Monday, 21 November 2016

Recipe: Chilli-Cheese and Mustard Seed Scotch Eggs

At the weekend I made scotch eggs again. The first time went okay, but I didn't have a deep fat fryer so they tasted a little bit of the fat (a product of not frying at high enough temperature, due to using a pan).

It was more fun than last time, as Amelie helped me. I was a bit reluctant with what tasks I gave her, but then she did everything from peeling the boiled eggs, to wrapping the sausage around the eggs.

Here is the recipe for the chilli-cheese and mustard seed scotch eggs. I freestyled a bit, but I think I remember it.

- 12 eggs for boiling
- 4-ish eggs for coating
- A loaf of bread
- Half block of chilli cheese
- 16 sausages
- 200g of chilli cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard
- Some flour
- Some salt.



1) Boil the 12 eggs for a while... until they're somewhere between runny and boiled. About 7 minutes or something. Then peel. Note... peeling directly in water is so much easier than out of water. You don't have to worry about the vinegar tricks and stuff.

2) Squeeze the sausage meat out of the sausages and into a bowl

3) Grate the chilli cheese, and put a few spoons of wholegrain mustard and mix. Maybe bit a bit of salt in.

4) Make breadcrumbs with a load of the bread. Just use a cheese grater, avoid any huge chunks but they'll likely fall off.

5) Split the sausage meat into 12 equal balls. Put a bit of flour on your hand. Take a ball and flatten it into a round disk. Take an egg and roll it in flour. Put the egg on top and push the meat around it equally. Roll it in your hand and stuff, until it's equally thinned out.

6) Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and mix.

7) Take an egg/sausage ball, hold it over the eggs and pour over a few teaspoons and rub it around so there's egg all over.

8) Roll the egg in the breadcrumbs. Quite a few should stick.

9) Holding over the runny egg again, put another couple of teaspoons over and spread.

10) Roll in the breadcrumbs a second time, then set aside to repeat for all eggs.

11) Deep fry at about 165 degrees for 4.5 mins (they'll look golden when they're done).

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Hotel Rwanda

A few years ago I watched the film Hotel Rwanda. I have always been fascinated with Africa, so watching it was part of trying to learn and understand more. It's a horrific story that I'm sure everyone is mostly familiar with. Normal people, go from living somewhat normal lives, to being massacred based on what "type" they are. I won't bother adding any more colour to the description or story, as the film can portray it much better than I ever could. It left me wondering what I would do if it happened now. 

In Hotel Rwanda the international response was bad. They needed help, but countries were reluctant to help. It wasn't long after the events of Somalia, so the world was cautious of getting involved in the problems in a country they don't really understand. But when there are that many people being killed, how can you not respond? I was sure that I would be one of the few that would go out of my way to do something.

Many years ago, in a Psychology lesson, we looked at the Milgram experiment, with the premise "The Germans were different". That what happened with the Nazi's couldn't happen in another country. How could people not fight back? How could they accept how the Jews were treated? I understand the difficulties faced by people who did go against the country, but surely you'd do all in your power?


I cannot recognise any humanity in the people that kept slaves. Those people are so different to me that they might as well be a different species. But whether you kept slaves or not, would you not do all you could to help people get free? To fight against an accepted reality where people can be possessions?

If I was in Alabama in the early 1800's I know I would fight against slavery. If I was in Germany in 1940 I would be secretly handing out leaflets, and helping to hide Jews. If I wasn't 7 during the Rwandan Genocide, I wouldn't stop shouting to the government until they intervened, and I cannot understand the reasoning of people who wouldn't...

... Until now. There's a lot going on in Syria. I honestly have no idea. There's so much noise that it's hard to pick out information. My understanding is that ISIS are ploughing through, anyone who doesn't leave are forced into ISIS or killed. There's a load of fighting within the country. Honestly, I don't know. I think it's a really bad situation for everyone there but our media is full of showing people who were probably fine in Syria, now using the opportunity to get into other countries just because they'd like more money. I don't believe that, but because that is the main line it's hard to find out what is really happening. I have a lot of sympathy for the refugees, but I've not really "done" anything. I think if I could see what is actually happen it would completely change my mindset.

Assuming our media ever reports honestly, I can picture in 20 years time people unpicking what happened and wondering how people didn't help. They will not understand the reasoning behind people who didn't do all they could to make the situation a little bit better. Except this time I will be one of the people, and my children will be wondering why we didn't do anything.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Twins!

I've always wanted 4 children. I wanted to have two boys and two girls... but only so there wouldn't be just one of the gender. That way, there wouldn't be an odd one out. I got lucky meeting Brandi, because she also wanted 4 children.

Amelie is now 1 year and 17 months. That time has gone really fast, and she's growing up to be awesome. Over the months she's had many funny, temporary things, such as calling me "Andeh" in a Northern accent when she was about 10 months, to, currently, running around after the dog shouting "ey, ey, naughty, ey, good girl, come, come, ey, down, naughty, down, good girl". Lula (the dog) doesn't quite know how to respond.

Naturally, we wanted to get a move on with the next baby. I had started to get a little nervous that I wouldn't have enough time to spend with them if we had a second. I'm really busy with work, and trying to get the business really going, and Amelie would play all day given the chance... but that is probably what most parents, think, so I put it out of my mind. 

In August we got the good news, that baby number 2 was on the way. In October, I got the much more shocking news, that baby number 3 was also on the way.

I never, ever thought I would have twins, let alone identical ones! They will also be girls (or 'Twincesses'...), so I am pretty outnumbered now. Not that I mind at all. Just before we had Amelie I had said that I wanted a girl, and had since thought that I'd love to have 4 girls.

Two things are for sure though... this year is going to be very difficult... as will 2030.





Thursday, 22 May 2014

"Things"

I like when people have "things". The world becomes a much more interesting place when people have "things". Yesterday I walked past a guy with a spiked earring and a large hula hoop over his shoulder.

At a first glance people may be like "that's weird, what's he doing with that hula hoop?", which is actually a pretty silly question. There are only so many answers that would make sense. He could be transporting it... or may just like to hula hoop. Either way... it made my walk more interesting.


"Things" are a lot more prominent when you are young. In cartoons and childrens TV programs people always have a "thing" to distinguish characters. Noddy has a weird hat. Super Ted has a superhero costume. I'm sure there are better examples you can find yourself. As we get older, though, it seems like we expect everybody to look the same, and anyone who doesn't, or does anything that may stand out is maybe a little weird (unless they're famous enough to get away with it). I grew up watching early 90's Wrestling, where you had to have a thing to be remembered at all.

At the moment I have a "thing"... I now wear headbands (or... buffs, to be exact). This is because my hair is too long, and I got annoyed keep brushing it out of my face. Having my hair cut might be a good option, but I quite like having long hair. A few years ago I was thinking about having it short, and was upset because I thought that if I have it short I'll probably never grow it long again. I should stop thinking like that... so definitive.

At the moment I have 3 buffs. Two I designed myself (a Captain Vestman buff, and an earth one), and one official one, that I don't actually like as much.




I get quite a lot of looks and comments wearing them. Almost never positive. Nobody ever says "that's a good thing!", but I won't be deterred. I actually quite like the negative comments, it shows people care. "Rambo" comes up often... which can't really be an insult. At first I thought I'd just use them for walking and running, but yesterday I found myself on site with a client wearing it. After the initial "Jimmy Hendricks?", it wasn't mentioned again.




So... in conclusion... I encourage everybody to have a thing. Or not... either way. But ask yourself this, would a walk down a completely immemorable street, on an entirely immemorable day, would it be made just a tiny bit better by walking past a person fully clad in medieval armour?

Monday, 15 April 2013

25) Live a day blind

Yesterday, on Sunday the 14th of April, I decided to live blind for the day.

I've wanted to try this for a while. I thought it would be interesting, and for a lack of a better expression, eye-opening to "see the world" as a blind person does. I have a bit of a fear of being blind, and thought that this could slightly help. So just before bed on the Saturday I turned on my phone accessibility and put on my blind fold.

The morning


Using my phone


Thankfully in my sleepy morning daze I remembered what I was doing and didn't instantly take it off. I lay in bed at 9am trying to unlock my phone for about 10 minutes. Android's accessibility controls are really powerful, I was impressed. Even being blind for a day I was able to open up a Reddit app and hear some of the top links, with Android reading out the headlines, and the articles if I clicked through.

After using my phone for a while I got dressed (I felt around for my jogging bottoms, and a t-shirt that I thought could match), and got dressed. 

Bathroom


The next part was a little harder. I hadn't thought, but it is a very risky thing for a blind person to stand-up-pee. Even trying is a disaster waiting to happen. I decided to enjoy the luxury of a sit-down-pee, though it didn't feel natural.

I then tried to bush my teeth. This was much more difficult than I'd thought it would be. I put my finger on my toothbrush to try and feel how much toothpaste was going on. I couldn't feel any... so I squeezed the tube lower. I still couldn't feel any, so squeezed more. Somewhere along the way the toothpaste sneaked out and I ended up covering my hand and toothbrush with way too much toothpaste.

The keen-eyed may notice I haven't mentioned showering. Don't judge me.

Breakfast


For breakfast I got a glass of squash (for people who aren't lucky enough to know the joys of squash, it is highly concentrated juice that you add water), and I impressed myself with how I didn't make it overly strong.. but it was all guesswork. I felt around the cupboards for cereal, and although mostly successful  there was quite a bit too much milk.

The afternoon


Laptop


Before I started being blind I downloaded a game designed especially for the vision impaired, called "BlindSide". It is a game set in a 3d world, except you play it using only noises. I thought it could be fun. Actually getting to the game was another matter. 

I turned on my laptop, sat for a while waiting for the start up sound, and then realised I hadn't turned on my laptop. I pressed the power button harder, and heard the familiar ticking of the hard-drive. I waited a few moments before attempting to put in my password. This proved very difficult, as there were no sound cues. I tried typing the password in, guessing where the keys were (I never look at the keyboard, so it shouldn't have been hard). But.. this didn't work. I tried a few more times, before deciding to feel around the keyboard for the letters, and try doing it slowly. This also didn't work.

Eventually I called Brandi down (she was painting) to put in my password, and she told me it was on the desktop screen. I dunno if I had put it in correct, and it didn't play the welcome sound, or it was hibernating and opened up on the desktop... but either way, without her I'd probably have had to give up.

The day before I started this I tried Windows accessibility things. Turns out they pretty much have none. I read about a program for blind people, but it costs £1000.

Brandi helped me open the game, and I played for a while. I had to find my way around a room using the ticking of a clock, a dripping tap, and TV static. In the game everybody wakes up blind, and there are monsters eating people. It was actually really difficult.

Moving around the house


Using noise cues in the game got me thinking that if I was blind it would probably be useful to have a different clock in each room of the house. I expect using them you could know exactly where in each room you were.

Navigating the house wasn't overly difficult. I didn't bump into many things, and didn't have to wave my hands around too much. The rug came in useful for knowing when I was close to the coffee table. The most difficult part was putting glasses of water on the coffee table... it made me nervous about reaching around for the mouse, or anything else.

Watching TV & Audio books


Later on Brandi put the TV on. I "watched" a program, and could mostly tell what was happening, so it wasn't too bad. One thing I hadn't really considered is that, being blind, at least for me, I would have my eyes covered/closed most of the time... this inevitably lead to me sleeping constantly. I couldn't help it. I'm like it all the time. However awake I am, if I close my eyes and lie down I will sleep. So, whilst watching the program, I found myself waking up at some point.

Brandi went back to painting, but before she did she put on a stand up comedy (I felt this could be the most appropriate viewing for me). I wanted to watch Dimitri Martin, but he is quite visual, so I settled for George Carlin... as I'd heard he was good. Turns out he wasn't, he just shouted about things and pretended to be angry, and regardless of what he said, people cried with laughter. I found myself waking up after maybe listening to just 10 minutes.

I went to get some crisps, but realised I couldn't see the flavours.

I tried to listen to an audio book, but found myself waking up after not even making it through the first chapter.

Going for a walk


With all the sleeping I had done, I thought I should go for a walk, to get rid of some of the built up energy, and to see how difficult it would be.

Brandi was my guide for it, and we walked around the block. I put on sunglasses, as I didn't want to be seen walking around with a blind fold.

I didn't trip once, so I was quite pleased. I tried to grasp where I was at times, but struggled, though I could hear things around me well. At one point in the walk, Brandi was shocked at how much they had cut the trees away from a passage. Obviously, I couldn't see it, but I have a picture built up in my head, so I might go there later to see if it looks like I expect.

The evening


Phone second attempt


Throughout the day I had received a few messages on my phone, so I attempted to reply. The Swype keyboard that I use didn't even slightly work, so I switched to the default Android one. I think I replied to the messages quite well. By this point I was a pro at unlocking my phone, and though typing messages was slow, I could hear when I made a mistake, and erase it.

Annoyingly, WhatsApp doesn't label their send button (when you put your finger over buttons it gives a description, if the developers decide put it in).

Most people could probably use the speech to text things, but apparently I talk like a retard and phones can never understand what I say.

Dinner


For dinner we had pizza! It was quite interesting to eat, as I couldn't see how much I had eaten, so I didn't know when to stop. Apparently it takes your body some time to realise you are full, so you use your eyes to have more of an indication. I didn't count how many pieces I had eaten, so eventually Brandi told me to stop.

Conclusion


Being blind is difficult. So much of the world is made for people with vision, and though the vision impaired charities argue that the potential market loss for not catering for the disability is high, many don't.

Personally, I think all areas should try to, even if it doesn't lead to profits. People should see it as important to try and make products and applications accessible to people who already have a difficult time. Netflix, for example, doesn't have any audio-descriptive videos, many Android apps don't properly label buttons, and Windows accessibility was terrible.

As a developer it has made me more aware of people blind people would interact with things, and I will bear that in mind in future.

All in all the day didn't go too badly. It made me realise some things, and although I would never want to be blind, I don't think I would see my life as being over if I was.









Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Being Vegan


On 18th February I decided to try being vegan, after having some chicken that I didn't really enjoy. I had set the dates to be 13th March until 10th April, but with the flight delays after Belgium, and still having chocolate left over I decided to postpone it until the weekend, and started on Saturday 16th March.

Immediately after starting I remembered the BBQ ribs, popcorn chicken and faggots that I had bought a few weeks earlier.

I started out by going shopping to try and find vegan alternatives to the things that I eat. It wasn't too difficult at first. I swapped milk for almond milk (which was actually quite nice with cereal), and swapped butter for vegan vegetable oil (which tasted the same).

I was most surprised that when looking at the ingredients of two similar products, one would have 3-4 ingredients, the other would have a load, which seemed unnecessary (one of which always seemed to be something from an animal). It opened my eyes slightly on the qualities of different food, and made me question why one would need so many less-natural ingredients.

On the Sunday Brandi cooked vegan brownies. This was needed, as the main problem I had predicted was that I would struggle with chocolate. I snack quite a lot, and didn't think I'd be able to stop. To counter this I bought oat crackers and peanut butter. Both vegan.

As for food throughout the week, I had pasta (wheat germ) and beans on toast, and on another day I made a vegetarian Thai red curry, and Brandi made a quinoa recipe. I struggled not having chocolate, and though it was a nice gesture that Brandi had made the brownies, they were quite obviously vegan. The closest I could get to chocolate/snacks were breakfast cereal and ginger nut biscuits (though apparently some bourbon biscuits are vegan).

I'll cut to the end of the story, so I don't deceive. I gave up on the following Saturday.

Throughout the first week I felt like I was doing fine, but would occasionally feel like I wanted to stop, because I wasn't enjoying any food. I then started to feel like I wasn't getting any protein (I can only eat so many nuts, and I don't like tofu).

I had considered stopping a couple of times, but had told myself that the only reason I want to stop is because of chocolate and unhealthy food, and that should be a reason for me to continue. I had had dreams where I was in a chip shop, and asked if there was anything vegan, then realised as I was asking that I was eating breaded chicken.

On the Friday I went for a meal with my family. I phoned the pub/restaurant beforehand to ask if there is anything on the menu for vegans. The person on the phone had no idea, and went and asked the waiters who also had no idea. I think they might not know what vegan means.

When I got there I had to make the decision between chips (potentially not vegan) or vegetarian tagine (which I am certain was vegan). I went for the tagine, which wasn't very nice at all. There was nothing I could have for dessert, and to make things worse my niece left a whole cookie cheesecake, right in front of me. I somehow managed to resist, angrily.

That weekend I was babysitting Logan, Charlie, and Savannah. I had my usual almond milk breakfast cereal, but things went wrong lunch time. Brandi and Savannah made a load of peanut butter cookies, and the children was having potato waffles (which I love, and which contain skimmed-milk extract). I gave in, and had cookies and waffles. I felt guilty, and it didn't taste nice because of that. Eating non-vegan things for the next few days didn't feel right.

Although I only managed a week, I am still quite pleased. It doesn't sound very difficult, but it was, and a majority of what I eat is vegetarian. The life of a vegan is difficult, and I wouldn't like it. Food is an important part of life, and it made unenjoyable. I am sure that if you force yourself for long enough you eventually can, but I'm not willing to.

In just 7 days my body shape slightly changed (my tummy isn't as big, and my boobs are less boob-like), and I lost 5 pounds. Take that dieters!

On Sunday night I had a big bowl of BBQ ribs... which I didn't enjoy.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Belgium, Bruges: My Memoirs

On the third of March, me, Brandi, Liam, Laura, Leigh, and Neil flew to Belgium. Here are my memoirs.

- The 3 Scouse girls on the plane with curlers in their hair and drawn on eyebrows (...a 'fashion' thing). I hoped people in Beligum wouldn't judge England on that.

- Trying to find the big metal thing (later learned the name was the Atomium), but it was raining and horrible, so we gave up and had waffles and Haagendazs crème brulee ice cream.


- Being really, really impressed by how beautiful Bruges looked. Also, the apartment we stayed in is probably the nicest we've had on one of these breaks.

- Spending £67 on alcohol at a corner shop, which barely lasted the night, then trekking far to pick up a Chinese (accidental detour included).


- Got really drunk playing ring of fire. Leigh, for the first time in his life, managed to rhyme something in the rhyme round, even though it was by accident.. "It was very hot...", "it was very what?".


- Egg cup shots (couldn't find the glasses). Leigh, getting the short straw, having to do a shot off the plate.



- Not remembering much about the night, but little flashes. Left the appartment around 3, tried to go to a club though they were all closed, got talking to two guys from Bruges. Went back to their place, sat on the bed, stroking a cat, smoking weed and listening to Belgium rap.


- Everybody hanging hard the next day. I made a full 'English' breakfast at 5pm. It was disgusting. The bacon was weird, the sausage was weird, the beans were weird, and the only thing that shouldn't go wrong was the eggs, but they were weird too. Turns out it was because we used "Raison sugar milk", which was tragic.

- Woke up earlier ghdnext day so we could see the city. Got tandem bikes... Leigh and Neil were terrible on them so swapped.


- Tried to cycle to Damme, which looked like a nice village. Ended going in the very opposite direction. I went into a strange 'local' pub to ask if they could point where we are on the map. The first two men I went over to stared at me like I just pissed in their pint. Eventually two of the other people in the small pub got talking to me and helped me. Turned out we were way off the map to the south. No idea how it went so wrong.


- Cycled in the right direction. The wind was against us. It rained, snowed, and everybody wanted to kill themselves. Eventually, when we couldn't see the village in the distance, we gave up.


- I took the coldest "Vestman picture" so far. Colder than at the top of the mountain in Whistler.


- Took the bikes back as the snow came down more. Went straight into a restaurant and had a nice traditional Belgium meal. Some kind of meat with ale sauce. And tomato soup. The tomato soup was awesome.


- Spent more money on chocolate, waffles and hot chocolate than alcohol all weekend.


- Had a Bicky Burger!! I needed to have one after keep seeing Bicky Crisps! BICKY CRISP!


- Wandered around the city fairly late to get pictures, since we hadn't properly seen places. It was hard not to fall in all the snow.



The rest of the story isn't suitable for bullet form... and from now on will commence in paragraphs.

On the Tuesday morning we woke up early to get to the station in time for the 5:55am train to Brussels. Surprisingly we arrived there on time, after dragging ourselves through the snow. Our first problem (key word being first, not only) was that the machine didn't accept Liam's bank card, and the desks weren't open until 6am. I eventually got someone to help us, but he had computer problems, and it was starting to look like we weren't going to be able to get on the train. We managed to just minutes before it left.

Annoyingly all the trains were running slow and late because of the snow. We were getting slightly nervous as time went on. We arrived at Charleroi train station about an hour before the flight leaves, which we thought could be enough time... until we found out the station was 10km from the airport... and because of the snow there were no buses or shuttles running.

We walked around trying to figure out how to get there. We found a taxi rink that had a load of people waiting, without any sign of a taxi. We walked to hotels to see if they could call one to there, but no luck.

Eventually we stood at the taxi rink, but as it came to be 20 mins before the flight we though we needed to take action. What happened then was the least British thing I have done. We left the queue, and proceeded to walk past everybody. My thoughts were that we could walk down the road, around the corner and get a taxi... but not 10 metres from the front of the queue a taxi pulled up and rolled his window down.

I asked him if we could go to the airport, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a hoard of people come running over. We tried to get in, but forgetting people driving on the other side of the road, we were on the wrong side of the doors. Before we could get around people had started trying to pile in. I had almost given up hope... until the taxi driver got out, and started shouting telling people to get out and that he is taking us. I felt relieved, but very guilty as we walked through people, receiving death-stares.

We arrived at the airport 5 minutes before the plane was due to take off. We rushed through the gate, hoping there would still be a chance to get on. At this point it still hadn't clicked how the snow had pretty much taken the country to a standstill. We saw two people that were on our flight here waiting, so I went over and asked if they were flying back to Manchester. He told me that he is, but that he was supposed to be on yesterdays flight, and that it looks like today's flight is also cancelled.

This lead to the worst 24 hours I've had in Belgium, ever.


Ryanair announced the flight was cancelled, without any further details. We stood in a queue to talk to the airport customer services, but the queue was the length of the whole airport. In the hours that we waited one airport woman came over and gave us a print out, and said that our best bet is to go back to our house, fill in the form and post it to Ryanair to try and get another flight. Post. Who the hell would post something, and how long would that take!? We stayed in the queue.

When finally getting to the end (no thanks to some people, who thought that they could demand that a flight would leave later that evening for them), and was told that we can try and book in for the next day, and that we would need to find a hotel, and hopefully Ryanair would give us the money back.

Most hotels were taken by this point, apart from a really expensive, really terrible hotel that I can only imagine is where businessmen go to commit suicide.

We were cold, demoralised, and spent a load of money on burgers just so we could sit somewhere that could fit us all, and had internet. The hotel thought they could charge something like 12 euros for an hour of internet. On the evening we went for Italian food, which was nice, until we passed a man without socks, covered in orange peel, and injecting heroin into his fingers. That pretty much sums up Charleroi.

On Wednesday we woke up early to go back to the airport. I didn't expect we would be leaving the country that day, as the weather was no different to the day before. After a bit of an argument with taxi drivers we arrived at the airport. When we got there it was the same story... one by one flights were being cancelled or delayed by hours. I could picture us spending the rest of the day in the airport, and the night at the hotel... until they called for us to line up and board the plane.

I have never been so happy to get on a plane!