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text 2018-09-16 23:16
The Sunday Post ... Lighthouses and Soup

Happy Sunday!

 

I've needed today to just relax and do some over-due household chores...so there was not a lot of excitement today. But, I was also recovering from a very, very windswept day out with friends yesterday.

Just as we had the city's Doors Open Day last week, yesterday and today the Shire held a similar event. 

 

So, a couple of friends and I jumped at the chance of a wee road trip on a gorgeous day to see Tod Head Lighthouse.

 

The lighthouse is one of the later Stevenson ones. It was designed by David Alan Stevenson of the famous family of lighthouse engineers, a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson (the author), and grandson of Robert Stevenson who pioneered lighthouse engineering around these parts.

Tod Head was built in 1897, much later than the famous lighthouses built by Robert Stevenson (such as the famous Bell Rock built between 1807 and 1810), but it follows the same sort of design as the earlier buildings - and you can pretty much spot a Stevenson lighthouse based on the outline shape. 

 

Tod Head was decommissioned in 2007 and has been private property since. This is why it was such a special event to be able to have look at the lighthouse from up close - it is not one that is open to the public on any other day of the year. 

 

 

We arrived at the lighthouse a few minutes early and spent a few minutes braving the strong wind and communing with the resident rescue chickens, while the owners took the opportunity to grab some late lunch. Apparently they had visitors since 10 am and had been rushed off their feet all day. I believe it. It is a fabulous spot and even tho they had organised a booking system (all free of charge but there is limited parking), people just dropped by in a constant stream. 

Anyway, we had some fun with the chickens. They had a lot character and liked shoe laces. When we got back to the front of the building, one chicken had followed us and managed to completely freak out one of the visitors just by freely roaming in the garden. I don't know, but I felt sorry for the chicken more than I was for the lady who apparently was not expecting animals to roam the property...even tho you had to pass by several farms complete with cows and sheep to get to the lighthouse. It was weird. It was also kinda funny. 

 

This is the chicken that caused so much terror.

 

The funniest thing that happened, however, was that just when people started to leave the lighthouse, a couple of sheep decided to go for a leisurely wander on the single road track that led back to the road. And the lady who had earlier been terrorised by a member of the poultry gang was the second car stuck behind the sheep. Luckily, the first car were a couple of young guys, one of whom got out and tried to drive the sheep along without stressing them out too much. 

 

Now, I don't know about you, but from what I know about sheep, I have a feeling the two were doing this all day long - messing with visitors, popping on the road for a walk down to the other field whenever there was a car in sight. 

 

Anyway, the lighthouse was lovely, but the animals made our day yesterday. 

 

Sunday Soup:

 

As I mentioned, I mainly did some home maintenance today, which also included some cooking. I was in the mood for something light, so tried a variation of this Egg Drop Soup.

 

The variation was that I used vegetable bouillon and, just because I seem to simply be incapable of following recipes, I added some sweetcorn and peas and half a fresh red chili pepper.

 

No chickens were harmed in making this soup.

 

It was tasty, but not exactly filling. It did go well with with a sandwich on the side, tho.

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text 2018-08-26 22:28
The Sunday Post: The Last of the Fringe and Soup!

Hello,

 

After the rained out weekend at the Edinburgh Festival last week, I needed to go back to it yesterday because there was a show I just could not miss: Simon Callow starring in De Profundis, a performance of Oscar Wilde's letter to "Bosie" (Lord Alfred Douglas) which he wrote while infamously imprisoned in Reading Gaol. 

 

 

I've seen Callow perform before, so I knew this was going to be pretty good. However, this was my first experience of this particular piece and my introduction to De Profundis (which I re-read in full on the train back home), followed by a little research into the letter.

 

All I'm saying is that Bosie was a little shit.

 

Back to the performance...I loved it. It was very moving and while there were the typical Wilde puns, the title of the letter truly reflects the tone of it: Wilde's insights into his past relationship with Bosie as well as his reflections on his own character. A Simon Callow very much managed to release that distressed, angry, and yet loving and forgiving soul that Wilde confined to his own words.    

 

Afterwards I saw one other show and went for a stroll, but I was just too occupied by Wilde's letter to really pay much attention to any of the other performances. And with that, this year's Festival is over for me. It was fun to see that the crowds turned out well for the last Festival weekend, tho. 

 

Seriously, check the number of people in the pictures. This is what I mean by the town being "busy" during the festival period:

 

 

Anyway, today brought a day full of rain and cold weather so I spent most of the day wrapped in a warm jumper and enjoying books and tea...I came across a lovely little collection of Wilde's shorter stories while wandering around the Book Festival yesterday. (It contains The Canterville Ghost which I have now earmarked for the Ghost square on my Halloween Bingo Card!)

 

Oh, yes, and because it has turned quite chilly today, I made some soup. :D Nothing fancy, just some very simple vegetable and pasta and veggie pieces (which would obviously work just as well with chicken).

 

 

Happy Sunday!

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text 2018-04-02 00:04
Soup!

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, with or without bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs. 

 

Spring has definitely sprung in these parts and I had the unexplainable urge to tidy my home and do some de-cluttering. It may not sound like the most exciting way to spend the weekend but I needed a relaxing time out before the upcoming week. Also, I will be away for a few days from Friday, so I needed to spend some time planning and organising.

 

Anyway, I passed on the chocolate this weekend but did finally manage to try the soup recipe that's been on my mind for a couple of weeks. 

 

The recipe is for this Sweetcorn Soup with Chili. It turned out well and I am sure I'll make it again some time - preferably with the addition of a dollop of cream and some coriander, which I forgot to buy...again.

 

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text 2018-03-04 19:08
The Sunday Post ... with Soup

Winter returned again last week, with some Siberian blasts that caused heavy snow storms and, because this part of the world doesn't cope well with the white stuff, a lot of chaos. 

People were stuck in places outside of the city limits, and it is only thanks to a lot of effort of volunteering farmers and council gritters that things got moving again by the weekend. Still, I have a friend who's been stuck at an airport in England since Thursday.

 

Despite the many, many news of people being stuck, road traffic accidents, and stupidity of people freaking out (as if no one can read a weather forecast...gaah...), there were also some great things happening during this unusual weather event: 

 

People volunteered a lot of help, especially out in the rural areas, to shovel, plough, and grit to help people out. Some of the responses have been rather awesome and do show that humanity is not doomed, yet.

It also seemed like people who got to go events that hadn't been cancelled, were in a particularly cheerful mood.  

 

I had a full schedule this weekend, starting with a theatre show on Friday night and spending much of Saturday at an event celebrating the centenary of Women's Suffrage in the UK (which rather unexpectedly included a civic reception arranged by the Lord Provost at the Town House),so today was really the first time I had a chance potter about. And as it is Sunday, I celebrated my day of doing bugger all by making some soup.

 

This week's concoction is a Sweet and Sour Chunky Potato Soup:

 

 

It is really simple to make and I love the taste of it. It should be even better tomorrow, when the gherkin juice and vinegar had a chance to permeate the veg. 

 

Recipe:

 

- 3 - 4 Potatoes, chopped into small chunks

- 2 carrots, cut into small pieces

- 1 onion, chopped

- 2 sticks of celery

- 2 tbs vinegar

- 2 tbs flour 

- 2 (veggie) frankfurters, sliced

- stock

- salt, pepper, paprika

- gherkins & the water they come in

- pinch of sugar

 

I added the potatoes, carrots, celery, half of the onion to the stock and boiled until they were halfway done. 

 

Meanwhile, I added the rest of the onion and the frankfurters to a pan and fried them. 

 

Once the veg are softening, I added the gherkins, juice, vinegar, salt/pepper/paprika to taste, and added the browned sausage/onion. 

I mixed the flour with some cold water and added as much as needed to thicken the soup a little. Once the potatoes are boiled, it's done.

 

 

This is definitely a soup I'll make again. And of course there is plenty left for tomorrow.

 

Happy Sunday, All!

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text 2018-02-26 00:42
The Sunday Post ... But with a Twist

Well, it is Sunday, and this is a post, but as some of you may have noticed, I have been out and about enjoying this year's Granite Noir Festival this weekend. The Granite Noir Festival is a short local event that celebrates crime writing - with lots of readings, author meets, workshops, tours, theatre, exhibitions, etc. For such a relatively small interest group in this rather remote part of the world, there was a lot to see and do.

 

I have already written about the author event last night, with Hugh Fraser and Robert Daws, and I had planned to join the conversation with Val McDermid on Friday night also, but may have fallen asleep on the sofa after work... Um, yeah. Never mind.

 

Anyway, the main event for me this weekend took place tonight in the rather snazzy restaurant of our local theatre - A Poisoned Cocktail Party hosted by none other than Dr Katheryn Harkup, author of A is for Arsenic (which you've probably heard me gush on about in the past)  and Making the Monster (which I am currently enjoying). 

 

So, here is the twist ... Instead of our usual Sunday Soup feature, I will share some of the cocktails with you.

The idea was that with each "round", Dr. Harkup would tell about some of the ingredients and what made them poisonous and present stories - mostly of a dark but humorous nature - about the use of the poison. Btw, these were not all the same ones as described in A is for Arsenic, which made for an added bonus of interesting trivia.

 

First off, we had this one:

 

 

This was a concoction of gin, Cointreau, and absinthe (or rather essence of absinthe), with a shot of juice (can't remember which one but there was a slight hint of grapefruit). 

The cocktail itself was not a winner for me - it was remarkably bland. 

 

However, the story of how absinthe was used and how the thujone, the compound in the ingredient wormwood, can be toxic and lead to hallucinations and convulsions. There is, apparently, very little of the stuff in absinthe, and most of the problems with absinthe may have been caused by the high percentage of alcohol in the drink - but it was interesting to hear that Victorians also added copper compounds and other things to the drink to get the green colour. And those added impurities may actually be a cause of concern of their own.

 

We also heard about Brazil nuts, which may, apart from selenium, also contain uranium, depending on where they have grown. Delightful.

 

In Round # 2, we were given this yummy looking duo:

 

 

That is, tapenade with poppy seed crackers (to soak up some of the %), and a blood orange and amaretto cocktail - which was delicious.

 

Let me just say, there was nothing to worry about with the olive dish. 

 

The drink, of course, provided the anchor for a discussion of cyanide, which was one of the poisons described in A is for Arsenic that I found particularly fascinating. It is fast and effective, and horrible. And yet, cyanide compounds are in so many things other than bitter almonds, cherry stones, apricot stones, and apple pips - but it is the reaction with stomach acid that causes the problems. (Btw, apparently one would have to ingest about 200 apple seeds before the getting into trouble.)

 

The poppy seed crackers led to one of the most elaborate discussions of the evening - which was all about opium and its derivatives morphine and heroin. It still shocks me that heroin was prescribed as a "non-addictive" painkiller and given over the counter to anyone, including teething babies.

 

Lastly, we had this one:

 

 

I have no idea what was in that other than some coffee-based liquor like Kahlua or Tia Maria. I don't drink a lot and was already struggling with the previous two cocktails at this point. (I could, of course, have opted for the non-alcoholic versions on offer, but ... nah... )

 

The cocktail was ok. I was far more interested in Dr. Harkup's discussion about caffeine. It is also a neurotoxin, but it is so prevalent in our diet that most humans have build up some sort of tolerance to it. However, there has apparently been an experiment where  spiders were given different drugs and the scientists observed the effect on the spiders' web spinning skills. Apparently caffeine messed them up tremendously. 

 

Read more about this here or here

 

What have I learned from this evening? Buy your cyanide fresh and take your coffee seriously!

 

In all seriousness, tho, this was a brilliant event and I can only recommend that, if you have the chance, you go and see Dr. Harkup talks or read one of her books. 

But then, you already know that I'm a fan.

 

Happy Sunday!

 

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