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Simple biscuits

Set fanforced oven to 175°C.

Approximately 450ml of plain flour
100ml sugar
200g room temperature butter
Vanilla essence/extract/paste to taste
2 table spoons cocoa

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, add the vanilla extract/essence/paste then add the flour (depending on how it all comes together, you might need a bit more flour).

Divide the dough into two equal sized portions. Add cocoa to one of the halves.

Divide each half in half, so you have four equal sized portions. Roll these into sausages/snakes and arrange them so they’re in a checker-board pattern (from the side).

Press it together gently into a square-ish shape and refrigerate for a while until they’re easy to slice into 3-4mm thick slices.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes.

As an alternative, after adding the cocoa to half the mixture, roll each colour into equal sized square sheets and layer them on top of one-another. Roll up, refrigerate, slice, and bake.

Saffron Cake

A simple, but delicious cake with gentle saffron spice.

Set your oven to 175°C.

Ingredients
200g butter
0.5g saffron
2 eggs
300ml sugar
150ml milk
400ml plain flour
2 tsp baking powder (or 1 tsp cream of Tartar and 1 tsp bicarb )

Method
Butter and crumb a 24cm spring form.

Melt the butter and let it cool slightly.

Crush the saffron in a mortar and pestle (a bit of sugar helps to grind it).

Whip the egg and sugar until really fluffy, add the saffron, melted butter and milk.

Mix the baking powder with the flour and fold it into the eggy milky buttery liquid.

Pour into the spring form and bake for approximately 45 minutes.

Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.

Photograph. Mine

On Saturday night I decided to pack my camera bag and head into the hills to take some photos. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to photograph, but no firm plans. The sun was setting fast, so as I was coming around the bend at the entrance to Morialta National Park I thought I was going to miss it. I pressed on and as I was driving up to Montacute was in shadow of  most of the time, and I could see the sunlight climbing the hills as the sun set.

Finally I saw a clear vantage point on a cliff on the side of the road. I found a spot to park, walked to the spot, and plonked myself down just in time to get a few snaps.

I’ll definiely go there again to watch the sun set.

Post Rock

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but probably about 15 years ago, I went to see a band called Because of Ghosts perform. They were a post-rock outfit from Melbourne. At the time I had no idea what post-rock was, and I’m still not entirely sure. I know I like bands that refer themselves as post-rock. A quick Wikipedia search shows that post-rock is music played with instruments that are generally found in rock, but producing music that doesn’t sound much like contemporary rock.

The music is generally based around entire albums/records rather than individual songs, with strong themes running through the album tracks.

In more recent times, I’ve started listening to more of these bands, actively seeking them out, and one of my favourites is pg.lost. I’ve embedded one of their albums. Have a listen. This one really deserves to be listened to in its entirety from start to finish.

3CX Softphone with headset and speakers

I really wanted to use the 3CX Softphone rather than a desk-phone at work. But I also want to have music going through my amp and speakers. Whenever I plugged my head-set into the jacks at the front of the PC, it took over the sound and disabled the rear jacks that were feeding the amp.

I’m using an Asus board with Realtek HD Audio, and if you go into the Realtek HD Audio Manager there is a cog in the top right of the screen. Click it and select Option.

screen2

In the option page, you have the option to make the front and rear jacks play different audio streams, and for recording devices, all input jacks to be treated as separate devices.

Set it up as shown in the image below.

screen1

If you now connect your headset, you’ll have more audio options inside the 3CX softphone audio options.

screen3

I have my ringer set to come over the rear jack, and audio to go over the front panel. To adjust the volume of the audio streams individually, right click the sound icon in the system track and you can adjust the volume for all of the different outputs and inputs.

Currant biscuits

I like to bake – scrolls and biscuits are my favourites. This is a recipe for simple currant biscuits.

Ingredients
200 grams butter
4 tablespoons sugar
270 grams plain flour
100 grams currants

Oven
175-200°C

Equipment
Kenwood mixer, grease-proof paper, fork, scales

Makes
50

Butter and sugar

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Throw in the currants and mix them through. Add the flour and mix it until it comes together as a dough.

Adding the currants

I’m fairly picky when it comes to biscuit sizes, and I tend to weigh the mixture, then calculate the weight required for each biscuit to make it even. Then I weigh each biscuit. If I had to make them day in and day out I’d probably come up with a better way, but this works when it’s just 50-100 biscuits.

Flour to make doughOnce you’ve lined them all up neatly on a baking sheet, squish them with a fork, and place them in the oven. Bake for 10-20 minutes (it depends on your oven).

 

 

 

Bruce Springsteen – Highway Patrolman

Bruce Springsteen cancelled a show today in North Carolina. He did to protest against the “bathroom laws” that have recently been passed there. There is a lot of commentary available on the subject already, so I won’t go into it too far other than to say that it is a ridiculous regression in human rights.

Thinking back to my travels (again) through Europe, one thing about Belgium has stayed with me – unisex toilets. You walk in, in the front you have basins, then cubicles and last you have the urinals. There is no question about gender at all. Obviously what is happening in North Carolina is bigger than unisex toilets, it’s an attack on human rights, but it would certainly remove some of the arguments that the bigots are using.

When I saw Springsteen’s name in the headlines, I started to think about his music and his incredible 1982 album Nebraska. It was recorded in a single night on a four-track in his bedroom, in a temporary studio set up by Mike Batlan.

The tracks were going to be used as demos for a new album together with the E Street Band, but after they spent time with it in the studio, they realised that the demos were better. They cleaned up the recordings and a few months later released Nebraska. There is talk about “Electric Nebraska” being in an archive somewhere, but as far as I know nothing has surfaced yet, and recordings tend to be quite buoyant.

The album is mainly about crooks, criminals, and murderers. Highway Patrolman is a little different because its protagonist is on the other side of the law.

Highway Patrolman is about Joe, a farmer, and his brother Franky who was in the Army.  Joe walked off his farm in the late 1960s when wheat prices plummeted in the US. He became a highway patrolman, and his brother Franky came back from Vietnam. Franky was always trouble, and Joe as the local policeman, tried to keep him in line. Joe firmly believed that you don’t turn your back on your family.

Joe gets a call from a roadhouse saying that Frank has killed someone and is fleeing towards Canada. Joe chases him down, but when he gets close to the Canadian border he pulls over and lets Frank go – obviously a crime in itself.

Listen to the track, consider that it was recorded in the early 80s on a simple four-track in Springsteen’s bedroom. A couple of guys, a guitar, a voice and a heaping helping of incredible talent – not a team of writers, producers, autotuners and whatever else they use to produce music these days.

I’ve done a little searching and it seems as though the places, roads and songs in the lyrics are all made up. Artistic licence is forgiven, but I do like visiting song places. Like the time I went to Serviceton…

If you decide to look up the video-clip for this song, it’s taken from the film Indian Summer and kinda stinks. The movie was based on the song, quite loosely, and the initial scene from the clip sets the mood in the polar opposite of what I want. I’ve therefore linked to just the song.

Band – The Lowest of the Low

In 1998 I packed a bag and hopped on a plane to Europe. I had scant plans. I was armed with a guide book, a booklet of train tickets and a heaping helping of youthful exuberance. I railed from Sweden to Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, England, Ireland, France, and then back up through Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and back to Sweden. Travelling by train was a frustrating, cold, uncomfortable, noisy, and amazing way of travelling. I met weird people (I love meeting weird people), saw a lot of countryside (often at night), half-slept because of upcoming stations, accidentally went to the wrong country once, and, rather intimidatingly, had an asylum seeker pulled out of my train compartment when he couldn’t produce a passport for the border guard.

I went to a lot of places. I spent many nights in many hostels. Many I remember for terrible reasons – they’re fun to recall, and make for decent stories at times. This is about a hostel I remember for good reasons. My favourite, ever. It was a small hostel in County Kerry, Ireland. It’s the Sugan in Killarney. Killarney is a quaint village. It has castles and pubs and hills to ramble in. The hostel is next to a pub. When I was there, the owner of the hostel, Pa (pronounced like the Pa in Patrick, not the Pa in Grandpa), enjoyed the pub next door. The pub enjoyed Pa and all his hosteleers. We would go to the pub, buy a couple of trays of pints, balance them back to the hostel and sip away infront of the coke-fired fire. We shared stories and songs.

Pa knew thousands. He could remember stories and lyrics like no other. He wasn’t too crash hot on remembering the tune, but it didn’t matter when most of them I was hearing for the first time. He sang a song called Rosy and Grey by a Canadian band called The Lowest of the Low. I think he liked it because it’s a little rude. It stuck with me, and I hunted for this album for years and years. I couldn’t find it in shops in Australia. I couldn’t find it online.

It would have been 10 years after the trip and this album was still haunting me. I couldn’t find it anywhere. When I ended up going on a wine-tasting tour with a random (weird) Canadian that I met at a tram stop, I decided to skip my usual get-in-the-good-books-with-the-Canadian routine (it’s a secret, can’t tell you what it is) and went straight for the big question. “Do you have Shakespeare, My Butt on your iPod?”.

She did.

I stole it.

I lined up Rosey and Grey and it was glorious. Significantly different to Pa’s version, but the words were still the same and I was instantly transported back to the little hostel in Killarney. Guinness on the table. Guitars in hand. Fucking cold outdoor showers.

Music moves me further and faster than anything else. People talk about smells bringing back memories. For me it’s music.

You can look up Rosey and Grey yourselves on Youtube. To the right I’m embedding my favourite track from the album.

Photograph. Mine. Port Douglas.

Sunrise

I took this photo early in the morning while holidaying in Port Douglas. We were up early because Mr-then-18months was with us. It was an excellent way to get beach time in before the sun became difficult to deal with.

Ginza – a photo by Paul

I’ve not travelled to Japan, and I’m not sure how I’d go there. It seems like a busy, fast paced, noisy place. Something I love the idea of, but exhausts me very quickly.

Photos like this make me think I should just get on with it. Get over there and have a look.

ginza