Month: November 2011

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Where to start.  Right, I bought it for the cover.  I just couldn’t help myself, there she was staring straight at me from the cover, a stroppy woman, I could tell, I knew I’d like her.  As I launched myself at this book, snorting with laughter by the end of page 1 or possibly 2, I knew I had spent my money wisely.  It is an account of the life so far of the very untraditionally raised Caitlin Moran, growing up in very un-wellheeled circumstances, in a council house in Wolverhampton in England, taking care of five younger siblings, running away from bullies, having nothing to wear – actually nothing, and maintaining a good sense of humour.

She headed out to work at the age of 15, and it’s been a whirlwind since then.  She worked in the coolest job someone like I could have imagined when I was a kid, working for a music magazine.  She had a miserable relationship with a bloke and came out the otherside thinking hard about her girly bits and how easily abused they are and became a kind of feminist.  But don’t read this book if you are looking for the new feminist treatise, read this book as a kind of British Tina Fey, witty, funny, and full of good ideas, with stuff to say on modern culture and our obsessions and written in a really accesible and amusing way.  This is basically a look back a her diary over the years, lots of juicy bits, and a bit of a fright from time to time.

She writes hilariously about getting her first period. Her need for a bra.  Her discovering that the love of her life was sitting right behind her every day at work.  She is also very very good on the culture of celebrity, I just adored her comments on Rhianna.  Her outing with Lady Gaga was hilarious.  Her comments on how we are simultaneously titivated by and yet horrified by the invasion into the personal lives of women celebrities, who have allowed us into their world but by doing that have made their lives miserable and us so judging of them I found resonated with me.

Other chapters deal with abortion, the terror of being a parent and marriage were great.  This is a laugh of a book, not all the way, but huge chunks of it.  I’m sorely tempted to buy a copy for each of my girls.  Read it for her interesting views on modern women, read it because it is a hell of a fun ride, and read it because Caitlin Moran has written a book for women right now.

But, there are the fashion rules – I loved her shoe advice.  What you need in your handbag, given I have finally purchased one.  On fashion, Leopardskin is a neutral, You can get away with nearly anything if you wear the thing with black opaque tights and boots.  3.  Contrary to popular opinion a belt is often not a good friend to a lady … 4. Bright red is a neutral.  ….  There are more but these ones particularly work for me!  Thanks Caitlin, you’ve confirmed what I thought.

Want to read a great interview with her?  Diana Wichtel wrote this for the Listener.  And this one is Kim Hill talking to her on Radio New Zealand.


Spicy Green Dipping Sauce

In the last two weeks I’ve made this 4 times!  It is that good!  It has been served with spring rolls, corn fritters, crayfish and as a salad dressing.  Zingy, tangy and so easy to whip up as long as you have some palm sugar and some fresh herbs I think everyone should have this in the fridge for all occasions.  I’ve taken to having it sitting in a bowl handy.  It goes really well with cucumbers, tomatoes and avocados too!

If there was ever an argument for getting yourself a very efficient, sharp microplane this is it.  Making it so much more efficient for grating the palm sugar.  If you didn’t have any palm sugar, which is in all the supermarkets I shop at, you could use brown sugar but properly brown sugar not the pale brownish sugar I see all the time.  Palm Sugar tastes like Russian Fudge, really, it does!  YUM.

40g of palm sugar, 2 tablespoons of lime juice (or lemon), 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, a spoon of out of the jar chilli, and some grated ginger (to taste) (out of the jar if you want), crushed garlic (out of the jar again or freshly mashed to a pulp with the side of a knife).  A handful of finely chopped coriander and an equal amount of finely chopped fresh mint.

Grate the palm sugar into the juice, then add the fish sauce and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the rest of the ingredients. Set aside for a little while for the flavours to blend nicely.

Corn fritters anointed with Spicy Green Sauce

Hark A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Oh what a treat, I’ve been perusing Kate Beaton’s website for ages.  Ages.  And as part of my mision to get more graphic novels etc. for the guys this year I could finally justify buying Hark A Vagrant – the book.  Oooo it is so awesome, hilarious, disrespectful funny.  Already it is being poured over by the boys hanging about between exams, I can tell when they have found it because of their snorting and giggling sounds!  Kate Beaton gives historical figures and literary greats a modern voice, she makes them speak as they would if they were alive today – and had slightly filthy mouths.  Love it!  (Below are the t-shirts available from the website)

This video is very interesting, see the description below.  Turn your sound up and put it on full screen.

This is a year-long time-lapse study of the sky. A camera installed on the roof of the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco captured an image of the sky every 10 seconds. From these images, I created a mosaic of time-lapse movies, each showing a single day. The days are arranged in chronological order. My intent was to reveal the patterns of light and weather over the course of a year.

This video is designed to be viewed in a large format, so it’s best viewed in full-screen mode at 1080p.

White Cake

On Sunday I turned 50.  There, I wrote it.  Hard to believe I’m so extremely old, anyway when you are this old you can choose your own birthday cake.  I chose a White Cake.  I’ve made it before, for a friend’s birthday and I always remembered how gorgeous it was.  I had found the recipe in a Taste Magazine and then lost it.  Then, the other day hunting through some papers for something else I found it.  It has taken me an age to find it online anywhere now so I am posting it here in case I lose it again.  It is the most wondrous cake!

This cake is moist with the subtle flavour of almond and vanilla.  The chopped up almonds give it a bit of body and crunch which makes it really unusual.  It is a big celebration cake and while this recipe is for two cakes, you could make one big one.

The cake: 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar, 250g butter, 1tsp vanilla, 2 and 1/4 cups self-raising flour, 1tsp baking powder, 300ml milk, 1 cup finely chopped almonds (blanched), 6 egg whites beaten to stiff peaks

Cream the sugar, butter and vanilla.  Sift together the flour and baking powder, three times. Yes three times.  It is traditional and important.  Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternatively with the milk and then stir in the almonds.  Gently fold in the egg whites.  Pour into two greased and floured cake tins, and bake at 190 degrees C for 30 minutes.  Insert a skewer into the cake to test whether it is cooked.

Icing:  60g butter, 250g cream cheese, 3 cups icing sugar, vanilla or lemon juice.  To make the icing, cream the butter and the cream cheese.  Add the icing sugar and vanilla or lemon juice to taste.

To assemble:  sandwich the 2 cakes together with some of the icing. Cover the top and sides with icing, smooth and chill.

From Taste magazine, August 2006