Month: January 2019

Lost the Last Decade of Music

Out of Touch with Current Music

Since having kids I feel like the world of music has completely passed me by. My taste in music is very wide and I have always been open to new influences. I used to be reasonably aware of what was popular. However I feel like I am completely out of touch with modern music. I think it’s since becoming a Mum. I guess there is no longer space for my own music. I am forced to listen to kiddy pop, some of which is ok, but I probably wouldn’t choose it. Last year I asked for a digital radio in the kitchen. This was prior to the talk activated tablet things like Alexa, Echo and Dot devices available now. I think, unless I missed that launch as well. Occasionally I listen to Radio 2 as I make a meal or drive my car, but it is fairly rare I remember to switch it on. Saying that, I have heard my 7 year old singing the jingle a lot lately – “BBC Radio 2” which always makes me chuckle.

Running Music

When I am out for a run, I listen to playlists and I am increasingly aware that most of my song choices come from the 1990’s. They’re not really motivational tunes, but I do like a classic Indie tune to take my mind of the pain and tediousness of running. I love a bit of Blur and Oasis, and other Indie classics like Ash, Shed Seven. Sometimes I’m in the mood for Sheryl Crow and other times The Chemical Brothers. Madness and George Michael also feature on my playlists. Scissor Sisters is the last concert I can remember going to (pre-kids) and I like to listen to their funny boppy songs. Then I have a bunch of 60’s classics including Marvin Gay, The Beatles, The Hollies. Radio X has a list of top Indie tunes of all time  and these are my kind of tunes.

Miss Buying a CD

Radio 2 do throw out the occasional modern tune and I like some of it, but I don’t tend to latch onto it. I used to like buying music and receiving an album as a present. Now that the act of going into a shop and buying an album has pretty much died out, I can’t remember the last time I added anything to my collection. I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to buying on iTunes. I always worry I’ll lose it all or something. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I liked placing a CD in the tray and looking at the list of tracks while I listened to it. I have boxes of CDs, which I no longer ever listen to.

Re-discovering Modern Music

I have friends that seem to have survived as modern music lovers. They tell me about concerts and tunes for current bands and singers. I smile, wondering who they are talking about. Am I the only one that has deserted the world of music since having kids? I wonder if my kids will bring me back into the music scene as they develop their taste. My car does now feature a lot of Greatest Showman, Katy Perry and Little Mix, so I guess I’m starting to get into this decade.

I think I need to make an effort to listen to some more modern stuff. Maybe I’ll get on iTunes and buy some music.

Where in the world are all the countries beginning with A?

Following on from a previous post listing all the countries in alphabetical order, I am now going to locate each of them and attempt to describe where they are in the world. This is part of my attempt to improve my Geography knowledge as I am frequently embarrassed at my own ignorance. This is not a technical description, so if you’re looking for a professional country location description then you’re in the wrong place. This is simply an aid for me to remember for my monthly pub quiz and family games.

There’s loads to work through so I am going to tackle this one letter at a time.

So, where in the world are all the countries beginning with A…

Countries Starting with A

Afghanistan – landlocked country in Asia, sits between Iran (to West), Pakistan (to East), Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Albania – sits to the East of the heel of Italy’s boot across the sea. This Eastern European country features a large coastline (Ioanian Sea in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic sea) down the West side of the country. Borders with Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece. I don’t know much about the country of Albani, but I feel slightly more educated than Homer Simpson. There is a line in The Simpsons where someone refers to Albanians and Homer Simpson replies “All white with pink eyes?”

Algeria – large country in North Africa south of France with the Mediterranean between them. Borders with Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya and Tunisia.

Andorra – tiny little country sitting between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains.

Angola – Southern African nation with Western coastline (Atlantic Ocean). Borders with Namibia, Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo. There is an extra bit lying separate to the main area of Angola (Pointe-Noire) sitting within DRC.

Antigua and Barbuda – country in the West Indies, lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It comprises the two major islands (Antigua and Barbuda) and several smaller ones. Puerto Rico and Deminican Republic sit to the North-West of these islands.

Argentina – large South American nation (most Southern) with thin Chile clinging to its West side. Largest Spanish speaking nation. 8th largest country in the world, 4th largest in the Americas. South Atlantic Ocean to the East.

Armenia – landlocked country with Turkey to the West, Georgia to the North and Azerbaijan to the East. Appears to be debatable whether Armenia is part of Europe or Asia as it sits where the two meet (some would say Eurasia).

Australia – large island in the Southern hemisphere. 6th largest country in the world. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean (to the West) and the Pacific Ocean (to the East). Australia/Oceania is the smallest continent of the seven continents.

Austria – landlocked country in Central Europe. Borders with Germany and Czech Republic to the North, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and Liechtenstein.

Azerbaijan – features a coastline to the East in the Caspian Sea. Borders with Russia and Georgia to the North, Iran to the South and Armenia to the South West. Like Armenia, Azerbaijan is classed as Eurasia sitting in Western Asia and Eastern Europe.

 

For a full list of all the countries in the world, go to my blog post Alphabetical list of all the countries in the world?

My next Geography boosting post will be finding where in the world are all the countries beginning with “B”? This quest could take a while!

 

Never Fails Simple Banana Cake

Never Fails Simple Banana Cake

Call it banana bread or banana cake, this is a great recipe and one of my favourite things to make. It is a firm favourite with all the family. It is simple to make and it has never failed for me so far. My three year old likes to help by mashing the bananas. I made it for a coffee morning last year and my Tea Room owner friend was very impressed. I have presented a mix of baked cakes and buns in the past, with mixed results, but this banana cake was the most successful by a mile.

Ingredients for Banana Cake

2 or 3 ripe bananas (can be seriously black)

140g butter (ideally softened, plus a little for lining the loaf tin)

140g caster sugar

140g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs, beaten

Sprinkle of demarara sugar (optional)

 

Method for Banana Cake

  1. Heat oven to 180C or 160C fan
  2. Butter a loaf tinned line it with greaseproof parchment paper
  3. Mash 2 or 3 ripe bananas
  4. Cream 140g butter and 140g caster sugar until light and fluffy
  5. Slowly add 2 beaten large eggs with a little of the self-raising flour
  6. Fold in the remaining flour, 1 tsp of baking powder and the mashed bananas
  7. Pour mixture into the loaf tin and sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes
  9. Check with a skewer and once the skewer is clear, remove from the oven
  10. Cool in tin for 10 minutes then remove to a cooling rack

We love eating this straight from the oven, but it does keep well and remains moist if kept in an airtight container. It will keep for a few days.

It can also be warmed and paired with custard or ice cream for a family dessert. I also include this in my daughter’s lunch box as a treat.

If you’d like to add some crunch, you could place banana chips on the top after cooking with a little icing sugar drizzle (50g icing sugar with 2-3 tsp water to make runny icing). This cake can be frozen if desired.

Basic Geography – Countries in Alphabetical Order

Clever Clogs Family History

I come from a family of clever quizzers. My parents and my brother are pretty good at general knowledge questions. They can watch a quiz show and answer most of the questions. My grandfather won Mastermind and Brain of Britain. He also featured on a panel quiz called Ask Me Another in the 1950’s. This was a general knowledge quiz with a similar theme to Egg Heads. He was one of the ‘Egg Head’ clever people. Unfortunately, I am not in any way gifted in this field. Despite being proud of my grandfather, I don’t like to mention my family history. People naturally expect me to have inherited some skill for knowledge. My general knowledge is weak and embarrassing at times.

General Knowledge Failing

I have recently started going to a monthly pub quiz with my friend. This has highlighted my total lack of awareness of general knowledge. I have tried to read facts and remember them, but they just don’t go in. Sometimes I try to blame my kids as I think my head is so full of their routines and requirements on a weekly basis. Pre-school and after school clubs are a big part of our lives, along with the outfits, accessories and dates to remember that go along with them. I sometimes wonder if my head is full of these daily chores.

I seem to have a problem remembering basic facts. Names, dates and places simply will not stick. If I have a specific topic to learn, I can revise and remember it for a given test, however once the event has past, all that knowledge is gone.

New Year’s Resolution – Improve General Knowledge

Normally I don’t bother with New Year’s resolutions. However this year I decided I need to improve my general knowledge. I have started with a key weakness of mine – Geography. I simply don’t know where places are. We played Articulate over Christmas and I froze each time we landed on the Geography topic. I get totally confused between South American and African nations like Guyana (South America) and Guinea (Africa). I couldn’t remember whether Capon was a country or a kind of chicken.

GABON is a country along the Atlantic coast of central Africa. Interesting!

A CAPON is a cockerel that has been castrated to improve the quality of its flesh for food and in some countries fattened by force feeding. Yuck!

So, I have started making my way through countries alphabetically and finding them on the globe (or Google, which is quicker). I have decided to share some of my research here to help me remember it.

Countries Alphabetically

I know there are debates over what is classed as a country or a state. Also names of countries change from time to time. For my purposes, this is my list of 196 countries based on top hits on Google in January 2019.

Countries Starting with A

Afghanistan

Albania

Algeria

Andorra

Angola

Antigua and Barbuda

Argentina

Armenia

Australia

Austria

Azerbaijan

 

Countries Starting with B

The Bahamas

Bahrain

Bangladesh

Barbados

Belarus

Belgium

Belize

Benin

Bhutan

Bolivia

Bosnia and Hertzegovina

Botswana

Brazil

Brunei

Bulgaria

Burkina Faso

Burundi

 

Countries Starting with C

Cabo Verde

Cambodia

Cameroon

Canada

Central African Republic

Chad

Chile

China

Colombia

Comoros

Congo, Democratic Republic of the

Congo, Republic of the

Costa Rica

Cote d’Ivoire

Croatia

Cuba

Cyprus

Czech Republic

 

Countries Starting with D

Denmark

Djibouti

Dominica

Dominican Republic

 

Countries Starting with E

East Timor

Ecuador

Egypt

El Salvador

Equatorial Guinea

Eritrea

Estonia

Ethiopia

 

Countries Starting with F

Fiji

Finland

France

 

Countries Starting with G

Gabon

The Gambia

Georgia

Germany

Ghana

Greece

Grenada

Guatemala

Guinea

Guinea-Bissau

Guyana

 

Countries Starting with H

Haiti

Honduras

Hungary

 

Countries Starting with I

Iceland

India

Indonesia

Iran

Iraq

Ireland

Israel

Italy

 

Countries Starting with J

Jamaica

Japan

Jordan

 

Countries Starting with K

Kazakhstan

Kenya

Kiribati

Korea, North

Korea, South

Kosovo

Kuwait

Kyrgyzstan

 

Countries Starting with L

Laos

Latvia

Lebanon

Lesotho

Liberia

Libya

Liechtenstein

Lithuania

Luxembourg

 

Countries Starting with M

Macedonia

Madagascar

Malawi

Malaysia

Maldives

Mali

Malta

Marshall Islands

Mauritania

Mauritius

Mexico

Micronesia, Federal States of

Moldova

Monaco

Mongolia

Montenegro

Morocco

Mozambique

Myanmar (Burma)

 

Countries Starting with N

Namibia

Nauru

Nepal

Netherlands

New Zealand

Nicaragua

Niger

Nigeria

Norway

 

Countries Starting with O

Oman

 

Countries Starting with P

Pakistan

Palau

Panama

Papua New Guinea

Paraguay

Peru

Philippines

Poland

Portugal

 

Countries Starting with Q

Qatar

 

Countries Starting with R

Romania

Russia

Rwanda

 

Countries Starting with S

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Lucia

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Samoa

San Marino

Sao Tome and Principe

Saudi Arabia

Senegal

Serbia

Seychelles

Sierra Leone

Singapore

Slovakia

Slovenia

Soloman Islands

Somalia

South Africa

Spain

Sri Lanka

Sudan

Sudan, South

Suriname

Swaziland

Sweden

Switzerland

Syria

 

Countries Starting with T

Taiwan

Tajikistan

Tanzania

Thailand

Togo

Trinidad and Tobago

Tunisia

Turkey

Turkmenistan

Tuvalu

 

Countries Starting with U

Uganda

Ukraine

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom

United States

Uruguay

Uzbekistan

 

Countries Starting with V

Vanuatu

Vatican City

Venezuela

Vietnam

 

Countries Starting with Y

Yemen

 

Countries Starting with Z

Zambia

Zimbabwe

Wow, that is quite a list. Of course I could have copied and pasted the lot, but I thought typing them might help me remember them. Thanks to the Britanica.com site for that list. I will write a bit about each location in my next post in my own personal style. Now it’s time for a cuppa for me. 

Family Day Out in Portmeirion in North Wales

Why Visit Portmeirion?

Having visited Portmeirion when I was younger, I was keen to return with my own family. So whilst in North Wales last Autumn with my kids and extended family we made a day of it.

We all had our reasons to visit the intriguing village of Portmeirion. I wanted to bring back nice memories from my childhood. My sister in law is a photographer so wanted to capture the beautiful scenery. My parents love to see wildlife and attractive buildings and gardens. The kids are always easily sold on the promise of an ice cream parlour.

Things to do at Portmeirion

Portmeirion is a beautiful village created by an architect called Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978). This visitor site is a collection of striking buildings in a beautiful setting. The area appears to be a microclimate as Portmeirion hosts a wide variety of flowers, trees and wildlife. We were lucky to visit on a dry day and enjoyed the sights.

There are lovely little cafes and shops with quality items. We enjoyed browsing the children’s toys and the local Portmeirion crockery.

There is a little road train that takes visitors on a short trip around the forest. We were lucky to see the gorgeous colours of many autumnal leaves and some pretty evergreens. I loved the views of vibrant red leaves of Japanese Maple trees across the lily pond.

Overall Thoughts on Portmeirion

We all had a lovely day out here. There was limited entertainment for children during our visit, but we had three young kids that played well together. Kids could be bored wandering round if they like to be entertained. If they’re happy with a game of hide and seek then they may be happy. The coffee in the cafe/restaurant was lovely with a small selection of cakes.

One big disappointment was that the ice cream parlours ran out of many flavours of ice cream. My promise was somewhat unfulfilled when we could only get a whipped style ice cream in a basic cafe bar.