Welcome to my Blogger page, thank you for visiting. This is where I will share my reviews of books, movies and other things I enjoy. If you would like to see my ramblings, fanfiction and other general posts, please visit my Livejournal: beren_writes. Visit my pages to learn about me and my books.
Top set of links above are external links, second set are pages local to the blog.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Recipe: Delicious Sticky Chocolate and Treacle Cake

Delicious Sticky Chocolate and Treacle Cake

This is based of the "Delicious Sticky Ginger Cake" recipe I posted last week. It's my own creation and was consumed with great speed by Rob's work colleagues who were very happy to test it for me. This makes a soft, light, sticky chocolate cake, but you do have like treacle too because that is a prevelant flavour along with the chocolate.

The only changes are:

  • substituting some of the flour with cocoa, 
  • adding vanilla instead of cinamon, 
  • 2 tblsps of golden syrup rather than one to up the liquid content slightly because cocoa is drier than flour, 
  • and an extra 1/4 tspn of bicarb to account for the cocoa being more acidic than flour.

Equipment

  • 1 large saucepan
  • 1 small (milk) saucepan
  • 1 bowl
  • scales
  • spatula
  • 2 2lb loaf tins (approx 21x11x7cm | 8x4x3inches)
  • loaf tin liners or grease proof paper or baking parchment
  • small hand whisk or fork
This recipe uses the hob to heat ingredients, you could probably use a microwave if you are more familiar with that - just use microwave proof bowls instead of saucepans.

Ingredients

  • 8oz | 230g | 2/3 cup Black Treacle (Molasses)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 cup Soft Spread (you can use butter, but a baking spread makes a lighter cake)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Golden Syrup (US peeps, if it's not in the baking section, try the international section - at a push you could use corn syrup)
  • 1/2 pt (UK) | 285ml | 1 1/3 cup milk (I used semi skimmed, but the recipe probably originally used whole milk - so just use what you have)
  • 3/4 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
  • 9.4oz | 265g | 1 4/5 cup self raising (rising) flour
  • 2.6oz | 75g |  3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tblsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C | 300F | Gas Mark 2.
  2. Put the loaf tin liners in the loaf tins or line the tins with you lining of choice. (You really don't want to try and get this cake out of an unlined tin - it is very soft and moist ;)).
  3. Put the treacle, soft spread, brown sugar and syrup into the large saucepan.
  4. Heat gently until these all melt together, stiring at times to make sure it all mixes.
  5. Measure out the flour and cocoa into a bowl and put aside for later.
  6. Put the milk and egg into the small saucepan and beat the egg into the milk using a small hand whisk or a fork.
  7. Add the flour and cocoa to the treacle mixture in the saucepan and stir together.
  8. Add the vanilla to the treacle mixture and stir.
  9. Heat the milk/egg mixture gently to blood temperature (easiest way to measure is to stick your little finger in every now and then and when it feels like it isn't cold it's at the right temperature :)).
  10. Add the bicarb to the milk mixture and stir.
  11. Add the milk mixture to the treacle mixture and stir together.
  12. Pour the cake batter into the two loaf tins.
  13. Put the cakes in the oven and bake for about 1hr (stick a skewer into the middle of the cake to check it is done, if not let it cook a little longer).
  14. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the tins until cool enough to handle, then turn out onto a wire cake rack to finish cooling.
The cake keeps very well, easily up to a week and even up to 2 weeks - just pop into an air tight tin. This is a moist cake, so it actually improves with age.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Why the Decline of Livejournal Was Such a Loss


Why the Decline of Livejournal Was Such a Loss


A quick history of Livejournal for those who were not part of the community. Livejournal.com is a blogging platform which used to be the hub for just about everything from 2000 through to about 2009, expecially fandom.

  • 1999 Livejournal was created by Brad Fitzpatrick
  • 2000 Livejournal starts to grow and users have to have an invite code to start an account. Fandom takes to Livejournal in a big way, as do other bloggers. This is the golden age of Livejournal.
  • 2005 Brad sells Livejournal to Six Apart all is well for a while. 
  • 2006 There is some controversy and counts are suspended and deleted without warning (I won't go into the details). Fandom starts to bail.
  • 2007 Six Apart sell Livejournal to SUP Services, a Russian company, but the servers remain in the US. Fandom starts looking elsewhere. The rise of Tumblr and several incidents cause fandom on LJ to decline in a big way.
  • 2017 Livejournal is transfered to Russia completely and has a new ToS that says all accounts have to obey Russian law - for fandom LJ is effectively dead.

The thing about Livejournal that makes it so different from all the other social media flying around today is that it was so flexible and it was built for communication. No matter how you look at Twitter and Tumblr, they are not built for happy community, they are geared towards shouting into the void and controversy. And Facebook has algorythmns that show you only what they want you to see.

Livejournal always showed you your timeline in chronicological order and did not deem to tell you what you were allowed to see and what you were not. If you were friends with a thousand people/commuities it showed you every post from those thousand in date and time order so you could read them all. You could make your own custom groups so if you didn't have time that day you could read your own chosen subset of posts. It was all the users choice.

Livejournal was concieved with the idea of community - literally. It has personal accounts and community accounts, with different functionality to allow communities to be overseen by groups of people.

Personal accounts have levels of security:

  • private - posters eyes only
  • public - everyone can see
  • friends only - only those people you have friended can see the post
  • friends group - users can create custom groups of friends and then allow only them to see a post (awesome for organising get togethers, or secret gift projects for other friends).
Communities can be open to everyone or on moderated membership or completely closed so you can only join if you are invited. This meant groups could set up safe spaces to talk. Sometimes it was as trivial as risky fanfiction, sometimes support or survivor groups.

Posts exist as an entitiy with comments on the post - no need to reshare something just to comment on it. There is also a memory option to save a post so you can go back to it and re-read later.

Comments have streams so converstaions are easy to follow. Many users and communities made use of this for comment fic or long meta discussions. Comments even had titles for a very long time - when SUP removed them it caused a riot (another reason fandom left).


Posts can have parts hidden away that can only be seen when clicked upon and there can be more than one of these in a post. You can have an itro paragraph, then something behind a cut, then another paragraph and then another cut.

It was considered impolite to have an image larger than about 300px across above a cut on LJ in the early days, because it cluttered the timeline and caused slow loading when most of us did not have broadband. Anything not safe for work was usually placed under a cut so people could click or not as suitable to their environment. When posting fiction there was an almost standard form of header that everyone used so that the fic could be posted under a cut and other users could see what it was about at a glance when scrolling through their timeline.

Users can get at the html of a post and turn off all the automatic formatting to make posts look exactly as they want. This might not seem useful to many modern users who prefer the simple point and click, but to me it's perfect. I can point and click when I want to, but I can also take a post from here and pop it straight into LJ wholesale.

Livejournal let you know when someone commented (y'know like FB and Twitter are supposed to, but sometimes don't bother) and you could put watches on comms or particulars posts.

Livejournal was all about communication and community. (We had our fandom wars and our moments, but the communication was still there).

I had forgotten how much it meant to me until I was sorting through my fanfiction directory this weekend. I always put my LJ headers in my fanfic files and I was looking at some of the author's notes. So many of the fics are dedicated to people or have little notes to friends or were written in fic exchanges or prompt grabs for other users. I see their names and they bring back such fond memories.

Most of the time we didn't even know each other's real names, but we were friends. We organised virtual birthday parties on communities we had set up for that specific purpose (those custom friends groups came in really handy to organise those). We had huge fic exchanges where tens of writers (in some cases hundreds) came together and wrote fic for other people, all handled by the moderators who matched up writers to prompts (I've run several in my time and I miss them).

The biggest is undoubtedly Yuletide which is for rare fandoms and is still running, but the fic posting is now based on AO3.

A lot of us fandom peeps were hoping Imzy would become the new Livejournal, but they just didn't make it. Dreamwidth is out there, which is a Livejournal clone specifically for fandom, but it has never enticed all the people over. The move of LJ to Russia finally caused even more of a migration, but I think the LJ model is missing the ease of posting the pretty that Tumblr and Facebook have.

Tumblr is showing all the signs of discontent that LJ did when it was sold and TPTB decided they knew what was best for fandom. What would be really awesome is if Dreamwidth had an upgrade to make pictures and vids as easy as places like Tumblr. It's already much easier than it was, but nowhere near as easy as point, upload and click.

The decline of Livejournal has been a great loss. It did not evolve to counter the threat of something like Tumblr, which is all about the visual, and allowing the Russians control with their homophobic laws and draconian media laws killed it for fandom and freedom of speech bloggers alike.

I miss being able to talk to my friends in more than 140 characters. I miss the long indepth discussions about fanfic and meta where everyone's comments are there to go back and read in chains that make them easily understood. I miss the community.

If you would like to see what I am talking about I am here on LJ: beren_writes and here on Dreamwidth beren_writes. I suggest you pick a year like 2006 to see what I mean - if you click the view subjects button for a month you can see all the titles of my posts.

Were you on Livejournal? Do you miss it?

Friday, 4 August 2017

Free Fiction Friday - The Beast in Me by Natasha Duncan-Drake


Free Fiction Friday


It's the 1st Friday of August and that means it is Free Fiction Friday over at Wittegen Press. A new short story is now up for all the subscribers to our newsletter.

It is completely free to become a member and all you need is a valid email address. Fill in the form at the bottom of this page and you’re done. Don't worry if you join after the 1st Friday, the password for the month will be included in the welcome email after you subscribe.

What we WILL DO for our subscribers:

  • Send you an email on the 1st Friday of the month to remind you about the short story and give you the password for the month as soon as the story goes live.
  • Send you information about new books, competitions and events, so you don’t miss anything.
  • Give you two Free eBooks just for joining.

What we WON’T DO to our subscribers:

  • Spam you with loads of random advertising.
  • Reveal your email adress to anyone else.

This Month's Short Story

The Beast In Me
by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Genre: paranormal, contemporary fantasy
Length: ~8K wds

Description:
There are worrying reports about the Misomene Corporation's business dealings. Teiji Inoue was sent in to investigate, but he cover was blown. Now Teiji must survive Misomene's attentions as he discovers that the rumours of illegal practices pale in comparison to the reality.

Misomene are engaged in occult research and Teiji has become one of their experiments. Even if he comes out alive he may not come out sane.

Newsletter Subscription Form

We'll send you details of book releases, competitions and other news from our authors, BUT we WON'T spam you, or pass your details on to anyone else.
Wittegen Press

We will also give you 2 FREE ebooks just for signing up.

* indicates required

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Delicious Sticky Ginger Cake


Delicious Sticky Ginger Cake


This is my mother's ginger cake recipe and I have loved it most of my life. I always find other people's ginger cake not gingery enough and I figured out why when I finally nabbed the recipe off her There is a lot of ginger in this. If you don't like it quite so gingery, alter the amount to your own taste.

This recipe is also one of the easiest cake recipes there is - no folding, no need for electric whisks, just a couple of sauce pans and a flick of the wrist. It turns out perfectly every time.

The recipe is enough to make one huge cake, but my mother recommends making two smaller cakes in loaf tins because otherwise the cake sinks in the middle and it's harder to make sure the middle is done and the outside is not over done :).

I finally remembered to take a picture of the finished product, but, as you can see, not before I had given my hubby a slice :).

Equipment

  • 1 large saucepan
  • 1 small (milk) saucepan
  • 1 bowl
  • scales
  • spatula
  • 2 2lb loaf tins (approx 21x11x7cm | 8x4x3inches)
  • loaf tin liners or grease proof paper or baking parchment
  • small hand whisk or fork
This recipe uses the hob to heat ingredients, you could probably use a microwave if you are more familiar with that - just use microwave proof bowls instead of saucepans.

Ingredients

  • 8oz | 230g | 2/3 cup Black Treacle (Molasses)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 cup Soft Spread (you can use butter, but a baking spread makes a lighter cake)
  • 8oz | 230g | 1 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Golden Syrup (US peeps, if it's not in the baking section, try the international section - at a push you could use corn syrup)
  • 1/2 pt (UK) | 285ml | 1 1/3 cup milk (I used semi skimmed, but the recipe probably originally used whole milk - so just use what you have)
  • 1/2 tspn Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)
  • 12oz | 340g | 2 3/4 cup self raising (rising) flour
  • 25g | 4 tbsp ginger (yes that really is table spoons not teaspoons)
  • 2 tspn cinnamon
  • 1 large egg

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C | 300F | Gas Mark 2.
  2. Put the loaf tin liners in the loaf tins or line the tins with you lining of choice. (You really don't want to try and get this cake out of an unlined tin - it is very soft and moist ;)).
  3. Put the treacle, soft spread, brown sugar and syrup into the large saucepan.
  4. Heat gently until these all melt together, stiring at times to make sure it all mixes.
    Don't stop stiring yet!This is what you're after
  5. Measure out the flour, ginger and cinnamon into a bowl and put aside for later.
  6. Put the milk and egg into the small saucepan and beat the egg into the milk using a small hand whisk or a fork.
  7. Add the flour, ginger and cinnamon to the treacle mixture in the saucepan and stir together.
    Stir gently in circles to mix in flour them beat
    vigorously until all the lumps are gone.
    This is what you are after
  8. Heat the milk/egg mixture gently to blood temperature (easiest way to measure is to stick your little finger in every now and then and when it feels like it isn't cold it's at the right temperature :)).
  9. Add the bicarb to the milk mixture and stir.
  10. Add the milk mixture to the treacle mixture and stir together.
    Stir as quickly as you can, but take it easy.There will be bubbles showing as the bicard activates
  11. Pour the cake batter into the two loaf tins.
  12. Put the cakes in the oven and bake for about 1hr (stick a skewer into the middle of the cake to check it is done, if not let it cook a little longer).
  13. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the tins until cool enough to handle, then turn out onto a wire cake rack to finish cooling.
The cake keeps very well, easily up to a week and even up to 2 weeks (if it lasts that long :D) - just pop into an air tight tin. This is a moist cake, so it actually improves with age.