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Thursday, 10 May 2012


Here's a list of things of I'm going to eat when I'm in Sicily:

cheese (all kinds)
tasty bread

...and pretty much anything else I can get my hands on.

Shop Til I Drop

So, after some un-gentle persuasion, my dad braved Silverburn on his own and got a bracelet and a book for my mum for her birthday.  So all is now well in Smeaters-Land.  Me and Paul are taking everyone for a swanky breakfast tomorrow morning, then we're hitting the Swarovski shop to buy the ring my mum wants.  Paul and dad were unconvinced by the sound of Brown's but I checked the menu and told my dad that you can get bacon rolls and rolls and sausage, so he's appeased.  And there's a full Scottish breakfast, so my bro will be sorted, though I'm not sure about a pint of Guinness!  I made the reservation for 11:15 so we could have the champagne breakfast if anyone orders it, though me and Paul are splitting the bill, so we're kind of hoping no-one does!

I got my mum a wee cupcake-on-a-stick so she has something from me to open in the morning, though it's full of crap, according to the ingredients list (what's wrong with flour, eggs and sugar for a cupcake?!) but it looks good, and if I made one of my own I'd never get it to stay on the damn stick!

I also flouted my own no-new-clothes-for-Italy rule and bought myself a lovely scarf:
...and the blue sequin shorts from Asos.  I measured myself, had a think, and went for the bigger size than I need, so now I just need to hope - for the first time ever! - that they're small-made so they fit OK.  If there's anything worse than too-tight short shorts, it's got to be shorts that are saggy in the arse.  Frankly, that look doesn't look good on anyone.

Argh, it's all gone mad!

I abandoned my wee blog for ages, but then just today I thought I'd add to it again, cause I quite like writing it, actually, so here goes...

First of all, bloody Blogger has gone and changed everything so it took me ages to figure out how to even get in to write a new post.  And in other changes: I have a new job - I'm working in the Corinthian Club in Glasgow and *drumroll please* I'm going back to Uni this September.  I'm going to be doing the LLB (Graduate) degree in Law.  So I can do it in 2 years instead of three for the heart-stopping sum of £6,500 a year - that's at Strathclyde where I eventually had to accept.  I wanted to accept Edinburgh but they put their fees up to £8,750 a year, which was, frankly, well out of my range.  So, Strathclyde it is, and actually I'm pretty excited about it, though I'm not sure anyone else can tell.  

I'm off to Italy next week to visit the flame-haired dynamo ED who has been living on-and-off in Sicily for about 9 months.  I'm flying through London (7 hour wait in Luton, snore) and back through Pisa (one hour connection time, mad dash from Arrivals straight back into Departures and Security) and I've made it so I get 7 full days in Sicily with the two days travelling tacked on either end.  I'm uber excited and already have several lists of things to pack.  I'm not taking a suitcase, 'cause it would have cost me an extra £60 (screw you, Ryanair), so I need to pack smart and think of things I can double up into at least 2 outfits.  I'm also trying not to buy anything new, because I already have loads of summery clothes that I don't get to wear enough, but the one thing I do really want are a pair of sequined shorts (I say shorts; they're not much more than giant knickers) that I've seen on Asos.  The problem is, the colour I want is the cheapest but sold out in my size, so I don't know if I should go for a different colour instead or kid myself into thinking I can get into the smaller size.  I think, of all things you don't want to be wearing too tight, an unforgiving, tiny pair of shorts is about top of the list, so I might have to forgo the lovely navy and go for black instead.

I need to decide today, really, so they arrive in time for me leaving on Tuesday.  Last time I was going away to Tenerife, I couldn't find my bikini, so I bought one on Asos the day before I left and forked out for their enxt delivery and hoped for the best.  They turned up just in the nick of time, and all was well.  So I have faith in the Asos delivery system, at least!

Tomorrow is my mum's birthday, so I've booked us all a table in Brown's to go for breakfast en famille, and then we're hitting the Swarovski shop to buy her a ring she likes.  So far so good, except my dad still hasn't got her anything and seems to have no idea what to go for, so I'm now racking my brains to try and think of something else that he can get for her.  This happens every damn year, and I'm pretty fed up of it!  If anyone has any genius ideas for a mum-worthy gift, please send them my way before the shops shut tonight...

Friday, 21 October 2011

Guinness Cake

Today is my wee brother's 22nd birthday, and seeing as a while ago I stumbled across a recipe for a Guinness cake, I thought I'd make one from him.  Anyone who knows my brother will know that Guinness is his drink of choice so this seemed ideal.  After I first found out you could make a Guinness cake, I had a look about online for different recipes and settled on one by Nigella Lawson, which you can find here.

It was one of the easiest cakes I've ever made, because it was a wet batter, so you really just mix it all together in a big pot and then pour it in your cake tin.  Easy!  It also looks nice as you're mixing it all together, here it is with all the ingredients in, just waiting to be beaten:

Guinness cake mix
Then you just give it a good beat with your whisk to bring it all together and make sure there's no lumps.  I always beat my cakes a lot so that you can get a lot of air in and keep the cake light and fluffy whilst it bakes.  So here it is, ready to go in the cake tin:  a chocolatey delight!

Nigella's recipe says to put it in a 23" tin, and I only have a 20" tin, so I used that and then poured what was left into a wee smaller tin to bake too, just because I didn't want to waste the mixture!  The extra bit came out burnt because there was less of it and so it didn't need to be baked for as long as the full cake.  But the other one came out fine.  I baked it for just over 55 minutes, though I kept checking it after the 45 minute mark so it wouldn't dry out.

The tin I used was a non-stick spring-base baking tin, and I didn't have enough baking paper to line it all (oops), so I greased it with butter and lined the sides but not the bottom.  This morning I had to kind of pry the base off the bottom of the cake, but it wasn't burnt or anything so it was fine.  Next time I will line it though, I think because it was a wet mixture it made it stick more to the base, and lining it is really a better idea.  However, if you don't have baking paper (or you just can't be arsed) then as long as your pan is non-stick and you grease it well, it'll be OK, just a bit more fiddly at the end.

I left the cake overnight to cool completely, so it didn't fall apart when I took it out the tin, and this morning I whipped up the creamcheese icing.  Here's the finished result:

Guinness cake

I think the idea with this cake is that it looks a bit like a pint of Guinness: with the dark cake, and the creamy white head.  I also drew a wee shamrock in the icing, like they do on a real pint, but it doesn't show up all that well, so I made up a wee sign and stuck it on instead.

Now all we have to do it eat it!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Pierces hit Glasgow

On Saturday night, me and Keira went along to see The Pierces play in Glasgow's o2 ABC.  I managed to get quite last minute tickets and I was so chuffed because I thought they'd sold out.

It was a great gig: despite hanging out in the Polar bar until the support act was finished, Keira and I managed to get right down the front, so I had a perfect view, not stuck behind any tall people!  And the whole gig I was just totally enthralled - their voices are so strong and clear, I never heard them waver, and their harmonies always sounded confident and perfect. 

Although it was mainly an acoustic gig, it was still really mixed up and never dragged or felt 'same-y' - there was guitar solos, a tambourine, and an a cabella duet as an encore... what more can you ask for in a gig, eh?

They have a photo competition on, and some of Cat & Allison's favourite gig pics win some kind of prize, which meant that you could take your camera in with you and I got loads of snaps!  Some of them are better than others - not all the cool lighting showed up, but I got some fairly clear close-ups so I was pleased enough with that.

Afterwards, I convinced Keira to hang around outside so we could see The Pierces coming out.  It took a wee bit longer than I thought, and it was raining and Keira was getting a bit fed up... but then just as we were about to leave, they came out!  So, we got a picture with them and Keira got a sneaky eyeliner-ed autograph!

I had a really great time, and I'm so glad I managed to get the tickets - and that Keira agreed to come along with me, I think she's an all-new fan!  I couldn't afford any of the merchandise, but maybe I'll see if you can buy them online when I have more money.  A lot of their stuff has a cool 'speia/retro' feel, and they have this cool app thing you can try out and transform your pics - I've done it on a few of my own already, here's another one of Keira and I out dancing (I'd just pinched some random guy's hat on the dancefloor... but it looks good for the picture, don't you think?!)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

UK Citizenship Test

If you use Twitter, you've probably noticed that you can have a go at the UK Citizenship Test, which decides (with a pass rate of 75%) whether or not people should be allowed to stay in the UK.  You can try the test here, if you like, but be warned: I don't know a single person yet who made the 75% barrier!
The questions include:
  • In which year did married women get the right to divorce their husbands?
  • The percentage of people in the UK in 2001 who said they were Muslims was...?
  • The official report of the proceedings of Parliament is know as what?

If any of you readers got all three of those correct then you're well on you're way to earning your right to live in the UK.  If, like me, you took a guess at 2 out of the 3 and were wrong then you could find yourself kicked out faster than an X Factor contestant on finals night.

I think a citizenship test isn't necessarily a bad idea - if nothing else it might encourage people to improve their English language skills before moving here, which can only stand them in good stead...but, why can't it be fair?
Why don't they ask you stuff about how you would enroll your kid in school, how to sign up with your local GP, how to find English classes at your local college and how you might get funding to help you with the cost?

This test appears to have been written by someone who is pretty much out of touch with people's actual lives, not to mention the knowledge they have about their country's history.  Some of the questions on this were easily enough answered, but the whole thing has a feel of a particularly hard pub quiz.  I wonder if the person who wrote it knew all the answers off the top of his head, or if he had to look any of them up to confirm...?

I'd love to know how everyone else gets on in this quiz.  If anyone actually passes (without cheating) I'll break out the Union Jack bunting and bake a Victoria Sponge in your honour.

Friday, 7 October 2011


For some reason, last week I decided I wanted to make cookies.  I think it was from over-dosing on Friends episodes.  Anyway, I was torn between Oatmeal & Raisin cookies, and Snickerdoodles - which I like just for the name, but which really are like the digestive biscuit of cookie-land: a basic sugar cookie with no particular flavour or extras.

In the end I thought a snazzy name wasn't enough to sway me so I went for the Oatmeal & Raisin.  I checked out a few recipes online and finally went for one I found over on a blog called .

This is an American blog so all the measurements were in weird amounts - cups and ounces.  I spent a wee while converting them all to metric and here they are:

120g butter, softened
130g  light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
95g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
140g rolled oats
135g raisins
Because of the conversion the amounts are a bit random, and harder to measure without a digital scale: 95g, 135g... but I made do and they turned out fine.
So I decided to make a new batch tonight, but I cut the recipe in half to make it easier to mix: last time I had to split the mixture in two as I stirred it all together because there was so much of it.  This time, I got 11 cookies, which seemed like a perfect amount.
The recipe is simple enough: you cream the butter, sugar, and egg, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda (not baking powder) and then add the two mixtures together and give a good whisk.  Then you add the oatmeal and raisins and stir as much as you can - the oats make it quite hard to mix so it takes some elbow grease and dedication - the last time I literally had a batter explosion in my kitchen, all over my hair and the floor, and everywhere!  Tonight, with the half-sized recipe it wasn't so bad.  It comes together in a very sticky, lumpy batter:

And it's so thick that it hangs off your spoon for about 30 seconds if you hold it over the bowl!

Roll the batter into wee balls and put onto your baking tray/sheet of baking parchment.  Once they're laid out, with a good space between them, you smush them with the bottom of a glass so they're more cookie-less meatball shaped.

And then you stick them in the oven at 175C for ten minutes.  Most recipes I found said 10-12 minutes but the last time I wasn't convinced 10 was long enough, so I went for a full 12 and then wished I hadn't.  The cookies were still tasty but not as chewy in the middle as I'd wanted.  So tonight I went for ten minutes on the nose.
Baking in the oven

Your time will vary depending on your own oven, but essentially what you want is for them to be brown on the edges and pale in the middle.  You can also do the prodding test where you push down on one and see if it gives... but make sure it isn't still batter in the centre!
A finished article.

After you take them out the oven, leave them to cool for a bit and then take them off the baking try.  Don't eat them right away, because of the raisins: ten mins in the oven raises the temperature of a raisin to something approaching lava and will burn the mouth off you, as I discovered first time around when I happily popped a stray raisin off the tray and straight into my mouth. BURN!

The last step is to generously offer a cookie to your family or friends... and then hide them.  'Cause they are very tasty and people will scarf your hoard if you leave them lying about.  You have been warned!
Now that I've typed this I think my cookies will have cooled enough so I'm off to enjoy the fruits (and oats) of my labour!