As festive season is fast approaching and Santas worldwide are putting their hats on I feel the need (prompted by a couple of requests) to share a recipe for a delicious mulled wine with you out there, folks in need of warming up their cockles at this cold time of year. Even here in Cambodia the chill is in the air and I have had a couple of test runs just to make sure that the recipe still works, you just never know. It works.
Here it goes:
Grab a bottle of cheap(ish) red and empty the bottle in a large saucepan. If you have a few friends visiting add another bottle or two. To spice things up you will need a few cloves (say 8 per bottle), star aniseed (two per bottle), cinnamon stick(s), vanilla pod, raisins and most importantly a cubed apple. If you are adventurous, add a few peppercorns for some extra bite. Sliced orange also fits the bill as does nutmeg so feel free to add this. Those of weaker constitution may prefer to add some orange juice into the mix but let’s not become too soft here. I personally am quite generous with all spices as there is nothing better than the smell of cloves and aniseed filling the air. Other recipes (and I have explored a lot) suggest adding water (what?), brandy (better!) but your imagination is your limit and taste buds your best guides……. Admittedly it is a matter of a few test runs… oh too bad…
Mix and stir. Add sugar to taste, you may want to add just a little bit and let consumers add more if they need more sweetness in their lives. I have also experimented with brown sugar and/or honey – it works!
Mulled wine is a hot drink so the pot of goodness goes on the stove and you will gently bring it almost to the boil. Don’t boil, just keep hot, we don’t want the alcohol to evaporate! I find that it’s best if the ingredients soak in the wine for a little while before it gets heated. The second helping always tastes better (stronger) and after that there are no more helpings and you are no longer able to walk. The drunk apple and orange pieces are perfectly edible while you sip on this heavenly concoction but can also be harvested for later use in drunk apple pies, strudels or simply eaten cold the next morning replacing your morning cereal…. Just an idea….
So off you go and get creative and enjoy.
Happy Merry Christmas as we say here in Cambodia.
….Tuesday, 9am, barely out of bed, showered, breakfast made….
In the drudgery of my previous existence where my daily routine was summed up by the ever so non glamorous (and peeling) label of 9 – 5, life was easy. Well, the sequence of daily events was or perhaps predictable is a better way of describing it. Alarm, shower, coffee, bite, quick assembly of random wardrobe items, slap on face and sleep cycle to work miraculously surviving the muppet traffic in all directions. Second shot of tea or coffee just about kick started the system and off I went. The relentless steady stream of e-mails and pending tasks got tackled one by one, admittedly accompanied by something which was diagnosed by my colleagues as a mild case of Tourette syndrome. I got through, we got through. Despite (or maybe because of - I am starting to wonder) things got done, tasks completed, e-mails answered, however there was little time for anything but work in my previous life.
When my position became part time for a brief period I found myself completing almost the same amount of work in half the time. Oh the stretchy quality of time when we are truly pushed!
Having recently embarked on the “eat what you kill” path also known as self-employment I need to, somehow, find my balance back, I need to readjust my rhythm and create my new routine – or do I?
…toilet break and brushing teeth…
Now, where was I? Oh yes, I was going to touch on the subject of procrastination (what a beautiful word), self-discipline and focus. Not that I am lacking inspiration but my windows definitely need cleaning and I am glad I finally managed to repot those plants.
…washing dishes after breakfast, coffee nearly ready…
A quick glance in the mirror reveals that my eyebrows really need plucking and should I dye my hair today? I seem to crave manual jobs. I am planning to paint the railing of my balcony and varnishing my doors, you should see what the wet season does to wood here! My landlord shrugs and says :”up to you”…
…putting calming face mask on while sipping coffee…
I am going to cook something nice for lunch and while I am at it I might as well make a cake. Note to self: shopping!
I find myself making To Do lists these days primarily to be able to cross things off them.
I consider knitting a scarf as today’s temperature reads mere 19 degrees Celsius. It’s cold. I have knitting needles but no yarn…..
But now on a more serious note:
I am learning not to feel guilty for not being busy and stressed out every waking moment of my days. This is, after all, the freedom I was dreaming about in front of my two glaring computer screens not so long ago. I am the master of my time and if I find myself possessed by the procrastination demons and the urge to paint my toe nails red seizes me – then be it, it’s no crime. There is more to life than work, right?
When I have finished this blog post (drafted by hand on paper as evil facebook and internet are lurking in the computer background) I will – I promise – finish those captions for my photos as the exhibition launch is only a few days away.
Now let me just make the bed and sweep the floor as it is a bit dirty…..
…taking the cake out of the oven….
…putting The Doors on….
The crease between his mighty dark eyebrows deepens but his eyes retain their cheeky, slightly bemused and “above the matter” expression.
He studies my face and says: “….hmmm, so you have ….. never?!?”
“Never” is my answer and he shakes his head in disbelief, dark shaggy curls bouncing. I am losing my street credit by the minute – not that I am trying to impress Stuart. The balance of the universe (excuse the pun) is somewhat restored when the conversational topics move into the field of the great British comedy and we agree that it is second to none.
Nonetheless, several seconds later we are back to my culture-deprived youth and the fact that I have never, ever, at my ripe age of 35 seen a single episode of Star Wars! I argue with a weak comment “surely I am not alone” but the disapproving looks, tsk-tsk and head shakes of others who are starting to gather around us tell me that I should not voice my opinion on said subject so loudly.
It is Thursday and with funky jazz tunes and a nice chilled white wine we are catching up on the week’s events and Stuart’s T-shirt is getting thumbs up from all around. I am confused as the graphics and illegible squiggles mean absolutely nothing to me. The majority of folks around us appear to be devoted Star Wars fans and get the T-shirt right away. They become sad when Stuart reveals the origin of his outfit to be San Francisco. Surely, it would not take much for the local entrepreneurs to come up with a decent copy. Would it be a crime against Star Wars I wonder……
I hesitantly agree to take part in a special social experiment – put down my thoughts on life before and after Star Wars. This ultimately means watching the said series – but here I come across a hick up straight away. The self-appointed committee consisting of random friends and onlookers starts to discuss in a heated fashion if I should watch the original series, the remake (yes, NOW I know there was no such thing), starting with episode One or Four – I shake my head and think to myself that this lot has seriously gone mad… the pros and cons of me watching it from Episode One and the possibility of watching ME watching the series to which I categorically say NO. You copy and provide the files, I watch and I write. The committee is bemusedly excited and I wonder why. I am starting to feel like a lab rat and I am not sure I like it.
So here it goes, in a few words, what I think I know of Star Wars – what my sponge of a brain soaked up without trying, realizing or wanting to, the following are mixed up messages and hazy memories hailing from my subconscious mind:
· Star Wars and Star Trek are not the same thing (I should get some points for that)
· The following encounter is most likely a mixture of both for which I apologize ahead
· It’s set in space and characters have funny haircuts and the wardrobe is questionable too
· There is princess Layla and Luke Skywalker
· Something with a sword – a glowing one?
· May the Force be with you is uttered frequently
· Darth Vader – I don’t think he is a very nice man
· Funny V sign which I have tried to master (for whatever reason) but am not able to
· Anything else…..hmmmmm…..Jedi! It’s a religion or so they claim, isn’t it?
Now let’s watch!
I spend the following weekend in a plush hotel bed embraced by super soft cushions and pillows with the curtains drawn creating my own dark cinema room and the flat screen TV is a very decent size, sound system top notch. Chilled bottle of wine is in the fridge and a glass of this tasty grape juice by my side. The room light and temperature control reads 24 degrees Celsius. The lights are dimmed. Perfect.
"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....“ appears yellow on black and instantly I am mesmerized by the text disappearing into the open galactic space. I try to retain my indifference and skepticism to the series that have shaped so many lives of people around me during several decades but I feel the strings being pulled already. Little do I know that soon my flesh will prickle with goose bumps and I will feel the sting of tears in my eyes for something remotely resembling a vacuum cleaner my grandmother used to have when I was five.
Here I should mention that I have gone against the current of collective advice and selected Episode I - The Phantom Menace - to start the marathon series. This is, after all, meant to be a unique social experiment and whichever way I’d choose to get immersed in the series would not matter – I would never have the opportunity to experience exactly the same what my fellow thirtysomethings have and go through what they have gone through.
absorbing, thinking, processing…
Now several weeks have passed since I have pushed the Play button on the remote control and life has not been the same since. I have devoured episodes I to III in one single afternoon and then I have gone back in time some days later. I have portioned this goodness of episodes IV to VI in careful slices and sometimes, I must admit, I have dozed off. My work load is to blame rather than assuming that I was bored. No way. I have always gone back and watched religiously where I left (read dozed) off.
Looking back over my initial text I feel sort of embarrassed for my lack of knowledge but at the same time how was I to know without knowing? I still don’t know the topic of Star Wars in any depth and I could not hold a conversation with the experts in the field as names of exotic characters escaped me and I simply need to watch the whole series again. But that’s a result, isn't it?
I observed an eternal battle of good and evil where good eventually wins – until there is time to kching monies from a new episode but I hear that was always the plan, or was it?. That’s fine by me, new entertainment – how well executed? Let’s see.
I saw resemblances with Lord or the Rings but that’s easily explained by the epic take on good versus evil – again. I saw Saruman. I loved princess Leia’s bikini. Wasn’t Harrison Ford a hottie in his cocky young years? Hottie - he was.
While I still have not totally absorbed the new dimension opened to me I am being pressured by the self-appointed committee to finally produce my thoughts on my experience……. So here you have it.
Did I like it? Definitive yes – where “like” is such a mediocre bland word and “love” is something I reserve for chocolate, wine, cheese and whatever else that like does not suffice for. I was touched by it. It mesmerized me and I wanted more. I still do. I felt dizzy from the speed and race games. I adored the variety of worlds still remotely resembling what we know or think we know. At times I found it difficult to follow the plot or remember the names of the exotic characters but I definitely have my favourites – R2 being in the lead without a question. I am relieved to know that I can look up all details online and retrospectively make them fall into place but I will not immerse myself in Star Wars’ own Wikipedia by choice nor will you find me in the middle of a heated discussion involving any of the episodes/characters/battles…..unless provoked.
I loved the cheesy puns throughout and many more jokes make sense now.
Which episode is my favourite? I simply don’t know. I think I need to watch it all again. Now what do you think I should do? Or does it matter? Start from one or recreate the experience most devotees had?
I will quietly re-absorb and enjoy. And then I will do it again – in whichever order I want because…I CAN!
…and as a final thought – because of all the excitement (and/or possibly falling asleep…) I have MISSED Stuart’s T-shirt materializing in the movie….damn it! I can’t believe it!
Winter is here!
Mere 20 degrees and my a/c pony finally gets some rest. Hot shower is a must and the bathroom door remains firmly shut to eliminate any kind of breeze; my skin prickles nonetheless. Mornings arrive crisp and clear with a hint of smoke in the air. My neighbours with obsessive compulsive sweeping disorder have to work harder than usual to keep their front yard leaf free.
My floor tiles are cold. Even mid-day breeze is refreshing and I finally remember the sensation of shoes on my feet again.
Cycling all day produces almost no sweat – an unknown phenomenon.
The sky is deep blue and the air is dry. My hair doesn’t know frizz anymore.
I make myself a hot chocolate and put socks on as the evening draws near.
The bats fly over in the remaining traces of red and stars come out one by one, bright as little diamonds on dark blue velvet.
The air is fragrant and cicadas are singing their evening song.
The winter is finally here. I am absorbing every cool moment of it and enjoying it while it lasts!
anna bella betts
Never still, always on the move, looking for the perfect capture... Cambodia is currently my home, presenting endless opportunities....
In this blog you will find no profound wisdom.
Just accounts of daily life, sometimes about photography, often about wine, occasionally about travel adventures and sometimes about nothing at all.