Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Craft: CrapCraft, or, Why I'm Not A Lifestyle Blogger.

I'm really excited to be able to bring you a new series to my blog today! I'm calling it CrapCraft, or, Why I'm Not A Lifestyle Blogger.
I had a minor panic at work a couple of weeks ago when a colleague came careering round a corner and sloshed her black coffee down my trusty cream cotton jumper. But, instead of panicking when the mark wouldn't come out, I realised that I could fix that problem with one easy solution: home dye!
Unpeturbed by my earlier attempts to be the crafty thrifty sort, I rushed to the haberdashers, excitedly picked my dye colour (a lovely jewel-toned purple), and set about following the instructions. To achieve a really rich, deep colour, I left it for longer than suggested. I rinsed and left it to dry.
It's come out lilac. Bloody lilac. That well known, fashionable colour, loved by the over-50s and French people.
This slightly pathetic iPhone picture summarises quite a lot of the reasons why I am not a lifestyle blogger. Or, frankly, a proper blogger. I'm really impressed by people who blog every day or who write their own coding for their blogs (although I do wonder how they manage to fit in a 40 hour working week, a commute, eating, showering and sleeping  alongside hammering away at content). But clearly, it is not for me. A lifestyle blogger would not have accidentally dyed their shower tray pink, or have somehow stretched one arm longer than the other. Their cat would not have put a paw in the purple liquid, and they would not have spent five minutes trying to stop him going on the cream carpet. The ombre effect would have been intentional, and not just the effect of the jumper drying unevenly. They would have decided to embrace the lilac and posed, while looking fashionable and chic. They probably wouldn't have sworn and stomped off to put the kettle on.

But, I remain undaunted. My attempts to branch out my hobbies are continuing and, as I've been enjoying trying new things and writing about them recently (albeit on other people's blogs rather than my own), consider yourselves warned. There may be more CrapCraft in the future. 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Event: #GoogleCityExperts Galactic Gala

Edinburgh: Home of the Festivals. So much better as a slogan than Edinburgh: Inspiring Capital, don't you think? One of the things I love about this fair city is that there is pretty much always someone celebrating something. The number of festivals is, quite frankly, ridiculous..

The Edinburgh Science Festival kicks off the season, with a comparatively low key repertoire of events. In the past, I've not been to any of the offerings as they've either been aimed at kids or adults with more than a GCSE level of understanding. When the programme was published this year I was more enthusiastic, until I realised that the festival coincided with The Fitting Of The Kitchen (more on that later) and that most of the food-themed events were therefore a little out of my budget.

I was therefore really quite excited when Google announced that they would be hosting a CityExpertsEdinburgh event in association with Summerhall and the Science Festival. I've been to a couple of their events before and had a great time - they are such a great way of meeting other Edinburgh fans and seeing spots of the city which I wouldn't often go to otherwise. Having spent most of the afternoon queueing in Ikea, the thought of a gin and tonic and some fun was needed.

The evening kicked off with a welcome talk about the Science Festival, by a lady who may have been a scientist, but I was mostly enamoured by her story about the first cat to be sent in to space (Felix).
We found the bar (courtesy of Google, thanks chaps!) - a gin fizz (with popping candy!) for me, and a Science Festival special beer for Mr F…
… and found our friends, who were excitedly watching a demonstration of Space Sorbet. Cava, apple juice and fresh raspberries, with a side helping of LNto help it set. Easily the smoothest sorbet I've ever eaten - the Liquid Nitrogen's scarily low temperature flash froze the sorbet mixture, creating minuscule ice crystals.
We wandered over to the space building blocks - unusual almost-square shapes, which connect with teeth similar to zips and make lightweight but surprisingly strong structures. At the moment they're a prototype created in Edinburgh, but I wouldn't be surprised if they're a Christmas hit soon - my friend was desperate to buy some for his lego mad nephew. It was at this point I realised I do not have a particularly 3D mind, and spent ten minutes happily building a crown while Mr F made a spaceman.
There was a snacks table! Flying saucers, bubblegum spheres, wham! bars and Space Raider crisps. Childhood memories, right there to help yourself to. The highlight though were these incredible teacakes. Gooey fluffy mallow in a wafer thin chocolate shell, with the most delicious salted caramel I have ever had (and I've had quite a lot).
After topping up our sugar levels we wandered on, to hear a talk about asteroids, comets and meteors, complete with demonstration on how to make your own (dry ice and soil, apparently).
And then I spotted a 3D printer and got overexcited. The first time I saw a 3D printer was back in my first year of university, when it was not far off the size of a small car. If I remember correctly, it printed into sand and was hugely expensive to run, so much so that Design students had to have their work approved before printing. To see one the size of a laser printer in action just ten years later was slightly mind-boggling.
We skipped over the next table as it involved insects. I'm not overly averse to the idea of an edible insect, as long as it doesn't look at me before I eat it, so to see some live ones roaming around cartons was slightly too much for me to handle.
We were disappointed not to have managed to get a slot for the pop-up planetarium, which sounded rather brilliant, but all in all, still a particularly fun and sort-of educational way to spend a Sunday evening.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Recipe: Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Just before Christmas I did my usual trick of buying lots of random ingredients to make something specific with (in this case, mixed peel) and then promptly running out of time to make said recipe (in this case, homemade mince for pies).
I had a vague idea of wanting to make a cake with it - but trawling through my books and googling didn't really throw up anything that inspired me, so I decided to adapt a standard tea loaf recipe instead. I'll be honest, usually this doesn't work and I end up swearing and threatening never to bake again, but I'm feeling so smug that this time it has, I'm feeling the need to share.

A note on tea loafs: apparently (at least, according to Wikipedia) tea loafs are unfashionable. This baffles me somewhat, although as a Yorkshire lass, tea runs through my veins. I think, though, that they might have gone out of fashion because they're simple and reminiscent of postwar austerity. The lack of butter, which would have made them easier to make in rationing times than your average cake, means that they're virtually fat free - so you can freely slather the butter on top instead.
Earl Grey Tea Loaf.

100g mixed peel
180g raisins and sultanas (I used a mixed bag which contained both, as well as cranberries)
1 tbsp lemon juice
250ml hot, very very strong, Earl Grey Tea
340g self raising flour
110g light brown sugar
2tsp mixed spice
1 egg

Soak the raisins and sultanas in the hot tea until the tea is cool, or for around about an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C fan (or 160 non fan) and line a large loaf tin (it might stick to the greaseproof paper a bit, so line carefully!).

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and egg, add in the flour and mixed spice. Add in the tea slowly, beating well, but leaving the fruit behind for the moment so it doesn't get mashed up. Use electric whisks if you have them, it saves a lot of time and arm ache. It will be much more like a bread dough in texture than a cake batter once the liquid is all mixed in.

Add in the fruit and peel, and lemon juice, with a spoon rather than a whisk, to keep them whole.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until golden on top and a knitting needle comes out hot and clean. Take out of the tin to cool on a wire rack or breadboard. It keeps for several days in an airtight tin.