Sheila O'Kelly's Blog

Freelance journalist, sub-editor, and e-novelist

Archive for August 2009

Dodder Park, Thursday 27 August

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The light is one of the things that makes the Dodder park so beautiful. Whether it’s grey and drizzly, like today, and the trees cast inky shadows on the water; or it’s sunny and the light is sprinkled through the leaves showing up the patterns of the veins and highlighting the bugs hiding underneath. Even the gardener’s enemy, bind weed, looks pretty with its delicate white flower showing daintily amid the bullying brambles and nettles. And thanks to today’s regulars who so courteously agreed to be photographed.

Some of the regulars in Dodder park

Some of the regulars in Dodder park

Even bind weed looks good in the wild

Even bind weed looks good in the wild

Glimpse of the real world from the Dodder park

Glimpse of the real world from the Dodder park

Aah, ducks - they do like a rainy day

Aah, ducks - they do like a rainy day

Dodder river, 27 August 2009

Dodder river, 27 August 2009

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Written by SOKNH

August 27, 2009 at 10:50

Posted in Dodder Diary

Large iced coffee cake (with frosting) – fairly easy

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I make this regularly by request and  it is pretty easy, especially if you have a food processor. It is a really useful cake to have in your repertoire and especially good as a birthday cake.

I usually use a 23cm bundt tin – the with with the hole in the middle – but an ordinary round 20cm tin will work just as well. The bundt tin is good because the cake cooks the whole way through more quickly – and it looks nice when it’s iced.
You can use also use this quantity below to fill two loaf tins of 23cm x 11cm x 7cm (9″ x 4″ x 3″ approx.); or halve it and just make one loaf tin.

Coffee cake - good for a birthday treat

Coffee cake - good for a birthday treat

Ingredients (cake)

  • 250g self-raising flour (2 cups)
  • 250g butter (at room temperature) (21/4 sticks)
  • 250g caster sugar (1 cup)
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons instant coffee (dissolved in 1 tablespoon of boiling water, then cooled)

Icing/filling (frosting)

  • 250g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar – sieved) (2 cups)
  • 100g butter (at room temperature) (3/4 stick)
  • 2 tablespoon instant coffee (dissolved in 1 teaspoon of boiling water, then cooled)

The one in the picture was one and a half times the usual quantities and a 20cm square tin.

How I do it

Pre-heat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 5

  1. If you are using a bundt tin, carefully grease it with soft butter and then shake flour over it so that there is a very thin dusting of flour over all the tin. I usually do the flour bit in the garden because it is inclined to go everywhere.
  2. If I am using loaf tins, I use those disposable grease-proof liners. Or if you use a square tin, you will need to butter and dust it with flour too.
  3. Put the butter and sugar in the food processor and whizz until they are well mixed (one-two minutes).
  4. Add all the rest of the ingredients and whizz for just long enough to mix them (30 seconds-1 minute).
  5. Scrape the mixture into prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes in bundt tin (other tins make take longer).

Icing

Put all the ingredients in the food processor and blend. Keep at room temperature until you are ready to ice the cakes.

Putting it all together

  1. When you think cake is ready, take it out of the oven and test the centre with a skwer or something similar – it should come away clean with no mixture sticking to it.
  2. Remove the cake and leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Use a knife to go carefully around the edges and then upend the cake on to a cooling rack.
  3. When the cake has cooled a little more, split it in half horizontally.
  4. When it is completely cold, spread half the icing over one half of the cake. Place the other half on top and decorate with the remaining icing. If you are in the humour you could pipe some rosettes on top.

Enjoy!

Written by SOKNH

August 26, 2009 at 18:47

Posted in 1, Desserts, Recipes

Dodder Park, August 26 2009

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Grey, misty and balmy in the park this morning. I’m under deadline pressure so was there earlier than usual.
Why do they bother with ‘Cycling prohibited’ notice? Everyone who cycles through is always very courteous and deftly avoids pedestrians.
The herons were out again this morning – caught one of them in flight.

Cycling prohibited in Dodder Park - why?

Cycling prohibited in Dodder Park - why?

Heron waiting for a tasty morsel on the river Dodder

Heron waiting for a tasty morsel on the river Dodder

Heron takes flight

Heron takes flight

Benches empty this morning

Benches empty this morning

River Dodder, August 16, 2009

River Dodder, August 26, 2009

Written by SOKNH

August 26, 2009 at 09:33

Posted in Dodder Diary

Dodder Park, Tuesday August 25

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My daily walk along the river Dodder is one of the great pleasures of life. Part of that is the cheery ‘hello’ that greets me as I go along the winding river path and through the two parks. Here is the park and some of those people. This park is also known as the ‘dog park’ so as I get more familiar with the dogs, I will give their names too! Most of these photos were taken on a Canon Digital IXUS 65 and a few, when I ran out of memory, on the iPhone. Some people prefer that their names are not used and since everyone in the park knows one another anyway, for the time being I am not using names.

Dodder River August 25, 2009

Dodder Park regulars, August 25 2009

Some of the regulars in the Dodder Park, August 25, 2009

Pat

Another Dodder Park regular

Written by SOKNH

August 25, 2009 at 11:00

Posted in 1, Dodder Diary

How to publish a book online

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This article first appeared in the Irish Times on August 5

An electronic shortcut in the race for readers

You don’t need a print publisher to get people reading your novel on the beach – you can make it available as an e-book which can be downloaded onto one of the many electronic readers on the market, writes SHEILA O’KELLY

It seems there are lots of us scribblers out there writing novels that never see the light of day because publishers aren’t prepared to take the risk on an unknown. It’s a huge risk for them to take on the marketing and printing costs. But in the last 12 months or so new technologies and websites have opened up a lot more ways to distribute fiction like: Amazon Kindle; Sony Reader; Smashwords (a website not a gadget); and Stanza, an iPhone book reading application.

My novel, Love Knot, begins in 1979 and charts the next few years of a young journalist who becomes pregnant and flees claustrophobic Dublin and heads to London to escape. It took me quite some time to write and I think people will enjoy it so am loathe to let it moulder there. So I decided to give this electronic publishing business a go by uploading the novel to Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.

The Amazon Kindle Store is an offshoot of Amazon.com (so far not available in Europe). It sells electronic books that are uploaded to its Kindles, which are small plastic devices, like a mini-mini laptop, with a 6-10 inch diagonal screen.

Smashwords describes itself as: “A publishing platform, online bookstore and ebook distributor for independent ebook authors, publishers and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device.”

So there were two platforms ready and waiting. However, there is a glitch with Amazon.com. In order to upload a book to Kindle you must have a US bank account so that they can you pay you a percentage for each copy of your book that they sell. So I phoned my sister-in-law in Philadelphia who kindly set up an account in her name, using her bank account, that I could use to publish my book. So officially she is my publisher on Amazon.

Next I read through all of Amazon’s detailed instructions about how to format the book. I tried several of their suggestions, but in the end found that what worked best was simply uploading the novel in Word. Even though on the forums this did not work well for others. For the record, I use a Mac and Word 2004 – perhaps this was just a lucky combination. I don’t know, you may need to experiment. It works best if you don’t use any fancy formatting – this will just confuse the technology.

I chose to sell my novel for $99 cent. For each copy sold, I get $35 cent.

Smashwords provides a very detailed style guide that you need to follow to successfully publish on their site.  Again it is crucial to avoid fancy formatting. Love Knot is also $99 cent on Smashwords and there I receive either $56 cent or $76 cent per copy – not sure why it varies. I chose to upload the novel in all the formats Smashword makes available and this means that they also make Love Knot available on iPhones via the Stanza application.

By the way. I think it’s worthwhile doing a very simple cover design, which you upload separately. It will make your book look a little more professional.

Then I had to start thinking about marketing. I got a kickstart when Smashwords offered authors the chance to make their novels available for free during the month of July. I used this to promote the novel using Twitter (sheilaokelly); Facebook; and Linkedin where I already had accounts.

So far the response has been very encouraging and I am hoping that when people have finished reading the novel they will leave ratings or reviews on either Amazon.com or Smashwords.com

Meanwhile, I have just started the next novel!

Sheila O’Kelly is a freelance journalist who also gives training courses in how to write in plain English. http://www.sheilaokelly.com

Written by SOKNH

August 24, 2009 at 19:41

Easy, speedy, tasty – Cannelloni with spinach and mascarpone

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Serves 4 (and two lunches the next day)

This Jamie Oliver inspired dinner is so easy and delicious that we have it about once a fortnight. Everything except the fresh spinach can be on hand in your store cupboards. Jamie uses tagliatelle but we prefer the more substantial stuffed pasta.

Ingredients

Canelloni spinachIMG_0111

You can buy stuffed cannelloni like this in most supermarkets.

  • 2 x 350g packets spinach and cheese stuffed cannelloni (most supermarkets have this).
  • 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • 1 tbsp butter.
  • ½ a grated whole nutmeg (ready ground nutmeg will not be nearly as nice).
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed with a little salt.
  • 2 x 260g fresh spinach (yes it’s a lot!). If it’s not baby spinach you will need to trim the leaves off the stalks. Wash spinach and chop it up fairly small. If you like, save time and buy washed baby spinach – when I use this I often don’t even chop it up.
  • 1 x 250g tub mascarpone cheese.
  • 125g block parmesan, freshly grated (coarsely grated is fine).

How I do it

  1. Have some water boiling in a largish saucepan.
  2. Gently heat a very large skillet or Le Creuset type casserole (you will be adding pasta to it later) and add the oil and butter to it.
  3. Add the crushed garlic and grated nutmeg to the oil and cook gently.
  4. Meanwhile put the pasta in the boiling water and follow packet instructions (it only takes a couple of minutes).
  5. After the garlic and nutmeg have been cooking for a few minutes add the washed, chopped spinach and stir it around. Put a lid on your skillet for a minute or two if you have one and you want to speed it up.
  6. When the spinach is cooked down, stir in the mascarpone and swish it around until it is melted.
  7. Stir in the parmesan.
  8. Add the pasta and a ladleful of the pasta water and mix it altogether.
  9. Serve immediately.

Note: I usually have some of this this heated up the next day for lunch and it’s delicious.

Written by SOKNH

August 24, 2009 at 17:55

Posted in Main courses, Recipes

Raspberry-almond cake, quick and easy

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If you keep frozen raspberries in the freezer, this is a really scrumptious and fast cake/pie to put together.

You will need a round springform cake tin of about 20cm (8 inches).

Ingredients

Raspberry cake: I just used the paper case to transport the cake - if you put paper in the tin it's too difficult to spread the mix across the base.

Raspberry cake: I just used the paper case to transport the cake - if you put paper in the tin it's too difficult to spread the mix across the base.

  • 6oz (170g, 1 1/3 cup) self-raising flour
  • 4oz (113g, ½ cup) castor sugar
  • 4oz (113g, ¾ cup) ground almonds
  • 6oz butter (170g, 1 ½ sticks)
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 10oz raspberries (300g, 2 cups) – frozen are fine

How I do it

Preheat oven to gas mark 5: (moderate, 190C, 375C)

  1. Whizz flour, sugar, almonds and butter to breadcrumb-like texture.
  2. Remove half of mixture from food processor.
  3. Add egg to half left in processor and whiz again to form paste.
  4. Spread paste in springform using the back of a large spoon.
  5. Toss raspberries in a little icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar). Spread fruit over pastry leaving narrow margin around the edges.
  6. Scatter rest of cake mixture over the top.
  7. Bake in centre of oven at gas 5 for 20 mins and gas 4 (180C, 350F) for further 20 mins.
  8. Leave to cool a little in the tin before unmoulding.

Written by SOKNH

August 24, 2009 at 12:09

Posted in Desserts, Recipes