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You have been shamefully neglected, my dears. This is, in large part, because I have been having fun.

On Saturday, we went to help a friend warm his new flat. Besides the regular complement of happy party times, I came away with the realisation that what our flat really needs–despite our near complete lack of physical books–is a tall bookcase in the living room. And that sangria tastes a lot more mellow if you don’t put in twice the amount of brandy the recipe calls for. I haven’t yet decided whether to act on this latter realisation or ignore it. Less alcohol would mean we get to drink twice as much delicious sangria, which is a doubly tasty prospect. We’ll see. We’re swiftly moving from sangria season to mulled wine and cider (if one could get it here) season, so further experimentation may have to wait until spring. There is also a winter drink called buttered rum that is simply begging for further attention.

On Sunday, we warmed our own flat by entertaining two slightly-known SCA (renaissance re-enactment) friends. We are now delighted to know them much better after the weekend. Success! They were also sweet enough to bring us hand-made housewarming gifts: homemade salsa (with an invitation to the next salsa-making party), whisky-based vanilla extract with the pods still in, and hand-knitted dishcloths that are so plushy I’m tempted to use them as pot-holders. I love hand-made gifts, especially when I’m not expecting any!

I though the nature of whisky in itself was enough to justify its use in vanilla, but there was an ulterior motive, as well: unlike vodka-based vanilla, no-one in her house will poach it for use in vodka-cokes! Although I have to admit, I’m now tempted to use it for that purpose. Maybe in ginger beer. So far, however, I have used it only for its intended purpose in baking an apple cake for this weekend’s hootenanny. It smells delicious, but I’ll report back on the success of the recipe once we’ve tried it.

The cake is an offering for my dance group’s Freshers retreat, in which we overrun a small border town for the weekend. Shenanigans ensue.

Tickets have now been bought for my conference in the Netherlands. I have been bizarrely organised about the whole process, with all of the relevant travel information noted neatly in a google doc for access from my tablet, which I travel with instead of a laptop. Really, I am never this organised. It must be a result of dedicating an hour or two at my desk to the planning instead of doing it before bed and cranky. Or, like the last two times, while coming up on the deadlines for important papers.

The plan is to pack as few things as possible into my favourite school/hiking backpack, the better to bum around Amsterdam with. I’m meeting an Australian school chum who moved to Germany, and together we shall explore the Christmas markets of Amsterdam.

Entirely unrelated to the trip, a classmate of mine told me a story about her sister’s trip: in hindsight, she probably should have been wary of buying coffee and the “special cake of the day” in Amsterdam! A timely warning, as I had entirely forgotten about that aspect of the city. (A difficult feat, given its reputation.)

I shall have to munch cautiously.

The vaults of Dunfermline Castle