Archive | October, 2011

Tiny Monster

24 Oct

I spend a lot of time sitting at a desk.  Some days it is my desk in the osteo-lab at the university and other days it is my desk at home (I live about 1 hour and 15 minutes from my university, don’t you know).  I travel in to the university two to three days a week and the other days I work in my ‘office’ in the back room of our house.

I am the kind of person that requires a comfortable working space, otherwise I find that I can never get settled enough to actually pay attention to what I am supposed to be doing, like reading a load of articles or researching the anatomy of an ewok.

For those of you who are curious, this is my workspace at home:

It's a surprisingly tidy desk!

And this is a close-up of the tiny (hand-knitted) monster who keeps me company:

I totally keep writing Tony instead of tiny, maybe that's what I should call him.

I was given tiny monster as a birthday present by my friend Gillian.  I always thought of tiny monster as a boy, but the flower is pretty fetching on him…  perhaps he is a bit of a cross-dresser?

I am not sure how good the detail is in the first picture I posted above, but I have a few photographs on my windowsill, including this one:

The highest waterfall in Wales... or rather, a bit of it.

Now, I am totally not  going to big myself and my mad photography skills up here, but I am pretty fond of this photograph.  I took this picture at Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall in Wales when I was on honeymoon (it’s the highest waterfall in Wales and while we both agreed it is no Niagra Falls, it is still  pretty fabulous).  And for you clever people, no, this picture isn’t specifically of Pistyll Rhaeadr, but rather one of the smaller pre-plunge cascades.

I clambered like a (poor excuse for a) mountain goat over some threateningly slippery rocks and perched the camera between my knees as I sat on my bum, in an attempt to stablise the camera, as I decided to not use the awesomely designed tripod ‘GorillaPod’ that was made specifically for these situations because I chose to leave it in our cottage that day.  I tried a few different shutter-speeds and finally decided on 0.25s, mostly because that is as long as I can hold a camera on my person without moving it and creating a fantastically blurry photo instead of an impressively artistic long-exposure shot.

I find photographs of water (rivers, waterfalls, oceans, etc) relaxing, and especially those taken on long-exposure.  It gives them a sort of an other-wordly quality, in my mind.  I am feeling pretty relaxed right now… now let’s see how well this photograph does in the third year of my PhD at calming my fraying nerves.

I am sure someone’s done a study on it.



9 Oct

Gobble, gobble, gobble…

As you (may) know, I am Canadian.  And/but as you may (not) know, I love Thanksgiving.  It is definitely one of my favourite weekends of the entire year, so even though I live in the UK, I still make a point of celebrating Thanksgiving… usually through the medium of turkey and always through the medium pumpkin pie.

[Side note: There is a really great open letter to pumpkin flavoured seasonal treats over on McSweeny’s.]

I make pumpkin pie using my mother’s recipe, which *gasp* doesn’t actually require pumpkin!  You can generally substitute squash for pumpkin, if there is none readily available and it tastes just as good (gosh mum, I hope your okay with me spilling your recipe secrets all over the interwebs).  However, earlier this year I discovered a UK company that imports foodstuff from North America so I splurged and bought some Libby’s pumpkin for my annual pie.  It’s not because I’m anti-squash… I did that last year and it worked great, but if you can get your hands on some Libby’s it come pre-cooked and pre-mashed (which, to be fair, isn’t that hard… but I’m waaay lazy).

I will now tempt your taste buds with pictures of my baking masterpiece.  I am still not the best pastry baker, but I plan to rectify this by baking lots more pastry based dessert – because practice makes perfect!  So you can excuse my uneven edges and undercooked base in this instance.  You can track my pastry progress as I post more baking adventures.  Unless it never progresses…

Pumpkin pie... it's all glossy and shiny and oozy and delicious looking!

Yeah, it's cracked on top, so what?  Want to fight about it?

It totally looks like Pacman.  Mmm...  Pacnom.

You look so good slice of pie.  I want to eat you all over again.  Or maybe your pie sibling...

Where did it go?  In my belly!

This year, in addition to pumpkin pie I also baked an apple torte.  [Edit: The apples for this fabulous torte were kindly given to us by Ian’s work colleague Peter, who has apples coming out of his ears – previous apples received have been used to make apple/stawberry crumble and apple/rhubarb crisp.]  It is a wonderfully Autumnal dessert (and yes, a dessert can be Autumnal).  If you have never had it before, it is basically a loose and crumbly pastry base, a sweet and creamy cheese filling, topped with cinnamon sugared sliced apples, and toasted almonds.  Droooool…

What a gorgeous looking apple torte!

I totally didn't burn the top of the torte... it's just enhanced golden brown.

It shall henceforth be known as Pactorte.

Delicious layars of pastry, cheese, apple, and almonds.

It would appear that we both thoroughly enjoyed that torte.

I think pumpkin pie and apple torte are great desserts for people who whole-heartedly love delicious desserts, but may not have the sweetest of the sweet tooths.  They have great complex flavours, wonderful rich textures, and best of all they go great with a cuppa!

I also went all out and cooked a proper Thanksgiving dinner including: turkey, mashed tateys, turnip, carrots, brussel sprouts, gravy, aaand cranberry jelly!  I realise this is what most proper English housewives makes each and every Sunday for dinner (minus the cranberry jelly), but I am so totally not there yet (and really have no desire to be, sorry husband).  But I digress, suffice it to say, following this exemplary example of my culinary skills, I had one very happy man in the house (and I don’t look too upset about the whole meal either), I just hope he doesn’t get too used to it!

They should have sent a poet.

I know the way to his heart.

I know the way to my own heart!

I would say that this year’s Nomsgiving was a great success.  To further prove my point, while I was adding the photos to this post, Ian got up to get himself seconds of pumpkin pie.  I have an official convert in the house.  And me?  I am already excited for the next turkey based holiday meal…