Wednesday 30 December 2009

More food stuff...

As promised, photos of my cooking frenzy yesterday. I really enjoyed cooking these - especially the desserts as I don't often cook desserts.

Main course - casserole with a twist - it's oriental inspired. I'm definitely making this one again: here is the recipe.

Dessert 1 - an old favourite of mine, I collected the recipe from a pamphlet in store years ago and stuck it in my trusty recipe book (inherited from my great-grandmother!). Now I have found it online too! Here is the recipe.

This was another recipe I collected from a card in-store years ago... I found a version online but for mine I used both puréed and sliced strawberries. Here is the recipe.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Cooking up a storm

In true Christmas tradition my folks are coming for lunch today. Given that Rich and I don't have a turkey for just the two of us there are no left-overs so there is no turkey salad or turkey curry on the menu. I have opted instead for a casserole - I like these as they can be cooked in advance and left to their own devices whilst I sit and talk with my family. Not a traditional casserole though... it is a 'far-eastern' version with lots of ginger, garlic and spring onions... must remember to take the star-anise out before serving!

I also made a couple of chilled desserts. One which was quite simple was strawberries and meringues with whipped cream. This year I had no delusions about hand whipping the cream and went straight in with the electric whisk - which still took long enough. Slightly more complicated was the 'no-cook' lime cheescake. It promised a fifteen minute preparation time... ha! Not so much. Discounting the five minutes looking for something to zest the limes it still took well over forty minutes. Presumably the fifteen minutes is if you have someone who has prepared all the ingredients for you!

My biggest trauma was zesting the limes. I don't own a zester... this is the first occasion I've ever even needed one. My initial plan was to rub the limes against a fine grater. Not successful - the zest got stuck in amongst the grates and vanished. All I succeeded in doing was grating my knuckles. Next I tried a vegetable peeler. Not effective as I then had to finely slice the peel. I finally hit on the (if I say so myself) genius idea of running the blade of a serrated knife (I used a steak knife) over the lime. Finally... success - just keep your fingers away from the edge of the fruit!

I'll try and get round to publishing the recipes or links to them and some photos later. Having prepared the food I have to prepare me - I cook in a hair-net and pyjamas... very attractive!

Sunday 27 December 2009

Things not to do at Christmas...

There are things that you just don't do at Christmas... well, at least, you shouldn't.
  1. Travel anywhere by car on Christmas Eve
  2. Go out for 'one quick drink' on Christmas Eve and wake up with a hangover
  3. Go shopping for just about anything more than a pint of milk any time after the 23rd December
  4. Go shopping practically any time between Boxing Day and New Year's Day.
I managed to avoid all of these Christmas traumas except the last. My nearly-mother-in-law and I decided (goodness knows why) that it was a good idea to go to Bluewater today. For those who don't live in the South East corner of England, Bluewater is a massive shopping mall - one of the biggest in Europe. It is laid out over two levels in a triangle (I always wonder how the shops in the centre of the triangle are serviced?). One of the nicest things, compared to the very limited number of malls I have visited, is the architecture. Each mall has a 'theme' the most striking being the one with a representation of the Thames laid in the floor with villages marked out along it.

Today was not a good day to shop. We arrived, I thought, quite early just around quarter to eleven. We parked the car (eventually) and made our way into the Mall via Marks and Spencer's. This isn't just a queue... this is an M&S queue (to paraphrase their adverts)... good grief the queues for the tills were HUGE. That set the tone for the day really. The malls were packed and so were most of the stores. We didn't really buy much - and probably our favourite part was sitting down for a cup of coffee!

Happy Christmas

So... gifts have been opened, too much food has been eaten and rubbish TV has been watched. Now it is time to hit the sales, see friends and family... and not go to work until the New Year.

This is one of the coolest (and cutest) things I got for Christmas. Rich knows how much I miss our friendly garden toads when they hibernate for winter... so he got me a substitute to keep me company until Spring.

Despite the fact that our rubber duck collection in the bathroom has now reached saturation it doesn't stop the collection from growing. Meet Love Duck and Ducks Fizz.
My nearly-mother-in-law got me this trio. The two smaller ones are actually for salt and pepper... but I don't think that they will be used for such as they are far too cute.

Meanwhile our nativity scene-cum-advent calendar is finally complete. I bought this from the Lakeland catalogue last year... for half price. The problem was the reason it was half price was that it didn't arrive until nearly January, so this is the first year I've had a chance to use it.

This gorgeous little fellow came from the Cancer Research shop... despite the fact I had no idea where to put him I really couldn't resist.

I hope everyone had a truly lovely Christmas - Rich and I certainly did.

Monday 21 December 2009

Snow Joke

My feet possibly have frostbite... OK so I'm prone to exaggeration... but they are very cold - my face is chapped beyond repair... OK, more exaggeration... but my skin is very dry. Traffic chaos ensues on the Greenwich Peninsula tonight... not exaggeration.

At around 4:15 Rich rang to warn me that it had just snowed heavily in Charlton and the snow storm was likely headed towards Central London. No, I said blithely, it's pouring with rain here. I looked out the window - at some point without me noticing the rain had turned to huge flakes of snow... and it was starting to settle.

I warned my colleagues and everyone began to don their winter togs with unseemly haste. I got outside the front door - yep, really snowing.

It was already settling on the (probably ungritted) side streets, and traffic (both pedestrian and vehicular) was all moving very gingerly. I was delighted to find when I arrived at Green Park station that the Jubilee Line was running normally... how little that was going to matter... as you will see.

I arrived without incident at North Greenwich. To hear the end of an announcement warning passengers to mind their step in the station as it might be slippery and wet due to 'adverse weather conditions' - oh, adverse indeed... as you will see. Delays to buses the announcer warns... one to two hours wait for a black cab the announcer warns. I get outside the station, there are no buses - not at the stand, not at the stops, not in view. The bus stops are mobbed. I make a decision to not wait but rather to walk home.

Off I set through the car park and off through the Peninsula. It has stopped snowing, at least.

This is looking back through the car parks towards the Dome. The roads are pretty impassable at this point - I've seen the gritter about but he hasn't been this way yet.

Moving along towards the roundabout near the tunnel approach interchange - the traffic doesn't appear to be moving much. It is harder to walk here as the snow is turning icy from the foot traffic.

I'm not the only one who has given up waiting for buses and decided to walk though!

Roundabout near the Tunnel - traffic isn't moving up on the A2 either. The roads look a little better here, probably from sheer weight of traffic.

Finally reached the Cinema and Sainsbury's. The earlier snow has now been replaced by rain. The pavements are beginning to get very slippery as snow turns to slush... or even worse ice.

Woolwich Road Flyover. Raining quite hard now... traffic still not moving in any direction. My feet are getting very wet by this point as slushy mushy snow-ice invaded my boots.

I actually had to take my glasses off. The rain and my breath meant that they got fogged up... I figured that seeing only a few feet in front of me was probably better than seeing nothing at all through the mist.

Ah, here are all the buses! Three 486s stopped at Charlton station, one seems quite literally to have gone backwards into the traffic islands.

And here's another 486 - given up halfway up Charlton Church Lane... and another bus got stuck coming in the other direction.

There is not traffic up in Charlton Village though. Although, look, at last - a bus!

At last! Nearly home. That is my bus stop... suddenly an amazing amount of traffic again.

But the mystery of what happened to all the buses is solved. Operation Stack (where they park lorries on the M20 when there is trouble at the Channel Ports) seems to be operating on Littleheath. I counted eight buses in this queue.

I took about an hour and a half and it was about 3 and a half miles... but I beat the weather and the traffic and get home! So - how much snow caused all this chaos... inches and inches surely.

Well... not quite.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Monday 7 December 2009

Climate in the spotlight

COP15 begins in Copenhagen today - so called as the fifteenth conference to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In the UK the beginning of the conference - which should turn the spotlight firmly to Climate Change - has been shadowed by an e-mail scandal... the focus of which (according to delighted climate sceptics) seems to be that some 'leaked' emails appear to suggest that the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia manipulated data; suggestions which they strenuously deny. The press and portions of society globally take any chance they come across to try and deny the actuality of Climate Change. This is despite the fact that reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that it is 90% probable that the activities of mankind are largely responsible for Climate Change.

Put this in perspective: 90% - that is around a 1 in 10 chance, it is better than your chances of winning a tenner on the Lotto (around 1 in 57).

So enough wondering if... time to focus on what to do now. That is what the conference in Copenhagen is all about. Twelve years ago a deal was forged in Kyoto - the now famous Kyoto Protocol. The problems with Kyoto are several - firstly the commitments signed up to did not come into force until 2005 (only five years ago); secondly many of the nations signing up to Kyoto did so as 'developing nations' and thus have no legal obligations; and thirdly (and most importantly) the Kyoto Protocol only sets out obligations until 2012 - which is only a couple of years away.

So the time for action is now - in June G8 Countries agreed that global temperature rises should be limited to 2 degrees centigrade since pre-industrial times. Many analyses predict that a 1.5 degree rise is already guaranteed (current levels are just under 1%). Drastic action is need and drastic action is need now. Carbon dioxide remain in the atmosphere for decades; so we cannot undo the damage that has already been done; but we can try our hardest not to do any more.

My eyes will be firmly on Copenhagen for the next couple of weeks - if you want to keep up with what is going on I strongly recommend the BBC's micro-site.

Other interesting sites are: 

Sunday 6 December 2009

Lighting up Christmas

There was a big dark spot in the middle of the living room with no lights - so I bought (another) set of new lights at B&Q. Colour changing glitter-balls!

Occasional Tourist

London by night one and two