SIGNS OF LIFE

No, it’s not the crater mass experiment, it’s me re-discovering my long-lost blog from that time I terrorised Munich for a few months and called it my year abroad.

Last year I was caught up in undergraduate stuff attempting to finish my Bachelors and then working out what form my new work-avoidance tactic would take.

I’m pleased to say that the Mile End Insitution for the Clinically Weird refused bail and I’m currently in the process of writing my Master’s Dissertation.  Not about bread, this time.  This time I’ve decided to succumb to the British tendency to obsess on World Wars and research radio propaganda during World War II.  I shall explain all when I’ve finally submitted it and have a result back.  Otherwise it could be a tad awkward if I blither on about how fascinating it all is and my markers turn around and look suitably disgusted.  However I can say that I managed to write an essay on the translation of nonsense and got away with calling it “Bandersnatches, Boojums and Bald Twit Lions:  The Translatability of Nonsense”.  It got a good mark, too.

Oh, and I somehow miraculously passed my Bachelor’s degree with flying colours and even got a gold star for my magic speaky-speaky skills.

The main reason, however, for me taking this back up again is to a) force me to read more interesting things so I have something vaguely intelligent to write about, and b) as of September this year I will be working on the language assistantship programme run by the British Council and will be based in Gotha.  I intend to write about my experiences in my usual bizarre style of travel writing.

Not that I intend to repeat the leggings incident, mind.  This time I’m responsible for helping teach English language and culture.  No doubt Herr and Frau Streipze will accompany me on my travels.

In the meantime, have a look at some of the best socks ever.  Admittedly they’re battery socks and not of the pedigree kind, but I assure you that they are fully integrated into my free-range flock.

 

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Inane Whittering #20 Introducing…

…Mr. and Mrs. Stripes. Or Herr und Frau Streipze, as they’re known in German. This is a still taken on set whilst filming for their upcoming debut.

Filming’s nearly done – got 2 more scenes to go tomorrow before editing can begin and then it’s basically finished. The first version has to be in German, but I’ll make sure to do an English version too!

I’ll bung it up on youtube and link it back here when it’s ready, I just thought I’d give you guys a taster…

Inane Whittering #19 KITTENS

So I thought you could do with some cuteness. And hilarity.

I give you: THE KITTENCAM.

This is a foster home for rescue cats in the States, and they currently have Rosmary and her four kittens: Pepper, Sage, Basil and Mace.

There’s also sound, if you turn it up loud enough, you can hear them mewing at each other mid-fight.

Best study aid ever.

Chrono-syntacic Infandibulum Link #10

This link here expresses quite nicely the sheer and utter panic that’s been dominating any kind of thoughts about what to do once I graduate in 2013.

I know I still have this year to finish and then another year (now worth a wonderful 50% of my entire degree /grumble) to pass, but it still creeps in.

I’d also like to point out that languages and linguistics don’t actually appear on this; it’s mostly dealing with the Sciences and Pseudo-Sciences.

So, ner.

Here, have a possum.

Harro

Inane Whittering #15

Ooh, look! 2 posts in one day :O

No, hell hasn’t frozen over. I thought I’d post this now before I forget.

Seeing as I was moaning earlier about how cold Munich has gotten over the past few weeks, I decided to have a go at cooking something to warm me up.

I had no idea what I was doing, and had the strangest of ingredients, but I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised with the results. Naturally, I decided that you, dear reader, would want to know about it.

If you don’t, tough. I’m going to tell you anyway.

Aunty Roo’s “Mystery Soup”

Anyone who has ever watched me cook a main meal will tell you that I am perhaps the worst person to ask for the recipe. I can only give you a few exact amounts; everything else I do to taste.

250g mince (here in Munich it’s invariably a mix of beef and pork, but I would generally go for beef out of preference)
3/4 medium sized onions
any veg you have in the fridge
green lentils
2 large cloves of garlic
a beef oxo cube
tomato purée
3 cups of water

To season
Aunty Roo’s secret ingredients
salt
pepper
paprika (the spice, not the capsicum pepper)
curry powder

I told you it would be vague.

First off, wash and rinse the lentils – I didn’t put an amount because I always do these things based on how famished I’m feeling at the time. I generally cook several portions at once, so that I can take something into work with me the next day, so I often use half of a 250g packet.

Once you’ve washed and rinsed them, place them in a pan and add water – as a rule of thumb, whatever the quantity of lentils, I double it for the water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft.

Whilst the lentils are quietly burbling in the corner, chop the onions and fry them lightly in another pan (this one needs to be deep enough to hold everything) in oil with the crushed oxo cube and a dash of curry powder.

I do this all by eye, so I can’t tell you how much I added. (I also can’t tell you what kind of curry powder – I simply found a mysterious jar of yellow powder with the word “Curry” printed on it and decided to play culinary Russian roulette.)

Once the onions have softened, add the mince and whatever vegetables you’ve decided to use. You can use literally anything. In this version, I used a handful of button mushrooms and a couple of small parsnips.

I told you the ingredients were bizarre.

Once the mince has browned, then add the tomato purée (also to taste – I personally don’t like an overpowering slap in the face of tomato), more seasoning and the water.

Hopefully by this point, the lentils should be ready and you can drain them off and bung them in too.

You then need to play the waiting game and cook it all (either boil if you want to stand over it or simmer if you want to go to sleep/on facebook have other things to do) until it’s the right consistency:

Soup simmering

You then need to taste and season accordingly.

Now, I could pretend to be sophisticated here and sound like I know what I’m talking about. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I got the seasoning horribly wrong and it was awfully bland.

I also repeatedly burnt my tongue and uttered several words rather unbecoming of a young lady.

Once I managed to vaguely sort out the lack of flavour, I realised it still needed that “oomph”. So I then added 2 ingredients of which I’m personally quite proud of having thought. I only ask that you don’t judge me.

The first ingredient is lemon juice.

The second, was 2 heaped teaspoons of Marmite.

The result, was this:

Result
Hmmm, tasty

Yes, I know how appetising it looks.

Not bad for pottering about in the kitchen when it’s cold, I thought.

Travellings: Deutschland #21/Inane Whittering #14

Apologies for the radio silence – and for the fact that I will probably end up posting a series of posts of various episodes from Roo’s adventures abroad (I’ve just made that name up, but it already sounds far more interesting than Year Abroad) and then may well end up with another dry spell – I will try to avoid it, but I do need a break from being witty from time to time…

The first blindingly obvious observation I would like to make is how sodding cold it’s gotten. During the day here in the rather bemusing Bavarian Beer Monster, it’s around -15 degrees at the minute. At night it drops between -20-25 degrees. Friday night dropped down to -27, apparently.

It’s enough to give you goosebumps on your goosebumps.

As a result, I now resemble an onion in terms of the number of layers I’m wearing; I’ve had to break out my Matrix coat (it’s woollen, floor-length and black) and I’ve been knitting all kinds of weird and wonderful things for my wardrobe.

So far, I’ve made neckwarmers, scarves and wristwarmers. My current project is a pair of thigh-high legwarmers.

Now there’s a mental image for you.

Pictures will follow.

(Of the finished products, of course – not random pictures of my thighs. That would just be weird. Anyway, on to saner ground…)

My other recent habit is baking. Now, this happened when I was feeling a bit blue and was in one of my moods where I just wanted to go home and curl up on the sofa with the cat. Now, seeing as that wasn’t possible, and I don’t have a cat, I decided that some comfort food was in order.

But what? I already have huge quantities of teabags stashed in my room (I kid you not, my current total is around 5 kilos of the stuff) and I have marmite for my usual marmite on toast pick-me-up. But for some reason, it just wasn’t enough. No amount of B vitamins and caffine were going to pick me up out of this particular rut.

The much-needed solution?

Scones.

Up until now, I have never made them. 2 minutes of googling revealed that they’re suprisingly quick and (theoretically) easy to make.

Explaing to my flatmate what a scone is, however, proved to be rather more challenging. Needless to say, there is no German equivalent for scones. The dialogue resembled something like this:

(rough English translation of the actual German conversation)

Becca: I’m going to bake scones.
Cathrin: Scones? What are scones?
B: *looks shocked* What do you mean, “what are scones”?
C: *blank look*
B: *with a look of disbelief* You’ve never eaten scones before?
C: *shakes head*
B: *somewhat agitated* B-but, you’ve not lived!
C: *bewildered and somewhat frightened look*
B: Okay, um, they’re about this big *gestures with hands*, and can be eaten sweet or savoury. Traditionally, you eat them with *upper class accent* “Afternoon Tea” and you generally make them with sultanas.
C: *look of utter disgust*
B: …or not. The sultanas are optional.
C: *look of relief* How do you make them?
B: Well, you kind of make a dough-
C: So they’re cakes, then?
B: Well, not exactly…
C: Ah, so more like bread then?
B: Umm, more of a cross between the two.
C: I get it – like Brioche.
B: No, no – nearly the opposite of Brioche. Scones are heavier and denser.
C: So they’re cakes then.
B: *noise of protest swiftly followed by resignation* N-yes, I guess you could say they’re like cakes.
C: So, what do you eat them with?
B: Traditionally, clotted cream and jam.
C: What’s clotted cream?
B: …you don’t have clotted cream here?
C: …I don’t think so.
B: ah. Think of double cream but thicker.
C: Double cream? You mean Schlagsahne?
B: *head in hands* …probably, yes.
C: So, you only eat them in the afternoon?
B: Traditionally, yes. But I some people who munch them for breakfast too.
C: *absolute bewilderment* You people eat cake for breakfast?
B: No, I didn’t say that, they’re not really cak-
C: You eat cake for breakfast. God you English are weird.

So, in a bid to demonstrate to my flatmate that 1) they are not cakes and 2) us English aren’t that weird, I had a go.

My first attempt looked like this:

scones with jam
My children, my beautiful NON-CAKE-like children.

Whilst being far from perfect, it’ll do. For those interested, the recipe is as follows:

For glazing
1 egg beaten with a little milk added

The dough
55g of cold butter
(a generous) 150ml cold milk
225g (2 cups) self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Optional
50g (1/4 cup) sultanas

Because you can’t seem to buy SR flour here in Munich, I used the following substitute (and didn’t add any extra salt as stated above): for each cup of flour, I added 1/4tsp of salt, 1tsp of baking powder and 1/4tsp of baking soda (Natron auf Deutsch).

On a important note, it’s best to have the ingredients as cold as possible – and it’s also better to have cold hands; you want to avoid melting the butter.

The first thing is to sieve the flour into the mixing bowl – you will need a big one for this. If you’ve not had to recreate your own SR flour, then add the salt and baking powder now. Then add the cold butter.

Come to think of it, this recipe can get rather messy, so maybe implementing the use of little people here would be a good idea.

You need to stick your hands in and combine the butter and the flour so that its consistency resembles that of breadcrumbs.

Yes, it will stick to your hands and get under your nails. The things we do for food, eh?

Once you have a lovely floury buttery mess, it’s time for perhaps my favourite part. You know when you have bangers and mash as a kid and you used to make a well in the potato and then pour gravy into it and create your own mashed potato and gravy volcano?

That’s exactly what you do here. Create a well in the flour and pour in the milk, brave the sludgy feeling and stick your hands in to combine it all into a smooth dough.

DO NOT overwork the dough.
Or they won’t rise :(

Once you’ve combined everything, roll the dough out on a floured surface so that it’s around 2cm thick, and then cut them out. I don’t have a rolling pin so have to use my hands and I don’t have any cutters, so I use a glass tumbler.

Then place your beautious creations on to a greased baking tray, glaze them with the egg/milk mixture and bung in a hot oven (preferably near the top) at around 180 degrees C for 5-10 minutes.

It will depend on your oven, but Holger (our oven) seems to enjoy burning things to a cinder.

Et voilà! You have scones. Eat with with jam etc and enjoy.

Except don’t be surprised, if, like me, you decide to snaffle several for breakfast/afternoon snack/out of boredom and then discover that your trousers no longer fit.

I learnt the hard way :(

Inane Whittering #12

So, long time, no post.

In my defence, at the beginning of October I was signed off of work for 3 weeks due to wrist problems. The assumed culprit was Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Several doctor’s appointments, a course of electric shocks to test the nerves, an x-ray and ultrasound scans later, I finally know what’s wrong.

The Neurologist I saw had no idea what was up and simply said “Kind, die Nerven gehen nicht kaputt.” Naja, I could have told you that after having had electric currents run through them. The Orthopaedic specialist yesterday was far more amusing to deal with. After pushing and pulling my back about and remarking “Sie haben wirklich breiten Schultern – kräftig. Sie können auch ein Bissel mehr essen, aber außerdem ist alles in Ordnung.” (You have really broad shoulders – strong ones. You could also do with eating a bit more, but apart from that, everything’s fine), he decided to send me for an x-ray.

As per usual, it couldn’t be something straightforward. Oh, no – that would make things too easy. I have what’s called Ulna Minus, where the ulna (or die Elle, auf deutsch) in the wrist is too short. This results in a weaker, more flexible joint. The ultrasound then explained the mysterious pains and pins and needles I’ve been having. Ganglions are benign cysts or tumours and it turns out that I have some growing inbetween the nerves in my hand. And ridiculously low blood pressure doesn’t help either – at the time of the ultrasound, I had no radial pulse, which was a bit awkward.

So now I know that more corners were obviously cut when I was built in the factory, I can happily return to work and strengthen my wrists – the only real treatment option. (It’s also the reason why I’ve rekindled my knitting obsession – I last remember knitting when I was 6, so prepare for the ensuing hilarity and blog posts)

Which brings me back to why I’m writing this – computermabob people, I be needing your sage advice again.

I’ve been tasked with redesigning the website. That’s it. Re-structure it and generally make it more accessible. Oh, and somehow fit all the info on one screen without losing content and generally removing the need for scrolling.

Mission impossible? Bring it.

So, after having done some googling and referring back to documentation I remember using last year in Computers and Languages (see, Martin? I was paying attention) I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to build something vaguely tablet-friendly i.e. something with a form of horizontal scrolling. The beta version of the BBC website (only available for UK IP addresses, but I saw it whilst back in Blighty for a lightning-quick visit) was the inspiration, as is GMail’s slick new look, which works wonderfully on my little netbook.

My problem is once again the CMS – I’m supposed to be moving the entire site over to Typo3, which certainly gives me more freedom than our current CMS (there’s even an HTML view! /geekout) I need to work out if I can use javascript – if not, then I’m stuck.

Anyhow, my question is if anyone could recommend anything – I’m already looking at the tab widget that jQuery offers, but then came across this combination of CSS and Mootools which results in a horizontally sliding “follow the mouse” effect.

So, oh Wise Ones, what say ye?
Yay, nay or something inbetween?

Inane Whittering #11

In all my excitement yesterday evening over finding somewhere in Munich to live, I forgot to write about the latest book I’ve finished reading.

You see, Amazon seems to have cottoned on to the fact that one of my only 2 vices is books (the other being gin, of course). So I now receive emails on a regular basis about various sales and offers going on. Normally I delete them, but should I ever feel that I have the time or the inclination, I have a quick browse through – something usually fatal.

So there happened to be an occasion recently where I came across a book in the sale with a rather unusual concept. The book in question is called “The Girl with Glass Feet” by Ali Shaw and follows the story of a girl called Ida, who has returned to a rather gloomy island (which due to the constant bad weather and everything being so dreary, reminded me of Blighty) because of a bizarre illness.

You see, Ida’s slowly turning to glass.

Oh, and the other things that drew me to the book were the moth-winged cattle (yes, flying cattle!) and a mysterious creature which turns everything it looks at to white.

It then turns into an unusual boy-meets-girl storyline, where Midas (said boy) is simply too…well…he’s an idiot, to put it simply. And a massive girl’s blouse. I have to say that up until the last 50 pages or so, I was constantly wishing the silly boy would simply grow a pair and stop running away from Ida every time it seemed like something remotely romantic was going to happen.

However, it has to be said that it’s incredibly rare for a book to move me – I like reading things that make me think, but this one tugs at heart-strings that I’d half forgotten about. Glad to know they’re still there.

The author also leaves the possibility to continue with the same thread at a later date, but to be honest I’m not too fussed if there aren’t any further books in this story line – not because I don’t like it/don’t care, but because things were tidied up sufficiently for me not to sit there confused at the end.

For those of you who know me well, I am quite the cynic, and it will take a lot for me to be even remotely girly, let alone go “awww”. This book managed it.

The Girl with Glass Feet
Read it. It's good for you.

Travellings: Deutschland #6

I’ve returned from the autumnal and the rainy back home to the humid and the hot here in Munich. The office has no air conditioning, so you can imagine how lovely our working environment is.

Home was…good. But it was a bad idea to go back. I got back 2 days ago and generally felt like pants. Absolute pants. This was partly down to just 2 hours sleep (packing late at night and then getting up at 4:30 the next morning to get to the airport on time), and partly because I enjoy being with people I can communicate with.

If anything, this reinforces the fact that I should probably find somewhere better to live, rather than somewhere half an hour’s walk through fields from the nearest tube station. Cue searching for somewhere to live for the rest of the day.

In other words, I’ve reached that stage where you’ve got to be pretty close to saint-hood to put up with me, so a massive thanks to Matt and Ben for listening to me whinge like the absolute 3 year-old I am. Sorry guys.

In any case, this weekend should prove to be fairly amusing. It currently involves go-carting, potentially bad weather (at least compared to what we’ve had recently), a fair bit of banter, and possibly beer. Oh, and possibly the reputation of women drivers, too, so no pressure. Hilarity will ensue, I’m sure.

Oh, and Ben? F1 driver look-alike or not, watch and learn son, watch and learn.