Tag Archives: Advent

Advent Blogging 2013 Day 1

I didn’t think I was going to do any Advent blogging this year because I couldn’t find any Advent calendars as utterly silly as last year’s AC/DC Hell’s Bells one so we have just a regular one this year. I’m also having some trouble getting back into a regular training schedule post Ironman and have subsequently been a bit under the weather for the past few weeks.

But luckily for you, my 5 or so readers, I couldn’t stay away from the Advent blog, so here is Day 1, just a few hours late…

This year, the theme will be food, ultimately culminating in my famous Christmas Eve Lasagne. I’ll throw in some cat pictures, a few musical selections, and maybe a workout or two as well.

Yesterday, on the first day of Advent, the Wife and I ran 9 miles along the river. It was a lovely run which we followed up by a visit to the local Christmas Market where we supported the local clubs and charities by buying homemade gifts for people, eating fried potatoes and steamed doughballs, and drinking Gluhwein out of coffee mugs. All in all, a good day.

Advent Recipe #1 is the soup that the Wife made on Friday, the leftover portion which I am going to eat for lunch today. It is vegetarian and lactose and gluten free 🙂

The Wife’s Asian Fusion Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 medium‐sized Hokkaido pumpkin or similar orange squash or pumpkin
  • 2 cups (500 ml) vegetable broth
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp tamarind (2 teaspoons if using concentrate)
  • 1 can coconut milk (400 ml or 14 oz)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Preparation

  1. Strip the pumpkin of its skin and seeds, chop into small chunks.
  2. Crush the garlic and sauté lightly in olive oil at the bottom of a large‐ish pot.
  3. Add pumpkin, veggie broth, ginger and tamarind and simmer for about 20 minutes until the pumpkin chunks are tender.
  4. Add salt and coconut milk, then mix with stick blender until smooth and unbelievably orange.
  5. Serve with chives or cilantro on top. Enjoy.

And as ever, cat pictures to warm your day:

Picture of a white cat on a yoga mat

Captain Dukie stretches with me after a run.

And to start your December off right, here’s Elvis Costello with a song that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, but it happened to show up on yesterday’s running podcast (Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me with Chris Hadfield) and if I have to be earwormed, then you get to be as well, after all it is the season of giving…

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Advent day 24 – Merry Christmas to all and Off-Seasons Greetings!

Yay, we made it to the end of Advent! Today I counted up all the 4 sorts of AC/DC chocolates (the logo, the drummer, the lightning bolt, and the R2/D2. There was one less drummer, so we went with drummer and we were correct! So, little drummer boy was here to bring in Christmas! We also got a Lindt moon (a crescent moon, while I would have preferred a gibbous moon as it would have been bigger) and a message about loving people as they are. Yes. True love is loving a person for who they are.

Christmas Eve, the last day for our Advent calendars. It's been fun doing this with you. So here we have the cutout AC/DC Hells Bells ornament which is now hanging proudly on the tree, our special AC/DC surprise (2 tiny AC/DC buttons - also hanging on the tree), the last AC/DC drummer, and the moon

Christmas Eve, the last day for our Advent calendars. It’s been fun doing this with you. So here we have the cutout AC/DC Hells Bells ornament which is now hanging proudly on the tree, our special AC/DC surprise (2 tiny AC/DC buttons – also hanging on the tree), the last AC/DC drummer, and the moon

And now I have run my Christmas Eve run, we have done a Christmas Eve strength session at the gym, I did the traditional grocery store trip an hour before the stores all close for the next 2 days (panic shopping was in effect and the lines for the register extended all the way to the cheese case at the very back of the store), and the traditional Christmas Eve lasagna has been made and consumed (I will post my recipe for that next week, it’s going to take a while to write that one up – there are 2 separate sauces involved, apparently. I totally winged it on this one and came up with something really edible.), and now I will post our Christmas card for you and  then close the computer and step away from the internet for a few days.

This is our Christmas card this year, featuring us, the cats, and our 6 bicycles.

This is our Christmas card this year, featuring us, the cats, and our 6 bicycles.

Merry Christmas, Frohe Weihnachten, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël to all who celebrate, Joyful Solstice, Happy Winter Holidays and Happy and Peaceful New Year to all.

Advent Day 23 Christmas cats

For today, the penultimate day of advent in 2012, I talk about swimming, pancakes, the ’86 Mets, the Boss, Prince, and my cats. So, pretty much business as usual.

Swam 3000 meters today in 1:23.  For me, that’s good. It felt like it took a long time and afterwards I was tired enough that I cancelled my last workout of the week – a bike workout I was supposed to do tonight on the trainer.  Instead, the Wife and I will eat good food, watch MST3K (in honor of the 3k swim!) and watch the cats continue to destroy the tree.  Note that this year all our ornaments are made from metal, paper, or plastic so they can’t actually do all that much damage. My tree decorating has changed dramatically since we’ve acquired these particular cats. Lucky for them that they’re so adorable when they wreak havoc.

In Advent Calendar news, Lindt warned us that in order for miracles to happen, we must have faith, or in the immortal words of Tug McGraw, “Ya gotta believe!”. Yes I remember the ’86 Mets (and oddly, I thought of Mookie Wilson first and had to google to remember that Tug McGraw was the originator of the catchphrase. I don’t remember  the ’73 Mets, I was too young for that season).  We both guessed the AC/DC logo correctly today even though it looks a bit more like RC/DC this time.

The Wife, choosing the tastier chocolate, showing both her good judgement and her elegant hand.

The Wife, choosing the tastier chocolate, showing both her good judgement and her elegant hand.

For breakfast today, since it was Sunday, I made pancakes. I call these Lembas pancakes because they are a variation on my Lembas waybread recipe and contain some things that I imagine Elves would cook with. Also, we are going to see the Hobbit this week.

Lembas pancakes with spelt, coconut, and walnuts.  They're good with honey, maple syrup, or jam.

Lembas pancakes with spelt, coconut, and walnuts. They’re good with honey, maple syrup, or jam (but maybe not starfish and coffee).

Here’s my Lembas Pancakes recipe:

Makes 8 to 9 medium sized pancakes

Ingredients

–       1 Egg
–       3/4 cup flour (white or whole wheat)
–       1/4 spelt flour
–       1/3 cup dried coconut flakes
–       1 Tbsp. sugar (white, brown, or raw)
–       3/4 cup milk (low fat)
–       2 Tbsp oil (canola or similar)
–       3 tsp. baking powder
–       1/4 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)

Preparation

  1. Preheat frying pan over medium heat with oil (canola or similar; not olive).  Preheat oven to about 120°C or 250°F or so with an oven-proof plate already inside to keep pancakes warm.
  2. In a bowl – beat egg by hand
  3. Add rest of ingredients and mix until just moist – not too much more. If consistency is too thick, add a bit more milk, if too thin, add a bit more white flour. Too thick would be if a metal spoon stands up straight and never falls over, too thin would be if that same spoon meets no resistance and falls straight over.  Anything in between and this recipe will work with varying degrees of pancake height.
  4. Add a bit of butter to the oil in the pan for taste.  If desired. Feel free to skip the butter, but it’s not really unhealthy and it tastes good so you might as well add it.  Do not add margarine.  Margarine is unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs in favor of butter and extra virgin olive oil.
  5. Drop by large spoonfuls in hot frying pan
  6. Cook until bubbles break or light brown on bottom
  7. Flip and cook until edges are no longer moist and pancakes are light brown on both sides
  8. Keep warm in oven until ready to serve.
  9. Serve with honey, maple syrup, jam, and butter

One of my favorite Christmas songs done by a New Jersey born rock megastar (and Santa’s almost here, one more day!):

And (the artist formerly known as) Prince with Muppets 🙂

And now, a flipbook of Devil-cat, Captain Dukie and the tree:

Advent Day 22 the little Strummer boy

First, some quick notes:

  1. No, I will not be posting anyone’s version of the Little Drummer Boy here
  2. But I will be posting some Clash. Can’t find any Christmas songs that they recorded, funny that. Also, there are no Combat Rock Advent calendars, more’s the pity.
  3. The Wife and I were both wrong today, I guessed AC/DC logo, she guessed Lightning Bolt, it was once again R2/D2.
  4. We also ran 9 miles today and swam 1800 meters.  I still remember when the idea of an Olympic length (1500 m swim, 25 mile bike, 10 km run) was daunting. We’ve come quite a ways in three years, the Wife and I.

Today is the 10th anniversary of Joe Strummer’s death. NPR has a nice piece about him here. When I was a kid, one of the very first albums (on cassette) that I bought for myself was the Clash’s Combat Rock.  I played that thing to death the summer I turned 12. Maybe I was a bit young for some of the themes, but the Clash taught me that music was more than just pretty sounds coming out of the radio, that it was real, and raw, and that you were supposed to think harder about things that mattered sometimes. And curse. And make the world listen to the beat of your drummer sometimes. So thank you Joe. You are missed.

London Calling is one of the regular songs on my running mixes these days, and at the Frankfurt Marathon this year, one of the bands along the route were inexplicably playing it as I went by, so I got to shout about the coming ice age and that I live by the river (which I do) while a lot of Germans looked at me quizzically. The Clash also always makes me think of my friend F, who appears to be a mild mannered teacher, but who is in fact a badass, samurai punk rocker.

And another dear friend (S who happens to be married to the above mentioned F) posted the following on Facebook yesterday. I had this whole album on also cassette when I was a kid.  I love this song, it’s one of my favorite Christmas songs ever.

So Merry Christmas to F, S and everyone with ragged jean jackets and Doc Martens hiding in the backs of their closets behind the business casual dresses, and the boring khakis and wrinkle-free button down shirts, and the ugly Christmas sweaters.

Captain Dukie is undecided if he should stay or go.  Here, he opts for staying, but his keyboard playing suffers for it.

Captain Dukie is undecided if he should stay or go. Here, he opts for staying, but his keyboard playing suffers for it.

Advent Day 21: Tired like Santa Claus

We were at the gym today for a strength circuit, I biked there in the rain (as usual), we had an excellent fish and felafel from our neighbor the Syrian restaurant (the one that gives us our to-go meals on a tray with real plates and everything), the cats have discovered that the tree is the best toy ever, we got another gift in the mail today, and has has been noted earlier, the world did not end.  The Wife won the AC/DC guessing game with drummer (which rhymes with Strummer, a post for tomorrow) and we’re tired.  This has been a long week.

So, put your feet up, relax, and do what we just did to start the weekend (now that we know the world will still go on), watch my favorite Rankin/Bass Christmas special:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xmq9y1_the-year-without-a-santa-claus-rankin-bass_shortfilms#.UNTcMrY9XFo

Advent Day 20: Cat-astrophy!

Well, it’s just after midnight here and the world hasn’t ended yet. Of course, both the Mayans and NASA knew that all along. But the winter Solstice happens tomorrow at 11:12 AM (UTC), so the days will be getting longer and I won’t have to do my runs in the dark along with the freezing rain and wind. I’m not sure why I am continuing to run outside this year when all the reasonable people are using the treadmills. Only 2 other runners spotted in the whole hour I was out. I also ran two miles at “tempo” pace in the middle. We’ve got a New Year’s run coming up next week and I ran a mile at what I think was my last semi-decent 10k pace (The last 10k I ran was this spring and I ran it the day after an intravenous iron infusion because my iron was so low it was off the charts and freaked my Dr out. I was alternately nauseous and just incredibly tired and I ran it at a slower pace than I ran my last marathon.) and then a mile at 5 k pace. I think this one will be somewhere in the middle of those two.  Speaking of 5k pace – today it was a 7:58 mile. Running a single mile faster than 8 minutes was one of my big yearly goals last year. This year I can do it at the end of 5 miles in the wind and the cold and hold it for a full 5 k.  What changed? Physically, I’m not too sure if anything did. But, this wasn’t a physical problem.  It was all in my head! 8:00 minute miles (which, yes, I know that’s not exactly burning up the pavement) was a totally fake barrier that I had created for myself. There was nothing special about it at all! Last month, I was running 400 m intervals outside with my Garmin set to US units and due to a math error on my part, I ran them a full minute per mile faster than intended, and it felt hard, but otherwise OK! And just like that, the 8:00/mile barrier was gone. Sometimes, it’s all in my head and I just have to get over myself (or as my aikido Sensei once said to me, I have to get over the wall that I’ve created for myself).

OK, that was a lot about running. What about Advent? AC/DC was another R2/D2 and Lindt reminded us that life is basically difficult and boring, but there are periodic wonderful things that happen, like sub 8 minute miles, making Christmas cookies with the Wife, and cats.

Speaking of cats:

I bowed the cat!

Captain Dukie shows off his pretty bow tie while the Wife shows off her warm woolen socks.

And a short video of Captain Dukie attempting to escape the bow:

And of course, what Dec 20, 2012 post would be complete without this song:

(That’s Great Big Sea covering it there)

Advent Day 19 – Too Many Cookies!

Missed the AC/DC Advent guess-a-thon today again.  Yet another R2/D2

Today the Wife and I both had the day off and so we baked. 191 cookies to be exact (that’s 1 cookie fewer than 16 dozen, in case you were wondering) and we stopped at only 4 different kinds, half of the cookies that were on my original spreadsheet. Why yes, I have a Christmas cookie spreadsheet, color coded with formulas that calculate the total amounts of all ingredients we need, convert from US to metric measures, and count the total number of eggs needed depending on which cookies need just the yolks, just the whites, or the whole egg.  OCD much?

I made two new ones this year, Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies and Spitzbuben.  The Oatmeal Cranberry was the result of our mutual obsession with all things cranberry this year and the recipe came from the Food Network. The Spitzbuben recipe came from chefkoch.de. Both are absolutely keepers! The Oatmeal Cranberry are amazingly light and crispy on the outside and chewy inside with the spices (cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon – we have cardamom pods from the local Indian grocery store and grind the seeds ourselves, much cheaper that way.  We also keep a nutmeg nut around and grate any nutmeg we need fresh from that) giving it the perfect pop of flavor to enhance the oats. They were also really easy to make.  As always with our oven, cooking time was reduced by about 3 minutes, even though we lowered the heat by about 10 °F.

The Spitzbuben dough was also incredibly easy to make (just dump everything together into the bowl of the mixer and use the dough hook for a few minutes then a few minutes kneading it by hand) and a joy to work with and the taste is terrific, very buttery and almond-y.  We used 4 different fillings for them: homemade quince jelly from a friend of mine, organic raspberry-strawberry mixed jelly, lemon-ginger marmalade, and a small amount of rose petal jelly (we had enough of that left for exactly 2 cookies, one for the Wife and one for me.) Our new Spitzbuben cookie cutter (spring loaded, to pop out the doughnut shaped top) worked perfectly and the tops looked just like little gears, very Steampunk-y food items.

We listened to a really lovely mix tape ((We’re old, OK? I still call playlists on iTunes (which – why isn’t it called earTunes?) mix tapes) and yes, I’ve closed all my parentheses in this paragraph, in case you were wondering.) Some favorites from it were:

and

We also visited Christmas Island with Jimmy Buffet (won’t work in Germany, sorry 😦 this one was particularly difficult to find online.  I, of course, have the album)

and considered New Zealand for next year (we will for the first time ever both have 2 weeks off at Christmas next year) I’m sure this song had nothing to do with it!

We went for another good swim while waiting for all the butter cookie doughs to harden in the fridge.  2,750 meters in about an hour and twenty minutes.  A lot of short, high intensity reps in this workout, along with some 300 meters of 3,5,7 breathing drills. Unlike last week, I didn’t get a headache at the end of all that, so maybe a sign of progress.  I also didn’t feel that we were completely outclassed by the other triathletes sharing our lane or in the lane next to us (actually, we were both faster than and swam longer than the guy sharing with us, so yay for that as well.) I spent today’s swim thinking about my feet and trying to keep kicking the whole time. I often think so hard on my hands, head, and breathing that I completely forget about the lower half of my body and it just hangs there like so much flotsam.

In conclusion, I think we baked way too many cookies, even counting all the ones we intend to give away as gifts and at various group events. 16 dozen cookies and 4 kilograms of fudge (4.5 when you consider what we sent to the Wife’s parents last week) but it was fun.