Thursday, June 30, 2005

Quite a day

Today has been a day of mixed fortunes. The Husband is back after being away on a short contract for three and a half weeks. Yesterday was his last day working. One of the main differences to having him back today is that suddenly the television remote control has disappeared and as soon as I turn my back the picture on the tv disappears and suddenly the Ceefax football pages appears. Ah well, what it is to be married to a third generation Arsenal supporter.

After looking over the garden he announced that we had some spare patches in the garden’s flower beds that needed “something tall” in them. Our garden looks an absolute picture but nevertheless I am always ready to go shopping for more plants. So we popped along to a garden centre on one of the roads leading out of our town. In the garden centre the plants displayed outside looked fine and healthy – these always give me a lift. What threw me completely, though, was that every annual on display had completely gone over. All were kept, and displayed, in a huge shed like area, with a plastic roof. This had been obviously very useful in protecting the plants up to and including the month of May when there were lots of frosts, many very heavy. However, in the last two or three weeks it has been extremely hot and very humid, the weather only breaking a couple of days ago. Obviously the result of this has been that the majority of the plants have already gone over. I found it very disconcerting and gave me a (wrong) gut feeling that many of out plants haven’t long to go. Totally wrong, of course, because most are going to flower until the first frosts. Anyway, we came home with three pale yellow Verbascums (called Custard Banana) which are going to be 6 foot tall when fully grown.

While the Husband was cooking a risotto for lunch, I started on something that he had asked me to do: to set up his own e-mail address, separate from the one I use. The instructions on my ISP’s website looked easy enough and so I set about doing it. It didn’t work. So started the first telephone conversation with a gentleman from the ISP’s call centre in India. It lasted 40 minutes and ended in him telling me to log off my computer, wait 20 minutes and then log on again, after which all would be well. So after eating lunch (very nice, the Husband’s a good cook) I turned on the computer and tried the new e-mail address. Guess what? I didn’t time the second telephone conversation to the call centre but it must have been well over an hour. I must have re-set up the new e-mail address on my computer at least six times, logged on and off our account on the ISP’s website about three times, climbed all through the bowels of Outlook Express and generally came close to tearing out my hair. Eventually it seems to be sorted out. I’m too fed up with the whole thing to look at it again today.

I may be a glutton for punishment but I am wondering whether to set up another e-mail account just for myself and to keep our main e-mail address for general family things. I’ve set up the Husband’s e-mail address so it looks as follows:

[His first name].[our main e-mail identifier]@[our ISP]

I could do the same for a new e-mail address for me, replacing my name for his. I am entitled to more new e-mail addresses from my ISP. But, do I really want the hassle of changing everything to a new e-mail address and notifying friends, etc? I think I am going to sleep on it.

Thought of the Day

He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.

by Victor Hugo

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Thought of the Day

Millions long for immortality and they do not know what to do with
themselves on a lonely Sunday afternoon.


From Meditation Tip of the Day

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Computer Viruses - Ugghhhh

Thursday afternoon I was looking at Outlook Express and saw that I had received an e-mail saying it was from PayPal. From the window thingy that allows you to see part of the e-mail before you actually open it I could see that it was a bill for over 600 dollars for a sex object. Well, (a) I would not buy any such thing; (b) I certainly would not have spent such a sum of money for anything; (c) the most I have spent with payPal was £4.00 for a couple of paperbacks from Ebay; and (d) the last sum I spent through PayPal was for 79 pence for a piece of music fromiTunes. I assumed that it was a con so I clicked on the e-mail ready to Forward it to PayPal at . All Hell went loose. A website I had never clicked on a link for suddenly appeared, weird messages began to appear and my Anti-Virus package began to send me lots of messages, first to say that they had detected a significant Virus (one of the Trojans, I think), then that they advised putting it in Quarantine, then that they advised Deleting it. Finally that seemed to sort the problem out, I did a full system scan and the AntiVirus software didn't fnd anything horrible.

However, if I hadn't got an excellent Anti Virus software my computer would now be a mass of unusable metal and plastic. The thing is that all computer owners need much more than the hardware. They also need several different software packages to protect the thing. I have three. A very good quality Internet Security package with a firewall and anti-spam and two other freeware software packages that the Stepson found on the internet and installed on my computer which deals with all the spyware, cookies, etc that sneaks into the computer whenever I am "out there" on the Internet. So, every week, in addition to vacuuming and dusting the house I also do the computer Housekeeping which comprises updating all three software packages I have just described, running a full scan of the computer by all three of them and then asking the computer if it needs a defrag. All tiresome and takes a while but absolutely necessary if the computer is to keep going. I always consider all this little lot a bit like checking the air in the tires and checking the oil level in the car.

But... why do we have to have computer viruses anyway? I can understand (albeit reluctantly) that if a firm is capable of checking where else a computer is going to visit then it would issue spyware to sneak into an individual computer's sofware. I can also understand that if Microsoft announces that its software security is invincible that the announcement is like a red rag to a bull and people will try to break the security systems. But what value would anyone have in infecting an individual's computer? There is no monetary gain involved and neither would the virus creator even be aware of the fury and exasperation felt by the individual whose computer has been infected. So, what does the creator of computer viruses gain from what they have done?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Babies and Charity

The Times has started a new “agony page” once a week with the always good Bel Mooney providing wonderful wise advice to those who wrote in. This weeks column appeared today. The main letter was from a lady who is still suffering after having a stillborn son 36 years ago. Much of the letter is not germain to what I want to talk about today, although still of real value. However, in replying Bel discussed her own stillborn child and said:
"My story is to confirm the truth of your letter: that it does go on and on — the grief, the longing, the endless tattoo of “what if . . .”, which can so exhaust the heart. People don’t understand how the loss of a child you carried but never cuddled can continue to possess you — especially for our generation, because the medical profession then did not understand what they do now: that the parents of stillborn children need some ritual of closure. So one is left with an aching emptiness, and since nature abhors a vacuum, into it pours the cumulative sorrow of our needs and weaknesses. I felt it was my fault our baby died, a sort of punishment."
I have never had a baby. Neither have I ever been pregnant. Throughout my life I have never really regretted this (I have a wonderful relationship with my two now grown-up stepchildren). So I can never properly understand the anguish and suffering a woman goes through when she loses a child, whether during their pregnancy or at birth or when the child is older or even an adult. I know this. However, in chosing a charity to support, as I discussed in my piece two days ago “My Crafting Dilemma” I hope that what I now do for a charity will help at least a few women, and perhaps their partners.

I am now helping to make blankets for a charity which attempts to support the families dealing with the loss of their baby through miscarriage or stillbirth. Volunteers make blankets, hooded wraps or burial gowns. The charity says:
"Sadly we still lose babies. From the tiniest prematures to full term size. We would like to be able to have a blanket for each of these babies. Mums and Dads can nurse their little angel in their blanket in the precious little time they have together. The mums and dads are then given their baby's blanket as a memento of their little one to provide a little comfort in the painful months and years that lay ahead for them."
I now make blankets for premature babies in 4 ply baby yarn. about 14-15 ins square. The website has a free pattern page that can be used. I use a shell stitch pattern that I found in a crochet book that I have here at home.

I do encourage everyone to try to help. It does not take long to make a blanket, whether in 4 ply or double knit baby yarn. And the charity really needs as many volunteers as they can get. Please help.

Cold Chocolate Souffle

4 oz dark chocolate, 70% cocoa fat solids
½pt milk
2 eggs
2oz caster sugar
5tbs water
½oz gelatine
¼pt double cream

for decoration:
½pt double cream
1oz dark chocolate, 70% cocoa fat solids

  1. Increase the depth of a suitable dish by wrapping a 'collar' of doubled greaseproof paper around the outside of the dish. Secure with sticky tape.
  2. Dissolve the 4oz of dark chocolate in ¼pt of the milk over a very gentle heat in a pan. Add the rest of the milk and heat to just under boiling. Remove from the heat. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat until light and pale in colour. Pour the chocolate milk over this mixture and stir. Put back into pan and heat gently stirring all the time until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow to boil. Strain into a large bowl. Allow to cool.
  3. Put the 5tbs of water into a saucepan. Add the gelatine and dissolve over a very gentle heat. Allow to cool a little and then stir the gelatine mixture quickly into the cold chocolate custard.
  4. Whip the first quarter pint of cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites to a stiff peaking consistency. Stand the custard bowl in a bowl of ice and stir the custard until it begins to set. Fold in the whipped egg white and whipped cream. Work quickly and lightly.
  5. Pour the mixture into the soufflé dish and leave in the fridge to set.
  6. Decorate with the rest of the cream, whipped, and grated chocolate.

I have made this recipe lots of times for special occasions over the years. Even though it takes a while to make properly it is always delicious and always well received.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Are Tomatoes Evil?

I am a bit disconcerted at finding a website called Tomatoes are Evil. I thoroughly disagree as tomatoes are a fruit (?) which I love. But some people may like the website, and some of the recipes for things like lasagna made without tomato sauce.

My Crafting Dilemma

All my life I have done crafts. I knit, crochet, embroider (crewel work and counted thread cross stitch) and sew and all my life since I was a very young child I have done so (I was knitting jerseys for myself before I was 10 years old and I can still do so). In part it was because I saw my mother knitting and doing other crafts every evening. I don’t know whether I have automatically followed her example but since adulthood I have been unable to sit in front of the television without a piece of either knitting or crochet in my hands. Whenever I go to the cinema I always feel uncomfortable because there isn’t enough light to knit or crochet there – I suppose I need to start going to the cinema somewhere in London which has special viewings especially for knitters when the house lights are on enough for people to see to knit while watching the film (usually something like Bridget Jones, or something likely to appeal to women) .

Anyway two years ago I reached an emotional stopping point which has caused me to stop and think about the entire subject of spending time on crafts. I have yet to reach a conclusion on this as I am still thinking it through.

I have already mentioned that I have learned most of the crafts from my mother and for as long as I can remember whenever she has been well enough she has crafted things. She knitted woollies for the whole family and did a huge amount of embroidery, most of which became pictures which were, when finished, professionally framed and hung on the walls of her house. Something over two years ago, and about a year after the death of my father, it became clear that because she was so disabled by illness that she could no longer live by herself. After some discussion with the family it was decided that she should go into a nursing home where she could get proper nursing on a 24 hour basis and my brother found an excellent nursing home for her. The whole thing has been a great success and she has now settled down there, no problem. It was, however, necessary for her to sell her home and to dispose of everything, other than a few precious pieces that she took with her.

I was responsible for sorting out the contents of the house, giving all the stuff which was not good enough to sell but too good to throw away to charity shops and disposing of everything else. I will admit that it was a wrench getting rid of some pieces of furniture and other domestic items that I could remember from my childhood but that neither my brother nor myself had room for in our respective homes. But the thing that found most difficult passing onto the charity shops were all of the craftwork that she had spent hours lovingly doing over the years. I have taken one or two pieces home to keep but some items I have had to let go because (a) my walls are full of my own craftwork and (b) most of her pieces were just weren’t right for my place. So they have gone on to charity shops hopefully to find a new home.

The whole concept of spending large amounts of time working on something just for the pleasure of doing it is one thing. But once it is finished – what then? If it is not something that you know definitely that you have a specific use for then what is the use of making it. Someone buying such an item in a charity shop or somewhere is unlikely to appreciate the love and the commitment in making it. How on earth do professional craftsmen cope, making things of all types for sale? This whole thing I find very difficult and I am still trying to work out and get it clear in my own mind, even after more then two years.

The result is that although I have at least three knitting projects for myself on the go (a jumper I designed, a cardigan with a small amount of cabling and in British Sheep wool and a jacket in thick variegated yarn) I now can find no emotional urge to finish any of them and so they are all currently packed away in a cupboard. I find myself thinking – what’s the use of making craft things? So I have been making things for others. I’ve knitted a big Aran jumper for the Husband, with lots of complex cabling, that I know he will need for next winter and then followed that with a complex lace knitted shawl for my very pregnant hairdresser (baby due any day now). These are all done now and given to the recipients (much gratitude expressed, even from the Husband who has no idea just how complex the pattern is on his Aran ~smile~). The Husband doesn’t need me to make anything more for him at the moment and neither of the adult Stepkids seem to want me to make them anything (they both have very individual tastes of their own). So I have started to crochet some baby blankets for a charity as I must do something with my hands or go mad. And at least I know that they will be of benefit. More about the charity later.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Thought of the day

Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the

-- Lois McMaster Bujold, "A Civil Campaign", 1999

From Motivational Quotes of the Day


When the flowers come out is when you discover the mistakes you've made in the garden. We now have pink lupins alonside purple (a.k.a. blue) scabius and purple lupins alongside the pink scabius. Oh well, I've never thrived for perfection in the garden, just something that looks nice. And the greenery around the flowers reduces the colour clashes considerably.

Friday, June 17, 2005


Is there anyone out there with enough knowledge of Blogger to sort out my problem? I became a member of the Women Bloggers webring this week. I don't know what I did but by adding the HTML for that to my template suddenly the sidebar is now below the posts and I can't find out how to sort it out. I sent an e-mail to Blogger Help and all I got was an e-mail saying check Blogger Help. Fat lot of good boys.

Not a good week for me computerwise, what with this and my ISP being offline for 24 hours. And now it is about to be the weekend with the return of the Husband (a real Luddite) and a visit to the in-laws on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Cat Haiku

Your mouth is moving;

Up and down, emitting noise.

I've lost interest.

From Cat Haikus

The Garden of Never Enough Thyme

One of the blogs I read on a daily basis is the Autumn Cottage Diarist, a lovely site full of musings of an English lady who loves gardens, the countryside, beautiful architecture and many other things that I also love. Anyway, when I was looking at her blog yesterday I saw a mention to another site and went exploring. The Garden of Never Enough Thyme is an entrancing website full of pictures and herbal recipes, a website of peace and serenity, well worth visiting again and again.

Monday, June 13, 2005

So He's Innocent

Well, the 10.00pm News, the main news programme on BBC tv in the evening has just spent 30 minutes reporting on the results of the Michael Jackson trial. Not bad given that the whole national news programme is supposed to last half an hour. I've no idea how long the actual programme did last tonight as I gave up listening to all their wittering after Jackson was pronounced innocent. My patience on all that chatting was a bit low, mainly because the cats and I were at the same time busy recapuring yet another mouse which has been hiding behind the wall units all day. (The somewhat battered rodent is now outside and I hope it has the sense to keep away from Nimrod the Mighty Hunter again.) Why on earth the Beeb decided to spend so much airtime on the trial I do not know. It is hardly germain to our interests, just really a diversion from usual sober issues. Perhaps it was meant as a distraction to the current fuss over the European Community and the UK's rebate. Personally I am very much in favour of the EU as an organisation but it is about time someone addressed the fact that the French get such a high proportion of the agricultural subsidies. Let's face it the only reason why they are raising the subject of our rebate is because of the results of the referendum in France on the EU constitution. I hope Jack Straw continues to stand firm.

I have to admit to some surprise as the results of the trial as from the way that the case was reported over here I strongly suspected that Michael Jackson would be found guilty. However that was just listening to the constant barrage of information on the trial reported on the news. I really did not know what the jury was actually told. Oh well, perhaps now sanity may prevail. And I mean both on the news and at Neverland.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Organised vs Disorganised

I do not know whether there really is a justification called “Justifiable Homicide” in this country, or whether this is something I have seen on a US cop show and, therefore, of dubious origin. However, if faced by a murder of a disorganised person by their organised spouse I am sure that courts ought to consider such a case sympathetically.

The Husband is very intelligent, far seeing and good at analysis of issues. He is good at manual things like gardening and is a sociable person, far more able to get on with people than I am. What he is not, however, is organised.

I am the organised person in the relationship. What this means is that I am the person who sorts out the computer and his mobile phone and who is expected to find the things that he has lost. And what things does he lose? His (aforementioned) mobile phone. His house keys. His credit cards. His reading glasses. His… well you get the message.

He has just set off to do the second week of a month long contract with our former employer. As he is working in a city on the West coast of England, and we live very close to the East coast of England he has to leave on Sunday afternoon, so he can book into a hotel as he will start work at 9.00 tomorrow morning. So he has had to pack all his stuff. And then he can’t find his key ring with his house keys AND the keys to the suitcase he is packing. So we go searching for them. I have, over the 12 years that we have been married, pointed out tactfully several times that it is far easier to cope if you have a place for everything so that you know where to find them quickly and easily. The Husband, however, works on the principle that you leave them wherever you feel like it and find them instantly when you look for them as they will have magically transported to where they ought to be. It doesn’t work like that, however, and we had a merry panic looking all over the house for the keys, with the knowledge that he couldn’t go anywhere without them. He found them, eventually, on top of a shelf of books about trains – the last place where I would look.

And so he has packed and gone, leaving me to try to relax after the panic.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Thought of the Day

Explanations are fine for practical matters, but out of place for beauty, love and simple presence. Just let it be. Enjoy the mystery instead of solving the riddle.

Leo Hartong


Evolution Theory

From today's Letters to the Editor page in The Times:-

A further reason for the pressure on GPs’ surgeries and hospitals (letters, May 27 and June 4) could be that a reading of Genesis i, 24-31 strongly suggests that, given a normal shift pattern, the assembly and test, at least, of mankind took place on a Friday afternoon.


So true, so true.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Copyright problems?

Origianlly I posted here a very funny story from today's The Sun Online. It is about a university student who was kept in a cell overnight and then fined £80 for making a homophobic comment about a police horse.

On second thoughts I decided to remove it from here, but advise EVERYONE to read the actual article here. It's well worth reading and really made me laugh.

Friday, June 03, 2005

No Comment

On Gardener's World on the television this evening Carol Klein was talking about Cannas and the fact that as they are a bit tender they need to be protected in the winter. So, she said they should be put somewhere like a garage.

The Husband said "Anyone intelligent will have a model railway in their garage".

An Answer to my Question?

In my last posting I asked a question which was
If a "CoffeeCake" is just a cake you eat when drinking coffee then how does it differ from a "Cake"?
I asked this question not just here but also to one of the Yahoo Groups of which I am a member. I received several very helpful and interesting comments on the entire subject of baking. Some of these comments I am quoting below:-
  1. I was asked whether I used scales every time I cooked. My answer was "Well yes, when I'm baking".
  2. One person expressed amazement that KitKats originated in the UK, not the US.
  3. Canadians cook either by volume or by weight, when they use either imperial or metric measurements (like we do in the UK).
  4. I was told that flour in the UK has a higher gluten content that the flour in the US. Hence some US recipes do not work out as well when cooked with ingredients from the UK.
  5. One person told me "Flour varies in the US by region. Some regions produce flour from wheat with more protein than in other regions. As a result, the south, which has a lower protein all-purpose flour is known for things like cakes and pies, but not so much for its bread. The north, which has a higher protein all-purpose flour is known for its bread, but not so much for great pies. You can buy "cake flour" or "bread flour" pretty much anywhere, but most people just keep "all-purpose flour" in their cupboards ".
  6. The same person also told me "One reason baking recipes fail for people is that the professionals who create recipes assume that you will gently spoon the flour into your measuring cup, but her observation was that most people reach in with the cup and level the flour against the side of the bag, which gives you a lot more flour than called for, because it's packed." (Now this absolutely baffles me - in other words you do not get a specific and finite amount of flour when measuring with a cup? How can you get consistent successful results when baking?)
In the "Comments" part of this blog CopCar said "Coffee cake normally has a coarser crumb than a dessert cake would have and it is usually not iced (frosted?), but may have a crumb topping. While a dessert cake may have more than one layer, normally a coffee cake is only a single layer--and that layer not very thick.Then we have quick breads (using baking soda and/or baking powder as leavening) that may be served with coffee but are not called coffee cakes. Oh! And, coffee cakes are generally not as sweet as a dessert cake. Coffee cakes are for "snacking" while dessert cakes are normally served following a meal (or a wedding or a birthday party!) " (Over here, Cop Car a cake isn't usually served as a dessert. Sometimes it is but not very frequently.)

I am even more baffled now than when I started.

There seem to be some differences between the UK and the US which just cannot be breached. Whether it has a coarse texture, a fine texture, is iced (frosted?) or not, has a crumb topping, or a fruit filling, or has one, two or more layers over here it is just called a .... Cake.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Question as I am Baffled

Although we speak the same language and have some shared history I am always staggered by the extent of the differences between the UK and the US, especially in the area of recipes and cooking. Only a few weeks ago I was trying to explain to a friend (hello Cop Car!) what was caster sugar, semi-skimmed milk, a baking tray, Gas mark 7, dessert spoons and ground nut oil amongst other things (I had sent her a link to the blessed Delia's recipe for Toad in the Hole). In turn I always get confused to the concept of cooking by volume rather than weight - for example using cups to measure ingredients. And how much exactly is half a stick of butter?

And now I have more problems between the different ways recipes are described. I am trying to identify the difference between what a US cook would describe as a "Cake" and what they would describe as a "Coffee cake". Sounds daft it's true but my own interpretation would be that a coffee cake would be an ordinary cake with coffee as one of the main ingredients. However, I have just seen a recipe for a "Blueberry Coffeecake" which does not contain any coffee at all.

If a "CoffeeCake" is just a cake you eat when drinking coffee then how does it differ from a cake?