Stillness Speaks – Jo Blankenburg

I never go looking for a particular kind of music [to write by]. It’s always a case of knowing it when I hear it. That said, I have favourite Indie composers whose work resonates with me and often puts me in the mood to write.

Jo Blankenburg is one such composer, and his album ‘Elysium’ was at the heart of Miira, book 1 of Innerscape. This time around, the minor keys and slightly syncopated rhythm of his track, Stillness Speaks, is helping me find the mood for Death, a very different kind of character.

cheers
Meeks


Red tea and Gluten Free Orange cake

The tea is ‘Blood Orange’ by Red Seal – appropriate, right? And the cake is my VERY EASY homemade, gluten free orange cake:

This pandemic has highlighted the need to ‘make do’ and not waste anything, so when I found myself with more navel oranges than we could eat [I made the mistake of buying a 3kg bag], the Offspring said, “Why don’t you make an orange cake. We haven’t had one of those in years.”

Seemed like a good idea until I dug out the recipe and stared at the bit that said ‘take nine eggs….’ Nine eggs? If I’d been smart, I would have made a half quantity, but you know how it is.

Anyway, apart from needing a lots of eggs and almond meal, the recipe is so ridiculously easy I decided to share. Enjoy. 🙂

Home Made Orange Cake

Ingredients for cake

  • 3 oranges
  • 9 eggs
  • 350gm of caster sugar
  • 350gm of almond meal

Ingredients for Orange Syrup

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 orange – zested, peeled and segmented

How to make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to fan forced 180 C
  2. Grease and line a 20 cm square cake pan with grease proof [parchment] paper. As I don’t have a pan of the right size I used a fairly large rectangular baking dish instead. The cake won’t rise a lot but it will rise a little so just make sure there’s a bit of room at the top.
  3. Place 3 oranges in a saucepan, cover with water, cover with a lid and bring to the boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the oranges are soft.
  5. Discard the water and allow the oranges to cool.
  6. If you have a food processor, blend the oranges [skins and all!] until they form a coarse ‘paste’. It’s actually more like a thick porridge. Set aside.
  7. Cream the eggs and sugar until light an fluffy. I have an electric beater so I’m not sure if it’s possible to beat the egg mixture using a hand one. Good luck?
  8. Add the almond meal and the orange paste and stir until well mixed.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan [see 2 above] and place in the middle of the pre-heated oven [see 1 above] for approximately 45 minutes.

How to make the orange syrup

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Mine was more like about 10 minutes but it didn’t seem to matter. Just make sure you don’t end up with toffee instead of sugar syrup!
  2. Take the syrup off the heat and set aside.
  3. Pour a little boiling water over the orange zest [the zest is the orange part – make sure it doesn’t have any of the white pith as this can be bitter]. Let it sit for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water. The recipe says to repeat this step but I didn’t and the syrup was fine. Your choice.
  4. Place the zest and orange segments into the syrup and allow to cool. Ahem, I forgot about the segments so I only put the zest into the syrup. Seemed fine. 🙂

The recipe says to serve the cake with a drizzle of the syrup and some orange segments. Silly me, I left the cake in the pan and just poured the syrup over the whole cake. Worked fine except the cake now sticks to the parchment paper. -sigh-

Next time I’ll take the cake out of the pan, remove the paper, put the cake back into the pan and then pour the syrup over. Live and learn. 🙂

And for those who don’t know how to segment an orange so there’s none of the white pitch, here’s my method:

  1. Cut a thin-ish slice off the top and bottom of the orange so you have a flat surface to work with:

2. Hold the knife at an angle [as shown above] and slice off a section of the peel, making sure to take off the white pith as well.

3. Once you’ve cut all around the top half of the orange, flip it over and do the same with the bottom half:

4. Once all the peel is off, do NOT cut the orange in half. You’re likely to get some of the pith in the middle, and you don’t want that. Instead, slice off one of the ‘cheeks’ of the orange by cutting about 1/3 of an inch off centre:

Now you can cut the cheek into segments. Repeat for the other side and the two narrow portions on each side. Ta dah, you have a segmented orange!

Some people may have noticed that I haven’t included any pretty porcelain with this post. I did think about it, but didn’t feel like washing up by hand so…dishwasher proof dishes only today. 😀

Enjoy,
Meeks


The Ferryman & the Sea Witch – a review

I just submitted this review on Amazon:

The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by [D. Wallace Peach]

The Merrow are creatures of the sea – sirens or mermaids if you will – but like humans, they like making bargains. Unlike humans, they believe in keeping them.

At the start of the story, it seems as if the Sea Witch, the ruler of the Merrow, is the villain of the piece. She struck a bargain with the Ferryman, and the two countries on either side of the ocean trench that is home to the Merrow. According to that bargain, she will allow the Ferryman to sail his ship across the trench safely, but only if he sacrifices a human life before each crossing.

Monstrous and cruel. There is no other way of looking at that bargain, yet the machinations of the two rulers on either side of the trench are just as monstrous and cruel. But they only keep their promises under duress. And they test the boundaries to see how much they can get away with.

Honestly, by the climax of the story you can’t help wondering who are the real monsters – the merrow or the humans.

Cast against this dark background are three and a half very likeable characters – Callum the Ferryman, Daylin his estranged wife, Airlee their daughter, and Grier, a bit of a rogue who kind of steals your heart even though he’s only the half character. I can’t say more without giving the story away, but I can say that it is extremely well written, fast paced yet quite beautiful, and the characters literally jump off the page at you.

From start to finish, ‘The Ferryman and the Sea Witch’ is a compelling read that will stay with you long after The End. A fantasy for the thinking woman, or man. Very highly recommended.

I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say I gave The Ferryman 5/5 stars. If you love rich, finely woven fantasy then you really must give the Ferryman a read. I promise you won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ferryman-Sea-Witch-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B095J5X8DW/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Ferryman+and+the+Sea+Witch&qid=1624100413&sr=8-1

Oh, and in case anyone wonders, I provide the entire link so you can be sure of where you’re being sent before you get there. I know I’m paranoid, but with billions of passwords hacked recently, you really can’t be too careful.

Have a wonderful weekend,

-hugs-
Meeks


My first how-to video! Kinda sorta…

In a recent post, I wrote about my search for a screen capture app and showed you two short videos I made using Bandicam. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that I was not using a free app. I was using a demo version with severe limitations. I was tempted to buy the app, but the price was a little too high for my liking.

After some more searching, I discovered RecMaster which combines dead easy screen capture with a [very] basic video editor. I bought a year’s subscription for $19.99 USD and made a video…but when I inserted it into this post, I was horrified by how hard it was to read!

The problem is two fold. First, the default Windows fonts used in titles and menus are so small that when you reduce them even further to a standard video format, they become impossible to read. Then I discovered that WordPress makes them even smaller. Vimeo does have a fullscreen setting:

Click to toggle full screen on and off

But I worried that people would not know to turn it on. So I fiddled with the Windows screen settings. They are now much too big for normal use, but they’re just about right for a video…on Youtube. Here on WordPress, the size is still impossibly small.

I was going to update all my how-to posts, especially the self-publishing ones, by adding videos of important bits, but now I’m not sure I’ll bother. Or maybe I’ll bite the bullet and get a Youtube account.

Do you use the fullscreen mode in either Youtube or Vimeo? Is it more trouble than it’s worth? Should I keep experimenting and make the default Windows fonts even bigger?

Anyway, the video below was recorded using the larger fonts. To me it’s still horribly squint-worthy. What do you think. Please be honest as I don’t want to waste my time making videos that no one will watch.

How to change image compression and resolution in Word 16

Many thanks,
Meeks


Innovation, art & craft [for fun]

I’ve reblogged articles from My OBT before, and they all showcase beautiful things, but this one delighted the child in me:

Somewhere, in a quaint little village in Mumbai, India, lives an couple who make some of the most darling, beautiful, needful paper thingies I’ve ever seen. Welcome to Amit and Misha Gudibanda’s Sky Goodies. The pair designs darling little paper things in their shared studio and shop “in the giant metropolis that is Mumbai, in India.” They then digitize them and sell them as downloadable PDFs so you can print them and make them yourself!

https://myonebeautifulthing.com/2021/06/16/sky-goodies/

The video below shows how to assemble a ‘Masala Chai Kettle & Cups’…from paper.

And best of all, you can download these lovely craftables without having to worry about Covid! Enjoy.

Meeks


ESO, Lion’s Cradle and Bandicam

The video above is the first part of an ongoing walkthrough of a house I built in Elder Scrolls Online, ESO for short. This house is probably the most ambitious thing I’ve built in-game, and you’ll see why when I show you what the original looks like:

Thank god a friend hadn’t built anything on her version of the house yet so I could get a ‘before’ video.

As you can see, the estate appears to be quite small, with just a single room house, a below deck area and a wide deck out front. But…this house has the best view of any house in ESO. So I built out [from the fence] and down as far as the envelope would allow.

In coming videos I’ll show views from the new areas so you can see how much extra space you can make by building out. For my money, Lion’s Cradle is an unsung gem.

And now a bit about the process of creating these videos in the first place. Let’s just say it’s been fraught. In the last three days I’ve tried out:

  • Shadowplay video capture [nVidia GEForce Experience]
  • Democreator [Wondershare]
  • Movavi Gecata
  • OBS
  • Bandicam
  • and Ease-Fab video converter

Shadowplay uses the nVidia graphics card [if you have one] to create great videos, but because they’re created with variable framerates, I couldn’t upload them to anything. It may be possible to make them compatible with Vimeo etc, but I couldn’t work out how, so, no go.

Democreator I couldn’t get to work, can’t remember why. Again a no.

Movavi was okay but I simply don’t have the money to buy software that I may only use once in a blue moon. So, no.

OBS…this is open source software and the most popular app around at the moment, but I had major problems with it. For starters, my operating system [Win 7] is not supported by the app, but I read that I could still use it. So I tried. I could get a screen capture going, of sorts, but the hotkeys didn’t work so I had to record manually from within the app. As a result, I had junk at the beginning and the end. Also I couldn’t get it to record in mp4. So then I tried Ease-Fab to convert it to mp4 but the result was…ick.

And finally, I tried Bandicam. Almost fell off my chair when it worked first time, straight away. I had to experiment with different resolutions, but I think the ones in the videos above are a reasonable trade-off between quality and size. Plus my pc is oldish so it’s not that great with super high resolution.

If you’re using Windows 10 you’ll probably find that most of these apps work better simply because your pc is likely to be more powerful. But…if you use Win 7 like me, it’s nice to know that we still have options.

And finally, to salve my conscience, I have to say that learning how to do all this will come in handy as I try to create video tutorials. That, however, is still some way off as I need equipment and a video editor, none of which I currently have. But knowledge never goes astray, right?

Have a great weekend,

Meeks


Jo Blankenburg – Bitter Sweet

This track came out in 2018, but I’ve only just discovered it. Blankenburg has to be one of my absolute favourite Indie composers of all time:

Enjoy. 🙂

Meeks


She’s a monster – by Adam Taylor

I read the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood a long time ago, and loved it in the way you love something so horrifying you can’t stop reading.

I knew there was a TV adaptation, but I’ve never wanted to watch it, so this music is completely new to me. And I love it. I’ll be listening to ‘She’s a monster’ a lot today as I write the scene in which Hands discovers that it’s been betrayed. 🙂

If you’re still enjoying your weekend, have fun. If, like us, you’re yawning your way through Monday morning…take heart, the sun’s shining!

cheers
Meeks


We’ve got this, Melbourne!

To all the people of Greater Melbourne – we’re almost half way through.

We can do this because we’ve done worse. Much worse.

Just like Black Saturday, no one else really understands. Only other Victorians do. That makes all of us one family. We look after our own. That is our ‘gold bloody standard’!

I love you.
Meeks


An excerpt from Kahti

Before I begin, I’d like to apologise for being MIA lately. I discovered, or should I say, re-discovered that I write best first thing in the morning, when this ageing brain is still fresh.

As a result, social media has taken a back seat. But I’m happier than I’ve been for quite a while because the second book of Vokhtah is happening again. 🙂

So, what have I been up to? For starters, I went back and re-wrote the character of Death. Without meaning to, I’d made it too, um, nice. That’s the awful trap when writing about a race that’s varying degrees of sociopath.

Anyway, Death is now more like one of our corporate CEOs – not totally bad, but definitely driven by expediency rather than empathy.

In the following shortish excerpt, the Master Smith knows something that could get Death killed.

Enjoy!

From Kahti, book 2 of Vokhtah – not quite gospel yet but very close. 🙂

Early the next day, Death made time to visit the storage caverns and pick up three small gourds of pippa juice. That night, it shared two of the gourds with its escort but drank only enough to wet its lips. Once the second gourd had been opened, it excused itself and retired to its pallet, leaving the Messengers to finish the pippa juice on their own. Face turned towards the wall, it listened as they laughed and joked, their voices gradually growing more raucous as their speech slurred.

At some point, the Messengers must have decided they could stand guard sitting down, because when Death eventually crept out to check on them, it found them both slumped against the wall, fast asleep.

Knowing firstlight could not be far off, Death quickly opened the last remaining gourd of pippa juice and poured a generous pinch of the yellow powder inside. A quick shake and it was done.

More relieved than it cared to admit, Death returned to its pallet and fell asleep with the gourd cradled in its arms. The next morning, it rose early and headed off to the forge, to fulfil its promise to the Healer from the South. As before, its escort stayed out in the passage, a safe distance from the noise and heat.

The old Smith accepted the gourd with pleasure and took a healthy swallow before promising to give the Healer’s chain a higher priority.

“Thanking,” Death said. “Healer being difficult and expecting Yellow to intervene!”

“Pah!” the old Smith cried, shaking its head in disbelief. “Healer being too long from Settlement!”

“Thinking so too,” Death replied as it watched the old iVokh take another long swallow. By the time it left, the gourd was empty. Smithing was thirsty work.

Death was in the feeding cavern a few days later when it heard two Healers at a nearby table gossiping about the death of the old Smith.

“Being sick?” one of the Healers asked as it opened the cage by its side and reached in for a fresh akaht.

“Ki, just old,” the other opined as it bit down on its own meal. “Although some saying not being well day before.”

“S’so? What happening?”

“Going to sleep and not rising.”

“A good death then.”

Over at the next table, Death silently agreed. It had always liked the old Smith, and was glad its end had been peaceful.

Have a great Tuesday, Australia! And good night to all those in the Northern Hemisphere. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


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