Blog : Posts from March 2008

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Typical

In which we’re weatherbeaten


Yes, typical. I write something about how unreliable the long-range weather forecast is, and what happens? It’s right for once. And the short term forecast – no snow in Wales – was wrong, too. We had a weekend of rain, sleet, snow, hail, wind. When I started to put the tent up, and was engulfed in a cloud of hail, I should have known it was a bad sign.

Still, the tent didn’t leak very much; and, by wearing all the clothes we’d brought at once, we kept warm. Roll on the next camping trip!

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Useful advice

In which we raise an eyebrow


Spotted on a building site in Harrogate, whilst on our abortive condensed milk hunt last weekend:

Useful advice

I’ll remember to tell people that in future.

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Death

In which we try to stay rational


Now I know that, according to tradition or superstition or some ancient charter, the deaths of the famous are always supposed to occur in threes. But just recently, there’s been an enormous flood of them. It’s seemed this week that every day yet another well-known person has turned their toes up. I know it’s just coincidence, because I do have a rational side; but sometimes you do think: what, another one?

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Predicting the future

In which we worry about the weather


It’s a hard thing to do.

The other week, as there’s a long weekend coming up, I booked a camping holiday, in Wales. Only a day or two later, the news outlets started running stories about how awful the Easter weekend weather was going to be; wind, rain, sleet and snow. Oh dear.

There’s still snow on the forecast for Northumbria; but the forecast for the Welsh weather, though, has got noticeably better over the past few days. It’s gone from sleet, to showers, to sunny periods. And I’ve noticed this happening before. There seems to be a tendency now for the forecasts to be more extreme further off, before calming down as the date approaches.

Which is statistically what you’d expect, of course. Extreme weather is, by definition, unlikely, and shorter-range forecasts are always more accurate, so any extreme weather in a long-range forecast is likely to mellow as the forecast gets closer. That doesn’t stop the news jumping on any forecasts of horrible blizzards, though. I’m still worried that the snow forecast for the north Pennines is going to creep southwards over the weekend.

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The quest continues…

In which we go on a quest for condensed milk


After Thursday’s post, Kahlan got back in touch, with a tip-off. Apparently there had been a rumoured sighting of a can of own-brand non-evil condensed milk, in a Waitrose. So our Saturday was spent driving 25 miles to Harrogate, the nearest branch,* to find … Nestlé products firmly on the shelves. Oh well.

To make up for the disappointment, we bought a jar of dulce de leche instead, and tried to make cookies, from this recipe. They didn’t quite turn out as I expected, being rather flat and soft, but they still taste good, albeit so sweet that I can barely manage to eat a couple at once. Not surprising, given the huge amount of sugar in each one.

Cookie ingredients Cookie mixture Cookie mixture Fresh-baked cookies
Sandwiching cookies Sandwiching cookies Dulce de leche sandwich cookies

A quick redaction of the recipe, the way we did it: take 230g of butter, chop it up, and beat it until it’s soft. Open your jar of dulce de leche and taste some just to make sure it’s not off or something. Beat 3/4 cup of light brown sugar and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into the butter, then add 3/4 cup of dulce de leche, assuming you can scrape it out of your measuring cup, and beat that in too, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Lick your cups clean, and your fingers, and anything else the stuff has stuck to. Add 2 eggs, mixing them in one by one, before sifting 2 1/2 cups of flour, half a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of bicarb into the mixture. Rest the dough for a few minutes before putting teaspoon-sized balls of it onto baking trays lined with greaseproof paper, and bake at 160 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the baking tray; then when they are properly cold, carefully pair your cookies up into matching-sized pairs before using the last of the dulce de leche – if you have enough left – to sandwich the pairs together. Yum.

* and the only post code district left in the country that’s free of the Mighty Tesco

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Joke of the week (part two)

In which a classic joke has a happy ending


“My dog’s got no nose.”

“Haven’t we been through this?”

“Shush. My dog’s got no nose.”

“How does he smell?”

Well, funny you should ask that. We’ve just joined this scheme called Smelling-Nose Dogs. You know how, in America, guide dogs are called seeing-eye dogs? My dog with no nose now has his own guide dog, who goes around, sniffs things, guides him away from odorous obstacles and generally lets him in on all the latest dog-gossip.* And it’s given him a whole new lease of life! He’s happy, and bouncy, and has a shiny coat!** He’s always bounding around and eager for his smelling-nose dog and him to go for a walk together. Completely unlike how he used to be, always moping in his basket unable to smell anything.”

“That’s nice.”

“Yes, it’s really done him the world of good.”

“Still not very funny, though.”

“Er, no.”

* You know – which dogs have urinated on which lamp-posts and that sort of thing. Which is, I’m told, very important information for dogs.

** Not that that has much to do with anything. Maybe I should be a copywriter for Evil Nestlé’s dog-food arm.

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How To Not Do Evil

In which we ponder the ethics of shopping


Regular reader Kahlan, in the comments, reminded me of a slight problem we have when it comes to the boiled condensed milk* mentioned the other day.

The problem is: well, one of morality, and not doing evil. There’s only one brand of condensed milk that’s easy to find in this country, Carnation, produced by the rather unethical Nestlé S. A. This is a bit of a problem, particularly for K, who tries to follow the longstanding international boycott of their products as much as humanly possible. Getting hold of ethically-sound condensed milk is proving to be rather tricky.** I’m going to write an email to Sainsburys to ask if they stock non-evil condensed milk anywhere. Neither Tesco or Morrisons seem to have a customer services email address that I can track down – they must have them, but prefer to keep their details secret from their customers. I figured it would be fairly pointless asking Asda, Part Of The Walmart Family, because they’re pretty damn evil to begin with.

* also called dulce de leche, if you’re Spanish-speaking, apparently. I will have to find someone who has tried both, to see if they really are the same thing.

** Ironically, getting hold of ethically-sound dulce de leche is rather easier, but that’s not as much fun as boiling a tin of milk for several hours.

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Swearing

In which we try to be upstanding and British


“Now, children, it’s time for you all to swear to Her Majesty The Queen. All together now:”

“FUCK OFF, HER MAJESTY!”

Seriously, now, this plan to make school-leavers swear allegiance to the monarch, if they can be bothered to, is a ridiculous one. It’s supposedly meant to instill British standards in people – that’s, an imported American ceremony, to make you feel more British. I hope schools don’t take it up, although it’s a depressing thought that they probably will, given the fervour with which they’ve started holding American-style Proms in the last ten years. That’s another horrible American import which we’re best off without.*

It’s strange, though, that the “British standards” the government is keen on instilling are never the British standards that Britain is actually famous for, and that Britons have been famous for for hundreds of years. They’re more interested in realising some mythical moral standard where everyone doffs their cap to their betters and helps old ladies across the street.** Such a world never actually existed, but that never stops people claiming it did.

* I don’t know many American teenagers, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the ones who don’t bother going to their prom, or hold an alternative one, are the only ones I would get along with.

** Whether they want to cross the street or not. “It’s for your own good, dear, now come over here with me.”

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Sometimes dreams can come true

In which FP wakes up feeling hungry


No, really, they can. The one I’m thinking of hasn’t come true yet, but I’m sure it will soon. On Saturday night, I dreamed I was boiling a can of condensed milk on the stove, to make toffee.

I have no idea why I dreamed about this. In the dream, it was to use it as a sauce on top of a sponge-cake, but I’m not sure that would work. Ever since I got out of bed on Sunday morning, though, I’ve been trying to think what I could make that would involve it. Cakes, puddings, biscuits – there’s a whole world of baking out there that can involve boiled condensed milk in some fashion. All I have to do is find a reasonably simple recipe, and at least one of my dreams can come true!

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Joke of the week (part one)

In which a classic joke turns out to be rather sad


“My dog’s got no nose”

“How does he smell?”

“He doesn’t. He sits around all day getting into a deeper and deeper cycle of depression, because he can’t smell anything, in one huge cloud of nose-related ennui. He never even comes out of his basket.”

“That’s quite sad, really.”

“Yeah, I don’t know why the title says it’s a joke.”

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