House spider, garden spider, or false widow? Or, if you hate spiders, don’t bother reading this.

Check out this baby!

spider 1 - with flash

Although there’s no reason to believe it’s a False Widow spider (other than the fact it has a skull on it’s back and must therefore mean business) I can’t find anything else which vaguely resembles it.

Anyone out there got a better idea of what it is?

spider  - without flash


Friday night is Curry Night! Or, here is the mess within which I live

I realise that everyone doesn’t need to see the appalling mess which litters my desk, but there just isn’t time to make it pretty. In 10 minutes it’ll be eaten. Either by me, or, because I’m still baking na’an breads, by the dog if I lose focus. She has surreptitiously inched closer and is now directly below my dinner.

curry and homemade na'an (and a lot of mess)

The point is this: here is my curry. It was mega easy to make (and believe me, I know a thing or two about being terrified of a recipe). I shied away from making curry from scratch for a long time, and the first time I attempted it, I was actually 30. No other type of meal has been held off for so long in the history of Sakina.

Anyway, I’m too lazy and busy today to make a proper curry using the fabulous 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi, and neither do I have enough ingredients, so I cheated, and made a thoroughly unauthentic one, and you can too.

I’m gonna give you the curry instructions first, and the na’an bread ones second, because I have a feeling that the curry will be more likely to be made than the na’an (even though they are easier than making ordinary bread).

You will need:

Chicken breast x the number of people who are eating. Or more. I usually go for more.
2 x onions – one chopped, one sliced
Orange lentils
Yellow/red bell pepper
Your favourite curry paste
(I used Madras)
Olive oil

Chop the chicken into large bitesize pieces, and marinade in a tablespoon of curry paste and a few slugs of oil. I managed to do this several hours before dinner, so it worked very well, but that’s a rarity for me.

When you’re ready to cook, sling the onion into the bottom of a wide/large pan, with a few more slugs of oil, and fry on a low/med heat for ages. 10-15 minutes.

Wang some curry paste (how much depends on how hot you like it) into the pan, cook for about 30 seconds, and then heave a bunch of lentils in. I don’t know how many! Whatever you think. Err on the side of caution, is all, or you’ll be eating lentils for a fortnight.

Pour loads of water on top, bring to the boil, and simmer until the lentils are soft and cooked. I put a stock cube in for flavour and instead of salt, but it’s up to you.

I strung the pieces of chicken, alternated with chunks of yellow pepper onto some wooden skewers which I had hanging around since someone’s BBQ a few years ago, but you’re just as safe to bake them in a tray. Oven was at about 200 degrees C. (I wasn’t really paying attention).

When the lentils are cooked, if you have a handblender, knock yourself out – I don’t like it too smooth, just thick with texture. That’s why I sliced some of the onion.

When the chicken is cooked, unstring it into the curry, cook for a little longer, and away you go!

Homemade Na’an Breads

I got the recipe off a wicked little website called Aayi’s Recipes.

12oz plain or strong white breadflour
half tsp sugar
1 tsp dried yeast
3/4 tsp salt
2 tblsp plain yoghurt

120ml milk
3 tbsp water

Some nigella seeds (onion seeds)

Dissolve the salt and sugar into the water (needs to be slightly warmed), and add the yeast. Give it a whisk, stretch some cling film over the top of the container, and leave in a warm  place (I only gave it 5 minutes).

Mix the flour with all the other ingredients except for the onion seeds, and you’ll have a fabulous, bosom-soft bread dough. Knead that on a floury surface for a few minutes, and then stick it somewhere warm. Some brave people rise bread in the oven. I. Do. Not. Dare.

After the dough’s approximately doubled in size, heave it out, knock all the air out of it, cut it into half, then those pieces in half again, and roll out one of the pieces on a very floury surface. (BTW, the oven is now at 220 degrees C, for those who didn’t notice the sleight of hand there). If you have onion seeds, sprinkle them onto the floured surface. They’ll press in as you roll.

It doesn’t matter what shape the breads are, but they go quite easily into the tear shape that we’re used to seeing in supermarkets.

According to Aayi’s Recipes, it wants to be rolled out thicker than a chapati, and thinner than a paratha. Just play with it, experiment. I did.

Onto a hot baking tray, into the oven, and see what happens. They’re supposed to ‘puff up’. My first one was like a rugby ball, but the others puffed up randomly.

They stay in the oven for almost 7 minutes; just before then, get it out, turn it over, pour olive oil or garlic butter over it, and heave it back in again.

They’re ready when they look like na’an bread. This can happen for you.

And finally …

No one really needs a recipe for a salad, but cachumba is ace with curry. All I do is dice some cucumber really small, and half a red onion, mix the two together and add a couple of teaspoons of mint sauce. Give it all a good mix.

Homemade chocolate truffles; or, eat now or forever hold your piece

I wasn’t a fat child, although my mother always referred to me as an elephant, due to the fact that she is (and still is) the size of Tinkerbell, but as a teenager, I definitely bordered on it. One of the reasons for this is that I loved to read … almost as much as I loved to eat. And combining the two together was a no-brainer.

No longer fat, although ever vigilant, I still have a few of the same unresolved issues. Such as how hard it is to peel an orange without getting the juice all over the pages. Many of my childhood books are still splattered and stained in orange.

One item which is perfect to eat whilst reading, however, is chocolate. As long as you don’t leave it in your hand too long, there isn’t much chance of finding it between the pages 20 years later.

And so, today, I made chocolate truffles. Possibly the easiest confection to make in the existence of sweeties.

Truffles rolled in roasted, crushed  hazelnuts

Chocolate Truffles

The quantities I used here were because it was necessary to keep the numbers down as I don’t want to look like a truffle this time tomorrow. However you can upscale without any problem as the ratio of cream to chocolate is 1:1.

100g dark, best quality you can afford, orange flavoured (optional) chocolate.100ml double cream
Half a vanilla pod (optional)
2-3 tablespoons of liqueur – I used brandy – this is also optional.
A random amount of cocoa powder mixed with brown sugar – the quantities are up to you, I don’t like plain cocoa powder.

Break up the chocolate into tiny pieces and drop into the bottom of a bowl.
Pop the vanilla into the cream and bring it up to boiling BUT DO NOT BOIL.

Pour the cream onto the chocolate (remove the vanilla), and leave for about 5-10 minutes. This softens the chocolate.

Whisk the mixture until it’s thick and glossy. Let it cool for about 30 minutes. Pour in the brandy (or whatever) and whisk again until it’s incorporated.

Bung it in the fridge. After a few hours it’ll be too hard to make truffles out of, so you’ll need to leave it at room temperature for a few hours. I left mine overnight, covered with clingfilm and out of reach of the dog’s worryingly long neck.

Once at room temperature, if you’re really clever, you’ll have a melon baller, and be able to make perfect balls. If you’re me, then two teaspoons and the ability to make quenelles will do the trick just fine.

Drop each one into a small bowl with the cocoa powder mix, and ensure they’re coated.

Eat. And read. To get you started on the books, there are a couple in the right hand side panel of this page which I can guarantee are excellent reads!

An attempted explanation for magic, and orbs, for skeptics (to rip apart); or, at risk of sounding like a loony …

I believe strongly in ghosts and magic, and Other Things and if I allow myself to feel The Fear, even bumps in the night can shake me.

A good friend of mine used to ask me why it was that I wanted there to be more than this amazing world already has. Surely the magic of a flower opening or the planets spinning is amazing enough. I never had an answer for this but now I know.

Bees pollinate the world and fruit springs from flowers, this is magic. It is energy on the spiritual plane. The delicate thread of life, amazing as spider silk is strong and fragile at the same time, and this too is magic (hang with me here, I’ll explain). It’s because of all these incredible things, and because there is so much we didn’t know until recently, I see no reason not to believe in the paranormal and magical. I think I believe it even more.

Here’s the thing: as above, so below.

My interpretation of this may not be ‘correct’ in the view of some occultists or theosophists, but to me, the world exists on two different planes (actually more, but this is complicated enough). One ‘Astral’ and one ‘Mundane’.

With physical, solid objects, bodies, an emphasis on touch and feel, the mundane world (mundane means earthly, not boring here) makes sense to us. When you touch a washing machine it feels solid, always, and that never changes. You can switch it on, and open and close its porthole. There’s no weirdness, no chance that it might be something else tomorrow; it’s a washing machine.

On the astral plane we (and everything that lives) exist there too, whether we believe it or not. We’re manifested differently; maybe as light, or a different kind of energy, or who knows? (I don’t).

Events take place in a different format, so while you fall out with your sister and slap her face, your astral self sends some angry energy, or fires a thunderbolt at her. I suspect that on the astral plane, you may be limited only by your imagination.

Whatever happens on the astral plane has to make sense on the mundane plane. You can’t just make a wish for the house to be tidy, and lo! It is! There would be no rational, earthly explanation for broomsticks and dishcloths auto-cleaning the kitchen. There are more straightforward ways to achieve it.

The magic and science of orbs

What brought all this up in my mind today – and reaffirmed for me the above theory – was a scientific explanation for photographic orbs. These are spheres of light which are sometimes snapped by digital cameras in low light situations.  The trouble is, they’re usually seen as no significance by anyone not interested in the paranormal. Only the interested parade the phenomenon.

Because you can’t see with the naked eye what causes them, spiritualists and other New Age types put it down to proof of the existence of angels, spirits, ghosts, some kind of special energy … any or all of the above.

Wikipedia explains that because the flash on a compact digital camera is right at the front – a very short distance from the lens – it lights particles in the air (dust, rain) which reflect the light back almost directly to the lens. This causes the photograph to see an orb.

But as above, so below. Because of the nature of the relationship between the astral and mundane planes, both explanations can exist side by side. They are not mutually exclusive.

Weird, innit? (Or is it a get-out clause?)


Give the girl a break

Right, I’ve just about had it up to here *points to way way WAY above head* with all the Miley Cyrus bashing. I realise this is a little out of my way on here, but there’s no where else I can stick this post, and it’s going up in a direct response to such posts as this one by my good friend Monique Snyman (and bear in mind, I liked that post before I watched the video, it’s funny and cutting, and well worth a read), and all those folks on Facebook who were apparently never taken advantage of.

This video is shite. And I mean SHITE. I may not have been the world’s greatest film maker, but even I can see how terrible it is. It’s cringeworthy, for sure. Now think. Who’s responsible for the creative decisions on a film shoot? Well it isn’t the actress, that’s for sure.

Go ahead, check it out if you haven’t seen it already. It’s taken me a while to look because a) I’m not interested in ‘celebrities’ *cue silly voice* and b) I don’t have TV (by choice, I might add) so I haven’t seen it by accident either.

Watch it closely. Check out the half naked … and later, fully naked 20 year old child who is performing on there. Particularly notice the tasteful blow job simulation – sorry – pre-blow job simulation – with a sledge hammer. Nasty. Just nasty.

No woman came up with that little visual joy. Trust me on that. Now do a little google dig on the director of this lovely, tasteful music video. Terry Richardson. Well known amongst his models to be a lewd, toucher-upper of the highest degree. “Oh yeah, baby, just get used to me, baby, just strip to your underwear, honey, that’s fine. Hey, you’re used to me now, darling, why don’t you just take everything else off, babes, what’s the matter? You can’t be embarrassed now, can you?”

I can just hear the insidious intentions behind the vacuous imagery. It’s almost as if every woman – every 20 year old –  every beautiful 20 year old (and yes, we’re all beautiful when we’re 20, especially to yakky old men) is supposed to take responsibility for the fact that they got themselves into a situation they couldn’t handle, and went with it, instead of calling for the cops.

The fact is – and I hate to open a few people’s eyes (and Monique, I am not getting at you alone) – is that once you’re in that position, there’s no going back. There’s no putting your clothes on and making like you’re a prude, even if you only so far stripped down to your underwear. Because the way that man will make you feel is that you are boring, stupid, irresponsible … that you gave him a come on and then teased him instead of going all the way. No girl wants that hanging round her neck.

That girl is trying to laugh it off, and push everyone away that says she’s a wanker for making that video. At the end of the day, it wasn’t her that came up with the imagery and the ideas. It was him.

She’s a young, impressionable, foolish kid, who has been around far more unsuitable characters than him, and anyone who wants to slag her off and put her in a box and say she’s crap because of it, wants to look at their own life and think how lucky they are to have never found themselves in a similar position.

Maybe she is crap, but it’s not because she got naked and rode on a nasty, dirty wrecking ball.