December 28, 2008

Greetings of the season...



So, Christmas has already come and gone, and given the meaning of the occasion for me this year, I must admit that I am both grateful for this as well as emotionally exhausted.
If you have been following our adventures over the last few posts, you will be aware that Team Pretty Bake was embarking on a Christmas baking extravaganza of epic proportions. We had relished, and we had jammed; so all that was left, really, was to bake. And so it was that in the blur that was the week before Christmas, Team Pretty Bake, well, baked. A combination of work and baking meant we were extraordinarily busy, and on reflection, perhaps just a tad insane. Slaves to the kitchen we certainly were, so much so that if any moments of anecdotal notoriety occurred they were immediately forgotten, if indeed there was time for them to occur at all. So I do not have any exciting tales to tell. We made many delicious goodies that – if I may take some arrogant liberty – were exquisitely presented and well received by those fortunate enough to be sufficiently acquainted with the Team (although apologies must go to those too geographically distant to receive our bundled treats – it is most unfortunate that perishables live up to their name and do not travel well). Our impressive pantry made for a great variety of gifts, and as such, I have listed our full catalogue below…
Jams
Raspberry, Apricot, Boysenberry, Sweet cherry, Blackberry

Relishes
Onion, Apple Sage and Date chutney, Red onion Lemon and Thyme, Tomato



Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties



Orange Sugar Cookies



Filbert Crescents



Grasmere Gingerbread



Granola



Fennel Seed and Black Pepper Crackers



Turkish Delight Rocky Road



Christmas Slab



Peppermint Bark


All packaged up in nice little parcels...



Miss Emily did find some time to make mince pies for the Blood family Christmas…



…And continue the tradition of the Rogerson family gingerbread house with GBH mark II…



But this editions creative honour goes to Miss Rose and her spectacular gingerbread train.


A sight to behold and meticulously constructed - there was track; an engine complete with chimney and festive headlights; a coal car transporting soccer balls and aeroplanes (typical freight, I assure you); a lumber car; and a caboose complete with a controller rabbit by the name of Roger.


(not a kangaroo)
An astounding feat to be sure, and one worthy of great acclaim. Miss Rose, even though three-to-four year olds can't quite appreciate the time and effort taken to create such a detailed masterpiece, we acknowledge how spectacularly clever you are!
So I hope all those who received do enjoy, and thank you all for your thoughts, encouragement and support. I wish you all a safe and as-happy-as-you-can holiday, and look forward to sharing the future adventures of Team Pretty Bake with you in 2009.

______________________


With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it seems time to reflect on things that have passed and look towards what lies ahead on the path that is life. For many it has been an utterly horrendous year, suffering pain and loss so severe it is indescribable, and enduring a detestable new life that we would rather not bear. But despite all the lows - and these have indeed been the lowest of lows - and against our expectation of what was possible, we have endured. At this time we may not feel a sense of achievement, or think on this as a positive. We may still find ourselves wandering aimlessly downwards on an increasingly difficult path, and lack any conviction to search for hope in the future. We expected things to get easier, only to find our burdens becoming harder to bear. And as life starts to move on around us we remain stationary in our grief, unable to tag along and sensing our isolation becoming more absolute. But in spite of all this - our exhaustion from fighting emotional battles we should not have to fight, and the sense that we have travelled nowhere - we are still here, and we are still fighting, together. Collectively we have found enough strength to approach each day as it comes, and while it may be a bad day or a worse day, we somehow still manage to get through them.
What the New Year holds does not bear thinking about. There will be many 'firsts' that we will not look forward to, as each special occasion reminds us that our treasured past and a beautiful life has become more distant. But we know we cannot change this mess we're in. We must remind ourselves how gifted our time was, and remember the lust for life that was so inspiring and infectious. There will be times to dread, but there will also be occasions to look forward to as we draw on the strength of each other to do something special and begin to rebuild our lives. It is not going to be easy, and it may not feel possible, but we promised to try, so that is what we'll do. To all those who know what I mean - good luck.

December 15, 2008

Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never ever jam today!

Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll





So to continue with our preparatory Christmas tidings, Team Pretty Bakes' only mostly-work-free weekend before Christmas that was reserved for preserving also happened to coincide with Melbourne's wettest weekend for the year. So as we headed for the hills, the rain fell steadily, and in the quiet atmosphere broken only by the squeaky wiper that refused to keep time with the anticipated Faure piano trio deconstruction, there was a slight sense of foreboding. Fortunately for us, many of the farms we visited has a similar disinclination to have hapless city folk roaming their precious fields in such inclemency, and had adopted a 'no u-pick' policy, instead opting for shed sales and ensuring that we all became only slightly drenched.
Despite the constant precipitation making for a rather miserable occasion, our second country adventure was still rather pleasant. Our inflexible timing did lead to stone fruit disappointment, and a cleverly camouflaged green pole managed to incur the wrath of Miss Rose, but the happy lads provided adequately delicious produce (and who can go past $8 boys, I ask?), and the forest drive complete with curiously foaming eucalypts did help to take the edge off the inner private turmoil. So I'm afraid there will be no scenery shots this week. If you are left feeling slightly disillusioned by my lack of dedication to the cause, can I suggest a quick trip through a carwash should sufficiently replicate our scenic experience for the weekend.

Returning from our adventures a little wet and only slightly bedraggled, we set about conserving our procurements. There's not that much to say about jam, really. Fruit. Sugar. Jars. Repeat. So once again, I will simply offer a few temptations regarding our ever-growing Christmas bounty…


Raspberry



Blackberry


Boysenberry


Apricot


Sweet Cherry



The mother-load of immense satisfaction



And just a little something for dessert

______________________

After a night of rest well-deserved, Team Pretty Bake returned to the kitchen to draw to a close the proceedings of the preserve. While this primarily consisted of trimming, labelling and readying our precious goods, there was just time for a little quality control…



And at the request of Dr. Sandy (for whom an exclusive package awaits), Team Pretty Bake made their first ever cherry pie. Miss Rose could not resist a quip about popping her cherry pie cherry; and for those of you currently humming a horrendous excuse for an 80's anthem to permed mullets and tight pants, please cease and desist immediately.



Sufficiently stuffed with baked treats, we retired from our busy weekend with the satisfaction of a job well done. As always, there will be plenty more to come, but for now we'll end with just a little egotistical wankery demonstrating how clever we are…


awesome!

December 12, 2008

Tidings...



Venus, Jupiter, Moon - 29th November, 2008
Today, at least in my geographical location (12th December, 2008), marks six months since the day that my world ended and everything took a turn for the worse. It has not been easy, nor has it been fun, and it does not seem as though it ever will be. But we are still here, and I am told that as long as we keep it this way, things will one day change and it will begin to hurt a little less. So this is how we will keep it for now…
I realise it has been a while since we have brought you tidings from the kitchen of Team Pretty Bake. This is not because we have been idle, but rather, we have become somewhat engrossed in plans for Christmas baking. I will not give too much away so that we may leave some surprises for those who will be receiving our hamperly gifts this Christmas, but I thought I would offer a few snippets of temptation.
Over the last few weeks Miss Rose has gone a little preserve-crazy, and as such, many jams, relishes, chutneys and preserves will feature in this years Christmas list. On the relish agenda was a couple of onion numbers which we thought wise to complete in an evening. So what, you may ask, results from six kilos of onions? Quite simply, a whole world of pain filled with tears and requisite sinus replacement therapy. While I worked on the theory of desensitisation through over-exposure, Miss Rose was prepared to sacrifice a little dignity in an attempt to save her membranes…


Oh the things we do for those we love.
What did ultimately result from six kilos of onions was one and a half litres of caramely-oniony-goodness that we are hoping will mature over the next few weeks into a delicious accompaniment to your festive meats.


And in a half-hearted attempt at getting into the spirit of things (I, for one, will be skipping the festive cheer this year), we did take a moment to construct some appropriately Yule-tide creations.


So as the neighbours sit about consuming Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, Rudolph, and what are presumably the three reserves should any of the aforementioned fall ill and for whom I am not inclined to invent comically hilarious and inappropriate titles; Team Pretty Bake is in preparation for their second country excursion in search of fruit…


Neigh!