World Poetry Day

It’s World Poetry Day today. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not particularly good with poetry, it’s not something I’ve read much of though recently I’ve been thinking it’s time I changed this. When I was thinking about poetry earlier I remembered this one, Digging by Seamus Heaney. He was the poet I studied for my GCSE English – I think this one stuck in my mind a lot because of how strong a story it tells.

A man digging in a garden
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests: snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney 

Baking · Gluten Free

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies 

After my success with the Delicious Alchemy Brownie mix a couple of weeks back I was excited to discover that Morrisons’ revamp of their free from department brings Betty Crocker gluten free mixes to my local supermarket shelves. I’d been aware that these mixes exist – there’s a choice of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate brownies and devil’s food cake in the UK and more in the States – but I’d never seen them to buy myself.

I decided to give the chocolate chip cookies a try, it’s been quite a while since I last baked cookies. The mix makes it very simple, you only need to add an egg and some vegetable oil.

The instructions were very straightforward, once I’d got the dough part way mixed I switched from using a wooden spoon to getting stuck in and mixing it with my hands – I’ve always preferred to bake this way. The instructions did say to put heaped teaspoons of the dough on the trays to bake but I divided it into the right number of pieces and then made each one into a rough ball shape and then slightly flattened it. I found this was a much easier way to make sure the cookies were all approximately the same size.

The cookies took a little longer to bake than the recipe suggested, but I’m pretty confident that’s down to my oven rather than anything else. The instructions advised leaving 5cm between each biscuit so they had room to spread – mine didn’t spread that much and next time I think I’d flatten them a little more to start with.

The cookies taste really good. They have a good texture, they hold together really well and don’t crumble as soon as you bite into them. They were really good when they were still warm from the oven, and by the following day they were soft and chewy and reminded me of the cookies I used to get from the Millie’s Cookies that was opposite the book shop I worked in. I think if I flattened them more before baking then they’d have been an even better cookie.

I’m really impressed with this mix. I’ll be trying the other two out, I’ve seen that on the Betty Crocker UK website there are other recipe ideas for using the mix, I’m particularly keen on the look of this gluten free caramel cake that uses the devil’s food cake mix. I’ll make sure I blog about it once I’ve tried it!


Crowdfunding an exhibition.

For nearly a year at work I shared my corner of the office with Jamie. He started exactly a year after I did, and took over the desk next to mine that had been empty for months. It was lovely to have some company, and over the course of the year we chatted about all sorts. Jamie is an artist, he’d graduated from the university’s school of media, art and design. It was so lovely having someone so creative to chat with – while our creative pursuits were very different there were areas of overlap, and I’ll be honest listening to other creative people talk about their creativity is one of my favourite things.

Jamie and two other artists are now using Kickstarter to crowdfund their new exhibition “Written on the Skin”. You can find the campaign and read more about it here. It sounds like such a good idea to me – I’m still fascinated by crowdfunding campaigns and the way they can be used, this seems like an ideal way to use it.


Short but not so sweet

When I was out for coffee on Wednesday the conversation turned to books and reading (not an unusual topic), and then to stories with creepy dolls in them. Let’s be honest, dolls have the potential to be pretty creepy in pretty much any context outside of actual children playing with dolls – particularly those old fashioned dolls. Zoe mentioned that she’d watched an animated short featuring creepy dolls, I was so intrigued when she sent me the link to it.

The short is called Alma, it’s barely over 5 minutes long but it certainly delivers on the creepy dolls front. I thought it was only good and proper that I shared the delights!

Watching it, I realised that I never really watch shorts unless they come at the start of Pixar films. So if you have any recommendations then please send them my way!


End of the week earworm

Today has been filled with coffee and cake and seeing people. It’s been quiet and  lovely. It’s also been accompanied by Lady Gaga’s Million Reasons. I love the song, the first time I heard it was when she sang it on Carpool Karaoke I actually paused the video so I could find out what the song was. It’s been a happy earworm to have so what better than to share it here too.