Tuesday, 30 September 2014

How easy is it to be safe online?

Actually how easy is it to stay safe online? I think I'm pretty up to date with all things secure - I never click the 'save payment details for future use' check box which is offered on so many websites nowadays and I make sure all my anti-virus software is up to date. But maybe I could do more....

Choice Loans have just launched a new interactive infographic that outlines every type of fraud, and 16 different things you can do right now to prevent being a victim of identify fraud or money theft online.

Did you know that £450.4m of credit card fraud was committed in 2013 alone according to Financial Fraud Action UK and there were  221,000 cases of Identity Fraud in the UK last year - also there was the recent iCloud hack!

Have a look at the handy guide here > http://bit.ly/identifyfraud to make sure that you are staying as safe as you can be!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Magical museums & great galleries!

Did you know that Henry VIII enjoyed a kick-about with his mates, back when football was a game of ‘beastly fury and extreme violence’? Or that with a quick rummage around your kitchen cupboards, under the guidance of museum scientists, you’ll find all you need to make an erupting volcano? Did you know there’s a huge stuffed walrus with its own Twitter account living in a museum in London?

Show Me, set to become the ‘go to’ website for children and young people looking to discover and learn about the weird and wonderful world of museums, galleries and archives across the UK, has just launched this September. The site showcases a fascinating range of stories, artworks, objects, games, films, apps and days out listings to inspire and ignite young imaginations.

The online 'exhibits' are most certainly based around the questions that children ask, for example you can find out about the top ten dead thing in museums(!) and how to make a Roman shield. There's everything from things to make, fact sheets and online games to help to educate your child whilst having fun at the same time!
Show Me is excited to be working in partnership with the Bafta-winning Culture Street team who specialise in making short films and interactives for and with children and young people. Culture Street brings a selection of the collection objects featured on Show Me to life in a brand new series of short films about collection objects chosen by children on museum visits. The children take viewers with them around the museum, asking curators the questions we’d all like to ask.

Show Me is also a guide to the best family-friendly museums across the UK, featuring information on the latest events and exhibitions for family days out.

www.Show.Me.Uk will feature:
  • Hundreds of museum games and learning resources 
  • Zoomable, high quality pictures of collection objects from a range of museums 
  • Culture Street’s films and interactives on key collection objects
  • Make & Do guides – from volcanoes to Roman togas and wartime carrot fudge
  • Behind-the-scenes info and stories from the world of museums
  • What’s on guide – venue & listings info on family-friendly UK museums and galleries
  • Homework help for kids and supporting resources for teachers.
Find Culture Street’s films and interactives on www.culturestreet.org.uk as well as on Show Me.

Show Me is edited by Anra Kennedy, Content and Partnership Director at Culture24 and a trustee of both campaigning charity Kids in Museums – www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk - and GEM, the Group for Education in Museums – www.gem.org.uk.

Anra Kennedy says, “It’s so exciting to be opening up museum and gallery collections to a new generation of children and young people on Show Me. There are so many wonderful stories and treasures in museums and galleries but they’re very difficult to find online, especially for kids and their time-pressed parents and teachers. The site will keep growing and developing with more collections, games, stories, museums and listings being added all the time, I’m hoping checking out what’s new on Show Me will become a habit for many children and young people.”

Annie Devitt, Head of Learning at the National Media Museum who worked with Culture Street on the films around their collection says, "We were given a brilliant opportunity to work with Culture Street and their young filmmakers to uncover some of our hidden collection objects. They have managed to bring the history and science behind our treasures to a much wider audience."

Show Me is also supported by Arts Council England.

John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Museums, Arts Council England, said: “The Arts Council is pleased to be supporting Show Me, an initiative that promotes museum collections in an original, relevant and engaging manner. Stories are at the heart of every good museum and Show Me will help to bring collections to life for a wide audience.”

To explore museum content for children and young people why not visit www.show.me.uk and www.culturestreet.org.uk?

Friday, 26 September 2014

Perfect eggs!

Running a B&B means that we are self-confessed experts at cooking eggs.... of all types! We're lucky that we have a super-duper hot plate to fry our eggs on but not everyone has that luxury!

Lark and Larks have put together this great guide to cooking the perfect egg... what do you think?

What's your favourite way to cook eggs? For me, it's poached all the way!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I *heart* Italy! Romantic break in the planning...

Fancy a romantic break away? I've always wanted to visit Italy and love the sound of these ideas...

Visiting the estate Hofstätter is an experience that involves all five senses. The guests will be amazed not only by the cellar and the beautiful wine shop, but also a restaurant, a wine bar and the Garden - Vineyard, which makes this enchanting corner a pleasant and unique place to meet. If you want to understand a wine and it's characteristics, you have to explore the vineyard. At Hofstatter estate, you can also make a trip by jeep, having the opportunity to learn about the territory of the vineyards of this historic property, which is located in one of the most ancient wine roads, in the village of Termeno, the old hamlet which has given the name to Gewurtztraminer. If you want to try the typical Thyrolean food, you can taste delicious local dishes accompanied by wines from Hofstätter in the attached Restaurant.

Baglio di Pianetto is the fulfilment  of an ambitious project and the dream of its founder, the Count Paolo Marzotto, to give life to a chateau in Sicily to produce excellent wines from both Sicilian indigenous grapes such as Insolia and Nero D’Avola and the international grapes Viognier, Petit Verdot and Syrah.

The company owns two estates in Sicily, one is located near Palermo where the vineyards grow at the altitude of 650 metres. Here the area is constantly ventilated and subjected to a considerable temperature range between day and night.  These conditions are perfect for Catarratto, Viognier, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The other property is in the south of Sicily, near Siracusa, where the blazing sun permeates the soil which is mitigated by the frequent sea breezes. This is the ideal microclimate for Nero D’Avola, Frappato, Syrah and Moscato di Noto.

Baglio di Pianetto is not only a chateau. It’s also an Agrirelais, a charming resort in the countryside near Palermo, among vineyards and olive trees. A beautiful destination to spend a relaxing vacation to discover picturesque villages, the centre of Palermo with it's artistic treasures and churches, the beautiful natural environment  and especially to enjoy Baglio di Pianetto’s wines and to visit the winery. 

If you want to take a break and relax in one of the most beautiful areas of Umbria, you have to stop at Roccafiore: a wine estate and a Country Chic Spa Resort where style, tradition and comfort blend together in a harmony created by experience and passion.

Roccafiore is a perfect location for a gateway for two with a restaurant offering delicious local dishes, a beautiful wellness centre and an enchanting hotel in the heart of Umbria immersed in the green countryside surrounded by 90 acres of gardens, vineyards and olive groves.

If you want to discover nature while having fun, you can also join "Jurassic Pork", the “wild” real safari aboard off-road experience to those, they offer along a path surrounded by vineyards and olive groves where you can also visit the of Cinta Senese pigs.

Tucked away among the gently rolling hills and in a wonderful secluded spot, Roccafiore estate is also a real bio-natural reserve, which combines the use of an ancient agricultural tradition with technological innovation in order to preserve the environment.

The Terenzi estate has sprung up as the result of an ambitious idea: to promote an area that has so much to give - starting off with its great wines - but that for far too long has been held in less consideration than other areas of Tuscany. To make this dream into reality, the Terenzi family decided to give up all their other activities and dedicate themselves full time to the area of Scansano and its flagship wine: Morellino.

Hospitality is another cardinal feature for the young Terenzi brothers, who are now running the activities and who enjoy making people discover how wine is made, educating them to drink well and allowing them to get to know the family and the region on a personal basis .
The area devoted to hospitality includes the restaurant, the wine shop and the inn (an old converted farmhouse) composed of 9 rooms decorated in traditional Maremman style, so that every guest can feel perfectly at ease.

The restaurant re-evokes a typically informal and welcoming Tuscan eatery, with a splendid veranda that looks out over the vineyards and the gentle valleys of the Maremma. The old farm has, on the other hand, been turned into an inn containing 5 rooms and a suite, distributed among the three main farm buildings that make up the "agriturismo". Each room is spacious and comfortable, with all the mod cons such as free Wi-Fi connection, drinks fridge, television and telephone. 

The excellent local cuisine; the close proximity of the Saturnia thermal baths, where you can also find exclusive golf courses and riding stables; the opportunity to go on excursions to the Maremma Alberese Natural Park, to Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole, or to the splendid sites of Pitigliano and Sovana: all this makes the Terenzi estate an unmissable destination when visiting the Maremma around Grosseto.

If you pass by Piedmont region, you should stop in the Langhe, whose viticultural landscape has just been recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

In the heart of this enchanting wine region, which produce Barolo and Barbaresco, two of the world’s most famous wines, wine growing has been the heart and soul of the economy for centuries. For a fine dining break, you cannot miss the restaurant La Ciau of Tornavento, where the high cuisine is defined by elegant flavors of the dishes created by Maurilio Garola.

You can eat on the balcony watching the most beautiful landscape of the Langa and taste great wines:  inside the restaurant you can visit the most important collection of Italian wines, a real temple with over 60,000 bottles in a room designed for them. La Ciau has been included in the list of restaurants with the best wine list by Wine Spectator and in 2013 
the Revue de Vin de France has awarded La Ciau as the best wine list in the world.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Coffee, coffee, coffee....

If there's one thing that I couldn't give up, then it would be coffee!

The story of coffee
Despite being readily available, coffee has a colourful history dating back to the 9th century. To give you a better understanding of the world’s favourite drink, Logic Vending have put together this guide covering everything you need to know about coffee!

When was coffee first discovered?
According to legend, coffee was first discovered in the 9th century by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. He realised that the beans has miraculous ‘perk-me-up’ qualities when he noticed that his goats became spirited and sleepless after eating berries from a certain tree. Kaldi recounted the phenomenon to the local monastery whose abbot made a drink with the hope of staying awake for evening prayer. After experiencing the energising effects first hand, the abbot shared his new found knowledge with other monks. Thus the coffee craze was born!

The Arabian entrepreneurs
While coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia, the Arabs were the first to actively cultivate plantations and start up a thriving trade market for the beans. During the 15th century production was limited to the Yemeni district however by the 16th century, production had extended to Turkey, Egypt, Persia, Syria and beyond.

Coffee arrives in Europe
Compared to the East, Europeans didn’t discover the delights of coffee until the 17th century when whispers of the black brew reached major cities. While consumers were sceptical at first and referred to the drink as the 'bitter invention of Satan,’ it was soon given the seal of approval by the Pope himself! By the mid-17th century London played host to over 300 coffee houses.

The US invasion
America was the next nation to taste the bitter bean when merchants brought coffee to New York (then known as New Amsterdam) in the mid-1600s. While tea remained hugely popular, King George’s 1773 ‘tea tax’ turned Americans against the leaf based beverage and coffee emerged as the drink of choice.

The spread of plantations
As the world began to develop a growing taste for coffee, European nations decided to stir up the Arabian coffee plantation monopoly. While they did encounter resistance, the Dutch eventually got their hands on some seedlings in the mid-17th century and attempted to plant crops in Indonesia. The beans thrived in the warm climate and today, Indonesia remains a primary producer of coffee. In 1714 the Dutch showed a streak of exceptional generosity and presented a coffee plant seedling to King Louis XIV of France. The seed was sewn in the Paris’s Royal Botanical Garden where it thrived! However in 1723, a young officer is thought to have stolen a seedling and transported it to the French Caribbean Island of Martinique. Thus the beginning of the South and Central American coffee revolution!

Where is coffee produced?
Today, coffee plantations are grown in countries across the globe. Asia, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands are all popular coffee producers however it’s Africa and South America that really steal the show.

So if you love coffee just as much as me and are looking for a high quality coffee machine to rent or buy, Logic Vending has a huge selection of models to suit cafes, restaurants, bars, salons, offices and more. The Fracino Romano 2 Group is a great commercial coffee machine to lease and features an hourly output of 400 cups. For smaller settings, bean to cup machines are ideal. So, have a look at their website and choose what would be best for you!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Expecting the unexpected through the post!

ascdirect.co.uk has been providing a wide and varied range of corrugated box solutions for over 30 years. These can be designed to exact specification including recyclable, lightweight or heavy duty for export. The boxbuilder tool allows customers to design a bespoke design tailored to their exact needs which keeps postal costs to a minimum and offers great environmental savings.
To mark the re-launch of its new website ascdirect.co.uk has released a list of the weird and unusual things its customers have posted with boxes made through the boxbuilder function:

  1. ‘Breathable’ boxes for a bee breeder;
  2. Snake carrier;
  3. Worms (for fishing enthusiasts);
  4. Double walled box for posting frogs;
  5. Motorcycle box (whole);

One customer requested a box be made so he could post his daughter out to visit his parents in Australia. Though a box could be made it is illegal to put children in the post!

Andrew Woodhead, Managing Director at ascdirect.co.uk said: “We have had some very unusual requests but we enjoy providing the perfect solution to all our customers packaging needs. These have ranged from a request for boxes to post live crickets to reptile pet owners as food, and a box to post a bee hive safely.”

“We are always looking at ways to support the individual packaging needs of a growing network of entrepreneurial home-workers who are fuelling our extraordinary cottage industry in the UK. Now our customers can design their bespoke boxes easier and quicker than ever before. The process has being simplified down to three simple steps, improving our customer’s on-line experience but with our great value prices remaining the same.

”With Ebay and Amazon sellers also playing a big part of our customer base, they are able to design their perfect box - offering savings on postal costs as well as environmental benefits.”
It is possible to send living creatures through Royal Mail and these include bees, caterpillars, cockroaches, crickets, destroyers of noxious pests, earthworms, fish fry and eggs, leeches and other parasites, lugworms, maggots, mealworms, pupae and chrysalides, rag worms, silkworms, spiders and stick insects. In order to comply with the tight postal guidelines** laid down by Royal Mail, the boxes used need to be secure and good quality to ensure that they do not break open during transit.

*Live animals and reptiles are prohibited, as are any creatures or insects classified as dangerous within the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (including certain venomous spiders). Please see www.royalmail.com/internationalprohibitedgoods for more information.

**They must be boxed and packaged to protect the creatures, Royal Mail staff and their customers from harm. Items must be clearly marked ‘URGENT – LIVING CREATURES - HANDLE WITH CARE’. The sender’s name and return address must be clearly visible on the outer packaging.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Gruffalo: Games mobile app

Families have been flocking to download the first-ever Gruffalo: Games mobile app since it launched at the end of August, helping it to become the most popular Kids and Education iOS app this week.

Children can test The Gruffalo’s quick-thinking and super smart moves in a series of simple but classic games, helping complement the key skills they’re learning at pre- and primary school.

The team behind The Gruffalo: Games app is Oscar-nominated entertainment company Magic Light Pictures and is based on the much-loved picture book, The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

The games are based on traditional and well-known children’s games that everyone will be familiar with, including snap, three-in-a-row, matching and jigsaws – but each with a monstrous twist!

In two of the games, 3 In A Row and Snap, children are able to play against The Gruffalo himself, who, despite his terrible tusks and terrible claws, is surprisingly good at card games. Children will find plenty of challenge trying to beat him!

The beautifully designed and illustrated app is aimed at 3-7 year olds and features six games set to music from the films. Gruffalo: Games captures the essence of the stories by featuring both The Gruffalo and other popular characters from the book, including Mouse, Owl, Fox and Snake.

The enduringly popular children’s character comes to life in this new mobile app which has been designed to entertain children and engage them with the real world, as well as The Gruffalo character.

The Gruffalo: Games follows in the footsteps of the highly successful Room on the Broom app which was launched by Magic Light Pictures in October 2013.

Martin Pope, co-founder of Magic Light Pictures, said: “We’re thrilled that The Gruffalo’s many fans seem to be enjoying the games so much, which are designed to be fun, challenging and encourage imagination. “

“It's been a pleasure and honour to work with Julia's wonderful rhymes and Axel's amazing illustrations, and we’ve worked closely with them to ensure we stay true to their characters.”

Magic Light Pictures developed the app with Stormcloud Games, who they had previously worked with on Room on the Broom: Games released late last year.

The Gruffalo: Games iOS app is available to download priced £2.99.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sunflower Seed Flapjacks

Good fats/bad fats... it can be a minefield out there with lots of dietary advice being thrown at us from all directions. Everyone loves a treat but finding an energy-rich, healthy snack can be tricky! That's why I love this easy to bake flapjack recipe.

Don't be mistaken, it's not a low-fat recipe by any means ('real' butter!) but it has the classic flapjack recipe base with oats (great for long lasting energy!) and you can add seeds (sunflower or pumpkin work best) to increase the 'good fats' in the snack. Dried apricots also work a treat as would any dried fruit to be honest! So give it a go for the after-school snack; I'm sure you and your children will love it!

Sunflower Seed Flapjacks
200g unsalted butter
6 tbsp. golden syrup
330g porridge oats
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds or a mixture of both)
2 tbsp. nuts (I like to use flaked almonds, but any would do)

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 4 and line a Swiss roll tin or 10" square tin with baking parchment.
  2. Combine the oats, seeds and nuts in a large mixing bowl with a pinch of salt.
  3. Gently heat the butter and golden syrup together over a low heat until completely melted.
  4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix gently. Spoon into the prepared baking tray and press down quite firmly to level the mixture.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-25 mins until golden brown. The flapjack won't quite be set, but leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out. I tend to score the flapjack into portions after about 10 mins of cooling but still leave in the tin until cold before removing.
  6. Enjoy! This will keep in an airtight container for a few days... if it lasts that long!