Monday, February 20, 2012

The internet: bringing people together across the globe

We had a power-cut on Sunday night. We were plunged into a technological dark age, deprived of luxuries, and forced to rely on LED camping/cycling lights, an ipod with an XMI mini-speaker, 3G internet and a myriad of candles.
Tim realises the advantages of marrying an ex-goth*
Whilst Twittering about the electricity-deprived sorry state of affairs (Crisis? Tweet about it first, then wonder what to do!), Tim spotted someone else complaining about a similar lack of electricity, so introduced himself. It only took a couple of tweets to establish that the other party lives next-door-but-one, though I don’t think we’ve ever actually met them. Nonetheless, Tim spent a happy evening chatting to them by candlelight, offering spare tea-lights, and there was even talk of setting up a virtual Neighbourhood Watch.

I’m sure there’s something ironic here. 

*Well, I would have been a teenage goth if I had been allowed to dye my hair. Or buy my own clothes. Or had been at all interested in make-up. Realistically, all I did was wear a lot of black, had a candle collection and read poetry. Not that gothy, I’ll grant you, but by the Satanic Panic standards of the early nineties, this made me practically a witch.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Marmalade donut mini-muffins

When one doesn't often eat breakfast, making marmalade, whilst enjoyable, leads to a "now what do I do with all this" problem.

On account of not going to yoga yesterday (having come off my bike, I thought it a little anti-social to go and use the studio's mats whilst my shins and ankle were still oozing and weeping), I decided to make marmalade cakes.

The following is an amalgamation of two or three Nigella recipes, a hefty dollop of Bryony's Mum's recipe, all served up with a few bits of my own devising:

Muffin mixture

200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb
2 teaspoons baking powder
75g golden caster sugar
75g butter
100ml milk + 100ml plain yoghurt (or 200ml buttermilk)
1 egg

Other ingredients

50g butter
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp Mixed Spice
Granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to about 175C. Sift the flour, bicarb and baking powder, and mix together the dry ingredients. Melt the butter, and stir it into the yoghurt and egg. Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients, taking care not to over-stir.

Put teaspoons of the mixture into silicone mini-muffin cases so that the cases are just under half-full, and make a little "well" in the centre of each. Put small dollops of marmalade into each well. Then put another teaspoon of muffin mixture on top, making sure to seal in all the marmalade (otherwise it will boil out as a horrible sticky mess).

Put into the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes until golden.

Once the muffins have been taken out of the oven, melt the other butter in a pan with the spices. Carefully remove the warm muffins from the cases, dip them in the melted spiced butter, dunk in the sugar, and nom immediately.


I also made some full-size muffins like this, but rather than faffing around with melting butter, I sprinkled the spices and some demerara sugar on top before putting them in the oven. Equally, I think it would be perfectly sensible to mix the spices in the flour whilst making the muffins, but I only thought of that after putting the muffins in the oven.

Took a tumble

Came off the bike yesterday on the way to yoga. I'm a bit bruised and scraped, but I think the bike is OK (haven't done a full check yet), but what was nice was that a Random Passer-By helped pick me and the bike out of the gutter and get us out of the road. Seeing as the incident took place on a blind bend/corner/junction combination, I was most appreciative. Especially as the last time I had a similar happening* on a similarly blind junction, I lay in the road immobile and in pain for quite a while as various people walked past looking the other way.

So yay! to the person who rescued me. And sorry if I confused you by sounding quite so pathetically grateful for your involvement, but based on the niceness of the average person, you really stand out!

*Both this and the previous incident were probably caused by diesel spills, and were nearly three years apart. I don't want people to think I make a habit of this.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


There is an adage concerning Life, the acquisition of lemons, and the manufacture of carbonated beverages. Now, I'm not too sure who this "Life" chappie is, since I buy my fruit and vegetables from the local supermarket, but when Mr Sainsbury cuts the price of lemons, I make White Ladies. And when Seville Oranges are on the sticky-label counter, then it means it's marmalade time.

There are a variety of ways to make marmalade. Last year, when oranges were similarly cheap,1 we tried the microwave method. This has the advantage of not needing hours of simmering and careful checking to see if the sugar has got to the correct point, but as a downside requires lots of preparation and hand-shredding of peel. This year, for a change, I went with the hob-top method.

Playing with food processors and a jam thermometer is always fun, but for some reason, this year I couldn't get the boiling marmalade to reach 110C - jam setting point. No matter what I did, it remained stuck at 105C. In the end I got bored, and bottled the stuff anyway, with a few tablespoons left over. It seemed a shame to waste the surplus, so I found some gin.

Marmeltini time!

1In fact last year we had so many oranges I had to appeal to friends for extra jam jars. Fortunately Mr Weasel let me use the jars he has been stockpiling in case of the Zombocalypse (the Duke of Wellington always dined on toast-and-marmalade before battle, and Mr Weasel sees no reason to be different). This made Ms Weasel very cross, since it means that Mr Weasel has now been justified in his Zombocalypse preparation habits.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yes, absolutely, I'm brave.

"You cycled here? In this weather? How long did it take? Didn't you freeze? Aren't you brave?!"

Yes. Absolutely. I'm brave to spend twenty-five minutes on a flat quiet road, watching the wildlife as the sun rises.

Also, I get to eat cake. Lots of it. And chips.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

We builded a SNOman!

Once again Winter is upon us, and BRITONS everywhere are startled and shocked to discover SNO at this time of year. To be fair, there has probably been SNO in remote far-flung Northern regions like Watford for months, but no-one noticed: it only counts if the SNO is in London or the south half of the Home Counties.

Finding ourselves in the company of several Smalls, we went for a walk to frolic and gambol in the wintery wonderland. And we frolicked and we gambolled and we builded a EPIC SNOMAN!

Behold the glory of our SNOman:

The neighbours became jealous and modified their SNOman.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

New toy!

The cats have a mad-cat-lady bed-affixed-to-the-radiator! It is warm and snuggly and out-of-ferret-range.

Unfortunately, by the time I've got the correct lens on the camera, worked out the settings on my new toy (the flash), set up everything else, the repeated test flashes have woken the mog who then looks more "peeved" than "cute".

Oh well!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Thousand (well, two hundred and seventy) words paint a picture

Imagine if you will, a foggy frosty morning. The sound of windscreens being scraped clear of ice fills the misty air as the sun hits “snooze” on its alarm clock, shivers a bit, sulks under a duvet of clouds, and finally reluctantly rises over the Epsom Downs.

A thousand well hundreds well, maybe a dozen different shades of silver gleam across the landscape. Hedgerows stand to stiffly regimented attention in the mist, looking as realistic and two-dimensional as plywood stage props. Every leaf, every blade of grass is outlined in a thick sparkling highlight of ice. The sky glows a watery pale golden colour above the minty-fresh silver-green fields, and a sporadic dusting of ice adorns the winding black ribbon of road.

“Gosh”, I think. “It’s a shame I haven’t got my camera with me to capture this. Granted, the way the trees are lurching out towards me through the fog would be impossible to capture, but how about some of those leaves? Hm. So I’d need the macro lens, and it’s a bit gloomy so a flash with a diffuser to soften the light, and probably a bit of pale yellow filter to keep the silver-and-gold hues. Which would take me about five minutes to set up, maybe more with cold fingers, plus I’d probably have to wait ten minutes for my camera to adjust to the temperature here. And then I’d probably spend at least ten minutes lying on my front in an icy field trying to get the camera-and-flash angle that I want. I’d freeze!”

I think a bit more.

“Gosh, I am glad I haven’t got my camera with me!”