Archive for the 'Potpourri' Category
Monday, February 18th, 2013
I stepped out of routine last weekend. After packing my handbag with necessities, including my camera, I went off to be a Cheesemaker for a day at the New Zealand Cheese School.
There were about ten of us on the Dairy course, and we learned how to make milk ricotta, sour cream, cultured butter, yoghurt, quark and mascarpone.
We listened and learned. We made our own cultured butter and milk ricotta. We tasted samples of every type of dairy product.
It was so much fun.
One of the people who ran the course owns her own cheese company. She took a course much like this one back in 2000 and loved it so much, she started her own cheese company. We tasted several of her cheeses (ranging from cow and goat brie to a tasty blue) for morning tea.
Since the course, hubby and I have made our own yoghurt and some mascarpone. I like making things from scratch. They don’t necessarily turn out cheaper, but I can control what goes into my products, they taste good and I get satisfaction from making something myself.
As a side benefit, I have the perfect occupation for my next book—a cheesemaker!
Here are a few photos from my cheesemaking adventure.
Here we’re straining yoghurt to make it thicker – the consistency of Greek Yoghurt. When this is done commercially, milk solids (i.e. milk powder) are added back into the yoghurt to thicken it. This is why most thick Greek yoghurts purchased in the supermarket are higher in calories.
This is cultured butter that we made from sour cream. When I was a kid, we used to separate the cream from the cow’s milk in a machine called a separator. (Funnily enough!) The milk would come out one tube and the milk out another. When we had a lot of cream, we’d make butter in the butter churn. Both the separator and the churn were of the manual variety and used a lot of energy. I remember churning the butter—not an easy chore! The butter above was made using a kitchen mixer. So much easier.
This is me in my cheesemaking outfit – an apron and hairnet. I’m in charge of the milk ricotta. The curds have lifted to the top of the liquid, and I’m placing it in molds. The milk ricotta reminded me of scrambled eggs when I tasted it.
I enjoyed this course so much, I think I might go back at a later date and learn how to make feta and some of the molded cheeses like brie and blue cheese.
Are there any cheesemakers out there? Cheese fans?
Friday, February 1st, 2013
The strawberry season is drawing to an end down here in New Zealand. I’m a huge fan of strawberries. Let me count the ways….
Reasons Shelley Likes Strawberries:
1. The appearance of the first strawberries is a signal that summer is underway.
2. They’re low in calories and very tasty. Often I’ll pick and eat. They never make it inside.
3. Strawberries and chocolate are a match made in heaven. They’re the perfect treat to eat during a romantic rendezvous.
4. Strawberries also go well with champagne. It’s that romance thing again!
5. Strawberry shortcake muffins are delicious. Recipe to follow tomorrow.
Sundry Facts About Strawberries:
1. They say wild strawberries grew in Italy as early as 234 BC.
2. Settlers of Virginia discovered wild strawberries in 1588.
3. The acids in strawberries help to whiten teeth.
4. They’re full of vitamin C, contain flavonolds and help reduce cholesterol. They also contain folic acid, potassium and fibre.
5. Black pepper and strawberries go well together. Better for diets, no?
6. If you ever go to the Wimbledon tennis make sure you have some strawberries. It’s a tradition, and they go through thousands of kilos of strawberries during the tournament. Around 27,000! And I have to say it’s an enjoyable experience.
7. They’re a member of the rose family.
8. There are around 200 seeds in each strawberry.
Are you a fan of strawberries, and if so, what is your favorite way to eat them?
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
If you’re like me you probably wage a battle against an imploding inbox. A blog post yesterday by Lynda K Scott resonated with me. She pondered about email: good, bad or ho hum. Like me, she tends to delete a lot of email without even reading it.
Although I subscribe to dozens of lists, I’ve pruned back hard after being away quite a bit in the last six months. On my return I didn’t reinstate most of the mail from the lists I previously subscribed to. The exception was mail from publisher/author lists and a promo/marketing list for authors.
I deal with email on the day it arrives in the following manner.
1. Read email from editors and business emails from publishers. Action and file in folders as relevant.
2. Quickly scan newsletters for relevant articles. If nothing in the content grabs my attention I hit delete. If I’m interested in an article I’ll send it to Evernote. A very handy tool that I can’t recommend enough! I wouldn’t be without it.
3. Pick one or two promo type emails from other authors if I have time. What attracts me is a catchy title or if the promo comes from someone I know or if it’s something about writing craft that grabs my interest. I’ll click over to the article or blog and take the time to comment if I’m engaged.
4. Delete everything else.
The above helps me keep my inbox from becoming too fat. Some people I know use the filtering system to send emails to relevant folders on arrival, but I prefer to do this step manually. If an email disappears from the business part of my inbox I’m not likely to read it.
How do you cope with your email? Do you have any tips to keep an inbox slender?
Friday, November 30th, 2012
Most of you have probably realized it’s almost December and Christmas 2012 is on its way, like it or not. Christmas is showing its face everywhere. I even had my first Santa sighting this week.
While I was in a cafe a group of people sat down beside me, and it turned out they were Christmas tree sales people. They were preparing for their busiest time of the year. I also heard lots of Christmas tree gossip. I tell you writing in the coffice is always entertaining.
Anyhow, listening to them chat made me consider trees. Although I love the scent of a live pine, my preference is for a fake tree. For me there is nothing sadder than a discarded tree during the week after Christmas. They also shed their needles–if you purchase the wrong variety of pine. I feel much happier packing up our tree and stowing it away in the cupboard once celebrations are over. The fake kind come in a variety of colors, and the buyer is less likely to get ambitious in regard to size. Anyone had the problem of ordering or choosing a real tree and finding it way too big to fit in the room?
What do you think? Real or fake for you and why?
Thursday, November 22nd, 2012
I’ve just started reading A Lady By Midnight, a historical romance by one of my favorite authors, Tessa Dare. This paragraph made me laugh, so I thought I’d share it with you.
“More tea, Miss Taylor?”
“No, thank you.” Kate sipped the weak brew in her cup, masking her grimace. The leaves were on their third use, at least. They seemed to have been washed of their last vague memory of being tea.
This reminded me of how lucky we tea-drinkers are these days. We’re spoiled for choice. I’ve been drinking Lady Grey tea by Twinings (I like it much better than Earl Grey, but it’s a close cousin) and Mi-chai tea containing cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and pepper. The chai tea is so fragrant and never fails to haul me back to memories of Christmas and India. I also have some apple tea that I picked up when we were in Istanbul. It’s an instant hot apple drink really, but they call it tea.
Are you a fan of tea? What types do you enjoy?
Monday, September 10th, 2012
What’s Your Chocolate?
What: Post about your favorite chocolate – what it means to you, where and when you indulge, a favorite memory – anything chocolate-related.
When: September 10th
Who: Hosted by M. Pax, Laura Eno, Brinda Berry, and Ciara Knight.
When I first heard about the chocolate blog hop my excitement and imagination knew no bounds. I love chocolate. It’s one of my favorite things, and I indulge—often. Blogging about it sounded like fun.
I thought about and discarded several ideas before choosing one. I’d make, photograph and later consume (duh!) my stunning recipe for chocolate sauce/chocolate body paint.
All of this came to a screaming halt on Friday. The loud noise you heard – that was me.
And the reason for the ungodly muttering coming from our house? I’d decided to try on a few clothes since we’re off on holiday in two weeks. Either my closet has become home to little elves and they’re stealing the fabric from my clothes or it’s me. Sigh. Yep, I’m pretty sure it’s me.
The very next day, a four-letter word—DIET—came into play and anything chocolate related went on the banned list. I have two weeks to fit into my clothes and feel comfortable instead of worrying about busted seams.
Which left me with a dilemma. What could I do for What’s Your Chocolate?
I could point you to some of the delicious chocolate recipes I’ve posted on my blog in the past, all tested and photographed. Told you I like chocolate!
Decadent Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate Chilli Shortbread
Easy Chocolate Mousse
Black Forest Muffins
Chocolate Bath Salts – not to eat, but to put in the bath
Or I could cheat on my new diet…
No! No, not an option, Shelley. Your clothes, straining at the seams. Remember?
And then I came up with the idea to talk about marriages made in chocolate. What’s that you say? Marriage?
And that’s where I explain…
Marriages Made in Chocolate
Chocolate is a versatile treat. It goes with so many things, combining to make special and delectable treats.
Here are some of my favorite chocolate marriages:
Chilli and chocolate e.g. Chocolate Chilli Shortbread
Orange and chocolate e.g. Decadent Chocolate Truffles
Coffee and chocolate e.g. Easy Chocolate Mousse
Raspberries and chocolate
Mint and chocolate
Ginger and chocolate
Hazelnuts and chocolate
Cherries and chocolate e.g. Black Forest Muffins
What is your favorite chocolate marriage?
Want some more chocolate? Follow the links below…
Friday, August 31st, 2012
We’ve had some interesting conversations at our house recently since we’re planning what to do during our upcoming holiday. Both hubby and I have lots of fun, tossing ideas back and forth and researching on the Internet.
Discussions this week have included walking v the hop on-hop off bus in Istanbul. We’ve decided it will be easier to walk around the various sites and work off some of the cruise ship meals instead of losing time in the midst of Istanbul traffic jams. We’ve also discussed gondolas in Venice, climbing bell towers and jumping out of secret passages in the Doge Palace.
Our third travel related conversation related to alligators in the Everglades National Park and riding bicycles around a nature trail. I was dubious about this one—my theory was that the critters could move fast and there was nothing to stop them eating me if they wanted to, but hubby assures me that cycling past sunning alligators is completely safe. I’m quite looking forward to this now, so I hope we manage to book in when we arrive at the Everglades.
This week I had more interesting conversations in my coffice, but one really flabbergasted me. The lady said, very seriously, that it must be nice being a writer and earning all those millions. I almost choked on my coffee. After I recovered slightly, I told her she was wrong, that most authors didn’t earn much. Authors write because they enjoy it rather than for monetary gain. I could tell by her expression she didn’t believe me, and she left the coffice still convinced I was a millionaire.
I tell you if I had millions I’d do less writing and more travel! I wouldn’t worry about shopping for specials each week at the supermarket.
All you millionaires out there – what do you do with your millions? What would you do if you had a million dollars?
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
Spring is in the air down this end of the world. I love this time of the year with all the spring blooms. The top photo is of some of our cyclamens, and the bottom photo is of a succulent.
I went off to one of my favorite coffices this morning. It was early, not long after seven. I ordered my coffee and fired up my laptop, ready to start work.
“Hello,” a voice chirped from my left.
I looked up, brain a little sluggish since it was early.
“The court case went well,” the man said.
“Oh,” I said, suddenly clicking. It was the man from Adventures in the Coffice story. “I’m glad it went well,” I said.
He finished his coffee, said a cheery goodbye and went on his way. I tell you, I have some very interesting times in my coffice.
Author Roni Loren had an interesting post about writers and quirks this week. She asks if quirky writing habits equal greatness.
I don’t think I have any quirky writing habits. Maybe writing in a coffice qualifies, but apart from that I think my writing routine is fairly straightforward. I don’t write in exercise books or use a special pen or play ten games of solitaire before writing.
Do you have any quirky writing habits? Any quirky habits at all?
Monday, August 6th, 2012
Yesterday I watched a program called Luxury House in the Sun. This is a reality-type show where a wealthy couple are searching for a holiday home or a permanent residence in exotic climes.
The house hunter—a woman in her early twenties with a rich football-playing fiancé—said she’d know what she wanted when she saw it, but as the search continued we discovered she really wanted a large outdoor entertainment area with a pool and the property needed to be close or on the outskirts of a town (near to restaurants) with a modern open-plan interior.
Her hunt for the perfect home made me think about what was important to me in a house. This is what I came up with:
1. A large kitchen with a breakfast bar. It needs to be big enough for family and guests to get together for casual dining. A kitchen with enough room for me to cook at the same time as hubby.
2. A garden area for puppy to run around. The house needs to be in a location with good walking/biking opportunities and public transport.
3. An open plan style.
So what is important to you in your dream home?
- The bedrooms
- The kitchen
- The lounge
- The location
- The outdoor space
- The bathroom
- An office
- Something else
What are your must-haves? What is your favorite room in your existing home?
Monday, July 23rd, 2012
With the Olympic games starting this month, lots of visitors are arriving in London. While I was visiting one of my favorite places—the library—I came across a book called Shakespeare’s London on Five Groats a Day by Richard Tames. I thought it would be fun to tell you a little about what a visitor to London during Shakespeare’s times would experience.
Weather and when to visit:
Summer can be short and wet while winters are often savage. Keep a good, thick cloak if visiting during winter. In 1565 and 1595 the Thames froze solid. Two feet of snow fell in 1577 while an earthquake shook the city in 1589.
If bees refuse to leave their hives, you can be sure of severe weather on the way. Other signs of bad weather approaching are cows and dogs lying on their right side and earthworms coming to the surface.
Where to stay and eat:
Alehouses – if you’re seeking refreshment and don’t mind rowdy company, try an alehouse. Most aren’t too clean, but provide bread, cheese, or pottage of beans with bacon. Alehouses are for eating rather than accommodation.
Taverns – seek amusement, meet women and drink wine
Inns – the High Road of Southwark is lined with inns and stabling for horses. The standards of service are usually high.
Life in London:
It is legal and socially acceptable to discipline servants with a beating, but they must not suffer an injury. Some householders find it better to fine their servants for transgressions. e.g. if a cook fails to produce a meal on time – half a days wages or attempting improper relations with a maid – 4 pence.
Meat, usually beef, tops the list of Londoner’s favorite foods. To meet demand cattle are driven to London, sometimes as far away as Wales.
Country folk still eat badgers and hedgehogs.
The rich often suffer from eating so much meat. Early in their adult life they are likely to suffer from scurvy and loose teeth. Some suffer bladder problems, kidney pains and failing eyesight.
If you get a head cold, a sliver of turnip in the nostril should see you right. Retention of urine? No problem. Insert three large lice into the penis to fix the problem.
Queen Elizabeth, like many of her subjects, is addicted to sugared almonds. The result is discolored and missing teeth. This is why people seldom smile in their portraits.
Water is used for washing and cooking. Ale is the usual household drink. Milk is usually only drunk by the poor.
Watch out for London’s pickpockets. They’re extremely skilful and work in pairs or teams. They excel at distraction.
Ask the locals for the best place to stand and watch an execution. Get there early and don’t worry about taking food and drink. There will be plenty of food for sale.
Make sure you take the time to visit the London Bridge. It’s lined with over a hundred houses and shops. Make sure you keep to the left while crossing the bridge.
The Tower of London is also another must-see place. Guardsmen of the garrison conduct regular tours.
Shopping for souvenirs? Guns, swords, armour, clocks, books, maps, navigational and scientific instruments are all available.
For entertainment try the theatre for a play or if you fancy more excitement there’s bear baiting or cock fighting. Dance or listen to music, find feminine company and while your time away.
Enjoy your visit to London.