Monday, July 28, 2008

My Pro Flickr account

I've recently acquired a Pro Flickr account, as I was running out
of space with my previous free version, and was having to constantly
prune the content to keep within the 200 photo allowance. The same was
about to happen with the Flickr account I set up for this blog, and
keeping two sites going with more or less the same photos in it was
becoming tedious to say the least.

So to cut a long story short, I've just put up my larger Pro account
onto this site. I've put on sets of photos I took for the Leicester
Symphony Orchestra's recent trip to Poland and Prague, and also photos
I took at a family wedding (I was invited to be the main photographer
for that -- which was a scary but enjoyable experience). I will prune
all these sets in due course, as there are far too many photos.

Rather than bore you with loads more holiday photos, I've put up my
best ones onto the Flickr site, if you wish to have a peek.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Photo of Chiemsee in the rain

Here is a photo of Chiemsee in the rain. The rain was so bad that
we gave up on a boat trip to the island in the middle of the lake,
(to see one of King Ludwig's castles).

On the way back from Chiemsee we stopped off at one of the best known
cafe's in the area - Cafe Winklstuberl at Fischbachau. The cafe was
heaving with people, so we bought some of their delicious home-made
cakes to take home with us. I sometimes think that "Death by Creamcake"
would be a lovely way to go.

Next up - a series of snaps of Schliersee for you ... the buildings,
shop windows and the lake. We were amazed by the high decorative
quality of all the buildings we saw in Bavaria... Nottingham looked
very drab in comparison when we got back. There are a lot of shops
selling the traditional costume (perhaps for the tourists as well as
the locals). The lederhosen shown here costs E200 (£160)
... lederhosen = hot pants for men

Thursday, July 24, 2008

holiday schnapps

I've been sorting through about 2GB of snaps I took when on holiday
in Bavaria last week. Getting to Munich Airport from Birmingham for
the 6.30am flight meant getting up in the middle of the night, but it
all went very well (with Lufthansa). Getting to our hire car took
about 30 minutes longer than it should have done, thanks to misdirections
from the car hire company.

You'll see from the first few pics that we went with a couple of other
people .... Mrs C's brother S, and his wife, P. Thanks to S speaking
almost fluent German, we were more adventurous (and covered more ground),
than if Mrs C and I had gone on our own.

On our way to our holiday resort in Schliersee, we stopped off at
Ammersee ... the rain stopped temporarily while we had lunch in a
lakeside cafe.

I took all the other photos shown here on a day trip to Munich ... again
it poured down with rain, so we did mainly indoor things ... saw some
paintings (let me know if you can identify who the artists are),
visited the Botanical Gardens, walked through the palace gardens next
door, and later walked through the old part of the city. We took the
train to Munich and back (for about 5 euros / £4 each).

(click on any photo to see a larger version of it).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

lots of birthdays

We've got a lot of family birthdays this week, including Mrs C's
birthday yesterday, plus our 36th wedding anniversary the day before.
As part of Mrs C's birthday, we both went to see the film Mama Mia,
at our local Cineworld. If you like Abba music and soppy romance on
film, you'll be in for a treat. We loved it. The only downside was
listening to Piers Brosnan singing a few songs ... he made a good
attempt, but his voice is not A1.

Today, I'm looking after our granddaughter, Little A, while her
parents are out at work. (Their childminder is away on holiday),
So I'm setting off for their house in under an hour's time, which
I why I'm keeping this post short.

Talk to you soon.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

We're ba-a-ack!

Hi folks. Yes, we're back in sunny Nottingham, after a week's
break in Southern Bavaria and the occasional day's outing to
Austria. The weather was bad for the first 2-3 days - torrential
rain, as forecast, and then it brightened up and became quite
hot. The flights with Lufthansa from Birmingham to Munich
Airports were excellent, though there was a 2 hour delay setting
off on the way back, last Saturday.

We Brits don't mind the occasional delay and showery weather, do
we? It's just like being at home in the UK.

The time is now 12.25am, so I'll post a few photos another time,
when I'm feeling more awake.

Talk to you soon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Page ranking ... page rank 3 ...... page rank 6 ... page rank 3

Many of you will be aware of what SEO is all about.
SEO? … what’s he on about, you might be asking… search me!

Search engine optimisation is big business. You will be aware
that large companies jostle with each other for a page one
entry on Google (and/or other search engines), as the general
public tends to click on the first entry it sees (rather than
wade through page after page of company adverts).

You can get a Google page ranking for your blogsite or other
website … and it’s free of charge. You can install a Google
toolbar which offers this service if you like, or just look
online for a website that offers it.

I found the above page-ranking site in an article on SEO.
So if you’d like to find out how your blogsite measures up,
just copy & paste your URL into it.

I’ve just done my own site and have compared it with
Scary Duck’s ranking. He’s got a well-deserved high score,
and I was surprised to find that mine is pretty good too.

The nerds at Google have devised a highly sophisticated
and complex way of assessing page ranking, based on
factors such as the quality of the content, and also the
quality & page ranking of the incoming links to a website.

I’ve created a few websites in a very amateurish way.
Two of them are for business use, but both have a page
ranking of only 1, despite the many hours I’ve spent on
trying to improve them. However if you put the relevant
key words into a Google search, both sites do appear on
the first 1-2 pages in Google, so I’m not doing too badly.
Being a tight-fisted git, I don’t wish to pay a lot for

We are already paying out a large amount of dosh to
Yellow Pages, to advertise Mrs C’s counselling work, so
we don’t wish to spend much for online advertising as well.
Currently she’s got enough work with a client base of 15
individuals / couples, so she doesn’t want any more. With
time we’ll probably make the Yellow Pages advert smaller
and smaller, and step up the online advertising … and
see how that works.

Mrs C and I are off to Bavaria tomorrow, staying for a
week at a holiday resort in Schliersee, a lakeside town in
the foothills of the Alps. We stayed there four years ago.
The weather forecast is not very good for the next few days

... there’ll be plenty of rain. So no change for us there,

Must go and pack my inflatable canoe.

Auf wiedersehen.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Green Bean Thai Curry

Last week we received a large butternut squash in our Abel and
Cole order (the organic fruit and veg company), and we were
wondering what to do with it. We had another the previous week,
which Mrs C made into a delicious soup with carrots and various

In the past we've made a salmon curry with a squash (one of
Nigella's recipes, which is very good but I found the squash
flavour too dominating (almost sickly). So we found a green bean
Thai curry recipe online, which I adapted as follows.

I used half a jar of Tesco's Green Thai curry paste (about 100g)
to make the curry sauce. Some of you might say that this is
cheating, but using the paste cuts the preparation time down to
about 7-8 minutes.

The squash was a large one - enough for 4 helpings, so I made
enough curry to last us 2 days.

So starting with the curry sauce ...

2 medium sized onions, finely chopped and gently fried in a tbsp of
sunflower oil (and a splash of water).
Half a jar of curry paste added and stirred in, and gently fried
with the onion for 1-2 mins.
One 400ml can of coconut milk, stirred in and simmered for a few mins.
A large canful of cooked chickpeas added (we pressure-cook and freeze
ours, and just use the chickpeas as and when)

Now for the beans & butternut squash. Chopping up the latter into
chunks (and removing the seeds and outer coating) is the most time-
consuming part of this recipe. (I have seen one of the TV chefs
cooking the squash without removing the tough outer coating).
So I then steam the squash and the green runner beans plus some
soya beans, in a steamer for about 8 minutes or so, until the
squash is almost al dente. (The beans are the finest frozen variety
from Tesco ... use as many as you like). All this is added to the
curry sauce and then mixed in well.

Meanwhile, cook some (pre-soaked) wholegrain brown rice (we use
about 50g per person) ... I simmer it at a low heat for about
25 mins, until al dente.

And while all this is cooking, I steam some extra green veg ...
courgette, brocolli, green cabbage ... plus carrots ... add
anything you fancy, to add to your plate/bowl when serving up.

Extras ... chopped fresh coriander, and a slice of lime, if you
remember to buy some ... I forgot.

The above curry is very mild by most people's standards ... you
could make it hotter with adding more paste, or a pinch of chilli
powder (or somw finely chopped fresh chilli).

The recipe is very easy ... the time-consuming part is chopping
up all that veg.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The wedding

The wedding I mentioned last time went off without any hitches
(pls excuse the awful pun) ... the couple looked gorgeous, the
venue at Oakham Castle (a huge medieval hall) was amazing, and
the reception at the Old Wisteria Hotel was great too -- 4 star
food in a lovely old hotel ... some of the best wedding food,
I've tasted. The couple decided to keep the whole occasion very
informal, so we didn't have to sit through a load of dull

The sun came out for the occasion which was lovely for everyone
except the photographers. I'll have to get some practice in
using a light meter and the manual settings on my camera, as
I overexposed the whites on the bride's dress in some of my shots.

I'm beginning to appreciate the skills of the professional
photographers in balancing the contrasting tones of everyone's
outfits perfectly every time. It's very difficult to get those
perfect photos of white meringues. No wonder some photographers
don't wish to take on the responsibility of doing wedding photos --
and considering the cost of their equipment with cameras & lenses
costing over £2,000 (plus the further expense of photo-editing
and printing), it's not surprising that they charge a lot for the
wedding albums (£2000+).

One interesting thing about the wedding planning was that at the
meal, the guests' table names were colour-coded as to who ate
meat or not ... Mrs C and I and several others were served with
delicious salmon steaks -- the only thing I disliked was
the buttery sauce served up with it - I think sauces should be
served separately, so people can opt out if they so wish. This is
one reason I dislike typical French cuisine -- creamy sauces +++.
I prefer plainer food.

This is another reason why I don't like watching the usual
TV cookery programme where the star chef uses masses of butter
in making savoury dishes or cakes / puddings. And then on another
TV channel there'll be a programme encouraging people to lose
weight, by cutting out a lot of the fatty foods, fry-ups and all
the sugary stuff. Someone should shout "WAKEY WAKEY!!" to the
TV programmers. It's a bit like putting on a programme all about
the virtues of drinking lots of beer and wine, followed by one on
the hazards of overdrinking and alcoholic liver disease.

However, I can see that peering at a lot of lettuce leaves, beans
and lentils wouldn't appeal to a lot of TV audiences. Combine it
with looking at poos, a feisty female presenter, plus a lot of
scientific facts, and you'd be onto a winner.

........... (pls excuse my rambling on) ...............

We went up to Leeds the following day and had a look round
Kirkstall Abbey Museum, a treasure house of local Victoriana and
more modern stuff. Several displays were all about what people
used to wear at weddings ... the Victorians favoured using blue
as the colour of choice for brides' dresses. partly because they
could carry on using the dresses for their Sunday best. I wish
modern women would use the same, or colours other than white,
as then they would be a lot easier to photograph.

If you fancy a look around the museum, click here, and when the
photo is fully loaded, click on the plus sign, and use your mouse
to get a 360 degree view of the street they've re-created. There
are lots of shops and rooms you can look inside, and they've got
some penny arcade machines.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Just tweaking - as usual

I've just spent the last 2-3 hours plus fiddling around with
the code of this template, as I'm fond of doing, and browsing
the internet on how to do tweak it.

I've found a couple of websites which might interest you ...
here and here. From Christine's site I got the HTML code for
"recent posts", which I've put in my side-bar. I had a go with
her login form, but unfortunately it didn't work ... perhaps it's
because I'm using Old/Classic Blogger, which I like as I find
it's more tweakable.

Today, Mrs C and I are off to a family wedding in Oakham, not far
from Rutland Water. I've been invited to take some of the photos,
so I've been busy in the past few days getting ready for it ...
charging the camera batteries and cleaning lenses, etc. I've bought
a shutter release cable for my camera, and am very impressed with
how easy it is to use. The camera is a Canon 350 DSLR with the
standard lens, and I've been doing some practice with Aperture
Priority, ISO and white balance settings. A chap in Jessops
recommended I use some white tissue as a diffuser to soften my
flash, so I've made a couple of white tissue hoods to cover the
flash unit (out of Kleenex tissue) ... hope they don't fly off.

I've asked for other people to take photos as well, as I don't
wish to be solely responsible for the wedding photos, in case
some of mine turn out to be rubbish.

Unfortunately it will be raining for a good part of today, but
hopefully the rain will stop by the time the wedding gets underway
at 4pm.

Our daughter S has joined us for the weekend (and the wedding),
and we'll be taking her back up to Leeds tomorrow, and will spend
the day pottering around Leeds with her (or around the dales nearby).

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mona Lot

We all like a good moan about things don’t we?

Why, if we didn’t, then newspapers would be half as bulky,
and doctors’ surgeries would be almost empty.

Are you Mr/Ms Neg or are you Mr/Ms Overjoyed?

I was thinking about this while doing the washing up the
other day … thinking that we’re all somewhere on the
manic-depressive spectrum … though some of us may be off
the scale, and reside in a mental hospital.

My position on the scale varies from day to day, often
affected by how sunny / rainy / cold it is outside.

I’ve been watching a couple of repeat showings of Room 101
on the telly, where celebrities were invited to tell us
about their pet hates.

In one episode, Paul Merton interviewed Dara O'Briain
… and it was the funniest I’ve seen … they’re both
incredibly articulate, and I think they're comic geniuses.

One of Dara’s pet hates was children’s TV presenters …
he used to be one himself, and he said that behind all
the fake cheerfulness, was a deep hatred of one’s fellow
presenters … he felt that they were all too competitive
and ready to stab each other in the back (not literally).

What about pet hates … and how on earth was that phrase
invented … your most hated pets?

Bloggers often list 10 or 50 things they love doing.
However, I don’t see many lists of things they hate.
If you were to go on Room 101, what would your top five
hates be, I wonder?

Now, what do I dislike the most? What would I consign to
Room 101?

Game & quiz shows on the telly, especially University
(Snobs) Challenge
and Anne Robinson’s The Weakest Link,

… but not Who Wants to be a Millionaire (especially
the episodes where celebs raise money for charities).

Queuing up for almost half an hour at our main Post Office,
thanks to its management’s decision to close a lot of our
local post offices and the laisser-faire attitude of the
Labour Government. Talk about bread queues in former
communist Russia … it will be like that here soon, just
to post a parcel or to buy a postal order.

Nuclear weapons … take care using that lever, Paul, when
you drop the bomb into Room 101.

Private health care, private dentistry and private schools …
get rid of these and improve our state systems instead...
and I'll also toss into Room 101, private railway companies …
let’s renationalise the lot and introduce heavily
state-subsidised, cheaper rail travel, to encourage folk
to use their cars less.

Perhaps I should go off and join the Green Party?

My last moan is about 08457 telephone numbers (and the like),
whereby businesses (and government agencies) make money out of
keeping us in a long telephone queue. I spent 17 minutes
yesterday afternoon waiting to get through to Nationwide's
call centre, after which I gave up and put the phone down ...
so Nationwide made 60p out of that.

There should be a government decree banning such numbers
(except for porn lines), making businesses give out the free
0800 numbers instead. Alliance and Leicester are very good in
this respect ... on the back of its credit card is an 0800
number by which you can access all their banking services
free of charge.

Here endeth today's moans.