Saturday, 31 May 2008

Elderflowers - aka summer begins

Lately, my few days off have coincided with rainy/cloudy weather. Not a big deal, generally, but this is elderflower season. Sun is essential when picking elderflowers - there is some scientific reason i believe having something to do with nector of something, but from experience - the smell's just all wrong without sunshine.And it's all about the smell.

But today we had the hoped-for congruence of sun and (free) Saturday, and we set off to forage as soon as stomachs and hangovers would allow. Our haul was impressive, and there were still many unopened flower heads on the trees so I foresee at least one more run before the season ends. Of course, greed does not pay - every flower head picked is one less berry-head - and while elderflower champagne is sublime, elderberry cordial is a basic necessity of life.

The stems and bark of the elder tree are poisonous, and once you get home with your stash of flowerheads, you need to pull off all of the tiny flowers - easier than the berries, but still the worst part of the job. After that it's so simple it's laughable.

We have a batch each of elderflower wine, elderflower champagne, and elderflower cordial going now - and the kitchen smells amazing. The wine and the cordial are new ones for me, but the champagne we made last year - and talk about bang for buck! We even had offers to buy our remaining stocks after one party. Here's a basic recipe:

Elderflower Champagne

(obviously not really champagne - not even alcoholic - though the elderflowers have some natural yeast so perhaps just slightly)

9 liters water
1 kg sugar
10-15 elderflower heads (stems removed - good luck with that!)
3 lemons, sliced, seeds removed
4 tbsp white wine vinegar

boil water, add sugar and stir until dissolved.
cool - add flowers, lemons, vinegar

leave 2-3 days, stirring daily.

strain through muslin/sieve/whatever and bottle. Reuse plastic bottles that originally contained fizzy stuff - lemonade, soda, etc. It's always good practice to sterilize the bottles first.

leave bottles in warmish place for 10 days - then they can be moved somewhere cooler. recipes vary in length of time before drinking - earliest I've seen is 2 weeks - most tend towards 2-3 months.

keep an eye on the pressure in the bottles - if it looks like it's gonna blow - loosen the lid slightly to let some air out. This is why you don't want to be using glass bottles for this stuff! When you open the bottles to drink - it's fizzy. And really really tasty :)

Monday, 26 May 2008

stupid human tricks

From the BBC Website:

Cannabis blunder at Tokyo airport

An unwitting passenger arriving at Japan's Narita airport has received 142g of cannabis after a customs test went awry, officials say.

A customs officer hid a package of the banned substance in a side pocket of a randomly chosen suitcase in order to test airport security.

Sniffer dogs failed to detect the cannabis and the officer could not remember which bag he had put it in.

Anyone finding the package has been asked to contact customs officials.

"This case was extremely regrettable. I would like to deeply apologise," said Narita International Airport's customs head Manpei Tanaka.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

hmph. spoke too soon

******* ******-******* electricians!

Weekend Working

It's Saturday, and I'm at work. To be honest, I don't mind so much. Saturday working for me could more accurately described as "watching other people work". This weekend we're changing furniture configurations in one of our offices, which means taking the desking apart, moving floorboxes, putting the desks back together. Basically I just let them get on with it, unless something goes wrong. We've already had the "What? We have to do that bit too?" palaver so that should be out of the way now.

When things do go wrong on these jobs, they tend to be spectacularly wrong - such as not having the correct bits for the new configurations, or realising the plan you've been working to wasn't scaled properly and all of your floorboxes are wrong and your furniture won't fit unless your office has miraculously turned into the tardis. Or people just not showing up. Or the guys getting into a punch-up for whatever reason.

Being the only woman in these situations can be funny as well - some of the guys really don't know how to deal with a female project manager. Last week one construction guy tried to tell me that a door that was patently hung the wrong way (the hook was on the outside for gods sake!) was in fact correct and he really got the hump when I wouldn't accept it. This morning 2 of the furniture lads blushed and apologised when they saw me - I have no idea what they were saying but I would assume it wasn't complimentary to women generally.

The guys who work for me also apologise for swearing, which I find bizarre. It's a bit of an English thing, I guess, that men shouldn't swear in front of women, and I wonder if it's a bit of a class thing as well - most of these guys are working class and technically as a manager I suppose I'm not, though being Canadian I tend to fall somewhat outside the class continuum. Never mind that with a decade of being on construction sites I can swear like the proverbial sailor - but then that's seldom the point of this behavior.

After a full day of "supervising" I'll be heading out to thrill, scoff, and generally be amazed at how low we humans will go at this years Eurovision Song Contest. Chances are I will probably drink quite a lot of wine as well - the situation demands it really!

Monday, 12 May 2008

when you're a jet...

more cat pictures

Saturday, 10 May 2008

how do you turn a platypus into a soul singer?

...cook it in a microwave until it's Bill Withers

(shamelessly stolen from the news quiz)

I appear to have a work ethic...