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I've always had an appreciation for photography and those shots you see in glossy mags and for me in particular EVO car magazine. Sadly up until now that is where it stopped for me, I appreciate the end result but never delved into the world of Photography.  Things have just changed however as I collected my first DSLR yesterday! Well, not exactly a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera, but a new Digital Single Lens Translucent (SLT) in the shape of the much raved about Sony Alpha A35. I won't go into detail as would not be qualified to do so, but the very helpful chap at my local independent ca...
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It's that time of year again when those who are wired in a certain way are thinking about ski holidays!  I for one would much sooner spend a week wrapped up in ski clobber splashing around in the powder snow and breathing the fresh mountain air than sat around a pool somewhere melting in the heat (my wife on the other hand has a slightly different outlook on these things...).  The truth of the matter is however that I have not made it to the slopes for the last 4 years as time has always been the enemy.  Summer holidays have ruled the roost under our roof, however not your average summer ho...
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I’m in Cyprus at the moment enjoying a bit of down time and needed to bring some good reading material to help me get away from it all.  I’m not a huge reader myself, unlike my wife who being an English teacher always has her head in a book.  I am quite envious and when I do pick up a good book it’s far more rewarding than watching the TV.  I often find that I don’t have the time when at home and so my reading days are numbered usually to those when I am away. I picked up a copy of Jenson Buttons autobiography – A Championship Year, being a keen motorsport fan and enjoying the ...
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Step one – Throw away any Pizza Hut, Domino’s or similar takeaway menu’s you have.  If you want a real Pizza and are not either in Italy or your local Italian restaurant then making your own pizza is simple and I can guarantee you’ll never go back!  You’ll walk past the frozen pizza aisle in the supermarket with a smug grin on your face. Pizza really is one of the simplest recipes that deliver the best results and anyone can do this from home.  It’s dead easy to make your pizza dough or you can simply buy a pack of ‘pizza dough’ and simply add water.  I’ll show you...
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It’s an interesting argument and very subjective topic, a bit of a taboo subject really.  I’m new to personal blogging and want to generate a community of readers that might be interested in what I have to say.  I won’t write pointless blogs and have no commercial agenda to adhere to, so my blogs will be just that, my blogs.  If it interests me and I think it could interest my readers, I’ll write about it.  I’m sure many of my blogs will not interest everyone, but you might find that the odd one is right up your street. I want my readers / followers to feel valued and to be ho...
Dec

05

I’ve always had an appreciation for photography and those shots you see in glossy mags and for me in particular EVO car magazine. Sadly up until now that is where it stopped for me, I appreciate the end result but never delved into the world of Photography.  Things have just changed however as I collected my first DSLR yesterday! Well, not exactly a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera, but a new Digital Single Lens Translucent (SLT) in the shape of the much raved about Sony Alpha A35. I won’t go into detail as would not be qualified to do so, but the very helpful chap at my local independent camera store assured me that the A35 is a fantastic camera, packed with features and more than a match for the ‘have-a-go’ photographer that I claimed to be.

Having arrived at the shop and asked for his best deal on the Nikon D3100 and having already discounted the Canon 1100D, then to walk out with a Sony, came as something of a shock.  You may have gathered that I can’t compare or comment on the others, but took the advice of someone ‘in the know’.  Not only I am confident I have the best in class camera, it was also very refreshing to learn that Sony have an exclusive  agreement with independent retailers such as Bristol Cameras where they can be assured of competitive pricing in the market, taking on the likes of Tesco, Jessops, Argos etc and beating them on price. Local service with real people serving real customers and the best price I could find anywhere online. Win win.

Anyway, having had a quick play with the A35 last night, the early signs are as expected.  There is no comparison between a compact ‘point and push’ and a ‘proper’ camera.  For an aspiring photographer such as myself, the Sony A35 appears to offer everything I could ever need and more.  The best function I have found so far is a toss up between the 7 frame per second ‘burst’ shooting or the Panorama facility. Catch action with up to 7 frames per second, or stand still and ‘sweep’ taking multiple shots of the horizon and the little A35 will compile a nice panoramic automatically, saving hours of photoshop ‘cut and pasting’.

You probably want some sample pics, for now I am getting to grips and haven’t downloaded any yet but I’ll be sure to get some up soon. Now what can I photograph to show off my new toy?!

Nov

21

It’s that time of year again when those who are wired in a certain way are thinking about ski holidays!  I for one would much sooner spend a week wrapped up in ski clobber splashing around in the powder snow and breathing the fresh mountain air than sat around a pool somewhere melting in the heat (my wife on the other hand has a slightly different outlook on these things…).  The truth of the matter is however that I have not made it to the slopes for the last 4 years as time has always been the enemy.  Summer holidays have ruled the roost under our roof, however not your average summer holiday!

Mountain

This summer (2011) we finally got around to the European road trip that I have been planning for some time. The irony being that we drove our convertible through the heart of the Alps with any number of Europe’s famous ski resorts within a few miles.  Stopping off in France, Italy and Switzerland we toured the mountain roads that 6 months later would lead you to the ski resorts, this time around however, we basked in the mid day sun, roof down and enjoyed winding (and thankfully dry) ribbons of tarmac, in my opinion some of the best roads in the world, certainly the best I have ever driven!

Take the Petit St. Bernard for example, running from Bourg St. Maurice to La Thuile, a better driving road you will struggle to find.  Until that is, you cross a few borders and stumble on the Stelvo Pass in Italy! There is plenty of information out there about the Stelvio Pass and any words I can say here simply won’t do it justice, the best thing I can say about it is, just go and drive it.  You don’t have to trek down from the UK (1500 mile round trip from Calais), you can just get a cheap flight to Milan or Verona, hire a car for a few days and drive the few hundred miles there and back.

So, whilst I may not have seen the mountains covered in snow for a while, I have seen the mountains, albeit in the slightly different light.

Aug

02

I’m in Cyprus at the moment enjoying a bit of down time and needed to bring some good reading material to help me get away from it all.  I’m not a huge reader myself, unlike my wife who being an English teacher always has her head in a book.  I am quite envious and when I do pick up a good book it’s far more rewarding than watching the TV.  I often find that I don’t have the time when at home and so my reading days are numbered usually to those when I am away.

I picked up a copy of Jenson Buttons autobiography – A Championship Year, being a keen motorsport fan and enjoying the 2009 F1 season this seemed a good choice.  I also find a good autobiography easier to get into than a fiction novel, perhaps I’m just nosey!

So the book – it was an interesting read and I got through it pretty quick, only took a few days lounging by the pool and 5-6 sittings, so it could not of been that bad!  I guess I was a little surprised at the ‘angle’ of the book and expected a bit more about the man himself, instead, barring the first chapter, the book was just a re-run of the entire F1 season from Jenson’s perspective.  It was interesting to see each race from the then Brawn GP team and Drivers perspective, but after 4-5 races the format was starting to get a little tedious.

Having followed the season and the headlines, I knew that Jenson won 6 of the first 7 races so this stage of the book was a little repetitive, the more interesting parts were of course where controversy set in. With Jenson and the Brawn GP team unable to pick up any significant points in the mid – later part of the season, the reasons why the rest of the field caught up and posed a threat to what appeared a ‘dead cert’ for the championship was interesting.  The ‘needle’ that surrounded the team and in-house competition from his team mate Ruben Barrichello also made for an interesting read although often all too short.

There was of course no twist or surprise ending, but of course I knew that, however the book did run out of puff pretty quickly once the final race synopsis was out of the way.  Overall, an interesting read, maybe better to come back to in a few years when the memories are not so fresh in the mind, as is more of a synopsis of the 2009 Formula 1 season, than an autobiography from Jenson Button.   Perhaps I’ll need to read – Jenson Button – ‘My Life on the Formula One Rollercoaster’ to get a bit more insight into the man and not just that one spectacular season!

My rating – 3/5 (although only for the petrolheads – my wife would hate it!)

I’m in Cyprus at the moment enjoying a bit of down time and needed to bring some good reading material to help me get away from it all. I’m not a huge reader myself, unlike my wife who being an English teacher always has her head in a book. I am quite envious and when I do pick up a good book it’s far more rewarding than watching the TV. I often find that I don’t have the time when at home and so my reading days are numbered usually to those when I am away.

I picked up a copy of Jenson Buttons autobiography – A Championship Year, being a keen motorsport fan and enjoying the 2009 F1 season this seemed a good choice. I also find a good autobiography easier to get into than a fiction novel, perhaps I’m just nosey!

So the book – it was an interesting read and I got through it pretty quick, only took a few days lounging by the pool and 5-6 sittings, so it could not of been that bad! I guess I was a little surprised at the ‘angle’ of the book and expected a bit more about the man himself, instead, barring the first chapter, the book was just a re-run of the entire F1 season from Jenson’s perspective. It was interesting to see each race from the then Brawn GP team and Drivers perspective, but after 4-5 races the format was starting to get a little tedious.

Having followed the season and the headlines, I knew that Jenson won 6 of the first 7 races so this stage of the book was a little repetitive, the more interesting parts were of course where controversy set in. With Jenson and the Brawn GP team unable to pick up any significant points in the mid – later part of the season, the reasons why the rest of the field caught up and posed a threat to what appeared a ‘dead cert’ for the championship was interesting. The ‘needle’ that surrounded the team and in-house competition from his team mate Ruben Barrichello also made for an interesting read although often all too short.

There was of course no twist or surprise ending, but of course I knew that, however the book did run out of puff pretty quickly once the final race synopsis was out of the way. Overall, an interesting read, maybe better to come back to in a few years when the memories are not so fresh in the mind, as is more of a synopsis of the 2009 Formula 1 season, than an autobiography from Jenson Button. Perhaps I’ll need to read – Jenson Button – ‘My Life on the Formula One Rollercoaster’ to get a bit more insight into the man and not just that one spectacular season!

My rating – 3/5 (although only for the petrolheads – my wife would hate it!)

Jul

31

Step one – Throw away any Pizza Hut, Domino’s or similar takeaway menu’s you have.  If you want a real Pizza and are not either in Italy or your local Italian restaurant then making your own pizza is simple and I can guarantee you’ll never go back!  You’ll walk past the frozen pizza aisle in the supermarket with a smug grin on your face.

Pizza really is one of the simplest recipes that deliver the best results and anyone can do this from home.  It’s dead easy to make your pizza dough or you can simply buy a pack of ‘pizza dough’ and simply add water.  I’ll show you how to make the dough here, as it really is a piece of cake (well bread really).

  • 500g Flour (00 is best, or strong white bread flower works just fine
  • 1tsp table salt
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 1tblspn olive oil
  • 325ml warm water
  • 1x7g yeast sachet

Sift the flour and salt onto a clean surface and make a well in the middle, add the water, sugar, oil and yeast to a jug and leave for a few minutes.  Add the water mixture to the well and carefully mix in the flour with a fork (go careful not to ‘breach’ the flour well or you’ll lose the water all over the table (as I did first time).  Mix all the ingredients together and kneed for a few minutes until smooth.  Leave in a floured bowl with a towel over for about an hour, or until the bread has doubled in size.  This will make 2 large or 3 medium pizza bases.  Simply break off a ‘ball’ and roll until about 12” diameter and nice and thin.  Be sure to keep lifting the dough and flouring so it does not stick.  Leave for about 10 minutes before you add the topping.

For the topping, the world really is your oyster, I always start with a tomato (passata works very well) sauce – not too much or it’ll go soggy, add mozzarella and then whatever you like.  A drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, then in the oven for about 10 minutes (250 deg or as hot as your oven will go).

I made some last night and had the luxury of a bread oven which was great we got the oven nice and hot, then pushed all the embers back and cooked on the stone base. I even made a wooden ‘paddle’ to get them in and out!  You can see a few more of my favourite pizza recipe ideas here.

Enjoy!

Jul

28

It’s an interesting argument and very subjective topic, a bit of a taboo subject really.  I’m new to personal blogging and want to generate a community of readers that might be interested in what I have to say.  I won’t write pointless blogs and have no commercial agenda to adhere to, so my blogs will be just that, my blogs.  If it interests me and I think it could interest my readers, I’ll write about it.  I’m sure many of my blogs will not interest everyone, but you might find that the odd one is right up your street.

I want my readers / followers to feel valued and to be honest, of the millions of blogs out there, if someone chooses to read and better still comment on my blog, why would I not want to thank them for it?  I don’t have time to go through and e-mail a thanks to all my readers and an ‘auto generate e-mail’ is about as personal as a speeding ticket.  I think the best way to say thanks is to allow the link juice to flow around the web and that’s why if you take the time to comment on any of my posts, I’ll allow the link to your website to follow.  I know there are millions of spammers out there who like to prey on the likes of me, but if you comment in a spammy way, I’ll simply remove your comment. It’s pretty easy really, so to all those spammers out there, don’t waste your time, because I will just delete you comments.  If you are responding on behalf of a business or a commercial entity, that’s fine, I really don’t mind and appreciate your interaction, but if it’s spammy, it’ll be in the bin!

So if you like what you read and want to comment, you can do in the knowledge that my way of saying thanks is to allow the link to follow from your comment.  My way of saying thanks to spammers is to remove their comment and waste more of their time than that of mine!

Happy blogging and please do let me know what you think!

Phil

Jul

28

Well the clue is in the name really, but I still felt the need to see how this is done and then give it a go myself.  After a quick bit of research, it seems that are a few ways in which this can be done, but I have looked at the alternatives and decided that the traditional ‘sun’ method is the one for me.  The other options I came across are;

  • Using a food dehydrator – although I decided that I wanted sun-dried tomatoes and not dehydrated tomatoes. I know this pretty much amounts to the same thing, but I am sure there is certain amount of flavour that is lost through such processes.
  • Using the oven – again, I want sun-dried, not oven dried tomatoes.  Although as I am currently in Cyprus, the sun is hot enough a few days basking on the sunshine should do the trick.  If you are in a cooler climate or don’t have regular sun, the oven will work for you, a low heat, (110-130 degrees) and an hour or so and you should have the same product at the end, although under the trades description act I’d be reluctant to call them ‘sun-dried’
  • Using the car – this is the odd ball that I came across, that uses the sun’s rays and heat, but magnifies it behind the glass of your car.  Basically prepare the tomatoes as normal and put the tray on the dashboard of your car facing the sun, the heat build up will speed up the process and if it’s hot enough, you’ll have sun dried tomatoes in a day!
  • Using the sun – theres a suprise!

As for the preparation, its pretty straight forward, get your tomatoes (home grown are best!), any variety will do although plum tomatoes seem favoured.  You want ripe tomatoes but not over ripe, nice and firm still.  Chop into quarters (length ways), remove the tough part near the top (stalk) and deseed if preferred. (my recent ones I have left the seeds in – makes no difference, they will just take little longer to dry).  Spread them on a backing tray, sprinkle with a little salt and if you like a little dried oregano and wa-la.  Leave in the sun for as long as takes to dry them to a nice dark red, free from moisture.  This can take from a few days, up to a few weeks depending on the heat and intensity of the sun where in the world you are.

So what to do with them? They are a great accompaniment to many dishes, particularly chicken and inject a real flavour boost, essentially a sweet concentrated hit of tomato!  Personally, I like to use them in nibbles and find, rehydrating them (soak in bowl of warm water for 20 minutes or so), chop and mix with olives and chopped garlic and parmesan shavings makes a great treat to enjoy with a nice fresh ciabatta.  Check out my recipe website for a few more ideas.

All the best.

Jul

27

Wi-Fi is a wonderful thing, most handheld / mobile devices now support Wi-Fi connections, but you need the infrastructure to support it.  I felt compelled to write this blog as am currently sat in Bristol Airport waiting for a delayed flight to Paphos, Cyprus.  It’s only an hour delay so not the end of the world as they have a nice bar and are even showing the F1.  Logging onto to my laptop I’ve gone through the standard procedure and up pops available Wi-Fi networks, Bristol Airport being one.  £5/hr. This is the first public place I have been where Wi-Fi is not free.  I am not sat here -through choice, I am sat here because my flight is delayed, yet for the hour I am delayed, I have to cough up a fiver to use the Wi-Fi.  It’s a good job my wife has her iPhone on her as thankfully we get inclusive internet use, so she is merrily chatting to her friends and family on messenger and Facebook.

So why do Bristol Airport need to charge for Wi-Fi? Obvious really, much like the rest of the aviation industry, any non essential service comes with a price tag.  The only thing you get included in the ticket price these days is the seat itself.  Luggage, extra, in flight meal, extra, speedy boarding, extra…. Although I guess this is why the budget airlines can fly you thousands of miles for under £100.  I have no doubt that the ever powerful Easyjet squeeze the airports to breaking point and perhaps this is why Wi-Fi  costs £5 per hour and a pint of average lager is over £3.50!  But at the end of the day, me and my wife ca fly to Cyprus and back for a little over £400, which is pretty darn cheap!

I can however highly recommend Starbucks as a great Wi-Fi hot spot.  I stopped by the other day after dropping my wife to work, grabbed an Americano and sat down for an hour doing a bit of work.  I was able to check all my e-mails, write and publish a blog for one of my clients, Rhinocarhire.com and the best thing, it was absolutely free!

So where else is still charging for Wi-Fi? I’ll be sure to let you know anywhere else I come across, but if you want to drop me a note or comment here that would be cool.  Perhaps we can come up with a list of ‘chargeable’ Wi-Fi in and around Bristol.

Off to Cyprus now.

Jul

21

With Facebook celebrating its 500 millionth user (that’s half a billion!) today, what does the future hold for the internet.  Google are no doubt a little nervous about the rise of facebook and its unprecedented growth.  500 million users in just 6 years! and more than 80% of those in the last 2 years.  How long before Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) is celebrating 1 million users? I would be willing to bet it won’t be another 6 years!

How can Facebook become the next internet super power? I guess they need to monetise as it’s a free to use service and reports show that only in the last 12 months has Facebook as a business broken even.  It is currently generating revenue through advertising, but as Google has demonstrated, the internet is a potential gold mine and Facebook has every chance of success.  Google was not the first search engine, but it nailed the market, Facebook was not the first social networking site, but it nailed the market, now if it can follow in the footsteps of Google, Mark Zuckerberg, just 26 is set to be a very young millionaire!

So what do I make of Facebook, sure I use it, but I use it as a supplement to my social interaction, not as many seem use it as a primary form of social interaction.  For me, I like to meet my friends in person and have a catch up over a pint, that said, I cannot criticise if for putting people back in touch when easily drifting apart.  I played golf with an old school friend I had not seen in 10 years as he moved to Scotland, but he was visiting my home town, dropped me a note on Facebook and we met up for a round and a beer.  So in those circumstances it was great.

I think I am right in saying that Lady Gaga recently became the first person to have over 10 million likes to her Facebook page! 10 Million….that’s one in every 50 users on Facebook are fans of Lady Gaga? What does that say about the demographic of facebook users? Suddenly I feel old.

Phil

Jul

21

So much for the summer hey, sure we had some good weather back in May / June of this year, but the last few weeks have been nothing to write home about!  I guess the weather is just coinciding with the end of the school year!  I really do feel for all those families with a family camping holiday planned for this summer!

Thankfully I am off to Cyprus for a bit of work / rest for a few weeks on Sunday where at least I can be guranteed some sunshine…although perhaps it will be too much.

Just thought I share some pics taken just now from my window….

Anyway, off for a round of golf now, so fingers crossed it holds out as seems to have passed over now and brighter skies on the horizon.

Phil

Jul

20

Well hello, I guess you’ve accidentally stumbled over my blog while searching for something of interest no doubt.  I’m new to this so give me a few weeks to get my head around it all and then maybe I’ll have something interesting for you to read.  Just to give you a sneak preview, my interests include motor sport, golf and travelling, so if any of those strike a chord with you, feel free to drop by and see what’s going on.

For now, that’s me done.

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