Monday 28 November 2022

A halloween lunch platter with Jack Skellington Cake


As regular readers will know, we hold a lunch each year around Halloween to remember our twin boys.  It has been difficult holding any gatherings since Covid hit almost 3 years ago so it was nice this year to have my parents visit to remember with Sylvia and her dad.   Sylvia and I had a lovely time planning the lunch.  As usual we spent time going through Pinterest for fun ideas.

I took a day of leave for the lunch but worked the previous day.  Fortunately Sylvia was at home and able to bake cookie shapes while I worked.  (I loved that there was some Halloween decoration in the lift lobby at work.)  I would share the recipe Sylvia used for the cookies but it came from in her head with just one phone call to me to discuss how hot and long the cookies should bake.

I knew that we didn't have lots of energy to prepare food so we kept it simple.  While I baked a chocolate cake after work, Sylvia piped icing over her cookies to make them look amazing!

The birthday cake was very simple.  I made a favourite vegan chocolate cake.  (Unlike the linked recipe I baked it in a 20cm round cake tin rather than 2 x 15cm cake tins.)  We made a simple buttercream of butter, icing sugar, lemon juice and a little water as needed.  Sylvia decorated it with oreo cookies and shoestring licorice to look like Jack Skellingtonn (from the Nightmare Before Christmas film).

And because we had bought oreos and shoestring licorice, Sylvia decided to make some oreo spiders.  They were pretty simple.  She separated the two sides of an oreo, used some melted white chocolate to attach the 8 licorice legs and placed the other side of the cookie back on.  She used an edible pen to draw eyes on some white (scream) m&ms and stuck them to the top with more melted white chocolate.

They looked pretty cute.  Sylvia also made some savoury spiders with olives, stuffed with cream cheese and a caper.  She poked 8 holes in the olive and poked 8 rosemary legs in these holes.  Then she cut out some Swiss cheese into a circle that sat on water crackers and she stuck the olive spiders on a blob of cream cheese.

We had fun putting most of the spooky food on a Halloween platter that you can see at the top of this post.  The cookies and spiders were the stars but we also packed it with grapes, crackers, sausage mummies, poky, red capsicum, yellow baby tomatoes, cheetos, popcorn, strawberries.


We had a smaller platter that was less impressive but a bit healthier.  Bread, cheese, guacamole dip (another of Sylvia's specialties), grapes, raspberry cheese, crackers, sausage mummies and red capsicum.  It was a fine lunch with generous slices of Jack Skellington chocolate cake.  Lovely!

Sunday 6 November 2022

In My Kitchen - November 2022

We are having an odd spring that starts with some hope of sunshine and in October we had a ridiculous amount of rain.  The rain and the floods around Victoria have been record breaking.  The price of living keeps going up.  I have recently spent too much time with the electrician, the vet and then dentist.  I have got appointment times wrong and even got so confused as to think eggs weren't vegetarian at a recently brunch.  I am just glad not to be in the UK where Liz Truss self imploded as PM and replaced by Rishi Sunak who has a very low bar to reach.  But there is progress too.  I have finally got my bike serviced and am back on public transport after too long of avoiding both.  I have made some good meals at home, had a few nice sociable meals and my new job is going well, despite some challenges transitioning from Mac to PC.

Above is one of our nice rituals we have hung onto: Friday night is pizza night!  It is a bit odd as I am not working on Fridays at my new job.  I am so used to relaxing with pizza at the end of a work day but Fridays are usually busy anyway.  On this day of the above pizza - potato pizza from Heaven with capsicum and sun dried tomato as extras - we had postponed pizza to Saturday.  I had eaten brunch at the Boot Factory with my brother and his girlfriend, then lunch with my friend Eliza at Fattie Prince.  It's a long time since I ate three meals from a cafe in a day.

I bought this packet of dried watermelon out of curiosity.  I am not a huge watermelon fan and found the dried version to be ridiculously sweet.  It is not something I can even think of any ways to use it in recipes.

Another purchase that I am not so sure about are these Brazilian cheese bread balls.  They were sort of gluggy like uncooked bread.  I am sure I cooked them long enough but as I read what I have read I get less confident of this.

We have tried some new preserved strawberries from the supermarket.  I liked the gently dried strawberries.  Even better was the freeze dried strawberry crisps.

We bought these Cookies and Screem M&Ms for Halloween.  Stay tuned to see how we used them ....

Another curiosity purchase.  They were weird layers of sweet corn chips.  Good to taste but not really something I need to buy again.

We also had to try these cheese toasties Twisties.  Now that was a gimmick.  Twisties already are cheese flavoured carbs.  They weren't as orange as regular cheese Twisties.  And there is also something wrong about the term "cheese toastie".  I am not sure of the origin of "toastie" but it is not a traditional Aussie term that is suitable for a traditional Aussie crisp.

I was pretty excited by a new kombucha flavour - raspberry and blackcurrant.  It was delicious.  Them there was the summer fruits cheese and raspberry flavoured freeze dried apples.  A pleasant reminder that summer fruit is coming.

Sylvia is already excited about Christmas, even before Halloween.  So here is some festive and scary food - gingerbread men and skull chuppa chup lollypops.

I have been cooking a bit more evening meals.  This one was a hit with Sylvia.  It is a hokkien noodle stirfry with green capsicum, red cabbage, mushroom, soy sauce, garlic, sweet soy sauce, maple syrup, lemon juice and fried tofu.  We have had it on repeat a couple of times since.

Another quick weeknight meal was this spaghetti dish.  I cooked the spaghetti with a splash of pasta water, a drizzle of olive oil, some seasoning stirred well together with a spoonful of cream cheese and a some grated cheese.  I then added some lightly microwaved red capsicum and asparagus.  This was a lovely meal.

I confess to sharing some of Sylvia's joy in the festive season.  We had an outing to Spotlight and found this star embossed rolling pin and a few miniature Christmas trees.  I am still not sure which recipe is a good one to use with the rolling pin as the embossed stars will disappear on any baking that rises.  I have seen recipes for embossed cookies but need to hunt some out.

We also found a 10 piece gingerbread house cookie cutter set.  This seems a good compromise between buying a gingerbread house kit (with pre-made gingerbread that is drying out on the shelves) and making a gingerbread house from scratch (where it is always a bit of detailed work to cut out the shapes in the right size. 

Here is the pieces as listed on the back of the packet.  It looks like it will be easier making a gingerbread house this year.  Now we just have to replace the icing piping bag that split in the Halloween biscuit decorations.

I was pleased to find a solution to going to the supermarket without a bag for groceries.  I usually have a couple of octopus straps.  When I was at the supermarket recently I found an empty box on the shelves that I could strap to the back of my bike.  The only problem was that it made Sylvia crave violet crumbles after seeing them all over the box.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens and her wonderful hand drawn header.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Remembering Alex and Ian 15

Today is 15 years since our sons, Alex and Ian, were stillborn.  We remember them.  We miss them.  We wonder what might have been.  It was hard to think of them as little babies but even harder to wonder how they would have been as adolescents.  We have eaten cake today to remember them.

It is my tradition to post a memorial post each year.  And some of the links to articles about stillbirth over the past year.  I continue to learn more every year. Recently I read a Twitter thread (which I can't find again or elsewhere) about Shidu, a term for bereaved Chinese parents.  It was discussing how Chinese parents depend on their child and when their only child dies it creates great social and financial difficulties that could impact the Chinese economy if Covid  was allowed to cause  a critical mass of deaths.  I was interested in a term for bereaved parents, which I haven't come across before.  Here's more to read:

‘We have a new capacity for pain’: comedian Rob Delaney on life after the death of his son, The Guardian, 23 October 2022.
Rob Delaney interviewed about his new book about his baby son's death, A Heart that Works.

"The silence is deafening." The unspoken pain of stillbirth. Mama Mia, 22 October 2022.
Cathy Nguyen reflects on the stillbirth of her first child and being torn between the two worlds of motherhood and grief.

COVID-19 vaccine may protect pregnant women from SARS-CoV-2 placentitis and stillbirth, News Medical, 12 October 2022.
Drusilla J. Roberts and colleagues recently published a literature review in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology about stillbirth due to Covid19's effects on the placenta and how vaccination can protect against this.

Stillbirth: 'Finding my baby's grave gave me comfort', BBC News, 12 May 2022. 
Lillian Thorpe did not know where her stillborn baby was buried for 6 decades and the stillbirth was hidden from those around her.  She was helped to find the grave and found it a comfort.

What doesn't kill you makes you ... don't get me started, The Age, 28 October 2022. 
Kerri Sackville writes an opinion piece about how trauma does not make people stronger.  The research backs her up.  Having people say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger or everything happens for a reason, puts unnecessary pressure on victims.

How people like Meghan Markle, Britney Spears and Cristiano Ronaldo are changing the way we talk about miscarriage and stillbirth, ABC News, 28 May 2022. 
Angelica Silva writes about the silence and stigma around Stillbirth that is being challenged by celebrities and others on social media.

The unspoken grief of multiple stillbirths in rural Pakistan: an interpretative phenomenological study, BMC Women's Health, 22 February 2022. 
Asim et al interview bereaved mothers and found that they were let down by the health system and shunned socially.

Stillbirth rates rose in Melbourne's COVID-19 lockdown, despite dropping overall in past three years, ABC News, 25 November 2021.
Tegan Taylor writes about the surprising discovery that stillbirth rates rose during lockdown in Melbourne though it is not clear why this was so.

Cristiano Ronaldo Shares Photo of His Newborn Daughter After Losing Twin Boy: 'Forever Love', People, 30 April 2022. 
Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United player, mourned the death of his twin son and celebrated the life of his twin daughter.  Heartbreaking and difficult.