Posts Tagged review

2012, The Year In Review

So, another year over and a another reflection on what has been achieved (or not).

Things I’ve done this year

  • A single LARP
    • Victoriana. It was great fun and I can’t wait for this year’s game, although it’s probably a good thing that it’s not until September, as I still have lots to make for it.
  • Dress-making
    • I did enjoy this, but I didn’t like the deadline, the amount of work required, and more than anything I found I’m just not interested enough in clothes. Although, no doubt I’ll find it a very useful skill at times.
  • Underground Tour
    • This was really interesting and ticked off an item from my 101 list.
  • Fire marshalling
    • Technically, an ‘Evacuation Marshall’. I failed to step back quick enough when someone came around work looking for volunteers. So far though, we’ve only had a couple of evacuations, and as a bonus I get to shout at students.
  • First-aid
    • I was fortunate to get onto the work provided ‘First-Aid at Work’ course over the summer. This means I am first-aid qualified again for the next couple of years. The downside is that I have to be on-call for first aid incidents at work every four weeks.
  • Gardening
    • We have achieved a small garden. At one point it had tomatoes, strawberries, thyme, rocket, spinach and sunflowers. However, it was a terrible year for ripening fruit, so there was very little to eat and foolishly I didn’t make the most of the leafy veg when it appeared, so overall very little got eaten, except by the slugs.
    • I grew three Sunflowers for the Turing’s Sunflowers project. Sadly, I wasn’t able to count the seeds, mostly due to slugs, but it turned into a nice little photography project. More about it here.


I’ve put this into a separate section, as I’ve done a fair amount of travelling this year, with Paris being the highlight by far. It’s an amazing and friendly city, with so much to see and with a fantastic hotel to come back to at the end of each day (27th floor, woo!).

I missed not going to Centre Parcs last year, but I’m hopeful that a trip will be organised this year (and before anyone asks, I’m far too lazy, um I mean busy, to do it myself).


  • New phone
    • My contract expired and I kept running out of space on my old HTC Desire, so I now have a very shiny One S and a cheaper monthly bill.
  • New monitor
    • This has been an absolute necessity for editing photos and it has made a huge difference. Chris now has my old monitor with its slight blue colour cast.
  • Aftershot Pro
    • For the first time in many years, I’ve actually purchased a piece of software. I’m really pleased with it so far. It’s lacking a few features compared to Darktable, but its rendering of raw files, especially the shadow areas is much better. It’s also very fast and lighter on resources, and I can still use Darktable for the occasional photograph.


This is probably the biggest and most time consuming thing I’ve been involved with this year (as everyone who knows me has no doubt noticed).

Thanks to Ste Manns, I was given the opportunity to help out on a couple of studio photo shoots this year, where I had lots of fun and learned a huge amount about many aspects of photography.

I’ve started studying again, with a course by the Open College of the Arts. As a result I’ve:

I’ve also completed the 52 weeks project. The full set of photos are here:

52 Weeks

A couple of the photos were featured by the Guardian in the Flickr group, which I’m really pleased about. Also, a few of my sunflower photos were chosen for the Turing Sunflower gallery at MOSI and Manchester Art Gallery. I’m not sure yet whether I want to continue with another 52 weeks project this year or do something different..

Aims for 2013

Get fitter

I’ve not really done any regular exercise since moving to Denton. I want to get into a regular running routine this year and work my way up to 10km (I don’t think that will happen this year, but it’s a long term aim). The British Army Fitness book is lying around waiting to be read, and having had a brief look through, it seems to be just what I need.

Finish the Art of Photography

My progress has been much slower than I would have liked on this course. I really want to get my head down properly and finish it this year.


This year, Chris and I intend to visit Berlin. I would also like to visit a few other places (maybe as part of an extended German holiday). It would be nice to go back to Bletchley Park and London, and well, most places I’ve been this year, as well as exploring new ones.

What else?

I’m not sure what else I want to achieve this year, there’s a few smaller items, but generally it would be nice to see people more often and maybe do more table-top or LARP (but nothing too time-consuming or expensive or requiring too much kit, so this seems unlikely).

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Chocolate Review: Hotel Chocolat – Hacienda Lara, Extreme Pralines 90% Dark

Another selection from the Hotel Chocolat Purist range. This small box of chocolates was described as ‘rare and vintage’. Something a little bit special from an already excellent chocolatier. Labelled as ‘Extreme pralines’, they live up to their name being made with an unusually high 90% dark chocolate (cocoa from St Lucia), which is then mixed with Piedmont hazelnut.

The dark chocolate actually contains a drop of butter oil, which isn’t something I’ve noticed before in chocolate of this cocoa percentage.

What hits me first is a smell of full-bodied red wine followed by the taste of red fruits. The chocolate is indeed dark and intense, and as it melts, a pleasant taste of burnt caramel comes through, followed by the first hint of hazelnut. The praline is very smooth, wonderfully nutty and not too sweet.

Perfect. A rare and special treat.

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Chocolate Review: Hotel Chocolat, Santo Domingo 70%

One hundred grams of dark, fruity Santo Domingo 70% dark chocolate. Full of flavour, smooth but not over-powering. I don’t really taste the bitterness mentioned on the packet, but I did notice and appreciate the ‘fruity and wine-like notes’.

More depth than their house chocolate and not as more-ish. Definitely one to savour slowly.

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Chocolate Review – Hotel Chocolat, 70% House Dark Chocolate

Hotel Chocolat sell a variety of gourmet chocolates at a number of price points to suit every pocket. Their house chocolate is their standard and probably most popular chocolate. It is used in their lollies, slabs and special shapes, as well as many of their selectors.

The house dark chocolate is very accessible and additive. It is 70% cocoa and delivers a strong hit of flavour, while still remaining smooth and without being over-powering. It’s very more-ish and a good introduction to fine chocolate. Yet, it’s not their best dark chocolate and I find myself gravitating more towards their single-origin bars.

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Chocolate Review – HC, Rabot Estate 66% Dark Chocolate Baubles

The Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia is what makes Hotel Chocolat the largest bean-to-bar producer in the country. It’s also rather sought after and only finds its way into selected HC chocolates in their premium ‘Rabot Estate’ brand.

I’m generally not a fan of HC’s seasonal offerings. They tend to be much more expensive than the rest of their selection. And while they do have quirky and fun concepts, I prefer just a plain ol’ bar of good quality chocolate. I thought I’d give these chocolate baubles a go though, not least because they were 50% of in the post-Christmas sale..

For chocolate that’s less than 70%, it’s certainly very powerful, with flavours of figs and red fruits coming through strongly (it was described as such on the back-packet and I happen to agree, haven’t tasted the liquorice flavour that was also supposed to be there though).

Overall, excellent taste. As usual, it’s something to savour and certainly memorable. Perhaps my new year’s resolution should be to hunt out some more of the Rabot Estate offerings.

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Chocolate Review – Riverside Chocolate House, Handmade Dark Coffee Chocolate

A very smooth bar with hints of caramel. This sweet and creamy dark chocolate is only 54%. The chocolate doesn’t seem to have any deep or sophisticated flavours, but it’s possible it’s being overwhelmed by the coffee, which is of extremely good quality.

Overall, it’s a very tasty bar, if not a little sickly. It’s like a smooth, well made espresso and best approached a few small pieces at a time.

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