Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eat This! - Lamingtons

I didn't make Lamingtons this year (which I usually do on Australia Day) but I did see that they have bit to UK mainstream by being included in the new Guardian Cook section that comes with Saturday's paper.  I'm guessing every family has their own Lamington recipe, so just to wade in I'll give you ours.  Oh my, I love these things.  Mum used to make big piles of them for my birthday cake, and it seems the novelty of our family recipe is the use of a bit of lemon in the icing.

For the cake (you can use any sponge really, and it's great with slightly stale cake as it holds together better)

125g butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar and beat in the eggs.  Fold in the flour alternately with the milk (+ vanilla)


Bake at 180 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

When the cake is cold cut into chunks of whatever size you fancy.

For the icing:

3 table spoons boiling water
2 table spoons cocoa
30g butter
2 cup icing sugar
lemon juice to taste

Melt the butter and stir in the cocoa powder. Stir in the icing sugar and add boiling water as necessary. Keep the icing warm as it will solidify quickly when cold!  Add lemon to taste.

NOW THE MESSY PART!  Dip the cake into the icing and then roll in coconut.  I always end up making more icing as it gets so messy and I end up using more than the recipe.  The coconut coated icing will dry almost immediately, so do the dipping while the icing is still hot. I guarantee you will be coated in icing and coconut by the end of this.


Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian - Book Review (KINDLE)

This year I'm trying to review all the books, TV series, and films I see so that I can keep track.  At the moment there's a bit of a glut because January was a busy month!

So yes, Master and Commander as per the title.

This was a book club read, and I had it on the 'to read' bookshelf in any case so I was quite pleased.  I'd bought it ages ago as one of those books I thought I really should get round to, so here was the perfect excuse.

I didn't not like this, because what's not to like.  OK there was a not of navy schmavy talk about different sails and ropes and whatnots, but since I found the first passage  explaining it all completely incomprehensible I just skipped over any others I came across. Now, once I got to book club I discovered that in the hard copy you get a diagram that tells you all the sails and stuff and that would have made it a hell of a lot easier, but on the e-read you don't so I was none the wiser by the end of the book.

The characters are lovely and funny and nicely observed.  I didn't totally believe them, but I didn't think they were absurd either.  I liked them, and that is the key. The captain (sorry that is probably the wrong term, another thing that's hard to understand), Aubrey, is wonderfully thick, and the doctor, Maturin, is marvelously odd. He also has a brilliant name.

Other than that there's not much to say, because nothing happens.  That's a bit harsh, but really, there's several times you hear about something happening because one of the incidental characters is talking about it, but that's it.  You hear about it in passing. Also the narrative keeps skipping in what seems like important places.  It's all set up for a big scene, and then suddenly you are somewhere else on a ship having lunch.  448 pages of a nice read, but not much going on. No wonder there's 20-odd books in the series.  I'd happily read more, but I'm not going to go and buy the set.

Having said all that and damned the thing by faint praise, there is one scene between Maturin and a French counterpart that totally makes the book for me.  I laughed out loud, which doesn't happen too often with books.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Boots from an old jumper

I posted on facebook not long ago that I had upcycled an old jumper into some boots.  Wow this generated a lot of interest, and so many people asking me for details in person as to how I did this.  If I had known in advance people would be so keen I would have done a photo tutorial!  So here's the best I can do. (Another disadvantage of doing this after the event is that I've been wearing them round for a couple of weeks and they are dirty.  Sorry about that.)

Firstly, I didn't really make the boots.  I bought some super-cheap Primani ones. Then I simply chopped off the sleeves of an old mens jumper (not an old man's jumper) and glued them on.  It's not rocket science, and it's hardly even economically valid, as you can buy boots that look a bit like this for next to nothing.  But hey, I like to do this sort of thing.

So...cut the sleeves off and decide which will be the right side.  Then turn them wrong-side-out.

Take the boots and run a line of hot glue round the very bottom of the boot and pull the sleeve over and stick it down.  Fold it over and stitch round if you have a) the time b) something to stitch to.  By luck rather than judgement the boots I bought had a sort of piping round the sole so I stitched to that.

You'll then probably need to just put a bit of glue around the inside ankle (the bit where the leg joins the foot of the boot) just to gather the fabric in nicely so it stays nicely on the foot bit.

Then fold the top of the sleeve down (you might need to just snip the cuff if it's too tight) and sew or glue some buttons on.  Glue round the top if you like. I found that wearing the boots while doing the ankle gluing and folding down bit was easiest.

Incidentally, a hot glue gun is something every person should have in the house.  Useful for so many things.

Homeland series 2 - TV

Ah series two, I didn't really think they could string out this story any more, but they kind of pulled it out of the hat. Of course Brody still has a face like a parrot fish, but there is a notable moment in episode 10 where Carrie forgets to do the crazy 'I've got schizophrenia' eyes.  She looks quite normal.

Now to Quinn.  Well it took me a while to work out who he was, and it was only after a couple of episodes of me telling D "he looks very English, I'm sure he's not American with a face like that" that he wiki'd at and confirmed it's some bloke that used to go out with Keira Knightly.  Maybe he only likes to associate with fish-mouthed people. Anyhow, he was an excellent addition.  Was he a double agent?  Was he black ops working for Esterhase (Estase? Esthers?)  Who on earth is Tarka Dal? Why would they want to kill Brody anyway? Lovely.

Honourable mentions to Dana's angsty face and Carrie's crying face. Ooh and the bit where Roya behaved like a woman with conviction instead of a Carrie-esque crazy look weakling.

I'd almost given up on it in the final few of episodes where it got a bit dull. But then they blew the whole lot up. Excellent. The broadcasting of Brody's terrorist video was not far short of genius. Oh wow I was praying that Saul (Sol?  I need subtitles for the names!) would just give a little smile to show it was his doing...but they are keeping us guessing. So we end series 2 with the same question about where Saul's allegiances lie, and safe in the knowledge that his fabulous grooming will be centre stage for the next series.

I'm surprisingly looking forward to it!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Les Mis - Film Review

Before I start I should admit I have never seen the stage show.  There, I've said it.  I know, it's disgraceful etc. etc. but the fact is I had a teacher in school that absolutely drooled over it and it put me off for life.  Only the epic movie trailer changed my mind.

I think I must be the only person in the world that didn't like the Les Miserables movie.  More and more facebook statuses are coming at me with tales of floods of tears and hearts touched and I'm starting to think I have a heart of stone.  But then I remember that, no, I actually just don't like Acting.  The culprit here is Hugh Jackman.  What's so disappointing here is that he can actually sing (check Happy Feet and Flushed Away for example), but in Les Mis he gives such a Performance and really puts his all into Singing that it leaves me cold. I don't have anything against vibrato per se, it's just not necessary on every single note, and when it is clearly not natural for your voice, but put on for the Musical Performance, it really ruins it.  Honestly it's not over stating it to say I was relieved when he died.

Now the even more controversial part....I liked Russell Crowe's performance. Here is a man that can play a baddie so sensitively that you totally understand where he is coming from.  I mean the words are all there in the songs, but I believed it from Crowe. And yes, I nearly shed a tear at his demise. I felt more akin to him than to Jean Valjean.  Maybe that says more about me than about the acting.

Yes, Hathaway was incredible, and the fact that everyone is saying it might water it down a bit but it's true.  Who knew?  She was amazing.  Ditto Eddie Redmayne.  Beautiful.  However the real star of the show for me was Aaron Tveit.  Who?  Indeed.  Young American, and boy can that guy sing.  I could have watched the revolutionaries for the entire movie.  I actually wished I had done I'd have left feeling happier.

As a side note, Samantha Barks has the thinnest waist I think I have seen in the modern age.  Apparently she was discovered on a reality talent show.  She was fabulous and let's be honest here, given the choice between Eponine and Cosette only a fool would go for the latter.

And finally...why make the first scene so epic when the rest of it is quite stagey?  How incongruous and misleading to those of us quite uninitiated.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Screw your courage to the sticking place!

This book is good. No it's great.  560 pages and I read it in less than a week.  That's saying something for someone that doesn't get as much time as they would like to read.  I even shed a little tear when it finished because I didn't want it to end.  I'm not going write a full review yet, as I am reading it as part of my book group and I don't want to spoil the discussion.