A Mad Tea Party: Cucumber Salmon Crescents

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Tea time is always at four in the afternoon. And when one’s companion in tea is providing the scones with clotted cream and jam… well, then one needs to provide ballast, so as not to roll away from the party. My will power doesn’t extend to ignoring scones with clotted cream while at a tea party. Probably because I don’t really want it to. There’s no point in spoiling a good tea party with ill-timed abstinence.

scones

She makes really good scones.

On the other hand, adding cake or cookies on top of the scones seems unnecessary.

Enter the fish.

salmon crescents

Ingredients

1 large cucumber
1 small tin tuna or salmon
1 small red onion
1/4c plain greek yoghurt

dried or fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
garlic powder
pinch of salt
dried or fresh chopped basil
paprika

1. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller, measuring spoon or teaspoon to scoop the seeds out of the middle and discard/eat them. The cucumber should resemble two dugout canoes.

2. Drain salmon.

3. Finely dice the onion. Mix onion, salmon, yoghurt, lemon juice and spices to taste.

4. Fill cucumber canoes with salmon mixture. Sprinkle with paprika. Cut into 3/4″ slices and serve.

I used salmon because apparently I stopped eating tuna several months ago, when I decided I didn’t like it enough to buy mayo only for that purpose. I hadn’t yet thought of using yoghurt. I had completely forgotten this decision, but happily I did decide, around the same time, to try tinned salmon. Then I promptly forgot about the fish.

(The last time I tried tinned salmon, I got the tin Trader Joe’s that still had bones in. When I opened the can to make tea sandwiches, Dani and I got too freaked out by the bones to actually use it. It was not a proud day for an outdoorswoman.)

So there you have it: tiny cucumber crescents fit for a tea party. Or perhaps for lunch. Finger-food-friendly, and much faster than making and filling individual cucumber cups. I’ve tried this with tuna, too, and it tastes just as good, if slightly more like tuna.

salmon crescents

A Mad Tea Party: Enter the Cavalry

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I suppose it was only to be expected, really.

Holyrood Park | FarOuterHEbrides

In 1865, Mr. Dodgson set the bar for British tea parties.

IMG_5460

Since he immortalised the great British institution in story, the Great British Institution has become synonymous in my mind with outlandish hats and absurd circumstances, though I dare say our jokes are of a somewhat higher calibre.

Holyrood Park | FarOuterHEbrides

Dodgson can’t really be held responsible for the hats; just look at the royal wedding. But for fantastical circumstances surrounding the consumption of my afternoon tea and cakes… that I lay entirely at his door.

Horses from Parliament | FarOuterHebrides

Really, how else can you explain having a bus diverted on the way to tea by a pipe and drum corps, a dozen revolutionary-era redcoats with assorted hangers-on, and great long parade of horses coming up the Royal Mile from Parliament?

Horses from Parliament | FarOuterHebrides

Horses from Parliament | FarOuterHebrides

Down at the foot of the hill, by the Queen’s Gallery, there’s a small street sign I hadn’t noticed before.

Horses from Parliament | FarOuterHebrides

Seems fair.

When Summer Meets Autumn

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When summer meets autumn:

Leaves and sea glass

I feel bad picking the wildflowers in the park, but for the leaves I have no such qualms. There will be more soon.

I was proud of myself earlier this week because I opened up my broken alarm clock and fiddled with the connections until the backlight was no longer stuck in the “on” position. Sadly, it didn’t take; the light came on again last night. I think the metal piece has just lost its spring and can no longer bounce back. But I like the picture.

Alarm clock

A Mad Tea Party in the Botanical Gardens

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After wandering through Stockbridge Market and along the Water of Leith last Sunday, we made out way through the Botanical Gardens.

Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens Botanical Gardens

Eventually, we pulled out a wool rug and a flask (thermos) of hot tea to keep our biscuits company. It was, after all, four o’clock, and tea time is always four o’clock.

Botanical Gardens

 We also nibbled on one side of a mushroom. Things were rather large after that.

NTS in the Botanical Gardens

But really, we were only a little mad.

The Gently Mad book shop Edinburgh Fringe hairdresser

Five Things: Herbs and Acts of Kindness

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1. My chair. Last week, after extricating myself from the depths of the couch and moving to the floor, and then moving from the floor to the couch for the fourth time when the dust got too bad, I actually said to NTS, “You know what I need? I need a chair that’s just a platform for me to put my giant pillows on. Then I’ll be away from the cold and the dust, but able to sit upright without hurting my back, unlike on that couch.”

Fast forward two days to find me struggling down Merchiston Crescent with a great big chair frame pressed to my chest. I made it about halfway home before giving in and calling NTS to come help. But before he could get there… enter the marine. A stranger, soon to be part of Her Majesty’s marine corps, who carried the enormous chair frame the rest of the way home for me. I know nothing more about him, but he has my lasting gratitude. So I get the perfect platform for my cushions and an act of kindness from a stranger, all in one day.

2. On my way to the hairdresser, I discovered the New Leaf Co-op, a wee whole foods shop. Unlike Real Foods, where I get a lot of my “odd” groceries (you know, like legumes, grains, dried fruit and tea), it feels even more as though it’s part of a co-op barn somewhere, with plain wood shelving and things packed in everywhere, though it’s quite organized. My favourite part of the shop is the back, where you can scoop out whatever quantity of herbs, spices, legumes, bouillon, or fruit you want into a bag or jar. I bought a few tablespoons each of dried licorice root, juniper berries and peppermint for a project (see 5), and it came to 50p. Obviously, I will be trying my hand at home-mixed herbal teas in the near future.

The other charming thing about the shop is the jar station. People bring in clean jam jars with lids, and people take jars as they need them. As simple as that. A small act with no monetary gain, or even barter value, for the bringers of the jars or the store. Just a little bit of community.

3. This quote: “Today in Western culture, yurts are routinely used for glamping. (That’s glamour+camping, the bougie version of roughing it.)”

Ever since I first came across the term, “glamping” has rubbed me the wrong way. I think it’s because I’ve been camping since I was one. (There are pictures involving a tent and snow. I slept inside my daddy’s down vest, the perfect teeny-tiny down sleeping bag for a teeny-tiny person. My parents were obviously insane, but awesome.) We’ve always brought just enough to be comfortable, including enough amenities–rugged yet dainty wine glasses, delicious booze, pie–to feel like camping is already a delightful retreat, not a hardship. And the atmosphere can’t be beat. If the scenery requires gauze and quilts to make it palatable, you might want to move on anyway.

(UPDATE: My mother informs me that I was about 3 months old, which puts my snow-filled camping experience in spring. Because it turns out there’s a word for “spring” in Maine. They call it “winter”.) 

To be sure, I’ve stayed in some campgrounds–cough, Mystic–that might have been improved by amenities. That’s because the campground consisted of a field with lanes for driving. It would have been improved much more by containing some nature. Maybe trees. This is not camping, it’s a DIY hostel. If this is your situation, I recommend trying actual camping sometime in the near future, so you can see what nature looks like.

I think I dislike it because the word “glamping” implies that regular camping is not glamorous. Like it’s somehow lacking. I don’t object to the pretty amenities, but the word rubs me wrong.

Nice wine and battery-powered fairy lights, on the other hand, never hurt anyone and are an asset to any camping trip.

4. Actual conversation in the PhD office today:

“I saw your friend, Doctor Hu, yesterday.”

“He’s not a doctor yet.”

“Yeah, but he will be soon. And anyway, it’s too much fun to say. Does The Doctor even have a doctorate?”

“Of course he does.”

“In what?”

“In everything. While The Master only has a masters degree.”

“Oh, right. That’s why he’s so cranky.”

5. Flavored simple syrups. The name suggests that simple syrup, mostly used for making cocktails, mocktails, and flavored coffees, is easy, but it’s hard to express just how easy it is. Pour boiling water from the kettle over sugar, stir for a minute. Done. Adding herbs adds steeping time, but not a great deal of labor. The peppermint was very easy. And it smells delicious.

Now, the juniper… Do you know what’s stickier than sugar syrup? Crushed juniper berries soaked in sugar syrup. Those little bastards are almost up there with pine pitch. I finally used grapeseed oil to get the residue out of the mortar and pestle. They still smell like good gin, but I can’t say I mind. Incidentally, if you aren’t already a fan of gin, I suggest you find a small, unknown gin and give it another shot. I’m not a huge fan of the big-name gins, but there’s a local Edinburgh one that hits all the right notes. Every gin maker has their own recipe, and craft gin seems a lot like craft beer: that is, delicious. And not terribly expensive, either.

Why the fancy simple syrups? Yesterdays are a housewarming gift for someone, and today’s are going to a Mexican food party. Yes, for once all of us expats will have Mexican food. It will be delicious.

I should probably go buy tequila now. Or get back to work. I’ll leave it up to your imagination, which one I’m likelier to do now.

BONUS:

towel rack

My towel rack is smaller than your towel rack. The whole rack fits under the sink.

 

Audobon, Sturbridge and Selfies

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I spent much of May in the US. Naturally, I thought of nothing but taking pictures for the blog, and especially for you, Dear Reader. When I got back to Scotland, I was too excited about travel and being back in Scotland to sum of my vacation coherently. (So much happened, actually, I’m still not sure I can sum it up coherently. It’s a good thing I took pictures so I can reconstruct the narrative in my head. The Accuracy of memory is highly overrated, anyway–all memory is narrative, reconstructed from what we felt and visualised the last time we accessed the memory. But don’t let that stop you.) Now that I’m revising multiple iterations of a paper, though, it seems like a great time to give you a virtual tour through my memories.

Audobon

A wildlife sanctuary in eastern MA.

Audobon Sturbridge

Old Sturbridge Village. In the US, June is actually summer, and the weather was as perfect as it looks.

Sturbridge

Mumsy Dearest is fabulous, naturally.

Sturbridge

In sunglasses, no on can see you squint. Or blink. Sneezing they might notice.

Stockbridge Market and the Water of Leith

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Sunday, NTS and I went on an Adventure.

Stockbridge Market

First to the Stockbridge Market. Lots of organic, handmade, tasty, etc.

Paella

So much paella.

Autumn apple

I enjoyed my first apple of the season. Apples never taste so good at any other time than they do in fall.

Steampunk coffee? Yes, please.

Steampunk coffee? Yes, please.

Unlike in the US, when local apples aren’t available, there seem to be only 3 varieties: Gala, something yellowish, and sometimes Pink Lady. They’re not a bit like the real thing (although Pink Lady are pretty good, once you get past the sugar). I will happily eat apples in quantity all autumn.

Steampunk coffee with a side of NTS? Hoo boy!

Steampunk coffee with a side of NTS? Hoo boy!

And make no mistake, I’m pretty sure it’s autumn here. Summer happens in June and early July, and then we start a gentle descent toward November rains.

Stockbridge

Once you’ve made up your mind to fall, though, you get a long and lovely one.

Stockbridge

After loading up with sale raspberries, local apples, and a Christmas present or two, we headed out past the most fanciful Pizza Express I’ve ever seen…

Yes, this is indeed a pizza shop.

Yes, this is indeed a pizza shop.

and down along the Water of Leith.

Water of Leith walkway

In the early spring, this was quite the torrent, but now it’s settled down.

Water of Leith

It reminded me of the river behind our house Fall was always the best time to pick our way up or down it, from rock to rock, catching frogs. We always came back with wet feet or shoes and trousers full of burs. It was the best.

Kitty!

Kitty!

Water of Leith

Once past the Water of Leith, we made our way to the Botanical Gardens, where we enjoyed our tea.

Thanks for the clarification.

Thanks for the clarification.

But those are pictures for another day.

Five Things: She Blinded Me with Library Signs

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1. I waterproofed my shoes today! 

I always feel a glow of satisfaction when I’ve waterproofed my shoes for the winter, like the glow of stacking firewood against the cold season to come (although that’s actually not against the coming winter, but the one after). It’s an atavistic comfort in being prepared for the hard season ahead. Right now, as I acclimate to rapidly shortening days and the new norm of ‘windy, high of 59F (15C)’, the glow of preparedness warms the heart as well as the feet, and is very welcome. (Protip: The further north you are, the more rapidly the length of the days changes.)

2. It’s getting colder. Does your coffee have a sweater?

Does your coffee have a sweater?

No, I didn’t hand-knit my coffee a Fair Isle sweater with size 1 needles. This is the happy remains of one smartwool sock with a hole too large to darn comfortably. (i.e. in the bottom of the heel. I haven’t had much success darning holes larger than a dime in the sole of the sock. The extra cushioning is fine where the heel rubs the back of the shoe, though.)

3. I found a ladder!

I found a ladder

I hid under the ladder because I love you.

NTS’s pillow fortress

NTS's pillow fortress

I was hiding under the ladder because I love you.

I was hiding under your porch because I love you. -UP (source)

I was hiding under your porch because I love you. -UP (source)

4. She blinded me with library signs.

As seen in the university's main library.

As seen in the university’s main library.

Library stacks

These are the stacks in part of the Dewey Decimal section of the library, i.e. the older books. The newer ones have Library of Congress classifications. You can’t quite see it in the photo, but the stacks are on rails, so I suspect you use the spidery hand wheels to move the stacks back and forth until you can reach the shelves you want. The fourth floor is kind of awesome.

Doors

Sadly, even in an institute of higher learning, Scots have yet to figure out exactly what the purpose of door handles is. I’ve even seen pull handles that have the word PUSH molded directly into the handle. Other buildings with this problem: Edinburgh Central Library (Edinburgh and Scottish Collection), the Informatics building where they build robots and program things. And that’s just off the top of my head. Scots don’t really understand how doors work.

5. Buckwheat pancakes. Words cannot express how much I have been enjoying them lately. I’ll try some pictures instead. Recipe will follow in a later post.

Buckwheat pancakes with apples and raspberries

Buckwheat pancake sandwiches

Buckwheat pancake sandwiches

Bonus: Sausagemobile.

Sausagemobile

Happy weekend!

On Killing Your Darlings

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Aaaand there goes my search rating. You guys are going to get some weird ads now.

Like you weren’t already.

I’m reading through some fiction I wrote years ago. I was very attached to it at the time. Still am, in fact. But six years and two (smallish) dissertations give a writer a slightly different perspective on matters. I’ve been afraid to read it, leery of the sheer amount of work that will undoubtedly be required to turn it into anything. And leery to see what past me thought would be a good writing style. So far it’s gone like this:

BRID Hey, this doesn’t suck!

BRID Okay, I’ll just skim over this part.

BRID This is actually rather enjoyable.

BRID Aaaand exposition. And more exposition. Damn, girl.

BRID Doesn’t suck again!

As this is how I feel about my research on a daily basis, I have to assume this is normal.

o O o

The first most important tip you get as a writer is: Write. This is important, but in the furor of planning the perfect novel, it’s surprising how often it’s overlooked.

The second is, once you’ve written, remove every word that doesn’t help the story along in some way. Chances are, a good quarter of the words just slipped in there on their own while you were trying to say something entirely unrelated.

Which brings us to three: Kill your babies. As L. M. Montgomery put it, “All the passages you think especially fine, you must cut out.” This is very hard.

At least, it’s hard until you’re sitting in bed six years later, and you find yourself (although there’s no one else in the house) smothering a smile with one hand the way you do when a student makes a mistake and you don’t want them to feel bad. Yep, my upper lip gets awfully itchy during the tourist ceilidhs. Terribly itchy.

But I digress. You say you want an example?

“Pardon me…” Genevieve’s voice rang musically through the cave, followed by a delicate foot in a swirl of silk and pain.

Great chapter opener, right? I still think it looks terribly elegant.

If only I didn’t snort with laughter every time I read it. It’s too elegant. Like a small child wearing a tutu to go grocery shopping. Endearing in the young, but rather out of place on a fully-grown novel. I’m not going for full-on satire, so I’ll keep the snort for things I really mean to be funny.

Another darling down. But at least this one gets a memorial. I think I’ll just collect hilarious lines from my fiction and give them a decent burial on the blog. Why should I be the only one who gets to laugh at them?

Hanging out in my hammock, before Scotland settled on a uniform high of 59F (15C) for the season.

Hanging out in my hammock, before Scotland settled on a uniform high of 59F (15C) for the season.

 

Adventures

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NTS coming home. So did you have any adventures today, dear?

BRID No.

Not a ladder

NTS … Is that a ladder?

BRID No.

… Yes.

NTS What.

BRID One of these days our apartment is going to have a loft. I’ll be ready.

Climbs ladder.

Who’s tall now, bitches!

NTS You’re very tall, dear.

Glances around nervously. Of course, that’s usually when the whole thing collapses. Maybe that’s enough for just now.

Exeunt, pursued by a bear.

o O o

Every part of that conversation just happened Except one line. Who would have a bear in their apartment?

Also, I’ll have you know I didn’t just go out and buy a ladder on a whim. That would be irresponsible.

I found it.

Yep, a ladder

I may move it back toward the table and use it to store my office supplies where I can reach them. Or I may continue to let NTS use it as a beer table. We’ll see.

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