Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Not yet named food entry: Shortbread (Scotland/UK)

I am a chocoholic. I only recognize chocolate as a proper dessert or sweet treat, outside of a few exceptions. I will scoff at bananas foster, cherries jubilee or apple pie. However, one fantastic exception is a shortbread biscuit: a solid yet flaky cookie that's heavy for its size and tastes buttery with a hint of sugar. I can't control myself when they are around.

Can you hear the bagpipes?
Today is my father's birthday. And one of the many traits that I share with him is this love of shortbread.  Since I'm traveling from Glasgow to Oban (in the above mentioned Highlands) today, I baked some shortbread fingers with love and sent them home last week via my mother so that the delicate slightly-sweet treats will be there for my dad in the morning.  All the while, I've been picking up different brands of commercial shortbread.

Detail of the opened package - it didn't stand a chance

Shortbread is simple to make; traditionally it's made from three ingredients: sugar, butter and flour.  The , and gets its names from its texture (from an old meaning of the word short, according to Wikipedia).  The high butter content inhibits the formation of any long gluten strands and this is what gives the biscuits their divine flaky texture. Though, it's a few scant ingredients and not a lot of skill to bake, I do feel that making it right is a labor of love.

My homemade shortbread fingers looking good enough to eat

After overdosing on shortbread and Jaffa cakes on my 2012 trip to Scotland and Wales, I googled “shortbread recipe like Marks and Spencer” to find a good start in order to recreate at home the biscuits that I hoard in the UK. (Also, shortbread bikkies are simpler to make then Jaffa cakes.) After a few trials, I have fine-tuned a recipe into something that it very close to the almost-powdery, slightly-grainy, butter-rich and sugar-kissed cookies that are Scotland’s pride and joy and that I (and my dad) adore.

My homemade with store-bought shortbread fingers

Monday, March 04, 2013


As I prepare for my 40th birthday holiday through the British Isles, I remember that I never posted this entry about my September vacation.

I microblogged my trip through Europe using twitter and foursquare, even creating my own hashtag for the vacation, #CJintheUK, and tweeted happily along (usually when I could find abundant free wifi.) I think that it makes an amusing travelog to follow - complete with foursquare check ins, twitter conversations and selected uploaded pictures. (I am including the time and date stamp which came from the backlog in HootSuite, which is presented in Eastern Time.)

I didn't really edit the tweets, except for an occasional misspelling which I caught, a foreign word needing to be italicized or if a tweet needed a little clarification. I left in the hash tags, probably to the chagrin of some of you, though I thought that it could be interesting to see what topics or words I was tagging in order to make my tweets searchable.  For those of you who don't know why tweeters employ hash tags, a hash tag is a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic. For example, if you search on #beer, you'll get a list of tweets related to the beer that tweeters have marked. 


In 24 hours, to #Europe I will go. #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 04, 5:20pm via HootSuite)

heads 2 #Stockholm, then #Manchester, #Edinburgh, #Inverness, #Glasgow, #Llandudno, #Cardiff & #Dublin Suggestions? #travel (IrishWombat Sep 04, 5:50pm via HootSuite)

thanks @garrisod for the #Stockholm city hall tour tip: "Quite interesting given the #Nobel connection." (IrishWombat Sep 04, 8:40pm via txt)

@ChippyLyn Ydw! We leave Glasgow and head to Llandudno then, via Snowdonia, to Cardiff & lastly on to Manc for the flight home. (IrishWombat Sep 05, 12:17am via txt)

will be following this sage advice for mobile phone use in #Europe #travel #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 05, 10:57am via HootSuite)

is checked in and ready for adventure. #travel #CJintheUK (@ Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) w/ 54 others) (IrishWombat Sep 05, 3:37pm via foursquare)

waits for the trip to #Stockholm. #CJintheUK (@ Gate B62) (IrishWombat Sep 05, 4:13pm via foursquare)

touched the side of the plane before boarding - like always. That's for Liz! BTW, on SK0904 for all you flight tracker out there. (IrishWombat Sep 05, 4:55pm via HootSuite)

landed safely in #Sweden. #CJintheUK (@ Stockholm-Arlanda Airport (ARN) w/ 8 others) (IrishWombat Sep 06, 1:12am via foursquare)

#Europe is so civilized. There's free #Wifi on the express airport train to #Stockholm. #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 06, 1:37am via HootSuite)

can't believe I'm here in Sweden. (@ Stockholms Centralstation w/ 6 others) (IrishWombat Sep 06, 2:00am via foursquare)

Um, #Stockholm smells like Acqua di Gio and cigarette smoke. #FirstImpressions (IrishWombat Sep 06, 2:02am via HootSuite)

made it to the world's smallest Summer Olympics stadium. #CJintheUK (@ Stockholms Stadion) (IrishWombat Sep 06, 3:00am via foursquare)

What a ship! (@ Vasamuseet) (IrishWombat Sep 06, 5:10am via foursquare)

landed safely in England - first accurate #CJintheUK tweet. (@ Manchester Airport (MAN) w/ 9 others) (IrishWombat Sep 06, 1:10pm via foursquare)

Ugh! No #wifi. Must we discrete with the Internet. #CJintheUK. (@ Jurys Inn Manchester) (IrishWombat Sep 06, 3:00pm via foursquare)

walked into the lobby and #Madonna 's "Masterpiece" was playing. :) #CJintheUK (@ Jurys Inn Manchester) (IrishWombat Sep 07, 8:56am via foursquare)

has to come out to the station for good free #Wifi to use. #CJintheUK. (@ Manchester Piccadilly Railway Station (MAN)) (IrishWombat Sep 07, 9:21am via foursquare)

"All coffee is a £1. Lattes, americanos, etc." @ Carluccio's: #foursquare (IrishWombat Sep 07, 9:27am via foursquare)

Greek façade, Banksy and West African Art, all in one. #CJintheUK (@ Manchester Art Gallery) (IrishWombat Sep 07, 10:19am via foursquare)

I just reached Level 5 of the "Warhol" badge on @foursquare. I’ve checked in at 20 different art galleries! (IrishWombat Sep 07, 10:19am via foursquare)

enjoys a brisk day. #CJintheUK (@ Manchester Town Hall) (IrishWombat Sep 07, 11:32am via foursquare)

found the bar and ordered a Beartown Ginger Beer. Quite good. (@ The Molly House) (IrishWombat Sep 07, 4:07pm via foursquare)

"Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle... I'm sexy and I know it." #ILovMCR #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 07, 6:36pm via HootSuite)

wants a Strongbow! #ILovMCR #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 07, 6:52pm via HootSuite)

The bar is playing "Sexyback" and I just did Jenn and Lisa's *shackle* move. #ILovMCR #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 07, 7:20pm via HootSuite)

@kylieminogue abounds at Churchill's in Manchester! #ILovMCR #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 07, 7:35pm via HootSuite)

"How Will I Know" by Whitney is playing at the bar #ILoveMCR #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 07, 8:42pm via txt)

OMG Fish and Chips = Protein and Carbs + fat! #Yum! #ILoveMCR #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 07, 9:31pm via HootSuite)

hates to leave, but will be back in less than a fortnight. #ILoveMCR #CJintheUK (@ Jurys Inn Manchester) (IrishWombat Sep 08, 2:40am via foursquare)

I'm at Angel Of The North (Gateshead, Tyne and Wear) (IrishWombat Sep 08, 7:58am via foursquare)

I'm at Scotland/England border - Coldstream (Coldstream, Scottish Borders) (IrishWombat Sep 08, 9:10am via foursquare)

finally made it to #Edinburgh. #CJintheUK (@ Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa) (IrishWombat Sep 08, 11:56am via foursquare)

is grabbing a pint with the locals. #CJintheUK (@ Tiles) (IrishWombat Sep 08, 4:22pm via foursquare)

ordered a Caledonia Best #beer #CJintheUK (@ New Town Bar) (IrishWombat Sep 08, 5:15pm via foursquare)

gets a little God in #Scotland. #CJintheUK (@ St. Mary's RC Cathedral) (IrishWombat Sep 09, 5:30am via foursquare)

finally got his hands on an IRN BRU #Scotland #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 09, 10:10am via txt)

waits for #Edinburgh Riding of the Marches on the Royal Mile. #Scotland #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 09, 10:32am via txt)

Taking in the sites in #Scotland with Dad. #CJintheUK. (@ Edinburgh Castle w/ 2 others) (IrishWombat Sep 09, 1:36pm via foursquare)

watches the @London2012 #Paralympics Closing Ceremonies in Festival Sq in #Edinburgh #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 09, 3:49pm via txt)

Fantastic. #Coldplay is playing at the @London2012 #Paralympics after a #steampunk themed spectacle + fire! #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 09, 4:25pm via HootSuite)

Now, #Rihanna joins #Coldplay at the #London2012 #Paralympics. Never liked the song til now! Great performance! #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 09, 4:47pm via HootSuite)

"Open Up Your Mind" The @London2012 #Paralympics have ended. So bittersweet! #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 09, 5:55pm via HootSuite)

#Edinburgh Castle on an overcast day #CJintheUK #travel #photography (IrishWombat Sep 09, 7:31pm via HootSuite)

was robbed! The Sheraton only served vegetarian #haggis this morn at breakfast. #CJintheUK #travel #food (IrishWombat Sep 10, 4:53am via HootSuite)

has limited #wifi up here, but going to Loch Ness tomorrow. #CJintheUK (@ The Kingsmills Hotel Inverness (Scotland)) (IrishWombat Sep 10, 4:13pm via foursquare)

All Scottish eyes are on Murray at the US Open. #CJintheUK #tennis #travel. Go Andy! (IrishWombat Sep 10, 5:45pm via txt)

"Cause I don't want to be lonely I don't want to be scared And all our friends are waiting there Until you're safe and sound" #NeverForget (IrishWombat Sep 11, 12:01pm via HootSuite)

was here much earlier, but alas no #Wifi. #CJintheUK. (@ Loch Ness) (IrishWombat Sep 11, 12:30pm via foursquare)

I just ousted @tuminds as the mayor of The Kingsmills Hotel and Kingsclub on @foursquare! (IrishWombat Sep 11, 12:51pm via foursquare)

I just ousted @tuminds as the mayor of The Kingsmills Hotel Inverness (Scotland) on @foursquare! (IrishWombat Sep 11, 12:51pm via foursquare)

was also here earlier but didn't have #Wifi. #CJintheUK (@ Urquhart Castle) (IrishWombat Sep 11, 3:29pm via foursquare)

hopes someone can translate "humped pelican crossing" from #British to #American #English Cheers! #CJintheUK #travel (IrishWombat Sep 11, 4:29pm via txt)

You better believe I've been walking through #Scotland listening to this. #CJintheUK… (IrishWombat Sep 11, 4:38pm via YouTube on iOS)

tuminds: @irishwombat enjoy your stay at the @KingsmillsHotel Will return tomorrow morning to claim my Mayorship back! ;) #Rotarymeeting

@tuminds Can't we just share it? It was my first mayorship in the UK though. :( Enjoy your #Rotarymeeting tomorrow. (IrishWombat Sep 11, 4:41pm via Twitter for iPhone)

needed to get a pint here. #CJintheUK (@ Hootenanny) (IrishWombat Sep 11, 5:01pm via foursquare)

just got to watch Sir Tom Jones chug a pint on the Rob Brydon show on #BBC2. I love the UK. #CJintheUK #travel (IrishWombat Sep 11, 6:50pm via Twitter for iPhone)

safely made it to Glasgow. #CJintheUK (@ Millennium Hotel) (IrishWombat Sep 12, 10:25am via foursquare)

Yum! #Haggis for breakie. #CJintheUK #food #travel (IrishWombat Sep 12, 11:36am via Photos on iOS)

You can take the boy out of Jersey, but you can't tell Jersey out of the boy. (@ St. Enoch Shopping Centre) (IrishWombat Sep 12, 12:29pm via foursquare)

is having a lovely early dinner. #CJintheUK (@ Browns) (IrishWombat Sep 12, 1:10pm via foursquare)

enjoyed an Innis & Gunn - a delish oak aged #beer. #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 12, 2:40pm via Photos on iOS)

wanted to get some #Whisky in #Scotland. #CJIntheUK (@ The Underground Bar) (IrishWombat Sep 12, 5:19pm via foursquare)

starts with a Caledonia's Best #Beer. It will be an early night. #CJintheUK #Scotland (IrishWombat Sep 12, 5:32pm via Twitter for iPhone)

drinks the peaty wonder that is Laphroaig! #Scotland #Whisky #CJintheUK A perfect nightcap #travel (IrishWombat Sep 12, 6:42pm via Twitter for iPhone)

didn't have #wifi there, but the view was amazing. #Scotland #CJintheUK (@ Stirling Castle) (IrishWombat Sep 13, 11:36am via foursquare)

thought to give his place a gander. #CJintheUK (@ Merchant Pride (candle bar)) (IrishWombat Sep 13, 3:29pm via foursquare)

had a pint here, too. #CJintheUK (@ Waterloo) (IrishWombat Sep 13, 4:22pm via foursquare)

I just ousted Chris Q. as the mayor of The Underground Bar on @foursquare! (IrishWombat Sep 13, 5:01pm via foursquare)

Noticed a #Glaswegian wearing the same outfit as last night. I have my hols as excuse if I did that! Wot's his? #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 13, 6:05pm via Twitter for iPhone)

finally made it to "Old North" #Wales. The original is as charming as the newer one. #CJintheUK. (@ Llandudno) (IrishWombat Sep 14, 12:04pm via foursquare)

Oi, Case! What's occurin'? I'm in #Wales, Ness. #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 14, 3:36pm via Twitter for iPhone)

All throughout my time in Wales, I was making referencing to the British show, "Gavin & Stacey," which unfortunately my parents have not heard of and they may have grown a bit weary of my quips, especially seen in one of my later tweets.

swears he just saw a blokey tween Rocco Ritchie at the hotel in Llandudno. #CJintheUK #Wales (IrishWombat Sep 14, 4:37pm via Twitter for iPhone)
garrisod: @IrishWombat you going to be near Snowdonia or Conwy Castle tomorrow? (5:12pm, Sep 14 from Twitter for BlackBerry)

@garrisod Uni of Bristol then off through Snowdonia for Cardiff. (IrishWombat Sep 14, 5:13pm via Twitter for iPhone)

garrisod: @IrishWombat Imma be in Snowdonia on the peak then at Conwy Castle (5:14pm, Sep 14 from Twitter for BlackBerry)

@garrisod I'll be in London next month for a Penn event. (IrishWombat Sep 14, 5:15pm via Twitter for iPhone)

garrisod: @IrishWombat I haven't been in London in 10 years :-) but will be there next month with my parents and Charles (5:16pm, Sep 14 from Twitter for BlackBerry)

@garrisod Wow. It's a small world, eh? Like ships passing through the night. (IrishWombat Sep 14, 5:17pm via Twitter for iPhone)

@tuminds How was the #Rotarymeeting ? (IrishWombat Sep 14, 5:17pm via Twitter for iPhone)

found the cwrw, @ChippyLyn! (aka #beer) (IrishWombat Sep 15, 3:48am via Twitter for iPhone)

@ChippyLyn Llandudno now, off to the Uni of Bangor, through Snowdonia to Cardiff at night. (IrishWombat Sep 15, 4:40am via txt)

leaves for #Cardiff, he might see @garrisod en route! #CJintheUK #Wales. (@ Llandudno) (IrishWombat Sep 15, 4:55am via foursquare)

has yet to learn the nuances of #Welsh vowels. Right now muddling through using schwas. #CJintheUK #Wales. (IrishWombat Sep 15, 8:10am via HootSuite)

I just reached Level 5 of the "Great Outdoors" badge on @foursquare. I’ve checked in at 20 different outdoor spots! (IrishWombat Sep 15, 8:12am via foursquare)

just missed Catherine and William! #CJintheUK #Wales (@ Anglesey Island) (IrishWombat Sep 15, 8:12am via foursquare)
ChippyLyn @IrishWombat a beautiful language mate try saying llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch it's a small village in N Wales (ChippyLyn Sep 15, 8:13am via Twitter for iPhone)

@ChippyLyn We passed by that! I'm trying to manage the 'll' sound, too. Beautiful language, tough to learn. (IrishWombat Sep 15, 8:39am via Twitter for iPhone)
has made it to all 4 home nations' capitals now! Hylô, Caerdydd! #CJintheUK #Wales (@ Hilton Cardiff) (IrishWombat Sep 15, 4:08pm via foursquare)

got caught up in a fog machine in a Cardiff bar. #CJintheUK #Wales (IrishWombat Sep 15, 6:56pm via Twitter for iPhone)

is getting to see the aftermath of several #hen and #stag parties in the streets of Cardiff, right now. #CJintheUK #Wales (IrishWombat Sep 15, 8:04pm via Twitter for iPhone)

will try to understand God in #Welsh. #CJintheUK #Wales (@ St David's Metropolitan Cathedral) (IrishWombat Sep 16, 5:42am via foursquare)

lunches on a chicken sweetcorn sandwich & the rest of the #haggis flavoured chips. #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 16, 10:39am via Twitter for iPhone)

visited the Roman ramparts recreation at the castle and saw this: (@ Cardiff Castle) (IrishWombat Sep 16, 3:35pm via foursquare)

Having some #haggis flavoured crisps. #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 16, 3:58pm via Photos on iOS)

What a beautifully tiled bar in and out. #CJintheUK #Wales (@ Golden Cross) (IrishWombat Sep 16, 5:14pm via foursquare)

enjoyed a Brain's Black: Welsh Stout. Like choc milk with a sweet & bitter finish. Yum! #beer #CJintheUK #Wales (IrishWombat Sep 16, 5:39pm via Twitter for iPhone)

The "Gavin & Stacey" reference that I made too many times with my folks:

I just wanna shout "Smihffy!" while I'm in Cardiff. #CJintheUK #Wales (IrishWombat Sep 16, 5:50pm via Twitter for iPhone)
CollyFromWally: "@IrishWombat I just wanna shout "Smihffy!" while I'm in Cardiff. #CJintheUK #Wales"<---what i="" occurrin="" s="">(5:53pm, Sep 16 from Web)

.@CollyFromWally Oi, Sahrr, what's occurrin'? Cheers! #CJintheUK #Wales (IrishWombat Sep 16, 5:57pm via Twitter for iPhone)
starts winding down his trip throughout GB. Dubs, tomorrow. #CJintheUK #England (@ Hilton Manchester Airport) (IrishWombat Sep 17, 11:56am via foursquare)

heads in the city for one last beer with mates in GB. #CJintheUK #England (@ Manchester Airport Railway Station (MIA)) (IrishWombat Sep 17, 2:29pm via foursquare)

enjoys his pint with Sean at a lovely bar. #CJintheUK #England (@ Via Fossa) (IrishWombat Sep 17, 4:36pm via foursquare)

OMG! The best late night snack ever. Jaffa cakes & choc milk. #CJintheUK #England (IrishWombat Sep 17, 6:39pm via HootSuite)

waits for his flight to Ireland. #CJintheUK. (@ Manchester Airport (MAN) w/ 5 others) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 2:03am via foursquare)

queues and queues. #CJintheUK (@ Gate 9) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 2:30am via foursquare)

made it to #Ireland. #CJintheUK (@ Dublin Airport (DUB) - Aerfort Bhaile Átha Cliath w/ 4 others) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 4:18am via foursquare)

finally had a soup of the day in #Ireland that wasn't veggie! Bacon Chilli ( #CJintheUK ) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 8:03am via txt)

took pics! (@ The National Museum of Ireland - Natural History) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 8:53am via foursquare)

This #Dublin Starbucks is playing Sinéad O'Conner's "Emperor's New Clothes" #Ireland #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 18, 9:15am via HootSuite)
athtrasna: @IrishWombat ahem....Casey darling...did you just mention Dublin and being in the UK in the same tweet? Have you caught Lady Gaga-itis? (9:16am, Sep 18 from TweetDeck)

@athtrasna No, the hash tag for THIS holiday was #CJintheUK. I used it for the 8 hours is was even in Stockholm. Last year was #CJinIreland. (IrishWombat Sep 18, 9:18am via HootSuite)

athtrasna: @IrishWombat phew! Lady Gaga made a reference on Saturday night..didn't go down too well. Hope you're having fun in our cold city! (9:19am, Sep 18 from TweetDeck)

@athtrasna It was 30 C when I left the US. This is pleasant. I'm just glad to be able to visit Dubs when I can. :) Cheers! (Poor Gaga btw!) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 9:21am via HootSuite)
posted one last postcard and visited Cúchulainn. (@ General Post Office (GPO)) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 9:46am via foursquare)

picks up some #Jaffa cakes for the trip home. #Ireland ( #CJintheUK ) (@ Dunnes Stores) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 11:37am via foursquare)

ordered #curry chicken & aloo methi. Heard it's the best place in Dubs for curry. (@ Madina Desi Curry Co.) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 2:32pm via foursquare)

meets up with a friend for a drink. #Ireland ( #CJintheUK ) (@ The Front Lounge) (IrishWombat Sep 18, 3:15pm via foursquare)

runs last minute shopping errands in City Centre #Ireland ( #CJintheUK ) (@ Mary Street) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 5:23am via foursquare)

plans to head home. :( #Ireland ( #CJintheUK ) (@ Dublin Airport (DUB) - Aerfort Bhaile Átha Cliath w/ 10 others) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 7:15am via foursquare)

Of course one can get a beer at a BK in IE. #travel (@ Burger King) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 7:49am via foursquare)

Rest assured, Steve, #redheads are thriving in the British Isles. #Ireland #CJintheUK (well, over the pond now.) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 7:59am via HootSuite)

picked up a few of the Cooley collection. (@ The Irish Whiskey Collection) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 8:09am via foursquare)

leaves #Ireland for good now this trip. (@ Usa Pre Clearance) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 8:13am via foursquare)

Wanted to let you know, @thorntonmh, that it's #Donegal & #Mayo in the #GAA final this Sat! #Ireland ( #CJintheUK ) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 8:17am via HootSuite)

It's about 1:35 pm in #Ireland and everyone I know is in the same day! (IrishWombat Sep 19, 8:36am via HootSuite)

knows you've missed his postings. Now landed in the US. (@ Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) w/ 54 others) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 5:48pm via Twitter for iPhone)

is home safe and sound... and nestled for bed #CJintheUK (@ Route 13 Outpost) (IrishWombat Sep 19, 9:41pm via foursquare)

naps to fend off the gripe of jetlag. #travel (@ Route 13 Outpost) (IrishWombat Sep 22, 3:34pm via foursquare)

After my trip to the British Isles, I realised how much I appreciate those countries: the history, my ancestral connection, the people I met and how my interactions with them made my holiday different than just touring around with a group. I was longing for it. I started listening to "Soul Cages" to transition being back home and I would seek out British pop stars on the jukebox when I went out. Other songs just struck a chord about the trip and I tweeted some of the lyrics that resonated with me. Finally, I would just reach out to the twittersphere to make a connection back to that great British experience.  These following tweets are corollaries to my vacation; I've added them for fun.

Bring down the angels
Cast them from my sight
I never want to see
A million suns at midnight
(IrishWombat Sep 22, 6:32pm via HootSuite)

pre-games with the peaty Connemara #whiskey by Cooley - an Irish whiskey with a hint of a good Scotch. (IrishWombat Sep 22, 9:14pm via foursquare)

shares pictures from #Sweden and #Stockholm from the epic #CJintheUK vacation. #travel #photography (IrishWombat Sep 24, 11:57am via HootSuite)

wonders why he always has expensive tastes: #Edinburgh is the 2nd most expensive city in Europe. #travel (IrishWombat Sep 25, 10:23am via HootSuite)

was convinced after vacation the Scots *were* the beer-drinkingest folks on the planet. #travel #beer (IrishWombat Sep 25, 12:36pm via HootSuite)

So while you're here in my arms
Let's make the most of the night
Like we're gonna die young.
(IrishWombat Sep 26, 12:42pm via HootSuite)

just devoured the last of the shortbread fingers from #Scotland :( Le sad. (IrishWombat Sep 26, 9:20pm via HootSuite)

It's been a month since I've blogged, but I hope this picture of #Scotland makes up for it #travel #blog #photography (IrishWombat Sep 27, 10:35am via HootSuite)

The priest has said my soul's salvation
Is in the balance of the angels
And underneath the wheels of passion
I keep the faith in my fashion
(IrishWombat Sep 27, 12:31pm via HootSuite)

shares a @Penn-centric travelogue of his trip to #Wales and #Scotland (& beyond) #blog #CJintheUK (IrishWombat Sep 27, 1:16pm via HootSuite)

US Anglophiles, can anyone recommend a good place for a fry-up in #Philadelphia? #food #travel (IrishWombat Sep 29, 9:16am via HootSuite)

When you're in unfamiliar places
Count on me through life's changes
Crash into me
We can collide, we can collide
(IrishWombat Sep 29, 12:00pm via HootSuite)

And I am a weapon of massive consumption
And it’s not my fault it's how I'm programmed to function…
(IrishWombat Sep 29, 10:30pm via HootSuite)

I'll look at the Sun and I'll look in the Mirror
I'm on the right track, yeah we're on to a winner
(IrishWombat Sep 29, 10:31pm via HootSuite)

It's official. I'm heading back to the UK. This time, #London, from October 19-23, then on to #Paris. (IrishWombat Oct 01, 1:05pm via HootSuite)

misses the #UK. (@ Pret A Manger) (IrishWombat Oct 04, 4:29pm via foursquare)

Thank you for the indulgence. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fife Miner’s Stew

For bookclub this last weekend, I had picked 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith since I had thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Edinburgh as well as Scotland and wanted to read something based in that area. You may know him for his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series which was made into an HBO show.

I obviously chose Scottish and English food for the theme. I knew that I was going to make my shortbread fingers as well as serve some ginger and whisky malt preserves that I had picked up in Marks & Spencer over some good soft cheese. But I needed an entrée. I searched for ideas and but only found haggis as the quintessential Scotch food.

First, I wasn’t confident that I would even find any haggis if I looked for it and it is a rather maligned food (though I found it evocative of Philadelphia’s scrapple.) I dug deeper and focused on googling "Scottish/Scotch entrée" and found Fife Miners’ Stew. Since Fife, the council area, is across the Forth from Edinburgh, I felt that I struck culinary gold with this beef stew and it would a good fit for dinner.

It was a success, bookclub ate it up. (Yes, the pun was intended.) Even Brian, who never thought that he has a parsnip before, thought that the stew was delicious. The house smelled so good after cooking the dish.  I enjoyed it so much - and it is the perfect cold winter day food - that I needed to make it again and soon. This time, however, I thought that I should adapt it for the slow cooker.

For bookclub, I cooked the stew following the UKTV recipe listing to a tee. However for today’s stew, I took the suggestion of adding sherry since the stew is reminiscent Bookbinder’s Snapper Soup and used an entire can of tomato purée.

Fife Miner’s Stew, based on the Fife Miners’ Stew recipe from UKTV network channel, Good Food.

The finished stew (non-slow cooker version)
1 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. plain flour, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper
2 to 2¼ lbs. stewing steak, diced
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 large parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 small orange, zest only
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 6oz can tomato purée
1 cp. red wine
1½ cps beef stock
¼ cp cream sherry

1.    Sauté the onion and garlic in butter until the onions are soft and translucent; place in the slow cooker.
2.    Shake the beef cubes in seasoned flour until well covered; add the beef and flour into the slow cooker, followed by the vegetables, orange peel, salt and pepper.
3.    Stir the purée into the stock to dissolve it; add the wine and stock to the slow cooker.
4.    Cook on Low for 8 hours.
5.    Stir in the sherry before serving.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

My Daily Page (A New Year's Resolution)

It’s January again and it looks like we all survived the Mayan Prophesy.  So I figured that I would work on my resolutions for the upcoming year.  I have a mediocre track record with my resolutions, but it doesn’t stop me from making them every year.  While I will build upon some of the ones that I have made before – ranging from the inane (wearing sunglasses as often as possible) to the meaningful (going to the gym regularly), I’m adding one more to the list: writing a page a day.

I always wanted to be an author and have a book published that people want to read, but I haven’t really put “pen to paper” and written that book, yet.  So the goal of this resolution is to ask myself daily to type out a page. Hopefully it will be a page about the story I want to write into a novel, but if not, as long as it’s an exercise in getting myself to write habitually and daily, I will consider that a success.  

I simply open Microsoft Word to start a new document and I type out my words, my thoughts, my story or my tale onto the page until I hit a page break. For me this page averages somewhere between 500 and 800 words, depending on the density of my paragraphs, my use of dialogue or the inclusion of quotes.  I don’t have to stop when I get to the page break, I can continue on if I have the thoughts and the energy, especially when my story carries me along. Yet, I can’t stop my writing for the day until I get to that page break.  I can take recesses or work on the page in the middle of other tasks, but I can’t end my day without typing those 500 to 800 words.

It gives me freedom and structure. Maybe I can’t write about my story one day, so I can take a break and write about anything else.  However there are two caveats, I can’t use a blog entry to stand in for my exercise and I can’t rework something and have it take credit for writing my daily page.

As of this post, I haven’t worked on my sixth day’s entry, but I have written over five pages for my novel and one page for future use.  I’m embracing creativity by working it out each day. 

In the meantime, I’ll return to Around the World in a Pot and my other thematic blog posts.  Oh, yea, I resolve to post at least fifty times this year.

Happy New Year and Happy Epiphany.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

myPics: Noël

It's been a while since I've posted. So, I didn't want to go too long without an entry. For the start of your Holiday pleasure - here is our Christmas tree in the new residence.

There's a lot of cool in this pic, I know.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

myPics: Cira Centre

Over last weekend, I rented a car at a location at 30th Street Station.  The rental car facilities' cars are now located in a parking lot next to the Cira Centre instead of the basement of Amtrak's 30th Street Station. It walking my paperwork back, I realized that I had never been so close to the Cira Centre before and snapped this picture. I like how the perspective distorts that non-perpendicular lines of the building, causing you not to notice it at first.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

myPics: Scotland, the Wonderous

I fell in love with Scotland.  It's like Ireland but connected to England, and I must confess - I love the Scottish accent more. Here's a rather nostalgic shot taken in the Moffat Hills of Southern Uplands of Scotland.

The grass really was that green and the sky that blue. It's moments like this I can start to wrap my mind around how the Celtic languages had same word to mean green or blue, glas, because they are both so magnificent together.