<![CDATA[Steve Cowles]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/blogRSS for NodeTue, 28 May 2024 00:42:40 GMT<![CDATA[247.tv Streamed Racing]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/247-tv-streamed-racing65f7490558bf67ecc84047aaSun, 17 Mar 2024 19:58:13 GMTstevecowlesThe BRISCA stock car season started yesterday at Kings Lynn, a bit far for me to go even if my shoulder (and the lack of a car) wasn't preventing me from travelling by car. I decided to try out streaming the meeting from 247.tv. This is something I've never tried before.


The meeting (4.5 hours of entertainment) was available for £12.99 but I opted for the £14.99 package which has a time-limited replay capability and funds the 'driver of the day' award.


I was very impressed, the coverage was far better than expected, it works on a camera (several) only basis using the on-site commentary for a soundtrack.


I found the meeting easy to follow and enjoyed it, so much so that I never got around to collecting the beers I'd put in the fridge. I will certainly use this again and could even make it a regular thing with a few beers and a pizza.


Obviously, the real thing would beat it but, if you can't get to a meeting, this is a very good alternative.

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<![CDATA[Dislocated Shoulder - Ouch]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/dislocated-shoulder-ouch65f6016567c823ffa2acf41dSat, 16 Mar 2024 20:35:07 GMTstevecowlesBack on 6th March I fell on my way out of my back yard, landed on some concrete steps and dislocated my shoulder which hurt like hell.


After a visit to A&E, I'm now waiting for a scan appointment to see if it will need surgery to get it working again as it just hangs there unresponsive at the moment.


A summer of fishing and bike riding is not looking all that assured right now.

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<![CDATA[A Premium Bond Winner]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/a-premium-bond-winner65cfc14a2491d806da99d311Fri, 16 Feb 2024 20:20:25 GMTstevecowlesThe letterbox rattled this morning and through popped a letter from Sunderland, I was intrigued and opened it straight away. "You have won £50 on the Premium Bonds", I feel like I've picked up a Chance card in Monopoly.


This won't change my life and the prize has been automatically reinvested anyway so I can't dash to the pub with it. It has pretty much doubled the value of my years-old investment though.


Are premium bonds worth it in this day and age? The theoretical interest rate is pretty good but if you only have a few the actual chance of winning anything is rather slim so I don't expect to be going wild on them as a return of zero is the most likely outcome and the bond itself never increases in value (all interest is paid out as prizes).


I'll leave my unexpected winnings invested where they are and hope for a biggie.

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<![CDATA[Old Bay Seasoning]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/old-bay-seasoning65cd3521983f93d0f5fa8f37Wed, 14 Feb 2024 21:50:46 GMTstevecowlesI don't think that I have ever bought ready-made seasoning before but I spotted this Old Bay collection on the centre aisle at Aldi recently and have now tried both.


Old Bay is an American classic and they are pretty good to be fair. Supplied in an attractive metal tin too. I can see this becoming a 'go-to' seasoning for me.


Also available on Amazon if you can't find it in a local shop.

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<![CDATA[Heating pies in the air fryer]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/heating-pies-in-the-air-fryer65cc0457793ed2ec59f5ebf6Wed, 14 Feb 2024 00:19:25 GMTstevecowlesI found a couple of lonely minced beef & onion pies on Morrisons' reduced shelf yesterday morning, a sell-by date of the day in question. I've 'hotted these up' in the microwave before and the results are pretty disappointing, so will the air-fryer do a better job?


It will vary from air-fryer to air-fryer and pie to pie but here is a starting point.


I disregarded the instructions, they were in microdot and my old eyes couldn't decipher them. Chuck them in complete in their foil cases and 20 minutes at 160C.


The results were pretty good, add some mash and a bit of instant gravy and a midday dinner was most splendid. Sadly this method of reheating doesn't stop pastry heartburn any more than a normal oven but that's life.

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<![CDATA[Egg Stuffed Peppers]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/egg-stuffed-peppers65c939959d043dca762e20afTue, 13 Feb 2024 07:26:03 GMTstevecowlesI tried a new breakfast recipe this morning, it was very good and will certainly be a regular one to add to my list. Egg stuffed peppers.


This is a quick and easy air fryer recipe which I found on YouTube channel Empowered Cooks an excellent channel for many easy air fryer recipes.


All you need is a bell pepper, a couple of eggs and a little grated cheese.

 

  1. Pre-heat the air fryer to 190°C

  2. Cut the pepper in half, carefully removing the stalk, white parts and seeds

  3. Crack an egg into each half

  4. Top the egg with a little salt

  5. Cook at 190°C for 9 minutes

  6. Grate a little cheese on the top of the eggs (optional)

  7. Cook for a further 2 minutes

 

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<![CDATA[Plusnet renewal rage]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/plusnet-renewal-rage65c93791ce7f36fea06d9c65Mon, 12 Feb 2024 07:16:01 GMTstevecowlesMy broadband contract period ended a couple of months ago, I renewed with Plusnet to avoid the hassle of a supplier change. As it happens, fibre is being installed locally so there may be far better options soon.


I was a bit angry with the offer though, £1 per month more to renew than for a new customer and without the benefit of the upgraded router they receive. To call it a 'special offer' was taking the piss.


Today, I was contacted to give customer feedback, they got both barrels. I think the modification to their ad is most apt.

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<![CDATA[Can I make chicken & cashew nuts?]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/can-i-make-chicken-cashew-nuts65c14ae44fc575a96a6e5364Mon, 05 Feb 2024 21:03:16 GMTstevecowlesOur town no longer has a Chinese restaurant (we used to have several) and the takeaways are pretty poor. One of my favourites has always been chicken and cashew nuts so I thought I'd be a big boy and try to make it.


It worked out well and was very tasty, slightly sweet and sour. I had to compromise on some of the ingredients, but it was good enough to consider it a recipe to repeat.


Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts or about 400g of diced chicken breast

  • 2 Tbsp Plain Flour

  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 Tbsp oil (I used rapeseed)

  • 8 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

  • 4 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup

  • 4 Tbsp rice vinegar

  • 2 tsp garlic puree

  • 1 tsp ginger puree

  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes

  • 6 Tbsp Unsalted cashew nuts


Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, ketchup, sugar, garlic, ginger, vinegar and pepper flakes until the ketchup and sugar have dissolved. Put to one side

  2. Chop the chicken into bite-sized chunks

  3. Mix the flour and black pepper in a large bowl and then toss the chicken in it until evenly coated

  4. Using a medium-sized pan, heat the oil until hot and then add in the chicken, turn occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula until fully browned. This should take about 4 minutes

  5. Lower to a medium heat and pour the sauce over the chicken, cook until the chicken is cooked through, this took me about 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add a small amount of water

  6. Add the cashew nuts and serve with rice


I've not tried to cook many Chinese-style meals, maybe I will give some more a go.


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<![CDATA[Console Gaming - A Beginner's Woes]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/console-gaming-a-beginner-s-woes65bbf40fcaf333b58b9ab202Fri, 02 Feb 2024 07:08:03 GMTstevecowlesI'm still very new to this gaming thing, arguably I started a little late at 60 years old but, hey-ho I'll give it a blast anyway. Having progressed from just a few hours playing Township on an iPad (I enjoyed that until it got repetitive), I'm now the proud owner of a Nintendo Switch and have been for a few weeks.


Not knowing where to start, I bought a new Zelda game with the Switch, a few random cheap (possibly for a reason) secondhand ones from eBay and some free downloads from the Nintendo store. I now have twenty to choose from varying between battle games (shooters), quest games, driving games, and puzzle games and have given them all at least a brief go on a fairly random basis and have found myself increasingly frustrated.


In many cases, I start and then die almost immediately or just get cluelessly stuck with no 'fun bit' in the middle.


Surely there has to be more to it than that, after all, a lot of people claim to enjoy it and spend countless hours sitting at their consoles.


On reflection, I think I've been trying too many different games and learning nothing about how to use them properly. I've decided to concentrate on just three games for a while and see if I can get a better grasp of them or put them to bed forever. My selection will be


  • Spiro the Dragon

  • Max, the Curse of Brotherhood

  • Fortnite


Last night I spent an hour (longer than my usual half-hour) playing Fortnite which has pretty good graphics. Before I started, I even looked up what the controls are for in the game (not usually into instructions for things). I'm still not 100% sure what I'm trying to achieve in the game but I did manage to kill 2 of the 99 other players with an axe before getting machine-gunned to death (how can I get a machine gun, they look pretty useful?).


Although I'm still completely useless, I did find myself getting into it a little more. Will I ever be able to finish in the top half of players? I'd like to.


There is more to this than I imagined. I'm hoping that narrowing my range of games and then researching how to play them might pay dividends.

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<![CDATA[Chinese fishing tackle birthday haul]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/chinese-fishing-tackle-birthday-haul65bac45d207dc6b98dca0fe5Thu, 01 Feb 2024 07:16:04 GMTstevecowlesIt was my birthday last week and I decided to treat myself to a present, I wanted to get a few odds and ends to go with my cheap rod to learn a bit about lure fishing. I expect to lose things while I learn so 'cheap = good'.


Having set a budget of £30 (including delivery and any import taxes and VAT) it was time to hit AliExpress.


I dropped lucky with delivery dates and received everything yesterday, so what did I get for my money?


  • Ryobi RAMNI 3000HE reel

  • Reel case

  • 12 compartment case for small lures

  • 5 small soft flastic lures

  • 300m X4 braid

  • Rechargeable Headtorch

  • Rechargeable Flashlight

  • 100M x8 braid, this will go onto the reel later on once I've got to grips with the process.


Very happy with that, I can experiment without being too concerned about what the sea decides to take for itself.

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<![CDATA[A less unhealthy snack?]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/a-less-unhealthy-snack65b81264e8a547a9e33affc2Tue, 30 Jan 2024 06:23:04 GMTstevecowlesLike most people, I do like a good 'junk snack' now and again. For me, this is usually when I've got distracted by something and missed my tea or when I'm staying in on a Saturday night. I expect one of these two things happens about half a dozen times a month.


My response is totally predictable, I go to the corner shop and get a three-course junk meal; a grab bag of crisps (ideally mini cheddars), a big bag of sweets (fruit pastilles being my current go-to) and a bar of Dairy Milk. I did work this out once and basically, it is an entire day's calories in one hit with zero nutritional value and costing about £3.50. It is nice though.


Last night, I was just heading out on one of these dinner emergency missions (side-tracked at teatime by sorting out some fishing gear) when it started to rain really hard and I chickened out. A hunt in the cupboard for something 'nice' wasn't an instant win, but there is some wholemeal bread with a bit of life left in it (as toast anyway), I've always got some butter and there is that jar of cheap Aldi jam that I bought in lockdown and never opened.


Four slices of toast and jam later, I've realised that this is also very nice. A quick calculation suggests it is only half a day's calories and costs about 40p. A saving in every department.


I think this may become a new go-to snack, heathiness is all relative and this is an improvement after all.


Aldi Essentials jam can go on my shopping list too, it is loads better than I'd have expected for 39p. I might even make a coconut jam sponge like we used to get at school.

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<![CDATA[Is Apple Jounal worth it?]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/is-apple-jounal-worth-it65b6b9bd08e863103c3a3de6Sun, 28 Jan 2024 20:37:17 GMTstevecowlesWhen the Apple Journal app was released about six weeks ago, I thought it might be worth trying. Here is my brief take on it.


Historically, I’m not a journal keeper and I suppose this blog is as close as I’ve ever got but a journal is more personal. I recall that when I was made redundant almost eight years ago, we were given tips on how to keep a perspective on life as we went through a major change, journalling was one of the suggestions I ignored. Maybe now is the time to start?


The app runs only on the iPhone and is not currently supported on the Mac or iPad ranges. It takes advantage of photos, location services and other parts of the Apple ecosystem to make journalling suggestions. These suggestions are pretty sensible so that is where I started.


With no keyboard and only the phone screen to use, I found my journal entries to be pretty brief, more of a diary summary than a journal and probably nothing much to be worth looking back at in the future which is surely a key objective of journalling. The app is easy to use and the resulting journal is easy to read.


In my opinion, the inability to add text from an iPad or a Mac is a deal breaker. I do realise that there is good technical justification for not providing full functionality on a static device like a Mac, but is this true for an iPad? I just can’t be bothered to make detailed entries on my small iPhone SE and see little long-term value in 'summary entries'. Being unable to view or search a journal on a larger screen once it has grown significantly is also a big downer.


I’ll not be using this app for the time being, maybe the ability to edit text and read the journal on other larger devices would change my mind if it were to be introduced in the future. Having said that, once you have years of history in the journal you are tied to an iPhone for life, presumably one of the main objectives of Apple.


Sorry Apple, it is a NO from me.

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<![CDATA[Aldi - Cast Iron Cookware on a Budget]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/aldi-cast-iron-cookware-on-a-budget65aef79b311e47e356fcd9d9Sat, 27 Jan 2024 06:27:04 GMTstevecowlesLast week I was tempted by the 'centre aise' yet again. This time my 'bargain' was a cast iron casserole dish for less than £17. I wish I'd gone shopping earlier in the week as I'd have liked a medium-sized cast iron frying pan too, maybe next time they come around, there is no rush.


Why choose cast iron, basically the heat distribution is more even and this makes it better suited to longer cooking durations such as a casserole or higher temperatures such as cooking a steak in a griddle pan.

There were two sizes available, one was 26cm but I chose the smaller one, I've not actually measured it but I'd guess at about 18 or 19cm, anyway, it is big enough for me.


The dish has a well-fitting lid with an easily gripped handle and is enamelled inside (in a cream colour) which contracts nicely with the blue exterior.


I've tried this out on my induction hob and it worked well and was easy to clean. Compared to the more expensive brands, this does seem like a bargain.


Aldi's cookware buyers have been dishing up the deals very well over the last few years and if you are willing to wait until your desired products hit the shelves they seem to be the sensible choice.

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<![CDATA[Can I become a 'Gamer'?]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/can-i-become-a-gamer65b2e696d91bbb2665442df0Fri, 26 Jan 2024 07:12:03 GMTstevecowlesEarly last winter I spent some time playing Township on my computer and iPad, eventually it became a bit monotonous (at this point, the 'in-game' costs can easily start to mushroom to avoid the monotony) but I did enjoy it up to that point. Apart from a very brief dabble over 25 years ago, computer games are brand new to me.


I purchased a Nintendo Switch OLED on the back of this (and using some 'backpay' I was due). Having tested it out to make sure that it worked, it went back in the box to wait for the day when I'd got time to learn how to use it.


With the recent bad weather limiting other options, the time had arrived. I fall into the 'old dog' category these days, can I learn some new tricks?


I chose the Switch due to its versatility, it can be used as a handheld device (I have spotted several people using them on the train), it can be stood on a table and used with the small controller provided with it, or it can be used in a dock (also supplied) and attached to a TV via HDMI.


I'm likely to use the dock most of the time and also bought a larger controller from Amazon, the other modes will be nice to use while travelling or staying away.


The OLED screen seems very clear although the Switch does not have the resolution of some of its competitors (still better than my eyes so not an issue). Game performance seems fine.


All in all, it seems like a lot of technology for the money although none of this is cheap, add in an SD Card and a couple of games and we are just the wrong side of £400. I'm expecting the 'per hour' cost to level out to a sensible level over a couple of years and most forms of entertainment cost something.


I'm not expecting to become an avid gamer living a solitary nocturnal life every day (does that even make sense?) but I do want to see if I can successfully play something from a later generation than me. My initial tests have shown me to be totally out of my depth, there is a lot to learn. I'm also going to have to learn not to swear before I use it in public.


If I never post about this again it will have been a failure so hopefully I will be posting about actually completing a game at some point. Woof woof.

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<![CDATA[Getting ready for lure fishing]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/getting-ready-for-lure-fishing65b18583714f7a759924003eThu, 25 Jan 2024 06:59:03 GMTstevecowlesThis year, I want to expand my sea fishing options by adding some lure fishing. I know very little about this apart from what I've seen on YouTube.


I already own a few secondhand lures that came in eBay job lots (more than a few to be honest) and tried casting a couple off the pier with my float rod to see if I could do it (the lures are much lighter than anything I'm used to). I'm now ready to have a proper go once the weather improves.


I'm hoping to do this from the rocks rather than the harbour and expect to lose or break some hardware along the learning curve so late last year I purchased a cheap (£15.94 delivered) 8ft Ron Thompson rod from eBay, with a casting range of 15-45g it should do the job.


I've finally had a proper look at it and it looks far better than I expected. Next step is to buy a few other bits and pieces from AliExpress to break along the way, I've set a tight budget so watch this space as I'll report back on how much I can get from China for £30.

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<![CDATA[Packaging Paranoia?]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/packaging-paranoia65aef04301ec317930b2c9c5Wed, 24 Jan 2024 06:50:03 GMTstevecowles

I recently received this parcel in the post, it contained a few secondhand fishing lures which cost me less than a fiver. The entire padded envelope was covered in brown parcel tape.


Someone doesn't trust Royal Mail for sure. Paranoia is out there and it is real.

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<![CDATA[Does Induction Cooking Work?]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/does-induction-cooking-work65aef252a53fcbd0eda67455Tue, 23 Jan 2024 07:09:03 GMTstevecowlesAlmost 9 months ago I purchased an induction hob from Amazon, it was described as an Abode Double Induction Hob Portable Digital Touch Control 2800W and has two rings, one of which can provide a higher level of heat than the other.


I was slightly apprehensive as I had never used one before and was also uncertain how many of my pots would be compatible with it.


Although it has not been used every day, it has seen a lot of use and has performed flawlessly. The glass top has not scratched at all and is far easier to clean than the old gas cooker, it also heats up very quickly and offers rapid control of cooking temperatures. The fan makes it noisier than my gas rings and it does 'click frequently in use as the unit regulates the temperature but neither of these are loud enough to be of any concern.


I have had no problems with my existing pots other than a very battered aluminium stock pot which was due for replacement anyway. Reliability? probably still too early to say, but it is still working perfectly at the moment.


I'm a convert, the next step will be to find a modern replacement for the oven and then the old rust cooker can go out for the scrap man.


This unit cost me £95 at the time and is currently available for £75. There are far more expensive units out there and they do have larger rings and better warranties but this was a 'toe in the water' and won't be replaced until it stops working, I may be tempted by a built-in unit when that day arrives.


#abode #induction

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<![CDATA[Doorstep Milk Thief?]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/doorstep-milk-thief65aec3b5711cbaf0a70f1db4Mon, 22 Jan 2024 19:42:37 GMTstevecowlesAfter the initial excitement of having a milk delivery, it has all gone sour. On quite a few occasions there has been no milk to bring in.


Are they not delivering it? I could believe it was an error if it had only happened once but it is too frequent. Someone must be pinching it in an hour or so between collection and my getting up in the morning.


I don't want to be too critical as times are hard for many people at the moment but, as I'm not getting the benefit, I've cancelled the delivery.


The corner shop will be my milk source once more. I don't do 'dressing gown shopping' so I'll just have to take an early shower when the milk is low.

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<![CDATA[Chicken, Sweetcorn & Pasta Soup]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/chicken-sweetcorn-pasta-soup65ac5cb4ff4f03a32e63a22cSun, 21 Jan 2024 00:01:08 GMTstevecowlesA few days ago I bought myself a cast iron casserole dish from Aldi, great value at less than £17, I was keen to try it out and had 3 chicken breasts in the fridge which needed to be used so it was time to have a hunt in the cupboard to see what might go well with them.


I came up with this, filling and tasted great, I will add it to the next release of my recipe book.


Ingredients

  • 2 - 3 chicken breasts (skinless)

  • 1.25 litre water

  • 2 Chicken Stock Pots

  • 1 tsp garlic paste

  • 1 tsp ginger paste

  • 295g Can of condensed cream of chicken soup

  • 325g Can Sweetcorn

  • 2 cups dried pasta

  • 2 tsp soy sauce


Cooking Steps

  1. Add the water, stock pots, garlic, ginger and chicken breasts into a pan and bring to the boil

  2. Simmer for 5 minutes

  3. Remove from the heat and place a lid on the pan.

  4. Allow to stand for 5 minutes to allow the chicken to finish cooking, the breasts should then be removed and allowed to cool slightly before being shredded

  5. Add the soy sauce and condensed soup to the pan and bring back to a boil, stir to ensure that the condensed soup has dissolved

  6. Add the sweetcorn and pasta and simmer for 8 minutes

  7. Add the chicken back into the pot and simmer for a further 2 minutes


Tip: Store this in the fridge overnight and the pasta will continue to swell and absorb the 'broth' to thicken and improve the soup.


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<![CDATA[New Year, New Me?]]>https://www.stevecowles.net/post/new-year-new-me659319e96b6159d9600fd62cMon, 01 Jan 2024 20:11:01 GMTstevecowlesIt is that time of year when I normally don't make 'resolutions'. In fairness, I'm knocking on a bit in years and am pretty much the finished article, whether good or bad. This year I thought I'd jot down a couple of bits though. Hopefully, I can look back and tick the boxes. So as a reminder to myself;


  1. Increase my frequency of exercise. In fairness, I wasn't too bad last year with 252 days of recorded activity on Strava (I use Strava if it is 30 minutes or more so not just a wander to the corner shop).

  2. Eat less junk, although I enjoy cooking, I can be lazy and my takeaway bill last year was a massive £1,200 so it must be possible to do better than that.

  3. More leisure, I've never fully gone back to a pre-lockdown life and probably don't want to but a few more trips out or away would probably be a good thing for my sanity. I did go away for a few random nights in 2023 but think a larger number should be achievable.



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