Saturday, 29 January 2011

Recommended Reading: The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography

I have just completed Stephen Fry's 'The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography'.
Stephen Fry is an well loved English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter and film director. He is well know together with Hugh Laurie as the comedy double act Fry and Laurie,  and the duo also played the title roles in one of my favorite series which I have written about before, namely Jeeves and Wooster.

As a solo actor, Fry is known from among Oscar Wilde, he was Melchett in the series Blackadder and is the host of the quiz show QI. He is also known to British audiences everywhere as the reader of all seven Harry Potter novels in their audiobook versions.

This book is a continuation from the end of his 1997 publication of his first autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot: An Autobiography. Though not adhering to any strict chronology, it concentrates on the seven-year period of Fry’s life, taking up the story after his release from prison, his time at the University of Cambridge and his burgeoning career in comedy by the late 1980s.
This is Fry's his second volume of autobiography. Critics have called the book candid, sincere, and charming, with insightful commentary if occasionally flat stories. Although, I am not generally a fan of autobiographies, I enjoyed reading this book as he is extremely eloquent and I am a great fan of his work. On the downside -  he does use an enormous amount of words but that explains why he needed 448 pages to describe only 7 years of his life... 
How can anyone remember all the details?

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Coping with Stress

A sure sign of me getting stressed is that I start writing lists...

I wake up in the middle of the night fearful of having forgotten something and can't relax until I have noted it down.

Then I worry about forgetting 'The List'...
I have instead started using the note function on my mobile and jot things down there.
I mean - I don't go anywhere without my phone and rarely forget it! I almost feel 'naked' without it
(how did we manage without it before...???) 

This system seems to work well for me and it is very gratifying to be able to delete things off the list...
I still woke up at 5 am several days this week needing to put things on 'The List', but at least I don't forget it at home!

And being able to roll over and have another couple hours of blissfull snooze is veeeeery nice

Btw - have you noticed the light is starting to come a little earlier in the mornings...?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


todays blog entry is illustrated with a random picture of the centre of the stone table in the garden
I have been challenged by Storstepia to answer - just for fun - the following questions:

Four jobs I have had:
1.  Au-pair (what a waste of time that was... - I only lasted 5 months.. At 18 I was too impatient to look after other people's kids)
2.  Supermarket cashier (in the days when you had to KNOW what each item cost as there were NO bar codes...!)
3.  Investment advisor (best and most challenging job I have ever had)
4.  Office manager (safe, but still fun)

Four films I could see again:
1. Any of the Harry Potter movies
2. Four Weddings and a Funeral
3. Jeeves & Wooster 
4. Matador
Four places I have lived
1. Oslo, Norway
2. Harstad, Norway
3. Menlo Park, California, USA
4. Aix-en-Provence, France

Four TV-programs I like to watch:
1. Who Do You Think You Are?
2. Stricktly Come Dancing
3. Desperate Housewifes
4. Larch Rise to Candleford

Four places I have been:
1. Rome, Italy
2. St. Augustin, USA
3. Isfahan, Iran
4. Honningsvag, Norway

Four webpages I visit daily:
1. Aftenposten/Nettavisen/Klassekampen/Verdens Gang /Dagbladet/Halden Arbeiderblad
(A rather varied collection of Norwegian newspapers)
2. Ebay/Amazon
3. Various blogs
4. My employer's page
Four places I would like to be now:
1. In a hammock by a beach
2. With my family and friends in Norway
3. On a slow boat outside Hvaler (in the summertime)
4. Going for a walk in a forrest
Four things I got for Christmas:
1. TV with DVD player for my bedroom
2. Earrings
3. Calendar
4. New camera
Four Programs I used to watch as a child:
1. The Flintstones (my favourite American show when we lived there)
2. Pippi Langstrompe (Pippi Longstocking)
3. Romlingene (not sure what they were called in English, but a bit scary, they were)
4. Den Hvite Stenen (Swedish detective serie for children)

I pass this challenge on to whoever wants to take it!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Kitchen Order

 I have been on the look out for a while for a labelling system to distinguish my rice/salt/sugar/flour/powder sugar jars. I didn't find anything I liked neither in the shops nor on the web. Many of the adhesive labels come off when you wash the jars and many looked too much like jam jar labels.

So where to go for inspiration? 
The BLOGS, of course!


And I was not disappointed!

 Fru Fly's blog gave me the inspiration to make my own labels.
I liked it  as I can easily take the labels off when I wash the jars and as I laminated them they should last a while before needing changing.

Me happy!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Saturday Morning Fun

Talk about timing:

The latest Canon EOS Magazine landed on my door mat this morning along with an introduction DVD to digital photography.
As it was still rather early I returned to bed with a  cup of coffee and popped the DVD on.


I am really pleased with my new camera and enjoy experimenting although I don't find enough time for this!
The DVD and the magazine are both informative and give some good tips.
I couldn't wait to try some of them out for myself but the only model available that time of day was the teddy bear...
The pictures below are taken in the same light just adjusting the ISO, aperature and shutter speed.
It is so gratifying as the results are so instant.

I have seen there are courses run by professional photographers nearby so this might be something to look into to learn more!

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Charming Culprit!

The sun has mercilessly been streaming in through the windows today making it obvious that they are in need of a good clean...
However, none need it more than the patio doors where The Cat has managed to make his 'mark' the last few rainy days...
You can hardly see through the windows for his muddy paw marks!
I guess I've got the work for the weekend sorted then...!

My olive tree behind The Cat also seems to need a little TLC.

I can see there are other places needing a good shine as well... Renovating is such a messy job!
But we kind of see the end of the project as the painting starts Monday and the floor arrives the same day... Hmmm... not sure how we will arrange for them all to work at the same time


While I am on my 'crusade' for the humble semolina I share a recipe for old fashioned semonlina pudding:

Boil 5 dl of milk (I use skimmed) with 1 dl of semolina till it thickens
Add then 
a pinch of salt,
1,5 tbsp of sugar (I use Splenda)
and 2 eggs

Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 mins and serve either hot or cold with a dollop of jam.

A very quick, easy, and cheap dessert!

As I have been getting some questions regarding my silicon muffin tins I included them in the picture above.

They are so practical.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Tried and Tested: Semonlina Cake with Blueberries

Semolina seems to be an old-fashioned ingredient not used much anymore. I use it for porridge/dessert or to coat roasted potatoes in to ensure they crisp up the outside of the potatoes and soak up all the (naughty but) nice oils/butter. 

Now that we can almost 'smell' the weekend here is my suggestion for a nice and slightly crunchy semonlina cake with blueberries. It is a slight variation on a cake I found in

I make these muffinlike cakes in my silicon muffin tins (I have two types - one with heart shapes and one that gives small bundt cakes), but you can make it as one larger cake, too.

175 g sugar
2 eggs
150 g butter (softened)
150 g flour
1 pinch of salt
75 g semolina

Beat egg and sugar together and mix in the butter
Mix the dry ingredients and add to the wet.
Pour into your tins which you may have to butter and perhaps add some breadcrumbs to avoid the cake sticking unless you use silicon tins.
Press the blueberries in the dough.

Bake in the centre of the oven on 200 degrees for about 20-25 mins

PS: No more bumps in the night - things seem to have settled - and


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Things Going Bump In The Night...

This is becoming a mystery:

Monday night I was abruptly awoken at 1 am by a loud bump from the room we are renovating (the room is right below my bedroom).

It sounded like something had fallen from the ceiling onto the floor. Even The Cat sleeping next to me was disturbed and looked up nervously.
I got up and went to investigate. 
But there wasn't anything wrong in the room.
The room is completely empty.
There isn't anything that can fall...
I calmly continued throughout the house thinking I had mistaken where the sound came from, but everything seemed normal.

Perhaps I had been dreaming?

But no, The Cat had reacted, too.

I am not easily spooked nor scared so I decided to go back to bed and actually fell asleep.
At 5 am I woke up again, but this time the noise was not so loud.
Again, The Cat reacted. 

I decided to stay awake and find out if I was dreaming or not so I sat up and started reading a book.
Lo and behold - it happen twice again and the sound is definitely coming from the room because there is a bit of an echo in the room since it is empty.

In the morning Our Boy and I investigated the room again and found nothing!
I called the foreman and explained my mystery and he was equally intrigued but had no answers.

 Last night I was really tired after yoga and feel into a very deep sleep (I always do after yoga), but woke up shortly before 6 am
- and there was the noise again!

My only suspicion is that it must be something to do with the spotlights that went in on Monday.
However, the electrician came again this morning to replace one of the bulbs not working but he had no explanation either to these noises.

I am hoping after the decorator has been there and the spots have been put correctly in their place that it will be the end of the noises...

To be honest, I am a little intrigued, but mainly annoyed because I want to sleep!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tried and Tested: Naan Bread

picture borrowed from

The lovely Wilhelmine sent me her recipe for Indian Naan bread and I quickly tried it out last night.
It was so easy and swift to make and it was ready by the time the stir fry to go with it was done.


450 gram self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp plain yoghurt
2 eggs beaten
150 ml water

Quickly mix the wet ingredients together and combine with the dry. Form to a dough and let it rest for 15 mins before you shape them into naan bread. This makes about 6 breads - depending on how big you want them, of course.
Bake in the oven on very high temperature (I used 275 degrees) for 3-5 mins.
Keep a close eye on them!

I didn't have any yoghurt available so I used cottage cheese and this worked just as well.
Also, I didn't manage to take a picture of them as they were 'gone' before I got the camera out, but the borrowed picture above is a good representation except I didn't put any herbs in.

Big hit with Our Boy! 

A good recipe to keep in mind if you have run out of bread - which happens from time to time in our house...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Recommended Reading:The Glassblower of Murano

Marina Fiorato - an English/Venetian author - has written a wonderful combination of mystery, historical intrigue and love.
She tells a story of passion, genius and betrayal linking the present and the past.

I want to go to Venice!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Illusive Cup of Tea

Tea - my way with my favorite mug bought by The Professor in a charity shop ;-)

Today has been spent cleaning after the builders. 
Although they were very careful and even attempted to clean up before they left, there has still been this very fine layer of dust everywhere - particularly the hallway and staircase needed a good scrub down...

The room is coming along as the ceiling and some of the walls that needed it have been plastered and now needs drying off before the electrician and the decorator will be doing their magic next week. Week after that the floor and wardrobe goes in, and we should be done. Can't wait to get the house in order again!

I also popped out to get a couple of pots of paint samples which we will try out tomorrow before we finalise the choice of color.

At the end of the afternoon I was really looking forward to sitting down with a nice cup of tea... We are spoiled for choice with all the varieties of tea available, but I keep coming back to either of my two favorites either Earl Grey or Lady Grey.

I know what I like and I know how I like it.
My tea should be 'kam rang' as my Iranian family would say or 'without color' - in other words: weak.
I then like 1 tsp of Splenda and 5-6 drops of lemon. I then let it sit and cool down as I hate too hot drinks.
I tend to drink coffee only in the mornings and my favorite cup of coffee should be half a cup of not too strong coffee and half a cup of skimmed milk (cold!).
A1 tsp of Splenda should be added before the milk goes in so it dissolves properly.
But really - I don't think I am too fussy... :-)?

The biggest challenge with having builders in the house is that you are expected to offer tea/coffee and I never got the hang of making 'builder's tea'.  They don't complain, but rarely come for seconds... I get the impression they would not recognise tea the way I drink it. Most Brits drink strong tea with a little milk and often sugar. It is a challenge getting it right! This time I used a tea called 1716 (I think) and they seemed to like it !
Or perhaps they were just being polite as I had left a tin of biscuits for them... ;-)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

It has begun...

The refurbishment of Our Boy's room has finally begun (8 days after schedule)!

Since it has to get worse before it gets better the results after the workmen got stuck in makes it look pretty grim.
So far the (horrible) carpet is out, the skirting board is gone, the cupboard doors are gone, new electric sockets have been chased into the walls, and the ceiling is pockmarked ready for the spots!

Today they are coming to install the plasterboards in the ceiling and do some more of the electical work and tomorrow the plasterer will arrive to do his magic.

If it all goes to plan (which it very well might not) the decorator is coming on Monday or Tuesday. The floor is going down a week later. Annoyingly enough there was a 2 week delivery time for the floor, but I would rather wait to get the right floor than accept something half good... Particularly since I want it to match the floors in the rest of the rooms on that floor. The new wardrobe doors will then be installed and we can start filling it all up again and getting the house back to normal!

It is simply amazing how disrupted the rest of the house is... There is just stuff 'everywhere'.

I had very optimistically estimated it all to take 2 weeks. Not wanting to seem cynical, but more speaking out of experience The Professor doubled it and estimated it to 4 weeks 
- looks like he will be right...

But that is ok.
When it is over, it won't matter.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Stylish Blogger...

Nellie has very kindly awarded me the "Stylish Blogger Award" which originated in the USA, I think.
Thank you so much!!!

The award has the following conditions:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award
- done!
2. Tell 7 things about yourself
- (see below)
3. Send the award to 15 other blogs
- Now, choosing 15 deserving blogs is very hard - particularly since many similar awards has often made its way around Bloglandia before! I therefore nominate all the blogs on my bloggroll, if they wish to receive it!
 4 Contact these blogs and tell them about the award
- Now, choosing 15 deserving stylish blogs is very hard - particularly since many similar awards has often made its way around Bloglandia before! I therefore nominate all the blogs on my bloggroll, if they wish to receive it!
Consider yourself notified!

So, here goes 7 things about me
(which is actually really hard to think about - so it has therefore taken a few days):

1. The strangest job I ever had was when I had a summer job minding the public toilet in the park in my hometown... This was my mum's cousin's job and I was once "entrusted" with the duties when she went on holiday. The job entailed sitting in a small hut under ground where the facilities were with a small hatch in to the gents' side and another to the ladies and receive payment for their use of the cubicles (men did not pay if they only used the urinals!). The job was normally shared by two women who divided the opening hours in to 2 shifts and they kept the place spotless - each toilet was thoroughly washed after each visitor! Not that it was the busiest place in town - I had perhaps 5 needy people on my shift... The hut was actually very cosy, with a radio, books and knitting material and friends would pop in to see me.
However, my "career" only lasted two weeks
 - and even if it was easy money, I never asked to do it again. 

2. I love researching into my family background so genealogy is a hobby of mine. Not that I have found anything too exciting, but I find it fascinating piecing it together and thinking about how the times shaped the choices people made and how different life could have been for them with today's choices.

3. Although I "dabble" in a few languages, I would like to learn either Spanish or Italian.
Maybe I find time next fall ...
4. I love yoga - it makes me feel fitter, younger and reconnect with my body again

5. I had planned to study law. Did something different instead. Kind of wish I had done law.

6. I have always wanted curly hair, but at my age I think I have to realise that it won't happen naturally. According to a friend of mine who is a hair dresser, your hair changes every 7 years... not sure what the changes are, but much to my delight Our Boy's hair has changed this last year and gone from dead straight to very wavy and rather curly...
Mine on the other hand has never changed except starting to go very grey and therefore receives regular color treatments...

7. My new luxury treat (or weakness) is watching films in bed.
I have never had a TV in my bedroom, but at times nothing beats a good movie. I got a small tv with a dvd player for Christmas and I just loooove watching a good movie in bed and reaching out for the remote to turn it off before I fall asleep without having to get out of bed. It is not hooked up to the antenna so I can't watch TV, but I finally find time to watch DVDs.
This way a film can last me several days!
Just love it!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Most Viewed in 2010 and a Question

I find it fascinating reading the statistics on the blog - particularly seeing where my readers are coming from. Think we have covered most countries in the world soon...!

I also find it interesting seeing what people like to read about.
These are the entries that have had most visits in 2010
- seems baking related posts are the most popular:

- my spur of the moment dessert creation

- my run in with some finned friends

- a creative re-use project

- travel tips close to our flat in Edinburgh

- a simple cake which will definitely become a classic in our household

This blog was meant to be sort of a diary for our family for 2010 and has also become a place where I collect and share tips and recipes. I really enjoy this media and have learnt so much from reading other blogs - who knew there was such a wealth of generous inspiration 'out there'!?

So, as you see the blog continues.

To honor the original intention of making the blog a diary for 2010 I am on the lookout for a way to have it printed and bound.

Anybody got any good tips and experience with companies that print blogs?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Byron's Pool

the horse is actually a statue
After running errands on what seemed to be a very grey Saturday, the afternoon brought us glorious sunshine! It was still a little chilly, but we have had days up to +10 degrees lately, so we really shouldn't complain...

I was prepared to spend a quiet afternoon indoors, but with the sun streaming through the windows Our Boy and I quickly decided to catch a few of those rays (and to start shedding some of the excesses of Christmas) and went to Grantchester to go for a walk around Byron's Pool - named after Lord Byron who used to swim at the weir pool.
We both enjoy walking together and having some good conversations.

We were almost all alone on our walk - as you can see from the picture, it was probably getting a bit dark. But we got a taste of what lies in wait if the snow and cold doesn't come back...

We ended our brisk walk with a hot drink in the Orchard - "a corner of England where time stands still as the outside world rushes by". One of their specialities are scones and Our Boy enjoyed a huge scone with clotted cream and jam...

- Oh, to be a teenager again and able to eat anything your like without it showing a single ounce...

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Luck and Cappucino Cupcakes!

On one of the greyest days of the year the postman brought yesterday a surprise package from the lovely Ruth!
I have been so lucky to win a beautiful hand made scarf (and a very generous portion of caramels!). This creative and productive Norwegian lady in Scotland - check out her blog to see all her projects - has made the scarf with the softest yarn.
It is already a firm favorite of mine! 


Our boy and I are alone this weekend - first one in a long time - and according to the radio it is the most depressing weekends of the entire year...
Not sure we agree with that - think it depends on what you make of it! So, one of my ways to beat the winter blues is to experiment in the kitchen. I made lovely Cappucino Cupcakes to enjoy this weekend - yes, yes I will give some away to The Best Neighbor in the world as we are officially back to leaner fare now.


It took no time to make them while I cooked dinner! I got the recipe from another lovely and creative blogger - Nellie with her blog Sockertussen. She writes by and large in Swedish, but also very kindly translates her recipes to English so check her blog out. The recipe says this gives 8 large cupcakes - I got 14 regular sized cupcakes out of it. They are delicious both with and without the coffee-cream cheese frosting.

Think we need to plan some exercise too this weekend...

Friday, 7 January 2011

Get Organised Tip: Cards for All Occasions

Sending cards
is a tradition I have gladly embraced from my adopted country
(even if I sometimes forget):
Brits tend to be very good in sending cards for birthdays, holidays, thank-you-cards and of course, Christmas. I think it is a shame that many people have stopped sending cards but I guess many use other ways of communicating like sending texts via mobile phones/Facebook/Twitter/email etc etc., but it really isn't the same, I think. I love getting cards in the mail myself and that little extra effort means a lot to me.

When Our Boy was younger and used to go to birthday parties "every-other-week", there would be a wild panic in the morning when we found the invitation at the bottom of his bag and neither cards nor presents had been prepared. I therefore got myself this box, and filled it with cards for different occasions - clearly organised as you can see (as well as a box where I kept suitable reserve gifts).

This box has been a "life saver" many times and I enjoy being on the lookout for nice new cards. I try to go through my birthday card list at the beginning of each month and prepare them in advance.
Of course, I could have been a bit more industrious and made my own cards, but to be honest - I have realised I only have 24 hrs in the day... I would actually like to make cards, (I enjoy following some card making blogs ) but I simply don't have the time... 
Perhaps a new hobby 'next year'?

Come to think of it - I haven't prepared this month's cards and there is a birthday in Canada end of next week I shouldn't miss...!!!


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

House project!

We spent part of the Christmas break emptying Our Boy's bedroom which will undergo a transformation this month
(if only the builders will show up...). 

It should be a good time since we don't have any house guests and the Professor is working away in Edinburgh so Our Boy can sleep in the office room and his stuff is stored in the spare room. This has to be a very planned operation as our house is in serious need of storage space and there just isn't anywhere else to put things. We have a shed (for unknown reasons called "The Governor's House") and a garage, but with the damp weather most things would quickly get ruined.

So although his room is a rather large rectangular room (close to 20 square metres), the cupboard which occupies one of the shorter walls also doubles as the storage for Christmas decorations/extra duvets/suitcases etc... With that in mind it is incredible to consider the IDIOTIC pelmet that covers most of the upper part of the cupboard (see the top picture above)....
What were they thinking?????
So much sorely needed storage space completely inaccessible!!!!!
You can probably tell this has irked me a long time...

So, the plan is to have a nice oak floor installed (can't wait to get rid of the carpet! - I will never understand the Brits love of carpets...), some suitable spotlights in the ceiling (probably 8) on individual switches, a new replastered ceiling (the current one is awfully decorated with Artex - see the picture in the bottom right corner), new functional wardrobe doors and freshly painted walls.
Not sure what color to go with here, but thinking perhaps a contrast color on the short wall seen in the middle bottom picture.
I am sure Our Boy will have an opinion, too!

I can't wait to get it done - please builders, just get started!!!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Tried and Tested: "Cloud berry and Porridge Dessert" - Monthly Challenge Entry

The theme for the monthly challenge for January from the Swedish blog Sota Saker is desserts.

I didn't have the challenge in mind when I made this dessert last night, but just wanted to use up some leftovers from Christmas.

It ended up being sort of a mix between two traditional Norwegian desserts ("multekrem" & "riskrem").
During my childhood my aunt in Finnmark (north of Norway) would send us (in the south east of the country) a package ever year with the most amazing frozen fish and cloud berries. Cloud berries didn't grow in our part of the country so this was a real treat.
Think there must have been some sort of special delivery service as the fish and berries actually arrived still frozen!

Anyway, I digress -  back to the dessert:

Cloud berry and Porridge Dessert
  • Whip 3 dl of whipping cream
  • Add 3 generous tbsp of cloud berries or cloud berry jam and (I can only get this from Ikea here in England)
  • Add 3-4 generous tbsp of cold leftover porridge
  • Mix well and serve with gingerbread cookies

Monday, 3 January 2011

Recommended Reading: My Father's Notebook

The author of "My Father’s Notebook" is an Iranian now living in Holland and writing under the pseudonym Kader Abdolah.

The novel depicts the recent history of Iran, seen through the eyes of Aga Akbar, a deaf carpet mender from the remote province of Senejan and his son Ishmael.The area’s only merits are its beautiful Persian rugs and a cave with an ancient cuneiform inscription. 
Ishmael tells the story from his life in Holland where he has received his father's notebook written in the same cuneiform script.

As the notebook is gradually deciphered, revealing secrets about its compiler and his country, the reader is taken through a patchwork of folk tales, songs and poems on a journey of discovery about parenthood and belonging, community and loss.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Almost over...

This has really been one of the loveliest holidays we have had in a long time:
We have almost done absolutely nothing...

Actually, not quite true for all of us. The Professor has been working hard preparing for next term and correcting exam papers, but at least he has carried this work out from the house.

Our Boy has played a LOT of guitar and also done quite a bit of work on another electric guitar he is building - it is the second guitar he builds, and he is doing a great job!
I just wonder how many guitars a boy needs....?
So far he has 3 electric and 1 acoustic...

I have had plenty of time to read, watch DVDs, made food, tided various boxes and drawers and slept a lot. There has been time for some walks when the weather has permitted it, but mainly it has been a luxury just being in the house doing our own things and getting together for some board games when we have felt like some company.

Wonder what can this might have been...?

We still have one more day off before we return to work on Tuesday while Our Boy still has a few more days before school starts again.

I took these pictures earlier today when I brought my new camera with me to play with as I walked in to the office (I know it is Sunday... actually missing work a little) to take care of some minor things. I also went to town to get a new calculator for Our Boy who starts term with a mock GCSE math exam next week.
I managed to find a few things for myself at East in the sales - a small miracle as I can't stand crowded shops and normally never find anything I like.

Coming home I noticed that although this is a sad time for the garden, now that the snow is gone you can see there are still things growing and blooming. 

It won't be too long before it all starts up again... I hope!