Here in England the winter is now grey, wet, and miserable. In some parts of the USA, the winter has come howling in with a vengeance. The time for salads has passed in most of the Northern Hemisphere, and we all need something warming and comforting on the table. I need no excuses to devote another Food on Friday to soups ~ even though it’s not so long ago that I gave you all a post about Late Summer Soups.
I love this recipe from Chungah Rhee at Damn delicious. Perfect for a cold winter’s night, a rich and warming potato ham chowder. Trust me, it’s easy, filling, creamy, and very delicious.
Potato Ham Chowder
Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup
I love French Onion soup, but the way I make it takes forever. Petra at Food Eat Love has this recipe for French onion and marrow soup she says takes about a half an hour. Who am I to argue?
French Onion and Marrow Soup
Elise Buaer at Simply Recipes has a really thrifty and nourishing soup for turkey leftovers ~ Mom’s turkey soup. And don’t worry if it’s too late to use up the leftover Thanksgiving turkey because Christmas is just around the corner.
Mom’s Turkey Soup
Heather Christo always has beautifully photographed dishes, and this vegan roasted butternut squash soup is no exception. This serving is garnished with coconut cream and fresh chives. And remember, Heather’s recipes are always deliciously allergen free.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
From Gura at Cooking Without Limits I can offer you something different, packed with ‘superfoods’ ~ a sweet potato soup with ginger. I have to try this, and maybe I can persuade my friend in Southern California to try making this recipe too.
Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger
Finally for this week, from House and Garden Magazine we have this smashing collection of easy soup recipes, including this Indian chickpea soup. I love Indian food, (that’s Asian Indian, not Native American). I also love all these recipe collections I’m finding for you.
Indian Chickpea Soup.
A very big thanks to all the great cooks featured in this week’s Food on Friday
After the success he had making a traditional North of England wooden stool, (a cracket), Marmaduke has been looking around for his next project. He and I had a few words of disagreement about making a mess in the garret, but as usual he has got his way.
So now he’s got lots of board-feet of treated timber, and he’s going to make a bird table. (For the life of me I can’t remember what bird tables are called in the USA.)
The garret is full of pressure treated out-doors type wood.
And Marmaduke says that he’s going to make something like this.
I said he should hurry up and get it done. For; the north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow, and what will poor Robyn do then, poor thing?
Back when I was a boy everyone in England sent Christmas cards ~ to everyone they knew. That meant a lot of cards and a lot of extra work for the Royal Mail. There was overtime and extra staffing galore.
In recent years, more and more people seem to have given up on that tradition of mailing an actual card to their family and friends. Either the younger generation post a Christmas greeting on social media, or send a round-robin email, or they don’t seem to bother at all.
Among my circle of friends the ‘old-fashioned’ Christmas card still holds sway, for some very good reasons. Over the years my friends and I have all moved away from one another, sometimes to countries literally across the world. The simple Christmas card says;
- We have been thinking if you, and remembering you enough to take the trouble and expense of sending you this card.
- We wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.
- We haven’t changed our address, or if we have our new address is enclosed. (There is an obvious snag here, if the change of address crosses with a card you’ve already sent….)
- We are still alive, or if someone has died, then the sad news of the death is enclosed with this card.
- We are still friends, and we still love you.
If there is some other important news, then usually a longer letter will be enclosed with the card. It’s a very simple tradition, but one that says so very much.
In December seventy years ago the French decided they would stay in Indochina. This set off a chain of misery which did not end when the Americans were defeated by Vietnamese communists in 1975 with the fall of Saigon. French occupation of Vietnam ended with their defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The Vietnamese Cambodian war then went on until 1991.
Billy Joel ~ We Didn’t Start The Fire
Please listen responsibly.
Perhaps we should all learn a little more forgotten history.
There is something very therapeutic about working with wood.
Marmaduke and I made a stool as a Christmas gift for a close friend. A cool guy should be able to do some carpentry.
By a Carpenter mankind was made, and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade. ~ Desiderius Erasmus
I seem to have really caught the carpentry bug again. So, what’s next? Build a boat in the basement?
no little teddy bears were hurt during the making of this little cracket
Reliabilty is Not One of its Good Qualities
At its launch in 1970 the Triumph Stag was a big sports car aimed at the luxury end of the market. At a stretch it could accommodate 4 smallish adults in considerable comfort, but realistically it’s more of a 2+2. Sharing the pretty Giovanni Michelotti styling of rest of Triumph’s range at the time, the Stag was unusual for a sports car in that it had an integral roll-0ver bar joined to the windscreen frame by a T-bar. This was to meet Californian regulations, but it also gave the monocoque bodyshell considerable extra stiffness.
The Stag was supposed to compete with the Mercedes-Benz sports-touring range, but that was always a very forlorn hope. Back then a Mercedes-Benz built by proper German engineers didn’t break down so often.
Powered by a new Triumph 3 litre overhead cam (OHC) V8 giving an alleged 145 bhp and 170 foot pounds of torque, driving the rear wheels through a Borg-Warner three speed automatic transmission, the good looking Stag should have been a great car. In fact it was a disaster, and only 25,939 were ever built with just 2,871 going to the United States. One look at an engine dwarfed by the engine bay, and the tiny Stromberg carburettors tells you most of what you need to know.
There were some obvious issues. Although the basic Stag weighed in at just a ton and a quarter, (2,800 lbs), by the time you added a couple of adults and their luggage it was underpowered and sluggish for a sports car. The benchmark 0 to 60 mph time was a pedestrian 9.5 seconds and the top speed about 120 mph. The three speed auto transmission did not help at all. The brakes were a mixture of discs at the front with rear drums, and if you took a Stag over the Alpine passes you’d cook the brakes on the way down. Remember with that auto-box there is no engine braking, so you’re riding the brake pedal all the way. Suspension is by very conventional MacPherson struts at the front with semi-trailing arms at the rear, and it’s pretty good for a sports-touring car, which is what the Stag really is. I’ve never heard of any problems with the power-assisted rack and pinion steering.
But, the biggest problem with the Stag is right at its beating heart. The engine was utter crap. From day one Stags broke down, and went on breaking down, again and again. Usually, by the time it had done 25,000 miles the Stag’s V8 engine was a pile of junk, needing a total rebuild or only fit for the scrap yard. Problems started with cooling, and included issues with the oil system, ignition, carburettors, crankshaft, timing chain, galvanic corrosion… I don’t know how any company could get something so badly wrong. And yet, SAAB, a brilliant company in engineering terms, took the left half of that V8 engine, enlarged that half to two litres, and successfully used it to power their entire range of quirky cars.
Many Stags are now bastardised and powered by the Rover V8 engine, which gives brilliant power and reliability, but renders the resultant abberation almost worthless in terms of originality and desirability. I wouldn’t touch a hybrid Stag / Rover with your ten-foot pole, let alone mine.
You can buy a very decent Stag for £7,500 ~ or less if you’re willing to take on something that is much less than perfect. At the top of the market you could be looking at paying £15,000, which is stupid money for one of these scions of unreliability. If you are thinking of buying a Stag, join the owners’ club before you do anything else.
The burning question is, should I buy a Triumph Stag? Well yes, given a huge budget to spend with parts companies like Rimmer Bros. to completely rebuild the engine and drivetrain. The Stag is still a brilliant concept and would make a great sports-touring car for transcontinental road trips. Would I recommend the Triumph Stag to a friend? Not a chance. And to be honest, I think the much maligned Triumph TR7 is the better car, and that also uses the left half of the Triumph V8 engine. Either would be good for a long road trip, and as a full-time hobby getting it ready for a long road trip.
(The Avro Vulcan is to the B52 what a Lotus is to a Ford.)
these opinions are mine and mine alone
Before we go any further to talk about the most common types on insurance ~ and do you need them or not? ~ there is something you should know about insurance agreements. Any contract of insurance is a contract uberrimae fidei ~ a contract of utmost good faith. This means that you must tell your insurance company everything and anything which may have a bearing on the risk they are taking on. If you keep any significant information back, the chances are you are not insured at all.
For example, if you have put bigger wheels and tyres than standard on your car, you should tell your car insurance company. If you’re an alcoholic / drug addict / smoker / overweight / pyromaniac, you should tell your Life Assurance company. If you have ever been refused insurance, you should tell your insurance company. And when you advise your insurance company of something pertinent, do it in writing.
All insurance companies love to collect premiums. All insurance companies hate to pay out for any claims, and will do anything and everything to avoid paying a claim. For example, you not telling your car insurance company that you have recently been found guilty of driving while intoxicated will most likely void your insurance entirely, and they will not pay out under any circumstances. So if in doubt, tell all, in writing ~ else you’re probably not insured at all. And, always pay your insurance premiums by automated bank transfer / direct debit / ACH transfer.
Your best friends when it comes to making a claim are photographs. Always take plenty of pictures of everything, including your home / car / self as it is right now, before anything bad happens. Store these pictures in a cloud, on your blog, in social media… so you can always get at them if the worst happens.
The five most common and necessary types of insurance are;
- Motor / car / vehicle / driver’s cover. In civilised countries it is a legal requirement for you to be insured for the exact car you are driving. The penalties for driving while uninsured are severe. In the small print of your insurance policy it probably says that you should not drive while you are incapable, and that includes driving after drinking. Have an accident drink driving and the chances are you are uninsured.
- Home and contents insurance. Because of the inflexible nature of the laws of probability, you should have your home and its contents fully insured, or face a life on the streets. Maybe add a margin of 10% in excess of the estimated values, to account for unexpected expenses while you put your life back together after your home has burned down, blown up due to a gas leak, been destroyed in an earthquake, flooded…
- Travel insurance. When travelling abroad you may, or probably may not, be entitled to medical services in the country you are visiting. You may have an accident, lose your luggage, get hijacked, robbed… any number of disasters may happen. Travel is by its very nature hazardous and stressful. Things which would be a minor inconvenience at home may become a catastrophe if they happen in a foreign country, or even a different state. If you are travelling abroad, or a very long way, you need comprehensive travel insurance. Only idiots don’t buy travel insurance.
- Medical / health insurance. I’m English and I don’t have any medical insurance, and that doesn’t bother me in the slightest, (for reasons that are too complicated to go into here I do have dental). In the United Kingdom we have a National Health Service, (NHS), which provides free treatment at the point of care. The NHS is paid for out of taxation. Canada has a similar system. If you live anywhere else you really, really need comprehensive medical cover. But remember, you must tell your insurer everything there is to know about your degenerate lifestyle.
- Life Assurance. (not life insurance, you are going to die, you can’t insure against it). A whole life policy pays out a sum of money when you die. You don’t need this. However, if you have a dependant family, then you may want to look after them when you’re dead, therefore most heads of households buy one or more life policies. You don’t actually need to do this. It’s actually much more cost-effective to just save the money you would have paid in premiums. But nobody has that much self-discipline. I have no dependants, therefore my life assurance policies are utterly pointless, except to pay for my funeral.
Getting life insurance is like making a bet you can’t win. If you live, you don’t get the money. If you die, you don’t get to enjoy the money. ~ Oliver Gaspirtz
There are many, many other common forms of insurance, and some really esoteric insurance policies. Lloyds of London will insure against just about anything. You could probably have got insured at Lloyds against Donald Trump being the 45th President of the United States. After all, insurance is really just a bet.
Even Life Assurance is just a bet. The bet isn’t about if you’re going to die or not ~ no matter how much you pray you are going to die. With life assurance the bet is about when you are going to die, not if. And, if you think about it, that’s just creepy.
these opinions are mine and mine alone
I like the desert. I also like Palm Springs, mountains, and cable cars ~ although this one near Palm Springs is called an Aerial Tramway. If you want to look like a manly man don’t be scared of cable cars.
All these shots were taken with a LUMIX Panasonic DMC-X53 pocket camera, which is far better to cart up a mountain that my old 35mm SLR with all its attendant lenses. My days of carrying around a heavy SLR are done and gone.
pictures by jack collier
and the girl riding shotgun
After Black Friday ~ Black Velvet.
Black velvet is one of Life’s most sensual pleasures.
If they were starting their careers today, Rockwell and Picasso would probably both be painting on black velvet. ~ Brad Holland
There’s a drink called Black Velvet, made from half Champagne and half Guinness. Poured properly the two liquids stay separate in the glass ~ until one begins to quaff that is. (Quaffing is like drinking except you get drunker and spill more.) Allegedly first made by the bartender at Brooks’s in London in 1861, this cocktail is almost guaranteed to make any lady quite amatory. There’s something quite sorcerous about Black Velvet. To complete the evening get her a Black Velvet choker.
A very nice Canadian whisky is also called Black Velvet. Trust me, this is as smooth and dark as its name suggests. One of the nicer things about some Canadians is that they can spell whisky.
Black Velvet is also a very cool song, first recorded by Alannah Myles ~ and subsequently sung by anyone and everyone who thinks they have a voice. And sadly, anyone who has been drinking black velvet in a karaoke bar.
I’m not certain I can recommend the rock magazine Black Velvet, but at least there’s an on-line digital issue.
All women look good wearing black velvet. In fact, does the classic LBD look any better than when it’s a black velvet Little Black Dress? Is there anything sexier than Christian Louboutin Black Velvet evening shoes?
I know there are 1001 other products, stores, bars, cosmetics, girls… trading under the name Black Velvet. Some of these are better found for yourself. Some of these are better left alone.
If a guy wants to be a very cool guy, then he needs to sharpen up his urban survival skills and learn stuff like this.
Today in America it’s all about shopping.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, is the start of the Christmas shopping season in the United States. Some say the reason it’s called Black Friday is because this is the day retailers in the USA start to turn a profit for the year. All I know is that if I was made to go shopping to Macy’s, JC Penney, Saks, Sears, or Wal-Mart, or anywhere else come to that, at some unearthly hour the day after Thanksgiving, then I’d be in a pretty black mood by the close of play. Most manly men don’t go for the frenzy of naked consumerism and implausible bargains on offer today.
Even though we don’t have Thanksgiving in England, most retail outlets here are trying to introduce the idea of ‘Black Friday Shopping’ to the English. Like most things which cross the Atlantic from West to East, (American cars, American Halloween, American humor, American Presidents), the materialism of Black Friday doesn’t really work well here.
For a start, unlike a lot of people in a lot of US states, nobody here has today as vacation, so we don’t have to find something to do with our time. Secondly, we English are a cynical and untrusting lot, and generally think the Black Friday hype is just an attempt by retailers to increase sales volume while at the same time offloading all the crap they can’t sell at any other time of the year. (Black Friday ‘deals’ are almost inevitably at the rip-off end of the spectrum.) On top of that, November really is a little too early to be the start of the ‘Christmas Season’.
And, what the average American may not know is that we English have had our very own Black Friday for centuries. In England Black Friday is any Friday the 13th, and that is a day on which bad things happen. Nothing good ever happens on any Friday 13th, and it’s become a day to be dreaded; ladders, mirrors, and black cats especially. There’s even a name for the fear of Friday 13th paraskevidekatriaphobia.
I’m pretty certain that a lot of American men also dread their very own version of Black Friday. This is a time when all good men really need their urban survival skills. They could always say they can’t go shopping because they suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia. Maybe not, it’s a very long word.