Saturday, 20 November 2010


So today I made pretzels! The nice doughy German kind that you can never get here except when the German market pitches up for Christmas. I found the recipe online, at bittersweetbaker, and made a few dinky changes to suit me.

To make the Dough you need:
1.5 cups warm water
1tbsp sugar
2.5 tsp salt
2.25 tsp instant yeast
22oz plain (all purpose) flour
4tbsp butter, melted (which means you measure it then you melt it)
vegetable oil

Combine water, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl and stir slowly until dissolved. You may have to squish little clumps of yeast which form. Then add the flour and melted butter and mix until it comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. Then transfer into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film (plastic wrap). Leave it somewhere warm for 50-55 min, until its about doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220 C (or 450 F) and put 5 cups of water on to boil. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll each one into a 24-inch (60cm) snake. Curl the ends round to make a circle
Then cross the ends over and tuck them round to make that classic knot shape
Lay them out on trays lined with NON STICK or GREASED BAKING PAPER. Not greaseproof paper like me. Greaseproof paper is not non-stick. It is about un-non-stick as you can get, apparently.

Anyway, by now your oven should be hot and your water boiling. Add 1/3 cup bicarbonate of soda/sodium bicarbonate/baking soda to the water. It looks awesome.
Then place each pretzel in, one at a time, for 30 seconds each. This is the part that's going to make them nice and hard on the outside!
Although at the moment they'll just be weird and slimy. My dough cracked because I'm rubbish at rolling dough snakes. Don't be like me. Or do, because the cracks wind up looking kind of cool, as you will see later on.
Next mix up 1 egg yolk and 1tbsp water and brush it all over the tops of your boiled pretzels, for colour and shine. If you like crunchy salt crystals, sprinkle over some kosher salt at this point. Beware making them too salty though - you may wish to cut down on the salt in the dough.
Then put the trays in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, turning half way through. Also swap them top to bottom, so that one lot don't brown too much and the other not enough.

Cool them for at least five minutes so as not to burn your poor fingers, then eat warm, or save them for later. Good with butter and cheese or ham. I've never tried them with anything sweet, but given the recent trend of salty chocolate (weirdos) then I suppose they might be good with chocolate spread or dipped in melted.

And DON'T forget to use NON STICK PAPER unless you want to go without the bottom layer of crust, which is just as yummy as the top layer.

*EDIT*: Hi guys. I have corrected the amount of salt in the recipe and made things slightly clearer about the salt crystals you typically see on these pretzels.
Also, I was at the German Christmas Market the other day and bought an authentic German pretzel and found the flavour to be a bit different from these. Will have to make another batch and do some comparisons to see how I can make this recipe more like the real German ones!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Dreams and My "Calling"

My whole entire life I have always wanted to be the best at all the things I did, including things that I wasn't very good at. Some things I have come to accept. I will never be good at running or sports, and as such will never be very fit. And although I think it would be brilliant to climb Mount Everest and stand on top of the world, I'm never going to get there without some serious motivation from some outside source.
On the other hand there are plenty of things I can do reasonably well, like writing, cooking and graphic design, which I wish I had the time to do more often and therefore get better at, but because I'm not that great in the first place, I don't think that any of them will ever be a career for me, or even a means to support myself. So these activities get pushed aside in favour of ones which are in the long run more economically productive. And that is why I never write much on my blog, why I rarely make new dishes, and why I don't do digital scrapbooking any more.
And then there are things which I am pretty good at. Maths, logical thinking and academia. And the problem there as that those things aren't colourful and pretty and creative. And colours and prettiness and creativity are the things that I would love to be able to base my entire lifestyle around. But instead I'm going to be a scientist, because that's what I'm good at. I'm not sure there's anyway to make clinical psychology very pretty or colourful. But when (if) I get there, I'll let you know.

And then there are a few things that I've never tried but would love to try. Most importantly motherhood. People talk about having a calling and I always struggled with that idea because I could never find something I wanted to do my whole entire life. Because in school they want you to pick a career, which makes good sense really, now that women don't go directly from parents to husband without ever having to support themselves entirely. And of course married women have careers too. Wonderful ones. And that's great and I was up for that. Except that I didn't know what to do. Journalism was something which appealed to me greatly for a long time. But then I realised I actually wasn't very good at English. So I couldn't be a journalist.
I looked through a really big book in school one day which basically listed a ton of careers. I was sure that eventually I would find one that fit me. The best I could do was a speech and language therapy. I thought I was set. And then I discovered that they also teach people how to eat and swallow, after brain injury or whatever, and they have to put their hands in peoples mouths and stuff. And I was like no thank you. If I wanted to put my hands in peoples' mouths I'd be a dentist.
So I was back to square one with no career. And so I picked subjects that I enjoyed and I went to uni and I did Classical Studies. And I picked Psychology because I like people and I thought it might be fun. And I fell in love with the subject, so that's what I do now. And I want to be a Clinical Psychologist not because it's colourful and pretty like I crave. But because it's helpful, you get to look after people. And I realised that that is what I want to be good at. I want to be great at looking after people.

And most importantly I want my very own little people to look after. If I could get married tomorrow to the "perfect man" who ever that is, and have babies and babies, then I would be delighted. I can't think of anything I want more than to have children and to raise them and love them and teach them to be good, loving people, who get a lot out of life and who will want the very best for me when I can't look after myself any more, never mind anyone else. I want children so much that even at the age of 21 I have said to every one of my friends that if they ever get pregnant by accident, and don't want an abortion for whatever reason, I would adopt that baby and love it like my own without a second thought. And I know that I'm at university, and I'm trying to get a degree, and a career, and a husband, so that I can have a lovely home and then stay there looking after my kids and not having to work. And if someone was to hand me a baby tomorrow, that would mess up the plan a bit. But it's not about the house really, its about that kid. I want to be a great mum. I want my kids to be the best kids.

I read a lot of blogs my women who are stay-at-home mums who cook and who homeschool their children and who get to write and be creative and have beautiful homes and who take fabulous photos and who can make digital scrapbook pages til the cows come home (literally for some) and I want that. I know it's pretty weird at my age and stage of life. But I'm almost jealous of the girls from my year at school who stopped school when they were 16, got pregnant, even by accident, and are now raising families. And yeah its really hard for them because they don't have a lot of money, and a lot of them are single mums, but there's a whole part of me that wishes I had that too. I'd take the hardship and not being able to go out and not having any kind of a career and all of that if I could have kids to look after. I know it's a little crazy. Sorry. You'll have to deal with that.

It's probably a good thing I was raised like I was because otherwise that could be exactly where I am right now. And I might hate it. And that would be horrible. I know that it is far more sensible to focus on some form of a career just now, because kids are expensive, and to wait until I'm in a stable relationship with someone who I love and am married to, because that security is important. I just wish sometimes I could fast-forward to the days where I have a little kitty, a big dog, a baby boy on my hip, twin girls playing together with friends, and two wonderful teenagers who don't find me *too* embarrassing, a loving husband, dinner in the oven, vegetables in the garden, and fresh flowers and my own photography embellishing my cosy family home.
Oh well, I'm sure I'll have plenty of fun on the way

And what about you, trusty, invisible reader? Do you have any dreams? Where do you wish you could fast-forward to in your life

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Not All Sunshine and Daisies

So it turns out that house keeping is not all I thought it was going to be. None of this "ooh I think I'll bake me a pie" nonsense, and more like "I want to go out tonight but I can't because I have to come home and cook dinner and clean bathrooms and hang laundry and tidy up and be stressed out because I had a bad day."

I know it's not always going to be so stressful. I'll get into the swing of things and then it will be more fun and winter I can bake pies if I want to. But right now, I want my mummy back to run around after me. I didn't mind in the flat because it didn't REALLY matter if the place was a mess.

Deep breaths. And some sleep. And then up bright and early in the morning. Yay.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Creamy Chicken and Leeks with Hasselback Potatoes and Garlic Mushrooms

So, the big move was two days ago now and tonight was the first night I cooked properly! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures, which is a bit useless :( Especially since Hasselback potatoes are SO pretty!

I made chicken, leeks and bacon in a creamy sauce, and I did the potatoes and garlic mushrooms to go with. I really wish I could show you a photo. Bad Katie!!

Creamy Chicken and Leeks
adapted from Easycook Magazine (Spring '08)
3 rashers bacon (unsmoked), diced
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 leek, sliced
1tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour
300ml (1/2pt) chicken stock (I used vegetable boullion)
3tsp creme fraiche

Fry the bacon in a medium-sized pan over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Then add the chicken strips and cook for another 3 minutes. Then add the leek, reduce the heat, cover and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender.

Stir in the flour and then gradually add the stock, stirring continuously. Stir in the creme fraiche, season, and then simmer for 5 minutes until lightly thickened and creamy.

Serves 2, with potatoes and garlic mushrooms or green veg.

I found this recipe actually makes quite a lot of sauce so we moped up the extra with buttered bread, and I saved a little to throw over some rice or something for a quick lunch tomorrow.

I'll save posting the potato recipe for another time when I bothered to take a picture!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Second-Hand Book Shops

There's something that seems so romantic about a second-hand book shop. All those books that have gone through so many pairs of hands so many times before. They are the exact kind of place, along with old libraries, that I would love to spend more time in. I love the idea of literature, and I'm a big fan of words, and of comfortable old books. There's something about an old book that makes it feel like a long lost friend.

I was in some book shops today in fact, the second-hand kind of course, looking for some of the old classics on the list of books I'm planning to read and to share my opinions on. I love how haphazard they are, and how it's all a treasure hunt really. And although I don't have much experience of them there were a few things I noticed.

It seems, for example, that no shop's collection is complete with out brand-new-looking copy of Dan Brown's novels. A remnant of all that hype, I imagine. Alexander McCall Smith also seems to get around. Perhaps these are modern classics - the ones everyone reads to say they've read them, and then they pass them on. As this idea occurred to me I realised that I'm not reading this list because someone said they are the books I should read - I'm reading because I want to find more books to fall in love with. I already know I love Jane Austen - if I could go back in time I would meet her before Einstein or George Washington or Queen Victoria. That kind of society is where all my day dreams end up - where rich women do "work" which is really just making pretty things for the home, and people go riding, and walking is exercise and everyone has a horse. Obviously this was only for the upper classes, but that's what I've fallen in love with. Don't look down on me too much!

Anyway, today's foray into second-hand world did not see me empty-handed. I picked up a copy of War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy; Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens; and for some lighter reading, The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame (and yes, that is on the list!).

I started War and Peace on the bus on the way home, and it's the longest of the four, so it may be a week or so before my first review. I will be updating about other things as well though, so keep coming back for more!!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

I've Moved!

So now I no longer live in Newington! I'm back home at the parents and already struggling not to wind everyone up!

I went out last night and was going to come home on the last bus... but ended up sauntering in at 8 in the morning, not having slept yet. It's a long story. Parent's not so impressed that I had brought Marsailidh with me unannounced.

But everything seems calm again now. Phew!

I've been spending the last week or so packing and cleaning and getting stressed over whether or not our landlady will return our deposit and all sorts of things, but when I've had a little free time I've been recipe hunting on-line. I've got loads and loads of things I'm just itching to try!

Food blogs are my new favourite thing, I'm especially loving:

nom nom nom nom nom

Soon I shall be cooking and photographing. :D

I also found on-line a list of books that everyone should read before they're 30. I don't know that it's the most authoritative source in the world but I like the list, so I'm going to be collecting these titles from second-hand and charity book shops and reading them over the summer, and in my spare time during term as well. Hopefully I will be able to post my humble reviews of these in due course!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Things Are Changing

Hi everyone!

It's been about 6 months since I posted before which is an awfully long time really!! I don't really have an excuse so much as I just felt I didn't have anything worth telling anyone.

Anyway, my family circumstances are about to change more than they ever have before! My parents are moving to the north coast of Scotland because Dad has a job up there. My younger brother is just starting university and will be moving into university accommodation, and I will be leaving my flat in the centre of town and moving back out to the sticks... um I mean the suburbs... to my parents' current house, to live there with my older brother and to look after it, and the house, until the house sells.

On the plus side, I will have more space, and more money. On the downside I'll be a long way away from the university campus, and the night life in the city.

Although I've lived in student flats for 2 years, the concept of "keeping house" is not something that has ever applied to me. Student flats are conducive to subsistence living, where groceries are only bought when you are starving, dishes only washed when there are no clean ones to eat off, and the place is only tidy when the landlord is coming to inspect. It's going to be quite different moving back home where the place has to be tidy all the time (or at least twice a week) for viewings, and my brother and I will be living as a household, rather than as ships passing in the night.

This blog, I am hoping, will be somewhere I can share recipes and useful house-keeping tips with my grown-up friends from the internet, and also somewhere to share news with my parents - although I will probably speak to them every day and see them quite often.

I can't remember exactly where I left all my avid readers (ha ha jk) in terms of my news, but I am no longer engaged, I passed all my third year exams, and I'm getting close to the stage where I might be able to sit my driving test.

More updates soon on the dramas of moving back to the house (Tuesday) and dealing with the landlady's hospital-worthy cleaning list (Thursday or Friday).

I love you all very much :D

Friday, 29 January 2010

Soap Opera Much?

I'm reading a psychology article at the moment about thought and language and intelligence, and its talking about the computer metaphor for the human mind.

Before computers existed, terms like "believe", "know", "think", "talk" and so on were not considered to be scientific terms, but mentalistic. People who wanted psychology to be a serious science tried to stop using these terms when describing how people work - this is how the behaviourist model came about. When this went out of vogue, it was the ghost-in-the-machine idea which was popular again, but there were still difficulties with this.

However, when computers came about, everything changed. According the article, computers are "fairy-free, fully exorcised hunks of metal that could not be explained with out the full lexicon of mentalistic taboo words."

For example:

"Why isn't my computer printing?"

"Because the program doesn't know you replaced your dot-matrix printer with a laser printer. It still thinks it is talking to the dot-matrix and is trying to print the document by asking the printer to acknowledge its message. But the printer doesn't understand the message: it's ignoring it because it expects its input to begin with '%'!"

Pinker says "the more complex the system and the more expert the users, the more their tecnhical conversation sounds like the plot of a soap opera."

For example:

"Why did Mary stop talking to me?"

"Because Mary doesn't know that you changed your phone number. She thinks she's talking to you and is trying to do this by asking you to apologise. But she doesn't understand why you aren't apologising now: she's ignoring you because she expects you to say your sorry!"

Well, it made me smile!

Friday, 22 January 2010

I know I can't prove God exists but...

I know I can't prove God exists, but I was thinking about that today.
I had a tutorial this morning for my group project this term, and we're looking at executive functions. These are the processes in your brain which exert control over the other processes. We were talking about some research which investigated a number of putative executive processes and it brought up the question of the use of strategy when performing tasks, and how this decision was made. How is it decided which control process should be used? Psychologists are long past the stimulus-response ideas of the Behaviourists, which suggested that everything we do is an automatic trained response to present stimuli, so we concluded that strategy wasn't simply dictated by the task at hand. Aside from anything else, there are often numerous strategies which can be used so the choice is not always an automatic one.
I suggested maybe the choice was made by the conscious self. Like "you" decide which strategy to use, and another girl in my class (whose name completely escapes me) asked in return what process regulated consciousness? Not as in whether you're awake or asleep, but what is going on in your mind consciously, what you think and so on.

Now that is a very good question. If we continue to hypothesise and research and develop new methodological and statistical techniques, will we eventually be able to reduce the whole of cognition down to a series of processes? Or do we believe that human consciousness is something special, which can't just be measured with a big scanner or factor analysed out of a questionnaire. It's the whole mind-body question all over again.
This was something I studied in philosophy in high school (something which I gave up as soon as I was able, for the most part), and at the time, I guess I didn't really get to the nub of it. I mean I never really though that I or anyone else was just a series of biological functions. Then we might as well all be slugs, and where's the fun in that. What I never realised was the importance of the question, and at least in my eyes, that there is really only one possible answer.
The human mind is so creative. Every second we think thing we've never though before, we say things we've never said before, we organise things we've never done before, we draw things we've never drawn before. If everything was a biological process, then because of evolution (let's not get into that right now, it's a whole other question) it would theoretically all have been done before already. But it hasn't. Human beings are creative because they were created. They're not just biology because they didn't just happen thanks to a big old science accident.

Sometimes I wonder if there really is a God, and other times I could possibly doubt it.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Another Driving Lesson - Finally!

So I had my second driving lesson on Wednesday morning, and it was definitely better than the first one.
At the end of the first lesson, all I had done was set off, change gears and pull in again a few times, and I was worried I wouldn't progress onto anything else until I had mastered doing those things. Now you may think, well that's OK, those things are easy, but they aren't when they're brand new! You guys have just been doing it long enough that it has become automatic. Not so for me. So I was thinking, yeah I want to learn to drive, so I'll keep getting lessons, but I'm going to be terrible and it's going to take me such a long time.
Well after lesson number two, I'm feeling a lot more confident in my own ability. I drove all the way along the road in one go, then we practised turning in a wide street-end bit, doing circles and figures of eight. Then I did a three-point turn to get round. The first bit was OK, the reverse part, I mean, because there was loads of space, but then when I was setting off forward again, I forgot that it would have to be really slowly because I had to turn, and instead set off like normal from the side of the road. That gave the instructor a bit of a fright, but fortunately it's a dual control car so nothing bad happened!
Then we drove a long the road and up and down some hills and turned between roads, doing indicating and all that. I was doing pretty OK until I had to make a sharp turn left onto an uphill road. I think I would have done it OK, except that I put it into third gear instead of first! Then after stalling, right in someone's way, I was a bit flustered, so at the top of the road forgot how to do what he was telling me and stalled again. Fortunately I didn't have to do anything to complicated after that because it was near the end of the lesson.
Oh and we practised hill starts as well. Aparently I was quite good at finding the balance point with the clutch and accelerator to stop the car rolling either way. It didn't seem that hard though so maybe he just says that to everyone.

But yeah, it was pretty exciting. I'm looking forward to it now, I quite enjoy it really. Got another lesson booked for next week so we'll see what I get up to then!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Does snow get old?

Technically, I suppose snow can get old. I mean, if it's been lying around for a few days. Like at the moment, there's a layer of ice on the pavement underneath the fresh snow, which got trod on, and it melted a little when it warmed up and then it froze again when it got colder again.
But I meant like as a fun thing. I LOVE snow. It first snowed on the 17th December, which was the day of my last exam, and I was so excited when I came out the door, because I totally wasn't expecting it! It's been snowy every day since then, even if any hasn't fallen it's been cold that it hasn't really melted. And it's forecast to carry on like this for the rest of the month.

Now, I love snow. I've always loved snow and I probably always will. But people keep saying we haven't had snow like this for 20 years, or 30, or 50 - they keep changing their minds!
But ACTUALLY, I think it might be a good thing that we don't get it too often. There are so many things that are annoying about snow.
*It's always really cold, so much so that this morning I woke up and there was ice on the inside of my window! Freeeeeeeezing!
*It's really hard to walk anywhere! And it makes your shoes all wet and your jeans and it's annoying, and they take ages to dry because it's cold as well.
*I had my first driving lesson on the 18th when it hadn't got too bad, but I haven't been able to have another one because of slippy roads and the weather. I've got another one booked but who knows if it's going to be good enough, I might have to postpone again again. RRRrrrubbish.
*The worst thing, however, was the closure of Gatwick airport. Chris was supposed to get to Gatwick on Tuesday night but the plane couldn't land because, as they were on the approach of all things, the runways closed. So instead they landed in Paris!! Eugh. Not Edinburgh. Apparently Paris is closer to London. Whose idea was that!
*Today, when Chris's train was due into Edinburgh around 12 o'clock and it was so late I got so cold I could die! I got my hugs and stuff but it was still pretty cold!

So yeah, a list of reasons why extended snow is rubbish.
But I suppose it's not so bad. Snow it pretty. And it is fun. And I love watching it fall. I think it will always make me happy. Even when I'm 80 and crabbit and cold all the time, I really hope I will still love snow. Or even if I end up somewhere where it snows all the time I wouldn't want to not like it, that would be rubbish! I hope however inconvenient it is, that snow will always make me smile, just like a bright summers day, or a rainbow, or running in warm rain.

Monday, 4 January 2010

New Year, New Start!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you're all well. I can't believe it was really October when I last wrote! Madness. Anyway, one of my New Year's resolutions was to blog every week! Very exciting. When term starts next week I'll pick a day and hopefully do it the same day each time, so you'll know when to expect me - it's unlikely to be Monday, that's just when I've got round to it this week.

Anyway, I thought for my New Year's post I would pay tribute to David Tennant, who used to be the Doctor, up until New Year's Day anyway.
The last episode was spectacular with a couple of surprising plot twists and a good bye to all of the Tenth Doctor's companions, lots of bangs and flames, some pretty cool CG stuff, and some brilliant acting!
I only got into Doctor Who when I watched the Christmas special, Voyage of the Damned, because Kylie Minogue was in it. It was then I discovered that the script is well written, the acting was great and the actor was gorgeous! Catherine Tate took over as the new companion in 2008, which was the only full series of Doctor Who that I've seen, and then in 2009 there were a series of hour-long specials which came out at Easter, in Comic Relief Week, in November, on Christmas Day and on New Year's Day, which had us saying goodbye to the Tenth Doctor in floods of tears.

Matt Smith has been cast as the Eleventh Doctor and was introduced at the end of Tennant's final episode, when he regenerated. Although he may struggle to fill his predecessor's shoes, I supposed we'd better give him a chance before we write him off completely.

The end of the David Tennant era is also the end of the Russel T Davies era. Davis has been a script writer since 2004, when the series restarted after a 15 year holiday, and has done an excellent job. Davies says the new guy, Steven Moffat, is brimming with ideas, and in fact he has already written a couple of episodes since the series revived. Hopefully he too will not be lost in his predecessor's shadow.

With two major changes at once in the Doctor Who team, with the shows amazing popularity continue or will the new kids find themselves unable to live up to the old masters?