Sunday, September 28, 2008


It’s been a bad week for Britain’s banking industry. First we hear that HBOS is in trouble and being taken over and then the news that Bradford and Bingley are also experiencing difficulties. Bradford and Bingley have reassured their customers that their savings are secure, with deposits of up to £35,000 covered by the government-backed protection scheme. However it’s little comfort to the many thousands of the bank’s customers. After the collapse of Northern Rock earlier this year and the current bleak economic climate, one in ten Brits now say they don’t trust banks and think it’s safer to store their cash under the mattress!


Sales of root vegetables, particularly turnips have risen dramatically recently as cash-strapped Britons look for cheap and nutritious ways to feed their families. Turnips, swedes and parsnips have all become increasingly popular with British shoppers. Turnips were first grown in Europe over 2,000 years ago and were a prized vegetable to the Romans. They were particularly popular in wartime when food was rationed and they were seen as a cheap and cheerful vegetable, which was filling and readily available. However after the war, they had a certain amount of stigma attached to them with many Brits regarding them as peasant food. Their close relatives swedes and parsnips were seen as being much more sophisticated vegetables and became much more popular with shoppers. However all that looks set to change as some of Britain’s most famous chefs including Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith, use turnips, together with other root vegetables in their recipes. I enjoyed the BBC series Blackadder starring Rowan Atkinson in the title role. His trusty servant Baldrick loved turnips and gave them his seal of approval! Other popular root vegetables include carrots, potatoes, beetroots and sweet potatoes.

Root vegetables are also very easy to grow, even in the smallest garden and can be grown in large pots or containers. Getting children involved in helping to grow their own vegetables is always a good idea too. Most parents have an uphill struggle trying to persuade their children to eat vegetables. However many children are quite keen to eat vegetables they have grown themselves! Growing your own vegetables is a healthy and rewarding pastime for children and adults alike.

It’s funny how times and trends change. I always remember my grandparents cooking meals with root vegetables. As a child, I enjoyed swede and carrot mash, turnip mash and stews and soups containing a variety of root vegetables. Root vegetables taste as good today as they have always done. Packed with lots of vitamins and minerals, they are great winter warmers and particularly good for bulking out stews and casseroles. More importantly they also count towards your five fruit and vegetable a day target. I love honey glazed parsnips, a great accompaniment to so many dishes. Parsnip crisps are a great and healthy alternative to normal potato crisps sold in supermarkets for both children and adults alike. This recipe by Sophie Grigson is one of my favourites:-

Parsnip Crisps

Here’s a link to another great recipe which makes a tasty accompaniment to your favourite meat dish or an excellent and impressive main dish for vegetarians:-

Gratin of Carrots and Root Vegetables

Bon Appetit!


It’s 1st October next week and early Autumn but it feels more like Spring here with sunshine, blue skies and unseasonably warm weather. Met office forecasters say the good weather is set to continue and we’re all in for a warm, mild Winter. Let’s hope so. It’s certainly good news for all of us with rising gas and electricity prices making the cost of heating our homes increasingly more expensive.

I was interested to hear that Britain’s chimney sweeps (who are mostly only found at weddings nowadays as a sign of good luck!) are making a comeback. It seems that more and more Britons are cleaning out their chimneys and fireplaces in readiness for burning coal and wood fires as a cheaper way to heat their homes. I grew up in a house with no central heating and a coal burning fire. My parents had a fire guard in front of it, so it was quite safe for us as children. Sometimes central heating isn’t always a good thing. I certainly don’t remember getting quite as many colds then as I do now. Certainly every time the central heating goes on at the start of Winter, I always get a sore throat. I always associate the sight of a warm burning coal or log fire with home. There’s nothing like it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Identity theft is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the U.K. and costs the country an estimated £1.3billion a year. It is now more important than ever to check your credit score and monitor your credit report regularly to check for any suspicious activity. Monitoring your credit report definitely enhances card fraud detection. Most identity thieves not only steal their victim’s identity but also steal money from financial organisations by impersonating their victims and opening accounts in their name. The effects of this can wreck your credit file and have a significant impact on your life. Fraudsters usually rely on the fact that their victims will be too busy to check their credit report or realise that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, everyone has a legal right to credit score disputing if they discover fraudulent activity or accounts that have been opened by somebody else in their name.

You may think that identity theft is something that can never happen to you. However it seems that criminals are increasingly targeting people’s identities with at least one in ten of us falling victim. Prevention is definitely better than cure in the case of identity fraud as the mess it creates can be horrendous. Don’t let it happen to you!


Britons have always been renowned for being a nation of tea drinkers (although many people here do drink coffee too and some prefer it to tea!) However it’s hard to believe that we get through over a staggering 33 billion cups of tea every year. Wow! Certainly the credit crunch seems to be doing little to diminish Britons’ tea consumption, if anything we as a nation are probably drinking more cups of tea than ever. People often reach for a cup of tea as a pick me up or to cheer them up in times of crisis. A cup of tea has become almost like a national icon to many people in this country and is quite often referred to as “the best drink of the day”. Invented by accident by an American in 1908, British tea company Tetley saw the possible marketing potential of teabags a few years later and launched them as an alternative to leaf tea. They proved an instant hit with the British public. The company has never looked back since. Teabags can now be found in virtually every home in Britain. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without them.

It’s also interesting to note that according to secret documents released recently, government officials in Whitehall were worried about a possible tea shortage in the event of a nuclear attack in the 1950’s! Apparently the documentation revealed that a nuclear attack would result in the loss of 75% of tea stocks and the tea supply situation could be “very serious”. Never mind the radiation then!

According to the results of a recent survey, tea has been named as Britain’s favourite hot drink. Coffee came in second place, with Britain’s coffee drinkers getting through 20 billion cups a year. I personally prefer tea to coffee and get through several cups a day. I particularly enjoy Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas as well as ordinary tea. I also enjoy fruit and herb teas too. Researchers have discovered that drinking tea is even better for you than drinking water. It contains antioxidants and doesn’t dehydrate you. Three or more cups of tea a day can cut the risk of heart attacks whilst other benefits include bone strengthening and protection against dental plaque, one of the main causes of tooth decay. All the more reason to have a nice cup of tea!


Harry Potter author JK Rowling has been honoured by the Scottish city where she first created the adventures of the famous boy wizard. JK Rowling penned many of the early stories about Harry whilst sitting in cafes around Edinburgh. Since then the boy wizard has become phenomenally successful the world over with book sales of over 400 million. The stories have also been translated into 67 languages.

JK Rowling has now received the prestigious Edinburgh award for her efforts. A judging panel consisting of members from the arts, science and business worlds unanimously voted her the 2008 winner, saying that her literary achievements have helped to put the Scottish city on the map. After receiving the award at a special ceremony in Edinburgh, JK Rowling said it was an “absolute honour” and she considered Edinburgh to be “home”. Rebus series creator and writer Ian Rankin won the prestigious award last year.

Meanwhile JK Rowling has just donated £1million to the Labour party, mainly because she believes in the party’s record on child poverty. JK Rowling stated that she believed that poor and vulnerable families would fare much better under Labour than under a Cameron-led Conservative party. The writer was herself a single mum, living on benefits when she wrote the first book about the boy wizard’s adventures. JK Rowling is a personal friend of Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah. No doubt Mr Brown will use some of the money to try and improve his public image as his popularity and that of the Labour party has now sank to an all-time low. Poor Gordon, as the British public struggle to cope with rising energy and food bills and the threat of job losses, JK Rowling must be his only friend in this country.


Most Britons, including myself, are sick of having to pay inflated prices for dental treatment, so many welcomed the recent arrival in Britain of a group of Hungarian dentists. Complete with inflatable surgery tent, at first glance they might have been mistaken for being part of a travelling circus! The dentists have been busy touring some of Britain’s cities in an effort to encourage people to have dental treatment in Hungary rather than here. Hungary is currently known as the dental capital of Europe, with treatments costing about a third of what they do in Britain. The reason for the tour was to enable Brits to meet the dentists face to face, get prices for any treatments and get answers to any questions they may have. Apparently even with the cost of airfare and accommodation in Hungary, dental treatments over there are still considerably less than patients would pay over here. With the current state of NHS dentistry, dental tourism is growing in popularity and more and more Brits are choosing to travel to Hungary and other Eastern European countries for cheaper and better dental treatment. One Hungarian dentist remarked that he used to see mainly American and Canadian patients but was currently seeing increasing numbers of British patients too.

According to the results of a study done earlier this year as part of National Smile Month, it seems that one in four Brits are too embarrassed to smile in photos due to bad teeth. It’s not surprising many Brits have bad teeth as trying to find an NHS dentist in most areas of the country is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You hear so many horror stories nowadays about many people using “DIY dentistry”, as they are unable to find an NHS dentist to treat them and unable to pay the very high fees charged by private dentists. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that one man had actually used superglue to fix a damaged crown on his front tooth. Unbelievable!

On another note a Manchester supermarket has just launched the first in-store walk-in dental surgery as part of a pilot scheme. The dental surgery, open seven days a week like the supermarket, will offer checkups and treatments to shoppers at reasonable, affordable prices for everyone. It will certainly make dental treatment much more accessible to people. I know so many of us are much busier than we used to be. Everyone (myself included!) is all working longer hours and consequently people have a lot less time on their hands! Most people prefer to buy everything they need in a once a week visit to the supermarket anyway, rather than going to several different shops to buy things. So why not add a visit to the dentist onto the weekly shopping list as well! Sounds like a great idea to me. It has certainly proved very popular with shoppers and the new supermarket surgery was swamped with patients eager to register on its first day of opening. If the scheme proves popular, we may see more dentists popping up in other branches of supermarkets around the country.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Prince Harry has been named the coolest young Royal in a recent poll. Harry, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Monday beat his cousins Princess Beatrice, Eugenie and Zara Philips to the coveted title. A Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royals, Prince Harry was deeply disappointed when he was told he wouldn’t be going to Iraq and considered leaving the army. However he decided to stay after being given a chance to fulfil a long held ambition earlier this year by serving on the front line in Afghanistan. Harry was bitterly disappointed when the Ministry of Defence took the decision to bring him home for his own safety and that of his fellow troops, after a website revealed his whereabouts making him a prime target for the Taliban.

Prince Harry who is third in line to the throne, spent part of the summer in Lesotho helping to refurbish a school for special needs children in connection with his Africa based charity Sentebale. Prince Harry launched Sentebale which means “Forget Me Not”, an Aids charity a couple of years ago in his late mother’s name. Prince Harry is definitely a chip off the old block. He is his mother’s son and we’ll never forget Diana, the people’s Princess, whilst Prince Harry follows in her footsteps and continues with the wonderful and charitable work that she started. Diana would have been so proud of Harry and his brother William.


These cash-strapped times have done nothing to diminish Britain’s love affair with curry. The average Briton spends £10 a week on curry and will probably spend a whopping £25,000 on it by retirement. Wow! It seems that men tend to prefer hotter curries like Madras and Vindaloo, whilst women tend to go for milder dishes like Korma. However by far the most popular Indian curry in this country is Chicken Tikka Masala. I enjoy Indian food myself and my favourite dish is Chicken Tikka Masala. I also enjoy a Chicken Pasanda dish too. I find Korma a bit too mild and prefer a medium, sweeter curry with fruits, almonds and spices. Accompanied by my favourite mushroom pilau rice, it’s a real treat. Chicken Tikka Masala started life in a New Delhi restaurant in October 1947. It proved an instant hit, when the first Indian restaurants opened in Britain in the 1950’s and became the U.K.’s No. 1 dish in 2001.

Britons have always been known as a nation of curry lovers, with curry being one of the U.K.’s most popular dishes. It’s also interesting to note that new research reveals that eating curry could help in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Scientists recently discovered that a chemical called curcumin, found in curry and turmeric can help the body fight the disease. Curcumin helps the immune system to clear the brain of a waste product which is crucial in the development of Alzheimer's. As a curry lover myself, it’s good to know that something you enjoy has health giving properties too. It seems that one in two Britons enjoy cooking a curry meal at home at least once a week. If you would like to have a go, click on the link below to a delicious recipe by Roopa Gulati, courtesy of UKTV Food. Bon Appetit!

Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe


It seems that the humble tea break is the latest victim of the credit crunch according to the results of a recent survey of workplace habits. One in five British office workers are choosing to forfeit their tea breaks as they live in constant fear of losing their jobs. Instead they are choosing to remain at their desks as they work in more pressurised office environments. Apparently human resources departments are currently the worst affected. However the recession doesn’t seem to have affected hairdressers, who have now overtaken builders to become Britain’s no. 1 tea break takers!


British school children could soon be eating their school dinners off china plates if new government plans go ahead. It’s all part of a new initiative to encourage more secondary school pupils to take school dinners. Education minister Ed Balls has urged schools to offer a better restaurant style service to pupils. He suggested that school dinners should be served to pupils on china plates rather than the “prison style” trays that are currently used and they should also be given proper cutlery. Mr Balls would like to see school children treated like paying customers in a restaurant and is eager to make their dining experience more healthy and enjoyable.

In the future school meals will have to meet stringently high nutritional standards and provide guaranteed minimum levels of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They will also have to ensure that they don’t have a high salt, sugar or fat content. Schools which fail to meet the high standards required will be reported to local authorities. Future plans include staggered lunch break periods so that children who have just moved up to secondary school won’t feel intimidated eating meals in the same dining room as much older children. In addition children may soon be able to order their school meals on-line. The plans sound great in theory and if they get children staying at school and eating healthier meals, rather than going out at lunchtimes and eating chips and junk food, that’s great. The china plates and nice cutlery idea may encourage children to develop good table manners too, which is another plus factor.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


According to the results of a recent insurance company survey, many Brits are not at all worried about the ongoing global credit crunch with the majority saying that it was unlikely to affect either them or their lifestyles. Nearly 50% of people said they would not be cutting back on their spending. Not surprising really as Britain is known as the credit capital of Europe. Brits have twice as many credit cards as their European neighbours, with the average Brit carrying 1.4 credit cards. With the rising cost of living and the current economic climate, people enjoy the flexibility of being able to pay over a long period of time for goods and services.

Many Brits including myself can’t imagine life without a credit card. With the current economic climate, it is more important than ever to find the best credit card rates. More and more people are transferring balances from one card to another, to take advantage of 0% and other great low rate deals to ensure they pay as little interest as possible.

However there are so many different credit card deals on offer out there, it’s always important to compare the various different cards and deals available. Apply for Best features some of the best 0% and low APR credit card deals on the internet and has many different types of cards available to suit your individual requirements, spending style and credit score, allowing you to compare credit card suppliers quickly and easily online, to find the best deals available.

There has never been a better time to take advantage of some of the great card deals out there. As the credit crunch bites, we have all become more choosey about our cards and want the best deals and rewards for our money to make shopping even more enjoyable.

So what are you waiting for log onto Apply for Best today and get yourself a great credit card deal now.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


A giant mechanical spider has gone on the rampage in Liverpool this week! The spider better known as La Princesse, is a giant mechanical sculpture created by French company La Machine as part of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture celebrations. Made of steel and wood, the giant arachnid has a sophisticated hydraulics system which allows engineers strapped to its frame to operate its legs, eyes and abdomen. The 37 ton creature can reach a top speed of 2mph on its articulated steel legs. The creature began by being suspended from the concourse building near to Lime Street Station. It appeared almost overnight shocking commuters who walked or drove past it the following day.

Thousands of people lined the streets to see the giant spider, the star attraction at the La Machine Extravaganza held in Liverpool this weekend. La Princesse is now going walkabout around the city over the next three days, before disappearing down the Mersey Tunnel! I personally think the giant creature looks quite scary. Looking at the photos and tv coverage, it reminded me of one of the creatures from the scifi movie War of the Worlds! Whilst it is an awesome sight, I’m sure it will strike fear into the hearts of those of a nervous disposition like myself who are scared of spiders! I’ve always been afraid of spiders so as you can imagine I stayed away from Liverpool this week and won’t be going back until I’m sure that spider is well out of the way!


Baked beans have always been a popular store cupboard staple for many British families. But sales of Britain’s favourite beans have soared recently as hard up families ditch more expensive fare in favour of cheaper, more filling alternatives. For the first time sales have now topped a staggering £300million a year! Wow! Love them or hate them baked beans are a big part of British culture like fish and chips, HP sauce and Cadbury’s chocolate. Most of us have enjoyed beans on toast as children and have grown up to still love them as adults. Baked beans are certainly a cheap and enjoyable source of protein and fibre for children and adults alike. They give the perfect combination of amino acids when served on toast or with cheese. Many people including myself still see them as comfort food. Certainly for me there is nothing more comforting than fish fingers and beans or beans on toast after a bad day at work! Eating fish fingers or any kind of fish with anything else but baked beans just doesn’t taste quite the same.

Baked beans first hit our shores in 1886. They were imported from Canada until 1928 when Heinz produced the first British made beans. The company now produces 1.5 million cans a day. Britons certainly love their beans! They are now more popular than ever with the credit crunch bringing the wind of change to many people’s diets! Beans on toast is still the healthiest meal it’s always been; high in fibre and low in fat. Baked beans also count towards your recommended daily intake of five fruit and vegetables per day. Here’s one of the best beans on toast recipes I’ve come across.

Warm some baked beans in a pan, whilst toasting a thick slice of nutty brown bread. Melt some grated cheese on top of the beans and add a dash of Worcestershire sauce on top. Pile the beans on top of the buttered bread and top it off with a fried egg. Delicious!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, September 01, 2008


As some of you know I'm very interested in tracing my family tree and it's definitely something I'm hoping to do in the future. I'd like to share with you a rare and treasured photograph of my great-grandparents. It's hard to believe but this particular photo is over a hundred years old! It's actually a tin photo and extremely rare. I’ve used my scanner and some photo software to bring it up a little bit. The photo was given to me by my mother and shows her maternal grandparents, Mary (who liked to be known as Polly to her friends and family) and John. I was always told that Mary was a stunning and beautiful woman and she and John certainly make quite a striking couple. As you can see from this photo, John cuts quite a dash in his smart suit and bowler hat, whilst Mary is the epitome of style, beauty and elegance in her lovely dress and hat. This photo was actually taken at a wedding. However in those days, unlike today it was quite fashionable for both men and women to wear hats whether it was a special occasion or not. In years gone by hats were a lot more popular than they are today. Women of my great-grandmother’s generation would always wear a hat to church or synagogue, as well as wearing one on many other occasions too. Whilst men would regularly be seen wearing their bowler hats.

The bowler hat is a traditional symbol of Britishness. In years gone by, in the old movies, British men were always seen wearing bowler hats. They gained their name because of their shape (like a bowl) and also because they were made by a hatmaker called William Bowler. Not a lot of people know that. Many famous Britons wore them, including Patrick McNee (better known as the archetypical English spy John Steed from the New Avengers), Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (the Brit born half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo). Even today bowler hats are frequently seen being worn on the streets of London, part of the city gent’s unofficial uniform, often teamed with a black rolled umbrella.

My great-grandparents Polly and John had 12 children. Big families were the norm in those days. Polly whose maiden name was Mulvee, lived to the ripe old age of 94. Her father was Irish and brought his family over to England during the potato famine. This is where I trace my Irish ancestry from.

I'm submitting this post to the 5th edition of Smile for the Camera – A Carnival of Images being hosted by my cyberfriend FootnoteMaven over at her blog Shades of the Departed

For this particular carnival our hostess has requested that you should submit a photo, perhaps of a relative, ancestor or even yourself that epitomises the words, “Crowning Glory”. I personally believe that this photo of my great-grandparents in their smart hats perfectly sums up that expression. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting some members of my family.

You can find out more details of this carnival by following the link shown below:-

Smile for the Camera – A Carnival of Images

I look forward to seeing you there!


You may think that identity theft is something that can never happen to you. However it seems that criminals are increasingly targeting people’s identities with at least one in ten of us falling victim to identity fraud. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the U.K. and costs the country an estimated £1.3billion a year. Most identity thieves not only steal their victim’s identity but also steal money from financial organisations by impersonating their victims. The effects of this can wreck your credit file and have a significant impact on your life. You may be refused credit cards or a loan if someone is running up bad credit in your name. Also mortgage lenders may not offer you a mortgage if you have a poor credit rating.

Don’t let it happen to you! Prevention is definitely better than cure in the case of identity fraud as the mess it creates can be horrendous. It is more important than ever to check your credit score and monitor your credit report regularly to check for any suspicious activity. Monitoring your credit report definitely enhances card fraud detection. is the ideal site to do this. You can get your credit score online and avoid embarrassing refusals when applying for loans, mortgages or credit cards, whilst also checking for fraudulent activity at the same time. You can also use the site to review articles on credit cards and get instructions on how to create a good credit history or how to improve a bad rating. The site also offers fraud prevention services, including identity theft insurance, essential in this day and age.

A recent survey revealed that many Britons don’t check their bank accounts or statements on a regular basis to spot identity fraud. The main reasons for this are they are afraid of seeing how far in the red they are or just forget to check due to lack of time. In fact only 14 per cent of Britons would notice if a £1,000 went missing from their account, whilst eight out of ten Britons wouldn’t notice. Frightening news and this plays right into the hands of fraudsters. You owe it to yourself and your security to always check bank and building society statements regularly. This is obviously now more important than ever nowadays when fraud and identity theft are rife.