Monday, April 1, 2013

This blog has been in hibernation

Due to the extended winter that we have been suffering this blog has been taking a long rest. Well, that’s my excuse. I realise that I broke my New Year’s resolution extremely fast. And I can only apologise for that fact.

This year started off with an enforced house move. To be more accurate, flat move. I had to move out of my old flat in a bit of a hurry into a new, smaller one where I cannot fit all my furniture and possessions. I was almost a week with no internet connection following the move. There’s been a bit of stress; writing has had to a take back seat. I also had a large translating job. That took up most of my time and it was difficult to find time for writing.

Excuses over. I don’t know where you are, but in this part of Germany as in much of Europe winter is dragging on. Easter is upon us, there is still snow on the ground, everything is frozen, I am burning logs at an incredible rate to keep warm and there is no sign of spring appearing. I really wish I could hibernate. However, since that isn’t an option, we all have to make the best of it.

Despite planning to write another book along the lines of the last three I have now started the one that I was meaning to write later. This book is not just pure romance, but a more mature story centred round a slightly older woman, divorced with children and a complicated life. I am just getting into the writing now, which is the hard part for me. It’s all in my head already, but until the action starts in earnest I have to lay the ground for the story. I know from experience that once I am really into it the writing will flow fast. In the meantime my life involves trying to collect wood, exercising the horse and the dog, and teaching. But teaching has taken a two-week break due to the Easter holidays.

Today I decided I was going to do something I very rarely do, and I am going to bake a cake especially for Easter. Also, since I’m running out of logs, I decided I better go and find something to burn as well. So I drove to the local supermarket. It’s Easter Saturday and, of course, the place was heaving. The old supermarket was recently knocked down because they had built a new one behind the old. They have been digging out the place where the old one was and making a new car park. Parking was a bit limited today since half the village seemed to be out shopping. I had to put my car on a rather rough bit of ground. I duly collected a trolley, went to the place where they keep the coal and wood briquettes and loaded my trolley up before I went into the supermarket itself. I needed to get the ingredients for my cake. After picking out a few fruit and veg, including some nice firm bananas, just as I like them, no brown bits no bruises, I went to find the eggs. I don’t eat eggs, so I rarely buy them. My recipe called for four eggs. Unfortunately, I could only buy a box of 10, unless I bought some overpriced, but pretty, dyed eggs. So I picked up a box. I found the icing sugar and the other things I needed and made my way to the checkout. The trolley was heavy. Despite the large number of people in the supermarket I didn’t have to queue for long. So I wheeled the heavy trolley back out to the car park. I arrived at my car. I pushed the trolley off the tarmac on to the place where my car was parked, which was a little uneven. The trolley tilted, a few items fell off the top, and slowly the whole trolley fell sideways. Well, that solved the problem of some of the surplus eggs. My nice firm bananas were squashed. One bread roll had fallen on the car park out of its bag, the other had landed underneath a pack of wood briquettes and looked rather flat. The butter and the sugar had survived. A man driving his car passed me stopped and grinned, but nobody offered to help. So I opened the boot of my car, picked up the first few items and put them in the boot.


It is now two days since I wrote the above. Having just finished the last sentence I had a major software problem and my computer locked out, so as you can imagine the train of thought was not the only thing that was lost. Anyway, as I was trying to close things down my phone rang. “Are you coming riding?” I was asked. So, after a few Alt+Control+Delete efforts I finally shut the computer down, gave up with it and went riding. Then I stayed for a barbecue – in the snow. Yesterday, Easter Sunday, was also busy, so the computer had to wait yet another day to be sorted out. And the cake only got made yesterday evening, in time to be taken for the Easter ride today (food and drink were carried on the carriage, and were merrily consumed by the passengers, while the other riders and I largely missed out). Since seven of the eggs had miraculously survived I had at least had plenty for the cake, which proved very popular.

We were lucky enough to ride in the sun today. No snow falling, after yesterday’s white Easter. My horse has decided spring is finally on its way; she, along with all the other horses, is losing her winter coat so grooming is a never-ending task and our clothes are permanently covered in horse hair. She has also come into season; another sign of spring since, in case you didn’t know, mares do not naturally have seasons in the winter. There are two stallions on the yard and I try to keep well clear of them with her, but she is a terrible flirt and puts the brakes on when I am trying to ride her past them whether on the field or inside. She then has to be persuaded to move further on. The lovely weather obviously cheered her up today as she was very full of herself – no bucking, though, having spent weeks earlier this year bucking every time she was ridden.

Now Easter is over (although not the school holidays) I need to get stuck into the writing more seriously. And the blogging. Hopefully I shall have something of a more interesting nature to write next time, and hopefully there will not be such a long gap before the next time. A belated Happy Easter.

Friday, January 11, 2013

How not to make Chocolate Vodka

Note to self: this blog is getting seriously neglected; I must try harder. So my New Year’s resolution is to keep it up-to-date.

Today I was given a nice new recipe – for chocolate vodka. It sounded too good to resist. Since I had to go shopping anyway, I added to my shopping list one bottle of vodka (cheap) and some Mars bars. In the supermarket I found a suitably cheap bottle of vodka, brand Gorbachev, and a five pack of Mars bars. Once home I made my preparations. The Mars bars had to be chopped up into small pieces. Then they had to be melted. After that they had to be incorporated into the vodka. The chopping up went fine. The melting went fine. Then I think I added a splash too much vodka. The incorporation didn’t go as planned. Some of it mixed in quite well. Unfortunately I ended up with quite a few chunks of un-melted sticky chocolate. Hmmmm. So, I fished out the chunks and put them into another bowl. Back into the microwave with them. Out again, pour into the vodka. Mistake. Later I learned what I had done wrong, but at that stage I didn’t think it through properly.

So here I was, with a bowl full of brown liquid and lumps of solid caramel chocolate. I fished out the lumps again and put them back in the microwave. Repeated the process. Got the same result. Now when I was in the supermarket, beside the normal Mars bars, I had noticed some special edition caramel Mars bars. Having been unable to resist them, I had a spare pack of Mars bars. The recipe had said 5 to 6 Mars bars. By now I estimated that I had incorporated probably three of them into the vodka while I had a number of lumps of solid Mars bar that weren’t going to be mixed in whatever I did. So out of the cupboard I got the caramel Mars bars. I chopped a couple of those up, put them in a clean bowl, and into the microwave they went. Then the phone rang. I answered it. Another mistake. Well, now I’m going to a hen weekend in the Herz mountains later in the year. A friend of mine is getting married near the end of May. And the phone call was inviting me to a hen weekend. It wasn’t very long phone call, but long enough. There was a nasty smell emanating from the microwave. Two caramel Mars bars were beyond melted. A revolting, smelly, black mess lurked at the bottom of my bowl. The dog looked very unamused and moved as far away from the microwave as she could. I opened the window. I turned on the extractor. I got out two more caramel Mars bars. I broke them into small pieces. I put them in a clean bowl. I put them in the microwave. (Note to self: do not start your sentences every time with the word I). Monitoring the microwave carefully, I ensured that these Mars bars melted nicely and I took them out. This time I did things slightly differently. Instead of putting these new Mars bars straight into my vodka mixture, I poured a very small amount of vodka into the Mars bars. At last I had found the way to succeed. I carefully stirred the vodka into the melted chocolate and lo and behold I had a vodka chocolate mix. This I poured into my previous mixture. Somehow I had done it. Along the way there was a lot of licking of spoons and crunching up bits of caramel chocolate that was of no use in the vodka. And now I had four bowls, one of which contained a brown alcoholic mixture and three of which contained various lumps of chocolate. The worst lump was the burnt one. It had solidified in the bottom of the bowl and was not going to come out without a fight. The other two bowls, to be strictly accurate, just had smears of chocolate on them. They went in the washing-up bowl. Next, I had to pour the mixture back into my vodka bottle. My funnel came out of the cupboard and I inserted it into the neck of the bottle. Picking up the biggest bowl, and leaning things over another of the bowls, I poured. I did better than I had expected I would. There was only a small puddle of chocolate vodka on the work surface. The bottle filled, there was a little remaining in the bowl. This was poured into a glass for later. The bottle of vodka went into the freezer where it has to stay for 24 hours before going into the fridge. Later on this evening I shall get out some ice and sample a glass of chocolate vodka.

My next dilemma is whether or not to introduce my friends to my chocolate vodka. If I do, it will probably not last very long at all. If I don’t, it will be only my liver that suffers. Apparently you can use all sorts of chocolate to make this vodka. But since much of the chocolate available here is not very nice and the chocolate that is tends to be expensive, Mars bars seemed like a good bet. Although I suspect that the caramel did make my task a little trickier. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. At least now I have one bottle of tasty chocolate chocolate vodka (I may not drunk my glassful yet but I have licked my fingers a bit) to show for my efforts. Time to get something to eat before I drink any of it.

Finally, in keeping with my New Year’s resolution, I promise I really shall try to blog again soon. Little things like work keep getting in my way. But that’s no excuse is it? A happy New Year to you all and good luck if you want to try this recipe.