This is another Offspring special, a basic shortbread recipe with added chunks of Plaistowe dark cooking chocolate. My contribution was the milk. 😀
The photo is a little washed out because it was taken at night with a flash. The shortbread actually looks more like this:
For those who have never tasted shortbread before, it’s an odd combination of dry, crumbly texture that literally melts in your mouth. It’s very easy to make and we love it. If you want to try it yourself, the recipe follows:
Traditional Shortbread [with added chocolate]
Note: the recipe is on the back of the McKenzie’s rice flour packet, and you will need rice flour in addition to ordinary wheat flour.
225 gm of plain flour [all purpose flour], sifted,
115 gm of rice flour, sifted
115 gm of caster sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
225 gm of unsalted, room temperature butter [do NOT use spreadable butter as the oil and/or process used changes how the butter works in recipes].
about 1/4 cup good quality cooking chocolate, chopped into smallish ‘chunks’. We used Plaistowe cooking chocolate because it’s actually good enough to eat on its own so long as you don’t like your chocolate very sweet.
Pre-heat oven to 150 C. This is a slow oven.
Grease your baking tray [we didn’t, we lined it with baking paper instead].
Combine both flours, sugar and salt in a bowl.
Rub in butter and knead gently until a smooth dough forms.
Add the chopped chocolate and gently mix into the dough.
The recipe says to transfer the dough to a floured surface and ‘shape as required’. That basically means you can cut pretty shapes out of it. We don’t do any of that. We place the dough directly onto the baking tray and spread it out by hand or with the back of a spoon until it’s about the right ‘depth’. Shortbread should not be thick! 1/2 an inch is more than thick enough.
Prick the dough with a fork. We also ‘score’ the surface lightly with a knife. This makes cutting the cooked shortbread easier.
Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a light, golden brown. The end.
A tip from us: leave the shortbread on the tray and gently cut along the scored lines while the shortbread is still a bit soft and pliable. The shortbread will firm up as it cools. Cutting it once it’s cold and crumbly is…not very successful.
And there you have it. Another day, another treat. If you have favourite treats of your own, please link to them in comments. Oh, and if you have favourite cups or dishes to go with the treats, please link them as well.
The following how-to uses the WordPress interface [as at July, 2020], not the old Admin. Dashboard. When you’re done, you’ll end up with a small, slideshow of images that can be quite effective at catching the eye of casual visitors.
You will need at least one sidebar in your theme – i.e. a visible area next to or below the spot at which your blog posts normally appear. I have two sidebars on my theme and they both appear to the right of the blog post area:
My particular theme also allows me to have a ‘footer’ bar, and this is where I’m going to put my slideshow.
Next, you will need to have images to place in your slideshow. Yes, obvious, I know, but you will need to:
edit the images so they’re all the same size – it looks better,
upload the required images to the WordPress media library before you begin creating the gallery.
Once all the images have been uploaded* to your media library, you’re ready to begin:
If you are in Reader, click the tab for ‘My Sites’ [top left of your WordPress screen],
From the list of available options in My Sites, click ‘Design’,
Design has two further options – Customize and Themes. Click ‘Customize’,
From the Customize options click ‘Widgets’,
You should now see the areas that can take Widgets**
As mentioned earlier, my particular theme has three such areas and they look like this:
Finally, select the area in which you want your gallery [Widget] to appear. For me it was ‘Footer Widget Area’.
You should now see a button for ‘+ Add a Widget’. Click it to be taken to a list of available widgets [listed in alphabetical order]:
Scroll down the list until you reach ‘Gallery’. Select it. You should now see the gallery widget, ready for you to use:
Type a title for your gallery [because you can have more than one], and then click the ‘Add Images’ area as shown above [big red arrow].
You should now see the images in your Media Library. Unfortunately, there is no helpful message to tell you what to do next. A simple ‘Select an image’ would have been so helpful…ahem.
Click the first image you want to include in your gallery. Don’t worry about the order because you can change that later.
On the right of the library of images you will now see a box for adding information about the image you have chosen. Type in the title and…
DO. NOT. CLICK. ‘Add a New Gallery’ ! ! ! This is not how you complete the selection of your first image! ! !
Okay, I’m really going to get grumpy here with the WordPress developers. Not giving any clues as to where bloggers are supposed to go next is just asking for trouble. Most people are not mind readers. Really poor design.
To complete the selection of the first image and go on to select a second image…just click another image. Yes, I know, about as intuitive as a kick to the head.
Continuing clicking images until you have selected all the images you want to place in your slideshow. At this point, mine looked like this:
Down the bottom of the screenshot you can see the six images I chose. The bit on the right shows details for the last image I chose. I added a title for clarity, but you will get a chance to add a caption later. Last but not least, there is the blue ‘Create a new gallery’ button. Now you can click it.
The next screen will be the ‘Edit Gallery’ page. Here you can re-order the sequence of images by dragging and dropping them into the correct position. You can also add captions to each image and change the size of the image [Thumbnail is the default]:
I only added two captions to these images, but I did move the image for The Vintage Egg to the end of the list.
When I was happy with the sequence of images, I clicked the small down arrow next to ‘Type’ to show the available display options [the default is Thumbnail Grid]. Down the bottom of the list is ‘Slideshow’. Click it and then click the blue ‘Insert gallery’ button as shown.
Almost done! You should now be looking at a preview screen. As my gallery is in the footer, I had to scroll all the way to the bottom to see it working:
If the preview doesn’t work as expected, click the ‘Edit Gallery’ button to the left of the preview. If everything does work as expected, click ‘Done’ [to save the gallery].
Finally, click ‘Save Changes’ to save the whole lot.
To exit from the customize area, click either the back button or the ‘X’ button [to the left of Save Changes].
Apologies for making this such a long how-to, but I wanted it to be suitable for even the newest blogger. And some of the interface was down right murky.
Have fun, Meeks
p.s. this post was created using the block editor. To get the * asterisks down the bottom to show as asterisks [instead of automatically beginning a bullet point list], I had to press the spacebar a couple of times. Apparently this ‘told’ the block editor that I wanted to stay in the paragraph block. -rolls eyes-
* Please contact me in Comments if you need help getting to this step.
** Widgets are small ‘apps’ that you can insert into your blog to make it work the way you want it to. Widgets can include anything from images and buttons to galleries and links. Widgets can only be placed in certain areas of your blog. Those areas will depend upon the type of theme you chose when you first created your blog.
The title of this post should have been ‘Coffee and Cake’, but we made the Triple Choc Chocolate biscuits last night, and it was too late for coffee, so…
Ahem. The Offspring and I adore these biscuits because they really are made with three lots of chocolate. There’s cocoa and melted chocolate in the biscuit dough, and then there are lumps of chocolate in each biscuit as well [the recipe is at the end of this post].
You can see how gooey and melted and divine those lumps of chocolate are here:
That’s why these biscuits are at their most divine straight from the oven. They are delicious cold as well, but not quite as delicious. 🙂
Now, a word about sweetness. If you love super sweet, commercial biscuits, you will not love these triple choc biscuits. There is sugar in the biscuit dough, but not a huge amount, and the chocolate is unsweetened, dark chocolate. The cocoa is unsweetened, Dutch cocoa as well so the overall effect is not overly sweet.
There, you have been warned. For everyone else, I hope you enjoy the following recipe. 🙂
[We only ever make half quantities at a time so I’ve provided the cut down quantities in brackets. They’re not exactly half quantities, but they work.]
1 1/4 cups plain or all purpose flour [1/2a cup and a ‘bit’] 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch cocoa [1 tablespoon ] 1 teaspoon baking powder [1/2 a teaspoon] 3/4 of a teaspoon salt [1/4 teaspoon] 500 gm good quality bittersweet dark chocolate [250 gm] 125 gm unsalted butter [60 gm] 1/2 cup sugar [1/4 cup sugar] 3 large eggs [add 1 whole egg, then crack a second egg into a bowl, beat it and add half of the beaten egg only]
Preheat oven to 180o C or 356 F [make it a little less if using fan forced]
Line a large baking sheet with baking paper
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt
Melt 3/4 of the dark chocolate [about 190 gm if making half quantities] with the butter in a small saucepan – don’t let it burn!
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the sugar [I let the mixture cool a tiny bit before the next step]
Stir in the eggs, one at a time until well mixed
Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined
Cover the dough with cling wrap and chill for up to 1 hour
Remove teaspoon sized balls of dough and place on the baking sheet, about 3.5 cm or 2 inches apart [the balls will expand a lot as they bake]
Push small [or larger] chips of the dark chocolate into each biscuit [we like big gooey lumps so tend to use 1 large piece in instead of 2 or 3 smaller ones]
Bake in the middle of a hot oven for 10 minutes or until just done. I set a timer for 8 minutes, turn the sheet, and reset the timer for another 2 minutes. The biscuits should feel slightly squishy to the touch. This is what you want as they will harden as they cool. If you leave them in for even 2 minutes longer, they’ll be hard and biscuity instead of soft and chewy.
Allow the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. That’s the official line. The unofficial line is that you can eat them as soon as they don’t burn your fingers….
Have a wonderful day, and don’t eat the Triple Choc Biscuits all at once!
I don’t actually like the taste of sourdough, sorry, but I absolutely loved this Youtube demonstration of how to create your own sourdough starter.
You know how I’m obsessed with teaching ‘absolute beginners’? Well, this video how-to is literally the best I have seen. It’s clear, perfectly paced and step-by-step, with no small-but-vital bits of knowledge taken for granted.
Seriously, if sourdough is your thing, this video could change your life.
To begin, move to the back matter of your document and click the mouse at the point where you want the Table of Figures to appear.
Next, open the References tab and click Insert Table of Figures:
You should now be looking at the Table of Figures dialog box:
As you can see, the default settings are to:
Show page numbers
Right align page numbers
and ‘Caption label: Figure’
If you are happy with these default settings, click the OK button.
Note: if you have created different kinds of captions – for example, one for ‘Figures’ and a second one for ‘Tables’ – clicking the down arrow next to ‘Caption label’ will allow you to choose a different label. In this way you can generate a separate table for each label.
Unlike the Table of Contents, there is no specific command that allows you to delete the Table of Figures.
To delete the whole Table of Figures, you will have to manually select the entire table as if you were selecting a paragraph of text.
Note: simply clicking inside the Table of Figures will not work.
Once you have manually selected the whole table, press the Delete key on the keyboard. The Table of Figures will now be deleted, but the captions underneath the actual images still remain so you can reinstate a Table of Figures at any time.
This is the last of the graphics related how-tos, but the defunct ‘How to Print Non Fiction…’ also contains advanced help on Indexes etc. If anyone would like me to post this information, please let me know in comments.
Although it’s not strictly necessary to include a Table of Contents [TOC] in a paperback novel, Word does offer two automatic TOC styles that are very easy to use. Both are based on the Heading styles, so if you used Heading 1 on your Chapter headings, most of the work has already been done.
As well as being easy to use, Word’s automatic TOC styles are also easy to update – for example if you add or remove significant amounts of text from the document.
Next, click at the end of the Copyright Page and insert a Page Break as shown:
The cursor will now be positioned at the top of the new page.
Open the ‘References’ Tab and click Table of Contents:
You should now see a drop down list of options. At the top of the list are previews of the pre-set TOC styles. At the bottom are four further options. The fourth option is only available with Custom Table of Contents.
Click either AutomaticTable1 or AutomaticTable2 to select it.
Note: if you generate a Table of Contents before formatting the page numbering of your book, Word will use its automatic numbering system – i.e. counting the Title page as ‘1’ – for the Table of Contents. After you have formatted the page numbering, you will need to update the TOC to reflect the correct page numbers.
Click inside the Table of Contents to select the entire table.
Next, open the References tab and click the option for Table of Contents.
On the Table of Contents menu, click the Remove Table of Contents option:
This will remove both the TOC entries and the table itself.
Note: You can click ‘Remove Table of Contents’ without first selecting the TOC entries, but this will cause a Continuous Section Break to be left behind. Not only will this section break clutter up the file with unnecessary commands and functions, it may also interfere with manual section breaks inserted later on.
In the next section we will look section breaks and how to use them.
Having changed the physical dimensions of your print-book-to-be, you should notice an increase in the total number of pages. You can now edit the format of those pages if you wish. The format includes a range of visual elements such as the fonts, spacing, alignment, indents and heading styles.
The following is a quick discussion of the main design elements of a book.
Fonts – Joel Friedlander, an acknowledged expert in book formatting, prefers the following fonts for the interior of books – i.e. the body text:
You can learn more about formatting on Joel Friedlander’s website:
Alignment – refers to the position of the text on the page – i.e. whether it is aligned to the centre, left, right, or justified. The text in print books is almost always justified with a straight edge on both sides.
First Line Indentation – refers to the way in which the first line of each paragraph begins a few spaces from the left hand margin. Non-fiction books generally do not have a first line indentation, but novels do.
Line Spacing – The default line spacing for Word documents is 1.08. The line spacing for novels is usually 1.0 [single spacing].
Chapter Headings – Whatever formatting you choose for your headings, the style must be consistent across all the chapters.
The easiest way to ensure that all the visual elements of your book are consistent is to set them using the Styles found on the Style Gallery of the Word Home tab.
Using Word Styles
Word Styles contain pre-set groups of commands that determine how headings and paragraphs appear. The most commonly used Word styles are found on the Home tab, in the Style gallery [as shown below]:
Every time you start a new, blank document in Word, the program automatically configures that document using the ‘Normal Style’.
The ‘Normal’ style settings in Word include the default font [Calibri], the font size , left alignment, and a host of other less immediately visible options.
If you do not like these settings, you can change them quite easily, and when you do, all the text that was written using the Normal Style will be updated automatically.
Right click ‘Normal’ in the Style gallery. This will display a drop down list of options:
Click the Modify option from the drop down list [circled in orange].
You should now see the ‘Modify Style’ dialog box:
The first thing to note is that ‘Only in this document’ [shown in green] is pre-selected to ensure that any changes made to the ‘Normal’ style of this document do not become standard for all Word documents.
All of the less common stylistic functions are hidden behind the ‘Format’ button:
Click Format and select ‘Paragraph’ from the popup list.
The Paragraph dialog box is now displayed. The important elements are circled in orange:
Alignment – this is already shown as ‘Justified’ because we set it in the main dialog box along with the font and font size.
Indentation – leave the Left and Right settings at zero.
‘Special’ – click the small blue arrow (shown in the previous screenshot), and select the ‘First Line Indentation’ option from the drop-down list. This will ensure that the first sentence of every paragraph is indented.
For By: type or select the width of the indent for the first line of the paragraph.
Check the preview pane to see how the first line indent appears.
Spacing – ensure that ‘Before’ and ‘After’ are both set to zero.
The ‘Before’ and ‘After’ numbers control the blank spaces automatically inserted before and after each paragraph. If using the ‘First Line Indentation’ there is no need for space between the paragraphs.
Note: this guide has spaces between paragraphs because it does not have first line indentations to mark the start of a paragraph.
Line Spacing – make sure this is set to ‘Single’.
When you are satisfied with the changes you have made, click the OK button to save and exit from the Paragraph dialog box.
Click OK again to save and exit from the Modify Styles dialog box.
If you are using Word 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 or 2016, all text using the ‘Normal’ style will be automatically updated to the new settings.
Using Heading 1 for chapter headings
Heading 1 is a style on the Style Gallery, and it comes pre-set with a range of formatting elements, all of which can be modified in exactly the same way as the Normal Style.
Heading 1 can be used to create consistent chapter headings throughout your manuscript. It can also be used to generate an automatic Table of Contents for your book (see the chapter on Table of Contents).
To apply the default Heading 1 style, position the cursor anywhere on the line that contains the first chapter heading and click Heading 1 on the Style Gallery. All text on that line will now be formatted as Heading 1. Repeat for each chapter heading in your book.
‘How to Print Your Novelwith Kindle Direct Publishing’ is a step-by-step guide specifically designed for new authors who struggle with the concepts and terminology associated with self-publishing a paperback novel.
POD? ISBN? Trim size? PDF? Bleed?
In PART 1 – How to Prepare Your Novel, you will learn what these terms mean, where to find them and how to use them to convert a simple manuscript into a professional standard book file.
Imprint? Distribution channels? Sales percentage? Royalties?
In PART 2 – How to Set Up Your Novel, you will learn how to turn your formatted book file into a Trade paperback that can be sold on Amazon.
And finally, in PART 3 – Australian authors will learn about:
purchasing an ISBN in Australia,
US Withholding Tax exemption,
the National Library of Australia Legal Deposit requirement.
With examples and over 140 screenshots, ‘How to Print Your Novelwith Kindle Direct Publishing’ takesno step for granted and leaves nothing out.
There are a lot of excellent video tutorials out there, but…none of them allow you watch in slow motion. That means you have to stop, rewind, play, rinse and repeat, until you see that one, teeny thing that a beginner doesn’t know and the presenter takes for granted.
As an absolute beginner myself, I’m writing this series of posts to save other absolute beginners from the hours of frustration and research that went into learning the teeny things everyone else takes for granted. Each post will be step-by-step with screenshots, and I welcome comments that point out things I’ve missed or taken for granted. So, let’s begin!
What is Blender 2.8?
Blender 2.8 is open source, 3D graphics software.
Translation: Blender 2.8 is a free app that produces models of ‘things’ that can be viewed from all angles – i.e. in 3D.
As with all software downloaded from the internet, you should save the file to your computer and scan it with your anti-virus software before installing it.
Once Blender 2.8 is installed, this is what you will see:
The colourful bit in the middle is like a temporary shortcut menu. Common functions are on the left, and recently used files are on the right. Left click on the dark grey grid in the background to make it disappear.
You will now be looking at the Layout workspace. It contains all the tools and options you will need to create and edit a 3D model. As a beginner, this is where you will spend most of your time.
Before starting to explore the workspace, however, I need to address the elephant in the room – Blender keyboard shortcuts.
Most software programs allow the use of keyboard shortcuts – e.g. Ctrl C for Copy and Ctrl V for Paste [in Microsoft Office programs] – but these shortcuts are an added extra for those who already know the software and want to work faster. In Blender, this process is reversed – i.e. shortcuts first and menus second.
Even as recently as Blender version 2.79, the menus were all over the place, and learning how to find functions in them required as much memory as learning how to use the shortcuts themselves. I started with 2.79. It was hard, very hard.
Enter Blender 2.8. The core functions remain the same, but the interface and the menu system have been rationalized from the ground up, making the learning process much easier. Navigation functions are grouped together as are the creating and editing functions you will use the most. Better still, when you can’t find/remember a less used function, there is a fairly logical and consistent way of finding it. And finally, if all else fails, you can press F3 on the keyboard and search for the function by name.
I had to smile as I wrote about F3. Search is a core function in any software, yet even in 2.8, it’s accessed by a keyboard shortcut and requires you to remember which key it is hidden behind! Blender 2.8 may have emancipated the menu, but shortcuts are still more…equal. 🙂
Irony aside, there is a compelling reason why the experts use the Blender shortcuts; they’d go insane selecting millions of small, repetitive functions from the menus! And you will too.
To give you a simple example, you can use this navigation key to zoom in and out of your model:
Left click the zoom icon [circled in red] and hold the mouse button down as you move the mouse towards you or away from you. Moving the mouse towards you zooms the scene out – i.e. it gets further away. Moving the mouse away from you zooms the scene in – i.e. it gets closer to you.
Or you could simply use the scroll wheel on the mouse to zoom in and out.
So which keyboard shortcuts should you learn off by heart?
Opinions will differ, but I found the navigation ones a must:
Zoom in and out
Move the scroll wheel on the mouse to zoom in or out.
Free move around the scene
This allows you to view the scene from all angles. Hold down the scroll wheel on the mouse as you move the mouse around. [The pundits talk about holding down the 3rd mouse button, but if you’re like me and don’t have one, holding down the scroll wheel works just as well.]
Move the object in the scene
Click the object to select it.
Press ‘G’ on the keyboard [‘G’ for ‘grab’].
Do NOT click the object again [this is not like the click-and-drag you are used to]. Simply move the mouse and the object will follow like a dog on a leash.
When the object reaches its new location, left click the mouse to lock it in place. [If you want to move the object again, you will have to press the G key again.]
Move the object in just one direction
To understand this shortcut, imagine that you have positioned an object in just the right place and you don’t want to accidentally mess it up. But…it could do with being just a tiny bit higher [or lower or left or right or backwards or forwards]. How do you make that small adjustment without messing it all up?
The answer is by constraining [locking] movement to either the X, Y or Z axis:
Unlike the graphs you probably learnt as a child, in 3D, up and down is known as the ‘Z’ axis. In Blender, the Z axis is shown in blue, the X in red and the Y in green. The orientation of ‘X’ and ‘Y’ will depend upon how you are viewing the object. In the example shown below, I want to move the object to the right:
As you can see from the screenshot, left and right are on the X axis [the red line on the grid]. To move the object precisely to the right:
Click the object to select it.
Press ‘G’ [for ‘grab’] followed by ‘X’ [for the X axis]
Move the mouse to the right.
Left click the mouse button to lock the object in place.
If you want to move the object up or down, the shortcut is ‘G’ and ‘Z’. In the screenshot above, moving the object backwards and forwards would be ‘G’ and ‘Y’.
If you want to use the menus you will have to start by opening the toolbar on the left. To do this, point the mouse at the right edge of the toolbar. When the mouse pointer changes to a double headed white arrow, click-hold-and-drag to the right:
Keep dragging until the toolbar is open and shows the label for each icon. Click the ‘Move’ option as shown:
You should now see a kind of 3D compass in the middle of the object. Click-hold-and-drag the blue arrow to move the object up or down on the Z axis. Click-hold-and-drag the red and green arrows to move the object in the direction of the lines on the grid [red for X, green for Y].
I admit I found the whole X,Y and Z spatial awareness thing a bit hard at first but, as with most things, the more I had to move objects around, the easier it all became. And as I learned more advanced processes, I realised that X, Y and Z are absolutely fundamental to using Blender. I suspect they’re fundamental to learning any 3D software.
Ultimately, you will learn the shortcuts that make your life and work easier. For me, one shortcut I simply couldn’t live without is Ctrl Z. It’s standard for ‘Undo’ and will save you millions of clicks as you work in Blender.
Hold the Ctrl key down while you press the letter Z. This will undo the last thing you did. You can repeat Ctrl Z up to about 30 times, or until you run out of steps to undo.
Alternately, you can click ‘Undo’ on the Edit menu [top left of the screen]:
I’ll finish this first post off with a beginners tutorial that was quite good. It takes you through the basics of navigating the viewport using both the navigation icons and the keyboard shortcuts that go with them. The ‘viewport’ is just the name given to the dark grey grid.
Whether you use the menus or the shortcut keys, I hope you have fun and enjoy the learning process.