Cancer Research UK Hallowe’en Party

I was at the most amazing Hallowe’en party last night. It was in aid of Cancer Research UK and the hosts had gone to extraordinary lengths to make it as authentic as possible. Their front garden had spooky music playing with skeletons and barbed wire. The back garden had been converted into a totally covered room with a coffin, headstones, grizzly murder scenes, animatronics and even an electric chair where guests could be “electrocuted” !

Here are some photos I took.

 

Malaysian beef and aubergine curry‏ for the slow cooker

My slow cooked beef curry recipe is the most popular recipe on my blog so I decided it ‘s time to add another fabulous and easy curry recipe. This was introduced to me by my daughter and I have to say that I enjoyed this Malaysian curry more than the beef curry I normally make!
 
Try this recipe for an easy Malaysian beef and aubergine curry. You can use a slow cooker or a caserole pot on a low light in the oven.
 
Here are the ingredients to serve 4 people.
 
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
500g braising beef, diced
1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons (or to your tasting!!) of red Thai curry paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
400ml coconut milk 
 
Method
 
Finely chop the onion and fry in oil. add garlic, beef, aurbergine. fry until browned.
Add to the slow cooker, then add the coconut milk, fish paste and Thai red paste.
Cook on low until done.
Serve with rice and pak choi
 
Enjoy!!

Skyfall Movie Review

I’m pretty sure that I have seen every James Bond movie and that includes the lastest Bond movie Skyfall that I saw yesterday.

There has been a lot of hype about this movie and it has had a good reception from critics. Overall, I thought that it was a great movie but it has its flaws.

The opening scene finds 007 in Istanbul trying to find a missing computer hard drive, with the names of all British agents on it. After a car and motorbike chase through Istanbul and over roof tops Bond finds himself on top of a train fighting the villain. This sequence is fantastic and the way it is filmed takes your breath away.

The lost hard drive then seems to take a back seat in the films plot as the main villain appears and he only has one thing in mind and that is to kill “M”. Gone are the days when the bad guy in a Bond movie wants to take over the world. Also gone are the Bond gadgets like exploding pens. This Bond movie is tough guy Bond taking on a fanatical computer hacker.

Daniel Craig is a great Bond but he is now showing a few wrinkles and droopy eyelids but he is in my opinion the toughest Bond there has ever been.

After a bit of a lull in the action the final sequence sees Bond and M in a shoot out in a remote Scottish house. Why Bond decided he would take on the bad guy, his gun weilding thugs as well as an attack helicopter with only a small handgun is beyond me.

The other bit of action that I thought was over the top was a tube train that crashes through a hole in a tunnel !

All said, this is a movie that will keep you gripped from start to finish and is one of those movies that you will say to yourself “I will see again”.

What happened to being polite?

Being polite doesn’t take much effort but I think it may be part of our behaviour that’s slowly dying. Politeness is just a way of being “nice”. Many people might say that being “nice” is a weakness and the word itself is a bit wishy-washy but I don’t think there is anything wrong with the word. The dictionary definition of the word “nice” has several meanings. It can mean:-

  • Pleasing and agreeable in nature: had a nice time.
  • Having a pleasant or attractive appearance: a nice dress; a nice face.
  • Exhibiting courtesy and politeness: a nice gesture.
  • Of good character and reputation; respectable

Being polite is the equivalent of giving someone a present but without it actually costing anything. It feels good to give somebody a present. You feel pleased with yourself and we often get a better feeling from giving than we do receiving.

Everyone, of course learns courtesy and politeness in their early years. I was no exception and I was always taught good manners. At school as well we had to stand when an adult walked into the classroom as this was a sign of respect for your elders. I often gave up my seat on the bus going to school for old ladies and I felt good about it. To this day I still hold doors open for other people and have been known to open a car door for someone.

It’s on the road though that the worst of lack of courtesy is seen. Everyday, I’m carved up by other drivers who break the written and unwritten rules of the road as they try to gain a few extra seconds on their journey to and from work. These are the people who will end up with heart attacks and who will argue with their wives!

Less young people are saying “please” and “thankyou” and I’m not impressed with that. Saying those words with a smile is even better.

Being polite will cause others to like you more and give you respect. Try being extra nice for a day. Smile at everyone and even try to make small talk with a complete stranger. You might be surprised how good it will make you feel.

Baked American Cheescake Recipe – Just amazing !

I have been a lover of cheesecake for as long as I can remember. Cheesecake, of course, comes in various styles but my favourite is the baked variety. I have eaten baked American cheesecake in New York, Las Vegas, Florida and Chicago but this recipe makes better cheesecake !  I have been using this recipe for many years and when I make this for dinner guests they all say how fantastic it is and they want the recipe !

It’s easy to make, and the preparation takes me about 30 minutes and the cooking time is about an hour.

Baked American cheesecakeThis receipe serves eight people and here are the ingredients:-

350g digestive biscuits

100g butter (melted)

675g cream cheese (full fat)

225g caster sugar

3tbsp cornflower

2 large eggs, beaten

300ml whipping cream

1tsp vanilla extract

350 frozen mixed summer fruit berries

Extra 4tbsp caster sugar for the sauce

You will also need:-

1 round 24cm loose bottomed cake tin, greased with butter and lined with grease proof paper.

1 roasting tray

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C on fan) or gas mark 4

To make the base, crush the biscuits until they look like breadcrumbs. I do this by weighing the biscuits and then putting them in a freezer bag and hitting them with a rolling pin.

Put the crushed biscuits in a bowl and then pour in the melted butter and mix it all together. Put the mixture into the base of the lined cake tin and press down until it’s level.

I then use a Magimix food processor to mix the cream cheese, caster sugar and cornflower, and then add the eggs, cream and vanilla. The mixture needs to be smooth before pouring it onto the biscuit base in the cake tin.

Pour 2cm of boiling water from a kettle into the roasting tray and then sit the cake tin in the hot water and put it into the oven for about an hour or until the top of the cheesecake goes light brown all over. To get an even brown colour you may need to turn the cheesecake around in the oven once or twice.

To make the berries, put them in a saucepan with the 4tbsp of caster sugar and gently heat until they turn into a nice sauce. Leave them to cool in the fridge ready to pour over the cheesecake.

I guarantee that this is a “melt in your mouth” cheesecake !

Haworth to Top Withens and a nice chat with a wheel clamper !

It was a pleasant September day as we headed for Haworth and Bronte country for a 11km Saturday walk.

I parked the car in the first car park I found in Haworth and walked over to the pay and display machine. It suddenly occurred to me that this might be the car park that has been in the news for wheel clamping. As I approached the ticket machine an elderly man approached and asked if I wanted to buy his book.He said he was also the car park owner. I asked if he was the Haworth car clamper who has been in the news, and he said he was, but that it was all blown out of proportion and he hadn’t clamped anyone for years!

Anyway, my wife, who is an avid reader, bought his book for £10 because he said all the money went to charity and if we displayed the book in the car windscreen we could park for free. I read the sign next to the ticket machine and noticed that the sign said cars must be parked in the bays or they would be clamped. I checked and sure enough I had parked correctly.

Anyway. with boots on, we set off with map in hand past the Bronte Parsonage nearby and followed the path towards cemetery Road which lead eventually from the road to a walkers path towards Bronte Waterfalls. A lady dog walker we chatted to said that we should cover up as there were a lot of midges – we have the bites to prove she was correct !

 

The path to Bronte Waterfalls is a little rough in parts but the waterfalls themselves are not the most spectacular I have seen but its a pretty spot. On the way there you can see Lower Laithe reservoir on your right. At Bronte Waterfalls we then crossed a small bridge and there is a short steep climb to the top where you can look back on Bronte Waterfalls and fabulous views beyond. It’s probably a good 30 minute walk from here to Top Withens, which you can see in the distance on a hill.

The views from Top Withens are great and we sat on a bench next to the ruins of the old house that was once someones house and are said to have been the inspiration of the novel Wuthering Heights.

Heading back down the hill we joined the Pennine Way and it was a pleasant walk down to the village of Stanbury. After the village turn right and cross the dam of Lower Laithe Resevoir and then left near the water treatment works and back to Cemetery Road and then it’s just a short walk back to the Parsonage in Haworth.

Overall, the walk is about 11km and it took us 3.5 hours.

After a well-earned coffee and cakes at The Stirrup in Haworth village we walked back to the car park. It was when we entered the car park that I noticed there were several annoyed car owners. At least 3 cars had been clamped for parking outside the bays and their owners were remonstrating with the clamper. Our car was not clamped. I went over to talk to the clamper and he said our car was fine. The car owners had to find £90 to have the clamp released and they were not at all happy !

As we headed back to Leeds feeling good about our walk we couldn’t help feeling sorry for the clamped car owners who had by a matter of inches fallen foul of the infamous car clamping rules at Changegate car park.

Cat Bells walk from Littletown

Last weekend I spent two nights in The Lake District. There were four of us and we stayed at Little Town Farm near Keswick, a Bed & Breakfast guest house with amazing views of the Newlands Valley.

We headed off from Leeds on the A65 towards Kendall and Windermere and then north towards Keswick. It’s a few years since I have been to Keswick and it’s now pedestrianised which is great. We checked in at Littletown Farm with a welcome from the owners Rob and Sarah and fresh coffee and homemade cake. The rooms are small, but with comfortable beds and amazing views to the fells from the bedroom windows.

 

On the Friday night we caught a taxi into Keswick costing £10 and went for a drink at Bar26, a trendy cafe-bar on Lake Road, before heading off to Morrels. Morrels is a restaurant I can highly recommend. For £19.95 we had a superb 3 course meal. Maybe it was the fresh air but the food at Morrels together with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and  nice bottle of Rioja went down very well.My Braised Daube of Beef on Mash with Red Wine & Root Vegetable Gravy was excellent.

Top of Cat Bells in The Lake DistrictThe next morning after a very good Cumbrian breakfast at our Bed & Breakfast we put on our walking boots and set off from Little Town to Cat Bells. It’s a fairly steep climb from Little Town but when you reach the top at Hause Gate you get brilliant views of Derwent Water and beyond. At Hause Gate we turned left and headed towards the summit of Cat Bells which is only another 20 minutes walk. As we reached the summit of Cat Bells we were asked if we wanted a cup of tea ! On Cat Bells there was a tent and a group of men were raising money for a trip to Pakistan to climb K7. That tea went down really well and we then headed off down the other side of Cat Bells. During the walk down there are a couple of tricky rocky sections that you have to negotiate. If it’s wet you have to be careful but otherwise you will encounter a steady stream of people including families. It’s no surprise because Cat Bells is one of the most popular walks in Lakeland.

We soon reached the road and we then walked to Hawse End where you can catch the ferry-boat that runs around the lake at regular intervals. Two stops later we arrived in Keswick. It was a Saturday and a busy market day.One of our party had to find a pharmacy as he had been stung. I had an ice cream !

 Later, we headed back to the ferry as we were catching the ferry to Brandelhow Bay landing point which is at the south end of Derwent Water. We were heading back to Hawse Gate which involved a steep climb. This is where I discovered that I was not as fit as I should be !

From Hawse Gate we descended down the other side to Little town Farm and I slipped on a loose rock and ended up going down heavily on my knee. There was no lasting damage though and we reached our B&B where we sat outside drinking tea and eating cake in the glorious sunshine.

The next morning after yet another fantastic cooked Cumbrian breakfast we paid our bill and headed off towards Buttermere. It’s a 20 minute drive over a high pass called Newlands Hause and you also see Moss Force waterfall which is a spectacular sight. There is a small parking area where you can stop at this point to take photos and walk over to the falls.

We parked behind the Fish Hotel in Buttermere and our plan was to walk around Buttermere. Buttermere is a beautiful stretch of water surrounded by high fells, one of which is Hay Stacks. It’s about 5 miles around the lake. Our intention was to climb Hay Stacks but the exertions of the previous day had taken its toll on unfit walkers so we decided to leave that for another time. The walk around Buttermere is easy and it’s a popular walk.

Arriving back in Buttermere an hour and a half later we found a nice coffee shop before heading back to the car park to set off on our journey back to Leeds.

I would highly recommend Littletown Farm guest house. The owners are very friendly and they also do evening meals from time to time. We ate there on the Saturday night and we were impressed with the food.

Overall we had a great weekend in The Lake District.

 

 

 

 

What the Olympics can teach all of us

With the spectacle of the Olympics over and the Olympic athletes returning to their home towns and civic receptions we are all having to get used to life without the likes of Usain Bolt on our television screens. Despite some reservations about the cost of the games there is no doubt that Britain made them a success. It made me proud to be British and that the whole world was able to see us as friendly enthusiatstic people with an amazing historical and cultural heritage.Lets hope that the £10 billion cost proves to be a good investment.

But the legacy of the games is far more than encouraging more people to take up sport and be challenging for Oylmpic medals in the future. The legacy is also something that is intangible in that the efforts and sacrifes of our athletes has a lesson for us all. To have a chance of an Olympic medal athletes need to train very hard. It can take 4 years of training and personal sacrifice to reach the pinnacle of your sport. These athletes had a vision and a goal. They knew exacltly what they wanted and they were prepared to put as much effort in as was needed to succeed.

It’s a well known fact that if we don’t have a goal in life we will not get there, so that’s the first lesson. Write down your goals, have a vison of what you want in life and aim high. Once you have you goals you need to work out a way of achieving those goals. They won’t just fall at your feet. This usually involves getting to be good at what you want to do. Whether its football or working in a restaurant. If you are good at it you will progress, and the way you get good at what you do is to be enthusiastic and to train/work hard. It means being the best you can be!

Just like the Olympians we need to raise the bar that we set ourselves and also we need to raise the bar in education. As A level and GCSE results for this year are released we have the annual debate on whether the exams are hard enough. Whether that’s true or not we need to raise standards and one way of doing that is by making the exams harder. If everyone is getting A’s or A * how can we pick out the exeptional ones ?

One thing that I really liked during the Olympics is the way the parents of the athletes were treated. They were interviewed on TV and treated as VIP’s. I think we can learn from the praise that was heaped upon these parents. An athlete or indeed any young person will find it difficult to succceed without support from parents.It’s the same with succeeding in education and gaining qualifications. Parents need to be supportive of their childrens aspirations and teachers need to become very good at inspiring children with the love of learning.

There is no doubt that we have plenty of people who have a vision and a goal and have the support and self determination to achive in sport, education and in life in general. The Olympics showed everyone that we are genuine, friendly and can organise a hell of a party.

The Olympics also showed us how to succeed in whatever we do. There is a lesson for all of us !

Pushing the boundaries in business and education.

For companies, organisations and retailers one of the biggest challenges they face is establishing themselves in the online market place. This involves much thought and planning to implement a strategy that works and is going to be competitive. Being online is far more than having a website and putting some products in a database and hoping that you might sell some. Once you have your website you need a marketing plan and I would encourage any business that has a website to think about this before setting up the website. I would also strongly suggest that you look at Social Media Marketing but above all else I suggest you think about how you will engage your customers. What I mean is that you must use your website as a method to “talk” to your customers. You can answer questions and this builds trust – vitally important if you want to be a success in the online world.

My online travel business, Global Holidays, was set up in 1996 and I was one of the first travel agents to have a website. I added videos of holiday destinations way before anyone else did ! I wanted to be a pioneer of the online travel world and by 1998 I had a full blown e-commerce travel website.

In the last 12 months I have got involved in teaching travel and tourism students and have since then been gradually introducing new e-learning methods of teaching into my classroom. I am no expert yet in e-learning but I will try to be. I have written articles about online universities being the future, and I can see private companies trying to muscle in on the act and being a threat to universities and colleges.

I like it when organisations look to the future and make an attempt at doing things differently. The same applies to colleges and schools. I love it when they try something new to improve learning.It’s essential to do this to improve.

When I heard about South West college in Northern Ireland having a “Virtual Week” I was very impressed. For one week the majority of the students stayed at home and had their lessons online. The lessons were taught by teachers using multi media and connected together in an online classroom. The Virtual Week must have taken a lot of planning and organising but the results seem to be that the week was a success.

To make progress both in life and business you have to push the boundaries, go outside your comfort zone and try something new. Mistakes will be made but we all know that that’s one way we learn.

One of the reasons South West College say they had their virtual week was so they can teach when students can’t attend due to bad weather. There are though far more uses for this type of teaching.

So, what can education learn from the online business world? Well, e-learning needs to be user friendly, it needs to be reliable, it needs to offer the best learning experience with plenty of choice. There needs to be plenty of support available. Far too many e-commerce sites have no telephone number to call if you have a question. 

If anyone is interested in watching a short video of the Virtual Week you can watch the video below.

Cow and Calf to Dick Hudsons Walk

Finally, summer 2012 started this weekend !

Yesterday I went on a 5 mile bike ride and today I walked for four hours on Ilkley Moor. I have got the sun and ache a bit but I feel good !

Ten or more years ago the walk between the Cow and Calf rocks and Dick Hudsons pub was a popular walk. The prospect of a pint of real ale at Dick Hudsons before walking back to Ilkley attracted many walkers. However, times seem to have changed, Dick Hudsons seems to attract the Sunday lunchtime daytrippers who travel by car. I watched the car park filling up from the beer garden having walked for 2 hours whilst I drank my pint of orange and lemonade.I needed refreshment before setting off back to Ilkley in 24C and a blue sky !

We parked our car in the Cow and Calf rocks car park and headed upwards. The views from the Cow and Calf are fantastic but the views from the ridge way up from the actual rocks is amazing. We could see Menwith Hill in the distance as well as Ferrybridge Power Station and beyond, as well of course some of the most beautiful Yorkshire Dales scenery you will find.

On the way we walked past The Twelve Apostles which are Bronze Age standing stones estimated to have been there for over 7,000 years.

Parts of the walk were quite boggy after all the rain we have had and we found that the start of the walk from the Cow and Calf car park to be quite difficult to follow as there are many paths heading off in different directions but we soon found the right track.

I can highly recommend this walk. Take a look at the video I took of the walk and if you do the walk and decide to have lunch at Dick Hudsons before you turn around and walk back make sure you take off your muddy boots!

Oops! Sorry about the video. Some of the captions don’t match the images.