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Digital coffee 🤖☕️

I’ve been getting a bunch of emails recently with web- and tech-related questions from collaborators, friends, clients, family members, almost everyone I know. I suspect this has to do with the huge shift we’ve all made recently in the way we work and live our lives.

Related to this, I’m offering offering free 30 minute slots every Tuesday afternoon GMT to anyone that wants to have digital coffee over Google Hangouts. I haven’t decided how long to do this, but I’ll try to continue until we’re past the worst of current events.

The point is to offer individuals – particularly those that are self-employed or run small businesses – an opportunity to ask nebulous tech-y questions. But I’m happy to talk about anything! WFH tips, recipe ideas, the best movie you’ve seen recently, great sci fi authors, how to grow herbs indoors (I could use some pointers). Only thing I’d probably rather not talk a lot about is COVID-19, please and thank you.

I can’t promise to have all the answers, but I can promise my insight and some nice face-to-face time. We could all use a bit of that right now.

If you think you’d benefit from this, feel free to sign up for a slot. If you know someone that might benefit from this, point them my way.

This is directly inspired by Carly Ayers’s Digital Coffee as linked to on Google’s Hack to Help: COVID-19 site. Nice idea.

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New neighbours

We were due to move out of London on the 31st, and then we were going to live in West Yorkshire with Sam’s family for two weeks before leaving for the US. Obviously, that plan was shot to pieces.

We were still planning to move out on time until late Wednesday night when we realised that a lockdown in London could easily mean being stuck with nowhere to go. At around 5am on Thursday, we woke up and started packing. Sam got one of the last vans at Enterprise and we Tetris-ed things in to it until about 7pm when it was filled to the brim. We said goodbye to our home for the last 4+ years, and then he drove north while I failed to stay awake in the passenger seat. We listened to a few episodes of Answer Me This and The Mythos Suite, ended up rolling in to our destination around 1am.

Meet our new neighbours.

Brown hens in a back gardens in West Yorkshire

We’ll be staying in a few AirBnBs until things calm down a little bit and it makes sense to move to the US. It’s pretty good so far. We have already worked remotely for so long, we don’t have to make any major adjustments there. And it’s a beautiful part of the world, should be able to do a lot of walking.

Part of me feels really guilty about leaving, particularly when I think about what happened with the lockdown exodus in Italy and after reading this Guardian article. We don’t want to contribute to any problems, but we couldn’t stay.

We decided on Yorkshire because it was pretty much our original plan, though we’ll probably be here longer than we had planned and will rarely see family. We’re trying to stay as distant as possible. Living in a state of flux.

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Pantry Parkin

This is a use-up-all-the-things parkin recipe. Useful if you want something sweet and super spiced when you’re about to move. Or, say, in the middle of a pandemic. Now is perfect. It takes an hour and a half to bake, so it’s perfect for a lazy Sunday self isolation.

For proper authenticity, use a beat-up Tala Originals Cook’s Dry Measure for most ingredients. Judge the butter amount by gauging it based on a whole block, then hope for the best.

Don’t hesitate to substitute ingredients, that’s the whole point. The only things you probably can’t get away with substituting are the black treacle / molasses and the ground ginger. If you substitute the flour, use Traditional Ovens’ converter to make sure you’ve got the right volume.


Based on a parkin recipe from The Spruce Eats.

Preheat the oven to 140C (275F) and line a 8×8″ (20×20cm) tray or two 1lb loaf tins.

In a large saucepan, melt 220 g butter, ½ c dark brown sugar, packed, ¼ c black treacle or molasses, and 1 c golden syrup or corn syrup

In a bowl, mix ½ c muesli with raisins removed, 1¼ c dark rye flour, 2 t baking powder, ¼ t salt, 4 t ground ginger, 2 t ground nutmeg, and 1 t random spices that are something similar to mixed spice. A blend of ground coriander, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon (heavy on the cinnamon) seems to work well.

Blend the wet and dry together thoroughly, then use a wooden spoon to beat in 2 eggs. The consistency should be like cake batter. If it’s too dry, add a splash of water / oat milk / normal milk.

Pour the mixture in to your prepared tin(s) and bake for an hour and a half. It may need to bake 15-20 minutes longer if using loaf tins. When done, allow to cool in the tin.

When cool, store the parkin in an air tight container. Try to let it sit at least a few days first, it will get better and better. Keeps for about two weeks, and it freezes well.

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packing, selling, dissolving

Drawing of a dracaena

We’ve been slowly packing up for the past month, preparing to move thousands of miles away. It was exciting up until about two weeks ago. We knew it would be sad to leave the people we love, pack away our books, sell so many of our things. But we were looking forward to a big change.

Now it feels untethering. Reality feels very thin at the moment, and the process of moving amplifies that feeling. Home should be a grounding place, but it’s shifting under our feet. We’ve disassembled our workspaces, we’ve given away the chairs and sold the monitors. The umbrella plant that I got at the flower market when I first moved here, the dracaena I brought back from the dead, the lovely coffee table we’ve had since we first started living together. They’ll all be gone by tomorrow.

Drawing of a mid-century coffee table

I really don’t mind the downscaling. They’re just objects, and all of them are going to great homes. And we’re still going to move even if it gets delayed by current events, so it doesn’t make sense to hoard things for the sake of a few more weeks. But the *timing*. Things are dissolving and will be fluid for quite some time. I could really do with some solidity.

The worst part is that we may not get to say goodbye. We were planning to celebrate with the people we love. There’s an outside chance we’ll still be able to, but we don’t want to put friends in an uncomfortable or dangerous position.

What will happen will happen. And we’re pretty fortunate. It’s just sad, that’s all.

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Leek and potato soup with smoked paprika and toasted fennel seed

All measurements are approximate. Taste as you go! Doesn’t call for cream because I can’t have it.

In a big pot, heat about 2 T olive oil over medium heat. Add 3 leeks, rinsed and sliced and two cloves of garlic, crushed. Sautée until softened. Add a big pinch of salt, 2 t fennel seed, toasted and crushed, and 1 t smoked paprika. Stir to combine and allow to continue cooking while you prep the potatoes.

Peel 3–4 medium-sized potatoes, then cut them in to manageable pieces and add them to the pot. Add vegetable bouillon (I use Swiss Marigold powder) and enough oat milk and water to submerge the potatoes. The total amount of liquid should be about ⅔ oat milk, ⅓ water.

Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for 15–20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and the liquid has reduced slightly. Remove from the heat, then remove a stick immersion blender to purée the soup thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasoning, it may need more salt and will probably need the juice of at least ¼ lemon.

To serve, ladle in to bowls and drizzle a little olive oil over the top, then sprinkle over a tiny bit more smoked paprika and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. Goes nicely with crusty bread.

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Moving your email from one host to another

I recently helped an artist friend move an email address associated with her domain name from one host to another. These are the steps we took.

TL;DR — Moving email from one host to another is a pain. If you have to take it on yourself, take each step carefully and when in doubt, get in touch with your email hosting provider for advice.

Read full instructions

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Oatmeal streusel muffins

Makes a dozen muffins.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

Make the streusel topping. In a medium bowl, combine 45 g (½ c) rolled oats, 40 g (⅓ c) plain flour*, 40 g (⅓ c) chopped pecans or walnuts, 66 g (⅓ c packed) light brown sugar, 1 heaped t of ground spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc.), and a pinch of salt. Pour 4 T melted butter over the mixture and mix thoroughly to combine in to a crumb-like mixture.

Make the batter. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine 240 ml (1 c) milk*, 113 g (½ c) cooled melted butter, 1 large egg, 100 g (½ packed c) light or dark brown sugar, and 1 T white vinegar. In a separate bowl, combine 125 g (1 c) plain flour, 90 g (1 c) rolled oats, 1 t ground cinnamon, a pinch of salt, 1 t baking powder, and ½ t baking soda. Stir the dry in to the wet just until combined.

Immediately after making the batter, ladle it in to the prepared muffin tin. The batter should fill the cups about ¾ of the way. Next, add a generous tablespoon of topping to each muffin.

Bake in a 200C (400F) oven for 18–25 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes in the tin, then remove the muffins to a rack to continue cooling.

* This seems like a substitution-friendly recipe. I made these with a combination of dark rye flour and gluten free flour when I didn’t have normal flour in for whatever reason and they came out really well. Wouldn’t hesitate to try all GF flour or similar substitutes. Oat milk works really well too.


This recipe is a tweaked combo of a Cooks Illustrated recipe (paywall) and another oatmeal muffin recipe.

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drastic nostalgia

pink ice plant flowers, a bee, concrete breeze blocks painted white, bromeliads, air plants, glue sticks, wicker chair back, lemons, limes, my blanket, sea hare, cut strawberries, mud, asphalt, flaking kick ball backboard, eucalyptus, AYSO jersey patterns, Vons ice cream, sand, marine layer, gross beige rug, 70s beach blanket, sunscreen, Xacto knife, vorco board, bright blue sweatshirt, jelly pens, unopened peonies, rope, bird wallpaper, food dye in water, pancake batter drips, continuous form paper, chain link fence, shiny brass, plastic oscillating fan, dirty terrazzo flooring

wanting to do something drastic to yourself
tattoos, shaving your head, suicide
out of all the good, where does this feeling come from? what frustration are we trying to embody?

also, nostalgia
it’s masochistic, purposefully reliving unreal events that will always feel superior to the present day, real life

we forget so much
oblivious viciousness of childhood

glass-block walls, stucco of all sorts, white wrought iron, fake wood panelling, ivy, guppies, anenomies, four square, gloved hands, twisted hair wraps, clover, tadpoles, blue pools, mustard, Pleiades, *big* spider, unshaven legs, long hair, freckles, sheets in the sun, wisteria, terracotta tiles, reflective glossy black, ceramic bear, brick wall, water pump

***

Found in one of the old notebooks that I’m slowly de-cluttering.

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Overheard on the 73, “it’s just one of those things”

I’m not going to lie, when I get a few drinks in me… I’m a little nasty to her. But it’s just one of those things.

Overheard on 10 April 2013 while sitting on the the upper deck of the 73 bus between Euston Station and King’s Cross, headed towards Stoke Newington. Said by a middle-aged businessman with a blue tie and London accent talking on a mobile.

Seems particularly awful since obviously there is self-awareness. He just doesn’t care enough to act differently.

***

Found in one of my old notebooks that I’m slowly de-cluttering.