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LJ Developments

Nifty - LJ now has a 'like' button. It's a heart that appears after the end of a post, but only if you go into the post itself, not if you're only looking at it on your Feed. The person whose post it is gets an email notification apparently. I like the fact that it's there so I can indicate I read something and liked it even if I didn't have a comment to make, but that you still have to click through to do it so it's not so easy that it should wipe out commenting.

Edit: As Dave points out, this does not appear to be in place for all posts, but I can't find anything that would indicate why some peoples' posts have this and some don't. Mine do not, Teddy's do, but he's not likely to have made a change to his settings to bring it in. It's not governed by if your post is public or private, or by if you've changed the default settings of your own LJ page. Anybody know?
Arty

Crafty Day

Sunday we had a crafty day at our house, which had a goodly turnout including two new people. We were busy and there was much food and fun and laughter and I got much of the downstairs of the house tidied and vacuumed (a big benefit of crafty day hosting is it makes me do these things) and it was all good.

Teddy wound balls of wool on his torture antenna, sewed some more of the never ending gingham doll dresses and stuck some more orange hair into a doll's head (as well as leaving the inevitable puddle of orange hair on my kitchen floor, that made me wonder what it was in an 'ew, that looks worrying' fashion until my memory caught up with me).

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Janet repaired a pair of trousers and then did some embroidery and some cross stitch.



Alice knitted another square from her partwork magazine/kit and swore she was going to give the blanket to charity when she's done.



Jane put more natural looking hair into a (Disney?) doll head, which looked very innocent until she turned the doll around so you could see the big hole in the skull she was working through.



Barbara did lace making, which is very impressive but does my head in.



Flick made Christmas things which I didn't get any pics of because she had to leave before pic taking happened.

A2 did some colouring and had the help of the lounge contingent in practicing her spellings and word meanings for English.



Rachel repaired some tops and sewed up the sides of a fleece she picked up in a charity shop to give the garment a better outline (also missing the pic taking, which is a neat trick since she hadn't left).

And I did some tie dye (all right, quite a bit of tie dye, because I had dye left after the t-shirts so was able to also do the bags and socks) and crocheted another row or two on my blanket of doom, and finally got the castle bed up on eBay with the assistance of the much more eBay-experienced Alice.



Rob and John kibitzed and socialised and helped us to keep the EC food mountain under control.
Lemur

We went out!!!

A while ago Mum spotted an article about a new musical coming to London - Beautiful - The Carole King Musical and she waved this in my direction because we have both long been fans and have several of her albums. When tickets went on sale I snapped some up and yesterday was the day.

We started the evening at Belgos on Kingsway, because mussels. This definitely reason enough on it's own, but the fact that it is socially acceptable to have a meal that is mussels and nothing but the mussels certainly doesn't hurt given I'm currently doing the low carbs thing again. I had traditional mussels, which meant they added a bit of cream to the cooking sauce and when it came out it smelled all garlicky and fabulous and it was certainly the best bowl of mussels I've had in a long while. MMMMMMM.

We went out for a brief saunter to kill time given we were running early and then made our way to the Aldwych Theatre, there to ascend to the Grand Circle second row right in the middle, from where we had an excellent view of the stage. Then we people watched and remarked upon how the audience was very definitely skewed to the subject of the musical since it was heavy on the women of my age and above (though the couple to my right were there because the husband has wanted to come).

This is a jukebox musical, with a thin plotline narrating Carole Kings early life in music, up to the recording of her Tapestry album and her performance at Carnegie Hall. It was helped by the fact that she and her then husband Gerry Goffin were prolific writers of songs for other performers before she became a performer in her own right. I learnt things, like that she/they wrote The Locomotion and a number of other well known 60s tracks, so there were a lot of those in the musical as well as the songs she performed herself.

We had a great time though I wish I'd had tickets for Tuesday night because that was the official First Night and Carole King herself was there - how awesome would that have been? We came away with the intention of going to more musicals in the future, because it was a lovely evening out.
Purple

Recipe for a fabulous birthday

Hang out with friends. Eat cake. Watch silly movies.

I had a great birthday yesterday, with thanks to the many friends who made it so. The morning was a trip to the original bridge for playing Pooh sticks at, as immortalised in Winnie the Pooh, to meet a long held ambition of Becca's. We played Pooh sticks, admired Eeyore's house and had cream tea on the bridge.

In the afternoon we had a party with 16 people in the house, an ombre cake and millionaire's shortbread that Janet made for me (thank you!!), nutella cupcakes and chocolate chip/peanut butter cookies from Marilisa (thank you!!), snacky things various and much lovely conversation and laughter all afternoon.

Part way through I discovered that Becca had enabled the dread Cthulu to invade my house! He is most disappointed to learn that there is very little sanity in the house from him to destroy but has vowed to do what he can to prevent any from developing by camping out in my plates cupboard and leering down at me.

Cthulu-cosie

After everyone had left and we finally found enough appetite for dinner we settled down to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, my birthday present from Phil, which Becca & Gray hadn't ever seen.

Thank you everyone who came and everyone who sent birthday greetings (FB is a cranky blogging site at best, but it's very nice on birthdays).

Yay, birthday!!!!
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Cakeage

A while ago Janet and I were talking about Haribo's new Minion sweeties and she opined as how we should give some to Rob because he'd always said he needed minions. Sometime later she sent me a picture of a Minion cake and said she was tempted to try making it for Rob's birthday (or maybe I'm misremembering that part. It was last year, possibly as far back as October). Time rolled on as time does and at some point I wrote 'Rob birthday thing?' into my calendar for today. More rolling and I asked Janet if we were doing this thing and we talked theoretical Minion cakes and the best way to ice them (fondant icing looks pretty but the taste leaves a lot to be desired).

The following weekend I was doing my weekly shop and got a message from Janet saying the party was a go. "Jolly good", say I, "who's going to make that (Minion) cake?"

"Funny you should ask that..." came the reply.

Cue some online research and some buying of cake tins (all my current tins are 7-8inch, which is nice for my normal cakes but sub ideal for making tall cakes because proportionality. Also Minions have domed heads, so clearly I needed to buy a ball tin. Excuses are great. Also I might need a new way to store cake tins. But I digress).

Cake baking happened on Friday. I had a brief trauma of 'yes, but do I have enough evaporated milk to do this baking?' but it turned out I did so that was OK. Then I had a 'is twice my normal cake mix actually enough?' trauma but when the cakes came out of the oven they had in fact risen enough that the answer was yes, *and* the cake came out of the ball tin cleanly so that was a relief. Then I ran out of butter which is just bad planning I tell you, but fortunately I had to go pick up A1 from cadets while the cakes were still cooling so I stopped off and bought more on my way home.

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I sliced the risen tops off my cakes and layered them together with the chocolate butter cream icing I usually use for this kind of chocolate cake and the I researched white chocolate ganache to use to crumb coat the cake (because I couldn't find the guide I'd previously read) and learned all sorts of things about white chocolate ganache and having the right chocolate (I had some good and some more dubious chocolate in hand but it was too late by then to go out and buy more, so I proceeded, but it takes more dubious white chocolate than it would good chocolate to make you ganache set. Good thing I had plenty of the dubious). It needed to be white chocolate ganache because the cake was chocolate and I wanted to be sure the cake wouldn't show through the icing when I was done.

So I made the ganache and crumb coated the cake and set it on the landing to cool overnight (it's a very cold landing in winter so doubles as an extra fridge). Having used a generous recipe and extra chocolate I had more ganache than I'd needed for the cake, so in the way one does I then made coffee truffles and peppermint truffles with the excess. And then it was midnight and I went to bed.

This morning I was up bright and early to ice the cake, though I had to start with doing all the washing up from the baking process. I do like baking but I could wish it generated less washing up. I have strong opinions about fondant and its flavour, so I iced the cake with butter icing. Fortunately I have some nice strong gel food colours (thank you Janet and Denise!) so was able to get a good bright yellow colour without using much colouring. The downside to butter icing is that it's a lot harder to get a smooth appearance to it, so after applying the icing I spent a while with a warm palette knife that I frequently reheated under the grill smoothing it down to get the right look.

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Cake back out onto the landing and then I had to make cupcakes because my planned Minion needed to be holding a cupcake. I'd expected to have chocolate cake mix to spare the previous evening but that did not happen, so new cakes today. Victoria sponge cupcakes, but using an easily divisible recipe so I only made 2/3 of a batch because I only really needed 1 cupcake (but I am a charter member of Overcaterers Anonymous, so I couldn't bring myself to only make 1/3). Then I got out all my fondant icing to make all the decorative elements, because taste aside, it is a lot easier for that than butter icing, and some things (like arms) would be impossible in butter icing.

Then I had a brief trauma about having no yellow fondant to make arms with. Bad Planning Bear in action. Fortunately I had some white fondant in hand and still had all those nice strong food colours. On the plus side this meant the arms exactly matched the butter icing body.

Then I spent Quite A While (tm) making the Minion look like a Minion.

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I iced cupcakes with the leftover buttercream and had exactly the right amount, and then ran out the door to the party, with the Minion on my lap to keep it safe as we drove.

Minion was a hit and also very yummy. Huzzah!

Final thoughts: were I doing this again I would make only 2 x 6 inch cakes plus the ball cake and cut them in half as well as cutting off the risen bits because that way I'd be cutting off less unwanted risen cake and end up with a slightly taller cake overall.

I would buy all of my white chocolate from Lidl because their cheap white chocolate is of better quality than anyone else's and probably as good quality as some of the posh white chocolates out there.

Need to experiment more with white chocolate ganache to firm up in my head how that works.

The instruction set I was following was quite right, you do need edible glue to be able to attach some of the icing bits to the cake. Fortunately I had some in stock.

I really enjoyed this and am happy with how it came out. The cake and instructions that helped me make this came from here (particularly handy as she also used buttercream icing and I would not have thought to use edible glue to attach fondant to buttercream if not for this) http://blahnikbaker.com/beyond-oven-making-minion-cake/
Lemur

Things for which I am grateful

1: My mum, who dropped in yesterday evening unexpectedly for social time and to share baked goods (she'd bought nommy biscuits at Ikea and unbeknownst to her I had made rhubarb scones). It was lovely to get some time to just talk to her outside of our normal routines.

2: My mum in general, who I love very much and who it fabulous.

3: Using sorting Mum's mobile phone out as a motivator to get in contact with a family friend we haven't talked to in far too long.

4: Compliments about being a good person to work with from one of my supplier companies' key accounts support people.

5: People at the office thinking of me when there were free tickets to a Lego event on offer. I don't sit with the rest of my team and often feel pretty cut off from them, so that was a boost in multiple ways.

6: Rhubarb in the discounted 'buy it now because it's past it's best-before date' box at Sainsburys. Mmmmm, rhubarb scones.

7: Good friends, of which I am blessed by many.

8: That A1 has joined and is still enjoying Air Cadets. It's so good seeing him getting into something active and not computer oriented.

9: Hugs. Hugs from the kids in the morning as we sit in bed and drink tea/milk and read a morning story, hugs from Phil when we get home at the end of a long day, hugs of greeting, hugs of parting, hugs of sympathy and laughter and love. Hugs.

10: The internet, which helps me to stay close to friends and family however far away they are.
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Pumpkinisation

It was that time of year so A2 and I turned our minds to the tricky question of what we were going to carve into our pumpkins this year. My challenge was solved when I received an Instructables e-mails that was talking about making your own pumpkin carving tools but that also included a very cool pumpkin picture which I promptly snaffled. A2 googled about for cats on pumpkins and also made a (fortunately much simpler) choice.

So Friday we carved pumpkins and Sunday morning I made pumpkin cookies. Nom.

Witch pumpkin 2014

Cat pumpkin 2014
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Semi-single parenting ho!

As the kids have aged our ability to both go away for a con at the same time asking Mum to look after the kids while we're away (yes, I live a charmed life and Mum is AMAAAZING) has passed and we rarely do it. However conveniently there are now two filk cons in Germany most years, so I go to DFDF and Phil goes to FilkContinental and everyone is happy. This year I also had a week's holiday in France without Phil because it was a beach holiday and he does not see the point of beaches, let alone a whole week of mostly being on one. I took the kids with me (and Mum - it's a combo of her also being amazing and a recompense to her for all the amazing things she does) but it left us with a serious disbalance between amounts of holiday taken.

Phil is adjusting this balance by adding in a holiday to his trip to FilkContinental, so this morning after dropping A2 at school he toddled off to Germany to stay with Rika, visit tank museums and German steam trains and the Kinders and pick up Seanan from the airport and attend the con. He's going to be away for a week and a half. He did not take the kids with him. I mean, I know they have school and all but... but...

So I now get to embark on the grand adventure of being the only parent in the house, but it is only semi-single parenting because I am cheating and roping in Mum to help with the school run (I'm normally at my desk and working before A2 even needs to leave the house to get to school, have I mentioned that Mum is amaaazing?). But still. Adventures in parenting.

To balance things out I am very much going to take advantage of the fact that Phil is away to fill the house with smells of garlic, fish and cheese. He's threatened to add a few days onto the end of the trip for the house to fumigate. The kids tell me that we should have pancakes for dinner, but that might have to wait until I've recovered from eating cakes (plural. om nom nom) from the Macmillan Bake Sales we've had here this morning.

Adventure!!!
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What the heck are they teaching them these days?

Apparently the answer is lies. I mean, from a certain point of view a module on Greek myths is all imaginary, but that does not mean that you can make your myths up wholesale by mashing 3 other myths together.

A2's English comprehension reading and question paper this week is about Apollo vs the Chimera, in which king Minos steals Apollo's wife Athena, Apollo's father advises him to ask Zeus for help, Zues gives him sandals of swiftness and then he goes off to fight the chimera, who is defending Minos' palace. He wins the day and he and Athena live happily ever after.

And if you're having trouble recalling that myth, well there would be. Reason for that. Let's start with Athena and Apollo being siblings (not a marriage they typically went for even in the Greek myths), children of Zeus and gods in their own rights. The chimera defended nobody's palace, it was a monster that generally ravaged the countryside. She was female where this tale changes her sex, and she was slain by Bellerophon riding on Pegasus because she could only be killed from the air. No shoes of swiftness, which I do not recall occurring in any Greek myth, unless they are thinking about the winged shoes that Zeus gave to Hermes after Hermes had tangled with his brother Apollo.

I'm feeling a visit to the school with a book of Greek myths coming on.
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Running a Worldcon filk track

This is a set of notes in no particular order which were collated by me (Lissa Allcock, should anyone be stumbling on this and not know) as a result of working on Loncon3's filk track in 2014.

I'm not kidding about the 'no particular order' bit - this is just as the memories struck me.

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