What star sign are you??

Thank you to all those who shared my last blog –  it was great to see ‘Talking Toilets’ relieving the perpetual problem of ‘seat up / seat down’  and if you missed it – it is still not too late to share or tweet the blog address to spread the word 😉

Back to this week … Well then…. What star sign are you?

I would be surprised if you didn’t know, as at some time most of us have either looked it up ourselves or been told by someone else. ‘Oh, you are an Aries, just like me, both with birthdays at the beginning of April’ … but how much more credence do you put on this beyond ‘knowing your sign’

ZODIAC wikipedia
Courtesy Wikipedia commons

A few weeks ago my lovely proof-reader not only took over my blog but also admitted that she was a ‘Virgo’ and that one thing they ‘are supposed to be, is perfectionists.’  This was followed up by another person with the same star sign commenting that ‘perfectionists we are and we can’t help it’

Then .. there was something I caught on the radio about many top business women consult astrologers and later found it online.

Now, if you believe in Astrology you will want me to point out that the brief snippets that you get in the daily newspapers are merely broad-brush notes on the effect that the alignments of the stars and planets will have on anyone born under that star sign  – not meant specifically to guide an individual in any specific way.  After all if one twelfth of the population were ‘likely to get a promotion’ it would be a weird effect on the world of work. A consultation, they will point out, involves much more, starting with the precise time and place of your birth, following which an elaborate chart is prepared and following that, the predictions are not for your future as such – but for the astrological influences on your life and world.

Back to that over heard piece on the radio – yes, it seems there are many top business women who consult an Astrologer, as did a couple of ex-presidents of the USA! And they are not alone as the report went on to say that

“On the first of every month, 6.5 million people around the world — hundreds of thousands from the UK — visit one of the most popular stargazing websites, Astrology Zone, to find out what astrologer Susan Miller’s horoscopes have in store for them.  According to Miller, a recent survey found that 43 per cent of visitors to her site were university-educated, a third have annual household incomes of over £65,000 a year, and another third earn more than £100,000.”

Astrology all starts with when you were born, which gives you your star sign. These star signs have personality traits attributed to them.  Now, I can look at mine and say, yep,  about 70% of my star sign traits fit me (this of course means that 30% don’t)  If I look at the traits for a different sign I can also say, nope, these traits don’t fit me as well at all, so this suggests some relevance…

So I tried a simple experiment – I looked at the star signs of my family and compared the traits assigned to their star sign with the people. Some star sign were remarkably on the ball for that person – but some were way off!

My simple experiment leads me to suppose that if you know your star sign traits and they fit your personality – then you may be more inclined to believe there is something in Star signs…

Astrology has had more detailed experiments than mine, of course, as the report quoted before added “Hundreds of studies disprove astrology,’ says Professor Chris French, a parapsychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London.  ‘You tend to find people are more likely to turn to astrologers, as well as psychics and tarot card readers, in times of uncertainty — when events feel out of their control. Very often the message from astrologers is: ‘You’re going through a rough time but things will improve’, which, understandably, makes people feel better.”

So, if we bother to read the star signs do we only approve of those comments that fit us, our lives at that time and our hopes, and dismiss and forget those that don’t?  Do we fool ourselves to make ourselves feel better – after all, if it is ‘written in the stars’ we relinquish some responsibility and sometimes that can be a comfort …

Well, what do you think about Astrology?

Do you find it worrying that people in power consult their stars?

What sign are you and do you fit your star sign personality?

Is it all a ‘bit of a laugh’ or worth pursuing?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you.

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Talking Toilets

No, NO, not actually TALKING toilets – though I am sure they have them somewhere in the world – Oh! They do – in Japan. Lid down

No, this started because of a jokey photo that my niece, who is just moving into a ‘mixed’ shared household,  posted on Facebook – showing a toilet seat with a sticker and the words ‘Put Me Down’ on the underside of the seat, and tagged it with her male friend’s names.

Now, I think there is nothing more controversial for men and women moving into the same house than the Loo Seat UP or the Loo Seat DOWN question  – as, for a fact, there are preferences and there is always the ‘women should stop whining about it’ factor too.

I had to comment on her FB post, essentially ‘The label is stuck on the wrong bit – it ought to be on the LID’ … and actually in the centre of the underside of the lid so it can be seen even when the seat is up.

I have known this for a long, long time, and am lucky enough to live with a man who thinks the same way, and always puts the LID down, so no arguments here about it. (Sadly, boys who were brought up to put the lid down, lost this ability when they went off to University and now need reminding when they visit)

WHY PUT THE LID DOWN – why the FUSS ??

If you didn’t know then here goes… When you flush a toilet an aerosol of fine particles from the toilet bowl are propelled up and out into the room – carrying bacteria and viruses. *The study showed that significant quantities of fæcal microbes floated around the bathroom for at least two hours after each flush. This aerosol spreads a long way from the toilet bowl and lands on everything in the room: this will include your toothbrush, towel, flannel, wash basin, loo-roll, etc etc

Yes – your toothbrush… yuk.  And don’t think about blowing your nose on loo-roll…

Easy way to prevent this ‘plume’ of toilet excreta going everywhere … PUT THE LID DOWN – yeah – you have to touch it to do that – but then … you wash your hands! 🙂

Mind you – Dr Gerba also found that 95 percent of people say they wash their hands after using a public bathroom, but only 67 percent actually wash their hands. Only 33 percent of those who do wash their hands use soap. And only 16 percent really wash their hands thoroughly.

Umm .. . and this thought for some who do not put the lid down and stay to watch  … what do you think happens to this ‘mucky mist’ if you stop and watch the ‘flush’?

The advice for public toilets where they have decided not to have a lid, which includes some hospitals, is to Flush and RUN!

The best design seems to be the ones like they have on some ferries, where the flush button is ‘hidden’ behind the lid, therefore you have to put the lid down to be able to flush.. and yes, you would know where to find it as the previous person would have put the lid down to flush it!

*No, I haven’t done the research – Dr Gerba of Arizona University HAS – extensively, and reported on it as long ago as 1975 (which is about when I heard of it). And if you want up-to-date UK based research – then Leeds University  has done similar looking at hospital toilets, with basically the same result.

On a lighter side… and if you are not convinced by the science   –   there is –  FENG SHUI

In Feng-shui – a toilet LID left up is an energy drain on your house, water has ‘drawing power’  and can draw away the good energies you want to keep circulating in your home, says Alice InoueConversely, putting the lid down sets the intent that you want to keep the “wealth, prosperity and other good stuff” in your home. Control what you want to keep or let go of by closing the toilet lid to avoid drawing the good energy down into a vortex of waste. Send the message that “all good energy and wealth stays in my home.”

So, what happens in your household?

Is there a ‘stand-off’ between Men and Women in your household … when the real answer is LID DOWN?

Do you Feng Shui your bathroom?

Do share your thoughts – you know I love to hear from you … and feel free to share this blog with anyone you think might like to know this stuff 🙂

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The Big Courgette problem

… and a few solutions. If you don’t ‘grow your own’ or know someone who does, you will wonder what the problem is with courgettes or zucchinis (apart from the high price you have to pay for them in supermarkets!) but if you do grow them you know that in a good courgette year ( as this is) you can end up with marrow-sized courgettes overnight. Well, perhaps not overnight, but it certainly feels like it, that ‘just too small’ courgette you left at the last picking has turned into a foot-long beastie, and heaven forbid that you leave them a WEEK! Then you are in true marrow territory, eighteen inches long and sixteen round! DSCF7195

Now, waste not, want not, and all that, what do you do with this glut. Well, you may give some to your friends and neighbours who do not grow them.  Not everyone seems to like them, as someone said, ‘No thanks, I don’t like them, they’re a bit of a wet and watery veg.’

Now, many (many) years a go I would have said the same, coming to use the first courgette to cross my path I looked in a book and it showed them cut across and lightly boiled in water.  Yuk! A wet and watery veg, indeed!

If I am going to ‘boil’ them then I cut the courgette into 2 inch chunks, then cut these lengthwise into wedges, sprinkle liberally with cracked black pepper, place in a glass dish in the microwave (or put on top of the other veg you’ve already mostly cooked ) and give them 3 – 4 mins to  cook but remain firm. The black pepper seems to bring out the courgette flavour and by being cooked in no extra water they retains a firmness that is pleasing compared to the ‘boiling’ method. (Steaming would work as well)

But this blog isn’t about the nice sized courgettes, it’s about the big beasties, the ones that got away!

My first recourse is to Roast Courgette Slices. These are so simple I hardly dare mention them. (though two different sets of friends hadn’t come across them cooked this way – so I do dare!)

Peel, halve, core and slice into half inch slices. DSCF7172 Spread olive oil on a roasting tray, lay out the slices, turn over (to coat lightly with olive oil both sides, sprinkle top with cracked black pepper. Roast as for potato wedges, (which I’ll often do at the other end of the tray) 200 degrees C. Turn part way through, sprinkle other side with cracked black pepper, finish roasting. They end up flavoursome and creamy inside.

DSCF7184

DSCF7185

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is the ‘stuffed marrow’ which in this case is Stuffed BIG Courgette.

Peel, halve, and core the largest section of the courgette but leave a little ‘wall’ of core at each end. Stand both halves to hold each other up in a large glass dish and sprinkle a little black pepper over them.

Fill with (400g) minced beef mixed a dash of Worcestershire sauce, herbs, chopped shallots, a small amount of chopped tomato, seasonings (chilli or curry powder if you like!). Pack this in tight – even though it will be rounded above the top of the halved courgette. Cover with glass lid and Microwave for about half an hour. (depends on size of courgette) Grate a little cheese over the top and pop under the grill to melt and brown

Finally, having found sufficient windfall apples to go with it, I will make my version of marrow chutney – a recipe that I have changed to make my own over the years.

Ann’s Microwave Courgette / Marrow Chutney or Pickle recipe

Ingredients:

2lb ( 1kg) of prepared big courgette or marrow  (peeled, seeds and pith removed and diced)

1lb (.5kg) prepared Apple (peeled cored and diced)

4oz (100g) prepared Onion. (peeled and chopped)

 

2oz (50g) sultanas (washed)DSCF6371

2oz (50g)  raisins (washed

2oz (50g) dried apricots – chopped

 

2 Table spoons Mustard seeds

½  Table spoon Chilli Powder

½  Table spoon SaltDSCF6372

½  Table spoon Ground Cinnamon

½  Table spoon Ground Ginger

 

½  Tea spoon Ground Cloves

½  Tea spoon Ground Nutmeg

 

½ pt (600ml) Malt Vinegar  (if doing this recipe conventionally use ¾ pint)

2lbs (900 g) Sugar

 

Makes about 5lbs / 2.4kg

Cooking time – 1 hr – 1.5 hr

Requires a large (6 pint – 3 ½ litre) glass microwave dish ( preferably lidded)

 

Place all ingredients except sugar into the container and cook on high for 20 mins, Stir, cook for a further 20 mins until fruit and veg soften.DSCF7176

Add sugar, stir in well, bring back to the boil, (about 10 mins)

Stir remove lid and continue to cook on simmer for 10 minute blocks until it forms a thick ‘jam-like’ consistency.

 

Sterilise clean jars by adding half an inch of boiling water and put them in MW until boiling.

Taking care, tip out water and allow to steam-dry for a momentDSCF7179

Fill jars.

Cover with vinegar proof lids.

Or use 2 layers of cling film and a layer of greaseproof and replace original lid.

Label and leave about 2 – 3 months to mature.

(I usually do double this recipe – jars show double recipe results)

Hints and tips:

To remove the seeds and pith, halve or quarter the sections of marrow / big courgette – take a dessert spoon and scoop out the pith and seeds with this rather than trying to cut it out. (much as you would with a melon – though that is easier- of course)

If you got all excited by my blog on  A Peeling Gadgets – and bought yourself an Apple, Peeler-Corer-Slicer … Use that to peel, slice and core your apples – then just chop through a few times.

Save some jars that have plastic lids as these are good for storing your homemade pickles – as the lids won’t rust with the reaction to the vinegar vapours.

So what do you do with a glut of Courgettes or marrows?

What is your favourite recipe using courgettes? Chocolate courgette cake seems a favourite with those who have tried it, have you?

Do share.. you know I love to hear from you!

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Bonjour, mes amis…

And back to the UK with a bump! A leaking dishwasher and heaps of washing to do, from the holiday plus washing that couldn’t be done before we went as it was too wet, plus sheets and stuff from the folks who kindly manned the fort while we were off getting a bit of respite and relaxation. Huge thanks to them for allowing us a break!
Also many thanks to the ‘très gentil’ Krissi for taking over my blog last week…wasn’t it great.. and Oh! So true, hypen-tales-and-all 😉

Having had a lovely time I thought I’d just take you on a trip out. We went to the ancient town of Locronan (Lokorn in Breton) as there was a Foire des Antiquaires advertised for Sunday. Well, we both like an Antiques Fair, and having been to a few in France know what to expect….

Locronan is a town whose fortune was built upon making sail cloth from the 1600s through to the 1800s. With a royal charter they made sail-cloth not only for the French Navy but also, at different times, for the Spanish and English Navies and the Portuguese, as in for Columbus as well as for Merchant shipping. When their patronage was rescinded and technology changed the industry dropped off and the fine granite houses were left unchanged from then on. The, partially restored, cobbled streets and facades of the centre are kept just so.

This site has a few nice photos and a brief history… but I am taking you to the Antiques Fair. First we park in the leafy lay-by and walk the green path up to the wonderful 16 century state of the art ‘Lavanderie’ (place for washing clothes) and past the beautiful little ancient church. IMAG0083 washing placeIMAG0080 calvarie  The calvarie has been decorated as they have just had a parade of the church banner and singing there before the Sunday morning service in the little church. We then walk up the steep side street looking back to admire the view. IMAG0079

We emerge onto the edge of the main square – where we can see traders setting up, as they are in the street to our left, where we first walk. IMAG0077

Here is a sample of wares. – faience from Quimper – traditional designs still made in Quimper ( about 20 miles away) and children’s traditional Breton dress bonnets – these beautiful and old enough to be in a museum (as indeed we saw some later) IMAG0069IMAG0070

We turn and walk past many stands, stalls and even cloths spread on the ground, covered with a mixture of goods. Some you would call bric-a-brac, some beautiful antiques, some a load of old tat!

We circle all the stands – drawing each other’s attention to things we like, find extraordinary or beautiful or mystifying and pass on. Only once have I longed to buy something at one of these markets (a ‘perhaps’ old map of Brittany) but thought it over priced and probably not as old as it pretended to be and passed on it rather than trying out my weak French in a negotiation. Here is a flavour of the place and the goods the tower of the huge central church in the background.IMAG0073IMAG0074IMAG0072

 

The last thing I want to show you is something that triggered my usual novelist’s imagination. Here was a suitcase, obviously where some, now deceased, French person had kept all their mementoes. In it and in tins within, were photographs, some on glass plates, of family and places, letters and souvenirs. If this had been in English it would have been the sort of thing that could start off a whole new story – fascinating and yet very poignant that there was no-one, no family that claimed this inheritance. IMAG0075

Where did you go for your holiday?

What would you like to share with everyone else on this blog?

Do let us all know – you know I love to hear from you

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Red-pen’s Revenge

This week, I have managed to take myself on a short break, just for the week and just across the channel to France, and I am leaving you in the (?)capable hands of my proof-reader, so if you notice any mistakes then please let me know so that I can ask for a refund on her fee! So over to you, Krissi…..

……Thank you Ann, I think…..

Hello everybody! Golly gosh, I really feel as if I have jumped up two grades in school and been put in charge of the pencils and chalk all at once! Ann is taking a well-deserved break, and has asked me if I could fill in (gulp!) blog-wise ….. so here I am.

Red-pen's crew
Proof-reader’s arsenal

First of all, I must admit that I am not totally new to blog writing, I have my own at
auntykrissi.com
but when compared to Ann, I am somewhat of a novice. Well, let’s be honest here, Ann was the inspiration behind me joining the blogosphere, it is entirely her fault!

As Ann said, I am her proof-reader, which means that I get to read her novels before they are published, and aren’t they good? I know some people who think that their work doesn’t need to be proofed, “The spellchecker said it was fine…” they will say to me. Ouch! I really have to bite my tongue when I hear that! There is just so much more to proof-reading than spelling checks, as any of you who may have read a poorly-proofed book or article might agree.

Not being a proper writer like wot**Ann is, I have no experience of the creative side of writing. Ann has tried to describe her creative thought process to me as something akin to watching a film. The film plays in her head and she has to write what she sees and hears to tell the story. I think that is fascinating! Having very limited imagination, as I do, that sounds to me like magic. I like to think that I have a good memory, so I can write about things I have experienced, but summoning them up from thin air….nope, can’t do that.

I’m not sure how much faith I have in astrology, but I am a Virgo, and one of the things that Virgos are supposed to be, is perfectionists, is that a pain, or what! I do so wish that I didn’t get bothered when signs outside shops advertise “coffee’s and tea’s” or “apple’s and banana’s” but I do! (Just between us, apostrophe’s (sic) and their misplacement, are the pebbles in my life’s shoe) but anyway, the point I was trying to get to, is that, as a (sort of) perfectionist, looking for mistakes is easy peasy for me to do because I don’t need to look for them, they jump out of the page right at me! This is a double-edged sword, mind you, inasmuch as all mistakes jump out at me, even when I’m not supposed to be looking for them, however the bottom line is that proof-reading for me is sort of the same as story writing is for Ann, we both do it because it’s what we do!

You may be familiar with the idea that one cannot proof one’s own writing….even proof readers can’t. Very often, as the author of a piece of writing, you know what you mean to say, and when you read it, that’s how you read it, but a different pair of eyes might easily see a mistake, or a repetition, or quite simply where what you’ve written doesn’t actually say what you were trying to say. (Does that make sense?)

Anyway, I think that like so many other areas in life – with creative writing, we have habits, mistakes which we make again and again. Just as a writer has a writing style, so they also have a mistake-making style, and I’m hoping that Ann won’t mind me sharing with you her trademark mistake, so to speak! Hyphens, hyphens hyphens! If I had a pound/dollar/currency unit of choice for every hyphen I had ‘red-penned’ from the first draft of any of Ann’s novels into oblivion, then a rich woman I would be! When going through “The Angel Bug” I even threatened Ann, saying that I was going to remove the hyphen key from her computer keyboard! Conversely, sometimes (albeit quite infrequently) I have to insert a hyphen – and it does tickle my funnybone when that happens. (Sad, moi??)

So, I hope this has given you a little insight into my little corner of the Ann Foweraker world, enough to tide you over until Ann’s return next week, rested and rejuvenated after her recreational respite!


Let us know what your bête noire is, are you an apostrophe nerd like me? Or a hyphenaholic like Ann?

Do you think that correct spelling and punctuation are still relevant in 2013 and the world of the instant message?

We’d love to hear from you, and why not hop over to auntykrissi.com and take a look at what’s there! Oh, and I’m available for proof-reading commissions, just get in touch!

**whereas I might be a sort of perfectionist, I do like to keep a sense of irony in my writing. Of course I know that “wot” isn’t a word, and that even “what” would be incorrect in this context, but, like the Persian rug weavers who intentionally inserted a ‘mistake’ into their work, my ‘wot’ makes me imperfect, keeps my tongue firmly in my cheek, which in turn keeps my feet firmly on the ground and me firmly in the real world. (I hope)

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