My first ever spatchcock!

Posted in Food and Drink on March 26th, 2009 by Coffee

The credit crunch or whatever you want to call it seems to have had a bit of an impact on the available supply of Guinea Fowl, or something.  The supermarket by work has them on special at the moment, so I thought we’d give one a go to see what they’re like.

So waddaya do with them?!  Only thing I seem to recall seeing reasonably regularly is piri-piri spatchcock Guinea Fowl, so thought I’d give that a go.

With a bit of help from some instructions for the internet, the spatchcocking actually went pretty easily.  The kitchen shears/scissors that we’ve inherited that can’t seem to cut anything else seemed pretty much at home chomping though the bones.  I was impressed! And I’d like to think I managed to do a pretty good job of it too!

Now to see what it tastes like when it finally finishes cooking…


Sometimes you get more than you bargained for…

Posted in Geeky Tech Stuff on March 24th, 2009 by Coffee

The Register tech news site has been a great saviour for me, getting me through many a dull hour at home and work, but I think it has now indirectly made my brain explode.

One of the running stories on the site has been the continuing saga of the International Space Station urine recycling plant, and how it hasn’t been working that well so far. One thing they keep mentioning in the stories is how the station can obtain fresh water at the moment from the space shuttle’s fuel cells while it’s visiting.  My curiosity finally got the better of me tonight (might have something to do with having worked at home all day, in combination with Bec beign out tonight for a work function) so I thought I’d do a bit of internet research into this.

The first link I visited,  “Fuel Cell Power Plants On The Space Shuttle Orbiter” was more than enough, I think.  By the time I got half way through the second page, “For redundancy, there are two thermostatically activated heaters wrapped around the discharge and relief lines to prevent blockage caused by the formation of ice in the lines. Two switches on panel R12, fuel cell H 2 O line htr and H2O relief htr , provide the flight crew with the capability to select either auto A or auto B for the fuel cell water discharge line heaters and the water relief line and vent heaters, respectively”… I knew I was in trouble. Brain. Exploded.

I did keep reading though to see if it changed gear again to something slightly more… er… accessable, but no. I’m not quite sure why I put myself through the last 2 pages at all, except sometimes when you start something you’ve just got to finish, no matter what the pain.

So now I think I knew more than I did earlier in the evening, but I’m not quite sure what, and what use it is unless I get stuck on a shuttle and the yellow fuel stack temp C/W and the backup C/W alarm lights on panel F7 start lighting up.

Kids, you might want to think the whole astronaut thing through a bit more…

P.S. To give you some idea about why I follow the Register, their related headline was: New ISS piss-recycler still troublesome – Sweat and tears only for parched astronauts. Class!

Feed Aggregation…

Posted in Geeky Tech Stuff on March 22nd, 2009 by Coffee

For the last few weeks I’ve been trialling internet life using a “feed aggregator”.  What’s that?  It’s where a little utility runs away to all the web sites I look at regularly and grabs the headlines from them and alerts me to the fact there’s new stuff there and what it is.  It’s related to the Firefox live bookmarks I blogged about way back in 2006 (?!).

Now that’s great, and very useful, but it’s also made me realise just how much time I used to “waste” going to sites to look for new stuff when there’s actually nothing new.  Possibly like a few of you regular readers do with this site!

I have no idea what to do with that time! Well, that’s not true.  There’s a lot I could do , but browsing was a good way to aviod it.  No excuses now, I guess!

Or maybe just one fewer…

Don’t always believe what you’re told!

Posted in Computers and the Web on March 19th, 2009 by Coffee

Yesterday I had a second call from an Indian sounding gentleman trying to tell me that he knew that my computer was running slowly and needed to be fixed. And he had something to do with providing “Microsoft services” (huh?!)…

“Oh yeah, right”, I thought,  “I’ve got nothing to do at the moment, so let’s see where this goes….”

Turns out he know my surname and address, but nothing else that would make his story even remotely plausible to me as something of a relative computer expert, but I could imagine others that don’t quite know as much being suckered in. He spoke in kind of technobabble that made no actual technical sense but might have almost sounded right to an untrained person. But he was very persistent in talking absolute rubbish. Long past where I thought he would have realised that I’d made him as a very dodgy caller indeed.

I dug around on the net afterwards, and the only references to the outfit, apart from their own website (which I wasn’t prepared to visit for safety reasons) were either on a whole lot of self-published press release sites, or on tech forums telling of how people had been ripped off by them.  And they seem to target anywhere around the world. Aussie, UK, Canada, the US. Anywhere.

I’m not willing to put the company name here, as I’m pretty sure they have related people searching the net for references to them and bizarrely trying to post a “oh wow this company helped me oh so much they were just great” message right in the middle of a whole stream of people proving just how much of a scam it all is.

So if you get a call like that, ignore it.  Or ask me first!! Don’t visit any site they ask you to, don’t give them your credit card details (duh!), and don’t type anything into your computer.

It’s all just a scam, but a clever, worrying one.

Whew 2!

Posted in Plants and Gardens on March 15th, 2009 by Coffee

The worry levels have still been slowly rising this week as the remaining two empty rows in the planting tray have remained stubbornly empty of any little green things.

Until today.  A solitary Fresno plant has poked its head up.  Just need a couple of its mates to do the same for safety…

We’ll see if the Pimentos de Padron follow suit soon. They should do, if only out of embarrassment that they’re so late to the party.  After a slow start there are now 5 Prairie Fires up now too.

And on another related note, we went on a big expedition to a garden centre somewhere almost out of town and managed to grab a couple of tiny coriander plants and some little capsicum plants too.  Hopefully we can get that all settled and growing too.

I’m starting to have no idea of where anything else is going to fit!

Piss on it….

Posted in Uncategorized on March 15th, 2009 by Bec

Today I wanted to be posting my ‘just finished my half marathon’ entry…..  But I have disappointingly been sidelined by a calf injury.

I was really looking forward to running this one, and I can’t say I’ve ever been really looking forward to running a half marathon before  (have completed 2 already).  I had also never felt more ready to run one, as I have done quite a bit of training to get me there, and, it was going to be a marker as part of my training for the marathon.

So now I’ll have to sit around and take it easy for a few days to rest before I can get back in training. Problem is I only have 6 weeks to go till marathon day, but, that’s the one I really need to be injury free for!

A bit of variety…

Posted in Plants and Gardens on March 14th, 2009 by Coffee

We had to go to the garden centre to stock up on a bit of dirt for when the chillis get a bit bigger and need new homes, but while we were there I also took the chance to grab a couple of other pots so I could plant some of the sweet pea seeds that we’ve been given.

And a parsley plant. It’s really annoying to keep buying herbs at the supermarket all time at what seems like inflated prices for 40 grams. And it feels  even more annoying when we have to keep throwing them out as we didn’t use them that week/fortnight. So we’ll see if having a plant here helps (assuming it survives!)

I would have also got some coriander and maybe mint, but all the garden centre had in its herb section was about 50 sage plants and 2 of parsley. Maybe everyone else has had the same idea lately…

Whew! (number 1, I hope…)

Posted in Plants and Gardens on March 11th, 2009 by Coffee

I’ve been a bit worried for the last few days.  While 4 out of 7 chilli types had popped up a few days ago (as you’ll no doubt be aware if you’ve visited any time in the last few days…) but the other 3 have remained stubbornly under the level of the soil.

I’ve kept trying to be optimistic about them, but as the days go by the thoughts of “have they not been warm enough?”, “is the soil too wet for them?”, “is the soil too dry for them?” get ever stronger.

But today one of the Prairie Fire’s looks like it’s finally coming up!  That means I can now reset the worry clock, and give the others a bit longer before I panic…

So, that’s now:

  • 5 Anaheims
  • 7 Ring of Fires
  • 6 Cherry Bombs
  • Half a Prairie Fire
  • 6 Jalapeños

And still lingering hope for the Pimentos de Padron and Fresnos…

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Manic Marrakech

Posted in Travel on March 10th, 2009 by Coffee

I hinted in the earlier chilli entry that we’d been away for the weekend, so here’s the lowdown…


As is pretty much usual about this time of year, there was a feeling that we needed a bit of a long weekend escape to somewhere a bit warmer to get over the winter blues, and to maybe get a head start on some summer colour. This year’s choice ended up being Marrakech. Or Marrakesh. Or any other way you want to spell it. And this year we had the company of Rach and Rup too, so we wouldn’t get bored of talking to each other again.

An early Friday afternoon flight out meant we had time once we arrived to dump our stuff at the riad (hotel/house) that we were staying at and go and have a quick look around the medina (old town). Blam!  Straight into our first real dose of the chaos that is medina life.  Shopkeepers calling you in to their shop, a constant stream of mopeds making their way through the pedestrians wandering the narrow “streets”,etc.  And then it was time to find something to eat in the medina main square.

The main medina square gets filled with all sorts of things at different times of the day.  Over the time we were in Marrakech, we saw snake charmers, story tellers, monkeys, people fishing for fanta and coke, and of course the food stalls in the evening among other things.  The stalls are set up in the late afternoon by the locals and they are all trying to sell you their food.  And that too is chaos.  Over 100 stall holders all trying to convince you that their food is the best, freshest, cheapest etc.

But we eventually settled on one to eat at.  A vegetable tagine turned up that was pretty much carrots and swede.  At least we think it was swede. “Unidentified vegetable” might be a better description. And not really what we’d really call a tagine.  More a vegetable soup. Rupert had more luck with his kebabs though, so maybe tagines just weren’t this stall’s specialty So would we go back to eat at the square?  Quite simply NO! (Bec says it was a bloody rip off and pretty disgusting.  But we’re glad we tried it and had the experience)


Saturday was a slightly more relaxed wander through the stalls and markets of the medina, otherwise know as the ‘souks’ (Bec says – relaxed?….. mopeds, push bikes, taxi’s and carts coming at you from both directions down narrow streets, and not to mention people asking you to buy something or for some money…. not relaxed, more like bloody tiring!)  But an experience in itself and by the end of the break away we’d almost managed to get used to it.

We managed to find the Cashbah area and have a wander though the ruins of the old palace (El Badi palace), and then on to the new palace (El Bahia palace) as well, then to the Saadian Tombs. In the new palace there was a huge amount of intricate decoration everywhere.


Dinner Saturday was a bit more upmarket than the square, at a nice restaurant, though as it was in the depths of the medina it was pretty hard to find – both times!  We went there to book earlier in the afternoon, but it still didn’t make it particularly easy to find at dinner time.  The medina really is an ever changing maze, and a map really doesn’t seem to help much.

Sunday we took a taxi ride to the Atlas mountains, stopping on the way to visit a different kind of market.  The local weekly Berber market. One not so much (if at all) targeted at tourists.  What gave it away?  The lack of painted bowls and brass sinks maybe? Or the camel heads hanging around dripping blood maybe? The complete lack of a shortage of miscellaneous sheep, beef, camel and goat parts and offal laid out for inspection? I think D. All of the above… But an interesting place to visit, and our taxi driver/guide gave us a good tour and the low down on what it was all about and was going on.


Then we drove up to the mountains proper.  Snow on the top of them and everything.  Apparently they’re the highest mountains in North Africa, and they block the desert from taking over the relatively lush and green plains that lie around Marrakesh, irrigated by the snow melt from and rain caused by the mountains.  Or something like that. Whatever. They were impressive enough.


When we had driven as far as the road would take us we had a local guide take us on a walk into the mountain to a couple of waterfalls.  Most of it was pretty good, apart from one part where we had to mountain goat it up a small rock face with water dripping down it……  (Bec says during which she found out her fitness levels are fine, but her wimp levels are off the scale). Thank god for the guide (who must’ve been only pushing 20, and had obviously done the trail several times before due to his hop, skipping and jumping over the rocks) who was able to pull us up, with another guide helping behind to give us a shove when we needed it.  But the effort was worth it and we had a well deserved local lunch at the end of it. This time the ordered tagine of meatballs and eggs was delicious!


Monday we wandered out of the old town, and down to the new town.  The only good thing from our experience of the new town was Jardin Majorelle, a garden acquired and restored by Yves Saint Laurent.  Blue, yellow, painted pots everywhere to add colour to the garden.  As for the rest of the new town, its just like any other new town really… we much preferred the old, even if it is completely chaotic.

We spend the later part of the afternoon sitting up above square watching all the mobile restaurants being wheeled in and set up for the night.  Slightly disappointing as we were promised lots of donkeys descending on the square, but the only donkeys were of the 2 legged variety.  I’ll see if I can get around to doing something fancy with a few of the pics we took of that some other time.

My main course on Sunday night was another meatball and egg tagine from another more upmarket restaurant.  I have to say that I actually preferred the more rustic, robust one that I’d had up the mountian that must have cost about a third of the price, if that(?)!  (I’m salivating thinking of it now! I’m having to wait for my lunch to cool now, and all this typing about food is making me very, very  hungry!)

Everywhere you look in the old town there’s also a heap of colour. Whether from the displays of spices, vegetables, metalwork, the pottery, and even some the prepared foods. And everywhere there’s different smells form the spices, cooking, (mopeds!) etc.


As we’d found in Egypt, you can really see a difference in people’s status there.  There are some really, really poor people, living and working right beside those that are obviously very well off in local terms, if not in global ones.  But they all seem to coexist quite happily.  And although it was all chaotic, I’m not sure we ever really felt unsafe, even wandering back through the narrow old streets late at night.  I’m not sure we’d feel the same in London!

There seems to be 2 speeds of life there too.  Manic and hurried, then calm and relaxed at different places and times of the day.


Arriving back, what did we find?  That London had been hit by another cold front, and was freezing in comparison to the sun and heat we’d just had.

Almost forgot….

Posted in Plants and Gardens on March 9th, 2009 by Coffee

Sunday’s count:

  • 2 Anahiems
  • 3 Ring of Fires
  • 3 Cherry Bombs
  • 6 Jalapenos

Still no sign of the Prairie Fires, Fresnos or Pimentos de Padron yet though….