Sunday, 29 June 2014

Socks by Numbers.

81:  Grams of sock wool used.

3: Heels turned. I redid the heel on the first sock as it was a little tight. I added some length to the foot and then continued the gusset increases for another four rows to ease the ankle.

15: Repeats of the main Scylla pattern. 4.5 per foot, 3 per leg.

11: The size of Joe's feet.

... compared to my size 4's.
2: Finished socks

66: Stitches cast on for the next project.

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Friday, 27 June 2014

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

June in the Chicken Coop

This month in the chicken coop...

It's broody season again with both Frog and Lemon making siting in empty nest boxes a full time occupation. This severely limits our egg count but it does give Lemon a chance to practice her grumpy lion impression...

Meanwhile, with all the lovely weather we've been having recently, the back door has been wide open on a daily basis. Pepper has been slowly getting braver about hoping inside for a look around whenever we forget our strategic wall of welly boots. The other day she sneaked in through the open side of our glass conservatory doors before trying to get out again through the closed side. She got herself in a panic because she could see the outside but couldn't work out how to get there. Daft bird.

And that's about it. A quiet month all in all.
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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Life's a Game 6: Maindealer

This year we're sharing with you our game of the month. These are all favourites from our collection, or ones we play with our friends.

June's game is Maindealer.

This month we come to another of our charity shop finds with a game that's copyrighted 1987. Maindealer is a classic board game in style. Players set out to buy cars which they can then sell for a profit with the aim of having the most money at the end of the game.

The cars themselves vary wildly from the cheapest Russian car at £1000 to the most expensive German at £13000. One of the best ways to accrue cash is to collect cars originating in the same country and then starting yourself a dealership. We find that people naturally gravitate towards either collecting lots of cheap cars or relying on a small collection of expensive ones to earn them their winnings - both can be successful if lucks on your side.

On of the things we love about this game are the little details, both in the board itself and the cards that fate can toss you.

"Everyones" favourite square.
Why, thank you very much!

A double whammy here of a vintage looking "new" computer and the mate who is merely "away"!

Punter cards can cover all aspects of life...

... while Dealer cards mostly get you to sell cars with varying amount of profit.

One of the downsides of this game is its length. It can take a while to get going and start your collection, but once it gains momentum things start to get more exciting. Not a game to be played in a hurry but one we've had lots of fun with on wet miserable days! If you can find yourself a copy we'd recommend giving it a go.  
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Friday, 20 June 2014

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Elderflower Champagne

On such a beautiful sunny weekend it seemed a shame not to get out into the hills around us. It was too warm to go hiking far though so instead we decided to go for more of a stroll and do some foraging. We returned home with a bag of elderflower heads ready for turning into elderflower champagne.

A lot of the best heads were out of reach for me - so I left Joe to it and took charge of the camera instead!

To make Elderflower Champagne you will need:

1 UK Gallon of Water
1.5 lbs Sugar
2 Tbsp's White Wine Vinegar
2 Lemons (sliced)
6 Elderflower heads

Start by boiling the water, sugar and vinegar to dissolve the sugar and to sterilise it all. Leave this to cool until blood temperature.

Just the task for our large grocers scales

While waiting for the liquid to cool remove the elderflowers from the stalks. Some stalk is okay as you will strain this later - but get rid of most of it.

Once the liquid has cooled add the lemons and the elderflowers and leave to steep for 3 days.

Once the three days is up strain the liquid and decant into bottles or a brewing barrel and leave to ferment for 6 weeks. Leave some space at the top for the gasses to expand.

And that's all there is to it. Joe decanted ours into a barrel last night, and we'll have to hope it works because Joe never does things by halves. 

Yes, that's nearly five gallons of elderflower champagne!
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Sunday, 15 June 2014

Wires, wires everywhere.... pt 2

Last Sunday we showed you how we'd set up our bedside tables to contain USB sockets. Yesterday, after ordering some more components this week, we set about finishing off the project with wired in bedside lights.

The lamps we've got have their switch on the cable, so each night when you're half asleep and wanting to turn the light out you have to go scrabbling around down the side of the cabinet to find out where the switch has got to. Since we were trying to wire up our cupboards anyway we decided to fit permanent light switches to make things easier.

First we cut out the original switch so that we could replace it with the one we wanted, then created a hole in the top of the chest to take the wire from the lamp.

With another hole ready for the new switch, we fed both the cable from the lamp and the cable from the plug through this hole ready to solder to the new switch.

Then we soldered all the wires together and sealed the joints with heat shrink - this was going to be mains power and we didn't want to risk loose connections.

Finally we cut a hole in the back of the cabinet to feed both the plug from the lamp and the USB cable through. These are then plugged in under the bed and the bedside table has a nice, clean finish.

This has been a project that we've been talking about for a long time, and its so nice to see it all done. I may (or may not - just saying) have wandered into the bedroom merely to turn the light on and off yesterday.

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Friday, 13 June 2014

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Great Swift Bake off: Round 5 - Sweet Buns (Dough Based)

This month in the Great Swift Bake Off we're cracking out the yeast. Sweet buns are the order of the day.

For my recipe I adapted an American recipe. Pecan nuts and maple syrup guarantee a North American feel to almost any recipe! I took an enriched bread dough (450g of flour, 1 egg, salt, yeast, 120ml of milk, 120ml water) and made something akin to a chelsea bun. The filling was 50g rum, 50g maple syrup, 75g butter 75g sultanas, 100g brown sugar and 100g finely chopped peacans smeared liberally over the dough before it was rolled. Oh and two rashers of bacon. Because crispy bacon makes everything better (Jewish festivals excluded).

I soaked the sultanas in warm rum before melting the butter in the mix.

With the sugar added it became a sticky mess!

I toasted the pecans before candying them with the maple syrup. Not sure if the candying helped but it was fun.

Maple candied pecans. It was very hard not to eat the lot at this stage.

The bacon needed baking to supreme crispyness. That stage when not only is the fat crisp but the rasher itself crumbles.

Dough rolled out and coated - note the clear gap at the top to allow the twist to stick closed.

Rolled up and being marked in even size slices.

Stacked into a greased, lined roasting tin...

.. and left to rise.

Baked at 190 for 25-30 minutes.

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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Wires, wires everywhere...

One thing you may have noticed around here is that we like our gadgets and tech, and not just in the kitchen. Smartphone? Tick. Tablet? Tick. E-readers? Tick. Consequently we each have a charging station at our bedside that looks like this:

Wires, wires, everywhere. Plugs that are chunky and take up space, coupled with bedside lights and other odds and ends (cup of tea - very important), and it's getting unwieldy. It's a daily battle to keep each wire running in a different direction to stop things ending up in a tangled mess. We've long been debating ways of tackling this, and with the move in the last few years towards all gadgets charging from a USB socket we finally made a decision. USB sockets mounted in our bedside tables.

One thing you might not know is that I'm an Electronic Engineer. While my day job is in the world of software I don't like to pass up an opportunity to get my soldering iron out at the weekend. Add this to Joe's love of D.I.Y. electronics and this task was well within our remit. 

WARNING: Things from here on might get a little technical, though I'll try not to go too far. Feel free just to look at the pictures!

First things first. What does a USB socket look like and how does it work, you ask? There's a picture below for you and it consists of two slots for USB cables and a set of four pins. Two of the pins are for power and ground, the other two are for data signals. In general you only need to connect up the power and ground in order to charge your device, the data signals are used for transferring data to and from your computer. Some devices (<cough>apple<cough>) also need fixed voltages on the data inputs in order to charge. 

Unfortunately some of our gadgets fit that description so we needed to cater for them as well.

Joe set about cutting neat holes in the top of our cabinets to neatly fit each socket. This didn't take him too long with a trusty chisel. 

Next we set about prototyping the circuit we were planning on making to check that it would actually charge things. It was a good job we did this as it was only at this stage we discovered we needed the extra voltages on the data in pins. 

Here is the circuit diagram (should you wish to replicate this yourself): 

Then we soldered all of that in place. To keep things as small as possible we soldered the legs of the resistors to each other and then directly to the pins on the socket before isolating it all with electrical tape.

Finally we attached them to the tables using Polymorph and screws which have created a really solid mounting point. If you've not come across Polymorph before we'd recommend it - we use for all sorts of odds and ends. 

And that's it. So far we've completed step one - to get a USB socket mounted and powered from our normal charging plugs hidden away in a draw. Hopefully at some point we'll get these connected up to transformers, allowing us to plug in the bedside table as a whole and power not just the two sockets, but also a lamp each. But that's for later...

The finished article

Happily connected to, and changing, Joe's phone.

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