26 July 2012

In a jam!

{Note, this is a joint post., and it will appear on both the blogs of:
Laura Boyle - http://koffervoll.blogspot.com
Ruth Lewendon - http://atnumber29.wordpress.com
We hope that ALL of our readers enjoy it}

Before Laura returned to England, Ruth suggested that we go to Tulley's Farm and pick our own strawberries. Laura immediately agreed, asking if we might make jam with the berries we picked. Thus the plan was born.

With Oz and Emily in tow, we headed out to pick strawberries. As its near the end of strawberry season, we worried the pickings might be slim, but we managed to find a number of them anyways.

Once home,we cleaned the berries and prepared to make jam. Apples are added to the jam to help it set.

Our recipe calls for equal parts apple, berries and double sugar. We used 1lb 6oz of each berry and 2lb 12oz of sugar. You also need the juice of two fresh lemons.

Step 1: Wash and cut fruit.

Step 2: Add apples to a pot with some water (maybe 2 cups?) - Basically about half of them were covered. Put the berries in a separate pot, with no added water - although the bottom should be damp. Add the lemon juice to each pot (one lemon per pot). The lemons are high in pectin and help the jam set.

Step 3: Cook berries and apples until they are soft and can be further mashed. We used a potato masher. You should probably mash them a bit better than we did!

Step 4: Pour berries into apples and then once the mixture is boiling, add sugar. Continue cooking.

Step 5: While the fruit-sugar mixture is cooking, soak your jars in HOT BOILING water. The jars MUST be extremely hot in order to seal properly. A dish towel should also soak in the water as well.

Step 6: When the mixture thickens and a "skin" begins to form, it is time to pour the jam. Pour the jam into jars and put the lids on them. You need to fill them to the very top, otherwise you risk it molding before you use it. Plus this helps it seal better.
(Disclaimer: We cannot be held responsible if you burn yourself during this process.)

Step 7: Cover the jars with the dish towel that was soaking in the hot water, and let sit for 24 hours.

Step 8: Check that your jam has set. If not, you can pour it back into the pot, re-boil and try again.

Step 9: Enjoy!

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Location:Haywards Heath, England

24 July 2012

Wordless Warwick

Vee and I visited Warwick on Sunday. It was a perfect day for visiting a castle in the lovely English countryside. See for yourself.

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Location:Warwick Castle, Warwick, England

I'm a science nerd!

Last Friday, Alice took me to Bletchley Park. This may not immediately ring a bell, as this location was hidden and secretive for years, but it's importance was epic. Without the work done at Bletchley Park, World War II might have lasted several years longer. Bletchley Park was the home of the Allied (mostly British, although some Americans and others as well) Codebreakers. Great men such as mathematician Alan Turing not only broke codes of messages sent by the Axis powers, but also developed the earliest computers. The work these men (and women) did saved countless lives and because it was so secretive it nearly went unnoticed.
Today Bletchley Park can be visited, but amazingly enough, it is not a National Trust site and it depends heavily on donations and grants. I've been told that most recently they have received a sizable one from Google! Yay Google!

Bletchley Park originally began as the mansion and land of wealthy financier, Herbert Samuel Leon. After his death, his children parceled up the land and sold it. Parcel 1 contained the mansion, a lake and about 25 acres. It's location (close to the railway, close to London and close to radio towers) made it an ideal location for the Codebreakers to work. However the cost was £8000, which the British Government / Military could not afford. An individual military officer saw the importance of the location and bought it. The mansion was utilized, but a number of huts were also built. Each hut had workers who performed specific tasks, mostly ignorant of what the others did. During the war, the site operated 24/7. There were three shifts a day, each wth 3000 employees. The locals nearby thought the place was an insane asylum, and nothing was done to persuade them otherwise. (Plus the people who works there WERE a bit eccentric, it is said that Turing often cycled to work in his pajamas.)

The great accomplishments at Bletchley Park included breaking the code on German Enigma machines. Basically the machine worked in such a way that each letter was coded as anothe, after going through a series of rotors. Each rotor was wired differently, and depending on how it was connected, would lead to a different outcome. The only thing that was NOT possible, would be for the letter to code as itself. This fact and also repetitive messages (such as "long live the Führer" at the end of messages) helped them break the daily code.

The other amazing machine in use at Bletchley was the Bombe. This machine greatly aided in breaking the codes on Enigma messages. I did not get a good explanation of how this machine works, but basically it generated a number of possibilities until the message was actual German (which would of course then be translated).

If you want to know more about Bletchley, check out their website at:
There was so much to see and do at Bletchley, we only had time for a small portion of it. It was fascinating and I highly recommend it!

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Location:Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, England

23 July 2012

Cambridge was more than just scientists

In my last post I gushed about the famous scientists of Cambridge - and there were many, but I would be remiss if I didn't write about the city in general.
When I arrived it was cold and rainy. That did not stop Alice and I from going out to enjoy the city, it only ensured that we stopped in Fitzbillies for a hot chocolate. (oh but I am getting ahead of myself)

Cambridge is simply lovely. The buildings are old and historic, but the city still has a young, vibrant feel. The university is made up of many colleges, each with its own unique traditions, history and buildings. Visitors are generally not allowed in the colleges and must admire them from the outside.

To say that there are many cyclists in Cambridge is simply an understatement. The place is swarming with them. Not only must one constantly be aware of (and as a pedestrian, sometimes dodge) the cyclists, but bikes are everywhere. Chained to fences, trees, lamp posts, other bikes or even themselves, the bikes are as much a part of the architecture as the brick and mortar.

Cambridge also has a number of churches. We visited the circle church and saw a short (25 min) video about the history of Cambridge. We also visited a church that is a cafe as well. The cafe is closed on Sunday for services. Clever use of an under-utilized building if I do say so myself!

Cambridge gets it's name by being built where there was a BRIDGE over the river CAM. The river flows throughout town and plays a big role in the town's social life. There are many foot paths along the river where one can walk or jog, additionally there are punts and kayaks one can rent for a day. Plus of course, the university has a rowing team that practices (and competes) along the Cam.

The trails along the river extend beyond town. A favorite (for locals, tourists and celebrities alike) is to row, paddle or hike out to The Orchard. Nestled in an apple orchard allowed to grow wild, The Orchard is a lovely garden cafe. The food was amazing, the location peaceful. Alice and I enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Orchard.

Then we hiked along the river on the very muddy wet trail back into town. The muddiness was clearly not a deterrent as we encountered many others along our hike.

Not everyone in Cambridge cycles or walks, they also have an extensive system of busses. However these busses are a bit unique. Some parts of Cambridge had old rail lines that were no longer in use, yet they still existed as pathways. These were converted into roads for busses and busses only. (there are signs that say: "Car Trap", so that people know not to drive there. The busses were also outfitted with an extra set of wheels. What happens is that when the busses come to these lanes, they lock into the lane and cannot deviate from it. Because there is no other traffic, the busses can (and do) go as fast as a train. It's interesting to watch as the driver simply takes his hands off the wheel, sits back and lets the bus accellerate.

Cambridge is a great place to visit - oh! And if you want to stand out as a tourist, then just buy/wear a Cambridge University hoodie!

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Location:Cambridge, England

22 July 2012

Where Giants Tread

Some places are known around the world, Cambridge University is one of them. Nestled along the river Cam in England, Cambridge is a beautiful university town with buildings that date back to BEFORE Columbus discovered the "New World".

Walking through Cambridge, visiting the sites, one cannot help but hear of the greats who stood here before.

Newton, Darwin, Watson, Crick, Hawking, JJ Thompson, Whipple....these great scientists studied and learned and discovered here. But they also lived here and left their mark on the town.

Here is Darwin's microscope in the Whipple museum. I stood staring at the actual microscope that Charles Darwin actually used. I learned that he spent an extraordinary amount of personal money on this microscope because he was so serious about his science.

Stephen Hawking's contribution to the town was in the form of this clock, the Corpus Clock, which he did not design. Perhaps that is why it is only exact once every 5 seconds!

The Cavendish Laboratory - I am in awe of all who study there.

As I sat in The Eagle, tucked into a fireplace table, I wondered if Watson and Crick had ever sat there and discussed the possible shapes and structure of DNA.

Not everyone who attends Cambridge studies the sciences, and of course not all scientists make world-changing discoveries, but I am sure that all who study at Cambridge have the resources for greatness available to them right at their university.

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Location:Cambridge University, England