White chocolate and lemon tartlets

I was given John Whaite Bakes for Christmas (I was a big fan of his during Great British Bakeoff 2012), and I finally made something from it yesterday.

Very impressed that I attempted the sweet pastry from scratch
2014-04-19 Lemon and white chocolate tartlets

Essential ingredients
2014-04-19 Lemon and white chocolate tartlets

Also very pleased with my nice new baking beads for blind baking. However, lesson learnt: fill the pastry cases with more beads! Mine didn’t quite keep the deep cup shape, but it worked out anyway.
2014-04-19 Lemon and white chocolate tartlets

2014-04-19 Lemon and white chocolate tartlets

Also managed to get some biscuits out of the leftover pastry, as recommended by John :)
The recipe for the tartlets is available here

100 Happy days: Week 2

I received a society newsletter, which comes with the usual advertising, but this one caught my eye just before being dumped in the recycling box. I carefully folded it up along all the dotted lines and launched it up in the air…and it crashed. No use for flying, but it provided some amusement for a wee while.

Tuesday is knitting night, and I’ve been crocheting these cute wee hearts. It took me the whole 2 hours of knitting group to make the purple one, and 20 minutes to make the white one after I got home. We have good chat at knitting group.

The Commonwealth Water Polo Championships have been going on at Aberdeen’s new aquatics centre, and the week before it started we found out that one of my workmates is in the Scottish Men’s team – how impressive! I managed to go to one of his matches – Scotland v England. Unfortunately Scotland lost, but it was an exciting game. I’d never really seen water polo before, and my goodness, they really go for each other, dunking heads, grabbing arms, getting sent to the sin bin…

Another lovely, sunny evening, perfect for daffodils to show off. Aberdeen City Council certainly seems to have invested in daffodils over the years – I approve :)

Gareth had a wander round the British Museum when he was in London last week, and knowing how I like washi tape, he got me washi paper earrings! I wore them today.

More daffodils :) An unassuming bunch of buds from Asda suddenly burst into the most brilliant two-toned blooms!

My purse broke a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been a pain trying to find a suitable successor. I’m so very fussy, and it has to be just so, and I dearly loved my last purse, so I’ve been looking, and looking, and evaluating, and looking some more…I did check if New Look still had the same one available, but no such luck – it was from about 5 years ago after all… So I finally settled on this one. It’s not quite perfect, but I think I’ve accepted that it’s the best compromise, so I’m glad the desperate search is over and I have a working purse again. And the sheep help make it all better :)

100 Happy days

I first came across 100 Happy Days when a friend of mine posted about it. Basically, each day you take a photo of (or perhaps share a link to) something that makes you happy – the idea being that it’s easy, in our important, busy, and stressful schedules, to forget to take the time to be happy and appreciate what’s good in our lives. I guess the hope is that by day 100 we become more used to appreciating the positives, however big or small.

I’m generally a happy and optimistic person, and am fortunate to live comfortably, but along with the usual annoyances and frustrations that we all have to deal with, I often get angry with the injustices of the world. In my head I’m gearing up for a rant already, but anyway, happy thoughts can only be a good thing; it would do me good to consciously think about the positives around me - appreciating the happy, contented, silly, fun moments and not just taking the good stuff for granted.

I’ve been seeing varieties of #100happydays all over the internet, and after another friend started the project I realised I’d been thinking about doing this since I first saw it, but had been afraid to start…and then I realised I was being ridiculous and decided “sod it lah, there’s no happy police, and if I don’t start now I never will…”

So, armed with my trusty smartphone I’ll be posting daily to Twitter, and doing a weekly roundup here. On to week 1:

I love the stupid conversations and trains of thought that are perfectly normal between us siblings.





Coffee and walnut cake, from a Nigel Slater recipe, for my workmate’s birthday. There was buttercream left over for cupcakes yesterday as well :)






It’s been a while since I did Friday at the pub with my workmates (not that I never go to the pub, but I usually join Gareth and other friends at our local), so we had a nice wee sesh that ended with Nepalese food (and leftovers for dinner the next day. Result). Also been a while since I’ve had pixie juice (or pear cider, to use its boring name), which always reminds me of my friend Howard.






Clocks have gone back, weather’s getting more spring-like, and my tulips are starting to venture out.








Gareth was away all week, and I was away most of the previous week, so I’m of course delighted that he’s back, and that we’ll get to hang out together at home again :)

Jazz and reinterpretation

I recently read Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues, which is about a group of jazz musicians in Berlin and Paris at the cusp of the second world war. I enjoyed the story, the dynamics of the characters, the style of writing, and the ‘jazz life’ and blend of real and fictional jazz musicians that are part of the story.

Thus inspired, I was looking around itunes to acquaint myself with classic jazz and ragtime a little more – my collection so far being limited to Nina Simone, and at the other end of the spectrum, Mr. Scruff and Quantic. So how timely, then, that just as I was finishing the book, I came across this article about a reinterpretation of Sweet Child o’ Mine in the style of 1920s New Orleans Jazz.

I found that just brilliant, and it then led me to more of Scott Bradlee and Postmodern Jukebox. They remake popular music in alternative styles – usually retro styles: jazz, doo wop, country, bluegrass – but anything goes, with a healthy load of mashups (Bohemian Rhapsody in Blue, God Rest Ye Mr. Saxobeat), and a Mariachi version of Avicii’s Wake Me Up.

Some of my favourites include their ‘exhibition’ pieces, such as Fever done in 12 styles,

and Twinkle Twinkle through the ages.

Of course just like parody, I think the real joy in reinterpretation and mashups comes from recognising the various elements in different settings, but even with the songs I don’t already know, I find their music a pleasure to listen to anyway.

A lovely diversion down the jazz road, but coming back to my original investigations, I ended up going right back, and got myself music by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, who certainly didn’t create jazz, but made the first commercial recordings in 1917. The compilation I have is called “The Creators of Jazz“, released in 2001 by Avid. It’s pretty upbeat, quirky, brass-band stuff – the sort of brass band music I associate with Americana, football games, ticker tape parades…

Next up, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill Coleman, Louis Prima, the wishlist keeps growing…

International Women’s Day 2014

I was struck by this information from the DFID, at just how much a community can benefit by enabling their girls to have an equal chance at life.

Closer to home, the campaigns close to my heart continue to do amazing work. In May last year Everyday Sexism teamed up with other feminist campaigners and won a hugely supported campaign against Facebook’s attitude to content that incites rape and domestic violence – Facebook publicly acknowledged the issue and took action to rectify it. There’s been a lot going on in the background since then, and this April Laura Bates publishes the Everyday Sexism book.

Another campaign I’ve started following is Ending Victimisation & Blame, which seeks to challenge institutionalised disbelief around domestic and sexual violence and abuse, and to change victim blaming attitudes and language.

And as for No More Page 3, just yesterday they gained about 13,000 new petition signatures within 24 hours, in the wake of the Sun’s insulting attempt at painting objectification in a positive light (clearly, we’re not falling for it).

Today I came across this fantastic TEDx talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, called “We should all be feminists”. She’s known for her writing, and here as a speaker her intellect and her warmth come across beautifully.

In it she says, “Culture does not make people; people make culture.”

And as if to prove her point (or perhaps because she is just so inspiring), Beyoncé featured part of that talk in her song ***Flawless (unfortunately the video is not available to view in the UK, but the track is 99p on iTunes or Amazon).

Happy International Women’s Day!