Sunday, September 28, 2014

Beer update and Sunday reading

I know we're all about the freshly made, but this post comes to you pre-prepared. While you are reading this, I will be brewing about 20 litres of ale.

After the beer had fermented for two weeks, we racked it off the dead yeast and sediment into a clean bucket and left it for a week to clarify. Then we bottled it.

26 bottles standing on the wall, 26 bottles standing on the wall, and if one brown bottle should accidentally get opened and drunk...

The last batch is now sitting in the depths of our basement and will age there for some time. The ale should be ready to drink rather sooner, but we're also more than doubling the volume that we will brew. It's essentially the same amount of work whether you make 5 litres or 25 litres.

Meanwhile, some reading for you:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A tv-free day?

Some of you may have seen the coverage in the UK over new recommendations that people limit themselves to two hours of tv per day, and try to have a 'tv-free' day, to promote active lifestyles and combat obesity.

I've been thinking for a while about how to reduce the amount of tv we watch. It's partly that after a long day at work we are both too tired for anything more stimulating. But if I'm really honest, it's mostly that I have yet to find a way to make a tv-free evening sound attractive to my boyfriend. 

The good news is we are probably just about at the two hours a day limit, many days watching less, and we rarely watch live tv, it's usually pre-recorded shows we know we enjoy, or films. This is definitely some progress. But I'm struggling to come up with easy, relaxing alternatives to sitting staring at a screen.

To be honest, that's kind of scary. Like an addiction. What did people do before they had tvs? This is crazy. I know how people did laundry a hundred years ago, but not how they whiled away the evening hours.
So I did what everyone of my generation would go - I googled it. How to give up tv. And I mostly found blogs and forums of people who replaced tv with watching DVDs or playing games on mobiles/tablets. Doesn't that defeat the point? Surely the idea is to not be sitting in front of a screen?

I have found some interesting posts on this which intriguingly refers to several side effects of going tv-free - including greater sensitivity to the sights, sounds and smells of everyday life.

After a bit of thinking, I decided to try to avoid watching tv this last week. I've been pretty successful, really an hour or less most days and one tv-free day. So far, three things have helped:

1. Reach for the book (or the sewing/knitting) rather than the remote. I usually feel too tired to read, but after a few pages I'm fine and I think it's actually more restful - more restorative - than watching tv.

2. Don't sit down opposite the tv. Move your sofa, or sit down somewhere else. Ideally so that you are now looking at someone else rather than the screen. This seems to make conversation arise without effort, and makes turning on the tv something antisocial rather than just the default option.

3. Make plans, ideally with people. Go out to see a show, check out a new bar, arrange to meet someone for dinner. Extend those plans - go early to wander around the neighbourhood if the weather is nice, or suggest a detour on the way back.

Do you have any tips? Is it something you've had a go at?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Autumnal baking

I've been baking quite a bit in the last few weeks - partly inspired by the Great British Bake Off, partly in practice for the Brussels bake off in which I am participating, and partly to celebrate the tastes of autumn. There have been quite a few firsts...

First attempt at parkin - I had a hankering for something dark, rich and gingery. I think I added too much baking powder but it still tasted AWESOME! Recipe here.

First chocolate and beetroot cake. This looked fabulously pink while making it but came out beautifully. I wasn't sure how beetroot-y it would taste - the answer is not at all. The beetroot counteracts the 'sickliness' tendancy of chocolate cake, and made it beautifully moist. I took this into work - one colleague had three slices, and no one could taste the beetroot.

First chocolate ganache - I always thought this was a highly complex process but it's mind-numbingly simple and I will most definitely be repeating this. Yum!

I've also been baking some staples - chocolate cupcakes.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bathing in autumn sunshine

Happy autumn equinox people! It's miserable weather today so I thought I'd share some autumnal pictures from last weekend instead.

We went for a walk in the nature reserve at the edge of the city last weekend with some friends. It was a beautiful day full of autumn sunshine, with just a taste of winter in the air.

I spotted some hops growing over a doorway.

Our friends spotted some Siberian chipmonks stocking up for winter.

We tasted some small and very bitter wild apples.

We spotted some unidentified berries, which we didn't taste!

Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of blackberries, which were our main target - they were all small, shrivelled and dried out. I did however pick some acorns to have a go at making acorn coffee...


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