Tuesday 25 January 2011

Vanilla Orange Chocolate Biscuits

From Cakes

I've recently become addicted to home made biscuits. Especially mixed vanilla-orange and chocolate biscuits. They are quite easy to prepare, the difficulty lies in making them last!

Rub together (or use a blender) to create fine crumbs from:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g sugar
  • 125g hard vegetable fat spread/butter
  • 1/2 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 level teaspoon cream of tartar
  • (alternative to soda and tartar - use 1.5 level teaspoons baking powder)
  • an egg
  • freshly grated orange rind
  • a few drops of vanilla essence
Knead into a dough, it may be a bit soft at this stage.
Split the dough into two equal parts.
To one part add
  • 20g Cocoa powder
  • 15g sugar
  • teaspoon of milk
Knead until well combined.
If the dough is still sticky, chill for a couple of hours.

The two doughs can then be rolled out independently to create separate white and dark biscuits, by rolling out to about 5mm thickness on a floured surface and cutting out shapes.

Alternatively, combine blocks of the two together to create a multicoloured roll and slice off discs of about 5mm.

Place the cut out shapes or discs on a greased tray and bake for 7 to 10 minutes  at 170 deg C, in a preheated oven.

The biscuits should have risen and become golden brown.

Take off the tray and allow to cool on a grid.

Then store the crisp biscuits in a tin.

Whenever you open the tin, the delicious scent of oranges and chocolate will tempt you to have a biscuit or two!

Friday 14 January 2011

Ancient Egyptian alphabet game tiles using Open Source design software

Louise hates word games but loves Ancient Egypt. So it seemed perfectly natural to invent a more interesting version of letters for word games using Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs!

This also allowed me to try out two Open Source design software programs, Inkscape and Scribus.

We decided to design word tiles that could be printed off and then used in a variety of word games and crosswords.

Louise provided the Egyptology expertise. There are single consonant hieroglyphs that approximate a large number of our consonants. Vowels were an issue as no one really knew how the Ancient Egyptians actually spoke. We had a, e and o possibles. There was no i or u. The consonants l, q, v and x were also missing. However, we could include SH, TH and CH as individual letters.

By making rules for substitutions or workarounds for the missing letters, we came up with a practical solution.

The actual hieroglyph tiles were then designed in the vector graphic software Inkscape. I became very familiar with the generation of shapes, the importance of nodes and vertices and how to manipulate them to create the necessary shapes.

The designs were then exported individually both as scalable vector graphics and png files.

The basic instructions with printable tiles in PDF form were then put together using the desktop publishing software Scribus.

We cut printed and cut out the tiles for our very first word game and had great fun with the challenge of adapting the available letters to our english words.

Join in the fun by downloading the PDF from
and trying out these tiles in a game of your own!

Chris Thomas, design and implementation
Louise Thomas, Egyptology consultant and games tester

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Designing the new Milton Village View Logo

So how do you represent a village in 3 letters, in a small space of 207 x 80 pixels? That was the challenge of submitting a new logo for “Milton Village View” magazine. The old one that I had designed a couple of years ago was fine for print but did not reproduce well in a smaller web format.

It all started with pencil and paper. I prepared a couple of A4 sheets with lots of small boxes, in the ratio of 207 x 80. I roughly divided the sides into thirds (like a noughts and crosses grid) to give a structure to work with.

I had been asked to include the letters MVV, so now I started doodling. The angular letters gradually changed to curves in successive boxes. The letters M and both Vs seemed to work if at different sizes,  as did making the M asymmetric. The underlying grid served as a guide.

Trying to add additional detail or images behind the letters proved a dead end. However, circles in the valleys of the letters did give the impression of three figures with their arms in the air.

The next step was to go to a design software.  I chose to make a vector graphic – which could be scaled to any size.  Normally I would use CorelDraw. This time I tried Inkscape, an open source (free) program.

The recreated crisp logo shapes could now be coloured digitally. Milton has a surprising number of bridges – in the country park, by the river and over the A14. The curves of the M hinted at them.

Blue below one arc could represent lakes and rivers; green under the other suggested the park and village green spaces. The final use of orange behind a circle reflected sunrise.

The end result was unforeseen. It had evolved through the design process. It only remained to create bitmap and PDF versions of the logo for the magazine editors.

Milton Village View appears several times a year with news round and about Milton and will soon be on the web at http://mvv.org.uk

I hope you like the design. What other Milton features do YOU see in the logo?