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Calzone using a George Foreman Grill

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /
31/Oct/2009

Our cooker is broken at the moment and while we are waiting for a new one to be installed, we have to cook everything using an electric wok, our George Foreman grill and a microwave. This was an experiment to see if I could cook a calzone using the 'George'.

The calzone before cooking

I made a normal pizza base then spread red pesto on it. I then added anchovies and slices of sausage, leek and courgette. This was topped with slices of cheese before folding and crimping the edges, a bit like a cornish pasty.

The calzone after cooking

I cooked it on the grill until the base felt cooked to the touch and I could hear the cheese sizzling inside. I don't know how long it took because I didn't time it.

The end result was fairly good. The crimped edges were still a bit soft and doughy but the rest of the calzone was good.



Speeding up an old computer

Story location: Home / computing /
31/Oct/2009

I have a Compaq desktop computer which I don't use very often. It used to be my main machine but I now mainly use it to back up data or the scanner which is attached to it.

It has been running infuriatingly slowly recently so I decided to reinstall Windows, using the 'System Recovery' option which replaces the contents of the hard drive with the 'factory fresh' copy of XP.

The computer now runs quite quickly again. Boot-up time has been reduced from over 4 minutes to 38 seconds. The computer had so much software installed, and a lot of rubbish would load on start-up. The desktop actually used to appear after 2½ minutes but it was a further 2 minutes before you could open any windows or run any programs.

Clicking on files and opening windows is amazingly quick now. There used to be several seconds of disk-thrashing and a long wait when the "Start" button was clicked. Now the menu appears pretty much instantly. I had started to wonder whether my old computer had always been this slow, and I only thought I remembered it being fast when new, but no. It is back to being quick and responsive again.



Preparing the garden for autumn

Story location: Home / Blog / house /
31/Oct/2009

I spent most of this morning working in the garden, digging up what was left of the vegetables and putting them on the compost. The compost heap seems to be working. I managed to get several tubs of dark brown well rotted compost out of it. It doesn't look as good as 'shop bought' compost but it should work ok. You can't tell it's made from kitchen scraps and waste animal bedding.

After adding the corn stalks, courgette plants and tomato plants onto the heap, I gave it a good mixing to get oxygen in, to get it started for next year.

There are still a few plants in the garden. The strawberries and still giving small quantities of fruit. One tomato plant is still going strong, displaying some large green tomatoes which I hope will eventually ripen. A squash plant at the end of the garden looks on its last legs though. There is one small squash on it, but I don't think there is time for it to ripen before the plant dies.



Our blue bin has arrived

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
26/Oct/2009

Our blue-lidded recycling bin has finally been delivered, although the first collection isn't until the start of December. It will make recycling so much easier. We will be able to dump paper, card, tins, glass and plastic bottles in it. This will be so much easier than having to put everything in the car and drive to a recycling point somewhere.



Photography Course

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
25/Oct/2009

Here are some photos I took when I attended the 1 day Nature Photography course at the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust at Brandon Marsh. The day was aimed at complete beginners but there were people there with a variety of experience levels.

We were given various themes to photograph, starting with Colour, then Patterns & Texture, and finally Mood & Atmosphere. Later, we had to choose our own theme and put together a series of photos illustrating it.

 

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Click on the thumbnail to view the image



When 38 > 40

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
17/Oct/2009

Today is proving to be a numerically challenged day. The Daily Mail has problems with years and now this:

There are speed cameras along the A46 in the roadworks near the junction with the M40. The speed limit has been lowered to 40mph and signs light up to warn speeding motorists of the new limit. I was driving at 38mph, according to the speedometer in the car. This didn't stop the sign from flashing at me telling me to slow to 40mph.



Daily Mail Time Traveller

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
17/Oct/2009

Proof that the Daily Mail is stuck in some kind of time warp. Apparently 1966 was only 33 years ago.

It was 33 years ago today...

The rest of the column discusses other events of the year, such as John Lennon claiming The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and the England winning the World Cup.



Fruit Cider

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /
15/Oct/2009

I made a fruit cider last month, using standard winemaking techniques but using apple juice instead of grape juice. I decided to flavour it with some 'autumn fruits' to make it a bit more interesting.

For the fruit flavours I added the syrup from one tin of blackberries and one tin of blackcurrants. I also had 200ml of of extracted juice leftover from the plum and blackberry wine I had made earlier. I added 4l of apple juice. There was no added sugar - the sugars in the juice were sufficient to give a cider of about 6.5% alcohol.

When I bottled it, the cider was tasting over-dry. I wanted a sparkling cider so when I syphoned it into plastic bottles I added 2tsp of sugar and a few grains of dried yeast. After a week the bottles were feeling nicely pressurised so we tried a bottle tonight. It had a nice crisp flavour and was just 'off dry' enough for us.



Sweet Potato Mash

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /
12/Oct/2009

Every now and again we keep promising to ourselves that we'll try to cook a new recipe every week. Most weeks we forget. This week we went part of the way towards our goal by trying a different side dish.

We recently bought some sweet potatoes. So far we have had a roast veg, with sweet potato, onion, pepper and courgette. Not exactly a new recipe, just a variation on an existing one.

Tonight we tried sweet potato mash. I peeled and diced the sweet potatoes and boiled them for about 5 minutes or so, until the knife went in with no resistance. I mashed them, adding a sprinkling of jerk seasoning. I didn't add any butter or anything else - it didn't need it.



Shopping at Asda

Story location: Home / Blog /
11/Oct/2009

I really don't like shopping at Asda. It's rarely a pleasant experience. I went there this morning with a very short shopping list, including bread and a newspaper. The shop really really didn't want people to buy newspapers. They had erected a set of display boards by the entrance, blocking off the newspapers. To get a news paper, you would have to:

  • Sneak out past the checkout, pick up a newspaper and sneak back into the shop
  • Do all your shopping, pay, pick up a newspaper and queue up again at the kiosk to pay.
  • Sneak in through the exit, pick up a newspaper, and sneak into the shop.

I decided not to bother, and thought I'd get a paper from the petrol station. Asda had other ideas. The pump I pulled up at was a 'pay at pump' one, which didn't seem to offer the option of paying 'in person'. If I wanted to buy a newspaper then I would have to queue up yet again and pay separately.

The easiest option seemed to be to buy the newspaper from our local newsagents on the way home. If Asda seem to want to make it difficult for me to buy something, I'd rather give someone else my £1.50.



UFOs over Coventry

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
10/Oct/2009

Walking home from the City Centre tonight, we saw some bright orange lights hanging almost motionless in the sky. At first they seemed to be two points of light. As we got closer and got a better view, it became clear that they were chinese lanterns. It was difficult to get a sense of scale but they seemed quite large - possibly several feet across.



Company of Liars

Story location: Home / Blog / books /
09/Oct/2009

I recently started reading the book Company of Liars by Karen Maitland. It is set during the 14th century, as the plague was sweeping across England. There is a map in the front of the book with some of the towns featured in the book. I decided to use Google Maps to find them and see what they look like today.

The first town is Kilmington in Devon. I noticed a strange place nearby called 'No Name':

"No Name" near Kilmington



Problems with Open Office

Story location: Home / computing /
06/Oct/2009

I have been an occasional user of Open Office for a few months. Most of the time is seems to be fairly usable but there are a few niggles.

  • Embedding videos into Impress is a bit clunky. I don't know whether it is a problem with my version but they play as soon as the slide appears, irrespective of any pauses or 'on-click' actions I set up.

  • Every time I run Open Office, I get the "R6034" error, informing me that the application has tried to load the C libraries incorrectly. Again I don't know whether this is just my machine or whether it is a common problem. A brief ATFG (Ask The F_ing Google) doesn't help.



Halloween Animal Beds

Story location: Home / Blog / animals /
05/Oct/2009

Emma bought some Halloween themed animal beds - a large pumpkin shaped one for the Degus, and a smaller one for the hamsters or mice.

Remy and Emile in the Pumpkin
Remy and Emile in the pumpkin bed.

Brennen and Fruitcake in the smaller bed
Brennen and Fruitcake in the smaller bed. We tried several different hamsters in this bed before we eventually gave it to the boy-mice.



Knebworth Country Show

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /
04/Oct/2009

We have been going to a lot of country shows recently. We had entered the Hamster Show on Saturday so I had some time to explore and watch some of the shows and demonstrations. The glass blowers were the same people I saw at Wiltshire Country Show but this time they were demonstrating how old-fashioned window glass was made.

The cookery demonstration was also by the same person from the Wiltshire show. He made a tasty looking savoury Chelsea Bun containing cheese, pesto and various other ingredients.

A lot of different foods were available in the two food tents. We tried various free samples before buying a selection of flavoured cheeses (mature cheddar, garlic, garlic and herbs, horseradish, curry, chilli) and a 1½ litre jug of cider.

We used some of the cheese on our regular Saturday night pizzas. We put a different cheese on each half, and cut the pizzas at right angles to the cheese divide, so we each had 2 half-pizzas with 4 different cheeses (We liked them so much we had pizza again on Sunday).

There was no hamster show on Sunday but there was a display. We were kept busy all day dealing with the public, answering questions about keeping hamsters and explaining the differences between the various breeds of hamster.