The Dutch and Chocolate

Today a parcel arrived from the Netherlands. Which means it must be Christmas, in a way. My parents send out a shipment of Dutch goodies once a year, and sometimes it gets here in December, but usually it is easier to aim for another less-postally-congested month.

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Chocolate features heavily in the parcel.
There are some reasons for this.
Not good reasons, but… good enough for me.

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I have no idea where historically/culturally our predilection for starting the day with “beschuit met hagel” (crispbakes with chocolate sprinkles) comes from. But I dare you to find a household in the Netherlands that doesn’t have at least one pack of hagelslag somewhere in a cupboard.

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It used to be very difficult to get hagel in Australia. It is getting a little easier, even if the cost if extravagant compared to back “home”. And it always takes people aback when I explain it is a breakfast topping. My parents have been sending annual care packages with hagel for forever, but since it has started becoming available here too, I tend to get sent the more luxury flavours, like Mocha and Extra Dark.

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But the chocolate most directly tied to Sinterklaas (the Dutch equivalent of Christmas) is the chocolate letter. The Chocolate-Initial-Complex is a force unto itself in the Netherlands.

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And those that know me well, know exactly what happens when chocolate letters arrive. I really have no trouble leaving chocolate be, as my former experiments with The Chocolate Drawer have shown at my previous job.

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But when it comes to initials, the only way to consume them is all in one go.
That’s my story.
And I’m sticking with it.

Day 213 – A Day in Paris

I had a great massage booked for this morning. I also had some exercise booked, but I cancelled that in a half-asleep daze before having another hour in bed. It’s amazing how well I can navigate the gym site whilst not awake.

In the car I found an envelope with some shopping instructions.
Also, a mystery envelope with orders to Michel’s.
A bit of a red herring, but fun nonetheless.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got home.

Apparently it was a trip.

Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe

I initially took a wrong turn and ended up in Germany. After handing over the shopping and some quick directions I quickly found myself in Paris with a picnic rug.

I had no trouble recognising the Arc de Triomphe on the coffee table.

I had no trouble enjoying the chocolate-covered strawberries either.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

I had a little more trouble recognising the second building. After blurting my initial guess of “a pizza oven”, and looking at the Arc again, it dawned on me that this must be the Eiffel Tower.

There was a bit more food than required, as Abbey had seriously over-catered. I was supposed to take some food to Wet’n’Wild as well, but I think I’m keeping it all here for myself instead. Sorry, Holly!

And then we had a little detour into Belgium with a curious detective with little grey cells. About halfway through Abbey fell asleep; I think she had been working so hard on Paris that she missed some sleep along the way.

It was a fun day though.

Arc-de-Meow
Arc-de-Meow

Although Obie, as always, was unimpressed.

Day 145 – Pain and Chocolate

I missed my yoga class this morning and I felt a bit bad about it. It’s part of my routine, and the day and weekend just don’t feel completely complete without it.

Walking to the shops for my usual coffee seemed like a great way to make up for it. Turns out, walking to the shops the long way clocks up 10,000 steps all by itself, and I hadn’t done anything yet.

The rest of the day was spent showing our Dutch guest around a bit more. Which added another 8,000 steps. And this after Nikki killed me at the gym yesterday with lots of leg work as well. I am so aware of my muscles that I can without hesitation pinpoint exactly where my ass is at any given moment.

So, what does one do at the end of a weekend like this?

Well, one makes ice cream. Obviously.

I am making relatively quick batches this weekend. Nothing too fancy, because it all ties into the deadline for next weekend. I have to complete a gingerbread house, and make dark chocolate ice cream and banana ice cream. And I have to fit it in around my work trip to Melbourne for most of the week. So that means I have today, and next Saturday morning essentially.

Oh, and I have to wash some shirts or I won’t have enough clean ironed shirts to take to Melbourne.

Once again I don’t think I’ll have any trouble sleeping, because I already really want to right now.

Day 123 – Gravity

I’m a bit late to the game on this one. Gravity is definitely a movie worth seeing. I am not convinced it needed star power to work; no-names would have worked just as well as Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Using them just seemed a little gratuitous in retrospect.

Other than that, it’s a remarkably simple and tense movie.

All but the last few minutes takes place in space. Great black spaces with almost nothing in it except for our big blue marble. And great special effects… fire in space looks absolutely terrifying.

Actually, space looks incredibly terrifying. And painful. The number of times this movie involved slamming hard into metal surfaces without any brakes leaves the impression it’s remarkable astronauts ever return to Earth at all.

Blue Marble
Blue Marble

And yet, for me, the backdrop of our planet was almost the most captivating part. Seeing the lit outlines of civilization across the globe made me feel an intense urge to travel near and far. To go places. Dark and light. It probably taps into the same part of my brain that likes walking at night.

I get that fairly easily though.

When I watch a movie set in New York in winter, all I want is to own a loft apartment in New York over Christmas. When I watch a movie on the beach of a tropical island, all I want is to stay in a cabin on the beach. When I watch a bond movie, I want to go almost anywhere and everywhere.

As long as there is WiFi to blog in between.

Raw Fish Slices
Raw Fish Slices

I was trying to remember all the feelings while I was watching the movie, but then I had dinner and I think I forgot most of the nuance of what was on my mind.

I like sushi train; I like being able to pick just as much as I need to feel full. I briefly considered going to Criniti’s, but I think any meal from there would have been too large before even getting to dessert.

A Small Dessert
A Small Dessert

Which would have been a shame, because I love dessert.

There was a long queue at Max Brenner, but the post-movie conversation was a great distraction. I again exercised restraint and picked a relatively modest dessert. A praline platter with a selection of chocolates.

As I was waiting outside with my number, the staff showed up to ask me which chocolates I wanted. I asked her to surprise me. She checked if I had any allergies, which is a comforting sign. And I was not disappointed. But then, is chocolate ever really disappointing. Even average chocolate is still pretty good, isn’t it? Or was that sex?

All in all, a great thought-provoking and appetizing evening.

Day 99 – Candy Resupply

All the Specials of the Day at Coles. Alas, still no dark-chocolate Cherry Ripes.
All the Specials of the Day at Coles. Alas, still no dark-chocolate Cherry Ripes.

As you may have noticed in an earlier post on the matter of bribery, I keep a drawer full of chocolate at work. These days I get batches of people showing for multiple $1 purchases at a time. I’m not sure it is exactly bribery any more.

Still, it is providing a service and it seems to help morale, so who am I to argue?

In my absence in Melbourne last week it seems the stock level in the drawer has become precipitously low, so on my way home I had a quick stop by Coles to re-supply. I buy whatever is on special on the day in large quantities.

A little kid stood next to me as I filled my basket looking on in wonder. Quoth the boy: “Wow, that’s a lot of chocolate”. In that kind of voice that suggests maybe you don’t quite need all of it for yourself. Sorry kid.

Also note, the Choo-Choo-Bars at the top of the image will not be for sale. They will go free to a good home with a full disclaimer of any liability. I tried one on the weekend and it nearly broke my mouth. First come first serve!

Day 49 – Just Dinner

Today was a hectic day at work, so tonight I do very little. It balances out the world in the most wonderful way.

I narrowly escaped a cycle class at the gym tonight on account of Holly (who is sticking around a little longer) cancelling on me, and then my work-day overflowing into the gym time slot. I am going to have to do something about the latter, because it has happened more than I care for. I think I get enough done during the workday that I don’t need to let it expand to fill available space at the edges.

Anyway, we have agreed to try for Cycle again next week.

Tonight was for dinner. For sausages and vegetables. For the apple-and-pear cider I bought on my way home.

On a side-note, Abbey was very put out by absent items she had put on our shopping list. I was talking to HR at work as they arrived and I glibly said they were to-do items that could wait. I shouldn’t have forgotten them altogether though. Alas, no carrots with dinner.

Cow-pattern Milka
Cow-pattern Milka

Chocolate makes everything better though, especially when it has cow-print on the block itself. Isn’t it odd how I can resist a drawer full of chocolate all day at work, and then when I get home I cannot help myself raiding the supplies?

And now, after concluding an episode of Hercule Poirot, there is nothing more for me to do but slowly and incrementally migrate towards bed.

Ice Cream Factory

It happens once a year around the end of this month. Not XMAS. Not NYE. Ice cream! Moreover, handmade ice cream. I can’t quite remember when we got the first machine, but I do recall we got a second one shortly after so that we could produce larger volumes.

Now it is practically tradition. And some of the family are actually expecting ice cream for the season. Not that there is anything wrong with that; it gives me license to experiment with special flavours.

The Hardware
The Hardware

The part I still dislike the most is the repeated cleaning of the hardware involved. Making a 1 liter batch of ice cream involves a lot more dirty pots, spoons and machines than you’d imagine. Maybe this is why I prefer making whole batches at a time, because cleaning is less of a chore when it is brief and concentrated.

The Software
The Software

The fun part is the actual experimenting with ingredients… there is the basic custard recipe I’ve gotten really familiar with, but the fun is adding alcohol and/or nuts and/or fruit and/or whatever else to the mix. I’ve also started to branch out into sorbets a bit more since the Earl Grey / Mint / Lemon sorbet worked out really well last year. Very refreshing.

The Product
The Product

So far I have four flavours finished, with about six more to go before I call it quits until a bit later in the summer season. The flavours so far haven’t been too out-there (shown above from top to bottom and left to right: Passion-fruit Pistachio, Cinnamon-Chilli Chocolate, Cosmopolitan Float and Chunky Peanut-butter).

But there are a few more interesting options to come; Brown Sugar and Bourbon, Chai Tea and most interestingly, Goats Cheese.

There will be reviews of all the flavours as they get un-boxed and eaten.