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Posted by jules

Can you believe it’s September already?

I know!

I really love this time of year. Spring is just beginning to make an appearance both in the weather and the produce available at the farmers market. The days are getting longer.

And it’s my birthday(!)

This year, I’m continuing my birthday traditions of sharing a new cake recipe with you and having a birthday sale. So let’s dig in!

The Birthday Cake!

In case you’re new to my Stonesoup birthday tradition, previous celebrational treats have included a lemon delicious cake, a croissant surprise cake and last years birthday ice cream sandwich.

I actually started developing this years recipe over 12 months ago because I take my Birthday cake very seriously. I wanted to make a sweet treat using one of my favourite vegetables, beetroot.

Most baking recipes that use beets just call for grated beets, similar to carrot cakes. But I’ve always found the results disappointing. As much as I adore the earthy flavour of beets, it’s too much for me when used raw in a cake.

So the solution?

Easy, just used cooked beets.

And combining them with dark chocolate in a rich squidgy brownie doesn’t hurt. At all.

The Birthday Sale

One of the best things I’ve done in my business this year is start ‘Soupstones’, a done-for-you meal planning service. I love this unique service because it really helps make it super easy to eat delicious, healthy home cooked dinners on a regular basis.

It’s all about helping you eat well and be well.

Soupstones Square Logo no borderSo this year I thought I’d do something different and have a 50% OFF Birthday Sale on Soupstones Meal Plans monthly membership. So if you join during the sale, you’ll lock in the 50% savings for as long as you are a member.

As per my birthday tradition, this sale is available for the next 72 HOURS ONLY. That’s it.

To make sure you don’t miss out go to:

This is your last chance to get help with your meal planning at a discount this year.


red velvet brownies-3

Red Velvet Birthday Brownies

The first time I came across a red velvet cake recipe, I remember being so disappointed that the ‘red’ came from food colouring. My first thought was why not use something natural like beets?

enough for 6-8
150g (5oz) unsalted butter
150g (5oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
150g (5oz) cooked beets
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, optional
150g (5oz) brown sugar
150g (5oz) almond or hazelnut meal

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a loaf pan with baking paper.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add chocolate. Stand.

3. Meanwhile, whizz beets in a food processor until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, sugar and nut meal and whizz again until mixed.

4. Add melted butter and chocolate and again whizz until combined.

5. Spread mixture over the base of your pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until firm on the top but still squidgy in the middle.

6. Cool in the tin and serve sliced with vanilla ice cream or double cream.

no food processor – just chop the beets finely by hand and mix everything with a spoon.

even redder velvet – replace dark chocolate with white chocolate.

home cooked beets – just trim and scrub beets then bake whole (180C / 350F) until soft when pierced with a knife, about an hour but may be longer for large beets. Cool and peel before using.

budget / nut-free – replace nut meal with plain (all purpose) flour. Be super careful not to over bake as flour based brownies can be very dry.

dairy-free – replace butter with coconut oil.

egg-free - I haven’t tried this but replacing the egg with 1 large mashed ripe banana should work fine here.

vegan – combine the dairy and egg free options.

With love,
Jules x
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ps. Not sure if Soupstones meal plans will help you?

Here’s what Donna and Patricia had to say about them…

“I am eating much more healthfully and with so little fuss that I actually prefer eating at home to going out.”
Donna, Soupstones Member

“Thank you so much for the meal plans. It has changed the way I look at cooking. It is not a chore anymore, I look forward to cooking. I have maintained my waistline with some discipline. Thanks a million.”
Patricia, Soupstones Member

pss. Want more details on how the meal plans work?

There’s a video ‘tour’ showing exactly how it works over here:
(You’ll need to scroll down to see the video)

theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

If you’ll recall, my wife and I got drunk on a heady mixture of MasterChef and the Food Network, and decided to dine at Michelin-starred restaurants this year.  A Michelin Star is like every other award in existence – which is to say that it claims to reward “the best,” while covertly defining “the best” to be a narrow range of tastes.  (If “the best” movies are Oscar winners, then comedies and horror movies apparently suck.)

Michelin defines “the best” to be expensive, hard-to-prepare food with attention to detail and impeccable service.  Which generally implies pretty good food, but it leaves out, you know, that clam shack down at the beach that serves perfectly-steamed mussels taken straight from the ocean.  Yet still, when we dined at Babbo (one star), it was still one of our top ten restaurant experiences ever, and La Terrazza del’Eden in Rome was also very good, so…

…we had to upgrade.  Enough with these paltry one-star restaurants.  Let’s see what two Michelin stars gets us!  And so we booked a meal at Sixteen in Chicago.

Now I will walk you through our meal, which was overwhelming on every level. Thirteen courses of food.

Dinner at Sixteen

Sixteen clearly set out to dazzle from moment one, wherein they laid out a map of Chicago’s waterfront and laid out the menu in little plastic blocks. The menu, which changes seasonally, is a very upscale version of surf and turf, and each course was a melding of seafood and the meat district that Upton Sinclair helped make famous. This was all to hide the reality that when you came to Sixteen, you ate what the chef damn well felt like making from you, but it did lend a festive Lego-style atmosphere to the dining.

Dinner at Sixteen

Now, the surprise appetizer course was utterly adorable, in that they said, “We’re at the beach now, so we’re having a picnic” and laid out all sorts of little picnic foods for us. This was a great start, because every mini-food on here was quite above the cut:

  • The mini-sandwich was tomato, Italian ham, and mozzarella, if I recall, and it was perfect.  Every bite brought out the tomato and the meat and the cheese and the toasted bread in a different combination, a little tooth-inspired dance of flavors and textures interplaying with each other, so this was good right up through the last swallow.
  • The quail legs were dark meat, and I usually don’t like dark meat because it’s monotone and oily… but this was firm, cooked well, and seasoned so that it had a wonderful texture between the crispy skin and the salted meat.
  • The potato chip had a tiny piece of smelt actually woven into the chip, which was a piece of starchy sewing that we could only admire, and what that got us was a slightly soggy potato chip that melded quite nicely with the salty fish taste of the smelt, so what you got was kind of a crunchy fish with a sharp burst of salt around the edges.  Awesome.
  • Finally, there were sangria popsicles.  Which were the disappointment.  They weren’t like sorbet, as we’d expected, but rather creamy, which I suspect was some sort of chemical adhesion so they didn’t melt instantly while we were eating sandwiches.  But the cream in the center completely obliterated any sangria flavor – if you hadn’t told me, “Hey, this is supposed to be sangria,” I would have thought it to be some sort of bland fruit pop.  Still fun, but meh.

This came with a tiny glass of sweet peach tea and whiskey, and boy did that work well.  The only complaint I had about that drink was the glass was very small.

The remaining eleven courses, with photos, cut for your mercy )

So Was It Worth It?
Look, Sixteen was worth a mortgage payment and then some.  We’ll be paying for this sucker for some time.

The relevant questions are: a) was it the best meal we ever had? and b) was it significantly better than the one Michelin star meal we had?

The answer as to the Michelin star question is unquestionably no.  When you’re paying as much as a used car to get your meal, you want flawless service, and there were a couple of significant bobbles – the wrong foods being given to the wrong people, the forgetting of a drink, and unforgivably, giving us the wrong check.

It is very hard to be moral when someone gives you a check that is worth several hundred less than you actually owe.  It’s even harder when they go “Whoops, our bad” and bring you the full check, with nothing written off on it, no discount for this honesty.  Hey, the cheese tray was $35, you coulda given that to us for free and we would have felt moral and frugal.  As it was, I don’t exactly mind paying full price, but the restaurant really hit home just how much this cost, leaving a tremendously sour taste on the way out the door.

But that aside, I was of two minds: I personally don’t mind a bobbled check, or having to switch plates with my wife when the wrong dessert arrives.  But when I’m paying premium price for what is, literally, world-class service, getting elementary mistakes becomes a weird question: Should I let this slide? I mean, I could buy a large portion of a woodworking workshop for what I paid for this meal, and part of that cost was the promised flawless service.  And what I got was very good in many ways, but world-class?


Now, it could be that Sixteen no longer deserves its two-star rating, and we’ll see them slide down to one star next year.  (Ratings are dynamic things, you see.) It could be that they had a bad night.  Either way, though, I paid about $200 above what I paid for Babbo, and Babbo was not exactly cheap.

As for the food, Gini rates it the best meal she’s ever had.  Me, I’d rank two above it: Victoria and Albert’s in Disneyworld, and Babbo in New York City.  This was a very good experience, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know if Michelin was correct on this one.  There’s also the fact that, frankly, both Victoria and Albert’s and Babbo tend to be conservative in their meal choices, whereas obviously Sixteen had some playful experiments that were aiming higher and fell harder.  (Agnolotti is hard to do, but you have a clear idea of what the perfected state of it should be; more difficult to find the perfect porktopus.)

So I liked it.  Very much.  But the expense really carved the edge off.  Were this the same price as a Babbo meal, well, I woulda said this kicked the crap out of Babbo.  But value enters into the equation, and with that much on the line, well, I’d probably go with Babbo again.

Still very good.  Memorable.  Awesome.  But spendy. Let’s see how other restaurants compare, once we’ve grown back our meager savings.

Oh, as an extra bonus, here’s how I looked in The Suit that day:

The suit.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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i really want the avengers and the guardians to meet so i made some dumb doodles

This is suddenly a violent need

Journal, 26/8 2014

Aug. 26th, 2014 10:17 pm
waterfall8484: Pinkie Pie bouncing up and down talking to Twilight Sparkle. (Bounce by by tmg_icons)
[personal profile] waterfall8484
Very foggy this morning. The sun showed up later, bit too late for it to affect my choice of what to wear though.

Got up, went to my first grammar lecture. It was surprisingly fun and interesting, probably because I understood more of it than I thought I would. Then it was straight on to the American Literature and Culture seminar - Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government - which was also interesting, although I still think I talk to much. No-one else really does, though!

Afterwards I had lunch in the cafeteria while finishing a library book. It had nothing to do with my studies, but I should have handed it in yesterday so I really had to finish it. Then I did some grammar questions and faffed around a bit, and then went into town on an errand. It wasn't supposed to take long, but I got distracted by a photo exhibition outside on the way. Our constitution is 200 years this year, and so someone decided to exhibit pictures of those groups who fall or used to fall on the outside of society, such as disabled people, the Sami, drug addicts, Roma, and our soldiers and war veterans. It was very powerful, although I didn't catch who was exhibiting.

Eventually I got home, had dinner, did some job-related things, and then settled down to read as much of The Scarlet Letter as possible before the lecture tomorrow morning. This is what I should have been doing during lunch earlier...

Journal, 25/8 2014

Aug. 25th, 2014 10:13 pm
waterfall8484: An elouai doll maker approximation of what I look like. (Long, brown hair in pigtails, glasses, a slightly cheeky look.) (Me by waterfall8484)
[personal profile] waterfall8484
Grey, a little wet. Blue sky behind the clouds.

Woke up warm and comfy, sort of remembered my dreams for once. Started out a little late and stayed that way. Tried calling my doctor to get a new prescription but couldn't get through. They have a mobile to text as well, so I tried that.

Somehow got to the lecture on time, American Literature and Culture again. Still quite interesting, but I still did some journaling and wrote a bit of fanfic. Afterwards I read for an hour or so, then had lunch. A Global English lecture followed, and then I stopped by the library on my way home to pick up some books. I've so far managed to avoid buying most of the books for my courses by borrowing them, and I hope I manage to keep it that way for the rest of the semester.

Mum isn't feeling well and she's also got a cold, so I had to go shopping on the way home. Normally that's not a problem, but on Mondays I have a lateish last lecture and I really just had time to shop, come home and have dinner before I had to leave again for band.

When I came home again I had remembered that I also needed to write and send some job applications. I usually have a template now, so it didn't take too long, but I still ended up working late.

sophie: A cartoon-like representation of a girl standing on a hill, with brown hair, blue eyes, a flowery top, and blue skirt. ☀ (Default)
[personal profile] sophie
I just had a very interesting conversation with the support team at Amazon.co.uk.

I was calling about a $1.00 Amazon MP3 credit that I had acquired on the 27th of July 2013. This credit was given to me on Amazon.com (as opposed to Amazon.co.uk, where my account actually is) for a 'Free App of the Day' order I made in the Amazon Appstore for Android app. (Note that none of this is referring to gift certificates. It's possible they may have the same issues, but I was not calling about that.)

My issue was that I couldn't use the credit on Amazon.com, because it would keep asking me for my card details, and I obviously didn't want to give them.

I learned a few things from the call:
  1. It is not possible to use the promotional credit unless you turn on your 1-Click setting.
  2. If you have a promotional credit on your account, Amazon will use that before your selected payment method.
  3. It is not possible to see whether you have any promotional credit on your account before you purchase; you have to contact Amazon by phone and ask.
All of these combine to make the ultimate money-sucker: Thought you had Amazon MP3 promotional credit but actually don't? Normally you'd be able to see that sort of thing on an order confirmation screen, but sorry, you have 1-Click turned on. Boom, that's £0.99, sucka.

But that's okay, she said, I have a £1.00 credit on my account, so you'll be fine.

"Wait a second," I said. "Is that 1 pound or 1 dollar?"

She confirmed to me that she was seeing a 1 pound credit on my account on Amazon.co.uk which I had received on 12th October 2013 and expired Tuesday 30th September.

So I go to check my email, wondering if I'd missed something... but no, I didn't get any email about this credit at all. In fact, I never even *made* any orders on Amazon.co.uk in October 2013, a fact that I was able to confirm by looking at my order history on the site. On Amazon.com I hadn't made any orders in 2013 at all.

She couldn't tell me which order the promotional credit came from; I'm not sure if this was for security or simply because nothing was showing up.

So at this point I'm left with a mystery promotional credit for £1.00, and I have no idea where it came from. (And it wouldn't have gone to my Spam folder as I have filters specifically set up so that any emails to my Amazon account email addresses do not get flagged as spam; I've had this set up for ages.)

So, now we have a case of: In order to use promotional credit that you don't even know exists, you need to turn on 1-Click.

Does this seem fishy to anyone else?

Poetry Fishbowl Open!

Sep. 2nd, 2014 04:05 pm
janetmiles: Cartoon avatar (Default)
[personal profile] janetmiles
Originally posted by [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith at Poetry Fishbowl Open!
Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "healing & growth."  I will be checking this page periodically throughout the day. When people make suggestions, I'll pick some and weave them together into a poem ... and then another ... and so on. I'm hoping to get a lot of ideas and a lot of poems.

Click to read the linkback poem "The Face of a Hero" (Polychrome Heroics, 17 verses available).

What Is a Poetry Fishbowl?

Writing is usually considered a solitary pursuit. One exception to this is a fascinating exercise called a "fishbowl." This has various forms, but all of them basically involve some kind of writing in public, usually with interaction between author and audience. A famous example is Harlan Ellison's series of "stories under glass" in which he sits in a bookstore window and writes a new story based on an idea that someone gives him. Writing classes sometimes include a version where students watch each other write, often with students calling out suggestions which are chalked up on the blackboard for those writing to use as inspiration.

In this online version of a Poetry Fishbowl, I begin by setting a theme; today's theme is "healing & growth." I invite people to suggest characters, settings, and other things relating to that theme. Then I use those prompts as inspiration for writing poems.

Cyberfunded Creativity

I'm practicing cyberfunded creativity. If you enjoy what I'm doing and want to see more of it, please feed the Bard. The following options are currently available:

1) Sponsor the Fishbowl -- Here is a PayPal button for donations. There is no specific requirement, but $1 is the minimum recommended size for PayPal transactions since they take a cut from every one. You can also donate via check or money order sent by postal mail. If you make a donation and tell me about it, I promise to use one of your prompts. Anonymous donations are perfectly welcome, just won't get that perk. General donations will be tallied, and at the end of the fishbowl I’ll post a list of eligible poems based on the total funding; then the audience can vote on which they want to see posted.

2) Swim, Fishie, Swim! -- A feature in conjunction with fishbowl sponsorship is this progress meter showing the amount donated.  There are multiple perks, the top one being a half-price poetry sale on one series when donations reach $300.

3) Buy It Now! -- Gakked from various e-auction sites, this feature allows you to sponsor a specific poem. If you don't want to wait for some editor to buy and publish my poem so you can read it, well, now you don't have to. Sponsoring a poem means that I will immediately post it on my blog for everyone to see, with the name of the sponsor (or another dedicate) if you wish; plus you get a nonexclusive publication right, so you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere as long as you keep the credits intact. You'll need to tell me the title of the poem you want to sponsor. I'm basing the prices on length, and they're comparable to what I typically make selling poetry to magazines (semi-pro rates according to Duotrope's Digest).

0-10 lines: $5
11-25 lines: $10
26-40 lines: $15
41-60 lines: $20
Poems over 60 lines, or with very intricate structure, fall into custom pricing.

4) Commission a scrapbook page. I can render a chosen poem in hardcopy format, on colorful paper, using archival materials for background and any embellishments. This will be suitable for framing or for adding to a scrapbook. Commission details are here.  See latest photos of sample scrapbooked poems: "Sample Scrapbooked Poems 1-24-11"

5) Spread the word. Echo or link to this post on your LiveJournal, other blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, or any other social network.  Useful Twitter hashtags include #poetryfishbowl and #promptcall.  Encourage people to come here and participate in the fishbowl.  If you have room for it, including your own prompt will give your readers an idea of what the prompts should look like; ideally, update later to include the thumbnail of the poem I write, and a link to the poem if it gets published.  If there is at least one new prompter or donor, I will post an extra freebie poem.

Linkback perk: I have a spare series poem available, and each linkback will reveal a verse of the poem.  One person can do multiple links if they're on different services, like Dreamwidth, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. rather than all on LiveJournal.  Comment with a link to where you posted.  "The Face of a Hero" belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics and has 17 verses available.

Additional Notes

1) I customarily post replies to prompt posts telling people which of their prompts I'm using, with a brief description of the resulting poem(s). If you want to know what's available, watch for those "thumbnails."

2) You don't have to pay me to see a poem based on a prompt that you gave me. I try to send copies of poems to people, mostly using the LJ message function.  (Anonymous prompters will miss this perk unless you give me your eddress.)  These are for-your-eyes-only, though, not for sharing.

3) Sponsors of the Poetry Fishbowl in general, or of specific poems, will gain access to an extra post in appreciation of their generosity.  While you're on the Donors list, you can view all of the custom-locked posts in that category.  Click the "donors" tag to read the archive of those.  I've also posted a list of other donor perks there.  I customarily leave donor names on the list for two months, so you'll get to see the perk-post from this month and next.

4) After the Poetry Fishbowl concludes, I will post a list of unsold poems and their prices, to make it easier for folks to see what they might want to sponsor.

5) If donations total $100 by Friday evening then you get a free $15 poem; $150 gets you a free $20 poem; and $200 gets you a free epic, posted after the Poetry Fishbowl.  These will usually be series poems if I have them; otherwise I may offer non-series poems or series poems in a different size.  If donations reach $250, you get one step toward a bonus fishbowl; three of these activates the perk, and they don't have to be three months in a row.  Everyone will get to vote on which series, and give prompts during the extra fishbowl, although it may be a half-day rather than a whole day.  If donations reach $300, you get a half-price sale for one week in one series.  Everyone will get to vote on which series to feature in the sale, out of those with extra poems available.

Feed the Fish!
Now's your chance to participate in the creative process by posting ideas for me to write about. Today's theme is "healing & growth."  I'll be soliciting ideas for herbalists, healers, counselors, clients, teachers, students, farmers, fields, offices, helping people, actions leading to personal growth, stages of recovery, growth phases, hitting rock bottom, plot twists, safety equipment, self-help materials, herbs, and poetic forms in particular. But anything is welcome, really. If you manage to recommend a form that I don't recognize, I will probably pounce on it and ask you for its rules. I do have Lewis Turco's The New Book of Forms which covers most common and many obscure forms.

I'll post at least one of the fishbowl poems here so you-all can enjoy it. (Remember, you get an extra freebie poem if someone new posts a prompt or makes a donation, and additional perks at $100-$300 in donations.  Linkbacks reveal verses of "The Face of a Hero.") The rest of the poems will go into my archive for magazine submission.

The Sailor Punkz, by Cuppa-tan (SFW)

Sep. 2nd, 2014 03:56 pm
reflectedeve: Miss America Chavez growling "Come here. You have a head you don't need." (time to diiiiiie - fisticuffs!)
[personal profile] reflectedeve posting in [community profile] fanart_recs
Fandom: Sailor Moon
Characters/Pairing/Other Subject: Inner Senshi
Content Notes/Warnings: n/a
Medium: digital
Artist on DW/LJ: n/a
Artist Website/Gallery: [deviantart.com profile] cuppa-tan

Why this piece is awesome: Starting off my Sailor Moon recs with a bang! I love "bad girl/girl gang" takes on the Sailor Senshi, because it celebrates in a different way something that I think is very important to the show's legacy ... that whole sense of empowerment and inspiration that a generation of girls and women (among others) got from such teen-girl-centric power fantasies. Part of what's important in the manga/anime/etc is the fact that in many ways the Senshi are deeply, unabashedly "girly" ... but that makes more blatant homages all the more enjoyable for me. Anyway, I'm rambling, but ... it's so in-your-face and FUN. :) The messy cartoony style and bold colors suit it nicely, and I love their faces.

Link: http://cuppa-tan.deviantart.com/art/The-Sailor-Punkz-318198285

D.O.P.-T. (Saturday)

Sep. 2nd, 2014 12:44 pm
weofodthignen: selfportrait with Rune the cat (Default)
[personal profile] weofodthignen
I belatedly realized the people on the corner didn't consume their zucchinis or whatever they are after all. They had been piled on the lawn next to the plants, but apparently the yard service moved them off into the flower bed - at the base of the fence - when they wanted to mow. And now they are starting to roll onto the sidewalk. Maybe the family are off on vacation. Seems like a waste, though - I'm tempted to swipe one, except I am not very into zucchini.

D.O.P.-T. (Friday)

Sep. 2nd, 2014 12:43 pm
weofodthignen: selfportrait with Rune the cat (Default)
[personal profile] weofodthignen
I keep finding pill bugs/wood lice at work. Presumably the store has higher humidity than the surrounding soil.
[syndicated profile] feministing_feed

Posted by Maya

Kieran Snyder analyzed 248 performance reviews of generally high-performing men and women working in the tech industry. Here’s what she found:

>Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 3.08.18 PM

For one thing, women were more likely than men to receive critical feedback at all. When they received any, men’s critical feedback tended to be constructive suggestions on how to improve. Women, on the other hand, got that constructive feedback — in addition to complaints about their personalities. The word “abrasive”, for example, was used 17 times to describe 13 different women. That kind of negative personality criticism showed up in two of the 83 critical reviews received by men, compared to in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.

But don’t worry — just be confidentembrace bossylean in, and everything will be fine.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

Evil Time | Herman Hesse

Sep. 2nd, 2014 03:19 pm
yodepalma: ((disney) mulan)
[personal profile] yodepalma posting in [community profile] poetry
Evil Time
Herman Hesse
Now we are silent
And sing no songs anymore,
Our pace grows heavy;
This is the night that was bound to come.
Give me your hand,
Perhaps we still have a long way to go.
It's snowing, it's snowing.
Winter is a hard thing in a strange country.
Where is the time
When a light, a hearth burned for us?
Give me your hand!
Perhaps we still have a long way to go.


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