That well known Cowboy State.

My husband (a teacher) recently told me all about a survey conducted recently in America about people’s awareness of science.  It seems the report was damning:

  • Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
  • Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
  • Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth’s surface that is covered with water.

(If you want to see the full report you’ll find it here: Science Daily Summary )

I (like him) was shocked that so few people understood basic science and together we smugly said “the UK must be better then that”.

And so – it came as quite a shock when I walked into my local fancy dress shop to obtain a jockey costume for the next murder mystery at Doncaster Racecourse and heard the following:

Girl in changing rooms (getting dressed as a cowgirl): Where is it cowboys come from again?

Shop assistant: Somewhere in America.

Girl in changing rooms: It’s one of those states isn’t it… which one was it again?

Shop assistant: Tennessee I think.

Girl in changing rooms: Tennessee… yeah, that’ll be right, but there’s another isn’t there…?

Shop assistant:  Tennessee and… Canada isn’t it?

Girl in changing rooms: Canada.  Yeah!  Thats the one!

Canada!  Canada?!  Oh dear!  We might do better at Science in the UK – but clearly our geography is distinctly lacking!


Sloe day…

The summer isn’t really summer for me without jam making.  Usually it’s an afternoon strawberry picking followed by a boil up at home, but this year we’ve discovered that my better half is allergic to strawberries – apparently not as uncommon as you might think – and so strawberry jam is out of the question.

Fortunately we don’t just make strawberry jam.

Yesterday we set off blackberry picking  – a favourite autumn pass-time of mine – I just LOVE free food!  (Field mushrooms are good too – but I haven’t seen any this year…)  Anyway, yesterday it was a few jars of blackberry jam into the store cupboard for the winter, and a blackberry and apple crumble for tea.

This morning I was out again, doing an early morning raid three doors down where the house is rented out and the blackberry bush trailing out from their front garden was just laden!

Yes – I know… it’s in their garden… but is it really scrumping if a) it’s hanging over the public pavement, b) they won’t do anything with them anyway and c) it’s just weeds?? – I don’t know – but I have to admit it’s one of the reasons I did an early morning raid when they were asleep in bed instead of picking them yesterday afternoon just in case anyone leant out of the window and said Oi!)

Today – we went out with the kids to a play area about 20 minutes away and what should there be at the edge of the field but the most heavily laden sloe bush I have ever seen in my life!  Now, I love sloe gin, but I’m far too impatient for anything like that – but such a crop of sloes was hard to resist – so I didn’t.

Getting them home I googled Sloe Jam – there must be a recipe somewhere.  But was there?  No.  At least, not one that didn’t involve me going out and buying (YES BUYING) more fruit to go with it.  (Cooking apples in this case.)  And so… we invented our own recipe with what we had in the house.

So – for those needing a sloe jam recipe (if you happen to find a bush cropping as heavily as I did this autumn)… here it is:


1.2 kg sloes (approx)

400 ml Orange Juice (cheap shoddy concentrate was all we had in the house)

300ml water

1.2kg preserving sugar (it has to be Preserving sugar NOT jam sugar).


Clean all the twigs etc from the sloes, and then put them in a large pan with the water.  Bring them to the boil and simmer for around 10 minutes.  Mash them with a potato masher.  (You may need a bit more water depending on how much evaporates out.)

Strain the sloes in a muslin bag or through a sieve – getting out as much juice and flesh as possible, but leaving the stones and skins behind.  (we used both the slow drip and when that wasn’t fast enough for me, the squeezing to within an inch of their life technique).

After that you should hopefully have around 600gm of sloe juice and strained flesh to make jam with.  The rest is rubbish – just throw it away / compost it (but be warned – there’ll be a ton of pips in your compost).

Add the sloe juice and flesh, orange juice and preserving sugar to a LARGE pan ( the jam rises while boiling so you need to be aware it might boil over – we used a massive stock pot).  Bring to the boil and boil for 15 minutes.

After that – just decant the jam into jam jars and hey presto – Sloe Jam (or in this case probably Sloe Marmalade as it’s got the orange in it as well.

Either way – it’s delicious!  Can’t wait until it’s cooled down!

Anyway – that’s my “recipe for the day” and “what” you are asking – “does this have to do with murders?”

Oh – well take a look at the straining sloes – could easily be blood…

Only a few days to go – am I excited? yes!

Tuesday 6th sees the arrival of Georgina Starkie at Red Herring Games.  Am I a little excited by the prospect?  Er… yeah!  Did I expect to be expanding the business after 4 years trading?  Er… no.

But it’s like they always say at Business training – when you’re self employed you’ve got to work ON the business not IN the business some of the time – and I’m hoping that Geogina’s arrival will be the start of the biggest expansion phase we’ve seen at Red Herring Games.

Business advisors always say to create achievable goals (SMART is the acronym everyone bandies around, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and … I knew I wouldn’t remember them all, and indeed I may have got a few of those mixed up as well…) .

So once I’ve finished inducting Georgina into the day to day admin of the business, what do I intend to do with my time?

Well, frankly long coffee breaks won’t be one of the features!!

September may be the last “quiet” month before the onslaught of winter trade (and I rather suspect that it may begin early this year as we’ve seen in increase already).   So any time I have in September will be spent on working out the franchising arrangements of the entertainment side of the business.

After that – well it’ll be all hands to battle stations with orders and I suspect a couple of custom written games.  I know of at least one that needs writing by November, and I think there’s another in the wings.

Also I have a hankering to finish off “A Bad Vintage” which is still only in plotting stages, not least because I’ve already had a request to “size it up” to 20 players for Bryn Tanat  – a self catering place in the Welsh Shropshire borders who are at this moment making arrangements to customise “Murder at Merkister Hall” into something they can provide to their guests along with a dressing up box and compare.

And if I have any spare time?

Well marketing is something I’ve not really done before now, or if I have I’ve only really “played” at it – so that’s the next target.  For which I expect I’ll be enlisting help from Alison at Kinetic Marketing and Design as she knows her stuff, and Chris from Go Photo who’ll help me capture some quality images for the materials.

Anyone fancy modelling?