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Oriental Palace revisited

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There were three of us this time around so we managed to try more dishes than last time. Never afraid to repeat ourselves, we started off with the excellent Dim Sum selection and Butterfly King Prawns this time with Curry Triangles, which were like small vegetable samosas and came with a curry sauce to dip them in.

We continued the familiarity theme with a repeat of the Jill Yuen chicken, which is battered pieces of chicken served with onions and chilli. The Crispy duck was also excellent.

The main course featured Noodles and beansprouts, and Sizzling Chicken with ginger. We felt like we still had some room left so had a second helping which included Pork and mushrooms and Egg fried rice. We would have managed ok if they hadn't brought us a double portion of rice.

Stratford upon Avon

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It was a stroke of luck that we chose to go to Stratford during the Shakespeare birthday celebrations. We were only in town for a few hours and what we saw was slightly disappointing. There was country dancing and morris dancing in the road outside the Birthplace. There was also a parade through the town in the afternoon which consisted of a few bands and people wearing suits with a small number of people in period costume.

Our main reason for going was to visit the Shakespeare Houses, 5 properties in and around the town with various connections to the man. We started off at the Birthplace and finished at Mary Arden's House (which was possibly the most interesting, being the largest of the attractions with two houses and various farm buildings to visit).


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Q: When does 'any' not mean 'any'?

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A: When you are Adsa.

A couple of days ago we bought 2 packs of turkey from the fridge in our local Asda. Both packs were in the same fridge and had identical stickers on saying 'BUY ANY 2 FOR £4' even though they were slightly different prices. When we got home we noticed that the 'multibuy' discount hadn't been applied so we took them back to complain.

The person on the customer services counter and a supervisor both tried to convince us that the offer only applied if we bought 2 identical packs. One pack happened to be 'normal' turkey whilst the other was their healthy range. We tried to explain that the word 'any' meant we should have been allowed to do what we did.

The dictionary at answers.com includes the definition: one or some or every or all without specification. For some reason the people at Asda seemed to be using their own definition and tried to convince us that 'any' meant 'only from the identical range of produce'.

Power Cut

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Shortly before lunch, the lights went out, all the computers switched off and the entire office went silent for a few seconds. The electricity had gone off.

There was a rush to the kitchen as people wanted to make hot drinks before the water heater emptied or cooled down but after a minute the power came back on and all the computers re-booted.

We could log on to the computers but not the network server so at the moment we have no access to files or emails. Thankfully we still have Internet access so I'm posting this during what may turn out to be an extended lunch break...

Anzac Day

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To commemmorate Anzac Day, one of our Australian colleagues in work always brings in a tub of home made Anzac Biscuits.

The biscuits are based on the long-lasting ones sent to the soldiers in the First World War.

Curry flavoured hamsters

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Our roborovski hamsters smell of curry. We bought some fenugreek flavoured biscuits from Pets at Home and they seem to enjoy them. The only side effect seems to be the smell!

Turn your ****** phone off

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There must have been one very embarrassed person listening to the Birmingham Philharmonic. During a short silence in the middle of a piece of music (possibly Gershwin's American in Paris) the familiar beeps of the Nokia 'SMS' ringtone could be clearly heard.

Gardeners Question Time

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I couldn't find any decent music on the radio so I carried on moving through the stations and ended up on Radio 4 listening to Gardeners Question Time. Normally I wouldn't listen to it but as we've decided to do something with our back garden, I took an interest.

One of the subjects covered was growing parsley. Apparently the reason why curley parsley is sold more than 'flat leaf' is to avoid confusion with the poisonous 'fools parsley' which looks identical to the flat stuff...
This was relevent to us because at the weekend we bought a couple of troughs and some pots of herbs to start off our 'garden'. Apart from a small patch of gravel near the back fence, our entire garden consists of flagstones. We've decided to concentrate on edible plants rather than flowers or other merely 'decoratives' so we started with herbs and intend to plant some vegetables soon. Of course with no actual 'garden' we will have to keep things in tubs which will limit us to smaller plants but that still gives us plenty of options.

Sea of Souls

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The BBC's supernatural series has returned for a one-off special. The show stars Bill Patterson as a paranormal researcher in a Scottish university (possibly based on or inspired by the The Koestler Parapsychology Unit at Edinburgh).

Tonights episode was part one of a story based around the spooky happenings in a scottish manor house which has been bought by a couple who want to convert it into a hotel. The resident 'ghosts' have a different idea and try to convince them to leave, by intimidating the wife and frightning off the builders.

The house seems to have been the scottish base of an occult organisation called the Golden Dawn (who really existed and counted Aleister Crowley as a member at one time).

This lookes likely to be one of the better episodes, resembling a dramatised issue of Fortean Times magazine. I must remember to watch the conclusion on thursday.

Bad news for the Bacon Sandwich

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The tastiest foods always seem to be the worst for you. Now there's another reason why bacon and other cured meats are bad - nitrites used in the preserving process can lead to an increase in lung disease.

I really like the occasional bacon sandwich but my bacon, ham and salami consumption has dropped in the last few years. I think i'll stick to chicken from now on...

Oriental Palace

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Location: London Road, near junction 4 of the ring road.

We've driven past this place lots of times and noticed the banner on the outside of the building advertising their 'eat as much as you can' evening menu. Unlike most other 'all you can eat' places this isn't a buffet. Instead you get to choose from the menu and eat as many different dishes from each course as you can. The only other place I've been to where they do this was restaurant called Raffles in Chester. Although you have to wait a bit for each course, it does mean that all the food is freshly cooked unlike at buffet restaurants where it may have been sitting in the hot trays for an hour or more.

We started with the Appetisers and chose the Dim Sum selection and some battered King Prawns. Servings were generous and the food was very tasty (although slightly salty as is often the case with oriental food in restaurants). We ordered a bottle of the House Dry White wine which started off tasting very dry but the combination of salty and spicy food left it tasting slightly sweeter as the meal went on. It went well with the food.

For the next course we had Chicken Satay Skewers and a type of crispy battered chicken. Moving on to the main course we had Sizzling chicken in wine and garlic sauce, King Prawn Thai Green Curry and Noodles & Beansprouts. After that we were nicely full so felt no need to try more dishes. I think we'll be back again to sample more of the menu. The food was excellent and was good value at £12.95 (costs £1 more thursday to saturday).

Podge and Peanut Butter

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Food isn't safe when Podge is around. It didn't take him long to find the peanut butter sandwich I made for my breakfast.

Theo eating peanut butter Theo eating peanut butter

Coventry Beer Festival

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The Camra-run beer festival is back. I had forgotten it was this weekend but I'd already booked today off work so we managed to go to the lunchtime session.

There were a few locally themed beers brewed specially for the festival:
Duckfat Bradshaw is named after a local youth hanged for a murder committed in the nearby Malt Shovel pub in 1821.
Fallen Arches commemorates the occasion in 1857 when the railway arches collapsed.

The festival is being held at the Butts Park Arena rugby stadium again. Last year we lived within walking distance of the venue but unfortunately our new house means a bus ride across the city first. It wasn't enough to put us off.

Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007

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It's always a bit sad to read about the death of someone if you were a fan of their work. I read a lot of Vonnegut's books while I was in my 20s, starting with The Sirens of Titan. His most famous book, Slaughterhouse 5, was inspired by his experience of the fire-bombing of Dresden and is usually mentioned alongside Catch 22 as one of the greatest anti-war novels.

Thame Country Show

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Our reason for going was the Hamster show. We arrived early because we counted as 'exhibitors' so had to arrive before the show opened to the public. We had plenty of time to wander around and see what else was going on though. Unfortunately we also had to wait until the end before we could leave so it was quite a long day.

It was worth it though because Hank and Peggy won in the 'novice' section, although it was a bit of a cheat because they were the only two in it. Hank did come third in the 'dwarf sapphire' section though. We also brought Psyche along to enter into the 'pets' category. He came second - we're sure he lost marks because he was reluctant to come out of his 'nest' for the judge.

Thame country show
Chainsaw carving - this was very impressive. It was a while before we managed to work out what he was making - it was an eagle in flight.

Thame country showThame country show

They had ferrets and ferret racing.

Thame country show And pig racing.

Thame country show
And a sheepdog rounding up ducks.

Easter Sunday

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Old Cathedral reflected in the New Cathedral
We had Ann and Nigel pop round to visit us today. We cooked a roast chicken dinner followed by a really unhealthy chocolate biscuit cake so we decided to go for a walk into the town centre.

It was really warm and we had a good walk around some of the historic parts of the city centre and the old cathedral, with a quick stop for a pint in Wetherspoons.

The photo on the right shows the old cathedral reflected in the entrance of the new cathedral.

The photo below shows Emma and Ann next to the waterfall in Priory Place. There was someone asleep on a bench (at least I hope they were asleep) - I didn't realise they were on the photo when I took it.

Waterfall in Priory Place

Dr Who sent to Coventry

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Tonight's episode of Dr Who had the Doctor and his new assistant travelling back in time to Elizabethan London and meeting Shakespeare. Part of the episode was actually filmed in Coventry and made the local news at the time.

The episode featured Shakespeare, Witches, Alien Monsters, the usual mix of nonsense which we've come to expect from the programme.

What does it mean when you see 8 Magpies?

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I saw 8 magpies on my way to work this morning, all within the space of about a minute. The standard magpie rhymes only go up to 7.

They weren't all together but were in small groups along the same stretch of railway line. This was slightly spooky because I was listening to last nights Mark Radcliffe show which I recorded from Radio 2 (last ever show tomorrow night although he's returning soon with a new show co-hosted with Stuart Maconie). On the show, Mark was discussing Magpies with Rick Wakeman and they were debating whether you have to see them all at once or whether you're allowed to add up magpie numbers.

House Drinking Game

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We were watching an episode of House on DVD when it occurred to me that it would be an ideal programme for a drinking game. There are many phrases and themes which recur repeatedly during a series so it would be fairly straightforward to compile a list of them.

A few which came to mind from the one episode we watched tonight were:

  • House takes a Vicodin
  • House asks for a Differential Diagnosis
  • Someone suggests Cancer
  • Someone suggests Lupus
  • They stick a needle in someones eye
  • A patient gets worse when they start a treatment
  • A patient lies about taking drugs
  • They suspect ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease)

These are only a few initial ideas - the list could and should be expanded.

Pudding Pizza

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Last weekend we bought a book of Pizza recipes from the National Trust 2nd hand book shops. We're going to work our way through some of the different dough and topping types but we've been impressed so far. We'd already made several dessert pizzas and calzone using our normal pizza base but the book had a recipe for a sweet base so we decided to try that.

Sweet Pizza Base

The book was published in the USA so uses cups rather than weights. Conversions can be found here.

  • 1 teaspoon of bakers yeast

  • 2 cups of plain white or bread flour

  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

  • ¼ teaspoon of salt

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 egg

  • ½ cup warm milk

Follow the standard pizza method to make the dough. The pizza can be topped as normal or folded over to make a calzone.

Suggested Toppings

  • Mincemeat - this makes a very good 'mince pie calzone'

  • Summer fruits or berries - stewed with sugar to taste and a little cornflour to thicken

  • Marshmallows and chocolate chunks

Measuring Cups - weight conversions

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Measuring cups and their volume, along with the equivalent weights - these are only applicable for general purpose white flour or granulated sugar.

Cups ml Oz Grams
1 236 4 110
½ 118 2 55
1/3 79 40
¼ 59 1 30

Other conversions

These may be found in various American recipes.

  • 1 cup is 8 fluid ounces of liquid or solid
  • 1 stick of butter is the same as 1 cup (i.e. 4oz or 110g)