Nick (nickmurdoch) wrote,

February 2015

February ended with me getting off a plane in Hawai'i and being given a lei from Emily (I'm still here!), then listening to the cocqui frogs in Hilo before drifting off to sleep.

My photos server is offline at the moment but I will add photos when I return to the UK and get it working.

Family Dinner

I had my family over for dinner in the newly-completed dining room, though I can't remember what I cooked for them, other than an awful lot of blueberry fool. After dinner they sampled some of the chocolate Emily and I made back in November. (They didn't like it, but I've finished it up now and I think it was good!) I showed them the uncooked cacao beans we used and for some reason they all decided to try one and then spit it out when it did, as I warned, taste foul.

Homemade ottoman

To finish off the dining room I made a bench seat with lid for the alcove next to the bookcase. I ordered some foam for the top and mum helped me stitch some fabric, which we had originally thought might be nice for curtains, around it. Now all our DIY equipment is being stored inside!

Cake alchemy

I made Emily a birthday cake with fondant icing, to present over webcam, at short notice. I handmade some soft fondant icing before realising that all the food colourings were at her mum's. So I raided the fridge and freezer to see what I could use for a natural dye.

My fridge and freezer were quite bare since I was running it down before my trip to Hawai'i, but there turned out to be some things I could use.

I attempted green using some cooked spinach water, but it wasn't strong enough to dye the icing sugar without turning it to liquid, and the colour wasn't particularly pleasant either.

Then I discovered that blueberries are a surprisingly versatile colouring, within certain taste boundaries.

Cooking them in a tiny amount of water and then mashing them up generates a strong purple/red colour. I looked online and found out that although blueberries are indeed blue when ripe, cooking them releases acid in their skins which turns the colour red (this is apparently the same substance as beetroot).

My design didn't need red though; it needed green, and blue. So I took some bicarbonate of soda, which is alkaline, and added a bit to the blueberry mix. It turned blue! I made some lovely pastel-blue sea from the icing.

Then I added more bicarbonate of soda. It turned green! I made the Hawai'ian islands out of pastel green icing sugar, and added them to the cake. The green icing tasted strongly of bicarbonate of soda (quite salty) so that didn't end up getting eaten, but the blue icing was fine.

I didn't have any candles to decorate the cake, so I stuck an unused sparkler from last bonfire night into the top of Mauna Kea, and lit that on the webcam. It was quite a bit brighter than a candle.


I arranged with my work to take a 12 week sabbatical (four weeks of annual leave, eight unpaid) to join Emily out in Hawai'i where she is working as a programmer for the Gemini observatory. More on my time out here in the next couple of journal entries. I flew out on the morning of Friday 27th and arrived local time the same evening, adding ten hours to my February. Hilo airport is tiny and Emily's mum was waiting with Emily when I arrived, since she was flying back on the same aircraft that brought me in!

On the last day of February, and my first day here, we visited Akala Falls, a nice 45-minute paved walk to a waterfall overlook, and the Hilo botanic gardens, which has great views of the sea, and where I said hello (and goodbye) to a parrot:

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Tags: hawaii

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