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Have been musing over something new to cook for dinner.  Although I now expect someone to say - yup been cooking that for decades and it's called X. Paging [livejournal.com profile] desperance for ideas....

I like Lasagne in the way Garfield does - face down in a bucket of the stuff.  I like fish, tomato and cheese, and with the price of River Cobbler/Alaskan Pollock being quite low, wondered if you could do lasagne using fish instead of pasta/mince and if anyone has?

In a baking dish about the size of a fish fillet start with fish fillet, tom sauce, cheese sauce and then repeat a few times and bake.  You'd probably only need about 30 mins in the oven to bake it through?  Any ideas? Any improvements? 
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It's not very often an author has me grinning like an idiot but a new one has.  To the short list of Terry Pratchett, Robert Galbraith and Lois McMaster Bujold, I now add Jodi Taylor.

Seriously, try a sample chapter from the first of the 4, soon to be 5 books in the series The Chronicles of St Mary's.  The first one is called Just one dammned thing after another.  It's accessible, fun, has swearing, sex, a quirky institution and chunks of history.

Yes the time travel is slghtly glossed over and there are some holes in the plots but they are immense fun.

Edited to add link to Google Play where a free sample can be found: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jodi_Taylor_Just_One_Damned_Thing_After_Another?id=twKkBQAAQBAJ&hl=en_GB ;
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This recipe is very difficult to screw up and my current favourite.

Chicken thighs, red lentils, onion, garlic, rosemary, oil for frying, parsley if you want - serves 4

Choose a cooking pot that can go on the hob and into the oven.  On the hob, fry up a chopped onion with garlic, rosemary and seasoning.  Add 200g red lentils and 500ml of stock.  Season 8 chicken thighs and place skin side up so the skin is above the liquid and will go crispy.  Bring to a simmer and put in the oven at 180c for an hour.

Add some chopped parsley if you want.

The full recipe is in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's new book called Light and Easy which is gluten and dairy free.
I can recommend the following from that book:

Fish and Tomato curry
Trout Chermoulah
Seedy bars with chilli and rosemary (I'm still getting used to a savoury flapjack)
Buckwheat granola
Fish Rizo with broadbeans
Chocolate bean cake (made with kidney or butter beans)
Castagnaccio
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At the weekend [livejournal.com profile] coth reminded me that I had not done my Blackberry vs Iphone post.  I had hoped that a few months after having the Crapberry, I would have something erudite to say.

I have a Blackberry Touch.  I can securely read work emails on it and reply to them.  Compared to how much I use it, it has mediocre battery life.  It occasionally burps and forgets what day it is but a few taps and it comes back to life.  I can see a limited view of my diary.

I have an Iphone 5S - It does everything but my employers give us the Crapberry and route our emails to it on the grounds of security.

The good thing about this is that it keeps two parts of my life seperate.

I don't think WhatPC will be beating down my door to give me a job...

Cat Timing

Dec. 9th, 2014 07:00 pm
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To my cat:

My mum who has never met you visited today.

I reminded you that she was bringing your second Christmas present. You know the one in addition to your expensive heated bed my mum and dad sent you. You listened semi-attentively when I explained that you needed to simply sit still, sleep or purr. We agreed that no actual affection (feigned or genuine) was required.


You had one job.


And you did it.


Right on the floor.


In front of my mother.


I should be promising your Christmas presents to the Shelter for Kitties who will appreciate them.

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Well further to this where I got lots of helpful  advice here's what happened.



I bought this from a company based locally (Stoke) through amazon for the buyer protection.  I paid for a decent graphics card an Asus something it bumped the price by £55.00.  The case is pretty big and it looks like a dalek with purple accents.

I bought an Asus 27" monitor which is pretty and good quality.

Firsty they set the delivery for after 1pm at my request and offered me hourly slots.  I was out n the morning so of course hte courier called at 11 to say he was at the door and it was a timed delivery before 12.  I 'discussed' this with company and it was delivered at 3pm.  When it arived it was dead power wise.  Given they had put the graphic card in and said they'd tested it we guessed they used their own lead.  Borrowed new lead and it now works.  There is a dent in one of the drive bay covers.  I will be getting a new cover and a new lead or my toys will be out of the pram.  Have already named it Little Bastard.

It's currently installing Office 13. I am trying to 'understand' Windows 8.1.

My keyboard and mouse have decals and light up blue - wonder if I could get the same colour under car lighting for the mini?  The keyboard came with the warning:  'Killing the soul behead' and emphasised it has drainage holes in case of accidents.

Whilst I have probably saved about £300-£400 from just buying a top of the range HP envy - we shall see how it behaves over time.  
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I like macs.  I have everything mac.  I also want a PC for games (with a small g I'm not a Proper Gamer - I like hidden object and time management games - juvenile I know) and for open university stuff which DEMANDS a pc type platform and to play movies while I work on my mac.  My current windows laptop is 6 years old and decaying (possibly due to the fermented goat yoghurt it experienced 5 years ago in foreign parts.  Have already had to fix a few registry issues, overheats and is needy.

My mac has 4GB (two vacant slots) and 1TB and can be a bit slow but that's another story.  I like my mac and will keep it for delicous library, scrivener and dragon dictate.

I will buy a pretty monitor and hide the pc desktop under the desk so it can be fugly as all get out.  The thing is that if I look at an HP envy with 16GB and 3TB running windows 8.1 and a processor speed of 3.6GHz.  These cost £999 up to £1200 and don't include a monitor.

But there are other options: I found a brand called Vibox which is a Gamer PC and  comes in at about £600-700 with the same spec but a faster processor(4GHz) .  Ok it tries to look like optimus prime - but for such a price difference - what am I missing?

NB I have discounted Zoostorm as a brand due to appalling feedback.
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A healthkick has been declared chez us.  We have not dived into the realm of low fat ready meals and weight watchers products which always seem to include chemicals in the ingredient list rather than, y'know, things recognisable as foods.

Nope.  I succumbed to the River Cottage Light and Easy book because I dream of a small holding where the nearest neightbours are at least 100 metres away and can't hear you sneeze through the wall.  Honestly when my neighbour opens her mug cupboard (springy hinge), I hear it.  But there I digress.  Anyway it's Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new book which aims for gluten free and dairy free.  That is not to say we will become staunchly either of those because I adore dairy far too much.  You can call me dairy free when you pry the Jersey milk container and Lescure butter wrapper from my cold dead hands.

My Ocado order (yep back with Ocado after a brief flirt with Tesco), is littered with flaxseed, various flours which are not wheat, malt rice syrup, seeds and nuts and other such stuff.  And as I now have Fridays off thanks to working four ten hour days, I will be heading to the markets to buy fish and then coming home to bake: Granola, Oatcakes, Chilli seedy bars and Castagnaccio to keep us going throught the week on the nibbly side.  Having a baking day feels quite traditional.

And the coming week's evening menu looks like this:
Chicken with lentils and rosemary and broadbeans
Trout Chermoulata with rice and cashews
Broadbean fish rizo with rice and kale
Parships, chorizo, kale and lentils
Fish and tomato curry
Vegetable and nut risotto.

There will also be fruit in abundance and nuts to scoff.

We shall see if this works. It is possible that I may end up with a cupboard full of languishing unusual flours/nuts.  That said I have already ordered the appropriate tupperware to neatly store them in (with labels).   And if I do fail I have a feeling that [livejournal.com profile] purpletigron could take a good deal of it off my hands.

Does anyone have any gluten free favourites for week day dinners?  Nothing too faffy please.
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I have difficulty with the word friend.  Its meaning has been changed since the advent of social media.  It is no longer the analog friend/not friend position it used to be.  It's not someone I went to school with and know the names of all their pets and siblings.

I suppose that those who grow up with Facebook will not even consider the pre-internet definition.  I now have a number of friends on facebook whom I have met a few times and on LJ a few I have never met.  I have been fortunate in that in the last 12 months I have only defriended two people; one for posting naked men and one for unwanted repeated game invitations despite polite private messages asking this person to stop.  Strangely both of these were people I have known a very long time.

Over time, I have tried to come up with some guidelines for myself when it comes to friendship and so far it has worked:

  • A friend must, in some way, make my life better.

  • There must be give and take - if you are in need and I can help, that's part of friendship and I expect the same consideration within reason.  I can expect you to come across a small city to help me out, possibly a country, not a continent.

  • If you specifically ask my advice, I give it, you act against it to your detriment and then you cry on my shoulder and we go back through the dance again and again - then we're not on the same page.

  • We must have some shared frame of understanding on hot button issues like racism, feminism, pornography and intolerence.

  • When either of us is wrong/upsets the other, we have the right to call the other on it in calm and reasoned ways.  Deal with problems in the time frame they occur, without hosting grudges for years.

  • There's no excuse for trolling or threatening.  Even if its not aimed at me, I'm not comfortable with my friends taking venomous aim at others.

  • The unfriend/block/report button is very often the best thing you can do.

I'd be interested in hearing any other perspectives/approaches.  Do you think my approach sounds harsh?
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This week I have tried two things to be green.  One hasn't worked and one might.

I agree it's time for me to stop throwing away one costa cup every working day.  It's just a shame that their machines of which there are two between me and my bus, aren't designed to take their own reusable cups.  This one will need more thought.  The manned coffee shops are not on my route to work. The one at work is manned by an individual who is not a person who I want a daily conversation with as it would just bring me down before I even log on.

And secondly we throw away a lot of 2 litre milk cartons - about 3-4 per week.  We have bought a JUG IT which cost £2.00 and started buying milk bags.  However they are slightly more expensive than cartons but we will give it a go for a while.  It will also give us more space in the fridge.

And that's my environmental contribution for the week.
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I love gadgets both simple and technical and I'd be interested to hear other people's favourites:

Please don't include smartphones or broadband.

1. A T shirt folder - £3.67
2. Nesting mixing bowls and measuring spoons Joseph Joseph £31.27
3. Goji Wireless headphones £55.00
4. Cusinart coffee maker with a timer option £99.00
5. A three tier tiffin tin Marks and Spencer £18.00

And what are the main things you're thinking of buying:
A double sided revolving whiteboard
A fitbit
A new office chair
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I have only ever recommended a few cookbooks; the last being Peyton and Byrne British Baking because all the recipes I tried came out really well, even when I deviated.  I was looking around for a general cook book which was for standard dinner cooking, simple, quick and not extravagant or needing powdered hamster toe nail clippings or dirtying twenty pieces of kit in the process.  I had had a few failures with the Waitrose magazine where it seemed that certain ingredients just seemed to have been missed out.

So what is the repository of simple dinners? It's Good Housekeeping's Family meals for a fiver. It's currently in WH Smith's for £4.99.
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The more I cook from scratch at home, the more I realise the benefits of a good store cupboard.  This way it's only the protein and veggies/fruit I need to think about.

My starter cupboard list is: Olive oil, garlic salt, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, chillies, ginger, crushed garlic, onions, curry powder, stock cubes/powders, rice, cous cous, coconut milk, worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, bay leaves.

And good to have is: Tinned chopped tomatoes, passatta, tuna, flour, lentils, lemons, dried tarragon, dried oregano and dried coriander, borlotti beans, star anise, ground mixed spice, oats, dark brown sugar.

Anyone got any other versatile suggestions that keep for ever?
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My colleague's 12 year was set question 5.  The external square does not count and everything must be a square.  We tried overlapping and about 20 different permutations but could not get 9 squares.  I said I'd post it here because there are smart people on LJ.

Any thoughts?

20140520_224934-1
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The current chapter involves Harlow's monkeys and attachment.  Whilst the world did learn a few interesting things from Harlow's initial experiments - his experiments became pretty sick in later years.

It was thought that babies only formed attachment because mothers gave them food.  He started off in studying attachment by noting how baby monkeys taken form their natural mothers became attached to cloth pads in their cages.  He then set up two metal figures; one dispensed milk and the surface was a wire mesh and was cold, the other had no milk but was covered in towelling and a lightbulb underneath gave out warmth.  The monkeys stayed with the cloth mother all the time and only went to the metal mother to feed and then came straight back.  And so the emotional side of maternal bonding was 'proved'.

So far we have studied the Millgram experiment (giving electric shocks to people), the Bandura experiment (encouraging kids to violently beat up a large doll), the Little Albert conditioning (frightening a kid into fearing a cuddly rat) experiment, the Zimbardo prison experiment (look it up if you haven't heard of it) and now Harlow.

Not an endearing bunch but a good introduction to why we have ethics committees.



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Not being a parent and having recently had a cat with 'digestive issues' I have been delighted by the existence of the automated litter tray although we have not yet got to that stage.  I got to thinking about something I will never do:  nappy changing.

Take one child with a dirty nappy. Imagine if you could clean it without seeing or smelling the nappy contents?

Why could there not be a plumed in piece of equipment in a bathroom about the size of a linen basket.  A ring gently closes round and supports the child above the waist and lets the feet and legs hang loose.  The machine releases the nappy and gently removes it.  A tepid jet wash cleans the child from the waist down and directional jets spray a lotion in mist form to the appropriate areas (depending on gender).  It could use a slightly anti-bacterial wash as well.

You don't see a dirty nappy as it comes out in a sealed packet which you bin or open and examine if you must do this.  Being a non-parent I understand that the colour and smell of the kid's poop is acceptable water cooler discussion.

Out comes a clean child which you can then nappy.  The importance of checking a child's skin health means that having the machine nappy the child may miss early signs of nappy rash.

The components exist. We have dishwashers and car washers.

Anyone got James Dyson's number?
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I am arranging a lunch at the *Savoy in London for my mother's 70th.  Yes that nice 5 star hotel restaurant run by the foul mouthed Ramsay.  And we'll be dining from the a la carte menu as well.  I am a kind daughter.  So given I'm about to mortgage a kidney for this I expected clear communication from the restaurant. I emailed them my credit card details as requested which included my name and title:  Mrs Firstname Surname.  This is what I got back.

"Dear Mr Firstname,

Thank you for your email.
I am confirming that we received your credit card details.
Savoy grill has A la carte and Lunch menu options.
And complimentary  small cub cake for your mum on her 70th birthday."

I am going to be very curious about the cake.  Will it be baby bear shaped?  Made of baby bears? Shaped like a dice? Or made from a small scout type individual wearing a woggle?

And yes I'm miffed about the spelling, the incorrect gender, the use of the wrong name given I'd supplied them in the format they specified and lack of quality check on the English but that, I will deal with once we've had the meal.

*I wanted the Wolseley on Picadilly but you have to have a party of 6 or under or over 12.
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I have spent today being a victim of my mother's shopping habits from years back and more than five counties away.  She would make marmalade in February and whenever she saw Seville oranges, which have a very short season, she would buy almost every net of them she could find.  I did the same this year and ended up with 6 kilos.

I use a lot of different jam recipes and don't have a particular formulae in my head about fruit to sugar rates or the pectin level of every fruit.  So when I got home and worked out that I needed for every 1.3KG of oranges, 2.6KG of sugar to counteract the bitterness of the Seville oranges.  In general and a fact I have now committed to remember, is that the jam/sugar ratio is about even.

I managed to palm off 2 * 1kg boxes of oranges on to understanding friends and very soon the final batch of seville marmalade will be jarred.

Next year I will buy 3kg.  I blame this year's over purchasing on the fact they were labelled as one of my favourite Waitrose brands -  'cooks ingredients' which if I buy them, makes me a cook.  Stands to reason.

Jar of marmalade anyone?

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