Thursday, 28 April 2011

Another long weekend...

I could get used to this!

We have tomorrow off for the big wedding, and Monday off for "Early May Bank Holiday", or May Day as it always used to be called until Mrs Thatcher decided it sounded too Commie!

But I still call it May Day!  Me?  A Commie?  Perhaps.

Not sure what will be happening over the weekend.  I hope to have a barbeque or 2 but the weather is looking a bit patchy so maybe not.  We will see.

Will I be watching the wedding?  Not sure.  I suspect we will have the TV tuned to it, whatever happens.  I am quite a Royalist (a Commie Royalist?) and think they do a great job (have really believed this since I saw the Queen eating sea slug during a state visit to the far east...), but I don't find these big occasions exciting.  Everyone else seems to be getting full of it, though. I was listening to the radion this morning and they were saying that the Australians are so caught up in it all that the government has postponed a vote on whether to keep the royal family or not!  Presumably they feel that they won't get the result they want if they hold it right now...

That is about all I can come up with today - have a great weekend, back again soon!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

I think I need...

...a cold beer, while sitting in my garden. sleep in until noon. read a really good book, preferably involving wizards, elves and nasty monsters. get some new strings for my guitars.  It is amazing the difference a new set of strings makes, it is almost like having a new guitar!

...a new guitar.  OK, that is not a need but a big want.  Might sell an old one to make room too... cook a huge steak on my barbeque and slowly eat the whole thing, washing it down with another beer. finish and start reading something useful.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Had an utterly wonderful weekend!

The weather was amazing - the doom and gloom that was predicted failed to happen, so we had 5 days of hot sun!

Thursday evening I made TZ's Tres Leche Cake

When I told the family what was going into it they looked at me with horror, muttering things about heart attacks and diabetes, but I made it anyway.  The resulting cake is in the photo above.  It was utterly wonderful, everyone agreed.  The mutterings suddenly stopped when they tasted the sweet, somewhat sticky goodness.  It mysteriously vanished during the course of Good Friday...

And I will let you into a secret - I had never made a sponge cake before.  I used Mrs RC's recipe for the sponge as it is nice and simple, merely involving a bit of arm work to mix.  Mrs RC refuses to allow a food processor into her kitchen, believing that hand mixing is the only way to do it properly.  She always makes great cakes so I find it hard to fault her argument.

Friday evening, Number One Son was supposed to go to a sleepover party with a bunch of friends.  At the last minute it was cancelled, so we moved it to our house instead.  They all had great fun - I bought in some Pepsi and made a huge batch of pizzas to feed them all and they stayed up most of the night talking and playing computer and xBox games.  Good harmless fun.  My son has great taste in friends...

The rest of the weekend was very relaxing - sitting in the garden, painting toy soldiers, playing guitar, walking dogs, etc.  This was broken a little yesterday when I found that a neighbour was digging up the brick paving in his front garden.  When I asked what he was going to do with them he said he was getting rid of them and did I want them?  Mrs RC never has enough bricks for things she wants to do in the garden, so I marched back and forth with the wheel barrow rescuing bricks.  At a rough count I took nearly 300 in the end.  My back and wrists are now complaining about it, but Mrs RC was very happy so I can take it  :-)

So, back to work and on the run up to exams.  I am now in "gentle revision" mode - can't cram at my age as trying to stuff too much in at once causes everything to burst out of my ears!  Easy does it...

Have a great day!  Hm, looks like the sun has arrived again!  Time for lunch!!!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A Riparian Lunch Break

I had lunch by the river today. It was idyllic, warm sun, gentle breeze, the barely perceptible sound of the river making its way to the sea....

I was amazed at how much life is in this little river. The shallow were full of these tiny fish...

...while the deeper waters were occupied by larger fish, lurking shadows moving silently in the cool water.

A hopeful water vole scampered up and down the water's edge, too fast for me and my camera to catch.

Half heard converstions reminded me that I was still in the middle of the city - school children enjoying the perfect combination of great weather and not being at school - a German couple on holiday - a businessman trying to seal a deal on his mobile - a teenager in a wheelchair being told by his friends how dumb he was to injure himself...

I just sat on the river bank, switched my brain to neutral and soaked it all up.  It was too nice to waste those moments on serious thought.


The long weekend starts tonight!  Ooh yeah!  Nothing really planned, except for dinner with some friends tonight.  I hope to slip some revision in for my exams but, as usual, family time gets priority.  I am sure the weekend has a barbeque tucked away somewhere. I just hope the weather holds out - I hate the thought of being at work on a day like today and then having rubbish weather when I am off!  Selfish?  Yep!

Have a great Easter!  I might do a post at some point over the weekend, but doubt any of you will be online to read it so maybe not!

Back soon!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Great weather today - everyone seems to be in shorts, including me!

It is amazing how fast the temperature changes at this time of year.  A couple of mornings ago I was walking the dogs in a cold fog - the sort of fog where you can see banks of the stuff moving across the fields, coming to get you.  The dogs were a bit spooked by it, to be honest!

Things are really quiet at work so I am able to get on with stuff uninterrupted, with a bit of music to reduce the loneliness (all together - Awww...)  Currently playing is some classic Thin Lizzy, before that it was Foo Fighters...

Heading for a nice long weekend - the Uni closes at lunchtime on Thursday (Maundy Thursday) so I booked to morning off too giving a 5 day weekend!  Ooh yeah! 

Unfortunately the weather forecast is typical Easter:

Snow, Sleet And Wind Forecast For Easter

As I was saying to someone only yesterday - in UK we are more likely to have a White Easter than a White Christmas!

Ah well, tea break is over, better get back to it!

Back again!

This is for Shrinky (and anyone else who was expecting a photo of legs):

Yes, I know I am wearing socks...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Our baby is 6 months old!

No, not this one!

Here she is!

Just like children, our dogs always want the same toy...

How cute is she? (Yes, she stole the toy from poor Custard...)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Catching up

I am catching up in a couple of ways.

Firstly, I have started revising for my exams next month - typing up lecture notes, filling in gaps, expanding here and there, reading a new journal article or book chapter each day - all good so far.

Secondly I have also caught up with the rest of the civilized world by transfering my CD collection onto PC.  Yes, I now know the joys of play lists, etc!  Mrs RC is loving it too - when I phoned at lunchtime she was playing music that she hadn't listened to for a long time purely because she could not be bothered to dig out the CD!  Click, on it comes!  We now have this PC in the kitchen/diner (the hub of our house) acting as a music centre/accountant (i.e. we use Excel on it to track our finances).

Oh well, better get back to it!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A Pox on Virus Writers!

At around 8.30 last night, just as I was contemplating a bath and early night, my daughter declared that her laptop had some sort of virus.

Turns out she fell for the old pop-up virus alert which then got in past the antivirus etc. 

I battled it until 1am, cleaning up, downloading new stuff etc but it was all in vain.

I brought it to work with me today and have had it chugging away next to me, reinstalling everything from scratch.

If I meet a virus writer today he had better watch out...

Monday, 11 April 2011

Weekend stuff

My last post was called "Life is Good", and I guess the weekend just went to prove it.

Saturday saw Mrs RC and the boys head off to buy new summer clothes, while my daughter went to town with her friends. 

This left me "home alone".  Yeah, doesn't happen often, I can tell you!

Started off by popping to the shops on my bike to get meat for a barbeque that evening.  The weather was amazing (see photos in previous post!) and I did not want to waste it.  Returning home I got some dough going for bread rolls, made some burgers and basted the chicken that I had bought with a concoction that I cannot quite remember now.  The chicken was going to be done on the barbeque, the first time I have attempted anything big like that.

While the rolls were rising I set to on my next task - sorting out a wargames board for my game at Barnet against my Canadian wargamer friend next month.  I had a sheet of board that I wanted to recycle and cover with a sheet of fake grass that can be bought from model shops.  First I had to take the board back to the wood (removing some scenery that I had previously glued on to it for another game).  This was much more stubborn than I expected and I ended up with the router and electric sander to make it smooth!  I had just cleared up the mess when Mrs RC and the boys returned...  phew...

I then glued the grass onto the board while Mrs RC relaxed in the sun to recover from her trip.

Then it was time to start the (slightly larger than intended) chicken going.  I let the coals settle down and then put the chicken on and closed the lid.  A while later I turned it over.  And turned it again.  I was aware that there wasn't much heat, so I added more charcoal, putting the chicken in the oven until the coals were ready again.  This time things really seemed to get going and the smell was wonderful.  I left it going for probably 2 hours in the end, turning it from time to time.

Then it was time to cook the other stuff, so I moved the chicken back into the oven to keep warm and make sure it was totally cooked.  Sort of cheating I guess, but who cares?!  It was wonderful!  Next time I will make sure I get smaller ones so I can be sure that it is cooked completely on the barbeque.

That evening I worked on some more scenery - a couple of hills and woods.

Sunday morning saw me helping Number One Son choose a new bike.  We walked down to the shop, had a look and chose one.  He had set himself a very strict budget, so when the guy said it would cost £20 to assemble it we said we would do it ourselves.  I think I know how a bike goes together by now!  So we carried the large box home between us and then settled in the garden to bolt it all together.  Turned out great, especially when I got the front wheel the right way round  :-)

Then I joined Mrs RC to "trim" the trees in the front garden.  These were supposed to be dwarf conifers (max 8 feet high).  When they reached double that we decided the had to be stopped...

I started with cutters on a long pole, but the trunks were too thick.

Then I got up a ladder and tried a hand saw.  OK at first, but the sappy wood kept gripping the blade and making it hard to cut.

So then the Man in me came out - I headed to the tools and found my electric saw...

Mrs RC kept saying I was about to become a statistic - this is one of the busiest times in A&E...

A "friend" told me he would look up prosthetic limbs for me...

But I won!  Those trees knew they were beaten...

Not wanting to let all that wood go to waste, I saved 2 lengths of trunk.  Once they have matured a bit I will make them into a pair of walking sticks!

By now we were all getting hungry...

Colonel Sanders has just opened a new place a couple of miles from us, so I grabbed Number One Son and we both cycled over to get dinner. 

The evening was short - I was exhausted, so I had an early bath (where I found that my arms had been scratched to hell by those trees - mega pain when I dipped them into the water!) and then crawled into bed....

Friday, 8 April 2011

Life is Good...

Sorry for stealing your post title, Terri, but I just can't think of a better one today.

Last night was a milestone in the cycling year - the first time I could cycle home in a t-shirt.  Felt sooo good to have the warm evening air circulating around parts that have been kept warm and cosy for the last, seemingly never ending months.

Walking the dogs this morning was a real treat too.  The sun was really warm, easily countering the cool morning breeze.  As I walked across the fields of sprouting wheat, the dew collecting on my shoes and dampening the bottoms of my trousers, I could hear a skylark singing his little heart out somewhere up in the crystal clear blue sky.  My peace was shattered when I met up with a group of fellow early morning dog walkers.  It was a good job that we were well clear of any houses, as the 6 dogs that we had between us kicked up a fair racket!

And the wonderful weather looks like continuing into next week, so I am doing a barbeque tomorrow.  Last week (Mother's Day) we had a great one, where I used the last of the heat from the coals to slowly cook a rack of ribs.  Delicious...

Tomorrow I am going to start things going a bit earlier and try roasting a couple of small chickens before I turn to the burgers, etc.  I have decided that this will be my experimental barbeque summer, where I move from small stuff to things that are a bit more challenging.  Later on I want to do some fish, which always looks sooo good done on a grill.  I did some tuna once and that was amazing, but I am thinking of doing a whole fish.  Any suggestions?

You might think that I am declaring summer far too early, but I don't think so.  In England, if you sit around waiting for summer to really arrive you often reach September and suddenly think:

"Hey, those 2 weeks of sun we had back in June?  That was summer!  Damn it!"


Our determination not to let last year's nastiness run into this year seems to be working.  Seems that people with even the thickest skins can get the message eventually.  [Insert chorus of angelic singing].


The Spartan lifestyle is also paying off amazingly.  I guess we never really realised how much money just "gets spent" for no particular reason.  This month we will be able to actually close a credit card account!  This is a major step towards finally clearing the debts that we accumulated during and after our daughter's illness and death.  It will be so good to see that back of them and we just love watching the amounts shrink month by month...

So, as you can see, Life is Good in the RC world right now, and I hope it is good for you too.  If not, if you are thinking that life really sucks right now, take it from me - life DOES get better if you let it.  Embrace the good and let the bad go to hell where it belongs.

Have a great weekend - I intend to!


OK, as I strolled back from lunch I couldn't help taking a few photos of trees and things that have suddenly burst into life, making the campus a wonderful place to be...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Spring has sprung!

If you look carefully, you can just about see the daffodils in the middle of the top photo.  I just wonder how on earth they got there!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

RC's Rockin' Pizza Dough


By popular request, here is my pizza dough recipe!  I hope it gives you as much pleasure as it has me!

I use multiples of the following:

1lb of white bread flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 sachet of dried yeast
1 cup of warm water

2 lots of this tends to do the family, 3 if we have visitors, assuming each person has their own pizza.

Mix this all together in a large bowl and knead well.  I do my kneading in the bowl, allowing me to wander around while working if there is something interesting going on in another room.

The dough should be moist and stretchy, with little bits sticking to your hands as you work, but not a cloggy mess. Add extra flour/water in very small amounts until it feels right.  You should see the yeast starting to work as you knead, with little air bubbles starting to form. 

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set it to one side while you get the sauce started.

The sauce (makes about the right amount for 2 lots of dough)

I start with a small onion, half a red pepper and half a green pepper, pealed, deseeded and chopped roughly.

Fry these for a few minutes until the onions start to brown.

Put this into a blender.

Add a can of tomatoes, some garlic, mixed Italian seasoning (I used to mess around with seperate oregano, basil, etc but gave up!) black pepper, a little salt and sugar.  This is something that I cannot give set amounts for as I tend to just chuck it in!

Blend the lot until it is smooth.

Pour this into a sauce pan, heat gently and then allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly, until it has reduced to a nice spreadable sauce.

Making the Pizzas

While the sauce simmers, lightly oil whatever you are going to cook your pizzas on.  I currently use some metal trays that have holes in the bottom, but am tempted to get a stone at some point.

I have found that 8-10 ounces of dough makes a good 12" pizza.  The one in the previous photo used 10 ounces.

Gently tear of a handful of dough from what should now be a big fluffy lump of dough in your bowl, and weigh it to make sure you have roughly the right amount.

Form the dough into a ball in your hands and then roll it out on a well floured board/table/worktop.  Try to get it nice and round, but it is better to go with whatever shape you end up with than to scrunch it up and start again, as this will force a lot of air out of the dough.

When the pizza base is nearing the size that you want, you have 2 choices:

  1. Carry on rolling until it is the right size.
  2. Pick it up and finish it by hand.  Imagine that you have a baseball glove on and have the dough draped over your finger tips.  Now flick your hand up and give it a twist at the same time.  The dough should make about a quarter or half turn and then land back on your fingers again.  Keep doing this to stretch the dough out.  I am no expert at this (I have seen Italians doing all sorts of tricks that would put cocktail waiters to shame) but it does make the base better, keeping more air in the dough and making it more fluffy when cooked.
Put your base onto your tray/etc.

When the bases are all sorted out, leave them to rise for around half an hour.

Decorating the pizzas

My favourite way is to put sauce and cheese on each pizza (with an optional extra sprinkle of oregano) and then have a selection of toppings that people can use to decorate their own pizza, especially if there are kids involved.  This is a chance to encourage the eating of lots of fresh vegetables - baby plum tomatoes, mushrooms, sweetcorn, peppers.


I tend to cook my pizzas at around 190C in a non-fan oven, for around 20 minutes, turning regularly and judging when it is done by the colour of the base.  I have found that this makes the bases rise really well and gives enough time for vegetables that have been added to cook.  I am sure that others will alter this to their own tastes, though!


Cut the pizza into slices, and stuff it into the large hole in the lower part of your face, washing it down with a drink of your choosing - I recommend a good red wine, but Coke/Pepsi etc is also good, especially if there are kids involved.  You could even go for a diet drink without looking silly if you have chosen healthy toppings!


Saturday, 2 April 2011

A pizza for wReggie

Yes, another Saturday post!  What is the world coming to?

Friday, 1 April 2011

It has been...

...a long and busy week.

I have been getting up an hour earlier than usual to do dog walks before coming to work.  This is actually a nice way to start the day, but by this morning my legs did not want to know.

But I got up anyway, dressed and went out to grab Spot and Bryn, who belong to my dad and uncle.  The walk was nice, not cold but with a bit of a breeze blowing.

By the time I got back home I was ready for breakfast, so I grabbed a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes.  While eating, it became clear that Mrs RC was not feeling well - wanted to be sick but not able to. 

I said I would walk Frou Frou and Custard for her, but she said she would be OK.


Yes, she would manage.

So I took Frou Frou and Custard for a walk anyway, which took them by surprise but they had fun.

Then it was time to saddle up and head for work, by which time the breeze had turned into a strong head wind  :-(

But never mind, with all that I was only 5 minutes late for work, and as we are now into the holidays no one really noticed.

Pizza night tonight - will try to remember to take a photo of one this week...

Sunday is Mothers' Day, so I hope Mrs RC is feeling better by then.  We are planning our first barbeque of the year, so hopefully the weather will behave.

Have a great weekend!

More next week.