bookmark_borderQuestions Answered #4

In a desperate effort to gain some weird form of validation, I stole an idea for a blog post and begged my readers to ask me a question. And they did. The buggers. Now I have to answer them.

Question 4: Neil follows the lead set by Alex and suggests a title rather than a question (honestly, can’t you people read?) but as both were rather imaginative I’ll let it pass, THIS TIME. So, I’ll have a bash at ‘answering’;

The 15th Guinness, table top dancing, questionable headwear and other fun things to do at a blogmeet.

Actually this might be easier than I think. For starters I wasn’t drinking Guinness at the recent blogmeet, there was no table top dancing, nor questionable headwear so that leaves “other fun things to do at a blogmet”.

But what CAN you do at a blogmeet? Well there are some common topics that tend to crop up amongst all the other miscellany and whatnot.

First up there is usually a round of camera drooling. This can feature all or few of the attendees but always ALWAYS happens. Murmurs of f-stops, double bracketing and “nice lens cap” can be overhead at this point. No, I don’t know what they mean either.

After that there is usually some discussion about blogging. Whether it’s “adverts – good or bad?” or dealing with comment spam, or any number of possible related topics, there is ALWAYS some talk of the mechanics and technicalities of blogging.

Beyond that, well it’s difficult to say really as it largely depends on the people who attend. Life experiences and stories are regaled, alcohol is consumed (by some) and general merriment ensues. And then the really weird thing happens. Time zips forward, in a way that would live Einstein baffled, and it’s time to leave. That, for me at least, is the startling thing about blogmeets; you spend a worried hour or so getting to the venue, worrying that no-one will turn up, and as the first of many unfamiliar faces approach you nervously you wonder what on earth you are doing, meeting complete strangers in a local hotel (bloggers? doggers? the comparison was made at a previous blogmeet). All of a sudden it’s dark outside and people are leaving and all you can really remember is laughing a lot and having what is generally referred to as “a jolly good time”.

That’s the real reason blogmeets work. We all share the same base hobby but, unlike other hobbies, we have such a hugely diverse group of people involved. Meeting fellow bloggers offers the safety of a level of familiarity – we all do this weird blogging thing even if some of us aren’t really sure why – whilst allowing us to interact with people we might not normally get the chance to… unless you are the type who will happily chat to strangers on the bus. In fact, you probably are.

To summarise, and try and find and ending to this rambling nonsense (I’d have given up ages ago, so thanks for reading this far) I’d say that there is one fun thing to do at a blogmeet. Turn up.

bookmark_borderKit-Kat Kate

Kate is meeting her husband to go shopping, as she’s early she decides to go for a cup of coffee. At the counter she hums and haws over the cakes but ends up picking a two-finger Kit-Kat to have with her coffee. As she turns away from the checkout she realises that there aren’t many seats available so she wanders over to a bench and asks the man sitting there if she can sit down next to him.

He shuffles over a bit and says “no problem”.

Kate sits down, quickly checks her mobile before putting it back in her bag, and drinks a mouthful of coffee. She picks up the Kit-Kat, snaps off a finger and slowly starts to nibble at it. Suddenly the man reaches over, picks up the remaining Kit-Kat finger, and munches it down in two bites.

Kate is gobsmacked, but before she can say anything the man has gotten up, and wandered over to the counter where he orders a slice of cake. Without even glancing her direction, he goes and sits down at another table.

Kate watches this with amazement, who the hell does he think he is!! ‘I’ll show him!’ she thinks.

She snatches up her bag, marches over to his table where, without saying a word, she reaches out, picks up his slice of cake and takes a large bite. Her point made, she turns on her heel and marches out of the cafe.

Outside, she reaches into her bag to find her phone and, with a look that quickly switches from puzzlement to horror, she pulls out a two-finger Kit-Kat.


The leaves are turning, the nights are “fair drawing in”, and there is a chill on the wind. Winter jackets are extracted from the back of the wardrobe – what does that mean? My wardrobe has a pole running across it, not front to back – and are drawn tightly around goose-bumped bodies. I do like this part of autumn, same as I like the start of spring. I enjoy change.

And so, as October draws to a close, the kids start dressing up for Halloween. As they wander past the Christmas trees in shop windows, they stop to stare at the Guy Fawkes fireworks whizzing and banging overhead…

Hang on, that’s not right. Is it?

I realise that Halloween and Guy Fawkes are pretty close to each other on the calendar, but what is with the Christmas trees? It’s still October! Is this commercialisation getting worse or am I just noticing it more as I grow older (and yes, it’s probably a bit of both).

bookmark_borderAs good as a rest

I’ve a couple of days off when we get back from Spain in a couple of weeks time. I’m going to be making some changes to this site, including a new(ish) take on the design. I’m hoping to have cracked a semi-fluid (max-width controlled) layout, but don’t want to confirm that until I’ve tested it properly.

One change I’m considering is whether to switch to WordPress comments. I know a lot of people don’t care for the pop-up comments I currently use, but from a maintenance point of view it does save me worrying about comment spam as, essentially, I don’t get any; I’ve had less than 10 in the past year!

One thing that WILL definitely change, and that I’ve mentioned before, is that the “mini-blog” (really need to get a consistent name for that, miniblog, overflow, sidebar??) will be switching from Blogger to WordPress. Any suggestions on the best way/plugin to do that would be appreciated. From what I’ve seen it’ll mean a new category which is used for those posts, and a plugin or hack to pull only those posts out into the sidebar.

Anyway, consider this forewarned. Changes are afoot.

bookmark_borderI'm not blogging because…

… I’ve got a new camera to play with. A belated birthday present from my darling wife.

… I’m burning CDs for my father-in-law in Spain. Hopefully I can delete them afterwards but Louise has similar tastes in music so I fear that Shakin’ Stevens and Showaddywaddy will be appearing on my account at some point in the future.

… I’m finalising a letter of complaint to the Bank, to be posted tomorrow. Thanks to Lyle, hans and Blue Witch for their help.

… I’m waiting up until midnight when our cheque finally clears, so I can shift the funds about where they need to go. OK, so I could just do this tomorrow but I’ve waited this long and it’s getting done ASAP.

… I’m trying to dry out after my run this evening – chucking it down it was and I loved every damp soggy (twenty) minute(s) of it! I’ve not got the Nike+ setup yet though, gonna try that on holiday I think. Yes, I’m going running whilst on holiday.

… I need to remember to get my suit dry cleaned. Er… just because.

… I really should’ve hung the new blinds in the kitchen. We bought them about three weeks ago and they’ve slowly migrated from the kitchen, to the dining area, and finally upstairs to my ‘office’.

… I’m typing up answers to those questions from a while back so that I’ll have stuff here for you to read, whilst I’m lazing in the sun on the roof terrace next week. Chilled beverage in hand, trashy thriller cast aside, iPod blaring out “Best of Bananarama” (which was the first CD I ever bought).

Of course this post is completely usurping my non-blogging. But we’ll ignore that.

bookmark_borderRed Pesto Chicken Pasta

I mentioned this dish on Monday and, as she asked so nicely, here is my recipe for Red Pesto Chicken Pasta. Although I’m sure you guessed that already…

First things first though, my brother-in-law made this for us a couple of weeks back, he’s a wonderful chef and I have completely and utterly stolen this dish from him. Sorry Paul!

What you need
2 chicken breasts
Penne pasta, enough for two
Red Pesto
Single cream
Parmesan (or any grana padano which is usually MUCH cheaper..)
Adjust portions for your own needs.

What you will use
1 pot – large enough to hold your pasta
1 frying pan – large enough to hold the chicken AND pasta combined, preferably a straight sided pan. A large cooking pot will suffice.
1 sharp knife, the sharper the better.
1 stirring implement… er… a wooden spoon or spatula.

How to make it
Firstly, get your pasta on to boil. You can just follow the instructions on the side of the pack, remembering to only add the salt once the water is boiling, and if you add a touch of oil along with the pasta it’ll help stop the pasta tubes from sticking to each other.

Now, slice up the chicken breasts into even sized pieces. I prefer smaller mouth-sized strips just a little bigger than the penne pasta, I think it helps give an even sauce coverage.

Aside: The topic of sauce coverage is of some debate in my house. I prefer to have a fine coating of sauce, lightly coating the pasta, and any other ingredients, so as to subtly slide over the palate. My wife takes the “sauce and some pasta” approach, casting the tubes of pasta adrift in a sea of passata at a moments notice (I shouldn’t be too nasty though as she makes dinner far more often than I do). Feel free to tweak this recipe to your own sauce preferences, but if you are of the latter persuasion don’t bother inviting me round!

Now, where was I? Ohh yes, you’ve got the pasta onto boil, so let’s cook the chicken.

In your frying pan, add a dash of oil, bring up to heat and add the chicken. Ideally you want a nice colour on both sides, but I’m sure you can all manage to fry some chicken. You can, of course, grill the chicken if you prefer. As long as it is cooked and there are no pink bits.

Depending on your timing skills, you may find that the chicken is ready before the pasta. Not to worry, just take it off the heat as we’ll be warming everything through before serving.

Check your pasta to see if it is ready. Some people like to throw bits of pasta at the wall to see if it sticks (although not sure what that tells them, other than that they should really clean their walls more often), but I generally prefer to actually bite into a bit to see if it’s to my liking. Al dente or whatever you prefer (although I’d suggest that ‘soggy mush’ means you’ve overcooked the pasta).

Once it’s ready, drain the pasta, and add some red pesto.

This, again, is entirely to taste. I’d suggest that you don’t want much more than a couple of teaspoons, just enough to give a nice soft covering. You should NOT have a sauce, the pesto should just cling to and pasta.

Once you are happy with the amount of pesto in your pasta, empty the pan out into your frying pan and mix it with the chicken.

Now, swirl in a dash or three of single cream (I dunno, maybe a tablespoon?) again don’t add too much, we don’t want a runny sauce! You are just adding enough so that it softens the colour of the pesto without washing it all off the pasta.

Heat gently for a minute or so, then serve topped with parmesan shavings, and possibly a nice Chablis. Enjoy!

serve and enjoy

What else can you add?
The main flavour of the dish is chicken and basil, the tomato in the pesto is very subtle, so from that simple base you could add other ingredients to give it a little extra ‘zing’. Maybe some finely chopped onion or a little chilli to give it a bit more kick, or some toasted almonds or pine nuts? Or for a more tomato-ey flavour how about some sun-blushed tomatoes?