Recipe: Rock Cakes

Why yes, I am pathologically incapable of following a recipe as given. I assembled this from several recipes online and tweaked it to work with US measures. I made two batches, my other substitutions are below. This is a good recipe for using up small amounts of dried fruit and nuts leftover from other recipes.

Rock cakes, batch #2 , with diced dried orange peel & cherries #baking

A photo posted by Alison Hawke (@quantumtea) on

Ingredients:

  • 8oz self-raising flour
  • 3oz brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of spice (Penzey's Cake Spice and Baking Spice worked, get something with nutmeg in)
  • 4.5oz unsalted butter (1 stick and 1 tablespoon)
  • 5oz or more of dried fruit and or nuts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Makes 16 rock cakes. Set the oven for 350f.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and spice together. Cut the butter into small slices and rub it into the flour mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the dried fruit and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, and vanilla extract together.

Add the egg mixture to the flour and stir until you have a lumpy, sticky dough. If you need to, you can add a teaspoon more milk.

Put a dollop of rock cake into each of 16 muffin cups, sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 350f for 15-20 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, see if you can push the top of a rock cake down. If you can, they probably need another 3 minutes.

These two batches helped clear out a bunch of stuff from the pantry, and also tasted good. Not too sweet, a little crumbly, and full of interesting flavours.

Substitutions:
Instead of white self-raising flour, you can use whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour and turn it into self-raising flour by adding 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Add a half cup of ground flax seed to the dry ingredients.

Mix and match your dried fruit. I used 4oz baking raisins and 2oz walnuts for batch #1, then 5oz diced dried orange peel, 1oz baking raisins and 1oz dried cherries for batch #2

Rehydrate a teaspoon of dried orange peel, add it to the egg mixture.

Now, 23 April 2016

Thinking about
Ways to do my job that accommodate being a practitioner as well as a manager. I slid into a part-time gig on my old team, working under the guidance of my former apprentice and that feels fantastic. It took a couple of weeks of being there to feel back in the swing of things, but I now have a team home, I have things I can accomplish, life is good. I love the mentoring part of my job, and the interviewing is fun too, but I need to be useful on a team.

Thinking about honesty in communications, and speaking simply. When I write test code, I try to make it simple and use variable names that make it obvious what I'm doing. When I talk, I usually go for the small words, unless I want to explain what idempotence or skeuomorph means, and they're useful and relevant to the conversation. No using big words without explaining them!

Stimuli and input
Finished some long outstanding books this month, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and Art for Breakfast by Danny Gregory. I started Creative License, also by Danny Gregory.

I chewed through The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by Fr. James Martin and Mindset by Carol Dweck. Started The Servant Leader by James Autry, and Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg, I'm seeing common themes across several recent reads.

I believe strongly in the growth mindset, that your attributes, thinking process, intelligence, and skill are all malleable and improve with effort. I will give people who are learning a lot of help, but for people who will not or choose not to learn, I have little patience for them.

Craft and unnecessary creating
My sketching-every-day habit continues, over 150 days straight since I started in November 2015. I picked up some watercolour paints and I'm experimenting with painting, colour, watercolour pencils, and a water brush. I've started sketching real things in my craft room, not just cartoons, and I got myself a life-size skull model to work from. I named it Skulliver. It makes a good model for knitted hats.

Knitting is back in rotation, the tendinitis pain is almost gone now and the gift box is filling up.

Exercise and health
My body fat percentage is down by 2% since last June, which feels good. I've also lost 10 pounds. I can bench press 50 pounds now, not the 40 when I started, and deadlift 60 pounds for 10 reps.

I have a date for my karate black belt test in May! That's both exciting and terrifying.

Books to re-read

I was that child in school who read the encyclopaedia, cover to cover, Aardvark to Zulu. I got six books a week from Ipswich Library every Saturday while my parents did the grocery shopping, I read my way through the children's library and branched out to adult science fiction before I left for university. This site has over a decade of reading logs and there's been a definite shift towards management and leadership books in the last two years that coincides with a job title change to director. I am always studying.

There are some books that have earned the status of "books I want to re-read regularly." It's a short list.

Colin Urquhart "My Dear Child"
This book is by an English author, I found it when I was first dealing with clinical depression, and it is a reassuring read. When I can't see how God could exist, this book tells me that he does, and he cares.

Chris Baty "No Plot? No Problem!"
I love this book. It's encouraging and funny and everything I love about National Novel Writing Month in book form.

James Martin, SJ "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life"
I'm not a Catholic, but this book feels like it was written for me. It is comforting and challenging at the same time, but not condescending or guilt-inducing. A friend at work recommended it and I'm thankful she did.

Todd Henry "The Accidental Creative"
I never thought of my job as a traditionally creative one, but I make my living by thinking and solving problems. I spend a lot of time in my head at work, and this book has lots of practical suggestions for using my mind and my time in better, more productive ways.

Marcus Aurelius "Meditations"
Reading this book feels like I am reading the source material for several other books I've read. This translation feels like a collection of sentence fragments in places, but there's a lot of good advice in here.

Stephen M. R. Covey "The Speed of Trust"
Trust is important to me, I want to be trusted and I want my trust to not be broken by others. This book explains a lot about why trust is important, and how to build trust.

Robert Sutton "The No Asshole Rule"
I've loaned my copy out to someone, but this is a fantastic "how not to be an asshole" manual. The comments from readers of this book became Sutton's "Good Boss, Bad Boss," another good read.

Now, 23rd March 2016

Thinking about
There are 36 Quality Advocates at Asynchrony Labs, in three offices across two states. It's a lot of people and I don't want to be a bottleneck for them getting stuff done. How do I best enable them to do good work?

About the best parts of my work day are when I get to spend a half hour with one of my team for some one to one time. It feels like a privilege to steer them past potholes I fell in, and watch them progress and grow in their careers. Kind of scary sometimes too.

I taught the Agile QA class in March to a room of fifteen people, my biggest lesson was that letting them dictate the topics to cover was a win. Also frequent breaks, several different teachers, and some wake-up activities before going back in.

Hoping to get some leadership training from AAIM EA soon.

Stimuli and input
Three more chapters to go in "The Accidental Creative" and I got to the Stimulus chapter again, lots of good advice here. Wondering how to continue the practices after next week when book club is officially over. It's down to just me, Angie, and MaryJo.

I stalled on week two of The Focus Course and I need to get back into that. I also want to finish reading "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius. I devoured Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book" and I still haven't found who sent it to me.

Sometime in the last few months, I stopped reading blogs on Feedly, and I haven't missed them either. It's an interesting data point.

Craft
The elbow pain is less, I'm knitting again, but it still hurts when I stretch. Wound a skein of yarn that I got at the 2015 Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival to make a hat, that feels good. Gave some coffee cup cozies to various friends, all were happy with them. It's a simple little project and wool (or yak, or silk) feels nicer than a cardboard sleeve. I modified the pattern slightly (cast on 48st, decrease to 36st, skip round 4 of the decreases).

Made some of these origami bookmarks and I like the simplicity of them.

Exercise and health
Still working on the Chinese Kenpo black belt, my instructor has gone from critiquing the moves, to the focus, attitude, and confidence with which I make them. Plus the power that goes into the strikes, the expression on my face, I really hope I'm getting close to my test. My endurance level is up from circuit training in the gym, I'm always hungry and a bit tired. Possibly not eating enough. The worst thing to hear from your trainer is "No more bagels."

My Garmin Vivofit 2 has been a permanent fixture on my wrist since I got it back in July 2015. No need to charge it, it's waterproof, and it tells the time as its default action. The sleep tracking has been useful, pairing it with a Bluetooth chest-band heart rate sensor was a good experiment that felt more realistic than a wrist heart rate detector.

I drove a race car!

On Saturday 19th, I went out to Gateway Motorsports Park in Illinois, and I drove a V8 600hp 4-speed Nascar vehicle on the track. My top speed was 106mph, and I had a blast! I have a new respect for power steering, because the race car didn't have it and wrestling it around the corners wasn't easy.

This was an awesome birthday present!

106mph. Best birthday present ever!

A photo posted by @quantumtea on

Manager-speak

  • Great idea, how can I help you do that?
  • What do you want to set as your goals?
  • Are you happy?
  • Do you need anything, that I can legally provide within the bounds of this company?
  • You did an awesome job with X! I really liked how you Y and Z.
  • Fly! Be free! (at the end of a meeting, preferably one that finished early)
  • How can I improve in my role?

New Zealand Chelsea Buns

I've made one batch of these from my mother's recipe, I made a few mistakes but they were still delicious.

New Zealand Chelsea Buns.

Ingredients for the bun

  • 8oz flour (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3oz unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup of milk

Ingredients for the filling

  • 4oz brown sugar
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon

Heat oven to 425f.

Rub the butter into the flour and baking powder. Mix with the beaten egg and add milk a little at a time until you have a lump of dough. Roll it out into a long strip, at least 11in long and 8in wide.

Cream the butter, sugar, and cinnamon together. Spread across the dough in a thin layer. Roll up the dough on the long side and seal the edge with a little milk. Cut into slices and put in a foil-lined 8x8 dish.

Bake for 20 mins, you should see the filling melt and bubble.

My big mistakes were that I didn't roll the dough out thinly enough, and I didn't spread the filling over the whole width of the dough, so some parts of my buns are missing cinnamon filling. But they still taste delicious.

Batch #2 will be cooked at 450f to see if that gets the sugar all melty, and double the cinnamon in the filling.

Now, year end edition

Thinking about

I've been doing the Elements of Focus course from Shawn Blanc, and it's been really good. Lots of titbits on how to set tomorrow-me up for a productive day, and making today more useful. Day 15 made me think of the Cynefin Complexity model (it's really hard to Google something when you don't know how to spell it). Cynefin is about work that falls into one of four states: obvious, complicated, complex, and chaotic

Also pondering, how do you keep a team integrated together when they're in three offices spread over two states? I'd like to go out to our furthest office to do interviews, would cycling people through the remote offices help or hinder progress and integration?

Craft

I knit cotton/hemp yarn too tightly and gave myself tendinitis, I can't knit that particular yarn again, it's going in the trade tab of my Ravelry stash. The elbow is improving, but it's been over a month since I knit anything.

Continuing with my daily sketch habit and approaching the halfway mark on my sketchbook. There's a definite progression from the start to now, I'm playing more with shading and smudged lines, and there's a lot more stuff drawn from real life instead of memory.

Karate and fitness

On the downhill slope towards a black belt test. Working on getting the full set of 120 techniques and 13 kata into my head, then bringing them up to black belt standard. There are no "woman black belts" at Tracy's Karate, there are only black belts. I have to be good and I have to be ready. I'll be sparring anything up to 12 fights in a row after my techniques and kata, black belt tests are at least 2 hours long.

Lesson learned: don't work out on an empty stomach. Went to the gym before breakfast and burned out early in my workout. I've managed a plank of 1m 8s and a wall sit of 1m 18s, but both were done before the hard part of the workout, which is three rounds of squat thrusts, lunges with 15lb weights, single arm kettlebell swings (20 lb) and rows (15lb).

Reading

Still ploughing through "Watching the English" by Kate Fox at a slow pace, I'm over the halfway mark now. Working through "Louder than Words" by Todd Henry, I'm blocked on the mentor exercise as I'm still on vacation. "One Moment Meditation" is another slow read. Maybe I need some fiction so I can read something and be done without pauses or homework assignments.

Picked up and read Oliver Burkeman's book "The Antidote - Happiness for people who can't stand positive thinking." It's definitely a British book, ("behaviour" is spelled correctly) and one that makes a lot of sense to me. The link between Stoicism and cognitive behavioural therapy was a surprise that explains why reading "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelis felt like coming home.