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Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Internet - Pain and Pleasure

I had what I thought was a bright idea for a New Year's Resolution. From January 1st, I'd cut down on the time I spend online. I love surfing the net and chatting via Twitter and Facebook, but it's so easy to lose track while you're staring at a screen.  If I radically reduced the time I spent online, my theory went, I'd get much more work done, see more of my family and there'd be more opportunity for gardening, cooking and beekeeping (yay!) and housework (boo!)

It worked. I rediscovered life away from my keyboard. In between wrangling my WIP, I became engrossed in my beekeeping studies once more, managed to perfect my home-made pasta and started thinking about what vegetables I'd grow in 2013. The neighbours and I can now recognise each other again - though this is of doubtful use at the moment as we're all snowed in, and can communicate only by way of smoke signals and Aldis lamps.

There had to be a downside, of course. Without the lure of browsing Thorne BeekeepingLakeland Limited or Bakerybits, I got a bit lax when it came to checking my emails. I have three accounts, two for business and one personal. I normally check them all at least three times a day, as computer genius OH is a stern taskmaster. His work PDA is hardly ever turned off because as he says, "If I don't deal with each query as it comes in, I'll have a hundred mails to sort out by the end of the day and a thousand by the end of the week." 

The first couple of weeks of January were uneventful, so I went on "digest" wherever I could, and let my checking schedule slip. Last weekend was chock-full of family business so that meant tons of cooking and taxi runs, so for the first time in years I never switched my computer on at all.

Imagine my surprise (she blushed, shuffling and avoiding OH's eyes) on the following Monday morning to discover a total of 400 messages lying in wait for me, spread over my three separate inboxes. FOUR HUNDRED MESSAGES - and that's NOT including the junk mail folder! 

It was very tempting to delete all but the most recent day's mails, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't bear to ignore anyone or miss out on anything but it took me nearly five hours to reduce the backlog, and new mails were coming in all the time.

By the time I'd finished, I could see what drove Susan Maushart to the desperate measures of The Winter of Our Disconnect.That's five hours of my life I'll never see again, but what else can I do? I love being connected, but it's like holding a tiger by the ears. I don't want to do it, but I can't stop. The internet is a brilliant invention and there are worse problems than mine, as a study by ICMPA revealed. At least I can make a positive decision to reduce the burden on other people by adding an amendment to my initial New Year's resolution. From now on I'm going to think before I mail, and make sure every message I send is a wanted message. 

Who else is going to make it their resolution, too?

Monday, 14 January 2013

New Year, Fresh Start

It’s taken me ages to write this first sentence. All my get-up-and-go got up and went just after Christmas. The fun and games are just a memory, and the next holidays aren’t even a glimmer on the horizon.  The weather isn’t helping - it’s cold, dull and dreary outside. We had some snow overnight, but that soon turned to rain and has now disappeared completely. It wasn't anything like as pretty as the photo you can see here!

Getting motivated on this murky Monday morning is proving really hard. I’ve dug out my trusty  Success Principles book by Jack Canfield for inspiration. Putting the things I need to do today in order of urgency has helped me focus and it was good displacement activity, if nothing else! I’ve also swapped my usual grey hat and black jeans for a ridiculous red cap, mulberry shirt and scarlet baggies as a gesture - though what the cat and hens will think of it is anybody’s guess.

 Getting out of the office and writing in the greenhouse will give me a new perspective on things, though until the new heater arrives it’s hardly a tropical paradise. Despite that, the sight of all the plants waiting to burst into life makes me anticipate strawberries and cream, fresh figs and maybe even some bunches of grapes. There might be honey from our bees this year, too - I didn’t harvest any at all in 2012. The terrible weather put so much pressure on them I didn’t want to stress them any further.  Luckily we've still got a few jars of honey left from the 2011 harvest. Honey has a long life-span, but in the great tradition of positive thinking I'm planning for bumper crops of it, and everything else as well this year. 

What's your favourite remedy for the mid-winter blues? I'd love to hear it - and there'll be a little prize  for a comment picked at random!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A BELATED HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

I've been away for a while, so I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and managed a nice rest before starting the new year. Thanks for all your messages: I'm glad those of you who tried the Chocolate Mincemeat Cake enjoyed it (and no one seems to have tried before I'd corrected the "Micemeat" misprint!) For those of you who missed the recipe the first time around, here's a little something to keep you busy until my next post...


Care: this isn't gluten free, and you really need the dots to be white chocolate - I didn’t have any when I first tried this recipe out, and the ordinary milk-chocolate dots I used were virtually invisible in the finished cake.

CHOCOLATE MINCEMEAT CHRISTMAS CAKE

150g softened butter 
150g soft brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
185g  self-raising flour
40g cocoa powder
400g mincemeat (I used my own recipe of mixed dried fruits, plus grated apples and brandy)
80g each of sultanas and raisins
20g quartered glace cherries, washed & well dried.
50g blanched almonds, chopped
100g of white chocolate dots

METHOD: 

Pre heat oven to Gas Mark 3/Electric 160 deg. C, Fan 140 deg C.
Line a 20cm/8” tin with a couple of layers of greaseproof paper.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and beat for 1- 2 minutes, until well mixed.
Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for between 90 minutes - 2 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  You’ll probably need to cover the cake with tinfoil toward the end of the cooking time, to stop it browning too quickly.
Leave the cake to cool in its tin for a while before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This cake doesn't freeze and is unlikely to keep for as long as a traditional rich fruit cake, but this doesn’t matter as it vanishes in a very short time!