Sponge Cake

Finally, I have wrestled half of Mark’s sponge cake recipe from him! Well. I have the ingredient list. It involves:

200g caster sugar

200g softened butter

4 beaten eggs

200g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp milk

Filling as preferred. Mark likes cream with various berries. And to chuck in some cocoa powder and chocolate chips.

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If I was to guess, I’d suggest creaming butter and sugar, mixing in the eggs one by one, and then stirring in the flour and baking powder, tipping in the milk at the same time. Any cocoa powder goes in with the flour.

But that’s just me.

Oh, and baking at about 180C for about half an hour.

Knitting a Cold Away

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Given my relative inexperience with knitting, and my ability to add in extra stitches, I’m actually quite pleased with how this is progressing, although I expect I shall need more wool than I have and will therefore, probably, change colours. Mostly because trying to match colours is just a nightmare. I’ll just try and find a yarn which feels about right and pick a colour which will go with this one, which isn’t quite white. But I’ll decide when I get there.

The Little Village School – Gervase Phinn

I have frequently seen, although not previously read, Gervase Phinn’s books. They have the same kind of quality as MC Beaton’s various mysteries, set in a lovely little country village where everyone knows everyone and everyone’s business. Nothing complicated, and yet things happen. Like with The Archers.

The Little Village School, about the new appointment of a village primary headteacher and the effect on the village, might well have been about a village school rather like the one I attended. Except that when we needed a new head, the old one was glad to go and the new was already a teacher at the school. And, with its three teachers plus a head, Barton-in-the-Dale’s school is bigger.

And they weren’t trying to close the school. The Little Village School is the story of a fight to save a village school from closure and the greedy hands of corrupt people in charge.

It is, really, a gentle sort of a book. Honest. There’s no crime or real violence – just a playground fight and farm accidents – and life goes on. And yet it isn’t boring. Because, people. The characters aren’t quite stereotypes, and yet you’d recognise them if you’ve ever lived in a village.

For the most part, I enjoyed this mostly happy tale – certainly it didn’t feel like a chore to read! – and I would recommend to anyone who wants to read about people.

Pie-Crust Promises

There’s a cartoon in one of Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories – I can’t for the life of me remember which one (although I want to say the Terrible Tudors) – with the caption: “Promises are like pie-crusts: made to be broken.” Or words to that effect.

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And certainly my Resolution re: the writing of short stories each month has already failed. I’m not going to promise to do better for February, because that would just set me up for more failure. Instead, I’m going to say that I shall keep the Sunday slot open for short stories, for when I write them. Or suitable extracts from my Story, upon which I actually lavish most of my creative endeavours, and which I would like to will complete this year.

Of course, depending on how well I maintain my reading of books, it may well come about that I shall purloin the Sunday post for more book-reviews. We shall see.

As it is, I must needs lavish far more attention on my Story (I hesitate to call it a Novel until I know whether it shall be one volume or two) than I currently do, partly a result of my current working hours and partly because of my desire to procrastinate learn handicrafts.

A Day in Bed

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Apparently a cough and a sniffle is enough for one’s husband to insist on complete bed-rest, so I haven’t been baking in the last couple of days. So, sadly, I have no recipe to offer this week.

I’ve been using my enforced laziness to catch up on various TV series – Call the Midwife and now Whitechapel – and to get in a bit of knitting. Only, I only have the bits and bobs which he could find to bring to me, and he couldn’t find the pattern for an Owl I started a few days ago, so I’m attempting an off-pattern shawl, in a white yarn of dubious origin. I have no idea what sort of yarn it is; I’ve had it for simply years. I expect it’s some cheap polyester stuff, but it feels all right. I’m hoping it’ll turn into a simple, triangular sort of a shawl, no fancy stitches or anything. Maybe I’ll knit in a few lines of colour, but I’m making it up as I go along, so we’ll see how it turns out. I’m using some nice fat needles, although I’d probably do better with circular ones.

I’m mostly just hoping that it’ll be long enough…

Beginning with Patterns

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I thought it would be relatively straight-forward, being mostly a rectangle with some fancy decreasing stitches for the flap.

Apparently I need to work on my counting of rows, for I knitted too few for the first section, so that the pocket is not quite a sensible size for coins. But I think, once I’ve learned all the stitches and their abbreviations in patterns, that knitting in general shouldn’t be too tricky. Just requires concentration.

On the whole though, I’m quite pleased with my first foray into following a knitting pattern, which I did while beginning to watch Foyle’s War.

My cup of tea, is Foyle’s War.

Moonraker – Ian Fleming

Apparently I’m really not good at reading series in order.

I’m not the world’s biggest James Bond fan. I’ve seen a handful of the films – I can take or leave them. My favourite one is the original Casino Royale with David Niven as Bond, probably because it’s not what we might call a serious film.

So the first one I’ve read is Moonraker, Fleming’s third novel. And I really enjoyed it. It was thrilling in a more realistic sort of a way than modern conspiracies and yet it didn’t skimp on details. Perhaps it is simply that Fleming was writing in and about the right sort of period – the Cold War presumably was quite “thrilling” for the spooks. It always seems just a bit too far-fetched in a contemporary setting. Or maybe it was just the way he spun out the whole scene at the club.

Although, I think the most exciting chapter of Moonraker was the bridge-game. In fact, that whole first section, really, was terribly exciting. I just really liked the way that Hugo Drax was suspect because he cheats at cards. Couldn’t possibly be all right if he’d do that. No proper English gentleman would ever do that! Not in his own club!

And, of course, things aren’t all right with Drax. Naturally. And Bond, having fleeced Drax with his own cheating at the bridge-table to teach him a lesson, gets to be the spook in charge.

I liked the writing style, too. It felt entirely natural, not rushed or forced, and yet the pace was perfect. Just enough to keep you turning the pages, but not so you read it at 100 mph. It had more of the slow-motion, heart-in-hand variety of thrillingness, which I do prefer to being raced through the story.

I’m going to have to watch the film (it’s one I haven’t yet seen, or don’t remember seeing) just to see how they do the cards.

I whole-heartedly recommend Moonraker. I’ll have to let you know about any others. I think I must add the collection to my library, at any rate.