Thursday, 28 November 2013

Scones baked in Halogen cooker

We've had this new toy now for a couple of weeks and it has been proving its worth. I finally whipped up some scones using the Mary Berry Devonshire Scones Recipe with the added trick of freezing the flour first for about 30 minutes and then rubbing in soft butter.

The halogen oven usually cooks food in a quicker time and at a slightly lower temperature, however the scone recipe that came with the oven used the same heat and about the same time as Mary Berry's recipe. So I used: 220° for 12 minutes. Next time I might use 200° for 14-15 minutes.

This time I did not sieve the baking powder and flour as much as usual and I felt I could taste just a bare twang of baking powder on my tongue. Only because I saw Mary Berry the other day say something to the effect that the sieving was not necessary. Tosh! Sieve it well to mix and get rid of the baking powder taste.

The halogen oven only needs to pre-heat for a few minutes and uses so much less power than a conventional oven. I know because I have checked it against our power meter gizmo.

I didn't have a flat baking tin that made the best use of the available round size and shape of the oven so I covered the wire rack that came with it in two coats of foil which I buttered and floured. This I feel, affected the bake of the base of the scones and just a bare fraction undercooked the base compared to the top. Next time I'll make sure I am using a tin tray so that it conducts the heat better to the base of the scones.

Overall? The picture above is of the second and last batch of scones. The left taken just after it was put in and the right just before they were taken out 12 minutes later. Both pictures were taken at the point the halogen lamp was off so I do not know why there is such a colour difference. It is so much fun to be able to see everything cooking through the glass. They were scrummy and a bit too easy to eat with butter and just a swipe of strawberry jam. Yield 16 scones from 450 gm (1lb) flour.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

One of those days

Yesterday was one of those days that evolves out of seemingly nowhere and transforms one's life further still. It started off with a minor good deed to help a new business in our small town to find that the owner is only a former client of mine for whom I had done some therapeutic work in the past. She had given up her conventional job and had taken the plunge and opened a little shop. Another soon to open business is another former client of mine who is one powerful woman in her own right. Very exciting stuff going on.

Then just after the middle of the day I receive a forwarded email from my employer about some government funding in place for extending one's qualifications in our field. She had already emailed them back and asked if there was an upper age limit and no, there wasn't. This is a qualification I had been enrolled to do elsewhere a while back but decided that a whole 'nother year out was not necessary. And here it was, or at least a major element, being served up from a private course just one evening a week for just sixteen weeks for just the price of my uniform and kit. Places were limited it said. I don't hang around you know!

A phone call enquiry later and a quick superman change of costume to look professional when it was definitely a bad hair day and a 20 minute drive and a quick chat with my boss and I was there within an hour. In truth, the interview was a formality and I was signed up there and then. Well, almost as I asked them to hold fire. Subject to final discussions at work as there has had to be quite a bit of jiggling around of my colleagues work times so that I can attend the allotted evening.

In truth I am not that enamoured by the college based on the apprentices we have had in our work place. It will be very interesting to see if the college are as rubbish as the impression I have. The end result though is a qualification from the right examining body so it is worth my time and effort. The course normally costs £3000!

I'll be 51 just after the course starts at the beginning of the new year which tickles me to think I am still out there learning and growing. Who knows where the couple of new skills I'll gain will take me, or the better qualifications in my existing skills.

How lovely that everyone so far has been supportive and encouraging and accommodating. More reasons to be cheerful and thankful.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Signed up for Holidailies 2013

Sign up is here and I've committed myself. Committed is the right word!

A post a day during the month of December, something I have done on and off since 2007. It can't be that bad if I am back again.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Unexpected Treasures

Yesterday panned out quite unexpectedly. After a few hours messing around online with Dr Who stuff, daughter phoned and invited herself around for lunch. She has had a bit of a blip in her life and had been feeling down these last few days so I was glad she was going to come to us.

It was nearly mid day and had to go get dressed as being in my dressing gown was just not good. I started to debone the not very well cooked roast chicken of the night before when daughter arrived and then not much later an unexpected phone call came through which I took. Chicken went on hold and son and daughter popped off to the supermarket. By the time I finished the call, they had returned sat at the sofa with a small table set up, treats and the brand new Monopoly Empire set up and inviting me to play. I had given this to son as a present on getting his new job in September.

The already opened Christmas port was added to the mix whilst the three of us played and Darling Mr Doris made a Caribbean Banana Tarte Tatin from Paul Hollywood's Pies and Puds which we saw the other day. This picture is from the programme but ours looked just as good and tasted phenomenal:
At one point amidst the laughter and fun, daughter exclaimed that this was just like Christmas. And indeed, it was. Though Thanksgiving came to mind, and being thankful for what we have.

We even managed to persuade Mr Doris to join us to play one round of this Monopoly Empire which is almost nothing like the original Monopoly in that when three people are playing, a game can be done and dusted in ten minutes unlike the ten hour marathons the original could turn out. I'd have thought that this quicker version would suit younger minds - and me too as I can't bear the old version any more - however they were dissatisfied and devised ways to re-rule the game to make it a bit more substantial. With the four of us playing, and some revised rules, and both daughter and I using delaying tactics to not go ahead and win, a game managed to last for a whole 45 minutes!

By the evening I made Roast Chicken with roast quinoa for us all and it was yum yum.

It was a lovely unexpected day of togetherness. Reasons to be cheerful :-)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot: Inspired

Yesterday's date had been in our calender since it was first released as the showing of the 50th anniversary episode and in the end our day was scheduled around a feast of TV.

A special roast dinner was made to be ready by 6.30pm and the start of Strictly. Followed hot on its heels by the Dr Who 50th special episode. Just last week I saw that the return of Borgen was being advertised so I had that in mind for 9pm after Dr Who. Borgen is an incredible and amazing series I discovered from my dear friend who passed away early in the year. As we watched together the last triumphant twist and turn of that last episode of the last series she had turned to me and wryly joked that one thing was for sure and that she would not be around for the next series. I suppose it is the sort of joke I would make but is not very funny when one is not the one making the joke.

The evening began with the roast not being quite cooked enough in places. A signifier of the evening ahead I wondered.

Strictly was good enough though nothing particularly special as it is the last few weeks and the judges are suddenly much more critical. We sneaked a preview of who actually gets the boot by the end of the evening and lets say I was very surprised given the two up, or rather, down in the bottom two in the dance off. Tonight's show will be interesting.

The Dr Who special was sort of good. Expectations are so flaming high that making something that celebrated 50 years of what is very much a cult was always going to be difficult. There were some very good points. Overall I gave it a six out of ten which was exceptionally harsh of me.

So there we were, mixed review roast followed by two less than top notch programmes let me onto Borgen for which the other programming had overrun and Borgen had already started. In at the deep end with subtitles flashing away. My poor Mr Doris who had never seen any of the previous would have been isolated as to where we were and who we were dealing with. Though never mind him, I felt thrown in the deep end and I love the programme. Then I checked the programme info and I find it was actually the third episode of the new series. The third!!! What happened to the previous two? Even I need to catch those two before I can proceed.

Within minutes I flicked Borgen off and to the Dr Who after show party and the inane and repetitive "Did you enjoy that" questions which even one of the presenters commented that no-one could hardly say that they didn't. It is the sort of programming that might have been a good idea on paper and is sadly lacking. There was mention of an alternative 50th anniversary Dr Who programme which could be seen on the red button after the after show party. That mythical and rarely pressed red button except for watching alternative sports during the Olympics or taking part in the "guess the antiques price" in Antiques Roadshow.

Oh beautiful red button you saved our day! Peter Davison I never knew how much I love you! The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot is quite possibly the most brilliant and funniest and best celebration of the 50th anniversary. Typical self-deprecation and use of real family members takes Dr Who to a whole new level. What a delight it was to watch with so many references to all things Dr Who and involving a whole raft of the significant characters both behind the scenes and in front of the camera as well as a wealth of others. I do not want to say much more as it might be to spoil other's viewing pleasure. This is the gem of our Saturday night and the jewel of the 50th anniversary of Dr Who.

BBC iplayer usually only available in the UK and only for seven days

I have just had a delightful time re-watching the Reboot film and even freeze framed the credits and looked up who was who online! One thing led to another which led to discovering these creative and wonderful three minute vignettes created by a New York Doctor Who fan. The Adventures of the Doctor Puppet are worth watching all the way through the episodes and also the Christmas Special: How the Doctor Puppet Saved Christmas; and the music video tribute. I so look forward to the next episode. 10.46am 24 November

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

N n n n n nineteen

19 Google images of 19
Today is the nineteenth. There are twelve of them each year and each time it crops up it makes me do a double-take as if there is some deeply special event I should be noting or celebrating. My daughter was born on one of them so that makes that one very special indeed. My parents were married on one which doesn't make it special for me but instead a very stressful time as my mother's expectations for gifts or celebration far exceeded actual life.

My half sister who has always been an enigma to me was born on a different nineteenth and that has always been special to think of her.

The importance of the 19th has seemed to have grown in the last decade, like something misremembered that needs to be found. As a result of writing this post I have looked up a date I believed for at least five years to have been the 19th but find that the day is wrong for the year concerned. I'm pretty definite about the day of the week which leaves my mind having re-written history to shift what was the 18th to the subconsciously desired 19th. Perhaps I should also question what I think I am definite about!

The number nine has always attracted me in life, possibly because in numerology my life path number is 9. Perhaps that predisposes an attraction to anything with the number 9 in it. Yet I do not have a feeling for the 29th, nor other numbers ending in 9 except for the number 9 itself which was a date on which I happily married. Maybe my daughter's birth led me to find other 19s to associate with? Maybe there IS something on a 19 which I should be remembering but am not? Maybe it is a feature of age and I have already started to go a bit potty fixating on things that are just not there?

In "real life" I am utterly busy, have my finger in a lot of pies and plenty on my plate. No two days are ever the same and yet I come in to my secret blog to write such random thoughts as this.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Clean bill of health

We are lucky in our country in that we can visit our doctors when we are well and they will run basic tests as needed. I'll always remember the sage advice of my lovely mother in law (of course darling Mr Doris has a very lovely mother!) who said to us as we were turning 40 that it was useful to go for a well person check up to get baselines on various stats just in case they were ever needed. We are talking weight, blood pressure, cholesterol etc.

This involves an appointment with a nurse rather than a GP which is fine. A few years back I was feeling very off and peri-menopausal and had another Well Woman check up. At that time they did a test for hormones which they are refusing to do this time as the test is supposedly so unreliable which I'd concur with since I was told I was no where near peri let alone actual menopause and yet here I am possibly well on my way. Menopause is a whole 'nother discussion.

Last week I had the few physical tests with questions and today I have my blood test which required an overnight fast which is no trouble for me. Oh how I dislike having blood taken but then I haven't had any taken since I became a runner and now a gym user. Maybe it will come out easier? I'm off to the gym now and then the blood test at 9am then on with the day.

The results will take about a week to filter back to me. I am hoping that they will let me have the results from the previous time so that I can compare my cholesterol and other levels since I have been mainly on a warrior diet for nearly a year. As well as reassurance that everything is good, it will be a very interesting experience to find out if changes have transpired to the physical level.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Holidailies 2013

Would it be a bit pre-emptive of me to say I am looking forward to December and the annual holidailies? An excuse to write a little something every single day from piffle to whatever takes ones fancy? With the Christian holidays as a backdrop and for us, the possibility of snow, it provides an extra diversion. Such that it seems a whole month and more can be taken up by working towards just a one or two day event in the calender!

Nevertheless, it is fun. I do not go in for getting into unnecessary debt or buying flamboyant presents I can not afford, though if I had the money I might buy flamboyant. To me it very much is about togetherness. Sharing an event and making it very special. Being thankful for each other and thankful for another year. Catching up and being close. It is for family and close friends. For those that can make it.

I love designing the menu with all the planning and preparation and then making it work effortlessly on the day. It is a joy and a pleasure. If I am lucky with a dear friend coming then it will be twelve of us for the banquet.

Some years I am full of bah humbug about the decorations and Christmas, however since my father decided to give my sister and I hampers for Christmas which he gave us at the end of October and are sat here, I have a desire to get on with the decorations this year. It is hard to comprehend on what planet my father is but he was so obviously so excited with his collections of items for the hampers he wanted us to have them early so we can check them and not get any duplicate items. Very thoughtful.

It is four weeks to the day until 1st December 2013. I do not spend much time shopping apart from our local smallish supermarkets so all in all I guess I am not overwhelmed by Christmas everywhere. I'm pretty sure it is out there but I am not jaded by it.

Alongside getting my bedroom and clothes into tip top order I have a private photoshoot to arrange. Something akin to "How to look good naked" and something I have wanted to do for myself in my fiftieth year. I have found a photographer and just need to pull out some images of picture styles I quite like so that we are all on the same wavelength. After all, those naked shoots do not show anything though one is technically naked. It would be good to reveal a pic for my Darling Mr Doris, and me, for Christmas.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

New Leaf November

It is Autumn though really Winter is beckoning and yet I feel like it is a Spring time in my life. Two full years of accounts have been done and submitted to the accountant with the current year almost up to date to the day. The meeting with the accountant was amazing as she declared part way through the two hour number fest, "Do you notice I am not letting you go? We are going to get this done now so that when you go home you can put those papers away and never look at them again." I burst into tears in response to her gentleness and kindness! Admittedly I had also been awake since 3am getting papers sorted and had been on some very nervous energy. In less than a week that little miracle took place and it has transformed and uplifted me. I vow never again to get into that state. Never.

Our main kitchen and dining area with the new dresser of china continues to look fabulous and is looked after and kept clear. Today I go to the china man in the market where I have ordered a 3 litre china jug to use as a vase and six matching mugs to hang on the up-to-now empty hooks of the dresser with a pattern that I am hoping will complement the existing china. He has promised I can take them all back if it doesn't work. The living area now needs the discarded piles of papers from sorting my finances to be sorted and shredded or dumped. In my targets this weekend is our bedroom though to look at the state it is in and that it is all my stuff creating that mess no wonder I usually call it "my" bedroom. Darling Mr Doris is so patient and kind about it all and does not give me grief just excuses such as how busy I am. And indeed I am. Yesterday I took my daughter to work in the wrong direction to work; worked back to back from 9am to 3pm and then home and then out again to a nail client and did both feet and hands and then home again to change for yoga at 6.30 from which I finally returned at 8pm. No wonder I flake out at the end of the day.

Last Friday I started my first week of a free trial gym membership. It is five minutes walk away and gives me access to the swimming pool and all the classes as well as the gym. Whilst I may have been working hard on getting my accounts together in this last week, progress in life continued and I managed four trips to the gym and two yoga classes! Yesterday I committed to the one year membership as they had a very special deal on and is the best value of just £25 a month with nothing to pay until January. As long as I can manage to get nearly a month's worth of membership each week I'll be very happy indeed. It gets me off the cold, wet and dark streets and actually working on my core strength as well as running. I have discovered I love the rowing machines. My left arm and shoulder have been giving my a severe problem for weeks and weeks now and is only slowly improving. I'm hoping a gentle work out will help it recover better.

Shall I mention the nightmare that woke me up this morning? Something that counterbalances all the good stuff happening. It featured my mother. It was in younger days and she was in full form shouting and screaming and upset by a current friend of mine who I like and admire in real life and yet is such an unassuming and apparently quietish sort. Something had transpired in the dream and my mother and her had an interaction in which my friend had innocently repeated some of the things I had said about her. In life my mother never ever liked to hear good about anyone else. I suppose it is as if it took away from my mother. Anyway, in this dream I am going between the two camps trying to placate and calm. The difference being that I confronted my mother. I shouted at her and told her to stop and that what I thought about my friend had nothing to do with her. In the past I may have told white lies to smooth things over, this time I didn't. It was a hard and aggressive dream. The good thing is that I spoke up and responded to my mother. There was no happy ever after and it was all very difficult and nothing quite resolved. It is what it is and I am not sure there ever will be an easy answer or explanation for my mother and me and why it all happened in my life.

I am fifty years old and here I am still living the nightmares of my youth. Thankfully these are only infrequent occasions and becoming rarer. Yesterday with joining the gym I was thinking maybe with my fitness I can live to a hundred and then I will have had over fifty years without my mother in this world. Maybe the dream was in response to that "evil" thought! That is the flip side to where I am at with the new chapter in my life and feeling good about it and the positive changes.

If the rain is really not bad after all then the allotment may also get a look in from me today. Either way I am off to the gym shortly for a good workout. I still can not believe this is me. Fully paid up gym member with her accounts up to date and a beautiful home emerging, doing a great job with her very happy clients. Frivolously buying a china jug and matching mugs that she chose herself. I want to grin but I also want to cry. In real life I smile a lot which I know is infectious, and underneath, sometimes, is such a level of pain and anxiety and tears that I share only here.