Shakes head

What’s wrong with these two sentences?

A demographic study in 2012 by the Pew Forum found that that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1bn, or 16 per cent) have no religious affiliation.

This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population.

Of little faith: world’s most dangerous places for atheists


Mark Rothko, she ain’t

Due to my non-artyness, I’ve never really thought about letting Anne make her own art at home, aside from a bit of crayon on paper. Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, I got a plastic tablecloth and sat her in her high chair, thus helping to contain the mess.

(This also means not leaving her side with paints within reach.)

Excuse the laundry

I reckon I should hang on to these just in case she does end up being hailed the next Mark Rothko, so we can have a framed original of her early work. </end joke>


Cold, wet days are fun!


Then, if you keep falling over — once on your face — and your mum doesn’t bring a change of clothes, you get pretty soggy.

At least she could be zipped up in her stroller’s footmuff.

Stir-fried rice cakes (or ba kueh, or 白粿)

When I told my mum I’d bought packets of dried ba kueh she sounded a little concerned that I’d wasted my money. Oh. Daunted. I had half a can of Sichuan preserved vegetables and part of a bunch of celery. It’s almost Christmas and my brain has gone to sleep after a full year of trying to cook edible food for the family without seething with discontent that I have suddenly become a Food Network-watching and -note-taking person who uses a rice cooker and wok, and even owns cast iron pans. By choice.

Where was I? Oh yes. So I wanted to cook ba kueh but it had to be difficult, right? My mum kind of implied it was. Turns out it’s pretty easy. You just need to decide the day before that that’s what you’re having.

(And if you do the whole packet, it should feed a family of four. In our case we have leftovers that I’ve stuck in the freezer for lunch in the new year.)

Stir-fried rice cake

1 packet dried rice cakes (mine was 400g)
200g chicken breast or pork chop
½ can of Sichuan preserved vegetables
Big handful of any other vegetables
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
200ml freshly-boiled water
A dash of light soy sauce
A dash of fish sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
½ tsp corn flour

First up, it’s all in the planning. Soak your ba kueh in a bowl of water a day before you plan to use it. Soak the Sichuan preserved vegetables 30 minutes before cooking (unless you really, really like lots of salt). Slice up your chosen meat and marinade in a little light soy sauce and corn flour. If your vegetables need slicing, slice them when you’re chopping up the garlic.

All prepped? Get the wok out and heat the oil, add the garlic and vegetables. Stir them around for a couple of minutes, then throw in the meat. When it’s almost cooked, add the ba kueh, give it a stir, then pour in the boiled water. Cover for a couple of minutes and check it. The water will be absorbed pretty quickly, so keep an eye on it. Be sure to stir as the ba kueh will stick to the wok. The ba kueh is done when it goes soft but is still a bit chewy. Stir in the Shaoxing wine, season with light soy sauce and fish sauce to taste.

Ta da!

Hurricane in a teacup

Neil reckons the public is becoming soft, with the headlines being all about winter storms causing ‘travel chaos’. Back when he was a lad… anyway.

This year we’re staying home, but last year when we drove up to Scotland, the motorway was pretty clear — we reckon because people had been scared off by the weather warnings. It was pretty wet, and we saw a Fiat 500 pass us at really high speed (too fast for the weather conditions). Five minutes later we passed it as it had flipped over. So we called 999.

A few months ago, I was watching Countryside 999 on the BBC. They featured the emergency services attending that very accident, where the driver claimed the motorway’s centre lane was full, so he had to overtake. We were in the centre lane, going fast, and the lane wasn’t that busy. He was just going much faster than he should have been. He’s lucky his wife sustained only minor injuries.

So I hope everyone’s being careful.