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Summer Reading List

18 May 2016 02:09 pm
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Posted by Marc Matsumoto

With summer just around the corner I’m sure more than a few of you are getting ready for a vacation. Whether your plans have you camping in the mountains, or flying to some exotic destination, you’re probably looking for a few books to read while your away. Here’s a list of some of my favorite food books that would make for a great summer read, but first I want to tell you about my favorite way of consuming books. Paper books are bulky, and there are times that reading an ebook isn’t practical (like when you’re on a road trip),...

Continue reading "Summer Reading List"

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So yesterday I noticed something odd on the tracking page for my parcel from Goulet Pens: the tracking page was claiming it had been delivered. It has definitely not been delivered. More than that, the tracking page was claiming it had been delivered at 7.07 am, which is an unheard of time for delivery drivers in Brighouse.

The thing is, trying to contact USPS about an international delivery, even to just find out who their UK delivery partner is so I can chase it up myself - I would assume Royal Mail, but I could be wrong? - is proving rather difficult.

Goulet themselves are being super helpful, as usual, but that doesn't really make much difference to finding out what has happened to my parcel. So this is me crowdsourcing ideas.

- Do you know who is USPS's UK delivery partner?
- what do you think I should do?

ETA: so a card came through the door saying I have a customs charge. Arse.
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Peanut Butter Date Bars

26 May 2016 04:25 pm
[syndicated profile] norecipes_feed

Posted by Marc Matsumoto

Loaded with protein, fiber and minerals, these peanut butter and date bars have great flavor and texture and they're ridiculously easy to make. While they're loaded with energy, these aren't energy bars you have to choke down with a gallon of water, they actually taste good, which is why they've become my goto breakfast post workout. Head over to PBS Food this week for my full post and recipe.

Continue reading "Peanut Butter Date Bars"

miss_s_b: Peter Falk as Columbo saying "just one more thing" (Fangirling: Columbo)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Since I have got myself a proper job, I can afford the odd little luxury. One of the pubs I used to work in was the local posties' pub of choice, so I have a fondness for posties and keeping them in work. Thus I started getting some subscription boxes. This is the third in an occasional series of me reviewing them. None of these are paid reviews, I haven't had special freebies, and I don't do sponsored content. WYSIWYG.


Today I am reviewing:

tails.com dog food.


What do they offer?

Dog food tailored to your pooch.


What do you actually get?

A long survey to fill in about your dog - not just breed, but weight, exercise level, likes and dislikes, allergies, how many table scraps you feed them, etc. Then, once a month, a bag of dog food with your dog's name on it; a special customised scoop for portion control.


What's good about it?
  • The food is absolutely tailored to your dog - my two both get v different kibbles in their packs. And it's not tailored to the breed, it's tailored to the dog, which is why the survey you have to fill in is so comprehensive.
  • Quality of the product. Roxy's itchy skin issues (we think caused by wheat in other dog foods) and Spike's digestive problems both completely cleared up within a week of starting on this stuff.
  • Value for money: it's not cheap but it works out cheaper than something like Royal Canin or James Wellbeloved.
  • The customisability of it: if your dog is not enjoying a flavour or gets bored, tails will reformulate for your next package. If your bag is lasting longer than expected, you can delay deliveries; if you're running out you can speed them up. Most of this can be done with a couple of clicks in your account on the website, but they're still easy to contact if you want to talk to a human.

What's not so good about it?
  • The only thing I can think of is if maybe your dog doesn't like dry food?

How easy are they to contact if you need to change something?

Very easy, friendly and efficient.


Value for Money?

Very good, I'd say, for such good quality food and great customer service.


Conclusions:

Get this box if:
  • You have a dog who eats dry food. Simple as that. I wouldn't feed my two anything else now.
Don't get this box if:
  • You haven't got a dog;
  • your dog won't eat dry food.

Marks out of ten: 10/10.
I've got a refer-a-friend code if you want to try it for two weeks for free: type JENNIW2X in when prompted when you sign up. Genuinely would recommend this service to any dog owner.
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Forgot to post this at tea time: Truth! Freedom! Justice! Reasonably priced love! And several hard boiled eggs 

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For various reasons, a lot of my friends have issues with going to the doctor. In the comments to one of [personal profile] hollymath's recent entries, the idea came up that T-shirts could be useful.
"Yes, I know I'm fat. Telling me something I already know does nothing for my current problem."
"Of course my blood pressure just spiked, you're stressing me out!"
"Being trans has no bearing on microbes attacking me."
"Yes I have anxiety and depression. This did not break my bone!"
Any further suggestions?
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I'm a third generation fountain pen geek, my mum and her dad both did calligraphy with Osmiroid pens, so I can't really say when I first got into fountain pens because I can't ever remember NOT being into fountain pens. I wasn't allowed to have my own till I was 8 or 9 and could demonstrate to my mum that I could use it properly, though, and it was a BIG thing graduating from pencil to a Proper Pen. The first one that was actually mine was (I suspect like most brits) a Parker Vector. When I got to grammar school they insisted on us having fountain pens so I had a bit of a head start over my classmates. Mine had Beano comic characters on (Dennis & Gnasher) and I was GUTTED when someone at school trod on it and broke it. I still have a soft spot for the shape and feel of a parker vector and have several in my collection. This started off as a comment to a USian person and I don't know if you even get parker vectors that side of the Atlantic but they are (or seem to be) our equivalent of the Preppy. They're a lovely simple clean shape and a nice size for my tiny hands - most of the posh pens these days are too big for me.

Kids these days aren't made to use fountain pens at school the way I was (my daughter goes to the same school I went to and only knows about fountain pens because of me). As a liberal I kind of approve of kids using whatever writing implements they like... as a fountain pen geek I think it's a bit of a shame that most kids won't even try one. They make such a difference to both the legibility and the speed of my handwriting; because I'm not pushing into the paper (as with a ballpoint) but skating over the top of it, I can write for lots longer and lots more usefully with a fountain pen. This comes in extremely handy on candidate assessment days for the Lib Dems when I basically have to write down what someone is saying verbatim for a whole day.

I guess implied in the question was "why do you stay into fountain pens?" There is a lot less need for manual writing these days than there used to be, and certainly if I was writing an article it would be composed entirely electronically. But there's something very ephemeral about stuff written on the Internet, despite its longevity and ease of access and searchable qualities. Whereas paper and ink are so tactile and solid... I guess I feel that if you're GOING to write something manually these days you might as well make it as pretty as you can, and as nice an experience for yourself as you can. And choosing a pen, and a nib, and an ink that works for you in that moment? Creates more fun and more memories than grabbing a biro ever could.

Chili Con Queso (vegan)

21 May 2016 12:55 pm
[syndicated profile] norecipes_feed

Posted by Marc Matsumoto

Although I'm not vegan, I love the challenge of coming up with plant-based versions of junk food. Whether it's Better Chocolate Chip Cookies, or a Vegan Spinach Dip, There's a certain thrill in striking upon a convincing plant-based alternative after repeated trial and error. It's also nice to create something that's better for our bodies and the planet, allowing you to indulge in something you love with a clear conscience. Since my mother wouldn't dream of feeding us cheese out of a jar, I'm fairly certain my first experience with Chili Con Queso was in a school lunch. I find...

Continue reading "Chili Con Queso (vegan)"

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On Air: Biz Buzz Japan

22 May 2016 12:56 am
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Posted by Marc Matsumoto

Catch me on Biz Buzz Japan this week, airing on NHK World, May 26-27th, 2016. For this episode, Jon Kabira, J.J. O'Donoghue, and I discuss the past, present and future of sushi and how technological innovations are changing both how it's made and how it's served. Check the schedule below for air dates/times in your area. On a slightly unrelated topic, J.J. just wrote a piece on what goes into raising real Wagyu from Matsusaka in the Japan Times, worth a read for anyone who's been disappointed by so-called "wagyu" or "kobe beef" outside Japan. NHK World can be seen...

Continue reading "On Air: Biz Buzz Japan"

Curried Rice with Lentils

21 May 2016 04:41 pm
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Cheap, easy, stores well, and can be jazzed up with further additions to vary latter servings - this recipe is one of my fallback staples.

ingredients )

Instructions:
Heat oil in heavy-bottomed pot (you'll need a lid later) and saute onion and garlic until translucent. Add ginger, tumeric and curry powder and saute a few minutes longer. (Can add more oil if necessary.) Add rice and saute for a few more minutes to coat the rice. Add the lentils, stock, raisins, and sunflower seeds, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.

Excellent served with yogurt, or with Waldorf salad.

Extras my mom recommends:
Would be good with butternut squash...roasted in chunks (with parsnips perhaps? ) or bake the squash, scoop it out and whip it with a bit of orange juice and nutmeg. Saute some dark greens (chard, spinach) with olive oil, garlic, pinenuts as a second vegetable.
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Back in the Wellington again this time around, following a late venue change. Because there were a number of nights on that Sunday, we weren't sure what the turnout would be like, but Whitby did us proud again, and the windows were steamed up within about half an hour. Despite some concerns as to the size of the venue, there was enough space on the floor for the skipping, and the conga headed out through the door and back again. There are apparently plans for refurbishment at some point in the future, which may open the venue up further. This night was also grounds for celebration, as Real Gothic had managed to hold Stokomotiv to a draw that afternoon, which meant that, as the visitors, they won the trophy on points ...

Due to the events of the early part of the year, we broke the usual "one song per artist" limit for David Bowie and Prince.

Setlist )
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Since I have got myself a proper job, I can afford the odd little luxury. One of the pubs I used to work in was the local posties' pub of choice, so I have a fondness for posties and keeping them in work. Thus I started getting some subscription boxes. This is the second in an occasional series of me reviewing them. None of these are paid reviews, I haven't had freebies, and I don't do sponsored content. WYSIWYG.


Today I am reviewing:

Cheese Posties.


What do they offer?

The ingredients and instructions for a gourmet cheese toastie, once a week, to your home or office (I rec office if you go for this one - every office has a toaster, right?).


What do you actually get?

A box slim enough to fit through the letterbox, containing two slices of bread, some cheese, some butter, and various other fillings depending on the theme. There are quite a lot of different themes; I've so far not had the same sandwich twice. Some are sweet and some are savoury; you can choose whether to receive just sweet or just savoury or both when you sign up. You can also notify them of any allergies, food requirements, or particular dislikes you have. IME they are good at responding to such things.


What's good about it?
  • Tasty tasty toasties, with well-thought-out flavour combinations. I've not had a bad one yet. Even the one with sauerkraut in, which just sounds weird, was nice. The spicy one was even actually spicy.
  • Ingredient quality. There's no Kraft-Cheese-Slices-Are-Calci-yummy here. You get named actual cheeses and artisan sauces and jams.
  • Value for money: it is roughly the same price as a sandwich from a sandwich shop. Yes, you have to put a little work in yourself, but you don't have to leave the office.
  • The little teflon bag you put the toastie in is a FAB thing, a great technological solution to a problem I didn't realise I had. Anyone with a toaster can make a toastie in this without setting fire to the house/office!
  • The packaging; every ingredient comes in it's own little packet so that there's no melding in transit. Anything which might leak or ooze is always double wrapped. It's clearly very carefully thought out.
  • The quirky, punning tone of the website and emails. Yes, I know some of you hate this kind of thing, but I rather like it.

What's not so good about it?
  • The number one problem is: not enough butter. You get one of those little plastic things with a foil lid you get for buttering your toast in hotels. Also the butter is often too cold to spread. I have solved both of the butter problems by using my own butter for the first couple of months; then when I run out of my own butter I can get a couple of the sachet things out the night before my postie is due, and they will be perfect spreading temp when it arrives, and because there's two I will have enough. But if I were running the place I'd put two little-foil-and-plastic-containers-of-butter in, not one.
  • The little teflon bag that you cook the toastie in is a VERY snug fit; this means you can't really use a fishslice or anything, and you really have no other option than to use your hands to get the buttered-on-the-outside bread into the bag. If you turn it over half way through to ensure even browning, you have to do this twice. I am ok with washing my hands twice per toastie, but I know many people won't be.
  • A small niggle, but it's always the same bread. With such variety in fillings, I sort of expected a little variety in bread too. A nice brown or granary would go really well with some of the filling combinations.

How easy are they to contact if you need to change something?

Email: very quick and friendly responses.
Social media: no response at all.


Value for Money?

Pretty good, I'd say, especially given the quality of ingredients.


Conclusions:

Get this box if:
  • You like cheese toasties;
  • You want a once-a-week surprise warm meal;
  • you work in an office where the only kitchen equipment is a kettle, a microwave, and a toaster, and you want something hot but are sick of microwave ready meals.
Don't get this box if:
  • You can't cope with buttery hands;
  • you want to have a zero-effort lunch.

Marks out of ten: 8/10.
If the butter problem was solved by the company instead of me, and there was more than one style of bread, and the teflon bags were a little less snug to enable fishslice manipulation of the toastie, they'd be perfect. As it is, I'm certainly not going to stop getting them any time soon. The quality of ingredients and fun of getting a new flavour every week certainly makes up for the slight downsides.
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[personal profile] miss_s_b
Since I have got myself a proper job, I can afford the odd little luxury. One of the pubs I used to work in was the local posties' pub of choice, so I have a fondness for posties and keeping them in work. Thus I started getting some subscription boxes. This is the first in an occasional series of me reviewing them. None of these are paid reviews, I haven't even had freebies, I don't do sponsored content. WYSIWYG.


Today I am reviewing

Prudence and The Crow.


What do they offer?

Vintage books, once a month, for a set period or on a rolling monthly subscription.


What do you actually get?

When you pay for your subscription, you get a questionnaire, with free size text boxes. Fill it in as comprehensively as you can; this will be the basis by which the mysterious Prudence (or maybe the even more mysterious Crow) will choose your vintage book. They try to find you something that is 1, interesting 2, relevant to your tastes and 3, not one you've already got. The more information you can give them, the better. When I got my questionnaire I went on twitter and said something like "hah! They've not limited the box sizes! THE FOOLS! *fills in ridiculous amounts of information*" and almost immediately got the reply that no, they LIKE getting lots of info because it helps them to choose.

In the actual box you get a vintage book, a personalised bookmark, usually a little bag or sleeve for the book, some sweets, some herbal teabags and maybe some postcards or a bookplate. Sometimes a vintage cigarette card or an old coin. Maybe a badge. All of the little bits of vintage emphemera you get are usually relevant either to the book or your stated tastes. The instagram hashtag #patcbox will give you some idea of the contents of people's boxes, and also show you that each one is definitely different. There's none of this "buy in bulk and make five hundred of the same box" with P&tC


How easy are they to contact if you need to change something?

Some of the less salubrious subs boxes are very unresponsive to customers. I'm delighted to report that P&tC are not like that at all. Their social media presence is actually social, not just broadcasting adverts like some, and they are great to chat to on instagram and (especially) twitter. They're very responsive to emails with customer service questions too, especially when you're setting up a gift sub (I liked them so much I got my mum a sub for her birthday).


Value for Money?

Genuinely depends on what you value. The cash value of the box contents is not usually up there with the price of the subscription; what you're paying for here is the service. The infinite and very personal care and hard work that they put into selecting a vintage book that is just for you is really evident, and they are genuinely joyous when you report back that you liked their selection.


Overall marks

Get this box if:
  • you enjoy reading;
  • you want a lovely and genuinely surprising box every month, which is none-the-less exactly right for your tastes (assuming you filled in the survey sufficiently);
  • you find little bits of vintage emphemera interesting.
Don't get this box if:
  • you're one of those people who expects the trade-off for a surprise to be huge cash value;
  • you want a pristine, perfect, brand new book;
  • you find little bits of vintage emphemera annoying.
Marks out of ten: 10/10. Genuinely couldn't be happier, and I do a little squeak of excitement whenever I get the notification email that my box is on the way.

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