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Simons Winter Vegie Soup
One of my favourite foods at this time of the year is soup, thick and chunky vegie soup, the kind that warms you after a long day at work full of lots of fresh vegies with just a hint of spice to give it a bite. This is a recipe of sorts that I use, though it changes depending what on what veg looks good in the shop, or even better what I have managed to raid from my dads allotment!
Below is a basic outline of ingredients and a recipe, feel free to change things to include you favourites, as for quantity I generally make a pan full which normally equates to 6 good helpings.
1 glove of garlic
Small leek or several sticks of celery
1 red chilli
2 bay leaves
½ cup of lentils/split peas/pearl barley
Pinch of salt and black pepper
1/ Chop onion, garlic and celery/leeks and add to large pan to sweat off with small amount of oil. Chop and deseed chilli and add to pan, at this point dont do what I normally do and rub my eyes, it hurts.
2/ Peel and chop the carrots, swede, parsnip and celeriac, pieces about 1cm cubed are good but dont worry to much about this just try to keep everything of a similar size.
3/ Add carrots etc to pan along with prepared lentils/split peas or pearl barley. Stir quickly then cover with hot water. The amount of water depends on size of the pan, about 1 litre normally is enough poured from the kettle.
4/ Add bay leaves, salt and pepper, and mixed herbs either freshly chopped or dry. Bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for around 30 minutes.
5/ Remove bay leaves and serve with crusty bread.
I like my soup chunky, but if you want a smoother soup remove half the soup and blend, then return to rest of soup. I quite often reheat any leftovers the next day, just adding a little more water if needed. Split peas, lentils or pearl barley all add abit of body to the soup as well as providing a protein source, any can be used though they may need soaking and cooking before adding to the soup.
Well hope you enjoy my vegie soup with a hint of chilli to warm you on a winters day.
Flybe, they might be cheap but they lack customer service.
Ive just returned from Jersey flying over with Flybe from Southampton. This was the first time Ive flown with Flybe and I wasnt really impressed by the service they offer. My wife and I fancied a visit to Jersey and living not far from Southampton airport we decided to fly over rather than take the boat, and proceeded to book a flight with Flybe. The booking was easy; we did it online and had no problems, just choose the dates to travel and times of flight, then click away till you get to the payment screen. After payment you receive an email confirmation, but no tickets you just need some photo id when you check in.
Arrived at airport 45 minutes before flight and checked in easily, and went through to the departure lounge. Now we booked an early flight 8am, think we would have all that day to use rather than wasting a whole day travelling, in hindsight this was a mistake. Southampton is prone to fog this time of year so our flight was first delayed then at 9am cancelled, so off we go to collect our bags and try and get on a later flight. This is where our experience with Flybe went downhill, a chaotic queue at the ticket desk and an unhelpful lady behind the desk. We managed to get on another flight that day but not until 5pm, now with such a long delay you might expect an apology, an offer of refreshments and a place to leave your luggage. Well not with Flybe, all the customer service lady could say was its the weather so we dont offer anything and no you cant check your bags in till 2 hours before take off. This meant we had to sit around for the next 8 hours waiting for our flight, not the best way to spend the first day of the holiday. Admittedly the fog was out of their control, but the attitude of the staff was terrible, other airlines were offering refreshment vouchers for delays as short as 2 hours but not Flybe.
The flight across was ok when we eventually got on the plane, an older plane a Dach f 400 if my memory serves my correctly. One gripe I do have is that it was only a 40 minute flight but the attendants spent about 35 minutes of that trying to sell first snacks then duty free.
The overall experience of Flybe was average, yes they are cheap and in this case convenient to get to Jersey, but the attitude of the staff on the ticket desk was very poor and the in flight attendants just seemed to be there just to sell duty free. I would think twice before using Flybe again and I wont be booking an early flight from Southampton in October.
So England have qualified for Germany 2006, lets rejoice! The way they have been playing they wont get past the group stages, the team lacks direction, leadership and style.
Reading the headlines in the paper has been amusing the last few days. First you have Sven saying 10 of the top 50 players in the world are English. You could argue that 10 of the top 50 play in England but they are not all English. Then you get players saying England are as good as Brazil, umm I dont think so. Brazil maybe only managed a draw at the weekend against Bolivia but have you tried walking at 3500m altitude let alone playing football.
Then you have varoius papers saying we need to change the manager and the captain, but surely if England are one of the best teams in the world you dont need to change anything.
If Rooney plays well and Beckham doesnt get sent off and England can sort out a half decent keeper and there are not too many injuries they might be able to play some respectable football. But thats alot of ifs. As for the manager, i agree he needs changing, but who would you put incharge? I dont buy inot the arguement that it has to be an English manager. It has to be someone who can do the job and inspire the players to play exciting football and importantly someoone who can lead a team to win.
Do I think England will do anything in Germany? I'm not sure at the moment I would love to see them do well, but I'm leaving my options open who knows Australia might even qualify this time.
Thanks for reading
What is the best way to take money abroad? Good question, I guess it depends on where you are going, how long for and how you feel about carrying cash. The three options are as follows travellers cheques, debit/credit cards and cash each has both advantages and disadvantages.
A trusty option, if you lose them or have them stolen you can get them replaced and widely accepted but they also have disadvantages including high commission charges for both buying and selling. Personally I dont like travellers cheques, for two reasons. Firstly I dont like paying the charges for buying the cheques in the first place and then having to pay commission to cash them. The rates differ depending where you go so its worth shopping around. The second reason is that Ive had problems using them, whether its the long queues in the bank, the language problems when you get to the teller or the fact that my signature seems to look different each day.
Drawing cash on the old plastic card is easy and convenient, you can get cash as and when you want it. Also by using your card to pay for hotels or trips etc means you dont need to carry large amounts of cash on you. This convenience comes at a price, and Im not talking about the interest charges, depending on your account you might be charged a conversion fee and a foreign ATM charge. If you are going to use you cards a lot its worth looking for an account that has fewer charges, Nationwide has an account that doesnt charge for overseas withdrawals and I guess other banks do too. Most cards also offer some kind of insurance on purchases, which can be useful. A big drawback of debit/credit cards are the charges from the merchants, Ive seen charges ranging from 2% to 10% added to purchases. Quite often its cheap to draw cash off the card rather than pay the merchants credit card charges.
The third option is to carry cash, how much you carry depends on how safe you feel with large amounts of cash on you and I guess it also depends where you are going. If you decide to take cash you then have the decision as to which currency, I guess the three major currencies are US dollars, Euros and Sterling with the option of local currency as well if its different to one of these. Which you take really depend where you are going too, parts of South America and Asia use the US dollar as a second currency, in other areas the British pound is more widely accepted and now the Euro is widely accepted too. A disadvantage of cash is most insurance policies not cover you for large amounts, also if taking US dollars make sure you get notes that arent ripped or marked.
So whats the best option? Well that depends where you are going to and for how long, if Im going for a week or two I take some cash a mixture of local currency and Sterling and use my card to draw out as and when I need more. When I travel for longer I take maybe £100 in travellers cheques as an emergency option, then a mixture of local currency and US dollars with my cards as back up to draw extra from. This mixture worked well while travelling through Asia, I arrived with US dollars and some Thai Baht and withdrew cash as a needed it. Generally I would draw what I needed for a week and split the money between my wife and I, putting it in money belts or at times in my shoes. We carried travellers cheques but never actually used them, just had them there if we needed them. As we were relying on our debit card to draw money we took cards from two accounts just in case one was lost or stolen, I would have one on me and my wife have the other. In 8 months of travelling the only place we had difficulty drawing cash was in Laos, there is only 3 ATMs in the capital and none took overseas cards, we ended up going to a bank to draw cash and only being able to draw local currency. I dont remember the exchange rate but I came away with a very large wad of notes and was a millionaire several times over! Another think to remember with local currency is dont have too much left at the end of your stay travel through several countries and you soon end up with a nice collection of notes and coins that you havent changed.
My recommendation is a mixture of all 3, mainly taking cash and debit/credit cards with some travellers cheques as an emergency backup, this works for me but maybe you have a different opinion.
Top Ten Things to Pack
Here are my top ten things to pack when travelling.
Swiss Army Knife
All those gadgets in one small pocket knife, whether its for opening a bottle of beer, slicing fruit or using anyone of the other gadgets this an essential item. One thing to remember if you are flying is to pack it in your main check in luggage and not your hand luggage.
I prefer to use a citronella spray and this works for me without the nasty chemicals some of the other sprays have. Sometimes I will also get some repellent coils to burn through the night.
First Aid Kit
I always pack a small first aid kit containing a few basics including plasters, headache tablets, diarrhoea tablets, and insect bite cream. You can buy these kits of the shelf or make up your own.
When looking in an outdoor/camping shop I found a great little thing, a peg less washing line. Two pieces of elasticated string wound across each other, so that when you hang the line you can push the item of clothing between the twisted strings and hey presto you have a peg less washing line. Whether for hanging you towel over or for the socks youve just washed a great item to pack.
No I dont take after David Beckham and wear this as a fashion item, I would use it as a towel, to lie on the beach or to sleep under. Sarongs are lighter and pack down smaller than towels and are very cheap to buy, and of course if you want to walk down the street in one you can do that too.
Whether for the Walkman, the camera or a torch you always need spare batteries and they have a habit of running out at the most awkward times. You can even get them in duty free generally at a good price.
This was essential when I travelled through Asia, theres not always somewhere to wash your hands after visiting the toilet and also good for using before eating. My wife and I took a small container each and it seemed to last for ever even when using it several times a day.
Guide Book and Phrase Book
A decent guidebook like Lonely Planet or Rough Guide provides no end of information on places to go, stay and eat. Also a phrase book is an essential, sometimes guidebooks have a section in them or there are many pocket guides around. Even if its too hard to pronounce you can always point to the phrase in the book. Just being able to say a few phrases like hello and thank you can make a big difference to the overall experience of your holiday.
Light Weight Waterproof
Some kind of jacket that packs down small is a great thing to pack, theres nothing worse then getting soaking in that sudden downpour.
And finally a decent backpack/rucksack
Well you need something to put everything in, so a well fitting backpack with a built in frame is a good investment. I have one that opens like a suitcase, which makes it easier to pack and to find things in. A couple of locks on the zips to deter would be thieves.
So there you go my top ten things to pack before going travelling, of course I would out in clothes and a good book to, then Im ready to go.
Penguins, the biscuit not the bird!
Opening the school lunch box the first thing I looked for was the Penguin, normally hidden behind a piece of fruit, these chocolate biscuits were defiantly my favourites as a child. And now several years later they are still a mainstay in my lunch box.
Described on the packet as a milk chocolate covered biscuit bar filled with chocolate cream, and sold in multi packs of 9, 18 or 27. These bars are great for a mid morning snack with a cup of coffee. If you like to dunk you biscuits try this, bite off one corner then the opposite corner; dunk the penguin in your coffee and suck.
Priced at around 90p for a pack of nine and around £2.30 for a pack of 27, and frequently cheaper when on special these offer value for money. Manufactured by McVities.
Recently I noticed Penguins are now available in orange and mint flavours, I was curious so I had to try, buying a pack of 27, nine of each of the flavours. And the result of my curiosity, the orange flavour was ok nothing special but quite pleasant, not to heavy in the orange flavour. As for the mint flavour, Im not a fan of mint chocolate and this didnt change my opinion. And when dunked neither really had the same taste of the original.
Overall a tasty little biscuit, great for the lunch box and for dipping in coffee, a word of warning each biscuit has a joke printed on it, try to avoid reading these!!
Baked not fried cheese biscuits, a great little snack.
Mini cheddars are small round biscuits, and guess what they are cheese flavoured! Well some of them are mini cheddars now come in different flavours including BBQ, Branston Pickle and others. The original mini cheddars are definitely the best, not to strong in flavour, not to greasy and just moorish enough.
Generally sold in multi packs of seven and ten, possibly even bigger bags too, these are convenient snacks to have around the house. I prefer to have them in my packed lunch at work and find them much more appetizing than a bag of crisps, my wife prefers hers in the evening while watching television.
I could tell you about the nutritional information or about the ingredients but I wont, if you really want to know read the back of the pack. All I will say is at 30% fat they are a little high in fat, but they do taste good.
Manufactured by McVities and sold in all supermarkets and convenience stores in different size multi packs, each bag contains around 25 biscuits. Priced at around a pound for a multi pack of 7 bags but often on special and therefore cheaper.
Overall these are a great little snack.
Vegie and Proud of it!!
Ive been vegie for about 10 years going back to when I first left home to go to university. Never being a big fan of meat when I started to cook for myself I just didnt both cooking it and started to experiment with vegie recipes and found I liked them.
Back then I still ate chicken and fish, as I liked them. This lead to many questions from friends and family as to why it was ok to eat chicken and fish but not other meat. My answer of I like them and not other meat got abit repetitive, so I came up with a new reason. I only eat meats that come from animals with no eyelashes; hence I can eat chicken and fish. This answer was normally met with a confused look from the questioner!
Nowadays I dont eat chicken and only eat fish occasionally, 3 months travelling around South America where they idea of vegetarianism doesnt exist and having to eat chicken most days put me off eating chicken completely. As for fish, well they dont have eyelashes and more importantly I like it.
I often get asked do I miss meat, or what was the hardest to give up? It would have to be bacon especially on a Sunday morning when you have a stinking hangover; Ive not found a vegie alternative that works as a better hangover cure. Ive been tempted to try it again on occasions but figure its been so long since I ate it I don think my stomach would handle it.
Ive just spent 9 months travelling through Asia where vegetarianism is a lot more widely practiced so making it easier to find things to eat at restaurants. While in Thailand upon saying I was vegie I was always getting asked are you Buddhist, it seems that most vegies here are either devote Buddhists or Buddhist monks. When travelling many guidebooks recommend eating vegie food as being safer, due to lack of refrigeration for meats, but even eating vegie food I managed to end up with a very bad case of food poisoning, resulting in 5 days either in bed or on the toilet.
Am I healthier for being vegie? Who knows? I dont really care not being that way inclined, if I was worried about it I wouldnt eat all the chocolate I do. Its certainly cheaper when shopping especially if you like to cook for yourself. Is it easy to be vegie, most of the time it is, when going out you dont get the range of choices on the menu which is a draw back.
I guess the main reason Im vegie is that I eat what I like, and this doesnt include meat. Its not for everyone and I dont try to force it on anyone but I would recommend trying it for a couple of meals a week.
Mauras Game by Martina Cole
Maura Ryan the star of Martina Coles first novel Dangerous Lady returns in this sequel. As the head of the largest crime family in Londons underworld Maura has a busy life controlling the clubs, betting shops, loan sharks not to mention her own family. How will she cope when someone starts attacking the family trying to take over their territory?
Written in Coles usual graphic and in your face style this is a novel you wont be able to put down. The characters follow on from the first book Dangerous Lady with the addition of several new ones both within the Ryan family and from outside of the family. As with her other novels there is a great collection of supporting characters that add depth to the story.
The story starts with a bang in 1994 then jumps six years to 2000 where it continues at a fast pace, following the Ryan family with Maura at its head, as the try to fight off their rivals. I wont give away any of the story so as not to spoil the book for you, I will say that its a gripping read at times graphic and gruesome, just what you would expect from Martina Cole.
My favourite character in the book has to be Benny Ryan, the out of control nephew of Maura, he races through the book leaving a trail of destruction and leaving you wondering when will he push Maura too far with his behaviour. As mad and as violent as Benny is, with his liking for Airfix glue and cattle prods, the most gruesome part of the book revolves around the actions of Tony Dooley Snr as he seeks vengeance for the death of his son and also seeks answers for Maura. Watch out for the part about the acid.
Overall a great read, it would help to have read Dangerous Lady first but its not essential, another excellent book by this great writer Im now off to find another one of hers to read.
Ceck out my other reviews of Martina Cole
Trains in Thailand
My wife and I spent 4 months in Thailand late 2004 to early 2005, during this time we took several trips on the trains including Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Bangkok Nong Khai. We found the trains to be a great way to travel particularly over long distances and overnight.
The times we travelled from Bangkok we bought our tickets through travel agents in the Khoa San Rd area, its worth shopping around, as there is a difference in prices on offer. Its possible to buy tickets at the main station but this involves a trek across the city to and from the station so for the few Baht saved the convenience of a travel agent wins over. Travelling back from Nong Khai to Bangkok we went straight to the station to buy our tickets, five minutes from the town centre in a tuk tuk.
There are a variety of classes on offer along with a multitude of train times for each route. We booked second-class sleeper without air con for each of our overnight journeys. When you get on the train you find your seat as seats, two facing each other either side of the aisle, an hour or so into the journey the attendant converts these seats into the lower bunk and unhooks the upper bunk, making each bed up for you with sheets and blankets. Each bunk has a reading light and holder for valuables. Im 6ft tall and found both the upper and lower bunks to be big enough for me, the lower bunk is my preferred choice just for the fact you dont have to climb up. The price for the lower bunk is slightly higher so it must be the preferred choice of others too. If your travelling alone I would recommend the upper bunk, this way you dont have someone else sitting on you seat/bed.
Each carriage has two toilets and a couple of sinks at the end, one the journeys we made these were kept clean by the attendants though we did hear from others about dirty toilets. Most trains have a food car, and these always food sellers on the trains walking up and down selling snacks. We didnt eat in the food cars so Im not sure of the quality or range on offer, we tended to have a meal before starting the journey and bring some snacks and drinks with us.
Overall we found the trains in Thailand to be clean and reliable, making them a great way to travel longer distances. Each time we travel in second-class sleepers without air conditioning, at the time we travelled the lack of air con was fine in the height of summer it might be a blessing. We had no hassles of any kind on the station or the trains, a word of warning though when you leave the stations you will be mobbed by touts and taxi drivers, a phone call ahead to a guest house or hotel can cut out a lot of this hassle. In many cases they will pick up especially outside of Bangkok, or at least they will be able to tell you a reasonable fare to pay for a taxi ride.
After having travelled long distances by both coach and train in Thailand I would prefer to take the train anytime, maybe a bit more expensive than the coach but a lot more comfortable.
Banrock Station contiunally produce quality wine at reasonable prices, both in the bottle and the cask. With fruit sourced from around South East Australia the white shiraz is another addition to their collection of wines.
Pale pink/salmon in colour with light strawberry aromas this is an easy drinking rose style wine. The flavours are uncomplicated with just a touch of sweetness, all in all easy drinking wine very good with Asian food or just to have while relaxing in the garden.
As an added benefit the company donates an amount from every purchase to environmental work in Australia and around the world.
Priced at round the fiver mark slightly cheaper when on special definatly worth a try.
My Top Ten Websites
I use the Internet most days at both home and at work, probably to much at work but thats another story. Here is my current top ten websites
Have you ever played the board game Risk? Well here is an online game based on the board game, and it should come with a health warning as highly addictive. Once registered you can play against other players in games that can last 20 or 30 minutes to games that can last for weeks. The site has just had an upgrade and now features a chat section so you can communicate with all the other game geeks. If you like strategy games or were a fan of the board game Risk this site is worth checking out. Just bare in mind its addictive!!
My personal favourite free email server. After having problems with hotmail a couple of years ago I switched to yahoo and have not looked back. I find the site easier to navigate and user friendly, even my wife who is a complete technophobe can manage to send emails. The 1gb of storage is good, though Im not sure if I would ever need anywhere near that much storage space.
I also use Yahoo Messenger, and find this great for instant chats with friends who are online at the same time or for leaving short offline messages.
What can I say about this site? A great place to shop for bargains and too sell what ever you want. I started using Ebay to sell off an old stamp collection and ended up buying more stamps, now a regularly buy and sell stamps on here. Whether its going to make me lots of money I dont know yet but I find its an interesting way to spend a couple of hours a week. One section of this site that is always worth a look is the weird stuff category just to see what people will actually try to sell and in some cases will buy.
I guess any list of websites on this particular website should include Dooyoo, Im fairly new to this site having found it via a search on google. At the moment Im still exploring the site and getting to know the set up. The first attraction to the site was the ability to earn money for posting reviews and opinions; only time will tell as to whether I do earn any money.
By far the best search engine on the web and one I on a daily basis, I like its ability to remember your previous searches and its very fast speed. Google also seems to have a site in just about every country in the world so when travelling or looking for information from a particular country this is useful. One drawback is the amount of ads on the site, but I guess this is a small price to pay in return for a quick and free search engine.
The BBC website tends to be my first port of call if I want to catch up with things in the news or to see whats happening in the sporting world. The site offers masses of news articles and a very comprehensive sports section, as well as lots to do with the TV and radio not that I use those areas much. For those interested in sport and who want a variation on the fantasy league type game, try sportdaq within the Radio Five section of the site. Its a stock market game where you by shares in sports stars and watch their value rise and fall with performance.
A great site for anyone wanting to follow some of the lesser lights in English football, it covers all the non-league football from the Conference down, providing news articles, results and fixtures and links to club and league websites. I find it very useful to get the results that arent printed in the papers or on places like the BBC website.
If you have ever done any travelling thats a little off the beaten track you have probably used these guide books, the website provides a place to buy the books, read brief summaries about countries and destinations. The best feature of the site is the discussion board called the Thorn Tree, it provides a place to ask questions, find information and to share experiences about anywhere in the world. Set out in sections covering different regions just click on the relevant region and you will find a wealth of information about that country all posted by travellers whove been there. Ive used this site lots while planning trips away.
This is the site you need after doing all that research on the Lonely Planet website, a place to find bargains for flights, holidays and many other things travel related. Ive picked a couple of cheap flights and short breaks on this site.
My final selection is this radio station site, based in Australia it plays a great selection of music mainly new alternative stuff but also some older music, has some great comedians on as well. I quite often have Triple J playing in the background while surfing the Net keeping me in touch with my homeland.
So there you go my current top ten websites maybe you will something useful in that lot.
Dooyoo write long reviews or Dooyoo write short reviews?
Im new to this site and have been exploring; reading the reviews of others on many different subjects. These reviews have provided me with lots of information and ideas, also with some pointers for writing my own reviews and have lead me to ask the question which is better the long review or the short review. By short I mean 200 to 500 words so not irrelevantly short and lacking in information and by long I mean running into the thousands of words, the kind of review that would fill several pages in a newspaper. So far Ive written several reviews and have tried to keep them to less than 500 words, is this because Im lazy and dont want to write lots, or is it that I dont want to read long reviews myself. I guess the answer is a bit of both!
I realise some people are better writers and are more eloquent than others, and some like myself are new and inexperienced with this site but I still think a short informative review is better than a long and drawn out one. But thats just my opinion, whats yours? Reading some of the book reviews yesterday the writers seemed to want to write a book themselves, analysing each character and every twist to the story. Does this style of review make a good review, or is a short brief review better? I personally would prefer a 500-word outline to the book and author.
Well theres my thought of the day, do you agree or do you prefer long reviews?
Blue Bolt Energy Drink
A cheap Red Bull or just a cheap imitation? Blue Bolt Energy Drink is Sainsburys own label and similar to Red Bull. But does this make it a cheap imitation or a good alternative?
Sweet in flavour and lazed with caffeine its very similar to its more famous rival. Does it do the job of acting as a stimulant and wake you up? Well it works for me on my long night shifts, is it better then Red Bull? Well Ive not done any scientific research but it seems to do the job.
And how does it compare price wise, well at 45p a can its less than half price than its more famous rival. I guess running a F1 racing team and sponsoring lots of sports stars costs a lot of money. I dont really buy into mass marketed drinks, and certainly dont drink something for the label so if Blue Bolt keeps me awake Ill carry on buying it as opposed to the more expensive and better marketed Red Bull.
Sainsburys Try Something New Today
I noticed Sainsburys have launched a new advertising campaign, Try Something New Today. I do most of my shopping in Sainsburys for the reason that the store is conveniently located, not for any great reasons of brand loyalty. And on my weekly visit I noticed the new signage within the store, along with new displays and lots of recipe cards and information cards. Is this new campaign going to move Sainsburys closer to its rivals? Who knows, certainly not me! But in the mean time I will carry on shopping there and who knows I might try something new today, well at lest take a few recipe cards at least