Sunday, 27 December 2015

Leaking Pavlovas

This year for Christmas my darling and I decided not to exchange presents. We also didn’t have any decorations around the house (except for a handmade Xmas tree ornament made by my darling’s nephew which has been hanging from the nose of our Happy Bunny™ since we received it as a present last year which doesn’t count because it’s always there.)

There was a vague idea going around early on that we might wander down the street when it was dark and have a look at the Christmas lights in the one house in our neighbourhood that bothers. This was shot down through a combination of lack of interest and needing to stay up after our bedtime for it to get dark.

So my big Christmas moment was making the Pavlovas for our Christmas Eve dessert.

I read up on the Internet and saw legions of people complaining about how their Pavlovas leaked or fell or otherwise didn’t make the grade. I scoffed at these people, safe in my “I haven’t tried yet so I don’t know how hard it’ll be” state of innocence. I whipped up some eggs and gradually added sugar. I kept at those peaks until they were smooth and glossy and I couldn’t feel any grains of sugar when I smooshed a bit between my fingers.

I added cornflour and vanilla and white vinegar (???) even though it didn’t seem like an ingredient that should be added. I stirred in some JUST BOILED WATER which must have been integral because it was called attention to in capitals.

I separated my one pavlova into two pavlovas so that there weren’t any fights later on, then put them into the 100 C oven to cook for an hour and a half while I tidied the kitchen.

Half an hour later I peered into the oven to see a disaster forming.

A small puddle was leaking from one side of one pavlova. I refused to look for the remaining time in case it was my special vision powers that made the disaster happen. It wasn’t. Or, if it was, I inflicted the same powers again when I took the tray out of the oven.

Never mind. I’ve baked before. I know the score. I bought double ingredients at the supermarket because I know these things happen.

I double checked all the reasons this disaster could’ve happened. They were many and varied.

Beating the egg whites too much. Not beating them enough. Adding too much sugar. Adding damp sugar. Not integrating the sugar into the mixture effectively. Humidity. The oven was too hot. The oven was not too hot.

Having narrowed it down a bit, I tried an entirely different recipe that nevertheless used the same ingredients. Except for the water. The second one not only didn’t think the water should be just boiled but didn’t see the necessity for water at all. They looked remarkably similar when I put them into the oven. Unfortunately, they looked remarkably similar when I pulled them from the oven also.

Oh well. I’m used to disasters in the kitchen and you know what I always say? There’s nothing that can’t be fixed with lashings of whipped cream and chocolate chips.

I can also reliably report that meringue tastes like meringue whether it leaks in the oven or not.

Saturday, 19 December 2015


I may not make a lot of sense today (just today you say?) because I've been struggling with insomnia for the past three weeks.

And when I say struggling, I mean it's pounded me into the ground and is calling me its b****.

When it first started, it wasn't too bad. I had early waking insomnia which is the best kind. I woke up early most mornings and I could get work done that I'd only dreamed of in the past. I'd crash around lunchtime but who needs a coherent answer after midday?

Now it's switched to the worse kind. I lie in bed at night staring at the inside of my eyelids and getting worked up over a variety of incidents which I'm confident never happened.

Utterly useless wakefulness. Too tired to get up and do some work; too sleepless to... well, to sleep. In the morning when I drag myself into semi-consciousness I'm also too tired to get up and do some work.

I'm sure by now you can spot the problem there.

This isn't helped by the fact I'm line editing at the moment which means both that I need to have my brain fully engaged in trying to think of the best ways to phrase things while also being bored senseless by looking at the same sentences over and over and over.

I'd complain bitterly and at length (oh really, that wasn't at length?) but I'm terrified to do so because in the shadows lurks a meaner beast. I speak (or rather I don't because I've seen Candyman and I know how saying words aloud works out for female characters) of the third and worst type of insomnia.

The I-can't-fall-asleep-or-stay-asleep-and-I-also-wake-up-early insomnia. Also known as brain death.

One night many years ago when I couldn't sleep (a familiar scenario apparently) I looked up insomnia on Wikipedia to see if you could die from it because it sure felt as though I could.

The ever-delightful Internet provided the answer that I could if I suffered from Fatal Familial Insomnia. I'd have found it an easier read if I'd picked up the first time around that this was a rare genetic disease.

FFI has insomnia down cold. By the time you die from this horrendous disease, you may have gone six or more months with NO SLEEP WHATSOEVER. The patients go completely mental. With reason.

In an attempt to treat it, a hospital once tried to make a patient sleep by using drugs to put him into an induced coma. The induced coma drugs failed to induce sleep. Can you imagine?

Unfortunately, when I looked this stuff up on the Internet at night after days of insufficient sleep, I could imagine.

In brighter news, my contest to brutally murder a member of your family in celebration of Christmas is running into its last hours. If you haven't entered yet, then follow the link HERE to avail yourself of this one and only chance.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Christmas Conundrums

Christmas is once again upon us, and so the season of overeating has begun. In some parts of the world, this coincides with Winter which means you can cover up your excesses with layers of woolly jumpers.

Even when the button on your jeans mysteriously changes place so it can no longer be done up without extending it with the magical application of a safety pin, the damage can be covered up by a long top.

Down here in the southern hemisphere, however, things aren’t so easy. It’s summer. Not only that, it looks like we’re in for a hot summer. Already, Canterbury is in the middle of a drought. There’ve been entire weeks now where my weekday apparel consists of a cardigan only in the morning. In the afternoons, even my cold-blood runs warm and fluid.

My clothing layers now consist of a sleeveless top with a wrap. This apparel doesn’t hide much. Certainly not with the culinary sins I’m about to inflict.

One idea I’ve had is the idea of putting an Atkins spin on the whole holiday season. Ham, beautiful. Just fail to follow up with the Pavlova** and I should be okay.

A great idea which fails to take into account that summer is also the season where all of my berries ripen to perfection and are dropping from the vines, stalks and tendrils. The poor wee things can’t help it that they’re laden with carbohydrates. All they know is that they’re useless for the best part of a year, but right now is their time to shine.

Oh, well. Time to put thought into another method for getting past Christmas without gaining a spare tire. I’ve still got a week or two before the full onslaught hits.

**Pavlova, for those of you who haven’t come across it, is a meringue-type dessert invented by New Zealanders and named in honour of the ballerina. If an Australian tells you they invented it, they’re lying or deluded and either should lead you to avoid their company. And as for Wikipedia? You get what you pay for.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

My and that inflation

Filled with dynamic energy earlier this week, I decided to film a video of myself to pop onto my website. I don't have any camera equipment, but everyone else seems perfectly fine using their webcam so I was certain I could too.

After a fight with VLC media player which I still don't entirely understand, I managed to put together a short clip begging asking for potential beta readers for my books in return for early copies and finished copies.

So far, so good.

I had tried at one stage to directly upload into YouTube by pressing record on the site, but for a strange reason it converted my ninety-second video into a sixteen minute punishment. I mean, I know that New Zealanders speak quickly, but that was too much counteraction for my taste.

I uploaded my video, checking three times that I'd switched from Public to Private, and waited for it to process onto the site. All so I could download it again and embed it onto my website.

While waiting, I investigated the site to see if I could remember off the top of my head which of the buttons I was meant to press to obtain the upload link.

I couldn't, but I did find a previously unknown to me source of entertainment known as a transcript.

Poor YouTube has embedded this functionality presumably in an attempt to ensure hearing defective consumers could obtain as much use from their site as anyone else.

I'm not sure they hit their intended target. Witness below what YouTube has decided in its wisdom is a transcript for my short video:

"my and that inflation and I wanted to hear about a way you can receive all of my upcoming box before a the offer is to become a better rate of my books based off this means that you'll receive an advance copy of my book to raid before anybody else had the chance to your loss I get a chance to take anything you don't like about my book so then I can have the opportunity to fix it up before it goes on style examples if a bank might be phrases you don't like character interactions that take too long or go too fast a character whose name you can pronounce all the point at which she threw the book across the room because she just couldn't take anymore but provided feedback form when I find out each book and be stable at you do provide feedback both enjoy a completed copy of the book paperback or ebook your choice so that you can see how your feedback directly interacts with the final product owners you discovered no figures you can always unsubscribe at any time than good get started today by clicking on the subscribe link below."

It did manage to hit the key point of "clicking on the subscribe link below" but what the hell does "my and that inflation" mean?

Even I couldn't work it out and I'd recorded the words just minutes earlier.

Now, I know that not many people in the world have my particular accent and it can be hard to decipher the meaning of some words due to our pronunciation of most vowels as "eh" but still...

"Hi, my name's Katherine Hayton" in no way resembles "My and that inflation."

If you want to observe this video in action yourself then please click the link HERE.

On seconds thoughts please don't. It appears I have some work to do. I might try to record it again and sound more like... what's the word? Those funny things that live in houses. Oh, yeah. Humans. I'll try to sound more human.

Hope you all have a good book to raid...