Need a tradesman…

Check out…

http://www.checkatrade.com/

Worth knowing what people have said about the people you need to help you out.
The people I’ve employed got good ratings – I’ll let you know once the work is complete. I checked a few companies – one of those I called up (details given by a friend) was a bit abrupt on the phone, advised the price he quoted didn’t allow for the fact that things go wrong often…  I then checked their details on the website above and hey presto “not recommended” was the verdict!

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Hi-lo and gliding – part II

I went to the class again last night and had another laugh (mainly at myself).

The moves were even more complicated last night, but as the instructor kept making the first mistake, I didn’t worry too much. I was more concerned by how dizzy “the helicopter” spinning made me feel. I worked hard though – and felt good afterward. For the most part I kept working hard enough to raise my heart reate into the 65% plus range (actually, it was higher than that for most of it). I’m happy to have gone to the class again – even if at the end I didn’t manage to use the hula hoop for the longest in the class :0)

Apparently “hula hooping” is an up and coming craze for fitness…erm…how many children will get hoops for Christmas so that mums (and dads) can practice between fitness classes?

New phone – HTC – TyTnii

No, I didn’t get an iPhone, although I would love one. I got an “htc TyTnII” with built in GPS receiver. Orange used to OEM htc kit as their SPV range, but now they offer htc under its own branding.  The phone is cool – the GPS implementation is good and much easier than carrying around a bluetooth GPS receiver as well as a phone, and it syncs easy with Outlook – meaning I can really get all my office stuff, if I want to. I don’t want to have ActiveSync pushing my work email to the phone all the time – so I’m glad I can switch that on and off with the greatest of ease. I dont’ want to become addicted to checking my email at every opportunity. It is useful for those times when I’m not in the office though…And I have personal email available at the touch of a button. The keyboard is cool, as is the fact the screen flips around when you use it and the tilted display is helpful when it’s on the desk. Connection to my WiFi at home was without problem, as was downloading Skype for mobile. I’m impressed.

The downside: it’s big, bulky and heavy. It’s not pink. The standard ring tones are awful. There’s no text to speech, so making calls by voice-dialling is dependent on you having pre-recorded a voice tag. And battery life isn’t great, especially using Wi-Fi, GPS or playing any of the games.

Overall, it’s a thumbs up from me.

http://www.europe.htc.com/en/products/htctytn2.html

Deacon Blue at the Apollo

Fantastic!

Seated, which was unusual for the venue – not that we stayed in our seats for long. The band launched into a set list of all the oldies (plus a few lesser known titles) and the crowd swayed, clapped, shouted and sang all night.

Ricky Ross screamed “London take it away” and the audience sang “Dignity, Fergus Sings the Blues and Real Gone Kid”. I’ve been to a number of gigs over the years, but these guys know how to work a crowd…

At one point Ricky disappeared off stage, much to the surprise of the band, only to appear in the audience. He climbed back on stage, announced the doors were locked and we’d be there for a while yet.

At the end of the gig, the whole band walked forward to the edge of the stage and shook hands with the first row. If you ever get the chance to see them live, go, please. It really is one gig that will stand out as fun, entertaining, enjoyable and definitely memorable.

Power flush the central heating system

Yep – Winter is here and the heating system is struggling. That’s the problem living in such a hard water area – sludge builds in the system and apparently causes cold spots in the radiators. In my case they are cooler at the bottom than at the top. It’s worse downstairs than up – but it’s just a symptom of sludge…and it will only get worse the longer it is left.

So, I’ve got three quote so far…two at £450 plus VAT, one at £600-£650. The fact that my radiator valves are unlikely to survive the power flush means an extra £100-£200 on top of the bill. Just in time for Christmas…nice.

Christmas cake

How many different recipes are there?

I’ve been through my collection of cookery books and have found no less than six different recipes – all similar in some way – all different in others. One recipe bakes for nearly five hours, one for just two and a half.

Yes, I’m baking Christmas cakes. Today I’ve prepared and baked one for my boyfriend. Tonight I’ll put the fruit in brandy to bake another for A & I as a little gift for Christmas. Normally, I bake little baskets of mince pies, angel cakes etc. for my “nice” neighbours – but I think the “nice” ones will get Christmas cakes this year. Whether I actually get around to marzipan and icing is another thing!!

I’m also baking cookies for the office regularly…last week I did “Blooming marvellous brownies” and oat cookies… The oat cookies went down a storm – the brownies disappeared quickly (as usual) – but with only three/four of us in the office on a regular basis – I’ll have to halve the recipe – otherwise our team will all be lardy very quickly.

Good oat-based cookie recipes are most welcome! (i.e. wheat free please).

Recipe for Christmas Cake:

Source: Adapted from Delia Smith’s Rich Fruit Cake recipe

400g currants
250g raisins
200g sultanas
115g glace cherries, rinsed and quartered
75g candied mixed peel, chopped
5 tablespoons brandy
225g plain flour
quarter teaspoon salt
quarter teaspon fresh nutmeg, grated
half teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g unsalted butter
225g soft brown sugar
4 large organic eggs
50g almonds, flaked or chopped (your choice)
1 tablespoon black treacle
grated rind two oranges

My version differs slightly from Delia’s – as over the years I have played with it somewhat.

Still here goes: soak the fruits together in the brandy overnight to infuse that Christmas flavour. Then, when you’re ready to get going, line your cake tin with greaseproof paper. I do this cake in a 9-inch round cake tin, Delia says an 8-inch (20cm), but I’ve always found that too high up! 7-inch (18cm)square cake tin as an alternative.

Next cream together the butter and sugar. I do this in an electrical mixer – it’s much more efficient. Don’t skimp on this at all – this stage it’s important to get as much air into the mixture as possible.

In a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and spices).

And in another bowl beat the eggs together. Start adding the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar mixture – just a little at a time, beating it as you going to ensure it’s thoroughly combined. if the mixture starts to curdle (it will, especially if your house is warm!), add a little bit of flour as prevention.

Next, fold in your dry sifted ingredients – a little at a time. Be sure not to beat this time. When well combined, add in your brandy-infused fruit, nuts, treacle and orange rind. Stir until you’re happy it’s combined, but don’t beat.

Transfer the mixture to your lined cake tin and spread evenly.

I always place a circle of paper over the cake with a cut-out for steam – to stop the top drying out too much. It depends whether or not you wish to ice the cake!

Bake in a low oven (gas mark 1, 140 centigrade, or 275F) for at least 4 hours. I nearly always give them 5 hours – but I tend to test the cake at 4 and a half (with a skewer).

Cool in the tin and when ready, unwrap from the greaseproof, wrap in foil and store until you’re ready to ice. You can feed the cake with more brandy – but I don’t find this necessary. I tend to bake these as gifts for people, and usually I make them a month in advance…with 5 tablespoons of brandy to start, you don’t usually need any more!

Good luck…

Hi-Lo and Gliding

I did an aerobics class last night – it was a “Hi-Lo with Gliding for Intermediate Fitness” and it was fun…although a little too much choreography in the middle for most of us! It was comical to see the lady next to me furiously typing into her Blackberry before the class began…and then writing on her hands “must pay congestion charge”… The things we do.

Unlike most places we go to exercise, my club is friendly, not too full of plastics, and has real people. the Blackberry lady and I chatted for a while about the class – trying to work out what it would be like as neither of us had been to this one before.

The instructor was great – full of energy for her routine – and full of complicated dance moves just designed to make us trip up. Luckily, she saw the funny side as half the room went one way, half the other way. Then came the gliding…I’d never heard of it, but apparently it’s taken off in the US… I found an article on it this morning

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8043-2005Jan13.html

It was interesting to say the least. Sliding your feet across the floor…doesn’t sound like exercise, but it is. I’ll give the class another go – next week – I’ve already planned to meet Blackberry lady again so we’ll see.

*Took the inhaler just before the class and it was fine – I was able to breathe all the way through. 🙂