Category Archives: bits n bobs

Sarah’s hevvy fruitcake

It’s that fruitcake time of year. I made one that was a bit of an experiment and it worked rather well. What’s more, it’s gluten free. Here’s the recipe, for those adventurous souls who want to try it.

Sarah's hevvy fruitcakeNote: Baking is an imprecise art, and so is this recipe. It’s a little like technical writing. 😉 Oh, and the spelling of “hevvy” is intentional.

Oven temperature: 180° C (360° F).

Baking time: 60 minutes.

Baking pan: Round. Diameter 23 cm (10 inches), height 6 cm (2.5 inches).

Baking paper to line the pan.



  • 225 g (8 oz) brown sugar – the darker the better. I used dark muscovado unrefined cane sugar.
  • 225 g (8 oz) margerine or butter – I used margerine.
  • 4 eggs.
  • 400 g (12 oz) cake flour – I used gluten free flour.
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg.
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Half a teaspoon mixed spices.
  • Pinch of salt.
  • 200 g (7 oz) sultanas.
  • 200 g (7 oz) blackberries or some other squishy, slightly sour berry – I used frozen blackberries.
  • 2 handfuls pecan nuts – basically, as many as you want.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence.
  • 50 ml (2 tablespoons) molasses.
  • 50 ml (2 tablespoons) or more plain yoghurt (if necessary, make sure it’s gluten free).


  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar – but have more available, because the topping is tricky.
  • 50 ml water.


A slice of hevvy fruitcake looks like this:



Mix the margerine/butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing each egg in well.

Add the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, mixed spices and salt. Here’s a tip to prevent flour from flying everywhere: Use a wooden spoon to mix the dry ingredients at first, then use an electric mixer to finish the job.

Chop the pecan nuts into largish pieces – quarters or thirds of a nut are good.

If you’ve been using an electric mixer, now’s a good time to abandon it.

Add the sultanas, blackberries, and chopped nuts to your mixture. Also add the vanilla essence, molasses and yoghurt.

Mix it all together with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry about getting everything 100% mixed in. It’s fine if there are still a few visible globs of yoghurt when you’ve finished.


Line the baking pan with baking paper. Spoon the mix into the pan, ensuring a more or less level surface. Bake for approximately an hour at 180° C (360° F).

Stick a thin knife into the cake to check it after about 40 minutes, and then again every 15 minutes or so, to see how it’s doing. When you pull out the knife, the blade shouldn’t be completely clean (it’s better if the cake is moist). It should have some moist, slightly gooey stuff on it, but not a lot of uncooked dough.

Remove the cake from the pan and put it on a metal rack to cool. Leave the baking paper on the cake until it’s cool.

Topping of caramelised sugar

The aim here is to heat the sugar and water until the sugar caramelises, then pour it onto the cake before it sets hard.

Set a pot of cool water ready, for testing your caramel mixture. (Cold water from the tap is fine.)

Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil on a high heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. At first, the sugar mixture is thin with lots of small bubbles. Keep it boiling and keep stirring. The sugar mixture gets thicker and darker.

Now it’s time to test the mixture. Take your wooden spoon out of the pot and hold it over your separate pot of cool water. Let a drop of the sugar mixture fall into the water. Prod the drop with your finger – it should be hard to the touch. If it’s still squishy, or if it disperses and flattens when you drop it into the water, then the caramel mixture isn’t yet ready.

When ready, dribble the caramel mixture over the top of the cake. Don’t worry if it’s not evenly spread – there’s no need to cover the whole cake, and it’s fine to have deep and shallow valleys of sugar.

Here’s another tip:  If the sugar crystalises in the pan, it’s not hard to wash, despite the scary appearance of the caramel-encrusted pan. This means you can quickly start again with another mixture of sugar and water if things go wrong the first time.

Enjoy the cake!

Content management LOL

Ready for a Friday chuckle?

I took this picture in a stairwell, then tweeted it:

This has to be an important document! 

Content management LOL

Content management LOL

Here’s the reply I received from Alan J. Porter:

I think that may be taking content management a little too far!!

While Michael O’Neill quips:

Can’t tell if it’s a usability fail or win. ;P

LOL (laugh out loud)! 🙂

Playing with Checkvist for handy online “to do” lists

A few weeks ago Sasha dropped a comment on my blog about a website called Checkvist. She called it an “online outliner”, a pet project developed by herself and her husband. That sounds pretty cool, I thought.

So I moseyed over to Checkvist and found that it’s a place where you can create neat “to do” lists quickly. Then you can do all sorts of things with them.

The power of the list

Are you a list person? I am. Never underestimate the power of the list in keeping the scary chaos of the multiplex universe at bay. 😉 Checkvist is particularly awesome because you can create hierarchical lists – one list item can be the child of another. Take that, oh chaotic universiplex!

On a side note, people even use Checkvist to plot the outlines of their novels.

What does Checkvist look like?

Here’s a list on Checkvist :

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

The format is nice and clean. You can change the “view options” to display your list as a numbered list or to show details such as date last edited and by whom.

How does Checkvist behave?

I love it! The interface is very no fuss no bother. Just click, something happens, it’s what you wanted and you’re done. The power is in the shortcut keys. Look out chaotic universiplex, here we come.

Cutting loose from the Checkvist website

You don’t have to visit the Checkvist website for every interaction with Checkvist. There are a number of options for more flexible interaction.

Do you live in your web browser? You can put Checkvist into a Firefox side panel or a Chrome popup. Here’s the Firefox side panel (with Wikipedia in the main panel):

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

There’s a Google gadget that you can put on your iGoogle home page. I wonder how many people use iGoogle as their home page and how many people use gadgets regularly. Do you? I experimented with iGoogle a while ago, but don’t go there regularly any more.

Checkvist supplies a bookmarklet that you can drag onto your browser. First make sure your browser is showing the bookmark toolbar. Then go to your user profile in Checkvist, click “Tools and Extensions” and drag the bookmarklet to the browser’s bookmark toolbar. When you are on a web page and want to remind yourself about something associated with that page, just click the bookmarklet to add a linked item in your Checkvist list.

There’s a mobile interface for use on the iPhone and other smart phones.

Checkvist integration with Confluence wiki

In her comment, Sasha pointed out that you can convert a Checkvist list to Confluence wiki format. True to Checkvist style, it’s very simple. Just click “export” and choose Confluence wiki format.

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

The output appears in a new browser tab, so that you can copy and paste it into Confluence. It contains the wiki markup that Confluence will recognise.

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

There are other export formats too, including OPML.

Checkvist integration with JIRA issue tracker and Gmail

This is very handy indeed. The Checkvist bookmarklet, mentioned above, has a special relationship with three web applications:

I tried it in the first two. Go to Gmail and open an email message. Click the Checkvist bookmarklet. Checkvist pops up a dialogue offering you the option to add the email message as a task.

Open an issue in JIRA and click the bookmarklet to add the issue as a Checkvist task. Magic. That’s how I created the first item in my Checkvist list. CONF-5994 is a JIRA task:

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

Playing with Checkvist for handy online "to do" lists

Why would I want a simple, online “to do” list?

I have JIRA for project management and issue tracking. I have Outlook tasks. I have Gmail. I have Confluence wiki for collaboration. Why add Checkvist to the mix?

Well, at the moment I use Outlook tasks for micro management. JIRA is great for the big picture, but sometimes I need a short list of things to kick off the day. Things I know I will and must look at first thing. Outlook tasks are very good for this. But there are two drawbacks:

  • This is the only thing I use Outlook for. It’s a bit of overkill to run Outlook just for micro task management.
  • I can only access the tasks from my desktop PC. So if I know I’ll be working from home or some other remote location, I email myself all the urgent tasks coming up. If my working remote is unplanned, I just have to guess what they are. 🙂

Sometimes I’m busy with an urgent issue in JIRA bug tracker, and I want to send myself an extra special reminder, just for me. I could just click the bookmarklet to add the issue as a task in Checkvist.

Maybe I want to make sure I reply to my mother’s email message, and I’m afraid it will disappear into the morass that is my email inbox. No worries, just click the Checkvist bookmarklet.

Lots of other uses I haven’t tried yet

There’s the guy who outlined his novel on Checkvist. You can share a list and work with other people to compile the tasks – maybe a list of holiday “to dos”. It could be a handy tool for a brainstorming session, especially if the scribe is a wizard with the Checkvist shortcuts.

tl;dr: I think Checkvist is pretty cool. Let me know if you’ve tried it too.

Collective noun for a group of technical writers

This week a colleague, Tom, came up to me with a big grin and asked, “What’s the collective noun for a group of technical writers?”

He had another developer in tow, a new starter at that, and the grin made me wonder what mischief lay behind the question. 😉 But it’s a goody and it made me laugh. I came up with “a scribble of technical writers“. Later, it occurred to me that we could call a group of agile technical writers a “jot“.

Can you think of any good names for us and for what happens when we get together in a group?

Yard table assemblage instructions

These “Yard table assemblage instructions” were included with a garden table we bought. 🙂 Actually, the structure of the guide is good. There’s a list of parts and then the “how to”. It’s just the language that needs a bit of tender loving care. I love the way it degenerates towards the end, as if the poor author just gave up because it was too hard.

Assemblage parts:

1.One piece of iron flower pattern glass (in midst have a hole).

2.Four table feet.

3.Two fixed stators.

4.Eight screws.

5.Eight screw caps.

Assemblage method:

1.Use the screws and screw caps screw down the table feet and fixed stators.

2.Table top is upward.

3.half-round plastics of under the table top direct against the table feet, Then press it down.

We did manage to assemble the table with no trouble.

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