Thursday 28 January 2010

Does anyone know... to shift a blog-entry?

What I mean is, I wrote the draft for this blog entry

already back in July last year but had decided not to publish it yet.
Now I have changed my mind, but it still appears under the July date and not as a new posting.

I have not found a way to set the date.
Can anyone help?

Suggestions welcome and appreciated :-)

Saturday 23 January 2010

Mothers Know...

...not everything, but a lot.
Mine is no exception.

All of this week, I have been very busy with both work and other things; almost every night after leaving the office, I had some event or other to attend, people to meet and talk to, arrangements to make and visitors to receive. Quite normal for me, really, but all the more I need time and space to myself.

Today, Saturday, was the only day where I did not "have to" go anywhere - or so I thought, until I realized there was no bread left and not much cheese in the fridge (bread and cheese being my staple food, since I rarely feel like cooking just for myself).

This morning, I talked to my mum on the phone and mentioned it briefly before making arrangements for my parents to come over in the afternoon, so that my dad could go through my late husband's things and decide what he likes and can wear.

When my parents arrived, my mum had a bag full of good things for me:

a loaf of bread she had baked for me immediately after our phone call earlier, a jar of home-made jam, some gruyêre (cheese) and two bottles of malt beer (it is not really beer, there is no alcohol in it, we just call it "Kinderbier" in German).

She saved me having to shop for groceries this weekend - I won't need much else, since tomorrow I am at a friend's birthday party, and for breakfast I almost always eat muesli anyway.

The bread was still warm, its lovely scent filling my kitchen, and I just had to cut two slices and eat them with the gruyêre straight away.

A mother's love can hardly be more tangible than that, can it?

I am glad my family live nearby. It does not matter that we do not always see eye to eye, and if they knew some of the things I am up to, they would most likely not approve, but like I said at the beginning of this post, mothers know a lot - just not everything :-)

Saturday 16 January 2010

Notes To Self - II

Time for the second installment of my recently started "Notes To Self" series!
(Find the first one here:

Again, deciphering my own handwriting becomes quite a challenge several days after the original scribbling down of a name or a term. A true calligraphical masterwork, this one!
Graphologists would probably never guess that, in spite of my handwriting, I am actually quite organized and neat in my daily life (don't ask about what is going on in my mind, though - quite the opposite, really...).

Enough of the preliminaries, and on to what I thought was worth remembering or following up on a while ago:

"Sir Brooke Boothby" says the first line. I read about him in an article in my weekly newspaper and must have found it interesting enough to want to do some research on him later.
Research I did, and the first entry Mr. Google lead me to was a piece about Gothic Romance, published in the Tate's online research journal.

The next line is another name - but I am certain only of "Barry" and find myself unable to decipher the surname. So there goes my intended follow-up on something else I must have found interesting.

And yet another name - more legible this time:
"Marcus Raichle --> Default Network"
Despite his very German sounding surname (his ancestors must have come from somewhere around here; you can't get more Swabian than that!), Mr. Raichle is a professor of Radiology, Neurology, Neurobiology and Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St Louis. If you want to know what the "Default Network" is about, you can read more here and of course elsewhere online as well as offline.

The next bit on the note clearly says "Body Image", but what follows could be Hifab, Hilab, Hijab - and none of it makes sense (well, I know what a Hijab is, but in this context...?).

So, with a sigh, I move on to "Giorgione: Tempesta", which is accompanied by a check mark - meaning I have done what I intended to do; in this case, written an article in a forum about the mysterious painting "La Tempesta" by Italian Rennaissance painter Giorgione:La tempesta

To the right of the check mark, I have written "Edge" and underneath "John Brockman".
The Edge is a website, founded by John Brockman.
I have not had a proper and thorough look at it yet - it looks like this could be quite a time-consuming enterprise - but it certainly appears to be worth it.
See for yourself, if you like:

Finally, there is a shopping list!
It says Hefe, Mehl, Eier, Mandelstifte, which are the ingredients I had to remember buying for a cake I was due to make for my sister's birthday on the 10th of January: yeast, flour, eggs, chopped almonds.

And last but not least, I was reading "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga and found a sentence about education on page 52 in the first paragraph: "I've always been a big believer in education - especially my own."

Sunday 10 January 2010

Pizza for Dummies :-)

Being something of a dummie in the kitchen myself, I do appreciate a recipe being written in understandable language and, if possible, showing on pictures how things should look like; this makes it so much easier to follow instructions, doesn't it?
(I apologize for the "foggy" quality of this picture - it is the gesture that counts!)
My pizza recipe is nothing special, but it is very easy to make and of course you can put on the pizza whatever you prefer; in this case, it is ham and salami, but it could just as well be tuna, onion, three kinds of cheese, gorgonzola, carciofini, spinach, pepperoni, pineapple, mushrooms or anything else that tickles your fancy and / or needs to be used up in order not to be thrown out.

Get a big bowl and 300 g of plain white flour, a small teaspoon of salt, yeast, and about 1/4 litre of warm (not hot!) water. You can see on the picture that I am one of those lazy people who buy ready-to-use yeast (that's the "Hefe" pack); I know how to use proper, natural yeast as well, but it is easier to stock the ready-to-use one than the natural one.

Mix the dry ingredients first thoroughly, before adding the water.
Then mix until it looks like this:

Now cover the bowl and place it somewhere warm; leave it there undisturbed for at least one hour - the longer, the better!

After that resting time, the dough should look more or less like this - considerably "more" and quite "airy", not like the lump it was before:

You can now get the baking tray ready, spread a little olive oil on it.

Make sure you have plenty of flour at hand, because it is time to really work the dough.

Throw two hands full of flour on top of the dough. Dip your hands into the flour container so that they are well "powdered". Work the dough. Use more flour as you work it into the dough. Be thorough; get to the bottom of the bowl and turn the dough over, add more flour, work through the dough, and so on - you get the idea. Smack it, slap it, knead it; don't be shy!

The result should be a neat ball of dough, very soft and smooth, like the skin on the inside of my upper arms, and not stick to your hands anymore.

Put the dough on the oiled baking tray. Switch the oven on. Mine is an electric one and in Celsius, and I make pizza at 200 degrees. It is probably different in other countries, but you will have to work that out on your own :-P

Stretch and pull the dough with your hands. This is going to take a while!
Don't lose your patience; at first, the dough will want to slip back into its former shape. Simply stretch and pull some more...
...until it looks like this:

Now comes the fun and easy part - determine what you want as toppings!
As a foundation, of course your pizza needs tomato sauce. Well, not actually sauce, but the thick tomato juice that goes as "Passata di Pomodoro". You know what I mean, right?
You spice it yourself, with a little salt and pepper, and then pour it on the dough.

Spread it evenly with a flat spoon. Leave a bit of a rim, like this:

Now add the toppings. I have decided to make one half with salami and the other with ham (prosciutto):

Give some to the cat. She has been waiting her turn patiently while you were tearing the slices of salami and prosciutto to pieces.

Add bits of leaves of fresh basil. If you do not have fresh basil, don't use dried basil on the topping; instead, stir it into the passata di pomodoro before you pour it on the dough.
But - you need basil. I insist on it!

Time to add the cheese. I use mozzarella, slice it and distribute it on the pizza. Be generous.
Some people prefer other types of cheese; I am a mozzarella person.

Now your pizza is ready to go into the oven which, by now, should have reached the temperature you have set. It should not take more than 15, maximum 20, minutes to be ready to eat. Just enough time to prepare a nice salad and lay the table.

Make sure to go back to the oven and check on the colour of the dough and the cheese every 5 minutes or so. The scent will also tell you when it is time to eat :-)

Buon appetito!!!

Friday 8 January 2010


Why is it, I wonder, that things seem to have a tendency towards forming clusters?

(Last summer, I already was on about a similar topic here in my blog:

So, clusters.
According to what scientists have managed to glimpse from our universe, clusters happen even on the largest scale, with galaxies appearing to form groups (or clusters) rather than interspersing the infeasibly vast spaces of... well, space.

But I am on about smaller things, that most of you probably observe daily in your lives.

The period between Christmas and New Year as well as this whole first week in the new year has been very quiet (too quiet, in fact) at the office. Sometimes we had one incoming phone call in one hour. On Wednesday, I counted the total, just out of curiosity: 23. Compare this to some days just one of our team getting 75 calls, let alone the whole company.

So, during this quiet period, how come that even those few and far between phone calls came in clusters? Typically, while one of the two or three people present already was on the phone, it rang somewhere else, and then again somewhere else in our big open plan office - only to be totally quiet again for the next half hour or so.

The same is true for people. I walk past a bakery every morning (several, actually), and often, there is not one customer inside. But if there are customers, almost always there is more than one; in fact, a whole bunch of people seem to have come in at the same time, now waiting their turn to be served.

Or take my regular work at tradeshows and fairs. For a while, nothing happens. Nobody comes to the booth to take a closer look at the products we exhibit. Then, someone does stop, and immediately the booth seems to attract the attention of at least another three or four visitors.

While I understand some of the mechanisms that work for people - they see someone looking at something and automatically assume there must be something worth looking at, so they join the first person - , it can not the same for the phenomenon of the phone call clusters.

Unless, of course, our customers conspire :-)
But me not given to conspiration theories in the first place, I dismiss this and just keep wondering at how and why things, events and people tend to cluster.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Notes To Self

When I am on the phone, I do not doodle; I lost that habit decades ago when I started to work for a publisher where I was constantly on the phone with customers who were placing adverts in our papers and where I had to focus on what exactly they were saying, and take notes of their requests and instructions.

These days, I take notes of things I do not want to forget, like when I am reading my weekly paper ("Die ZEIT" for those of you who are familiar with German papers) and I come across an article that captures my interest enough to make me want to find out more about the subject, or share the information with a friend.
Other notes I take are opening times of offices or restaurants, phone numbers that for some reason or other I can not immediately store in my mobile's memory, or directions to someone's house.
I also take notes for myself of topics that come to my mind which I think would make for a blog entry, so that I can get back to them later when I have time and the brewing machine inside my head has come up with a result worth typing.

Originally, it was
this post on Nan's blog which gave me the idea to write about my more or less random scribbles, and so early on in the New Year seems to be a good starting point; maybe there will be more "Notes To Self" on here as the year picks up pace.

Here is the note I am going to add to the waste paper basket as soon as I have finished writing this entry:

(Yes, my handwriting is terrible - I should have become a doctor!)

The two names at the top of the note are names of scientists mentioned in articles in the ZEIT, which I intend to let a friend know about because I think he will find the results of their studies interesting.

The next bit is the name of an office in town hall along with their opening times, where I had to go last week to sort something out in relation with my husband's death;

followed by a friend's phone number (with the last few digits blackened because it is, after all, a real phone number) and the directions to her house, where I was invited for New Year's Day.

You can see that I have also written something on the back of the note; that's a shopping list, including one or two items my sister had asked me to bring.

Now that you've had this little glimpse into my daily life, let me know if you found it entertaining enough for me to do more such blog posts; you are also welcome to comment if you don't think so - I can handle criticism :-)