Making butter

Friday 24th April 2015

If you've never made butter at home, I'd really recommend it. The whole process takes ten minutes, and it's magical when the cream suddenly becomes butter. You can make it by hand if you like, but it's a lot quicker with a blender.

I made a short video of it, sorry about the dodgy camera work:

Here's what you'll need to make 275g butter:

  • A blender with a whisk attachment
  • 600ml double cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 litre ice-cold water

Put the cream into the blender and turn it on. After 3-4 minutes it will become whipped cream, and you might need to scrape it back into the bowl. A couple of minutes more blending and it suddenly changes texture into yellow butter with a watery buttermilk. Pour out the buttermilk into a container, it's great for making cornbread and pancakes, or you can just drink it.

Now you need to wash the rest of the buttermilk out of the butter to increase its life span. Add a cup of ice cold water and knead the butter with a spatula. The water will quickly go cloudy. Pour the water out and repeat twice or thrice until the water remains clear.

Add 1 tsp of salt and mix well into the butter. The less you handle the butter the better as it will melt, so I found a pair of butter pats in an antique shop which allow you to work it without warming it up.

You could also mix in some herbs, I used thyme and garlic which is perfect for spreading on toast for a snack.

Once you've got it into the right shape, refrigerate and enjoy!

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Mobile-free Monday

Friday 17th April 2015

I often find myself compulsively checking my phone. I know it's not healthy, so I thought I'd try turning it off for 24 hours to see if I could cope.

Some days I might check Facebook twenty times, like a nervous tic, to see if friends have posted anything exciting or liked my stuff. And I know it's not just me, some friends are constantly on their phones while we're out together or even just sitting about chatting, which seems pretty rude but I know I do it too!

So I turned my phone off before I went to bed on Sunday night, and didn't turn in back on again until Tuesday morning. Here's the diary of that day.

Monday

5:00 am Woke up to find the dog on the bed, taking up more than his fair share of the space again. Couldn't get back to sleep, and normally I'd put my headphones on and listen to a podcast on my phone. Lay there for a while cursing this experiment then fell asleep.

9:00 am Got up and instinctively reached for my phone to listen to some music while I had a wash. Washed in silence instead, which was eerie.

9:30 am Had to ask Kat to check my calendar on her phone because I'd totally forgotten what we were doing. Started making notes on how my mobile-free Monday was going, and I had to learn to write with a pen again. My handwriting was even worse than I remembered.

11:00am Went out for a walk with friends who were all on time, luckily. Kept reflexively checking my pocket to make sure my phone was there, and my heart skipped a beat when it wasn't. Every half hour or so I wished I'd brought a camera with me to capture this beautiful walk, but then relaxed into it and just enjoyed the view.

2:30pm Tried and failed to do mental arithmetic (if 217g is 12% of the total weight, what is the remaining 88%?) and ended up using the calculator on Kat's phone. Is that cheating? All afternoon I had a vague sense that I was missing out on lots of exciting Facebook posts or messages from people inviting me to wild parties.

8:00pm By the evening, not having a mobile felt natural and really rather pleasant. Started reading a book and became totally engrossed in it.

10:30pm Decided that I might do this every Monday.

 

Tuesday

I turned my phone back on in the morning, and one solitary text message was waiting for me. Nothing exciting happened, I didn't miss out on any parties and the world didn't stop revolving.

I finished the book at lunchtime and started another one.

 

The next Monday

I thought I'd do it again the next Monday, just to see what happened, and I didn't miss the phone at all. The only problem was trying to arrange a date with friends, because I didn't have access to my calendar and I had no idea what's in it. My handwriting was just as bad as last week.

 

I'm not sure I'm going to do this every Monday, but it's given me a new perspective and made me think before I reflexively reach for the phone to entertain me in every moment of downtime.

Have you ever tried a mobile-free day?

 

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Post boxes of Lostwithiel

Friday 10th April 2015

When I started writing this blog, I always wanted to feature posts by other people. Here's the first one by John Pegg, a quirky gallery of all of the post boxes in Lostwithiel.

If you've got an idea you'd like to share, get in touch!

A rather tasteful post box incorporated into the main sorting office window of the main post office on Queen street, I'd say circa 1935.
Quite a nice GVR box located on the main road into lostwithiel opposite St Winnow School.
All the family frozen in awe at the amazing and interesting GVR box located at the bottom end of Fore street, by the Co-op.
A jaw droppingly unbelievably rare EVIIR box (1902 -11) cemented into a wall up Bodmin hill. You just don't realise how rare these are . It should be listed.
Well situated GVR box on a wall of the 'Old Post Office' on Grenville road, by the Boer War peace memorial.
This is a fairly common GVR (1911 - 35) located near the entrance to Scrations lane, on Edgcumbe road.
A standard EIIR box situated just below Lostwithiel School, Bodmin Hill.
Another standard EIIR box located on the corner of Coffeelake, on the Lerryn road.
Bonjour... another EIIR box situated on Cott Road, adjacent to the entrance to Barn Park.
Rose Hill / Summmer Street - a standard GVR box.
Standard EIIR at Maudlin, which is within the borough of Lostwithiel so counts as a post box in this category.

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The i-Spy Book Of Life

Friday 3rd April 2015

Part of the reason I write this blog is to motivate myself to finish projects, but another reason is to score points in my very own i-Spy Book Of Life. Gamification could have been invented for me.

The i-Spy Book Of Life a private record of my ambitions and achievements, in the style of the i-Spy books that I loved as a kid. It's split into categories like Sport, Practical skills and Home life. Each category contains ambitions, for items I haven't yet completed, or achievements that I have.

I assign points for each item which I score when I complete the item. The Sport category for example contains items for completing a triathlon (2 points), getting my private pilot's licence (20pts) and learning to paraglide (2pts, achieved in 2005).

The scoring system is based on roughly two full days of effort for one point, more for harder tasks or where I need a bit more motivation and less for easier items.

Some categories read like a bucket list, for example the Geography category contains a long list of places I want to visit: The Arctic (5pts plus a bonus 2 for seeing the Northern Lights), The Taj Mahal (1pt) and The Grand Canyon (1pt) are top of the list.

A number of items reward learning new skills: making glass, cheese, soap, salt and beer (not all at the same time) are all 1 point each.

Some of the items are simple to achieve: going on a hen night scores me one point, and one point every time I fix something on the car myself.

Others are a bit more involved: I score 25 points for living in a foreign country for a year, and I got 21 points for wearing braces on my teeth for 18 months.

A few of them are really hard to achieve: I get a hundred points for living to 100, and 500 points for going into space!

Two important things that I decided when I started making it are:

  1. I don't have a record of the total number of points I've scored. Each item in the book is separate and to combine them together would be like giving myself an overall score in life, which I'm keen avoid.
  2. I don't want to make it public. Obviously I'm telling you that it exists, but I want to be able to put in private items, and I don't want other people judging my ambitions.

What would you put in your i-Spy Book Of Life? Leave a comment below.

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