheted '3D' blanket, and my first foray into sourdough baking.

I've joined together the squares I've crocheted so far, and I think the blanket's looking pretty snazzy! I crocheted them together on the wrong side, which I think is slightly more fun than sewing them together.

Yarn-ends and all!

I've had moderate success with my two batches of sourdough bread - both tasted good and had a good texture, but were quite small. The second batch of dough, which I left to rise for about 24 hours, rose more than the first (which had about 16 hours rising time). So I'm going to stick to longer rising times from now on.

I also wanted to see whether using a recently-fed sourdough starter would make a noticeable improvement to the rising of the dough. My last two batches used starter that had sat in the fridge for a few days since its last 'feeding' with flour and water. This time, I made one 'control' batch of dough, 'Dough A', with starter that was last fed two days previously. I then fed the starter and left it out on the bench. After an hour or so I made the second batch of dough, 'Dough B', using this freshly-fed starter.

I put Dough A in a smaller bowl, as I expected Dough B to rise more (and need more room). Is that what happened? Nope:

Thing 1 and Thing 2 Dough A (left) and Dough B (right)

They've both risen, but Dough A is bigger. Maybe I didn't leave the starter to bubble up for long enough after I fed it, before using it to make Dough B.

After punching down the dough, kneading again, and leaving them alone for a few more hours, they're now almost the same size. I guess certain variables don't matter as much with a long rising time! Good to know. :)