Thursday, 20 December 2012

The time has come...

... to slide into the festive season!

And then, the year's end will be fast approaching, and with it the new year, and with that the January conference in Cardiff, so the first days of next year, I will be quite busy getting my paper into its final shape, and packing my bags.

Which means that I will now go on blog pause for the last days of the year, as usual - but this time, the blog pause will be a bit longer due to the conference and include a healthy chunk of January. Regular blogging will resume on January 16.

I wish you all a good festive season with lots of nice food, lovely people and a pleasant warm feeling in your heart, a wonderful New Year's Eve and a happy and healthy start into the year 2013. I'm looking forward to see what next year will bring us!

See you on the flip side!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Magic Number is approaching.

You know how that date with all the festivity attached always creeps up on one, each year? It's weird how it manages that. Even though its creeping plans should be totally thwarted... but still.

We have a traditional boardgame outing every year in October, and that is also the traditional start-of-thinking-about-presents time. Yes, that is pretty early, but it's the perfect opportunity since a lot of our friends enjoy a boardgame or five (or the other stuff that can be gotten there). And you'd think that someone thinking of Yul or Xmas or Hanukah or whatever you call your festive season's peak in October should not be surprised by that date actually coming, right? Well, wrong.

October gently passes by, and November starts - it's getting colder outside and more grey, and the first advent approaches and with it the time to eat gingerbread and enjoy the pretty lights on pretty trees. Another reminder. And then, some time after that, the baking starts.

Then there's our traditional little excursion to a small and sort-of-artsy Christmas Market in one of the neighbouring towns, and of course the celebrations with friends and co-workers and ex-co-workers (or co-students). So theoretically, the steady approach of the date with the 2 in front and the 4 in back should not come as a surprise.

But with all these things that should keep one aware of time ticking by... each year I have the feeling that December especially just rushes by. Like a time-lapse, I am surprised by the first of the few days with the 2 in front suddenly approaching. Oh goodness, is it that late already?

And that's how I felt this morning, looking at the calendar. Oh goodness, is it the 20th tomorrow already? How does December get its super-sneaking superpowers?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Blogging educates.

Blogging is an education unto itself, including learning about what is different food-wise between different countries.

I grew up with the word "nougat" meaning exactly one thing: a sweet, nutty, chocolaty smooth confection that would melt in your mouth leaving only deliciousness and a desire for more. So the first time someone gave me a piece of "nougat" as in that white stuff with the nuts in it, I was thoroughly disappointed - and a little bit confused.

So then I learned that there is more than one nougat (though the white stuff with nuts, here, is normally referred to as "Türkischer Honig" - Turkish Honey.)
These days, one can just check the Internet for a definition. And the Internet tells me there's three kinds of nougat, and mine is not the most common, but the German kind.

What it does not tell me is whether it's possible to buy that on the other side of the Big Pond, or somewhere else outside of Europe. So just in case, here's a recipe on how to make it. Please note that though it's from a reliable German cooking database, I have not tried this... here, you can buy "baking nougat" in the baking goods section in every supermarket. (Especially around this time of year, of course.)

75 g hazelnuts (or almonds without the brown skin, if you prefer, but hazelnut is more typical)
75 g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
100 g dark chocolate coating or dark chocolate
50 g butter

Roast nuts at medium temperature until golden, let cool. (You can rub the hazelnuts in a cloth after roasting to remove the dark skin.) Grind very finely in a grinder, blender or similar contraption together with the powdered sugar - it should be ground very finely.
Chop the chocolate into pieces and melt (using a water bath so it does not overheat). Mix in the butter, then mix the nut paste and the chocolate paste together to make a thick, malleable nougat. 

(If too soft, you can add more chocolate; if too hard, more butter.)

And this should give you German style nougat, should you not be able to buy it. Another quick-and-dirty solution would be to substitute with Nutella, though I am also told that Nutella tastes different in countries that are not Germany - seems they have a slightly different recipe there.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The date for dates.

I was making marzipan-filled dates yesterday and thought that I could blog the instructions today... and then I remembered that I did exactly that last year. (To be really precise, 363 days ago.)

So instead, you get another cookie recipe... one for really delicious nougat-filled spritz cookies.

You will need 225 g of butter, 100 g powdered sugar, 1 pack (= 8 g) of vanilla sugar, 2 egg yolks, a generous pinch of cinnamon, 230 g flour, 40 g cacao, 1 teaspoon (leveled off) of baking powder, and German or Viennese style nougat for the filling.

Beat the butter until soft and creamy, and beat in powdered sugar, vanilla sugar, egg yolks and cinnamon; blend together flour, cacao and baking soda and gradually mix in the mixture. Fill into a spritz biscuits contraption and spritz it onto a baking sheet (I use silicon baking mats instead of greasing the sheets).

Bake at about 175°C for 6-7 min (hot-air fan oven). Let the cookies cool, then stick two each together with warmed nougat.

Hide well until they may be eaten.

(Thanks to Phiala's comment, I now know that the German nougat might not be as common in other countries as here. If a German says "nougat", it almost always refers to that hazelnut-or-almond-and-chocolate confection, and a recipe will be in tomorrow's blog post.)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Friday! Yay!

I'm not sure whether I want to rejoice that it's Friday already, or moan that it's already Friday... I am looking forward to quite a few free days over the holidays and end of the year, spent together with friends and family, so I'm happy for every day that brings me closer to that - but on the other hand there's things that have to be taken care of before year's end (or will make the start of next year very, very busy and probably stressful).

So... hooray or oops? I can't decide.

At least the presents-for-the-folks-that-get-presents are almost all done. Just like in computer programming, this year it seems as if 90% of it (deciding and getting) took about 10% of the time, while the last ten percent... well, you know. But it's almost done, including a group effort for a bigger present from one of our friends.

Just a few batches of baking to be done, a few decisions on when to go to the market on Saturday, a few phone calls, a bit of organising for our time with friends, ah... the usual seasonal stuff.
And to be honest? I love it. I wouldn't want to miss any of it, it is a brilliant opportunity to meet people that you don't meet very often during the year and spend some time with them. And that alone would be enough reason for me to love this time of year.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


It seems that the season is not only bad for my speed (slowing me down), but also for my sense of time (I totally forgot that I had not yet blogged for today) and for my inventiveness (since I don't have a good idea what to blog about).

Today's earmarked for a visit at the library in Bamberg, and possibly also for a short stroll over the market there, followed by a cup of coffee or similar nice hot drink. It's cold but sunny outside, and everything still has a snow cover - it's almost picture-perfect!

"Picture", however, reminds me that I have a paper to outline and a presentation to prepare and a demonstration to plan. So with that and the other things to take care of, there's enough work for the rest of the week. Good thing that I have a sizeable part of the presentation already prepared from another occasion - I only need to adjust and update it for the next one.

And now... gratuitous cat picture.

She's watching. Remember that.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Something is making my computer slow.

And I fear the something making it slow is contagious - at least I feel quite slow too these days! At least yesterday evening was successful in terms of cookie baking. Something productive done, yay!

Now for your content of today:
Registration for the Experimental Archaeology conference in Cardiff in January is still open, and will be until December 22. So if you are inclined to visit Cardiff on January 11 and 12 (or a bit longer, even), this would be a perfect excuse.

And I'm already looking forward very, very much to this - it will mean meeting nice colleagues again and hanging out in Cardiff. (I will not bore you with Dr. Who and Torchwood fanpersoning now... but if you would like to join me in saying "Cardiff!" in an excited way, feel free.)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


I have about a thousand tabs open in my browser at the moment - because I tend to leave one open to remind me of something I should do, or of something I could blog about, or both. Or it's something I want to read, but had no time for. Or something that I'm thinking about (such like conference call-for-paper pages - they are often open for more than one week while I decide if I want to go there and if so, if I want to offer a paper, and if so, what).

And there are times when there are so many tabs open it gets on my nerves. This is one of these times... so now I will give you links. Random links. Only linked by the fact that they have been open in tabs for a while now...

The always interesting TechKnitter is de-kinking yarn with a steam iron. (Post before that? Grafting sock toes while avoiding those dog-ear corners.)

I had not known Ben Caplan nor Katzenjammer before that - but here's a video from those two covering "Fairytale of New York". Very Xmassy!

There's a new page with 18th and 19th century flea-market finds on the Textile Group page of Uni Innsbruck. They are textile-related, of course.

There's a Science article on a 30 000 year old flax find .

An interesting article about the plaster casts from Pompeii dead.

An info-page about "Fashioning Change" by Andrea Denny-Brown, with the possibility to download excerpts from the book. If I understand correctly, it can be ordered as electronic copy as well, for a very fair price of about 15 USD.

That's it. Now my browser is feeling much slimmer!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Ah. The full-calendar season.

There is snow outside (the cat mistrusts the snow, but it's getting a little better). There is the smell of baking, and the promise of cookies galore to come. There is meeting with friends for an evening out, a christmas market, or a nice evening spent together at home, and planning get-togethers with family. There is fruit tea and gingerbread and advent calendar opening and sugar and spice and everything nice...

... in short, I am getting more and more festive-season-minded. This is not helped by the prospect that the Most Patient Husband will have to take some of his remaining days off from work during this year (which is not very long anymore), so he will be at home during the day with me in just a few more days.

And since I am happy to share some German Christmas weirdness with you - here is a link to a video (in English) about the giant Stollen at the Striezelmarkt in Dresden. (The speaker calls it a cake. Well. Technically, yes, it could be called a cake... but it's usually not. It is Stollen. That is not the same as cake. Not at all! And a well-made Stollen is really delicious, by the way.)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Blogiversary! (Almost.)

This year, I actually managed to look into my calendar in time, and did not forget to do so until after the blogiversary*. This year, however, the blogiversary day is tomorrow - and that's a Saturday.

Well, I do not have many hard and fast rules for this blog, but one of them is "I post Monday to Friday." Which, by inference, means that I do not post Saturday or Sunday. (Technically, since this is my blog and I am allowed to not post on weekdays if I announce it beforehand, it would be perfectly possible to post tomorrow. But... somehow, I don't want to. It's weekend, after all.)

So today is the day for some blog-related navel gazing. I started this blog on December 8, 2008, and it has been running all weekdays ever since. Well, except for when I'm on holidays. Or on a conference. Or need some time off. Or am on a medieval event. Or... well, you know what I mean.

On average, I did about 200 blog posts per year - in a wild mix of links from the Internets, hints to resources like databases, programmes and other websites, conference calls for papers, some unashamed plugging of my own stuff (though speaking as my vaguely entrepreneur-like self, I'm probably not doing enough of that by far), and telling about past and future events that I am taking part in.

The little blog has grown to have more than 160 followers, racked up 150 500 page views in its days, and has the healthy number of a bit more than 320 rss feed subscribers (on average, as Feedburner is quick to tell me).

But there is something much, much more important than these bare numbers. This little blog is, and means, so much more - and has done a lot for me. It gives my work day a bit of structure (which is not bad for a freelancer to have). It means I practise my English and get to roam the Internet a bit each day (I have to find something to blog!). It is immensely gratifying for me to hear that the blog is amusing, entertaining and - best of all - helping others. And it has opened some new avenues for me as well... for instance, I would never have gone to the Leeds blogger meet without it, and thus never met this weird Australian that is now my partner in a project.

So... happy blogiversary, little corner of the Internet! May you go on to prosper...

* I was late to catch on in both 2009 and 2010 and did a belated blogiversary post. In 2011, I completely forgot to do one.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Can I have a Bag of Holding, please?

I have managed to enter a few more of my books into my book database yesterday, and now I have the reordering problem - the bookshelf is, technically, full. If I am taking out individual books from here and there, then re-order them into the new order in some other bit of the shelf, said last other bit is not spacious enough because the gaps in the size of the books are somewhere else.

So what I would really love to have now is a magic extra shelf in some magic box or something that is bigger on the inside and can hold all the newly ordered books until my shelf is all cleared out and I can put them back in.

Bonus points for automatic shelving in order if I just toss in the book.

Apart from that, it's getting more and more wintery here, and the festive season is starting properly now - there will be the first pre-Xmas-dinner tonight. And cookie baking has started, with the first two batches already finished and the dough for the next one waiting in the fridge.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Things I learned during the past days.

* It is never a good idea to spill your coffee in the car. Mostly out of two reasons: You will have much less coffee, and you will have to clean the car.

* It would be so handy to have a scanner with an automatic paper feeder thingie, so that I could just digitise my paper copies of articles.

* The Internet is full of weird stuff. (I knew that before, but it bears repeating.)

* Our little cat does not care for snow and prefers to stay inside when it's cold, except for a very quick dash outside to take care of cat business. The stinky kind.

* Clearing space on your study floor by sorting out those stacks of stuff and finding better storage places for other things actually means that you can see more floor.

* No brownies appeared over night (again!) to continue my book-sorting. Or to put up the Forum photos onto the Forum website. (I have not forgotten, Harma.)

* The end of year is nearing, and there are the usual "won't you give us money" phone calls.

* I will be giving a paper at Cardiff conference in January, and possibly also a demonstration. Registration is still possible, should you like to come.

* Time flies. (Yes, I know. Not new as well. But like the internet being full of weird stuff... I am convinced that this may be repeated from time to time.)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Free content (top articles) at Maney!

While Maney sells its journals and journal issues at prohibitively high prices for a mere mortal such as I, they do hand out open access stuff now and then - very nice! Apart from them having a "Journal of the Month" with lots of free access to back issues of said journals, there's an occasional extra free access thingie.

Such as the one I got an email about today - some of the top articles for a stack of archaeology or archaeology-related journals are available for free online. And since there is no info page for the offer on Maney's websites (at least not where I could find them), here's the relevant bit of the email copied for you, with a little table-tweaking so it all fits onto the page:

Click on the images below to view a selection of the journal's best content and download any articles highlighted in green. Be sure to close the lightbox on each journal page before clicking on the next journal link!

Arms & Armour Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites
English Heritage Historical Review Environmental Archaeology

Journal of Conflict Archaeology
European Journal of Archaeology The Historic Environment: Policy & Practice
Industrial Archaeology Review Journal of Conflict

Journal of Field Archaeology Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Levant Medieval Archaeology

Palestine Exploration Quarterly Post-Medieval Archaeology
Public Archaeology Studies in Conservation
Tel Aviv Terrae Incognitae
Vernacular Architecture Yorkshire Archaeological Journal
Have fun!

Monday, 3 December 2012

They might last a lifetime...

A few days ago, while having dinner together with a friend, we started wondering about how many different recipes for meals there are in the world.

And after a while of pondering about it, we did come to the conclusion that it should be possible to eat one new meal every day, a full lifetime long, and not having to eat anything twice.

That is impressive. But then... who would want to eat anything just one single time?