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Tummy fulfilled: New York style

We have recently been travelling about in the US: Eating in New York.

As is my wont, when I have been away I try and blog about my experiences. I confess, freely, that I haven’t finished where I went last year, but I am trying to get to this year a bit quicker! So here is something about eating in New York. I have specifically chosen this subject as we found some very interesting and different places to eat.

Ricetoriches

Yes, we can have porridge cafes, they can have rice pudding outlets! they have a website so you can check them out for yourself but we did think they were a trifle expensive for a small bowl of rice pudding. That said, they had some amazing flavours and do seasonal flavours too. Their standard range is 18 flavours with 5 per season and 12 different toppings. Sweet? Very!

Pinkberry

Frozen yoghurt with a difference – the pink berries! They have a yummy taste… they have come to the UK now and can be found in Stratford – Westfield – and Selfridges.

 BubbaGump

We ate in their Times Square outlet and were served excellently despite the loud noises from their celebrating a customer’s birthday!

Everything had calories attached so beware the desserts! We had a variety of shrimps of course, but very large shrimps too – and mahi mahi with a cajun shrimp starter and garlic  bread. spicy and nicy.Bubba Gump interior

PS they are now in London!

Eataly

Amazing – a supermarket with a difference – you can buy your Italian food here or you can eat it fresh from the counter. The longest queues being for the ice-cream of course! there are 2 places where you sit and are served – Fish and Vegetarian; otherwise you can perch at stools and eat what you have bought. We tried the Verdura eating area and ate our veggies. Just beware the risotto is made with wheat berries and is very heavy as a result. aperitivo picnic homepage hero v1 - Tummy fulfilled: New York style

Also now in London I believe.

Hangawi

This is a Korean place in the traditional style – so beware if you have disabilities. You sit on the floor with your feet in a pit. The table is fixed at waist high and thus can’t be removed for you to climb out of easily. I managed to thump down but getting out and getting back on my feet defeated me. In the end, I managed to get my feet up on the floor and then did a very ungainly bum shuffle over to where there were some steps so I could climb back up onto my feet. Good job I was wearing leggings under my skirt! You take your shoes off so make sure your feet don’t smell and you have matching socks on.

They have a very sensible ban on mobile phones. Turn them off completely. The food is all vegan and excellent. Stone rice pots as are especially good as the rice ends up sticky and crisp as it continues to cook in the residual heat. When they ask, do you like it spicy? beware. They add a spice paste to your dish at the table and mix it in for you. hgw ani 01 - Tummy fulfilled: New York style

Booking essential.

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The films of note – or not

Film Reviews

It’s not often that I do film reviews, but having been to the cinema quite a few times recently, plus sitting on a long haul flight, I’ve had the opportunity to see quite a few of the latest films. Some have been good and one I walked out of after 20 minutes!

Let’s start with the one I set out to see:

Interstellar

Now both my husband and I had really wanted to see this film as we have been starved of good sci-fi films (yes we are star-trek addicts – for a very long time0.

But we watched this independently in the plane at different times and both stopped at the same point in the film. So just 1 star for this film. The characters were not well formed and the story of the earth’s disaster seemed to b too long drawn out. What was the structure of the story? What was the significance of the gravity signs? And the daughter? May be explained later in the film but we couldn’t be bothered to find out…

The Rewrite was my second choice of film on the long haul flight and interestingly it proposed its own story line and explained the significance of the three act structure and outlining as the way to start your writing. Now I know from my author interviews that some authors don’t write in a structured way and thus the ideas of Davies in terms of how a story unfolds – the five part story – which the classic fairy tales follow – are not followed by all authors. As a uni lecturer who loves to teach I empathised with the final choice of the main character in this film. 3.5 stars.

The Imitation Game

This film I gave 4 stars to. Much the best of all the recent films I have seen except for Still Alice and Selma, but more of that later.

This film is about Turing and his life and work at the Bletchley Park. I have know about Turing for a very long time – since I first started learning about computers, as he devised a test for self-awareness in a computer. That is a computer that thinks for itself. As far as I am aware, no computer has yet passed the Turing test but we are certainly coming very close as our artificial Intelligence capabilities grow.

Bletchley Park still exists as a museum and you can go and see the computer that was developed – and which now works – in the original huts hat people worked for code breaking and the Enigma machine.

When I was last there, we have coffee in the original canteen area – still decorated in World War Two posters etc.

The film did play down the fact that Turing was homosexual which caused him an amount of grief and that he later committed suicide – some say because of the way in which he was treated after the war.

This was definitely a 4.- 4.5 star film.

Selma

Again a 4.5 star film about how voting rights were protested and obtained through the women of Selma and the actions of Martin Luther King and other pastors he was linked to in his movement for equality between races.

The famous march from Selma to Montgomery was the main action of this film and the characters we well portrayed in all their foibles and faults and yet sympathetically.

You cheered them on and really wished you could have been there on this march. It certainly reminded us of the marches we had been on, which were not as fraught as this one by any means and yet were actions of which we were proud to have participated in.

The Second Best Marigold Hotel

Nothing like as good as the first film. A poor follow on event though it had the sae stars plus Richard Gere. He wasn’t necessary to the story and only confused it. In fact there were too many story lines this time but the Bollywood dancing was good!

Kingsman

It’s not often we walk out of films as mentioned above, but at least we stayed longer in this one – but this hit both my husband and I at the same time. At 1.5 hours in we turned to each other and said. ‘I’m bored’. And s we both were.

This is a film that is attempting to start a James |bond franchise no doubt but failing. We have the steely upper class English gents, we have the fancy weaponry . The hidden and multi-sited facility with loyal servants and dogs no less as the faithful companions. We have the intensive training of Oxbridge students and the plucky not so Oxbridge hero and remote locations and secret and complex  deadly fighting abilities. But boring. None of that is new. Even the evil villain isn’t new.

So what was worth making a film of 2.5 hours? We failed to see.

Mr Turner

This was so good my husband actually saw it twice! But Margate really doesn’t look like that now…

We also made sure we saw the Tate collection of Turner paintings that are regularly shown as well as the special exhibition to remind us of what we love about his painting..

Timothy Spall was brilliant as Turner.

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Somerset Delights

We came back from 5 days in Somerset and even in March and cold winds, the blue sky and the shining sun made it a very pleasant experience.

One lovely little town we visited was Ilminster.

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Ilminster is the first Fair Trade town in South Somerset and has lost of quirky retail outlets and local produce. The shops are still very much in the same layout as they were originally and the streets are bendy – there is a Minster of course – which is a church and the town’s name means: ‘The church on the River Isle’ . it was founded in the 8th century as a church town by the nearby Abbey.

It currently has a population just over 5000 so it is a small market town.

It has set up 15 shops in its Fairtrade map and the one we really fell in love with was The Green House. This shop sells mainly recycled / upcycled goods. For instance earrings made from tins, old tables refurbished and made into garden ‘ladders’ for plants, and lots of dresses from other dresses… one of the best ideas that I saw though were the note books. They had equipment for ring binding hardback books and used it on all the old hardbacks that no-one buys these days in second-hand shops. They then took the backs off and inserted clean paper to write on, but the special aspect was that they left in small amounts of the original text also, so you would have a chapter at the front and then clean pages and then maybe another page and then more clean and so on.  This is such an original gift and also such a brilliant way of dealing with these books and giving them a new lease of life.

We also loved the deli. And bought several pieces of local cheeses of which they had a great selection including sheep and goat and different flavourings of cheddar of course.

Somerset has been lived in for a very long time of course and many of the towns are very ancient. Andover is such a town. We ate a quick lunch there but had hoped to eat at the Angel Inn which is situated at the heart of the medieval area. it is said to be the 7th oldest public house in England and dates back to 1174. although largely destroyed by fire in 1435 along with most of the town, it was rebuilt for the princely sum of £400. it is still a timber framed inn and has been the host to many royal visitors including King John, Kings Edward I and II,, and Catherine of Aragon. as with many of these old buildings it does have ghosts – 2 farmers and a dog!

One thing we noticed as we drove through Somerset was how deep the road was compared against the road banks. In some places the road banks were the height of a 3 storey house with full grown trees on top! Of course, one way to find out the age of a hedge in England is to count the species. If the hedge has stopped being a hedge and has become a mini forest you know it is old! If the road has sunk that far too – you know the road is old! In fact we were travelling on the Fosse Way, which was a Roman road and possibly a major footway before the Romans came to the England too. One reason the road may have sunk so dramatically is that the area is largely sandstone – see Odcome Hollow – where the road is very sunk indeed and it is as though you are driving in a tunnel almost.

According to wikipedia the Fosse way may have begun as a ditch – a defensive ditch that gave the barrier of the Roman empire to the rest.. or not of course.. it  links Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) in South West England to Lincoln(Lindum Colonia) in Lincolnshire, via Ilchester (Lindinis), Bath (Aquae Sfulis), Cirencester (Corinium) and Leicester (Ratae Corieltauvorum). It joins Akeman Street and Ermin Way at Cirencester, crosses Watling Street at Venonis (High Cross) south of Leicester, and joins Ermine Street at Lincoln.

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I also made sure I kept a short note of some of the places we stopped for tea/coffee and cake and here is the list:

Crewkerne: Market Square Deli: Coffee/pot of tea + cake £3.50. This is a great deli with lots of interesting foods and cheeses and a lovely bright clean cafe attached with interesting quotes on the walls including ones about love and chocolate and coffee and so on.

Ilminster: Coffee Shop Tea £1.60, cake £1.80 for a generous slice of Red Velvet which really looked as though it had some beetroot in it.

Lambrook Manor: [Margery Fish’s garden] Folter coffee £1.90 inc refill, Cake £2.20 in the Malthouse.

Margery Fish was a very important writer on horticultural matters especially how to create a cottage garden and her garden was full of hellebores with the snowdrops – where there were some very rare varieties – lining the ditch, but just going over. The hellebores were so tempting – they were in a great variety of colours from darkest purple to cream. Some double. Some spotted. Some cascading. And we went into their plant shop and bought 3 new ones for our front garden… we did see a lot of bees in her garden from bombus to honey.

Due the fact that the garden is built on levels and all the paths are stepping stones/ uneven flags, the garden is not suitable for wheeled vehicles from pushchairs to wheelchairs.

 

p1030148 - Somerset Delights p1030157 - Somerset Delightsp1030162 - Somerset Delights

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Flying high above the world

High Altitude by Carol Kelly. A netgalley review.

Another example of what to a UK citizen with the NHS of the horrific consequences of the US health system.

We have a friend with a house in Florida who last year, when on holiday there, caught his finger in his garage door up-and-over. He went to his local hospital but because he had broken the skin and was bleeding as well as having broken his finger, he was not able to be treated there. He was therefore transported for 4 hours across Florida by private ambulance to a hospital where he was anaesthetised and operated on – they felt they could not stitch up this (minor) laceration without putting him to sleep and using an operating theatre. In the UK they would have done all of this in the Accident and Emergency Dept – which can stitch under local anaesthetic! Anyway, this then resulted in our friend staying over-night. Given drugs and a bill of $40,000! Just for a broken and slightly lacerated finger… he is still quivering at the size of the bill.

So cancer treatments become horrendously expensive and members of the family resort to all sorts to pay the bills. Of course. Here it seems they resort to flying with very dodgy characters into very dodgy areas of the world to undertake very dodgy missions.

High Altitude refers to the height of planes – jets – as they fly over mountains of course, but also the risks that are taken when you don’t know quite what you have let yourself into.

Not being an expert on flying I relied on the author for accuracy here and as a  former stewardess or flight attendant I am happy to assume that she was correct.

salwar kameez1 - Flying high above the world

Now as for the style of dress worn, the Salwar Kameez is a traditional Indian outfit, which I love – and actually have a set of – bought in Bangladesh. But technically the Churidar Pyjamies are the leggings – or tight trousers that are worn under the dress part. The name Churidar comes from the fact that these leggings are long, tight and intended to fold into wrinkles at the ankle, thus looking like churis or bracelets – see photo. With a salwar, the leggings are looser at the ankle. In fact, on my first visit to India I wanted to get some white cotton trousers as I thought they would be very cool, and discovered to my surprise, and the amusement of the shop assistants, that white are only worn by men and yes, are called pyjamas or pyjamies. So now we know where our ‘English’ word comes from! And also, if you wanted to buy them off the peg, you couldn’t buy women’s clothing anyway, as in India they were all made to measure. So mens’ white cotton trousers with a string waist pull cord it was – and my own salwar kameez also has a pull cord on the leggings part.

I also agree with the statement about Islamic beliefs – they are not the problem, it is the men who use them for power and control who are – after all, it is the men who insist that women are covered up so that they – the men – are not tempted…!

The Pashtun warriors mentioned are often fairer of skin as they may be descended from Iranian tribes, or some would also argue, from the offspring of Alexander’s men who stayed in India rather travel all the way back to Greece! Some also argue that they originate from the 12th Tribe of Israel, that was one of lost Tribes. They are certainly Caucasian and more Mediterranean in skin colour and feature. The tribes of the Pashtuns or Pathans traditionally originate from the Pakistan/Afghanistan borders – the high mountains. They are well known for their fierce demeanour and warrior/fighting skills. As well as sporting. They are of course, traditionally Muslim in religion, of the Sunni variant being converted around the 8th century, although some also argue that they were always followers of Mohammed and are descended from his original disciples. They are identified through 4 tribal confederacies: Bettani – ‎Ghurghakhti – ‎Karlani – ‎Sarbani; and are largely communal in culture as so many nomadic cultures are. They attach great importance to an unwritten code, called Pashtunwalli. This code defines the way members should behave to keep the tribe together. Hospitality (milmastia) is important, as is the use of the tribal council (jirga) to resolve conflicts and make decisions. Other Pashtun virtues include courage (tureh); taking revenge (badal); and protecting one’s honor (ghayrat). Another part of the Pashtun code of conduct is nanawati, a way of resolving differences through the group’s elders. [http://www.everyculture.com/wc/Afghanistan-to-Bosnia-Herzegovina/Pashtun.html#ixzz3WQqZvsvt]. It also true that Pashtuns are an integral part of the Taliban fighting force.

The interesting story that the characters wove about assessing needs for a school being funded by a private US philanthropist, is clearly a reference back to Greg Mortenson and his mission to create schools in this border area [see his book Three Cups of Tea, reviewed on this blog on 9th July 2013].

As always I am interested to research any flowers or native trees mentioned, so  the Kachnar tree is really Phanera variegate and  is a species of flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, native to South Asia and Southeast Asia, from southern China, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The common names include orchid tree, camel’s foot tree, kachnar and mountain-ebony. Whilst often having white flowers, it can also have variations of pink from light to dark flowers – as in the photos.

kachnar white - Flying high above the world kachna1 pink - Flying high above the world

So back to the overall story. Whilst rather fanciful, it does follow and does make sense logically and has some good suspense aspects. The romance is not played up too much but exists in the background.  Overall I would give it 3.75 stars.

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Who’ll Take New York? Me please…

I feel quite bad about my reading at the moment as I have not read many of my Netgalley requests but have been reading other books.

The one I have just finished is I’ll take New York by Miranda Dickinson and I have started on the second book about the Azuri Fae which is a follow-on to one I have read in a compilation of 10 Fae stories -. So basically I have read around 12 or more books without touching the Netgalley offers and as a result several have been archived. This doesn’t mean that they are gone as such, but just that I haven’t made a publication date and they can’t now be downloaded from Netgalley.

So I must make myself a new promise and read some of the above books – I have 12 waiting for me! Even so, I recently reached the 80% feedback to book ratio and am a Trusted Reviewer as publishers have published my reviews alongside their books.

So back to the story of Dickinson’s book and why I read it.

We were staying at our daughter’s and decided to go to Harrogate Spa for a couple of hours. Now Harrogate Spa is in the Turkish style (http://www.turkishbathsharrogate.co.uk/) and thus us somewhat different from ‘normal’ spas. It is a Victorian 1897 recreation of a Turkish bath-house and only seven remain which date back to the 19th Century. None of them is as historically complete or as in full working order as is Harrogate’s Turkish Baths.

“The Baths’ Moorish design with great vaults and arches soar to a high arabesque ceiling ornately decorated with colourful stencilled design. The walls are of expertly rendered vibrant glazed brickwork, while underfoot the picture is completed with elaborately assembled mosaic and marble terrazzo floors, all adding to its historic fantasy qualities. For the interior fittings, Victorian dark wood blends with Islamic designs in a beautiful embodiment of Orientalist fusion.”

spa1 - Who'll Take New York? Me please... spa2 - Who'll Take New York? Me please...

Looking at the photos you can see that the showers for instance are far from private – yes, you shower in your bathing costume after the treatments and you use changing rooms with curtains rather than doors.

The whole area is on the wet side and the floors are mosaics and after using the plunge pool – yes I managed after each ‘hot’ room – my feet got very sensitive and I realised I needed flip flops or something as the tiles were rough and my nerves were jangling on the soles of my feet. The plunge pool is long enough to swim a short length if you wish or you could duck yourself if you preferred. The temperature varies slightly as the water comes externally but always very very cold. I think I prefer ice caves though which I have used before.

Now of course the spa is wet and thus whilst relaxing around in the various rooms you need a physical book so my daughter gave me this one to read. It was appropriate as we are going to New York later this year.

So what did I learn about NY from the book?

The book had 3 main characters:

  1. The British heroine who has fallen in love with New York and runs a bookshop there, but fallen out of love with her long term boyfriend;
  2. The native New Yorker who is being divorced wife and has returned to his roots and set up his psychology/therapy practice anew.
  3. New York the town. The one that I’m really reading about to get information for my forthcoming tip and to start to get me in the mood…

So what were the tourist places visited in the book?

  1. Central Park Pond;
  2. Grand Central station and Junior’s Cheesecake establishment;
  3. Specialist shops – eg stationery, crafts, cheese;
  4. SoHo;
  5. Coney Island;
  6. Empire State Building;
  7. Times

Unfortunately, having finished reading the book, I then read the author’s blog, only to find out that she didn’t visit New York and took all her places and descriptions from the Internet! Shame…

Anyway, did I enjoy the book? Yes. Will I read more by the author? Only in similar circumstances, or if I am sick. The book was somewhat contrived in places and over long as a result.  As chicklit goes it is a good example but I tend want more edge to my reading. 3*

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