For those who don’t know, I have Crohn’s disease, unfortunately my younger brother David was diagnosed with the same illness over the new year. Over the past few months David hasn’t been too well, and last week he was admitted to hospital for an operation to remove the infected bit of bowel. Anyhow, in anticipation for him to return, being the wonderful big brother that I am, I baked him a cake, below is the recipe and some pictures on how it turned out. Cake Ingredients: 300g caster sugar 3 eggs 300ml sunflower oil 270g peeled bananas, mashed 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate 300g plain flour 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 100g tinned pineapple, chopped into small pieces (although I used fresh) 100g shelled pecan nuts (or walnuts), chopped, plus extra, chopped and whole to decorate (although I used chocolate chips) two 20cm cake tins, base-lined with greaseproof paper Frosting Ingredients: 500g icing sugar, sifted 160g unsalted butter, at room temperature 50ml whole milk a couple of drops of vanilla extract (although I used lemon extract) Cake Instructions: Preheat the oven to 170C (325F) Gas 3. Put the sugar, eggs, oil, banana and cinnamon in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Don’t worry if mixture looks slightly split. Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and vanilla extract and continue to beat until everything is well mixed and smooth. Stir in the chipped pineapple and pecan nuts (or chocolate chips) by hand until evenly dispersed. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cold, put one cake on a stand and spread about one quarter of the frosting over it with a palette knife. Place the second cake on top and spread another quarter of the frosting over it. Top the cake with the remaining spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. Finish with nuts (or chocolate chips) and a light sprinkling of cinnamon. Frosting Instructions: Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on a medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and well mixed. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Combine the milk and vanilla (or lemon) extract in a separate bowl, then add the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
Its going to be a very quick blog post today, mainly because today, unlike the weather has been brilliant. As you may have guessed from the title of this post its down to two things; my laptop and an innocent piece of fruit, the dreaded orange. Lets deal with each of the respective items in the turn which they turned an innocent Tuesday into one from hell. When I opened the blinds this morning I was greeted by glorious sun, therefore I decided that rather than uni at a fast pace, I would leave a little earlier than normal, thereby enjoying a leisurely stroll with some music provided courtesy of my iPhone. All was well, I arrived safe and sound in the lecture theatre, only to reach into my bag and realise that my Macbook Air was not there. I can’t go a day at university without my laptop. It has my notes, materials and acts as a dictaphone for the lectures. I had never forgotten it before, so instantly wanted someone to blame; however after coming to the conclusion it was my fault I also decided that I had to go back and retrieve it. With only 15 minutes before the lecture started, and contrary to my previous belief that there is never a taxi around when you want one, there was. Ten minutes later and £7.50 lighter I had my laptop in hand just in time for the lectures. The second item to ruin my day was the orange. Small, round and orange in colour, this innocent fruit can bring joy to those on a break or who simply need a burst of vitamin C. My reason for consumption was the first. As is customary I purchased said orange from the green grocer on Oxford Road. As supplier of all of my fruit and veg requirements, I am familiar with the quality and price which give explanation to my returning custom. Sitting down I began to peel, it came off in tiny tiny pieces, squirting orange juice all over me, my desk, and surrounding papers. I kid you not, it took me over 10 minutes to peel the thing. The only thing that kept me going was knowing how refreshing the taste would be as it entered my mouth. The first segment entered my mouth…it was bitter…it had pips in. I swear, I would have thrown it across the room if the juice wouldn’t have dripped down my arm, however it would have done, making me even more sticky than I already was. So dear reader, two every day items, the laptop and the orange, I for one will never look at them in the same light again.
Email, arguably one of the greatest inventions of all time. No longer do we have to wait for the postman to deliver (or not as the case may be) communications from loved ones or work colleagues. Instead one can set up an email address free of charge with one of several providers, and within minutes be communicating with people on the other side of the planet free of charge. You may be online in less than 10 minutes, however within 15 minutes of setting up your account you will be receiving your first spam email messages, and within a few weeks you will be receiving more spam email, and even some email from its cousin, ham email than genuine messages. Before we delve a little deeper, for those unsure of the terminology we shall quickly define them now. Spam messages are those which you receive out of the blue, offering to sell you anything from a piece of the moon to a piece of cheese. They often come from email addresses that don’t exist, and instead have been ‘spoofed’ by the spammer. The main reason why spam is sent out is because its cost free, marketing software can allow a computer to send upwards of 10,000 emails an hour, and all you need is one unsuspecting person to either enter their credit card information on a banking site that isn’t theirs, or purchase a acre of the moon which can’t be visited, for them to turn a profit. Ham on the other hand, as the name would suggest is a cross between genuine messages and spam. Marketing emails from companies that you have purchased items from, notification emails from social networking sites and alike; these have a genuine purpose, and you may have authorised these services to send you emails, however deleting them or unsubscribing from them all can be a chore. So what is the solution? Up until a few days ago, I was under the impression that there was only one, client side software. For those who don’t want to use a third party email provider such as Google or Hotmail to filter their spam, a piece of software could be installed that would monitor the email coming in and then determine whether or not it would be spam based on certain algorithms. If it was spam it would put it in a folder that you could just ignore. The solution I had chosen was SpamSieve, and for the best part it worked very well. There was however one small caveat, in order for the spam filtering to be effective, at least one of my computers had to be on in order to filter out the spam before being retrieved by my iOS devices. In the early days this wasn’t too bad, as I only received a few spam messages a day, however over the past few month I have been receiving between 10 and 20 spam messages an hour! SpamSieve, as well as other client side spam filters work on the process of ‘blacklisting’, whereby the filter says everything is good unless you tell it that its bad. The filter then attempts to work out what is good by looking at your address book, and key words associated with spam contained within the body and subject of the message. This is all very well and good, however spammers are getting more sophisticated, either tricking the filter to allow the message through as good, or confusing it to such an extent that it requires your intervention. Over time this has become more of a hassle. Not surprisingly ‘whitelisting’ is the opposite of ‘blacklisting’, which everything is suspected to be spam until you tell it otherwise. This is the process which Spam Arrest uses, what more its server side, meaning that its spam filtering is applied to all devices that access your email whether or not they have client side spam filtering on. Spam Arrest is a subscription based service, with price plans ranging from $5.95 (£3.75) per month, to $89.95 (£56.66) per 24 months thereby receiving a 47% discount. Rather than try and explain how it works, here is a video which I think explains it quite well: So, Spam Arrest puts itself between your email and your clients. You can export your address book to Spam Arrest so that addresses that you have already used are ‘whitelisted’, it auto ‘whitelists’ email addresses you send message to so that they can reply without having to go through the verification process. Those who email you and are not ‘whitelisted, get an email asking them to fill in a CAPTCHA, a process that only has to be done once. You can of course check online mails which are ‘in holding’ to authorise them manually; something you may need to do for a few days whilst you ‘whitelist’ email addresses from shopping sites etc etc. Due to the fact that the majority of spam is sent from email addresses that are neither monitored or even exist, the spammers won’t fill in the CAPTCHA; and if by some very small chance they did, it would only allow one email through from that address, allowing you to ‘blacklist’ it manually. Ive been using Spam Arrest for just under 48 hours now, and even though there is a free 30 day trial, the very fact that I have had NO spam delivered over this period, a stark contrast from my hundreds each day has made me bite the bullet and purchase a two year subscription. Its worth noting that for the cost of your subscription you can protect up to five mailboxes, with additional mailbox protection available to be added to your account for a one off payment All in all I am very very impressed with Spam Arrest, its the solution that I have been looking for, knowing that I am not being hit with spam each time I open my inbox has given me a underlying sense of satisfaction knowing that spammers are not getting any screen time […]