Things that are neither here nor there.

Grandma’s holiday open house notes

After a rotten week health-wise, it was really nice to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving yesterday with a few friends. The image here is one of Grandma Piper’s very many post-party notes, a sort of debrief she wrote to herself about what she made and what she might change next time. This particular page seems to be her neighbourhood holiday open house plan from early December 1971 for around 110 guests (guest list is on reverse). I expect she found these notes super useful, particularly since she seemed to keep every single one of them.

Here’s what I made this year, documented for a similar purpose.

Read Thanksgiving 2018 notes

It’s impossible to watch GBBO without wanting something sweet… Cocoa powder brownies fill the void. Baking takes a bit of time (25 min), but the prep is very quick since there’s no fiddly chocolate melting. These lie in the fudge-y end of the brownie spectrum, very dark and dense. In fact, I’ve made this in a cake format before since it’s almost like flourless chocolate cake. Bake in a round tin and spoon fresh whipped cream and berries over the top. Finally, this takes substitutions pretty well. I’ve made these vegan and gluten free before (coconut oil not butter, blitzed and gelled chia seeds not eggs, GF flour). Comes out great, though they’re a bit gooier and have to cook a little longer.

Simple cocoa brownies

Preheat the oven to 160C (320F) and line a 20 cm (8″) square tin. In a pot large enough to hold the rest of the ingredients, melt 150 g (1 1/3 c) butter. In a small bowl, combine 250 g (1 1/4 c) sugar and 90 g (heaping 3/4 c) cocoa powder. Beat this in to the butter. Once the mix is sufficiently cool, beat in 2 eggs and a tiny splash of vanilla extract or orange flower water (optional). The mixture will come together firmly, it will be almost taffy-esque. Gently stir in 64 g (1/2 c) flour just until combined. Pour in to the lined square tin, spread it in to the corners, and bake 25 minutes. The top should be glossy when done, possibly with a few cracks. Let it cool in the tin on a rack until nearly set but still warm.

There are a few tunes that you turn up and hum along to when they come on. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin ticks the box for me. It’s one of those weird ones though, a song that has a kind of uplifting melodic line but some pretty sad lyrics.

Quick edit: Oh man, and “Crying” by Roy Orbison, and “Heaven Help Us All” by Stevie Wonder, and “Bye Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers. (Solid playlist on right now, clearly.) That last one will always have the softest spot in my heart.

Here’s a recipe for fake-but-tasty horchata. Fauxchata. For the real deal, look elsewhere. For something quick, single-serving:

In a medium jug or bowl, whisk together 250 ml rice or oat milk, a generous pinch of cinnamon, a drop of vanilla essence, and 1/2 tsp brown sugar (or to taste). Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. For a more pervasive cinnamon flavour, allow to rest for 1 hour and then whisk again. Serve over ice, with a little spoon to keep stirring.

Is there a a cocktail to be made from this, with dark rum or tequila?

Holy cow, see the Wikipedia article. Had no idea that horchata is such a widespread thing, and with so many different methods.

Close up of weathered boards and tarring in Dungeness, UK

Just learned about Keith Collins and his relationship with Derek Jarman via Collins’s obituary in the Guardian. What an interesting life. This “how we met” interview with the two of them (The Independent, 1993) is worth reading, and there are some lovely photos around.

SB and I went to Rye with some friends in May 2017 and took a bus out to Dungeness. We just wanted to experience that strange landscape but came across Prospect Cottage as well. It’s all on it’s own, pretty far from much. No plaque or barriers or anything.

It’s a wonder that Collins maintained it for all those years after Jarman’s death. Who is maintaining it now?

Songs I’ll learn when I get a piano:

  • Chopin, Nocturne en bi bémol majeur opus 9 no2: Ballade en Sol Mineur No.1
  • Tom Waits, I’m Still Here
  • Chilly Gonzales, Armellodie
  • Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou, The Song of the Sea

Some of these are almost certainly wishful thinking, it’s been a while. Reach for the moon… 💫


Tips for buying a secondhand piano (focus on uprights):


Want to moonlight as a piano tuner someday, but looks like it might be difficult to find any courses… Supposedly there’s only one left in the UK. Maybe it’s this one? Pretty formal though.

Time to turn to the #1 self-teaching resource, the WORLD WIDE WEB. Have quickly discovered some circa-2000 diamonds in the rough. Sometimes the writing is a little salty, and it always has a pointed perspective, but pretty useful and fun. Need more room for tools.

And a few books: