Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Review: National Trust Dark Chocolate Ginger Truffles

We were initially suspicious on first opening the box - the chocolates just looked too shiny, freshly buffed. We put our fears to one side and braved a taste.

The first reaction was one of perplexity. What was that overriding taste sensation? It was narrowed down to a strong taste of Milton sterilizing fluid, with notes of urinal cake. Strangely, the taste improved with chewing, bringing out the supposed ginger flavour. Some of us, having thought to ourselves that they couldn't possibly be as bad as we'd originally thought, gave them a second go. After the same initial flavour, we tried to convince ourselves that they were improving, or maybe our taste buds had been irrevocably bleached into submission?

None went back for a third... until ten minutes later when one valiant soul ventured again, in the hope that the upward trajectory of flavour improvement would continue. Sadly he'd left it too long and the quality had plummeted back to square one.

No one could bring themselves to finish the last three in the box, and we'd thought that was the end of it. How wrong we were. A few moments later and the Milton urinal cake began its repeating hell.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A trip to Pluto and Back

Today I decided to go on a little adventure. I got my kicks on Route 65 of the Trans Pennine Way by cycling to Selby (home of the greatest number of UFO sightings in Britain) and back. 30 miles is rather a lot for little old me and I'm now suffering from jelly legs, despite the flatness of the trail.
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Downside was that, despite overshooting by a fair few miles, I failed to actually find Pluto... I'm still not sure how I missed it!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Nerd alert!

I'm used to working in hot, sunny places, and so doing archaeology in the UK is a bit of a shock for me. The problem isn't actually the rain, wind, and general unpleasantness of fieldwork, but the annoying Ordnance Survey Grid system. What's with all these letters? GISs don't like letters, they need an actual XY coordinate.

So, I did some detective work and have now created the magical OS Grid Reference conversion spreadsheet.* Just enter your OS grid reference (no matter how long) into the pretty pink box and - Bob's your uncle - it'll convert it into a usable 6 figure number. Don't say I never do anything for you!

* The only way I could host it was on Google Docs, and it's therefore editable by enyone. If you find it doesn't work, drop me a line.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Lashings and lashings of ginger beer

I recently ventured once more into the home production of alcoholic beverages. This time it was ginger beer. I looked around and there are lots of recipes, so I adapted a few. I sampled my first bottle this weekend and it was rather delicious!

Highly explosive, but delicious ginger beer and the jar of sediment

To start off the plant:

In a jar, mix together

4g active dried yeast (or 14g/0.5oz fresh)
3/4 pint of water
2tsp ginger 2tsp sugar Leave for 24 hours, then feed the plant with 1tsp root ginger and 1tsp sugar daily.
After a week, mix thoroughly and strain into a jug.

To make one bottle (approx 2 1/2 pints):

Dissolve 170g sugar into half a pint of hot water.

Add the juice of half a lemon and a quarter of the strained mixture.

Add 1.25 pints of lukewarm water and stir well.

Decant into a bottle and mature for another week. The bottle may need burping as a lot of gas will build up.

(This next part is speculative as I've not bottled up my second batch yet)
Put the remainder of the strained liquid back into the jar and top up with warm water to replace what you've taken out, and start feeding
again with 1tsp sugar daily. The ginger may not need topping up.

A week later repeat the bottling process.


I've already got my next drink experiment planned. I've just been out harvesting elderberries!

Your mother was a hamster...

Monday, 6 September 2010

Yet another new hobby

It was only a matter of time before my fibre fetish led me to the world of spinning. I had a very brief go a while back at a Guild open day at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, but I'd failed to get myself organised enough to actually get myself some kit together.

Cue a visit from one of my Newfoundland knitting friends. We took a trip out to the lovely village of Wentworth near Rotherham, to visit the amazing Wingham Wool Work. I'm slightly ashamed to say I was like a small child in a sweet shop, surrounded by hundreds of colours of fleece and a lucky dip bag to stuff full. You would have been proud though, I was very restrained and only came home with a drop spindle, 400g of fleece, and some small carders for the very reasonable price of £25. The owner also gave me a quick demo and I came home with a bit of practice fleece too.

So, without further ado, here are my goodies.

Merino fleece. Yum.

And here is my first proper attempt at spinning with the freebie stuff I got.

My drop spindle and fleece

Close up of my wobbly yarn.

To be fair, I'm pretty pleased with my efforts. I'm yet to ply it, and then Bod knows what I'll make out of it, but that's hardly the point, is it?

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The last move?

I'm hoping so. At least for a few years now. I've made yet another drastic life-changing move, this time back home from Newfoundland to start a new job in York. For the first time in my life I have a job that won't end in 12 months' time. This is exciting stuff people!

York is ancient, beautiful and, as I discovered yesterday, home to an amazing Italian deli where I had a most excellent lunch and came home loaded with cheese and cured meats. I would heartily recommend it to any visitors to ye olde city.

Since moving back I have got into baking in a big way. I have had nothing but triumphs with this invaluable book, and given that my other half is still in Canada, I have the patience to spend two days making one loaf of bread. Worth the wait.

My Italian Bread

I have also equipped myself with rennet, mesophilic starter, a mould, and a book on Home Cheesing Making. My plan today is to make some cultures, then this afternoon maybe try out some cheddar.

Despite my new focus on domesticity, my other crafty habits aren't suffering, and I'm planning on learning to spin soon. I had a go at York Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers' open day last weekend, and had a grand old time. Will this yarn obsession ever end? I doubt it.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Best Wooing Strategy in the World

I've been tagged by Rosie to talk about the thing that never fails to make me laugh. I'm fairly easy to amuse, but the one thing that will never fail to make me giggle like a loon, even when I'm in a bad mood, is my other half.

We spent a lot of time in the pub when we were getting to know each other. I didn't realise I fancied him at the time, but we'd always end up sitting and chatting together. His extremely subtle courting strategy was to absolutely crack me up using only his glasses as a vehicle for comedy.

Being extraordinarily long-sighted his glasses have the ability to make his eyes enormous. This was, and still is, extremely funny to me (it's all in the delivery), but what I hadn't thought about before was the psychology of this: big eyes = baby animals = sweet. Damn! I feel like I've been subtly manipulated somehow.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

A future in art house cinema?

Or not. I've been having fun with Movie Maker. I recently watched something (that shall remain nameless) and was rather captivated by this scene. It was just so random. I mucked about with it and removed the obvious identifiers.

A pint to the first person who knows where this is from.

Blogger was arsing about... the video seems to be working now :)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Cheesy Update

So, I tried my queso blanco today. I'm not sure exactly how hard it's supposed to be, but mine was quite soft. It tasted great though. Very much like boursin - crumbly but spreadable. The pepper taste made it especially Boursin-ish. I'll definitely make this again.

Smell my cheese, you mother!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Squeaky cheese

I am a huge dairy fiend and recently got to eat proper cheddar cheese curds. They are amazingly tasty so I set about trying to find out how to make them. Turns out it's a bit tricky without complicated ingredients, but on my travels I found this recipe for Queso Blanco.

It looked ridiculously easy so I've given it a go. I changed the quantities of the recipe though, to suit those who don't eat a crazy amount of cheese:



1 litre whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice

I first heated the milk on a medium heat in a saucepan until it reached 185 degrees Fahrenheit (just before boiling).

Then added the lime juice to separate the curds and whey. This simmered for 2 minutes at the same medium temperature.

The cheese was then decanted into a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain the whey, and sprinkled with salt.

At this point you can add anything you like. I was going to add roasted red peppers, but I couldn't get the jar open, so I opted for just a sprinkle of black pepper.

The linen is then tied over the tap to drain for another four hours (or overnight).

I can't wait to try this later. I'm also keeping the drained off whey for making ricotta tomorrow :)

Saturday, 2 January 2010

A year in the life...

2009 has been a pretty great year. It's hard to believe that I've been living in Canada for 12 months, yet I've packed more into those than the last few years combined.

This time last year I was celebrating Christmas and New Year with my family and friends back home, and preparing to go back to work at Birmingham University to finish off the last two weeks of my contract as a Distance Learning Manager. Come January 15th and my flat was empty, and I was packed ready to go.

When I arrived in Newfoundland it was late at night, and covered in snow. Arriving without a winter coat was soon to be regretted. Still, it's been lots of fun and here are a few features of my year.

Living in a province where the snow doesn't disappear until May takes a bit of getting used to. The discovery of the existence of snow pants and yaktrax made my life much more comfortable.

The view from our front door - this is the top of the steps

Cross country skiing is fun, if a little dangerous if you have no skills.

Back in April, when the UK was having a delightful Spring, the pack ice arrived. I have never seen anything like it, and I felt positively messianic walking on water.

I walk on water. Just wait till you see my other party tricks.

After the pack ice disappeared, the iceberg came. It was lodged in Quidi Vidi Harbour for a week or so, but this was as close as we got.

A trip to Bell Island saw some impressive icicles, and some nice cruziana fossils.

These are taller than me, but I have no scale.

In June we drove to Prince Edward Island to dig up worms for L's work. During the trip we witnessed such marvels as the World's Biggest Blueberry, the PEI Potato Museum, and a lot of Anne of Green Gables-related kitsch.

World's Biggest Blueberry, Nova Scotia

In July I returned home for the purposes of field work. I had the fun of driving a big white van from Birmingham to Croatia, where we experienced the worst weather in decades. Still, the archaeology was great!

Inside Diocletian's Mausoleum, Split

On my return to Newfoundland I had the opportunity to go excavating on Signal Hill. Being more of a non-invasive archaeologist, it was a treat to handle a trowel again.

In September an intrepid group went on a camping trip to the Baie Verte Peninsula. The main purpose of which was to see the amazing steatite quarry used by the palaeoekimos at Fleur-de-Lys a couple of thousand years ago.

This wasn't the only highlight, however, as we also discovered the bizarre abandoned town of Tilt Cove, which has a murky past...

In October I took a trip to Quebec City with some archaeological reprobates. Much fun was had and large quantities of hot chocolate and poutine were consumed, whilst trying to remember my schoolgirl French.

Chez AshTon, home of poutine

The Irish Loop was the next destination as L's parents came to visit. The highlight was Mistaken Point where we got to see incredible precambrian fossils, which are soon to become a World Heritage site.

Spindle fossil, Mistaken point

Winter returned with 39.6cm of snow falling in one day in early December. We warmed ourselves with a traditional feuerzangenbowle and gift swapping for St Nikolaus.

This was followed up by a Wassail party on the Solstice and then we took part in some Newfoundland Mummering, well, the parade at least, before spending our first Christmas abroad.

Any mummers 'loud in?

So, it's been an extremely memorable year, but now I find I have to return home earlier than expected. I'm going to find it hard to leave this place.