Archive for December, 2012

2012 in review

December 30, 2012 Comments off

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Main

Springerle Experiment

December 26, 2012 Comments off

Back in 2005,  while working at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, I met a bloke named  James Matterer. He runs the site, Gode Cookery, and had some Springerle cookies which he was passing out to people. I believe he had come out specifically to see Wolgemut, in his travels around the country. For years, I had seen all sorts of molds, but never really knew what they were for. Since I’m a fan of medieval cooking, I was fascinated and wanted to know how they were made and where on earth he picked up the molds. I cannot recall where he bought the molds, or any other info about them. We talked about the old way of making them and the modern way. It’s difficult to find Hartshorn, as that is what you use instead of baking soda. You /could/ substitute, but he wasn’t a fan of it.

When I was back at home, I scoured the intarweb and found House on the Hill, which specializes in molds & baking paraphernalia for Springerle, Gingerbread, and Speculaas (which I also love). I immediately ordered the catalog. It’s been 7 years since I did and I still have it. I’ve been known to carry it around randomly, to show people something I am passionate about. You’d think being all nerdy, I would have started on this project much earlier. Things weren’t going well for me back then so I put it off. And I’ve kept putting it off for no good reason at all.

When I was visiting Germany, I was excited to see some medieval Springerle molds in a window display for the local museum.

Terrible picture, but you get the idea.

Terrible picture, but you get the idea.

I decided right there that I was ready to learn how to make these delightful cookies. I was determined to pick up a couple of molds at some point during my trip. When Iain and I visited the Württemberg State Museum for the Celtic Exhibit, I wanted to check out the gift shop. They had HEAPS of cookie molds. It took a while, but I narrowed it down to two. I resisted buying more, but I didn’t want to be stuck with a whole bunch of these if I decided that making this a hobby was not for me. The museum gave me a recipe for springerle along with some information about the molds.

When back home, I hit up the online shop to pick up hartshorn aka baker’s ammonia. I also picked up a beginners kit for springerle (sample of hartshorn, flavored oil, and recipe book), and a rolling mat. I chose to start with almond flavoring instead of anise, since it’s much more suited to American tastes. Generally, that is. I’m definitely going to try with anise another time. I received the package of goods on the 24th. I thought I had everything I needed for the recipe, according to the kit book. I realized later, after shops were closed, that I did not have near enough powdered sugar. I also realized that this recipe was for a HUGE amount of dough. I found the German recipe from the museum and translated it. Turns out it is a much smaller recipe, both the ingredients list and the amount of dough I’d have.

All the ingredients I would need.

All the ingredients I would need.

I inspected my springerle molds to make sure there weren’t any splinters. Or dirt. Or anything else. I would hate for someone to take a splinter to the gums while eating one of these.


The cat one needed some work; the other two were fine.

I realized once I put in the flour, that I hadn’t taken into account the size of my eggs. It wasn’t dough; it was batter! This is where I don my robe and wizard hat. I decided to experiment. I started adding more flour. Lots more. Upped the powdered sugar, and hartshorn. Since the almond oil is concentrated already, I didn’t add more. I think I had too much to begin with anyway. I finally managed to get a good dough out of the mess. Wrapped it up to let it chill for an hour in the fridge.

Now comes the tricky part. Time to roll and press! I had no idea how thick it should be in relation to these size molds. Every recipe I’ve found lists something different.



I actually rolled it out at different thicknesses so I could see which would work best. I’m kinda awesome experimental that way.


Lots of different shapes, sizes, and thicknesses.

Time to let them sit! The reason you let them dry over night is so the part of the cookie with the print will rise. When baking, the cookie will automatically rise the design up over the rest of the cookie. Well, in theory, that’s how it  is supposed to work. Today, I picked a medium random temperature so as not to burn the cookies. I left them for 10 min, and then for another 7. As I found out later, that was WAY too long. If I had been doing larger molds, I would have dropped the temperature a little and cooked them for that length.

Different dough thickness resulted in different size cookies.

Different dough thickness resulted in different size cookies.

I found a great video tutorial *after* I had already made the cookies, so I quickly realized where my mistakes were. I’m going to try the recipes I found on Springerle Joy and The Springerle Baker sites. I also need to buy a pastry brush, as it would have made dusting the molds easier, plus I could have easily removed the flour from these after they were baked.

There are some good and bad mixed in. I should have pushed the dough down on the lumpy ones while baking.

There are some good and bad mixed in. I should have pushed the dough down on the lumpy ones while baking.

I just ate one and they are almondy delish! Definitely too thin and dry on the one I’m eating. I’ve put them all in a tin and I’ll see how different they are when I get back from seeing family later this week.

Pretty! Now if only it didn't have flour all over it still

Pretty! Now if only I had cut this one out fully!

Categories: Recipes

Vending Machine Kitty!

December 22, 2012 Comments off

I don’t think I’ve told the kitten story all in one place. It’s played out over the last 2 months via Facebook. It started when Barry found a kitten at work, under some vending machines….

He immediately took the kitten to the vet. The kitten got a flea dip and they gave him all sorts of tests. Guesstimated his age at 3 weeks. Once he went through all the Vet stuff, Barry brought him home in towels. The kitten could barely stand up. He was skin & bones. No muscle strength at all.

We put him in a box all wrapped up. Since the kitten was wet and shivery, I grabbed a heating pad. I turned it on very low and put it under the box so not to overheat the wee kitty.

He managed to get out of his box and get some milk on a saucer. He didn’t like it in the dropper. He climbed back into the warm box when done.

We held him a lot, letting our warmth and bodies be comforting.

When we weren’t home, we’d leave him locked in the back bathroom with a wee kitty litter box, soft kitten mushy food, and the warm box. This is how he slept when we weren’t holding him.

I loved taking pics when he was cuddled on me.

He started moving around more on his own. When he did, he found and made a mess of the regular cat food.

As you can see, he’s picked up quite a bit since then. Still his favorite thing with us.

This is usually how I find Barry and the kitten when I get home from work.

This is what he looks like now:

We’ve got more photos and videos of him that I haven’t uploaded before. He’s also got a name. I call him Rocket. When he found his legs, he would (and still does) ZOOOOM from room to room following you. Well, you end up following him. He runs and zooms off everywhere. We also call him Shadow, since he follows Doodlebug everywhere. Which is kinda funny, as Dood used to to that to Bubastis, much to her loathing. Now he’s got his own pest. 😉 Barry says that all cats should have a middle initial, so he’s Rocket J Shadowcat. I just call him little kitty. 🙂

Categories: Main

The Dani goes to Germany

December 10, 2012 1 comment

Unless you’re following me on the Facebooks or the Twitters, you have no idea that I just visited Germany. For that matter, a brief visit to France, and traveling in Switzerland. There’s a whole bunch of things happening in my life which have me lower than I’ve been in *years*. So, my good friend and colleague, Iain, brought me over for a visit!

You can see some of the photos I updated on  my public Flickr account. Apparently, I’ve hit my monthly upload limit so the rest will have to wait until January.

I had visions of writing a most excellent travel diary, but I have failed. I’ve got a cold right now, so I find that I don’t care. 🙂 I suppose I could share a bit of my favorite bits of the trip. First, Swiss Air is quite delightful. Such polite people, plus I had an empty seat next to me on the trip over. SCORE!

I arrived in Zurich, and waited for Iain to show up, so we could catch the 3 different trains we’d need to get to Villingen, where he lives. Coincidently, it is also where the game I work on, Bullet Run, is developed. Yes, I’m working on a First-Person Shooter game. I’ve found that even tho I’m crap at it, I have a lot of fun playing with the community. And they think I’m just as much of a dork as they are. Heck, my main leader in my community is a very funny Brony. At any rate, I’m digressing like a sick person. *WACHOOO*

I was happy that I had picked up a HYOOOOGE puffy down warm coat for the trip, because it was cold as cold balls. I was actually okay wandering about in a hoodie with layers of tights/socks. Until it RAINED AND SNOWED. Fuck it; it was big awkward bulky way-too large coat for the rest of the trip.

We pretty much spent the first couple of days just hanging out, listening to music, enjoying good beers (‘natch!) and foods. We played some board games; I gave him a copy of Flame Wars: The Card Game of Extreme Moderation, which I had backed on Kickstarter. I also left him my copy of Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre since I can easily get another copy here. He introduced me to Kamisado, which I immediately loved. He helped me order it at the LGS. He also helped me order Mord im Arosa, which I had played in Austin at my game meetup. One of the women brought it to the event; she picked it up at some sort of board game swap. And the person who had it originally, picked it up when they were in Essen for the big huge board game show.

Anyway, we also wandered around town looking at neat buildings/art. We went to the Franciscan Museum Villingen, specifically for the Magdalenenberg, the Iron Age chieftain’s grave. IT WAS SOOOO COOOL.

We also wandered over to the Acony office, where I could say hello to the devs I had already met, and meet the rest of the team developing Bullet Run.

Some of our other travels:

Stuttgart for the Die Wel der Kelten aka The World of the Celts. Centres of power – Treasures of art exhibit. It was AMAZING. Too bad we were not allowed to take photographs, as there were some stunning pieces. We also continued on looking at the rest of the museum, featuring the history of Baden-Württemberg. I also had my first tasty Glühwein. In the pouring rain. Whilst freezing.

Which lead to MORE Glühwein drinking after we missed our train back home.

Alsace, France. My goal was to see many more awesome Medieval buildings and check out the Christmas market. Oh, and drink some tasty, tasty Alsatian Beer.

You could say I found both. Okay, so Leffe is Belgian, but I did have a tasty Croque Monsieur sandwich!

Esslingen: We went here specifically to catch the Esslingen Medieval Christmas Market. It’s side by side with the regular Christmas Market, but much more interesting! Well, the most interesting is that it is actual Medieval reenactment, which is awesome. Music, shows, foods, and games. It was fantastic. Of course, more Glühwein and Schwartzbier!

I think I enjoyed this Market the most, being the history dork that I am. I captured lots of photos of the same buildings, because they were so beautiful. Rugged handsome men stoking fires was pretty awesome, too. 🙂 Rawr. The great part about doing all this with Iain is that he’s a reenactor history nerd, too, so I don’t have to explain /why/ I loved it so much.

After a heap load of touristing, it was nice to chill back at his place for the rest of the trip. There were so many fantastic moments, and I’ll treasure this trip forever. It was good to leave my stresses behind (which are many; some I’ll share this coming week) and get inspired and invigorated. Right now, I’m ill with a cold and drank way too much beer at game day. I’ll just leave you with one of my fave sights from Stuttgart.

Categories: Beer, Geek Culture, Main
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