Better English Scone recipe

I've been tweaking my scone recipe to improve structural integrity, after at least three test batches, this is the new and improved recipe.

Better English Scones

Makes about 13 scones and one runty little test scone

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of flour (I used half wheat flour and half wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar (not necessary if you use white flour)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of nutmeg or Penzey's Cake Spice
  • 6 oz baking raisins, or chopped dried cherries, or chopped dates, or walnuts, or diced orange peel
  • 4 oz butter
  • 4 oz brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • up to 200 ml of milk

Put flour into a bowl, add salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cream of tartar and mix. Rub butter into flour until mix looks like bread crumbs. Add sugar and mix again.

Stir in the raisins/cherries/dates, make sure they are evenly distributed. Put 100ml of milk into a jug, break an egg into it and beat. Mix in egg/milk slowly with a fork until you have a springy, slightly sticky, dough. You might need more milk, pour out another 100ml but don’t use it all.

On a floured surface, roll out to 3/4 inch thick, cut into 2in rounds and put on a greased baking tray. Brush tops with the leftover milk and sprinkle with brown sugar, or cinnamon sugar if you prefer.

Bake at 450F for 20 minutes, they should be golden brown on top. Eat with butter and strawberry jam or honey at around 3pm, with a mug of hot tea with milk.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Diary, week four

Tuesday 22nd November
Entering the final week-and-a-bit is daunting. I have a LOT of story still to write. Took the day off from writing, lots of stuff going on, including a working lunch and pre-Thanksgiving grocery shopping.

Wednesday 23rd November
Taking an hour of vacation time to leave early, get out to Chesterfield and write before my karate lesson at 6pm. The action is heating up, everyone is where I wanted them to be, and the character's lives are going horribly wrong. Hoping to bring in the Travelling Shovel of Death later in the week.

Thursday 24th November
Happy Thanksgiving! Writing as the scent of roasting lamb fills the house. Only got 343 words done today, but the lamb, roast potato, mashed swede, and boiled carrots were fantastic.

Friday 25th November
Happy 'stay in your PJs and eat leftovers' day! I ventured out and got 25% off at the sale in Knitorious, it was quiet and I was among my tribe. Ate the same dinner as yesterday and it was just as good.

Saturday 26th November
Support your local small businesses today, online and offline. Write-in and breakfast at the Crooked Tree Coffee House in St Charles, the last of the novel-writing season. Details from reading The Hot Zone years ago are coming in handy. Crossed the 44k mark today.

Sunday 27th November
Final write-in at The Book House in Maplewood. Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays have been my most consistently good writing days this year, with Tuesdays my worst day of the week. A character woke up long enough to deliver some crucial plot information, I'm grateful, but he's still going to die. He was supposed to be dead several thousand words ago.

Monday 28th November
Back to work, and three days to go. This is the first year in a long time that I'll log a word count every day. Planning to validate tomorrow and see how far I can get on Wednesday. Writing at lunch in a phone room called DeLorean. Finished the day's words before karate at Kaldi's in Chesterfield.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Diary, week three

Tuesday 15th November
No lunchtime writing today, got lunch with a friend at Blues City Deli. They took the Redbird sandwich off the menu, but you can still order it. Very little writing done today, I'm tired and brain-fried.

Wednesday 16th November
Moved on to a new piece of the story, something I need for the mid book crisis. Wrote at lunch in the Wheelhouse by work, feeling exhausted. Called to cancel my karate lesson for the day, I hate missing a lesson but I'm so tired today.

Thursday 17th November
Three words written before work, a working lunch, and I'm looking at 1700 words to write before dinner. I got 1100 done, and the rest afterwards. Characters are revealing backgrounds and life stories I hadn't planned. Wrote a fight scene, that was fun. Things are coming together for the "Oh crap!" crisis in the middle of the story.

Friday 18th November
Had a word war with myself at lunchtime, got 422 words in 10 minutes. I should do that more often! Crossed the 30k line today.

Saturday 19th November
Got 777 words done by the end of knitgroup today. Going to the StLNaNo Evening of Scribbling Recklessly at the Rock Road library tonight, 4pm till 10pm. It's my first time being in a library after closing. I left at 8:30pm with over three thousand words written in the library. We got pizza delivered, there were word wars, and Paul overtook my word count. Again.

Sunday 20th November
I'm killing off a major character today, and everything is going wrong for my other characters. Another good day of writing between home, Barnes and Noble in Chesterfield, and the Book House write-in. I'm running 2 days ahead of the NaNoWriMo goal word count. Switched to a Lindsey Stirling channel on Pandora and got a good rhythm going.

Monday 21st November
One character is dead, all is falling apart in my story, and the CDC is on their way to set up a quarantine. A whole bunch of characters are about to have a horrible day. Except for the one that died, his day can't get any worse. Driving straight out to Chesterfield to have an early dinner and write a bit before karate group class and sparring.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Diary, week two

Tuesday 8th November
Election day. Spent an hour in line to vote before work. Decided to drop my 2k a day rule and give myself a break. I'm slightly above the NaNoWriMo standard for day eight and I feel like I'm getting into my stride. Writing arguments and phone calls between characters about things I know from experience.

Wednesday 9th November
Got into a good scene before work, and another one after work in Starbucks. Made the 1667 word goal for the day before my karate lesson. Things are happening in the story, people are arguing.

Thursday 10th November
Another lunchtime of no writing. Shoved myself over the 16k mark after dinner, heading down the home stretch and utterly distracted by searching for titanium sporks on Amazon, because a character has one. Unleashing the Lindsay Stirling channel on Pandora to get my words for the day.

Friday 11th November
Dear new character, thank you for turning up! You're solving a huge plot problem I didn't know I had. I'm sorry I'm going to kill you, but your death will really help the story along. Also, you'll get to wield the Travelling Shovel of Death before you go, I hope that makes up for it a little.

Saturday 12th November
Starting the day well at Crooked Tree Coffee House in St Charles. I forgot my index cards with the plot on, but in just over 90 minutes I made 1315 words. Going to Mauhaus Cat Café this afternoon, so excited!

Sunday 13th November
Starting the day at Kaldi's in Chesterfield for breakfast and a writing session. Deliberately left the power cord behind to force me to write faster and not use the internet. Annoyed that I have to disable the WiFi service to keep it turned off, something kept turning it back on, it's a battery hog as well as a time sink. More writing at Barnes and Noble in Chesterfield, then the official write-in at The Book House in Maplewood. Got over 3k words written today!

Monday 14th November
And back to work after a super productive writing weekend. I seem to be less able to write without my Vivaldi channel on Pandora. Crossed the 25k mark and running downhill towards my plot crisis!

NaNoWriMo 2016 Diary, week one

Tuesday 1st November
525 words before work, 2009 total. Introduced a couple of shady characters I didn't have planned out before I started writing. Hoping to stick to my usual rhythm of 2000 words a day. Created a Pandora station seeded with Vivaldi to use as a writing soundtrack.

Wednesday 2nd November
Good writing session before work, took my Mac laptop with me to write at lunch and after work. Wednesdays are not going to be easy for writing, I have 3 hours in Tracy's Karate in Chesterfield for my private lesson, then group class, then sparring class. Two days in a row I have written 2009 words, that is weird.

Thursday 3rd November
My novel went meta, my main character is a journalist who is brainstorming what makes a good story. No writing at lunch today, had lunch with a friend at Olympia instead. I feel like I've written a lot of filler so far but some characters are starting to devite from my original plan. That's usually a good sign so I'm letting them go with it. No evening writing today, there was beer with dinner.

Friday 4th November
Today is pay day, and a vacation day, I get to novel all day. Since I slacked off yesterday, I had to cross the 5k mark before breakfast to get level with the NaNoWriMo standard for yesterday. Working on disrupting my character's lives today. Discovering a bunch of new composers via Pandora, Georg Phillip Telemann, Francesco Geminiani, and Tomaso Albinoni. Apparently I like Baroque classical music.

Saturday 5th November
Happy Guy Fawke's Night! Today is my bimonthly knitgroup at Stone Spiral Coffee and Curios in Maplewood AND the St Charles Crooked Tree Coffee House morning write-in. I wrote at knitgroup and more at home, getting into "mess up your character's lives" day.

Sunday 6th November
Wrote after church in Kaldi's on Carondelet, starting to move the pieces on the board and get into the meat of the story. No bad guy is 100% evil, they're just people with lives and dreams who just want to take a shortcut, or make life a little easier. It's the wrong choice for the wrong reasons, but that makes it fun.

Monday 7th November
No lunchtime writing today, and I get to see the sunrise, courtesy of the end of Daylight Savings Time. I wish we'd either abolish that, or stick on it year-round. Not a great day for word count.

NaNoWriMo survival guide

This will be my thirteenth time doing NaNoWriMo, looking at getting my eleventh novel finished. I have a plot, an idea, and some disasters to deploy, and even a way to include the Travelling Shovel of Death. I have a few tactics for surviving the event:

Donate to NaNoWriMo
If you donate, you are more likely to finish your novel. You also purchase good novel-karma and fund the deployment of guilt-monkeys (a crucial motivational tool). NaNoWriMo runs on donations, and even a $10 donation gets you a halo. You'd look great in a halo.

Output before input
No reading books, no watching TV or movies, no surfing the internet until your words are done for the day. My goal is 2000 words a day, with a 3k goal at weekends.

Bribe yourself
Pick a 50k prize for yourself, and do not allow yourself to have that prize unless you reach 50k. Husband bribed me one year with a season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, which were kept with receipt in a cupboard until I hit 50k.

Practice tactical slacking
During NaNoWriMo, it is OK to order pizza instead of cooking a sumptuous handmade dinner with carved butter in the shape of swans and three fish courses. Figure out what you're going to give up to carve out time to write, and stick with it. Maybe your reward can be a visit by a cleaning service in December.

Write on schedule
My writing schedule is a bit before work, more at lunchtime, and finish up after work. Every single day. No exceptions. Figure out what your schedule is and hold fast to that commitment.

Separation of concerns
My novel lives on my personal Macbook Air in Scrivener format. Novel info lives in a Dropbox folder, or in a notebook and index cards. Novel stuff does not touch the work machine, or any other machine.

Have a roadmap
As of now, my plot is four pages of handwritten notes, 12 index cards (one for each chapter), and some loose notebook pages. I have a rough idea of where I want my novel to go, and what happens in the end. I expect the plot bunny to throw a wrench in my roadmap, but that's OK, I have enough to get moving.

Introvert in company
A local NaNoWriMo meetup, or write-in, is a great way to gather a bunch of introverts so we can ignore each other in company. Write-ins are also fabulous places when you have a plot problem, you can just say "Hey, my female lead is stuck in a mine shaft with a sack of rubber ducks and a shovel, how does she escape the cave trolls heading her way?" and get several answers.

Overnight Breakfast Glop

Can also be called "pudding" if "glop" sounds unappetising. This recipe uses the US tablespoon, which is a 15ml liquid measure. I put everything in a Blender Bottle to get everything mixed up, it works well. Also I don't have an electric blender. If you don't like the texture of tapioca pudding, you probably won't like this, the chia has a gelatinous texture when it's hydrated.

Makes 1 serving as written.
Prep time is 10 minutes BUT you have a 30 minute pause in the middle, AND this needs to be left for at least three hours to let the chia seeds do their thing. Or leave it in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of almond milk (or your milky substance of choice)
  • 2 tablespoons of Organic Gemini tigernut smoothie mix
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds

Optional ingredients, choose one or two:

Put the milk into a Blender Bottle and add all the ingredients except the chia. Mix well. Add the chia, mix again, and leave in the fridge for a half hour. Mix well, decant into another container, and put back in the fridge. Clean the Blender Bottle immediately or stuff will cement onto it. Leave for three hours, or overnight. Eat the following morning with a spoon, top with fruit or nuts if you like.

I found chia recipes when I was looking for Paleo alternatives to oatmeal, and it is surprisingly filling. This glop has a lot of texture from the ground flax, chia, and tigernut, you need to use a spoon instead of trying to drink it.

(If you're not using Amazon Smile and making Amazon donate to National Novel Writing Month, please consider doing that.)

Now, 25th July, 2016

Thinking about
My lightening talk on Risk Analysis and RFC 1149 for the first Asynchrony Labs internal conference on Friday 15th July. This is the first talk I've done where I've been recorded. There was applause, I survived.

Stimuli and input
Peter Drucker's article Managing Oneself from the Harvard Business Review was published as a small paperback. It is the first book I remember reading with a highlighter pencil in hand, and I wrote notes as I read. Interesting book, I prefer a much shorter feedback loop than 9-12 months. My librarian soul shudders at marking up a book, but a work friend described sharing a book between their siblings, each one marking up with a different colour, so that the book becomes a conversation between them.

Craft and unnecessary creating
After a long stretch of hats and scarves, I'm working on toys. Made two of the My Little Slug pattern for work, a hedgehog for me, and an elephant toy for a friend. Looking at a mouse next, from Rebecca Danger's book 50 Yards of Fun.

Now that I'm finished with The Focus Course (well worth, it but way easier if done in a group than solo), the morning drawing habit can come back. I've missed it.

Exercise and health
I deadlifted 95lb for 8 reps, two sets. I've never been a weights person, but it is a good workout. My personal torturer switched me from Sparkpeople to MyFitnessPal, because you can share the food diary way more easily. I confessed to the Tim Horton's maple donut before he saw it.

Embarking on an experiment to have a set breakfast for a week to see what effect that has on my weight, if any. One sweet potato, and one roast chicken patty, protein and carbs.

Cover band names

Every once in a while you hear a phrase and think, "That would be a good band name." These are my current favourites:

  1. No Visible Cow
  2. Flying with Cats
  3. Angry Hatstand
  4. Unexploded Balm
  5. Decaf Piranha
  6. Teacup Hierarchy
  7. Grumpy Old Queen
  8. Suddenly Ducks
  9. The Vindaloo Fiasco
  10. Gremlins Ate My Towel

Now, 4th June 2016

Thinking about
Scala. I'm new on a team doing a Scala project and learning how to write code and tests. It bothers me when training for Scala spends half the time saying how dumb and awful Java is, there's no need for that. I felt a lot better about Scala after a day spent doing mob programming working on a REST endpoint, and then explaining my Hello World Scala code to one of the other QAs on the team. I'm back in beginner mode and it was jarring at first.

Stimuli and input
Reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, feels like Agile software development for businesses.

Shawn Blanc's Focus Course is starting a June camp where a group of people goes through the course day by day. I'm looking forward to that, I stalled on day 12 on my first time through. I have a new Baron Fig notebook and some time set aside to get the course done.

Craft and unnecessary creating
Picked up Doodle Drawing by Sarah Skeate and Craft-a-Doodle by Jenny Doh, using both books to create cute aliens and monsters on sticky notes. I'm using Sharpies and ballpoints.

Been baking a lot of scones and rock cakes, refining the recipes to get something tasty. Went strawberry picking the last weekend in May and made jam, only the second time in our marriage we've done that.

Exercise and health
I am a first degree black belt in Chinese Kenpo! You can call me Shodan, it means "beginning level." My instructor is refining the 120 techniques list down to ten or so that really work for me, and I'm back to getting sparring lessons.