Danishes and Musical Beds

Have I told you yet how much I love our kitchen? As soon as the estate agent showed me the kitchen in the flat, I knew I wanted to live here. It has a great big island in the middle – nice & long so there is space for a fruit bowl and random bits, while still leaving more than enough work space.  When you have the work space it’s hard not to want to use it. I’ve rediscovered my love/obsession for baking and experimenting in the kitchen. Last week I wanted to make a coffee cake – but not just any coffee cake, a danish braid coffee cake. Which led me to do a bunch of research and reading on laminated pastry and making danish dough.

Sunday I made the dough (don’t ask how much butter. It was LOTS), which was quite an exercise. First you take a couple blocks of cold butter and beat it (literally) into submission and roll out a square block of it.  Then you take the dough, roll out a slightly larger square of it, and put the butter block on it.  Fold it like a letter, then roll out out again.  Fold again, roll. Chill in fridge, then repeat the folding, rolling, folding, rolling process again. Repeat the entire process twice more – for lots and lots of layers- hence the name laminated dough.  Boy are my arms sore!  You can sort of see the layers in the cross section above. I didn’t have a danish pastry recipe so used a brioche recipe instead. I think I need to do it properly next time.

After resting the dough in the fridge over night, this morning I made danishes. Lots and lots of them. My favourite kind of danish is the one with bright yellow lemon curd. I made the curd it in the microwave – and it turned out fantastic.  So easy. 5 minutes total.

My first danishes were too small and I baked them too long – they ended up really crunchy, like pie crust. Nice and flaky, but not quite what I was after. I made chocolate chip ones and lemon curd ones, and glazed them with icing.  Despite not being what I was after I still managed to eat four of them!

I made another one which would have been much better if I hadn’t forgotten about it in the oven. It was still tasty, not as crunchy as the first lot since I’d made the second one bigger, but definitely crunchier than I wanted. So now I’m onto attempt three with the last of the danish dough.  They turned out okay, but I think I didn’t work the detrempe (the dough bit of the butter and dough laminate) properly – the finished products look sort of lumpy.  I made a pain au chocolat and some more lemon curd danishes and cherry jam one.  I’m sure though they’ll be fine for breakfast with a cup of coffee. Ugly but tasty. Will work on the aesthetics when I try again later in the week with a proper danish pastry recipe, once my arms have recovered from the work out on Sunday!

Seeing Meimei day to day, I know she’s growing and can see that her legs are longer and sturdier than they were, but it’s only when I look at photos that I see  just how much Meimei has grown. This is how big she was when I got her just over a month ago.

And this is how big she is now! She is well on her way to catching up with Deuce in size.

I’m finally getting into a bit of a routine at home with the little monkeys.  Morning we play – well, Deuce and I watch Meimei do circuits around the living room stopping here and there to play with toys and random things she finds, then running off to another toy, or running to her potty area to do a lap inside then run out again. It’s amazing how much energy she has! Then after lunch she and Deuce both nap the afternoon away while I do my knitting and catch up on emails etc.  Lately the monkeys have been playing musical beds.  This is the bed I got Meimei a couple weeks ago, which Deuce likes to think fits him.

I think Meimei knows how ridiculous it is for Deuce to wedge himself in there.

This is where I usually find them in the morning when I’m in the kitchen (the beds are right outside the kitchen door) when Meimei takes a break from her busy schedule racing around the living room.

Then in the afternoon, they swap. Meimei seems quite smug about getting the bigger bed. The second ring shrunk when I washed it so it’s just a wee snug for Deuce. I don’t think he minds much.

Sometimes if I’m working in the kitchen, they’ll come and join me there.  This was the first time I’d seen them both lying next to each other by choice.  It was in the evening while we waited for DH to come home.  I missed the shot of Meimei lying sprawled on her back sleeping next to Deuce, also snoozing.  DH came home just then and Meimei woke up and ran off to greet him followed closely by Deuce. I wonder if they’ll ever snuggle up next to each other? Will have to keep the camera at the ready just in case.

From Fitflops to Uggs

Congrats to my cousin E who is getting married today in California. Sadly couldn’t make the wedding (a long haul flight at 30 weeks would have been torture!) but sending him and his soon to be wife the happiest of wedding wishes.

Yesterday I was walking Deuce in jeans and a zipped up fleece and I was cold. Could have also been the flip flops I was wearing! The weather has continued to cool – just last week was flip flop and sleeveless top weather, but we’ve moved beyond that now.

Time to break out the Uggs and my warm wool/cashmere/alpaca cardi-coat. DH kept telling me I’d have no need of it in Hong Kong… glad I ignored him and got the coat anyway. Also ordered some shearling slippers  in preparation for when the flat starts to cool down inside as well. 

I got a pair similar to the one above from a Finnish market about 12 years ago and have always had a pair since – LOVE them!!  Seriously, wearing shearling against your bare feet is absolutely the best way to keep your toes warm and toasty.  Wearing cotton socks, especially if your feet tend to perspire, will just result in cold feet.

Say hello to my old friend Joe.  Mmmmm hello old friend, how I’ve missed you!!

I  finally got the urge for a morning latte again and did a thorough clean of our old Gaggia machine yesterday. DH made some mean lattes this morning for breakfast. Frank the Tank had it right:  “Tastes so good when it touches my lips!” Paired with the cinnamon swirl coffee cake I made yesterday and the morning paper on our dining table made for quite a civilised breakfast! I love sitting at the table – this is the first time we’ve had cushioned dining chairs – so comfy!

There has been knitting… but alas it’s all suuuper sekrit stuff. Will be able to show pics in a few weeks time. :)

For Meimei & Deuce fans – another short vid. I love the bit where she runs and hides behind the stuffed bear under the table, then peeks out to see where Deuce is at.  Such a mischievous imp! If you’d like to donate to HKDR there still two days before the next draw from my book. :)

Flashmobbing & Round the Island Race

Have had a busy but fun filled weekend. Saturday my mom, hubby and I joined a flash mob in Lan Kwai Fong – learning a set of dance moves to go with “Who Let the Dogs Out” as a promotional event for next weekend’s Hong Kong Dog Rescue big fundraising day Peak to Fong.

We arrived at the amphitheatre tucked away behind Lan Kwai Fong and set to practising the moves – which were rather complicated! It was quite alot of fun though – a whole group of people basically doing aerobics in the Hong Kong heat. I totally didn’t think that perhaps being almost 7 months pregnant maybe I should have brought some water to drink? LOL like I said, I often forget I’m pregnant. Thankfully Lisa one of the organisers noticed my bump and brought a bottle of water for me. So sweet!

We practiced for 2 hours, which was itself quite alot of laughs. DH found himself facing the whole group when he should be facing the other way quite alot, and of course all the fast moves were totally lost on me! I just could not move that fast! At the end we were split into groups – very coordinated to less coordinated. We opted for the less coordinated group, which was also the last group to enter the mob and the group which had the fewest moves to remember. Suited us just fine.

We had to wear jackets or tops to cover up the promo t-shirts we were given to wear… and the only things we had were our fleece jackets for me and David (navy and black) and a beige trenchcoat for my mom! Boy were we hot. We had 20 minutes to kill after practice (and had to wear our jackets the whole time) so we went to Haagen Daaz and had some ice cream to cool down. We found ourselves a table on the pavement outside Stormies, which was just opposite all the action, and settled in for our cue – a DJ move and then a dog howl – when we joined the mob and promptly forgot all our moves so basically just jumped around and enjoyed the vibe.

Here’s the video – can you spot me?

Today DH rowed the Zoke Round the Island Race in a four man scull. The quad switched rowers half way round so DH rowed the second half. My mom and I went to meet them at the Middle Island club house. We walked along the seafront promenade and there is a pick up point where you stand, and the club house ferry comes along to pick you up. Very James Bond! You can see the pick up point on the left of the photo (where the handrails go into the water) and the club house on the other side, sort of looks like part of a cruise ship embedded in the rockface.

There weren’t very many rowing boats (I think only 4) but there were something like 19 outriggers – sort of like canoes but with a stabilising arm thing attached to the boat. You can click to embiggen the photo to see some of the teeny outrigger boats and sculls.

Then there were the sail boats which all congregated in one place for a while, I think while waiting for the wind to pick up. Sadly it was hazy this morning so the photos aren’t super clear (this one is from my mom’s camera). Still, you can definitely see all the sail boats and dinghies.

My two berries are doing well – Blueberry is growing crazily (my belly button hasn’t yet popped but in another month I am sure it will) and I think I am close to the waddling stage, if not there already.  Meimei has grown to twice the size she was when I first brought her home and has started to run here and there finding things to play with and chew on.  I love watching her run – she looks a little like a rabbit since she sort of hops more than runs.  Today she had a bit of a scare when she tried to play with Deuce as he was eating dinner.  I don’t think she’ll be doing that again any time soon – he was quite fierce when he told her off and she ran out of the kitchen whining and crying.  It took a little while to calm her down. Of course, as soon as Deuce came out into the living room she was back to her old antics and trying to lure him into playing with her, nipping at his balls (which are the perfect height for her to bite, poor Deuce) and trying to nip his ears. Deuce, ever the cool cucumber, sort of puts up with her and just let her get on with it.   Another check up tomorrow for Blueberry – at which I hope there will be no more blood tests!

Try Try Again

Have managed to catch a cold, which was miserable the first day. Getting a bit better now, but once I’m well am off to get a flu shot. Totally sucks being ill and not being able to take anything effective for relief (ahh Nurofen Plus how I miss you! The things we give up for a Blueberry).

Mei Mei is getting stronger by the day – yesterday she began to stand on her hind legs when she wants to get up on the sofa. Still a little wobbly, but oh the determination you can see in her face!

Took Mei Mei to the vet this morning – and Dr Tony was really pleased with how she is doing. I was worried I was overfeeding her – but he said that puppies have miraculously elastic bellies that enable them to eat alot without harm…. which is good because Mei Mei has turned out to really like her food. And it shows in a massive belly! She now weighs 1.5 kgs, almost twice what she did when I got her three weeks ago! She tries so hard to play with Deuce still – and though she’s learned that Deuce will tell her off if she bites his tail, she still thinks it’s the best thing. Poor Deuce – he makes it seem like he’s got such a cross to bear! And she’s gotten creative with how she tries to entice him to play. Watch and see!

Wrapped with Love

Knit Love Club 2012 sign ups are still open! Treat yourself (or a loved one) for Christmas to a whole year of knitting love!

Last time I saw my dear maman was when we headed home for Christmas, so it’s been nearly a year! As you can imagine, I was super excited to see her! She arrived on Thursday armed with a ginormous box of jiaozi, shaobing, winter gourd tea (sounds gross but is delicious – kind of like a cooling ice tea without the bitter afterbite of tea) and other goodies from Taiwan and Canada.

It’s fun taking my mom around – she used to come to HK alot on business but mostly spent time in Central and TST.  She’d never been to the mid-levels so of course I took her down to the escalator.

We went to Lane Crawford – where they were giving away free knitting kits!  You get a cool little project bag, a cone of yarn, and a pair of bamboo knitting needles.  The kits are a charity initiative called “Wrapped with Love” sponsored by Club Monaco and Lane Crawford for Crossroads, calling on the community to knit 8″x8″ squares to be sewn into blankets and then distributed to those in need.

I have to say I’m super impressed – Lane Crawford is kind of like Liberty’s / Harvey Nics in London – very high end.  14 years in London and never have I seen such top end department stores participating in such a grassroots, hands on, community project.  Hubby saw this ad for the initiative in the South China Morning Post and kept it for me (click to embiggen). Alot of the items are crochet covered, but the sentiment is sound. :)

We passed by the Apple Store in IFC on Friday when the iphone 4S was released for sale – and it was insane. Some had been camping since Monday night! People were limited to 5 units each – and there were LOADS of people there with big old suitcases filled with apple products. I’ve never seen anything like it.  Apparently people were reselling the iphone right then and there outside the Apple shop!

Hubby spent the weekend in Hanoi for a work jolly I mean perfectly serious business conference.  Mom and I went to Horizon Plaza (for bedside tables… part of the seemingly never ending list of stuff for the flat), which she found a little creepy…and I guess, objectively, it kind of is. Sort of warehouse-y and kind of dilapidated looking.  Of course, once she saw the shoe shops it was much more exciting for her! LOL.

Mei Mei currently has a makeshift sleeping/playing/potty area made of the moving boxes from London.  We came home on Saturday to find a free little black fluff ball coming to the door to greet us – she’d managed to find a space in her makeshift pen to wiggle through.  Since she isn’t quite housetrained, and I’m also wary of letting Deuce have unsupervised access to her (he is so much bigger than her and isn’t quite aware of his strength), when we were at Horizon Plaza we also picked up a proper plastic pen from Whiskers and Paws. While we were there I also thought it time to get her her own little bed.  We brought it home, and the first thing that Deuce did? Climbed inside and claimed it for his own. Despite the fact that it is really much too small for him!  Luckily Mei Mei seems to prefer the floor for snoozing during the day – I think she’ll find it cozy come winter.

Oh and I need to make a correction from my previous post about where I got my waffle recipe! I did try the Marion Cunningham one from Orangette, but the one we decided was our favourite is from Kate Habershon’s Pancakes and Waffles recipe book.  Which I am off to make right now!

Mind your doggy Ps and Qs

Three.  That’s the number of boxes we have left to unpack! And it’s mostly my yarn and crafty stuff, so we need to get some kind of storage cabinet to unload them into.  We’re definitely getting there.  We got lights, our bed was delivered yesterday and assembled.  Slept on it last night, and the mattress is quite firm. Jury is still out as I loved our memory foam one – it was the only bed I slept on that reduced/eliminated back pain, but our new one is really firm.  Too firm to my mind but hubby seems to think it is more comfortable. I am annoyed I listened to him about the softer version being less comfortable for his back particularly since he often has no clue about what is comfortable or not (buying shoes with him is another pita) and would happily sleep on the ground.

My mom is arriving today after a brief visit to family in Taipei. She’s bringing a ton of jiaozi (like japanese gyoza. Sadly the ones i’ve had so far in Hong Kong – even the ones recommended in the Michelin guide -  just aren’t that good.  Northern cuisine just isn’t their forte here) and shaobing both the sweet and savoury kind. Yum!

Deuce and Mei Mei continue their budding friendship/understanding.    Mei Mei loves to nibble on his paws and ears… Deuce is I think becoming more and more easy about it, though he did tell her off again yesterday. Poor Mei Mei ran under the sofa and didn’t want to come out.  Still, puppy exuberance refuses to be kept down.  Soon after she was up to her old antics again.  She’s totally eyeing up his ear to nibble…

But decides to just lie quiet for the time being.

She’s also taken to wandering off to the kitchen for a snooze. Her new favourite spot is in the corner behind the kitchen door, beside or behind Deuce’s bed.  She loves sleeping on her back with her little legs sticking straight out. Super cute.

This morning was the first time I have seen Deuce actually interact properly (not half asleep) with her.

He paws her head a first time, almost unnoticed by her, then more obviously later on. I was intrigued by this – the timing of Deuce’s yawns and her response to it all. Did a little googling and it seems the head-pawing is a sort of ‘hey cutie, I like you but remember who’s top dog!’. The yawn is a calming/stop sign. And Mei Mei lying down right after the head pawing, side facing to Deuce is an acknowledgement of Deuce being top dog. Of course, being a puppy, she then gets up and tries to play some more with Deuce. So pleased though that Deuce was appropriately gentle with her and seems to be trying to teach and communicate with her. Very important for puppy since she won’t have had anyone/dog to teach her doggy manners!

Strawberry Sundae

Thank you everyone who donated to HKDR over the last 2 weeks! You raised HK$2860 – about £225! Woot!! We’re almost halfway to goal in just two weeks. This week’s draw was won by Rebecca-Anne. I’ve emailed you for your address but if you haven’t received my email please get in touch.

Despite the torture on Sunday, we had a lovely weekend. We were able to greet a long lost friend and pull out our beloved waffle maker.

We had an indulgent breakfast on Sunday, topping our waffles with whipped cream, a sprinkle of icing sugar, sliced bananas and maple syrup….mmmmm.

Even Deuce was able to indulge himself by sneakily scoffing Strawberry’s left over food.  I think he may, just may, look a little shamefaced here.  Or maybe that’s his ‘I’m hungry feed me’ face. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

But the best part of the weekend was DH agreeing that we should officially make little Strawberry a part of our family!  Today I spoke with the Foster Coordinator at HKDR and we’ve made all the arrangements. The paperwork has been signed, and we’ll be sending over the adoption fee tonight. I think the little one has done her work in absolutely charming DH. She adores him and her little tail frantically wags whenever she sees him. I’m absolutely thrilled – as you can tell I’m completely in love with her and I think Deuce is on his way too.

I’ve also got a little confession to make – I’ve been calling her by a different name, which will become her official name now: Mei Mei. The Mei is from the Chinese word for Strawberry (草莓 – cao mei) and is also a homonym for ‘little sister’. Right now my two little black monkeys are snoozing away in the corner of the kitchen; my heart just melts. :) I love that Mei Mei has an international peanut gallery cheering her on. She is doing so much better, getting stronger every day and I’m sure that part of this has to do with all the well wishes she is getting.

A short video to close, from this morning with DH and his feet – you can see how much she adores him!

Furniture Torture, Budding Friendship

Another round at Horizon Plaza for furniture ‘shopping’, though torture is probably a better description.  I think I have lost the will to live. Hubby and I are not good shopping partners – he likes to go to the same shop 3, 4, 5, even 6 times to look at the SAME THINGS over and over. Me, I like to go once, maybe twice. The first time to collect prices and sizes, spend some time mulling things over, then go back to buy and get the whole thing over and done with.  Spending an inordinate amount of time going back and forth looking at the same things makes me want to pluck my eyes out to spare them from having to see the same sodding coffee table yet again. Thank god today we finally have ordered the big items we need for the flat -  dining table, chairs, coffee table, shoe cabinet and a filing cabinet – despite of course having decided on the coffee table, shoe cabinet and chairs weeks ago; some things take 4-6 weeks to delivery so we’ve made the whole process weeks longer than it need be.   I find the whole to-ing and fro-ing particularly frustrating as I tend to be the type of person to assess a situation, figure out what needs doing and what is possible, and make a firm decision taking into account all factors.  I dislike wasting time on fussing.  Hubby however is king of fuss.  Even a simple decision such as ‘shall we do X on Saturday’ to which I answer ‘yes let’s do X on Saturday’ becomes a long winded discussion about whether we are going to do X, whether I want to do something different, blah blah.  Which means we end up not doing X because we are busy discussing whether to do X or not.   I think for the remaining items we need I am just going without him and making executive decisions. Otherwise we are likely to be without rubbish bins or laundry basket for another month.

Deuce is starting to play with little Strawberry and tease her too a little.  Here he is on the sofa, little Strawberry lying next to him, trying to nibble his paws. Deuce just lay there sort of snoozing, and lifting his paw time to time out of her reach.  He looks like he’s enjoying himself.

Then they just sort of lay there happily snoozing (him) and playing with Deuce’s paws (her).  It’s so nice to see Deuce accepting her as part of the ‘pack’ and being more relaxed about her playing with him.

Today was election day for district councils; there were supporters at the main junction near us waving hello and urging everyone to vote. These guys were supporters for Paul Zimmerman, a Dutch expat who is the incumbent the District Councillor for Pokfulam, the district we live in.  He seems to have a good head on his shoulders – will be interesting to see how the election pans out as he is the only non-Chinese councillor I’ve seen in the election campaign.

The jack-o-lantern in our forecourt has since been removed and has been replaced with Christmas decorations (argh! already?! I’m not ready I’m not ready!).  Kind of trippy given the temperature today was 28 degrees and 83% humidity; I’m used to cold weather and snow and Santa going together. I didn’t see any Do Not Touch signs around the Santa display, though being in the fountain is a pretty good deterrent!

And to leave you with a pair of cheeky sculptures – ones that greet me whenever I take Deuce down for a walk as they are right outside the service lift entrance.  Makes me giggle every time.

A kind of truce

Eighteen boxes empty now, and thirteen to go. A couple of days ago, we had only the brackets up for our shelves – we still had yet to fit the actual shelves onto the brackets. You can see the brackets on the wall to the back, with one shelf up. The boxes lined up in front of the bracket wall are all filled with books.

Yesterday we fitted the shelves and started to decant all our books onto them. Today I finished unpacking my tchotchkes and filled the empty spots on the shelves. Feels so much more like home already!

We plan on putting the dining table at that end of the room. Opposite the shelves is our living area, and the balcony with views of the sea. Today was a beautiful day, a very comfy 26 degrees or so and a pretty clear day too – not as clear as when I was here in July/August, but pretty good nonetheless given the past few murky days. Normally there are a couple container ships in the channel, but today was full of activity. Little speed boats zipping along, a large container, and some kind of ship with crane in the foreground.  You can see Lantau Island (where the airport is) in the distance (click to embiggen).

Watching Deuce and Strawberry interact this past week has been interesting.  The norm between the two has been as follows – Strawberry approaches Deuce,  wagging her tail, making growly noises, lowering her head and extending her paw as if to say hi.  Deuce  responds by staying stock still and watching her warily.

She’ll then slowly come closer, sniffing, wagging her tail, backing up, and the coming forward again.

As soon as she gets within touching distance however, Deuce makes a run for it.

But today was different. She was sitting in Deuce’s donut, and DH placed Deuce in next to her. Before today, he would simply jump out and run off. But today, for some reason, he stayed.  He looks rather unimpressed in the photo, but kudos to him for not running off.

She even got to gnaw on his leg a little, and though Deuce leaned away, he didn’t actually leave.

Is it because Deuce finally has warmed to the little one?  Or, far more likely, I think he has figured out that she means extra snacks for him. He has taken to jumping into her play area and scoffing up whatever food she’s left in her bowl.  Rather naughty of him, but given his piggy ways, totally unsurprising!