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Archive for January, 2014

Five Great Reasons to Visit Singapore

Singapore is a small island country with a big heart and presence. Around 45 km west to east and 25 km from north to south, the population is densely packed. I’ve visited Singapore three times now, usually on the way to another final destination since Singapore is around ten hours flight from New Zealand and makes a great stopover.

But those people who don’t spend time in Singapore are short-changing themselves because it’s a great holiday destination in its own right.

Five Reasons to Visit Singapore

1. It’s a safe, clean and friendly place to visit. Definitely easy to get around on your own.

2. The food is delicious! Dine on Chinese, Indian, Malay or stick to something more familiar. Dining out is a treat for the taste buds.

3. Retail therapy. No matter what you want to buy you’ll find goods ranging from designer to bargains in the older market areas.

4. The international airport – Changi Airport is one of the nicest and most interesting airports to visit. Save some shopping time for the airport too.

5. A wide range of attractions to visit and things to do for all age groups. Ride on the Singapore Flyer. Visit the renowned Singapore zoo or Jurong Bird Park. Have a Singapore sling at Raffles Hotel. Take a walking tour around the old parts of the city or laze away the day on Sentosa Island. The choice is endless.

View from Singapore Flyer

View of the City from the top of the Singapore Flyer

Tai Chi Botanic Gardens

Morning Tai Chi at the botanical gardens

Singapore River

Singapore River, lined with restaurants and pubs

Mosque and Market

Sultan Mosque and surrounding market stalls

Singapore really is an exciting and vibrant place to visit, and I’m looking forward to the next time we can fit it into our travel itinerary.

Have you or would you like to visit Singapore? Does it appeal to you as a destination?

Oaty Ginger Crunch

When I was a child my father used to receive a gift of crystalized ginger, dried fruit and nuts every Christmas. I hated, and still dislike, the dried figs component, and I wasn’t very keen on the ginger either. That has changed over time, and as I’ve grown older I’ve come to enjoy crystalized ginger.

When my mind turns to baking, ginger has become my favorite. This recipe is a twist on Ginger Crunch. I like the addition of porridge oats (oatmeal) and coconut to the traditional recipe. The oats make it feel healthier somehow, Smile

Ginger Crunch 

Ingredients:

15o grams/5 oz butter

2 Tablespoons golden syrup

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup coconut

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (oatmeal)

1 cup white flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 cup of finely chopped crystalized ginger

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line your slice tin (20 cm x 30 cm)

2. Melt the butter, golden syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan, stirring the mixture occasionally. Remove from heat once the butter is all melted.

3. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and make a well in the center.

4. Add the melted butter mix to the flour and mix until combined.

5. Press the mix into your lined tin and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

 

Frosting:

150 grams/5 oz butter

2 – 2 1/2 cups of icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger

1. Combine butter, golden syrup, ginger and 2 cups of the icing sugar in a saucepan and heat until the butter melts. Stir constantly. If the frosting is too running gradually add the other 1/2 a cup of icing sugar until it is a workable consistency.

2. Pour frosting over the cooled baked slice.

3. If you’re a ginger fan, sprinkle more chopped crystallized ginger and some pistachio nuts on top for decoration.

Shelley’s notes:

This is a delicious slice, and I find it very moreish.

Are you a fan of ginger?

H For Hippopotamus!

Hippos or hippopotamus (river horse) are known as the most dangerous animal in Africa, and they kill many people every year. You wouldn’t think they’d be dangerous, given their appearance. They’re plump with thick bodies and short legs, have a round head with small eyes and ears and a greyish-brown skin. They have no hair on their bodies except for a few bristles on their muzzle and at the end of their stubby tail.

Socializing hippos

A hippo spends its day lazing in the water. This is where it feels most comfortable and where it seeks refuge if it feels threatened. They can dive for up to 15 minutes but more commonly their dive times are one – five minutes. Water keeps their skin clean.

During the evening and at night, they go ashore to graze. They make a sound like a cow bellowing or a horse-like neigh when excited. They also snort when they’re in the water.

When we visited Malawi, we camped on the edge of a river. The next morning, we were all complaining about people snoring and accusing each other of the crime. It was in fact hippos wandering around our campsite. So glad I didn’t need a restroom visit in the middle of the night!

Hippo Bliss

Hippo bliss- a nice mud hole.

Hippos have a good sense of smell and also good hearing. Their sight is fairly good.

Apart from man, hippos have few enemies. Crocodiles might kill young hippos while on land groups of lions can possibly bring down a solitary animal.

The groups of animals consist mainly of females and non-breeding young. A group of females will be watched over by one male. Baby hippos are born in the water.

Off for a Wander

Off for a wander…

It’s not good to get between a hippo and water because this will make the creature feel threatened. Hippos are also very protective of their young and a person should never get between the mother and her baby. Hippos can run faster than a human over a short distance.

A group of hippos is called a pod, a herd or a bloat.

A male hippo is called a bull. A female hippo is called a cow and a baby is a calf.

I have to admit I’d never call them pretty, but they are an interesting animal. The pygmy ones are cute, especially the new born calves. I saw one on the news the other day and immediately wanted one for a pet.

Where does a hippo fit on your scale of likeable creatures?

Source: A Field Guide to Mammals of Africa by Theodor Haltenorth and Helmut Diller

Photos: P Munro – taken in Zambia, Africa.

Thirteen Facts About January

Thursday Thirteen

When I was wondering about a topic for my thirteen this week, I started thinking about beginnings. January is the beginning of the year, and I thought that would make a great topic.

Thirteen Facts About The Month of January

1. January is named after the Roman god Janus, a god said to have two heads. He looks back to the last year and forward to the new one.

2. The birthstone for January is garnet, which is said to represent constancy.

3. The flower for January is carnation.

4. The stars signs of Capricorn (Dec 22 – Jan 19) and Aquarius (Jan 20 – Feb 18) fall in January.

5. A Northern hemisphere January is the seasonal equivalent of July in the Southern hemisphere.

6. It’s national Thank You month.

7. Saxons sometimes called January the wolf month because hungry wolves would prowl towns searching for food during this month.

8. January is the only month when the North Pole is usually colder than the South pole.

9. January always begins on the same day as October, except during a leap year.

10. The polish word for January is Stycznia, which comes from the word joining. It joins the old year to the new one.

11. According to US census information, January is fairly popular as a girl’s name. It comes in at around 3200th most popular.

12. Originally the Roman calendar ran from March to December. Names for January and February were added later.

13. Mr Munro was born in January – on 8 January to be precise. The same day as Elvis, he likes to remind me.

Are you a fan of January?

Relaxing at the Summer Palace

Thailand was one of our stops during our recent cruise. We’ve visited Bangkok before, and this time we elected to do a trip to see Bang Pa-In Palace, in Ayutthaya Province, which is where the Thai royal family always spent the summer. The current king and queen still hold receptions and banquets here and use part of the palace as a residence at times.

The gardens are gorgeous, full of flowers and mature trees. There are loads of pagodas and places to sit and rest with views of the garden and large bodies of water.

Pond_Bang Pa-In Palace

Peaceful bodies of water to stroll past and admire.

Pagoda_Bang Pa-In Palace

Bang Pa-In Palace

Pagodas to admire  Flowers_Bang Pa-In Palace

Gorgeous flowers everywhere

Garden Topairy

Topiary -  A herd of elephants. They had lots of different animals—a real menagerie, but the elephants were my favorites.

Turtle_Palace

The locals checking us out as we strolled through the gardens.

Royal residence

A corner of the current royal residence. I loved the Wedgewood-like scroll work.

There were lots of other tourists present during our visit, yet the place seemed to absorb everyone and retain its peaceful air.

Shelley

I enjoyed our visit very much, and immediately plot bunnies started jumping around inside my head. Travel does that to me. The grounds and buildings are now a part of a scene in Snared by Saber, my current WIP.

What do you think of the topiary? Have you seen other shapes?

Blueberry Scones

Blueberry Scones

Since I had a bottle of cream in the fridge, I decided to make scones today. I also had some fresh blueberries. Yes, I thought. A marriage made in heaven.

These scones are incredibly easy and quick – a no-fail recipe.

Blueberry Scones

4 cups self-raising flour

pinch of salt

300 ml/ 10 fluid ounces cream

300 ml/ 10 fluid ounces lemonade or soda water

Generous handful of fresh blueberries

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center.

3. Add the cream and lemonade or soda water. Toss in the blueberries. Mix together carefully until you have a soft dough. Do not handle the dough too much.

4. Turn the dough onto a well floured board and roll (gently) into a rectangle. Cut into around 12 pieces and place on your baking tray.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

6. Remove from oven, place on a clean tea towel to keep until ready to serve.

7. Serve with whipped cream and jam or plain butter if you prefer.

Shelley’s Notes:

1. If you don’t like blueberries, replace with 1/2 cup of raisins, dates or dried cranberries. You could also add grated cheese or leave the scones plain and sprinkle the top with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

2. Americans – use a can of Sprite for the lemonade or you could use fizzy mineral water.

Eat and enjoy!

A Tourist Paparazzi at the Zoo!

A few months ago hubby and I were in Sydney. It was a gorgeous day, and we decided to visit Taronga Zoo. We caught the ferry across the harbor and at the other side rode up the cable car to the top of the hill. The view from the zoo is incredible, especially from the giraffe enclosure.

Room With a View

Room with a view for the giraffes.

I joined the rest of the tourist paparazzi and roamed the zoo taking photos.

Kookobura

First up was this kookaburra. He didn’t seem to mind posing.

Koala 

Mr. Koola wasn’t very cooperative. In fact, he was a bit grumpy.

MountainSheep

Mr. Mountain Sheep was cooperative.

Meerkat

So was Mr. Meerkat

Meerkat 2

For a time. Then he turned his back and refused to pose.

Snow Leopard

Mr. Snow Leopard just wanted to snooze…

We had a fun visit, despite the uncooperative animals. Taronga zoo is in a gorgeous position, although comfortable shoes are a must.

Tell me about your favorite zoo experience.

Thirteen Food and Diet Snippets

Thursday Thirteen

I’m currently thinking “diet” after a cruising holiday in November and eating lots of Christmas treats. Hubby and I were reading The Fast Diet Recipe book by Mimi Spencer with Dr. Sarah Schenker and have decided to try several of the recipes during our mission to lose a few pounds.

Along with the recipes there are lots of nutrition tips. I thought I’d select some for this week’s TT

Thirteen Nutrition Snippets and Facts for Dieters

1. Almonds are a rich source of magnesium. You’ll get a third of your recommended daily amount by eating just ten almonds. It’s excellent for the nervous system.

2. Gram for gram, quail’s eggs have more iron than a chicken’s egg.

3. Asparagus is a rich source of folate, which is important for the production of healthy red blood cells.

4. Wild mushrooms often contain more selenium as they grow in mineral-rich soil.

5. Pork contains the zinc needed for a healthy immune system.

6. Pears are easy to digest and are one of the least allergenic foods around.

7. Scientific studies show that beetroot can help to lower blood pressure.

8. Avocados are a good source of antioxidant vitamin E, which is important for the immune system.

9. Kelp is an astonishing source of calcium – over a gram per 100 grams.

10. Nutmeg contains a substance called macelignan which can help protect teeth against caries.

11. There is growing evidence that cinnamon helps control blood sugar levels.

12. Celery is said to contain negative calories. One stick contains about 2 calories, but the energy cost of eating and digesting it outweighs this.

13. Studies show that soup increases satiation—and stops you over-eating.

Is anyone else joining me in a diet for the New Year? I’m working on celery sticks from Monday.



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