Friday, 29 February 2008

Sunset By The Humber

As you may have guessed by now, we had a really good time at the Reeds Hotel and wouldn't hesitate to go back in the future. I'll finish this set of posts though with Saturday night's sunset.

The Humber Bridge

I previously mentioned that the Reeds Hotel was just spitting distance from the Humber Bridge. In case you've never seen the Humber Bridge this is what it looks like from Waters' Edge Visitor Centre, just a few minutes drive from the hotel.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Footprints In The Sand

Wednesday, 27 February 2008


Well that was fun! We were both asleep when the earthquake stuck just before 1am this morning although we didn't stay asleep for long. The noise was horrendous and given the strength of the wind outside we assumed part of the roof (maybe a ridge tile or two) had been blown off.

So at 1am in dressing gown and slippers we were wondering around the house and garden trying to figure out what made the noise. I can't remember how we came to the conclusion that the only other explanation was an earthquake but checking the BBC news website at about 1:15am confirmed that an earthquake had struck.

Apparently it was a 5.3 magnitude quake with the epicentre near Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, which is approximately 60 miles from our house in Sheffield. According to the news it was the biggest quake for almost twenty years. In April 1990 I felt a 5.1 magnitude earthquake when I was in my last year at junior school. That one was during the day and I vividly remember all the books jumping off the shelf onto the floor!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Windy Walks

Having finally come to a decision on the identity of the diver we went for a walk around the Far Ings Nature Reserve which borders the hotel. The reserve consists of a number of flooded pits with lots of reed beds which make an ideal habitat for a number of birds. Here is the view from the first hide.

The building you can see on the very left is the hotel, so you can see why we were watching the diver from the restaurant window. You can also see just how close the hotel is to the Humber Bridge. What you can't tell is just how windy and cold it was -- one of the perils of bird watching in February.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Red Throated Diver

There is one major problem with bird watching in winter -- many of the birds look the same without their bright summer colours. This explains why we spent all of breakfast on Saturday morning arguing about the identity of the diver that was swimming around just a few yards from the restaurant window.

After much debate we eventually concluded, based solely on the angle at which it was holding its head and a few white feathers between bill and eyes, that it was in fact a Red Throated Diver and not a Black Throated Diver. It would have been so much easier in summer as (funnily enough) one has a red throat and one has a black throat!

Food Glorious Food

We've just spent a great weekend at the Reeds Hotel just spitting distance from the Humber Bridge. I was intending to blog while we were there given that there was free Wi-Fi access. Unfortunately no matter what I tried I could not get my laptop to connect.

Now as you might have guessed from previous posts I quite like my food. I'm not vegetarian and I have no problem trying unusual dishes. In particular I like having the opportunity to try new things, so when I saw the menu on Friday I knew exactly what I was going to have for starter: Pan Seared Wood Pigeon Breast, Carved onto a medallion of black pudding and smoked bacon. The wood pigeon was fantastic and the black pudding (something I've always avoided) was not as bad as I expected it to be!

All the food over the weekend was superb and while there was nothing else that I'd never had before I did manage to eat: Roast Vegetable Tart with a blue cheese dressing, Pan Fried 6oz Venison Steak served with a red onion & apple tart tartin & a rich port jus, Oven Roasted Leg of Lamb with a redcurrant and red wine jus, Red Wine Poached Pear fanned on a bed of rice pudding with white chocolate wafers, Marmalade Glazed Bread and Butter Pudding, Frozen Raspberry Parfait with a white chocolate crisp, two large cooked breakfasts, and a bowl of Chicken and Vegetable Soup.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Frosty Mornings

This mornings rain actually makes a pleasant change from the very frosty mornings we have been having lately.

The frost makes for lovely views and photos but it really has been unbearably cold. I can't remember the last time we had such severe frost.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

More Computer Woes

I don't know what it is with me and computers at the moment but my work laptop is currently out of commision. It won't turn on as the battery is flat, and for some reason the power adapter seems to have died.

It is a good job I've finally got my main home desktop PC rebuilt and working again!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

There aren't many films from my childhood that have stood the test of time and that I still enjoy watching. My favourite, without question, would be Back to the Future, although the Indiana Jones trilogy runs a close second.

Given that there is unfortunately no chance of further Back to the Future films, because of Michael J. Fox's health, I've been eagerly awaiting the new Indiana Jones film -- The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. After months of teasing us with still photos from the set they have finally released a trailer.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Blue Smarties

I was recently bought a tube of Smarties. I don't eat chocolate sweets/bars very often and so it must have been at least a few years since I last had any Smarties and I instantly noticed three things 1) the tube was hexagonal and missing the plastic top, 2) the colours all looked washed out and 3) there were no blue Smarties.

Apparently the tube was changed to it's modern form back in 2005 which probably tells you how long it is since I last bought a tube of Smarties!

The colours of the Smarties probably look washed out because at some point the makers, Nestlé, changed the way Smarties were produced to remove artificial colourings and flavours.

There are currently no blue Smarties because there wasn't an alternative natural colouring that could be used.

Having noticed all these things just a few weeks ago I was interested in a BBC news article today that announced the imminent return of blue Smarties. Apparently there is now a natural blue food colouring, extracted from a seaweed called spirulina, that can be used.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Changing Computer Standards

Well I've finally got around to buying new parts to rebuild my dead computer. The really annoying thing is that a lot of the old parts still worked but the hardware standards have changed rendering many of the parts useless.

The problem with the old machine was the motherboard, so that needed replacing. So replacing the motherboard also involved replacing the CPU, graphics card, memory and power supply, all because the standards currently in use (and hence the connections on the motherboard) have all changed since I bought my last motherboard.

Not only is this change in standards expensive but it means I now have a whole host of perfectly OK parts which I don't have any use for.

Ah well, at least I now have a nice, fast, up-to-date PC to play with!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Bangers and Mash with Red Wine Gravy

I assume everyone knows how to make mashed potatoes and how to fry a sausage so the recipe will only deal with making the red wine gravy. To make a full meal I'd suggest serving with the sugar roasted alliums from the previous post.

1/2 pint of red wine
1/2 pint of vegetable stock
1/4 pint Balsamic vinegar
2 tsps plain flour

Cooking Instructions
Put the red wine and stock in a pan and simmer to reduce the volume by half (to 1/2 a pint). Mix the plain flour into a paste with 2 tbsps of cold water. Add the balsamic vinegar and flour paste to the pan. Whisk vigorously until the sauce thickens.

Note: This amount of sauce is usually way more than we need for a single meal, however, it freezes really well. I usually freeze it in ice cube bags and then defrost and reheat as much as I need at a later date.

Sugar Roasted Alliums

I guess this post should really have been entitled "Sugar Roasted Leeks, Onions, and Shallots" but that doesn't have the same ring to it. I'm not giving exact amount for this recipe as I do different amounts each time based on the vegetables I have to hand.

Leeks, peeled and chopped into inch long pieces
Onions, peeled and quartered
Red Onions, peeled and quartered
Shallots, just peeled
Olive Oil
Demerara Sugar

Cooking Instructions
Place the vegetables in a roasting tin. Drizzle with the olive oil and then sprinkle a generous amount of demerara sugar over all the vegetables.

Place the roasting tin in an oven at 200C (400F) for 35 to 40 minutes. Be careful when serving as the oil and sugar in the base of the pan gets very hot.

Monday, 4 February 2008

100th Post!

This is my 100th blog post! When I started blogging back in August last year I didn't know how long I'd be able to keep thinking of things to talk about, but it seems in just less than six months I've talked about 99 things I found interesting. Rather than posting anything new or exciting I thought instead I'd look back over the highlights of the first 100 posts.

Looking through the information blogger presents to you when editing posts I can see that I've mostly talked about food (12 posts), photos (25 posts), and strange things I've seen (18 posts).

Based on the number of comments left on each post then the two best posts where about software I wrote: Convert4Frame to help with using digital photo frames (10 comments), and a small utility for controlling the way the BBC's iPlayer software works (14 comments). Interesting that even though I spend a lot of time writing bits of software I haven't blogged about that part of my life too often yet when I do it generates the most comments.

One of the things I like about this blog is the way I can share my thoughts with friends and family that unfortunately I don't get to speak to in person very often. Some of the things have been so trivial that I probably wouldn't have raised them during normal conversation yet doing so through this blog has brought me a replacement corkscrew and more Hungarian paprika!

I hope you have all enjoyed the first 100 posts, and I'll keep blogging as long as I can find interesting things to say.

Internal Memory

When I bought my new camera I noticed that one of the features mentioned on the box was the 10MB of internal memory. Now I knew that that 10MB is pretty useless when it comes to storing digital photos and so I bought a 1GB SD card along with the camera.

It was only when playing around with the camera earlier today, however, that I realised just how useless the internal memory really is. Once the memory has been formatted etc. there is so little space that you can store just one photo at the highest quality on the internal memory.

What use is the ability to store one extra photo? Surely it would have made more sense not to add internal memory to the camera. Either the camera would have been cheaper or the manufacturers would have had a bigger profit margin, either way it makes more sense than adding complexity to the camera for the sake of storing a single photo!

Saturday, 2 February 2008


This was the view from my study this morning. A nice cold snowy day. Exactly the kind of day when you don't want to find that you have no gas for the central heating or cooking.

The house we are renting has a prepayment gas meter. I bought some more credits yesterday and at about 9:30 this morning went to add them to the meter. I put the card in and pressed the button only to be greeted by the message "Battery Failure".

So without a functioning battery the meter simply shut down and stopped dispensing gas, which means that the Aga turned itself off and there was no option of heating the house using the central heating.

I rang British Gas who told me that someone would be out within 4 hours to change the battery. Fortunately that proved to be true and within about three and a half hours the meter was working again. Good job they will come out so quickly otherwise we would have been seriously stuck as we rely on the gas for everything in the house. The only way I could have cooked would have been the microwave and the only heating would have been a small portable electric heater.