Thursday, September 8, 2011

Granola – 2 sets of measures – first is the same as the original – second is half measure.

  • 3/4 cup grapeseed oil [8 fl oz] [4 fl oz]
  • ½ cup real maple syrup [4 fl oz] [2 fl oz]
  • ¾ cup raw honey (or regular honey) [8 fl oz] [4 fl oz]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract [1/2 teasp]
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract [1/2 teasp]
  • 3 cup oatmeal [12 oz] [6 oz]
  • 1 ½ cup lightly toasted sliced almonds [6 oz] [3 oz]
  • 1 cup toasted pecan pieces [4 oz] [2 oz]
  • 1 cup wheat germ or ground flax seeds [1 oz] [1/2 oz]
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes – or dessicated [3 oz] [1.5 oz]
  • 1 teaspoon of good cinnamon [1/2 teasp] [1/4 teasp]
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves [I think we can figure out this in smaller amounts]

Optional: 1 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries or golden raisins.


1. Preheat the oven to 130. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, stir together the oil, honey, and maple syrup. Place over low heat and bring just to a simmer. Do not boil! Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (except for the cranberries/raisins if you’re adding them). Pour the warm honey mixture over the top, then toss to coat the grains and nuts. Divide the mixture onto the cookie sheets. Flatten the granola with the back of a spatula.

3. Bake the granola for 20 minutes; remove the pans from the oven and stir. Spread the cereal again and bake 20 minutes more until golden brown. Cool the cereal completely on the pans so it becomes crisp.

Stir in the cranberries or other dried fruit. Store in an airtight container. Sprinkle over yogurt or add to home-made muesli – add fresh fruit…

Cooks Tips...

Can’t find a shallot to hand? Use a quarter of a small onion - not perfect but if it takes longer to drive to the supermarket to buy a shallot than to eat the meal... you know what I’m saying?

Grated zest of lemon - same applies - use a splash of bottled lemon juice and if anyone asks ‘shouldn't there be lemon zest in this? they obviously (a) have far too experienced a palate to be eating your food anyway or (b) have ‘super-vision’ eyesight in which case they are probably aliens and you should remove their food and call Mulder and Scully immediately.

Fresh herbs, not dried? Nice but not always essential, apart from when you need to “…tear a few leaves of basil and scatter on the soup before serving…”.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

1 How many proofreaders does it take to change a lightbulb?

Proofreaders shouldn’t change lightbulbs - they should just query why they don’t work.

2 How many Russians does it take to change a lightbulb?

What’s a lightbulb?

3 How many Sharons does it take to change a lightbulb?

Eight. Two to change the bulb and six to dance around them.

4 How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?


5 How many workmen does it take to change a lightbulb?

Six - one to change the lightbulb and five to make tea.

6 How many Irishmen does it take to change a lightbulb?

Six - one to hold the bulb and five to turn the room around.

7 How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Who said they needed help!

8 How many mice does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two - but don’t ask me how they got up there. (Dr. Palfi - Laughologist)

9 How many sociologists does it take to change a lightbulb?

None - it’s not the lightbulb that needs changing - it’s the system. (Prof. Laurie Taylor)

10 How many senior managers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Surprising only one - that’s all the senior managers it takes to screw anything up.

11 How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Who cares - I’ll just sit here in the dark alone already.

12 How many folk singers does it take to change a lightbulb?

Twelve - one to change the lightbulb and eleven to sing about how good the old one used to be.

13 How many pre-menstrual women does it take to change a lightbulb?

Three. Why? Because it just does, alright!

14 How many hippies does it take to change a lightbulb?

Three - but that’s only if it wants to be changed, man.

15 How many members of the Scottish Labour Party does it take to change a lightbulb?

Members of the Scottish Labour Party don’t change anything.

16 How many Zen Buddhists does it take to change a lightbulb?

During the new moon the pollen filled wind flows through the blossom on the trees.

17 How many Kensington girls does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two. One to fix the gin and tonics and one to phone the electrician...

18 How many amoebas does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two ... no. four... well .... eight ...... sixteen ....

19 How many supermodels does it take to change a lightbulb?

Only one - she sits still and the world revolves around her....

20 How many bridesmaids does it take to change a lightbulb?

Don’t know? Neither do they - that’s why they have wedding coordinators....

21 How many software programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. It’s a hardware problem.

22 How many priests does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. We live in eternal darkness. (Anglican priest to Catholic priest, episode of Father Ted)

23 How many Spanish men does it take to change a lightbulb?

Only Juan. (Dr Danielle Forster, University of Leeds)

24 How many of Snow Whites dwarves does it take to change a lightbulb?

All seven. (Kit and the Widow)

25 How many ‘Venusians’ does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. They get a man to do it. (Sally - Third Rock from the Sun)

26 How many moths does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. As soon as it goes dark they all just leave. (Quote from It’ s A Bug’s Life movie 1999)

27 How many accountants does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two. One to change the lightbulb and one to check it was done within budget. ( ICAEW magazine Spring 2003)

28 How many real men does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. Real men aren’t afraid of the dark.

29 How many Californians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Twelve. One to change the lightbulb and eleven to share the experience.

Saturday, March 12, 2011



and the grazing cattle occasionally gave voice to a murmur, perhaps of appreciation. The mist was thick and insidious. It had softly and quietly followed him, and preceded him, and surrounded him and now he was lost. Sheridan couldn’t even tell which direction he had come from.

It wouldn’t matter if he was late. Nobody noticed if he was at home or not these days. He felt quite at ease in the mist. No-one could see him. Even though sounds carried, it was impossible to tell where they came from. Totally private and completely alone. Nobody watching him, waiting for his next move.

Too damp to sit down though. He had to keep moving. And if he were lucky enough not to simply move in circles, he would arrive at either the village or the Hall, his home. The steep sides of the narrow valley made it difficulty to climb on a dry, clear, day. In the dense mist and with the tough clumps of grass slippery underfoot it would be a fool indeed who attempted it.

As he moved cautiously (no use to fall and risk injury) he realized that he was indeed moving toward home. His footsteps slowed almost to a standstill but there was no denying it, the stunted trees gathered in three small corpses were too familiar. Too soon the great iron gates of the Hall would be visible despite the mist. He would have to surrender himself. Would he get a back in the house unnoticed?

Cook had her back to him as he entered the kitchen. His footsteps sounded loud in the flagged floor but the hissing of kettles and crackling of the fire were louder. She didn’t turn. Didn’t see him. The butler came into the room from the cellar but Sheridan had just closed the door to the back stairs behind himself. The butler didn’t see him. He ran lightly the full length of the stair and reached his room. His hand stretched toward the door handle.

“There you are Sheridan. You returned just in time!” The voice from behind him was stern and harsh.


but still no sign of our ace reporter, Nick... where the hell is he now?

I’m Nick’s editor and sometimes the job doesn’t seem worth the ulcers. But then Nick gets me a story that puts all the other sheets on the fish and chip shop pile. So I forgive him all the life shortening, gut wrenching, worry I go through every time he’s out on the streets. Worrying isn’t the only thing I do for the boy.

Babysitting – but you should see the babies! They turn up here every night to wait for Nick. All shapes and sizes.

Sometimes he shows. Then it’s a polite ‘night’ to me over her shoulder as she follows him out. But sometimes he doesn’t. And then I get the full treatment. The tears and the agony. Carrying on like Nick’s the only guy in the world. I can’t get rid of them.

He must have a strong line in goodbyes though. I’ve never seen the same one twice.

Tonight, well, tonight is something else. This one was here yesterday. He didn’t show up. She just left quietly and now she’s back again tonight. She’s different. It’s not just her looks. And she hasn’t said much either. Calm and in control but with a smile that melts your shoe leather. Dark red-brown hair and pale skin. Green eyes and long black eyelashes. She’s got the touch of broken vampire doll that others all try for but don’t quite make. She’s graceful and tall and when she moves around my tiny office I get the distinct and disturbing feeling that the air is filled with parrots and vultures. And her clothes. Like a summer rainbow and a midnight storm.

I can’t tell any more. We’re just sitting here waiting for Nick. When he shows I think maybe the tide’s gonna flow against him. He’s gonna be the one to do the waiting from now on...


a muffled cry as several objects fell from the hastily unwrapped parcel. He stooped to pick up a sheet of paper which had fallen with the contents of the parcel and read thus:

“Dear Reader,

Allow me to introduce you to this month’s offer. A delightful and entertaining game which, when shown to your friends at parties and other gatherings, will secure your position as a host or hostess of indubitable talent. This amazing and fantastic item will astound and please all manner of persons and you can be assured of its uniqueness.

For a small sum you can purchase matching sets to go with the FREE set we have sent you. Rules are simple and easy to learn.

I very much hope that you will enjoy this gift and be interested in further wonders I import from time to time.

Assuring you of my best interest, I remain,

Yours sincerely...”

He wiped his sweating brow with the back of his hand, his confused and frightened eyes feverishly scanning the name at the bottom of the hideous missive. Would they never leave him alone? Would he never find peace?


as the harsh echo of the door knocker sounded through the house.

Anastasia ran to answer the summons and dragged the door open to reveal the postman. He handed her a package and turned away without a word.

She stammered her thanks to his retreating back and took the small parcel back into the dim and dingy hallway. Her nervous fingers made laborious work of ripping off the brown paper wrapping.

Arthur had also heard the noise and had come to see what was going on. He looked up at her with anxious eyes.

“Arthur,” she whispered, “I think this is it.”

“I hope so too, darling,” He replied.

Other people were so unkind about Arthur but she loved every hair on his head, though there weren’t very many of them. And he loved her too.

“I’m sure this is the answer, dear,” she breathed.

As the last strips of paper fell to the floor, she lifted out the small tape cassette.

“It is, oh, it is!” She breathed a sigh of relief. “Finally it’s here, the answer to all our problems…”

In her hand she held the key to happiness itself. Now, at last, with the help of the people who knew everything (including how to make a man fall in love with a woman) she could find out how to re-write Arthur so that he’d be tall and dark and handsome!

And probably not called Arthur any more either.


sometimes, more rarely, the motivation to search for a truth. Jackson fixed breakfast on autopilot. Only one to feed now the cat had gone too. He filled a bowl with cereal. He though about the missing cat. Cats had it easy. No job. No cooking. No women.

He looked down at this bowl – pondering the next move. He remembered it used to be milk. The niggle squirmed back. It interfered with thinking about breakfast. He forgot food and stared out of the window, scanning the opposite roof tops as if the inescapable but invisible thought sat out there. Acknowledged but not yet understood. It flowed into his mind with the warmth of a memory of a sunny day. Like an old friend who lives far away. You might think they’d call and with a sixth sense you’re right and they phone.

‘I deal in clichés.’ That was Jackson’s favourite line. It was an admission he made frequently in public. He got it in before his colleagues could. His friends required explanations a little more demanding, but it was easy to dress it up for them. To stretch it to a vitriolic passage of spiteful self-analysis and liven it with disparaging descriptions of exactly how he made the clichés pay. Journalism to others. To him, just a job and an excuse for not being honest.

‘I dress the part.’ That was a little deeper. Harder to admit to self that self was just an image. Every garment he chose to wear was vetted by his desperate need to be recognised. But only recognised as the character he wished to portray. He wanted to think he simply responded to cut and colour and fabric but he knew not one item of clothing would speak against his chosen persona.

He turned back to thoughts of breakfast. He hadn’t even got as far as coffee yet. The niggling thought came back. Jackson smiled to himself. I will try to communicate. ‘Who are you?’ he thought hard. Desperately hard. Eyes squeezed shut. And the niggling thought, hovering on the other side of his awareness suddenly got stronger. He could ‘hear’ the other. It said to him

Monday, January 17, 2011



Seagulls crowd together at the end of the beach, near the cliff. The breeze that lifts their feathers is cold. The sun is pale and does not yet warm the breeze but we know the day will be hot.


The bay is crowded. Boats glide across the smooth water, lifting and falling across the wakes of other boats. People on the sand cross and cross again the tracks of others. There are things to find on beaches and today there are enough children to search out each and every treasure.

We climb on the sea wall and walk over rocks and pretend we are far out at sea. Caves tempt us with their secrets. We hide in their dark shadows and then reappear into the sunshine, suddenly, as if by magic. A man stoops to draw long lines in the wet sands with his bare hands, mystical signs. A small girl follows the lines like a pathway.

Late afternoon

We follow the tracks of a seabird and the sea sighs and sniffs at our heels. The disappearing sun shines the sea-washed pebbles into bright buttons to fasten long fingers of shadow onto brushed velvet sand. Wet dogs spar with rock pool demons.


From the top of the cliff you see a path of light that leads to the moon. If you try to walk the path it fades before your feet and leads only from the dark sand into the cold sea.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Tod Brownie - specially for Here Come the Belgians

The Tod Brownie

The original recipe was American and used an odd mix of cups and grammes... I've left the original measures in but have worked out the weights in ozs as well. I'm not sure how they manage to measure a cup of butter! When I used the 'change measurement' facility on the website, 1/2 a cup of butter came out as 75 millilitres, which seemed even madder than the cup measurement. These are the weights I used for the Tod Brownie (as it shall hereafter be known - quicker to say than the full 'Baileys Irish yadda yadda' title).

3 ozs ( 75gr ) unsweetened baking chocolate (This is where I differed - to strive for full Belgian appeal, I used real Belgian chocolate - I did a test run with the 85% one but used the 70% choc for the Tod Brownie)

3ozs ( 1/2 cup ) butter

1 cup granulated sugar - sorry - I reckon about 4 ozs... I'll check and update but I used a 'cup' measure for this... American recipes - good but don't like the 'cup' measure!

2 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

4oz ( 2/3 cup ) flour

Pinch of salt

3 oz ( 2/3 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I couldn't find choc chips - semi-sweet or otherwise so I simply chopped up 3 ozs of the same Belgian choc)

Melt chocolate with butter in microwave (or regular pyrex dish set over a pan of hot water on the stove) and mix well. Cool. (I dumped the dish into a larger size pyrex dish of cold water to speed the cooling process... life's too short etc.)

Beat sugar and eggs together in mixing bowl. Add Bailey's Irish Cream and cooled chocolate mixture. Mix well. Stir in flour, salt and chocolate chips. Pour into greased and floured 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees F (about 160 C) for approximately 20 minutes (test with wooden pick). The original recipe said "Cool completely (about 1 1/2 hours)." but I poured Baileys over while it was still warm - first making holes all over with a wooden pick. I did though, leave it to cool completely before removing it from tin and then waiting till absolutely cold before frosting.


3 tablespoons softened butter

4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

3 cups icing sugar

In mixing bowl, combine Baileys and butter. Mix together a bit then gradually add icing sugar (sifted) and beat until spreading consistency. Frost cooled brownies.