December 2008


I think when i look back to NYE 2008/09, I’m going to remember the cold. Its not been this cold in a long time – they’re forecasting -5*C in Edinburgh (i feel sorry for all the Scots celebrating), and its -1 outside the back door, -3 out at Manchester Airport (its slightly warmer next to the house), and its just 6.15. Going to be a very cold night. brrrr. Its not gone above freezing for the last few days, so the ground is rock solid, and there was a very heavy frost last night. Which of course, gave me the opportunity to take loads of pictures – 70, to be exact – and i’ve uploaded them all to flickr here, if you want to see them all. But i can’t let it go without sharing a few with you.. so the best ones are behind the cut. Or at least, the ones i like the most. I’m sure you’ll have your own choices to make!

But in the meantime, i hope you stay warm, if you’re going out, wrap up warm, and a very very happy new year to you all!

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hmmm. its the end of the year again. When did THAT happen? it sneaked up on me, that’s what it did.. very naughty!!! 2008 – go to your room! you’re not the year-end, you’re a very naughty boy!!! (bonus points for the movie reference on that one…).

Seriously though. It feels like only yesterday i was writing one of these for 2007. I’m not even sure i want to write one for 2008. It feels like i’ve not done very much, and at the same time, i mean… really. i’ve documented all i wanted to of this year on the blog. What’s the point in repeating it? Now a review of where i want to go in 2009.. yeah, i can see the point in that.. hm. i wrote one of those last year didn’t i? Maybe the best way to do this, instead of rehashing old blog posts, is to look at the 2008 plans and see how much, if any, i actually achieved of it… (cut for length)

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if you’ve been reading my blog already then you’ll know that my old camera, a Fujifilm finepix 1300 recently bit the dust – a small piece of plastic holding the battery cover – and therefore the batteries – inside the camera broke, and the only way to keep the batteries in was a big wodge of duct tape. That, coupled with the knowledge that the memory card in the camera was now severely out of date (they don’t even make them any more) meant the writing was on the wall: I needed a new camera. Pronto.

[Fortunately Mum lent me her digital camera for the intervening period, and its that that i’ve been using for the last six months.]

So i asked for one for Christmas. Some money went towards it from my birthday, and i asked everyone to give Mum money towards the camera if they were going to get me a present. Nearer christmas she asked me what camera i wanted, and after discussions with Sez, we settled on a Fujifilm F40fd (review, photo of front, photo of rear).  I was quite keen to stay with Fuji – the old camera had lasted me for 8 years, which is pretty good going in today’s throwaway society – and Sez, who knows a lot about cameras, reckoned that of that particular class of camera, the F40fd was getting better reviews than the newer F50 or even the F60, even though the F40fd was getting on to be almost 2 years old by that point (and two years is a long time in the world of digital cameras, obviously). I think it cost around £100, so it didn’t break the bank exactly, but its not cheap either.

Am i pleased with it? Oh hell, yeah. It takes really lovely photos, has some great macro capabilities (macro = taking photos up close and personal, which i do like, not so much of people but of things) and the colour handling is pretty good too. There’s a 2GB card in there now, and with that it’ll do 28 minutes of video as well, which is really excellent – I’m looking forward to playing with that! There;s a huge screen on the back that you can use for viewing the photographs with – which feels ginormous after the finepix1300’s titchy lil thing.

I’ve had a little play, and its the results of these i want to share with you. Nothing earth shattering, just some nice photos of the frost from last night, photos of jess, and photos from around the house… i took too many to share here – the rest can be found on flickr, here, but for now, there’s a few behind the cut… (okay, i lied, a lot behind the cut..)….

[oh, and as an aside, Dad gave me a new phone too… my old one had been on the blink for a while, buttons not working, the charging connection only working intermittently, so i knew that one was a matter of time too. Where he works, people are always upgrading to the latest phone so when he needs a “new” one, he just asks around if anyone has an old one he can buy… only this time, no one was getting rid of one! Must be the credit crunch. Anyway, because he knew mine was going, he went and bought me one. Not a hugely expensive one or anything (thank goodness), a Nokia 2760, but it does have a camera in it – and this is the point – it will also record short videos. So i’ve been rather snap and video happy the last few days. been driving Michiel up the wall. poor guy. ]

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I promised christmas photos didn’t i?

There’s a lot more on Flickr (here), but here are some of the best ones. There’s a lot of them, so they’re behind a cut.

These are also the last photos taken with this camera, by the way, which is the one i borrowed from Mum. Later that day (these were primarily taken on 27th), I got my new camera as part of my christmas present – and i’ve been snapping happily away! (I’ll share those photos later).

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10 and a half hours sleep saturday night.

kept falling asleep yesterday.

12 and a half hours last night.

man.. talk about catching up…

well… after all that.. the turkey was fine. Better than fine, actually, it was really lovely and moist. And this year Jess didn’t get the leftovers (she did last year, and we yelled at her!).

My parents have gone, i am absolutely shattered, i have books and DVDs and a camera manual to read – and a new phone! which was a total surprise – and the LOLcat book!!…. I’ll write a fuller blog at some point soon, when my brain is engaged properly.

But at least The Bird came good.. i  wanted to put that down. (and i have photos. you’ll get those tomorrow.)

… involves standing in the kitchen, at 6.30am, staring at a 10 pound turkey, guests (mom, dad and gran) arriving at 11.30 for a 1.00pm lunch, and two pounds of pork mince that was intended for stuffing the bird and which has gone off.

oh, and did I mention that i’d only had 3 hours sleep?

For the uninitated with regard to the mysteries of Turkey cooking: Turkey is a meat that can wind up as dry as dust, if its not treated properly. The recipe i usually follow involves packing the neck with lots of stuffing made with pork mince, breadcrumbs, sage, and a finely chopped onion, and what’s left goes in the cavity of the bird. I then smear butter all over the bird, before covering the breast with thick cut, very very fatty, streaky bacon slices. See what i mean? it needs lots and lots of help in the moisture department. cooking it without a stuffing is not an option.

I also didn’t have the ingredients for any of the other recipes in the book.

ARGGGGGGGGGH!

And this, I reckon, is where.. well.. not being modest or anything, but where i think my abilities as a cook really shine. I’ve had to make up my own stuffing – dragged 8 pork sausages out of the freezer and defrosted them in the microwave. A chopped onion, couple of chopped celery sticks, breadcrumbs and some dried sage followed. still didn’t look enough, and weightage wasn’t quite right, so i put a packet of paxo’s red onion and sage stuffing in as well. Mixed the lot with boiling water (moisture again, y’see), and a good wodge of butter, and started packing it in (don’t ask for amounts – i haven’t a clue). the neck quickly got filled up, so put the rest into the body cavity. Thank god for Jamie O – who pointed out in his programme that to help the bird cook evenly, you want the airspace in the middle (lets the heat get in, and cook the bird from the inside too), so to put the stuffing on the floor of the cavity. Did that. Smeared it all over with the butter, putting even more butter on than normal. Seasoned. bacon on top. Last year i did a pretty weave pattern with the bacon. this year? (‘scuse my french)… sod it. it was 7.10 and the turkey was meant to be in the oven at 7.00.

Tried to wrap the bird. the foil wasn’t big enough. *mutter.. mutter… stomps to cupboard and snatches foil*… I made a new tent. And no, i didn’t drop the bird. I expect i’ll do that later.

guys, remind me, next year….? 1) buy my own pork mince, in a supermarket pack, and put it in the freezer (that way i know its not gone off).  2) get more than 3 hours sleep.

(in my defence, the 3 hours sleep was not my idea. I was run off my feet yesterday with preparations, wrapping presents and finishing presents – and i still didn’t finish two of them, which i will have to finish and send on later. from the moment i got up, to the moment i went to bed at 3am, i literally did not stop. I am gonna be so dead tomorrow…)

Anyway. The Bird is now in the oven. in 15 minutes the oven will be turned down to gas mark 3, and then i am free of The Bird till 11.30. That’s not to say i don’t have anything to do – oh no. Starters to make, veg to prep (at least i had the foresight to do the pigs in blankets yesterday). got to have a bath, walk jess, pop up to Lidl to get extra cream (the recipe calls for 500 ml of the stuff …. WHAT?) and finish with the preparations. Thankfully, the parents don’t arrive till 11.30. i bet they’ll be early though. They usually are.

The one blessing in all of this? We have plenty of coffee. Thank GOD. (I need it).

So…… this christmas dinner is either going to be the best one ever (triumph in the face of adversity) or the worst ever. I’ll keep you informed….

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