Saturday, 28 February 2009

Further Marshmallow Adventures

Following on from my previous adventures in Marshmallowland...

Experiment 4: Smores

Melting a marshmallow over a candle is harder than it looks. Or at least, it's harder than it looked when my friends did it, when we were at school... but maybe everything looks easy at that age.

Anyway, one large marshmallow + two chocolate biscuits + one small candle = a tasty late-night snackette, although so far I'm not so won over as I was with my previous experiments. If I'm going to have marshmallow and biscuit, I think I prefer it the rocky road way.

Still, this is a learning experience, so all outcomes are good (as in all good science) and this is a lot quicker to make than a batch of rocky road, with less washing up but a higher risk of burnt fingers.

Experiment 5: More Smores

I then followed the recommendations of my readers, and had a go at making smores the modern way - by microwave. Sandwich a cold marshmallow between two chocolate biscuits and stick it in the microwave for thirty seconds.

The real advantage of this is that the chocolate comes out all warm and melty, too. And the marshmallow doubled in size (is this meant to happen?!) and was really gooey. Plus, no finger-burning. Three cheers for the modern age!

I found it much nicer to eat with the melty chocolate, and I'm much more likely to make this again since it's much easier! So thanks to everyone who suggested the microwave.

Experiment 6: Toasted Sandwich

In the supermarket when I was little, they occasionally had a pizza which was a pizza base with chocolate sauce & marshmallows on top.

I haven't had the time or inclination to make pizza lately, but in a similar vein I decided to make a chocolate & marshmallow toasted sandwich.

Buttered the outside of the bread to stop it sticking to the sandwich maker (normally I brush the plates with olive oil but I didn't think that would go so well for a sweet sandwich!), spread the sandwich with Nutella chocolate spread and put half a marshmallow in each side.

It made a very sticky mess of the sandwich machine but it was tasty!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Modern Life

Showing symptoms of being too addicted to the internet:

Him: Would you like to listen to the News Quiz?
Me: Yep, just wait while I get a drink.
Him: I don't have any control over when it starts.
Me (after a moment's confusion): Ohhh - you mean on the real radio.

We almost never listen to the radio 'live' except in the car. Thank you, BBC iPlayer.

Friday Favourites #2: Working

If you have a few spare moments, check out this collection of amazing workplace images from around the world. This is a side of life that's very hard to see as a tourist, so these images are fascinating from a sociological viewpoint as well as being visually stunning.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Thai Cookery Lesson

Photos in this post are courtesy of my husband - I was too busy cooking to wield a camera!

As I mentioned earlier, I had a Thai cookery lesson on Saturday.

Now, as you may have gathered from reading my recipes, I'm not really the recipe-following kind of cook. I take more of a 'handful of this, sprinkling of that' approach and just keep tasting till it's about right. This works brilliantly for cuisines with which I'm familiar, because I can improvise near-infinite variations, but I've never cooked Thai before so I'm not confident on the basic ingredients and flavour combinations. (I bought myself a Thai cookbook to have a go, but following recipes is just hard work!)

One of my friends (we'll call him G) cooks amazing Thai food, and usually treats us to a feast whenever we visit. So I asked if we could rock up early one day and learn how it's done. Hence, Saturday.

Turns out G is not so keen on actual-to-the-letter recipe following, either, so the Thai skills I've learnt go very well with my normal cookery methods. I'm probably just about ready to buy some bits & go it alone now, Thai-style.

He says most of the time spent on Thai cookery is in the preparation, which is probably true, but apparently you can freeze all the different spices so I reckon you could have a day of Thai prep, freeze it all up, and then it'd be a quick supper. To start with he set me off preparing a variety of typical Thai spices (ginger, lemongrass, galangal, chillis, kaffir lime leaves, sweet basil...) and chopping vegetables.

There were a couple of other friends coming along for dinner as well, so I made veggie dishes while G did some stuff with beef, chicken & pork for everyone else.

We started out with a veggie Tom Ka soup. Here are the ingredients ready for making up the soup (with a lot of coconut milk & veg stock). Note the essential G&T, in a magic constantly-refilling glass, which fuelled my cooking:

One of the veggie dishes was a red curry with fried tofu & spinach. The starting ingredients:

And me giving the veggies a quick stir-fry:

G made sweet & sour pork, but we also divided off some of the sauce first so I could have some sweet & sour tofu as well. This is the sweet & sour ingredients (left), alongside the chicken red curry (in the wok) and tom ka soup (pan at the back) :

I also had my first attempt at deep-frying (I'm a wimp and have never tried it before) as we made some tempura using okra:

Unfortunately I'd had 3 G&Ts and a couple of glasses of wine before it was time to do the frying, and managed to burn my finger (on a hot dish, not on the oil, thankfully). The actual frying was surprisingly easy though, and I'll definitely try it at home. While I went off to stick my finger under the tap, G fried the tofu for my other dishes, but we don't have any pictures of that.

We also had rice & noodles. I ate so much that it was well after midday the next day before I could start to contemplate eating again, without feeling a little bit sick. And I learnt such a lot about Thai food in the process. Good times!!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009


Are you on Twitter?

I've just joined. This is a bit of an experiment because it's one of those technologies where I've always thought 'huh? why?' (but I sort of thought that about blogging before I tried it and now I'm an addict...)

In the spirit of launching a proper experiment, I'm going to throw myself wholeheartedly at this and see how it works. No more one-line Blogger postings for me! I've put my Twitter feed in the side bar so you can easily read what I've got to say even if you're not a Twitterer yourself.

If you are, though - please help me out. I'm trying to follow all the people whose blogs I follow, so please add me so I can find your account! Tips on how to get the most out of it are very welcome, too.

I'm at (imaginative, huh?)

More Musings On Friendship

I loved reading all your responses to my post on friendship last week. That's the best 'comments debate' I've generated so far! I wanted to reply to all of your points properly, but it was getting much too long for a follow-up comment, so I thought this deserved a separate post.

The first thing I want to say is that I completely agree with Soma, who said "there is nothing wrong with either, as long as they are happy" - and I sincerely hope no-one felt otherwise from my post.

But it can be a challenge, as Chef E also notes, if you feel one way and your 'friend' feels differently (maybe we had it right as five-year-olds when we used to ask "will you be my friend?"). A bit like finding out that someone you've been dating doesn't see a future in the relationship - but potentially more surprising since there's no need for exclusivity in friendships, as Heather says "there's no limit to how many you can have". I've been lucky not to encounter many people of the kind Sam describes when he says he's "cautious about befriending [people] who want a certain exclusivity in the friendship" - but I have met a few people (like those girls at uni) who I thought were friends but who have subsequently decided that they don't want to keep in touch if I'm not seeing them every day. That's fine, it gives me more time to devote to the people who do think I'm worth the effort - but it hurts at the time!

Lilly really hit the nail on the head for me when she said "I regard real friends as those I can tell anything to and they wouldnt judge me." I think this may be a big part of the difference I was looking for, because I will tell anything to anyone and assume that they won't judge me. If I'm wrong, they're probably not in my life any more after that - but if I'm right, the barriers are down.

Diane made the great point that "not having met someone face-to-face doesn't mean they can't be a close friend", which also fits with my experiences, though I will then tend to make every effort to say 'hello' in person if I end up in the right part of the world.

Domestic Executive said loads of interesting things, including making the point that "some friends come and go - but at the time we were friends it was true and meaningful," while also identifying that since moving to the other side of the world "my true friends are those that still keep in touch, however infrequently, and I still keep in touch with them." This reminds me of what happened with my friends from school - I had some great friends, but then we all moved to various places for university and drifted out of contact, and it's harder to put the effort into maintaining friendships at that age (or to realise that it's important). Then Facebook came along, a few of us got back in touch again, and now I make an effort to see those people when I can.

Kazzy's mention of "maintenance needs" is relevant here because I think as a child you don't realise this - you see your friends (and enemies!) every day at school so you don't have to think about it. I wonder, if Facebook becomes even more ubiquitous, whether the next generation of school leavers won't even have to worry about this because they'll be constantly connected to everyone they've ever met.

Dave King's three types of friends theory (utility, activity & quality friends) is interesting to me because I wouldn't class the first two types as 'friends' at all - although I'm constantly looking out for people I meet in those contexts who could become friends.

I love the simple practicality of Cheryl's definition of friendship for people on the move:
"A friend, I have email correspondences with.
A close friend, I send packages to, I call, etc.
An acquaintence, I'll say hello once in a while and only really have a conversation with them when I see them again."

It's great to hear julie70's thoughts because she's had nearly three times as long as I have to think about it! Julie, I love that you have had one of your friends for nearly sixty years now. I hope you find the next one soon.

I may not have had quite so long to think about it, but I have had some friendships where we've fallen out of touch for ten years or more, and then it's still felt like 'just yesterday' when we talk again. Hopefully this happens less now, with the internet!

Hmm, this is getting rather long, so I'll stop there - if I haven't answered your comments explicitly, it's not because I didn't read & think about it, just that I don't have anything to add!

But before I go I must answer Heather's question: "are you by any chance a scientist or married to one?" to which the answer is 'both'... well done spotting my (deliberately geeky) language.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Travel Tuesdays #6: Finnish Outdoor Museum

This photo was taken in September 2005 in Finland.

The 'outdoor museum' concept seems to be common across Scandinavia (and Germany) - the idea being that traditional buildings are preserved and you can wander freely through a park looking at, and often going inside, the different types of building.

This was my favourite from the Finnish outdoor museum, it's a Lapp food store, which they built to stop animals from raiding their supplies. Can't you just imagine what it would look like covered in snow?

Monday, 23 February 2009

Ten Tips

Jeanne challenged her readers to give their 'top 10' rules for life. So without further ado, here are ten tips (I wouldn't be so bold as to lay down rules!) from me. In no particular order:
  1. If you're helping out with a trial of something, don't assume it'll work. Most recent example: I'm part of an alumni email trial for my old University, and decided to use the (prestigious!) address to query a few magazines and ask for writers guidelines. It was several days later that I found out I couldn't receive any incoming email on that account. Ooops.

  2. There is such a thing as a free lunch. If you're not getting free lunches, you're not trying hard enough. (Same applies for various other kinds of freebies.)

  3. Ask everyone for advice. You don't have to follow it, but it's nice to have the option. This works particularly well for recommendations - whether it's restaurants, books, countries to visit... everyone has a useful set of mental lists.

  4. There will be some bad days. However great your life is, there will be some days markedly less great. If there's nothing important in your diary, it's okay to hide under the duvet sometimes - just don't make a habit of it. Which brings me neatly on to...

  5. Slipping once is okay. Slip twice and you've created a bad habit, and bad habits are very hard to break. Good habits, of course, are hard to form and break easily.

  6. If it makes you happy, it doesn't matter if it's silly. The sorts of little things that make me disproportionately happy include brightly coloured hangers in my wardrobe, fairy lights, neat storage systems, and a huge mocha mid-afternoon.

  7. People are more important than possessions. If you need me to tell you this, you should probably sell all your stuff and go out to make friends. Memories are also more important than possessions - I'd generally rather spend my money on a great experience than on more 'stuff'.

  8. You can do anything to your hair. It will grow out. My parents brought me up on this principle and I've never wanted to do anything more drastic than get layers, so it's probably a good way to stop your child rebelling by way of blue hair dye or a mohican.

  9. Some people can't stand living in a city. Some people can't stand living anywhere else. Those people are going to have trouble trying to live together.

    And last but not least...

  10. Enjoy yourself. No-one else can do this for you. Create the life you want. If you're not happy with how things are, take steps to change the things that are making you unhappy.

P.S. If you enjoyed my potato, pea & coconut soup recipe, please consider popping over to the NCR roundup to vote for me (voting buttons in the sidebar).

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A Grand Day Out

Yesterday was a very busy day - but busy in a good way.

We went out for breakfast, then down to the playing field in the next village to watch the pancake races since it's Shrove Tuesday coming up. I have some lessons to learn about action photography, it's not something I've done a lot of and of course my new camera has so many settings to choose from! We were a little bit late so we only saw two races, not really enough time to perfect my technique but at least the blurry photos capture some of the chaos.

Then we went across to Cirencester for lunch and a gentle walk. We sat upstairs in the pasty shop and the first photo is one I took through the window while I waited for the food to cool to a reasonable temperature.

Cirencester is famous as a Roman town, and one of its features is the remains of the amphitheatre - all grassed over, but you can still see clearly where the steps used to be:

I particularly like this picture of our shadows from the top of the amphitheatre:

From Cirencester, we drove to a friend's house in Cheltenham for a Thai cookery lesson, but that deserves a separate post later in the week...

Saturday, 21 February 2009

A First Time For Everything

Two fantastic firsts yesterday.

On the writing front, I banked my first cheque as a freelance journalist. (I feel rich now!)

And on the PhD front, I submitted my first conference paper. This was a submission to the ACL student workshop - if it's accepted, I'll be off to Singapore in summer! The paper reviewing is supposed to be blind, so I can't tell you what my paper is about until I find out whether it's been accepted - roll on 12th April.

These things are supposed to come in threes, so I'm waiting for #3.... :)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Job Envy!

Today was a beautiful, sunny day in my village - which made a bit of a change after all the snow, ice & rain we've had lately.

We came back from our regular Friday morning breakfast today to find one of our neighbours outside:

I wish I could do that!

But more than that, I have a serious case of job envy - because that's her job. She's an acrobat & trapeze artist. How many of us, on a nice sunny day, can just pop outside for a few handstands - and be at work?

Don't worry, I'm not really going to run away and join the circus. But running away and writing about the circus, now, there's a job I could go for...

(Note that I have absolutely no reason to complain... technically 'going on holiday' is part of my job since I started writing travel pieces...)

Thursday, 19 February 2009

For Some Value Of 'Friend'

Have you ever noticed the difference in the way people define 'friends'?

The other day I was talking with someone who told me, somewhat proudly, that he could count all his friends on the fingers of one hand. And he didn't mean in binary.

It reminded me of a conversation I once had with some... well, I won't call them friends, since we haven't defined the word yet. Let's settle for "some of the girls I knew at university". A bit long winded, but it'll do.

Anyway, we were out for dinner one evening and we ended up having a conversation about friendship, and one of them made a similar statement about having a very small number of friends. The others agreed, and they proceeded to discuss how we weren't friends with one another, and wouldn't see each other after we graduated, and that this was how things should be because "it isn't possible to have very many friends".

Meanwhile, I sat there feeling more and more like an alien, as they strongly implied that if I had more than ten friends then I couldn't be very close to any of them.

I appreciate the difference between friends and acquaintances. Honestly I do. I have plenty of acquaintances who haven't made it into the 'friend' category yet. But I also have lots of friends. Real friends - friends I'll call up in a crisis and cry to, friends I'll go out of my way for, friends I expect to stay friends with for life.

I thought those girls were my friends, until they told me they weren't.

I'm not sure whether this is genuinely a difference in definitions, or whether I'm simply more willing than those people to maintain friendships with a large number of people... I do find it hard not to make friends with people. But I think quantity and quality are independent variables on the friendship scale.

What do you think? Which category are you in, bloggy readers - many close friends, or just a few?

P.S. Even I do have my limits. After months of not being spammed on Facebook, yesterday I had four requests from strapping young Kenyan blokes that I don't know from Adam. Four. And Facebook was asking me to "confirm that you are friends". Well..... no. Sorry. Just, no. (I also said no to the topless blonde actress, if you were wondering.)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Finger Counting

When I was at school, they told us that we had to learn to add and multiply because we could only count to ten on our fingers.

The instant response was that we could get to twenty using our toes (if we wore sandals all year round).

It didn't take much longer to figure out that 30 was achievable by counting 'ones' on one hand and 'fives' on the other (25 + 5).

But (despite my otherwise-solid geek credentials) it took my husband to point out that, actually, it's perfectly easy to count to 1023 on two hands... in binary :)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Travel Tuesdays #5: Las Medulas

This photo was taken at Las Medulas, a Roman gold mine in Spain, in March 2005.

The incredible scenery here is a result of the Roman mining methods, which involved digging tunnels in the mountain, flooding them, and then using the water pressure to blow the mountain apart - allowing the gold to be filtered from the rock fragments further down the valley. Absolutely amazing!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Question For Fellow Brits

Will historians in the future call us Elizabethan? If so, what does that do to the first set of Elizabethans?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

My Valentine's Date

My husband and I went to a friend's 40th birthday party last night. Since last week's pudding night was also a Valentine's treat, this was our second Valentine date for this year. But then, you only get one "first married Valentine's Day" so it's as well to make the most of it!

As we were getting ready, we spotted a deer in the garden:

Actually, there were a couple of them, but only this one stayed still for long enough to get a photo. We have them quite often but we didn't manage to get any photos with the old camera, so it's nice to have some pictures now, especially against the little snow that was left (it's nearly all gone today).

The birthday party was a black/white tie cocktail evening so I got a bit dressed up:

Unfortunately what you can't see in that photo is that my finger- and toe-nails are bright pink to match the jewellery. Very sparkly.

After a few cocktails, the table tennis table looked very appealing. I think it says something* about my skill at table tennis that my standard of play is, apparently, not affected by my inability to stand up without holding on to the corner of the table. (* Probably not good!)

We had a lovely evening and met lots of nice people, then eventually crashed out on the sofa-bed. This morning the birthday boy made us all breakfast (despite our protests that he should let us help) and then we played board games for a few hours before coming home again.

It was a great party, but now I need to catch up on some sleep!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Medical Minutes

On Monday I went to my physio, for the tendinosis in my knee. Physio appointments are always scheduled for an hour - they don't always take that long but this week's was the shortest yet:

Physio: Let me look at your knee. *Prod*
Me: Ow.
Physio: Ok, we need to refer you on.

Then yesterday I went to the doctor, for the same sick-dizzy-unpleasantness as last time. Not that I've been feeling awful the whole time, but I have been on drugs to keep it that way, and then I ran out of tablets. So I went back, got some more tablets, and if I'm not okay by the time these ones run out then I'll be back again and (the doctor assures me) they'll be more worried. But at the moment they just think it should sort itself out. Eventually.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Friday Favourites #1: Randomness

Cognitive Daily is a blog worth a few moments of your time - the posts there are usually thought-provoking and, in my experience, highly entertaining.

In particular, Fridays alternate between survey weeks and results weeks for 'Casual Fridays', which tend to be a bit random - click here to take this week's survey, and check back next week for the results.

The results of last week's survey, on what makes a romantic gift is topical Valentine's Day reading...


It may not be the windfall you've always dreamt of (it's not the lottery!) but I'm pretty pleased with my haul.

You see, we always get these really good coffee jars - much too good to throw away, and I've started storing all my kitchen goodies in them:

But there's a limit to how much coffee I can drink (yes, even me!) so we tend to accumulate these jars quite slowly. We've recruited a few friends to collect on our behalf, and we get a trickle that way, too.

This time, we got a flood:

(And that's not all of them - those are just the ones that fit on there.)

And an extra bonus picture because I know we're a nosy lot in Blogland - here is the inside of one of my kitchen cupboards:

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Toasted Sandwiches

I love toasted sandwiches. We have a sandwich toaster, which is great because it means I can make a very easy hot lunch in next to no time.

My current favourite mixture (per sandwich):

2 slices of bread
loads of cheddar cheese
1 large mushroom, sliced
1tbsp sweetcorn
fresh ground pepper & chilli flakes

Pile into the toasted sandwich maker in whatever order makes most sense to you (bread on the outside is traditional) and give it five minutes.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

More Reading Material

A couple of days ago I submitted a listing for my novel to the Web Fiction Guide which is basically a directory of online fiction (novels, short stories, etc.)

It looks like potentially a good place to start if you're looking for something to read - I learnt about it from Lauri Shaw who's also listed her work there.

I've already had several hits originating from the site, so if you have your own work online it might be worth submitting it there for a link.

And an extra 'hello' to anyone who's found this blog from there - welcome aboard!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Travel Tuesdays #4: Armotasel

Not a house! (Iceland)

This photo was taken in Iceland in July 2006.

You can tell you're in a less-crowded country when you frequently pass signs pointing to spots which are notable because there isn't a house there any more (note the little crossed-out house symbol on the sign). If you stop and take the time to walk across to where the house used to be, in many cases there's a board with a bit of history on it - this used to be a farm. You can also walk among what remains of the walls, built of turf and amazingly still visible in most cases.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Potato, Pea & Coconut Soup

I love potatoes so I was thrilled to see that this month's No Croutons Required event was a Potato Challenge.

Due to snow (and other factors) we have very little fresh veg in at the moment, but we do have potatoes, so when I was looking through the cupboards trying to think what to make for lunch today it seemed like the obvious time to come up with a suitable soup recipe from the things I always have in the pantry.

The result was (in my ever-so-humble opinion) delicious, with the sweetness of the peas and coconut balancing against the heat of the chilli. Definitely an experiment I'll be making again.

Potato, Pea & Coconut Soup (serves 2)

2 medium potatoes
50g creamed coconut
300ml vegetable stock
1/2tsp chilli flakes
1/4 fresh nutmeg, grated (this is a lot of nutmeg, you may want to start with less and see how you feel)
black pepper to taste
large handful of frozen peas

  1. Finely chop the potatoes and add to pan with stock, creamed coconut, and seasonings.

  2. Simmer over a low heat for 30-40 minutes, adding extra boiling water if necessary.

  3. Use a potato masher to crush the potatoes (for a smoother texture, you could use a blender) then add the peas and heat for a further five minutes.

  4. Serve up & enjoy!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Pudding Club at Mickleton

My husband doesn't just have a sweet tooth, he has just about a mouth full of sweet teeth, so for an early Valentine's gift I took him to the Pudding Club which is tucked away in Mickleton, a village in north Gloucestershire.

First we had to dig the car out:

We went via the house of some friends, which broke the trip up nicely, then drove across to the hotel in the evening. We were given a glass of elderflower cordial when we arrived, and then we were introduced to the seven puddings we would get to sample later:
  • Sussex Pond
  • Figgy Pudding
  • Sticky Toffee & Date
  • Rhubarb Crumble
  • Oriental Ginger
  • Tutti Frutti
  • Jam Roly Poly
I was sat next to a man who hates rhubarb, and he got a huge portion of ginger syrup pudding to make up for not wanting any rhubarb crumble, so I also got a taste of that, and also a taste of some spotted dick which was made specially for a diabetic diner. So we got to try nine different puddings in all!

But first, we got a small main course - the veggie option was leek & pepper risotto, which was absolutely divine. There were loads of vegetables & potatoes on the table, but we were advised to use some restraint which, I think, was very good advice.

The Pudding Club works on a buffet system, where you go up table by table and can pick which pudding you'd like to have each time, reusing the same bowl. I decided I was going to save the oriental ginger until last, because that sounded best and I thought I might struggle to eat a seventh portion if I wasn't excited about it!

I started off with the sussex pond because I wasn't sure if I've ever had that before. It's made with whole lemons, and my first couple of mouthfuls were very lemony, but then the rest was very plain and quite oily. But the lemon taste was nice enough that I might have a go at making it myself one day.

Next I went for the tutti frutti because it had sounded the least exciting when it was described to us, basically a sponge pudding with lots of dried fruit - candied peel, apricots, sultanas, etc... I wasn't expecting to be especially impressed by this but I was, it was a very light sponge and a fantastic mixture of fruits. Unfortunately the photo doesn't really do it justice, you can't see all the yummy fruit through the custard:

Then came the jam roly poly. The chef had made some jam sauce for extra jamminess but I think that was a mistake - I ended up with a couple of mouthfuls of pure jam at the end. It also didn't help that, due to the buffet nature of the evening, it had gone nearly cold.

Next up, following a new strategy of 'go for the one that's fresh out of the kitchen' to minimize cold puds, was the figgy pudding. I had always wondered, given the lyrics to 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas', whether this was another term for Christmas pudding but it's actually a fairly light pudding full of figs. Apparently it was the first night they'd had this one on the Pudding Club menu.

Next was rhubarb crumble. Now, I love crumbles and I love rhubarb, so this could hardly have failed to be a winner - but it still failed to knock the tutti frutti off the top spot on my list. Probably the least rich of the lot, and not too much sugar in the rhubarb.

Then it was time for sticky toffee & date, which apparently is a big hit with Gary Rhodes. I can see why - it was very, very tasty but not too heavy.

Finally, the oriental ginger which I'd been waiting for. This actually had a similar problem to the sussex pond, in that it had a lot of ginger on top, but on a pudding of this size you really need to be able to taste the flavour throughout and you just couldn't. It was also a little bit greasy (a recurring theme of the evening) and my body just rebelled - I couldn't finish it. Thankfully my husband is more robust, and polished it off for me.

I'd hoped to fit another portion of my favourite at the end, but I reached the stage where I couldn't physically swallow another mouthful of pudding, so I had coffee instead.

There was a vote at the end for the top pudding of the night - my favourite was still the tutti frutti, and enough other people agreed with me that I was on the winning pudding team! Not that I'm competitive or anything. I suspect the ginger syrup pud might have won, if it'd been part of the main event.

I'm a bit ill today from excessive sugar consumption! Do other people get 'sugar hangovers' or is it just me?

And it's snowing again..... I think we might get a power cut any minute now.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Snow Angel

By popular request (well, Jeanne asked for it!) here's a picture of me at my most angelic...

Friday, 6 February 2009

More Snow!

Today has been a proper snow day. I'll work doubly hard on Sunday (I have a conference paper to write!) but I couldn't miss out on a foot of new snow this morning. This is the 'main' road near us:

We went out at 8.30am at which point apparently no-one in our village had even left their houses, and the snow was falling horizontally thanks to the wind. This was when I realised the value of my old camera: pocket-sized and waterproof! We took the new one too, of course, but we didn't want to take it out of the case in the blizzard that was our village.

We walked down to Stroud (it was all a bit mushy & slippy in the town, but still causing chaos with lorries) and thankfully found a cafe that was open for breakfast so we could warm up over a cup of coffee.

On the way back I made a snow angel. I don't remember doing this as a child and I certainly haven't done it as an adult, but we were walking through a field of undisturbed snow and the only reason I could think of for not doing it was that "I'm a grownup" and that seemed like a really bad reason - I'm not ready to be that kind of person! So I lay down and swished my arms around like a five-year-old, and my husband took photos. Definitely one of my finer 'inner child' moments.

We had been planning to go to Bath today, but there was no way we were going to get our car out. Still hoping it's clear enough for driving tomorrow because I've booked us a super-special meal out (early Valentine's treat) that I've been looking forward to for months. But this is the current state of our car:

And someone else's motorbike, just because it looks cool - this was on the way down, on the way back someone was actually trying to ride this through the snow...

These were all photos from the old camera, haven't uploaded the ones from the SLR yet so there'll be more snow (photos, at least) to come over the weekend.


Like virtually all of Britain, we had some snow at the beginning of the week. Not quite enough that we couldn't go out, but it was getting close. (I was, for the thousandth time, glad that I don't live in London.) It's actually even deeper now, where we are - just about to go out with the camera and play! These pics are from Tuesday.

The view from our house is always stunning, but arguably even more special when it's all white:


We were given this olive tree for our wedding, I'm not sure whether olives are used to this kind of weather!

Olive tree

Some branches that I thought were especially picturesque:


And, because it's all about the bird photography with me at the moment, here's a bluetit courtesy of my 250mm zoom:

Blue tit

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Marshmallow Adventures

I've been playing with my veggie marshmallows...

Experiment 1: The Husband Taste Test

The first important thing was to find out how they compared against real marshmallows, which required the intervention of an expert in all things confectionery. The answer seems to be that they're close enough that I no longer need to call non-veggie marshmallows 'real' because I think these are real too. Yay!

Experiment 2: Hot Chocolate

I wanted to try this one quickly because, well, every time you order hot choclate in a nice cafe they always seem to offer marshmallows. It's always sounded like a good idea (even though the other offer is usually whipped cream, which I'm not so keen on). So I had to try this out!

The marshmallows as they arrived were pretty big, so I chopped one of them into eighths - hard work because the insides are very sticky and stuck to the knife and my fingers. But eventually I managed to get the pieces into my mug of hot chocolate. This is delicious. Apparently they don't melt quite as quickly as normal marshmallows (keeping their consistency quite well) but they float, and get a bit softer than they were, and absorb a bit of a chocolate taste. And are generally fab.

Experiment 3: Rocky Road

Rocky Road is another one of those things that I've looked at with vague envy over the course of my life - of course I've made similar refrigerator cakes but none that had, well, a name. So I was excited to try this. I know you're all thinking I get excited over the strangest things, but you should be used to that by now.

As usual, I didn't actually follow a recipe, but here's what I did. This makes a fairly small quantity, but multiplication is easier than division so really all recipes should start out small! (Plus, I'm rationing myself on the marshmallow front.)

100g chocolate
1tbsp golden syrup
2 large marshmallows (or lots of mini ones, if you're not veggie & therefore have that luxury of choice - but really, why are you reading this recipe? It's not like I know what I'm doing!)
2 digestive biscuits, crumbled
handful of raisins

  1. Chop up 2 large marshmallows - learning from my earlier experience, I dusted the plate & knife with icing sugar before I started this time which meant I could re-coat the mini marshmallows as I created them.

  2. Put marshmallows in a bowl with crumbled digestives (I used plain chocolate ones - well, that was what I had to hand, and I thought a little bit of extra chocolate wouldn't hurt!) and raisins.

  3. Melt the chocolate - I used my lovely chocolate-melting machine (to avoid any disasters).

  4. Then, because it's all looking too much like health food so far, stir in a good tablespoon of golden syrup and melt that in, too.

  5. Stir everything together, spoon out into half a dozen paper cake cases, and put in the fridge. Remember that the fridge is not the oven, and therefore don't have to keep worrying about whether you've left them in there too long. (No, clearly I would never do that.)

  6. Once the chocolate has set, take them out and eat them!

These are my marshmallow experiments so far. All this and I've only eaten 4 from the packet! There will be more to come.....

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

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