Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

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Merry Christmas

December 25, 2011

’tis snowing at the top of the island.  Anyone fancy a day skiing on Troodos?

The webcam on Troodos, found here on SkiCyprus.com, had this image yesterday afternoon.

Season’s Greetings from us.

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New toys!

June 9, 2011

This blog post comes to you courtesy of the latest addition to the AradippouTales household.

It is gorgeous! Why did we wait so long?

20110609-094504.jpg

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Final vinyl, at last!

June 7, 2011

Like many millions of people around the world the arrival of iPods or similar music players led to us utilising iTunes (or similar) to rip our CD collection into our chosen computers. The convenience made it well worth while, and ripping CDs was easy and quick, we did most of ours before we retired to Cyprus.  However, the elephant in the room in Cyprus was our legacy of music still on vinyl.

Ian had little in the way of vinyl, but Mands had a significant number of LPs and EPs and a small collection of limited releases all linked to loads of growing up memories.  Three years ago we decided to attack this problem, aided by the timely offer of an old but perfectly useable stacking stereo system complete with record deck.  There have been numerous interruptions to the process including moving house and the like but finally it is done!

It’s not a straightforward or a quick process; albums must be played at normal speed and the sound collected in digital form into the mac.  Then some form of audio software (Wire Tap Studio worked for us) is used to chop the continuous sound file into the individual tracks.  Then the metadata, including song titles and album art, were added.  Then into iTunes and onto an iPod near you.  All told it worked out at about 2-3 hours per album, all of which needed to be monitored.

So, it’s taken time but we are finally there.  The final count is: 58 albums, 645 tracks, 2.4 gigabytes of nostalgia.

As Ian has learned the hard way some of this music is very significant.  Playing The Levellers leads to Mands demanding cider and much more volume and the Stones Sympathy with the Devil leads to dancing on the furniture, perhaps best not to ask to much more.  Of course there’s been some real one hit wonders, particularly on the hits of yestayear compilations.  Who remembers Boxerbeat by the Joboxers  from 1983?  Sadly its burnt into the brain here and we may never, ever forget it.

For his sins Ian had to listen to all of this as it was recorded.  Fortunately the really good stuff seriously outweighed all the not-so-classic so he is not scarred for life.

To ensure that he left a true classic to finish on.  Meet the Beatles,  12 tracks from 1964 recorded in Stereo the album notes proudly announce.  Readers under the age of 35 or so will need to find an older music-lover to explain why this was a big deal!  On that note there was just one album in mono: a very early, and subsequently withdrawn, Rolling Stones album.  That caused a storm when it was first released and eventually Decca gave into pressure and withdrew the original and re-released it.  And the language that caused such controversy?

If you don’t have the bread, see that blind man knock him on the head, steel his wallet and low and behold you have loot, if you put in the boot, good, another one sold!

For those of a curious mind the images that top and tail this piece are artwork from our current iTunes library.  It includes the vinyl that’s been ripped, assorted CDs and logos from podcasts that we subscribe to.   

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Exploding cucumbers

August 8, 2010

We’ve recently spent a couple of weeks dog-sitting which has had some unexpected benefits. During morning and evening walks we’ve been exploring parts of the village that we hadn’t seen before. Having Fido on a lead seems to give some legitimacy to wandering down unmarked lanes, peak around hidden corners and the like.

One of the other amusements has been finding patch after patch of ripe exploding cucumbers.  At this time of year the plant produces seed pods which are the size and shape of a very small cucumber.  Once ripe the pods explode when gently tapped, releasing both seeds and a liquid.  The force within the seed pod is so great that the seeds can be propelled 15 feet or more as they explode.

Time after time the intention was to take a camera and grab a photo or two to add to a blog piece about these extraordinary, and highly entertaining, plants.

Today it seems that Nigel from Tales from the Marshes has beaten us to it, complete with photo.

Enjoy!

Exploding cucumbers Here’s one of the things we’ll miss from Cyprus, and we only encountered it during its fruiting season just before we left the island. Exploding cucumbers do what it says on the packet – as they ripen they build up a high pressure inside and, when lightly touched, the small, hairy cucumber-fruit bit pops violently. Clearly a great strategy for dist … Read More

via Nigel’s tales from the Marshes

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Mouse vs Man

August 7, 2010

There is a battle afoot, and, frankly it isn’t a pleasant one.

We have mice: in the kitchen, in the scullery, in the study.  Each morning we walk through the downstairs looking for evidence of Mickey activity.  It isn’t particularly pleasant, and somewhat galling to discover that the old wives’ tale of rats and mice not co-existing isn’t true.  We have rats in the pomegranate tree, we have mice under the sink.

We had a similar problem in the previous house so we already had a handy stash of regular mouse traps.  For the last five days Ian has been baiting three of them each day and placing them in strategic positions.  Each morning he has found, on checking the traps, that Mickey and his friends are exceedingly well fed mice.  This week alone they’ve feasted on peanut butter, chocolate, mozzarella cheese and chocolate coffee muffins.  Feasted, but failed to trigger a single trap.

Mouse 1, humans 0

Or if we’re being entirely accurate and working on the number of days and traps: Mouse 15, humans 0

Today we made a run into town and popped into Carrefour.  A quick review of the pests aisle showed that we had three options: standard (and non-effective it appears) traps, glue traps (that we’re not prepared to use.  They’re effective but far, far from humane) and finally some exotic and expensive traps designed by the Swiss.  In desperation we picked up a pack of the Swiss traps: almost 10€ for two traps.

Tonight, less than one hour after the first Swiss trap was laid, we had our first catch.  We think that there’s only a small number of mice involved, perhaps two or three.

It seems that the Swiss make effective mouse traps as well as watches.  Who knew?

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Party nibbles

December 18, 2009

Well, pre-Christmas/psuedo house warming drinks are done and dusted.  The rain stopped for an hour or more and the garage roof didn’t collapse further.  Going on the turnout and the food and drink consumption it’s probably fair to say that people enjoyed themselves.

All told our 50+ guests devoured 663 canapes.  663!  That would be exactly 100% of the number of canapes produced.

In case anyone is looking for some inspiration for their own party, and to capture our thoughts for future events, below are notes on what was served.  The intention was to take photos as things were finished but it all got just a little busy towards the end of the prep time.

As we’re in Cyprus some things that are readily available in the UK just aren’t available to buy here. Similarly some things are available but are expensive; smoked salmon, processed stuff such as pastry. The flip side is that other things are absurdly cheap in comparison; herbs and spices for example. Comments below about costs therefore relate to the prices paid, which may be significantly different to those in the UK.

Roquefort shortbread

From this recipe in the Times.  Half topped with walnut halves, half with cream cheese. Going on the comments of the guests it was one of the favourites. It was also the one for which we had the most recipe requests. The dough/pastry is tricky to work with but once it starts to behave it is fine to roll and handle. The shortbread was one of the cheapest things to produce.

Rare roast beef bruschetta with caramelised onions

These worked really well in the test batch but were a little disappointing on the day. That said, they were all eaten. Toasted slices of ciabatta topped with wholegrain mustard, slivers of rare beef and onions. The beef was (uninspiring, it’s about all we get here) lean steak which was seasoned, seared in a griddle pan, allowed to cool and then cut finely across the grain. The most expensive item in terms of ingredients.

Smoked turkey, tomato and pepper vol au vents

Store bought frozen vol au vents filled with finely chopped smoked turkey mixed with tomato and roasted pepper relish. These went down surprisingly well, so much so that we didn’t get a chance to try one. Easy to prepare, moderately expensive due to the cost of the imported vol au vent cases.

Miniature roasted potatoes with chive yoghurt dip

Easy as anything. Prepped the day before so they just needed throwing in the oven on the day. They were eaten at a furious rate; next time they’ll be twice, if not three times as many. Absurdly cheap and pretty effortless.

Honey mustard sausages

What’s not to love? They were as popular as the potatoes, particularly with the male guests. Cocktail sausages aren’t widely available here so chipolatas were used instead. Baked the day before, allowed to cool, cut on the diagonal into three or four pieces and then tossed back into their roasting tin. Re-cooked on the day and then glazed with a glaze of equal parts of honey and whole grain mustard.

Pastry olives

A suggestion from a professional caterer.  Whole pitted black olives rolled in puff pastry and dipped in cumin.  Baked until the pastry was golden.  Since there’s no indication what’s inside the pastry parcel folks needed to be told they contained olives. The most commonly made comment was that people didn’t like olives but that these were lovely.

Oven dried tomato & goat’s cheese bites

Squares of very thin puff pastry topped with oven dried tomatoes and goat’s cheese. Not worth the effort to dry the tomatoes, might as well have just use thinly sliced fresh cherry toms. The goat’s cheese didn’t melt as much as hoped so back to a regular cheese for those.

Smoked salmon bites

Smoked salmon mousse on thinly sliced brown bread, topped with gravlax. These went down a storm, as popular as the shortbread but for significantly less effort. They looked fantastic, were easy to prep and were mid-range price wise.

To finish, and to accompany cups of coffee, there was a batch of thin rocky-road type chocolate affair. Unfortunately it didn’t get to be eaten with the coffee ‘cos it didn’t make it out of the kitchen. The very same folks who claimed they couldn’t possibly eat another bite, and who were camped out in the kitchen, devoured the entire plateful. Next time it’ll need to be a double batch.

All told we had about 50 people through the house over a four hour period.  They are folks with healthy appetites :-) Most of the componants were made over a two day period (whilst sorting out essential finishing touches on the house) and then assembled on the day. Average cost per item worked out at about 11¢.

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Breakfast and Supper

April 13, 2008

We recently had one of the now and again spells of unpleasant weather coming to us from North Africa. From time to time the wind picks up a load of sand particles. This can lead to a fall of incredibly dirty rain, or as recently a very unpleasant haze. Last weekend we had several days where the familiar horizon simply disappeared, and the sun was either totally lost or just a splodge of brighter yellow in an otherwise grey/orange sky.

However, the murky sky led to one very odd event. Over the last few weeks the non-resident swallows have been coming back to the island from their winter quarters further south. Some remain and breed, others pause for a refuel and then head further north.

About half an hour before sunset we were outside looking at the hazy sky, looking for a break in the murk.

We paused to watch the swallows doing a wonderful demonstration of their abilities in feeding on the local flying insects – we like swallows!! Suddenly we noticed an intruder. One of the local bats was competing with the swallows. We regularly see bats over the summer when we tend to eat outside after dark – there are a fair number that silently swoosh up and down around us. We like the bats too of course – especially with their massive appetite for eating mosquitoes.

It was fascinating to watch two entirely different flying styles – the swallows a very graceful ballet, the bat looking more like an aerial breakdancer – twitching and doing endless 90 degree turns. It was a real treat to see the bat in daylight at all – normally we only see them little as dusk falls.

Meanwhile the murky skies have gone, and we are back to more of the normal blue.