Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Number 32: The Gallery

The Gallery is a weekly photo challenge hosted by the Sticky Fingers blog, which I thought I'd have a go at. It has different theme or subject each week and has what looks like a great community of followers, so I thought I'd join in. I hope they are friendly!

This week's theme is 'home'. Easy one you'd think, but how do you choose one image to sum up your feelings about home? The obvious choice is the cat, as he is the first thing I have to find after any holiday, before unpacking, calling the family or watering the plants.

Then I got to thinking about where home has been before. We used to have a very confusing array of homes: I grew up in Norwich, the family roots are all up near Leeds and then I moved away to uni / various jobs and had a home there too. So going home could mean setting off in any one of a number of different directions.

But, because I am now thinking about it too much, and because I have spent all of this morning working on these darn websites, this is my 'home' for today. They are screen-grabs of the homepages of two of the various websites I have set up for myself.

I am virtually at home all the time!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Number 31: make profiteroles

In honour of the return of the Great British Bake Off I decided to have a go at the scariest pastry of all - the profiterole.

I'm not silly, I'm not going to try for a Croque-en-bouche, no matter how amazing they look or how many teeth they have the ability to crack. For this challenge, some pastry with a variant of a custardy-mix with some form of sweet topping will do me!

Sidestepping the advanced techniques used by Good Housekeeping, I settled on a recipe by Nigella in How to be a Domestic Goddess.

Stage 1: make the pastry

This is me beating the eggs into the flour, butter and water mix. Slowly and steadily, followed by chuck-it-all-in as it got a bit boring. I also didn't use the mixer as I figured it was just another thing to get dirty and my arm is significantly more toned as a result.

Then make the pastry into small turds on a baking sheet using a large guage piping attachment. I really tried not to make turds, but it just wanted to be like that!

Stage 2: make the custard

Stir cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract and caramelised sugar together. Pour into a jug and cool. Try not to eat it all with a spoon.

Stage 3: pile it up with toffee sauce

Still a bit of an inappropriate shape, but they were pastries, they had custard in and the toffee sauce was the sweetest thing EVER. The huge revelation though, was the homemade custard. Blimey is it better than the tinned / packet stuff.

Can you hear the sound of my diet blasted into a million pieces?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Listography: celebrities I'd like to have a beer with

Another challenge from the blog over at Kate Takes 5. I think that this game should have one 'free', like the Bible on Desert Island Discs. Everyone is going to choose Stephen Fry aren't they? So I'll take him as a confirmed companion, and invite the following too: 

1: Ellen Macarthur
Quite an incredible set of achievements and unbelievable self motivation.
Not least because she grew up about as far away from the sea as it is possible to be.

2: Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson
I read an interview with her the other day and thought what an incredible life she has had. 
She has gone from being a world class athlete to sitting on committees in the House of Lords,
via daughter, wife and mother.

3: Lisa Tarbuck
For some reason I have her pegged as a great listener as well as being a funny, funny lady.

4. Chris Packham
My poster boy since The Really Wild Show.
He's done lots since so I'm sure my knowledge from my teenage 'Smash Hits' research has gaps in it!
And he could tell me why some of the blackbirds in our garden have white bits...

5: Hugh Jackman
I reckon he'd be good for buying the next round.
No other reason, honest :-)

Number 30: failing a dress code

The Pink Flash. As banned by the BRDC.
You'd be right in thinking this one is mainly here because it made me laugh!

I don't really think of myself as a scruff-bag, but I am certainly not the smartest ragamuffin around. I err more towards the comfy-and-luckily-not-clashing rather than the stylishly-put-together-and-effortlessly-classy, if you see what I mean.

But I do usually like to make an effort when an effort is required. But sometimes, there is just no help for me.

Last week, T and I were on holiday, staying in Oxfordshire. While visiting Stowe Gardens (well worth a visit) we heard the sound of screaming cars and realised we were very close to Silverstone. We followed the sound and found ourselves with free access to the ENTIRE Silverstone complex to watch the F3 racing. Apparently this is perfectly normal on non-racing days, but there were qualification races happening and several classic racing car time trials happening, so it was a great place to mooch about. With our smug 'access all areas' faces on.

Until we got to the British Racing Drivers Club.

Should have noticed the security guard. Should have read the big sign that says 'Members Only'. Should not have asked the security guard if we could come in and have a look around. Should not have read sign about dress code at the same time as we asked and then laughed out loud.

Items on the banned list list included:

Flip flops (as sported by T)
Shorts (as sported by T)
Frayed jeans (as sported by me)
Trainers (as sported by me)

The nice security guard pointed us in the direction of the pits as 'an interesting place to look around'. And presumably where to go if you are a bit shabby!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Number 29: trip to the 'other' cathedral in Norwich

A panoramic shot with panoramic people as well as places!
Some of you probably already know that Norwich has not one but TWO cathedrals. There is the big pointy Anglican cathedral in posh Tombland which features on many postcards and is a firm fixture on the tourist trail.

And then there is the squarey blocky Roman Catholic cathedral, which sits in a residential area, a 4 lane road away from the city and with no car park.

I'm ashamed to say that, despite growing up in Norwich I have only ever visited one of these two and no prizes for guessing which one. Visitors who have been on the Norwich tourist trail with me probably don't even know there is a second cathedral.

But today I managed to change all that, through a trip organised as part of the Heritage Open Days. These days are organised as part of a national scheme which open heritage places to the public, sometimes only the occasions in the year. I noticed that there were tower tours of the RC Cathedral as part of the week and duly turned up this afternoon and joined the group.

I'm pleased to say that the tour was really well attended with the lists filling up fast. We all grouped together at the appointed hour and dutifully followed our guide.

This is the view on the way up, walking along a wooden walkway over the nave:

Then, if you can bear almost 200 narrow spiral stairs,you get the main show, and it just gets better. None of the pics do it justice, but in this one you can see the other cathedral, St Giles church, City Hall, the Forum and lots more.

We totally lucked out with a clear day and could see out to the wind turbines and lighthouse at the coast, around 30 miles away. I hadn't really noticed that the Cathedral has been built on one of the highest points in the city, which meant you can pretty much see the whole street-scape laid out, and there was much 'oooh, look - there's Mum's house!' and 'that's my office!' from the group.

It was also a bit scary standing on the leaded roof at the top of the tower - that's a big drop underneath!

When you get down, the inside of the Cathedral itself is pretty impressive too!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Number 28: soda bread

This may be a bit of a cheat as it also features in my photo scavenger hunt, but it is the first time I have made it so I am sneaking it in under the wire.

I am one of those annoying people who loves having fresh bread and regularly bakes my own. After bigging myself up, I then say in a tiny small voice, in audible brackets: (in a breadmaker).

Hmmm, not quite the same, is it... I just can't be doing with all the waiting around and faff with fresh yeast, and finding a warm enough place (we don't have an airing cupboard) for the thing to rise properly. So I've had a breadmaker for years and I think it's fab. It is almost worth it just for the smell of fresh bread in the morning.

I have been meaning to try soda bread because it has an instant-ness about it that should be perfect. No rising, kneading or waiting. Just mix, shape and cook. And in truth, that is just about all there is to it. It smells wonderful while it is baking too.

But the lesson is in the eating. Unless I did something very wrong, it is just a teeensy bit dry. In fact it has a texture a bit like stale scones, unless you slather it with butter. I imagine it is perfect to eat with soup. Has anyone else tried and am I making it badly?

The recipe I used was from the 'Encyclopedia of Bread' book:

Sift 2 cups plain flour and 2 cups wholemeal flour and 1 tsp salt into a bowl.
Add 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp bicarb of soda and 2 tsp cream of tartar.
Run in 3 tbsp butter and stir in 1 tsp sugar.
Add 1.5 / 1.7 cups of buttermilk (I used milk) and mix to a soft dough (don't overwork).
Put on a greased baking sheet and mark the top with a cross.
Bake at 190C for 35 - 45 minutes until well risen and hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Eat warm with butter and marmite!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Scavenging: the August list

Blogger has surprised me this morning by updating just about flipping everything about how it works. Tempted to hit the 'take me back to the safe world of old Blogger' but let's see how we get on first...

I liked this list, probably helped by being on holiday and having new things to photograph.
How did everyone else get on?

A fountain - outside York Art Gallery
A market - with a very high sign!
A funfair - the old fashioned type, again in York
Something bizarre - empty tombs propped at a jaunty angle in a flower bed. Hmmm...

Mountains - the Alpine house at RHS Harlow Carr in York. I live in Norfolk, this one was always going to be a tough one!
Bread - my first attempt at soda bread, which has a texture that was almost like cream crackers
Street food - cupcakes IN the street! It's a terrible photo as it is on a busy pavement in the Norwich Lanes, but it commemorates a baker who had a shop nearby
A boat - with a flight of 20 locks in the background, at Caen Hill

A sport - family rounders on our camping holiday
Fabric - is my stash *too* big..??
Something ancient - Aylesbury stone circle
A picnic - more fun from the family holiday