Welcome Visitors

Welcome to my personal blog. I have another blog, Herbert's Place, but that one limits me to what I sometimes want to publish, because it is mainly used to promote my books. As it says in the header, I want to use this blog to write about things that have nothing to do with my books. There is no real theme here. I'll be writing about anything that causes me to either be happy or somethings that concerns me. It could be political, travel, a hobby, or anything else. So come and visit me sometimes.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

#Yellow Bean Soup

I haven't posted for a while. Been busy with the yard and the garden. It's that time of year. The yard looks good. We raked the old grass from the winter, cut it twice now. We spread fertilizer and sprayed for those pesky dandelions and for now we have them under control. It is next to impossible to keep them out of our lawn. We are between neighbor that don't give a crap about their lawn. For whatever reason. One of them is against spraying because it isn't healthy. He just cuts the grass, never bags, which means all the weed seeds stay in the grass to make new weeds. I bag most of the time and take the grass to the dump where they compost it into soil.

Speaking of seeds--all of my vegetable seeds are in the garden. The lettuce is already sprouting as are the beets and the onions. I also planted 17 Kohlrabi and 6 Kale, but didn't get around to plant my peppers and tomatoes. That's a big job and with the rain these last couple of days I had to put that on hold. It is supposed to be sunny and warm for the next week so, hopefully, tomorrow I can do some transplanting. The soil is still too wet.

I spread nearly 2 yards of fresh soil onto the beds and mixed in plenty of 19-19-19 fertilizer. If everything goes well, we should have a bumper crop. So far, I've caught 4 mice in the trap, which is promising. It means they aren't too many out there. The last couple of years were terrible. The garden was infested with mice. They ate most of our beets. I set out traps and lost count how many I caught. The crows were happy.

Since it rained, I managed to make a pot of soup yesterday. A new recipe for me. I made it once before and I loved the soup. We still have frozen yellow beans in the freezer, which I used. I found the recipe on the internet, but I modified for myself and added different vegetables. The soup turned out well and it tastes great. Here is the recipe. Try it out. You won't regret it.

Yellow Bean Soup with Italian Sausages

Ingredients (makes 10 portions):
•    2 tablespoons of corn oil
•    500g yellow wax beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
•    1 medium onion, finely chopped
•    2 cloves of garlic crushed
•    1 medium potato, peeled and diced
•    2 carrots, sliced into disks
•    1 stalk Celery, chopped
•    1 – Parsnip root (chopped)
•    Small handful of frozen peas
•    900 ml Beef Broth
•    600 ml Broccoli water (or just plain water)
•    2 - Italian Sausages (sliced)
•    100 ml sour cream
•    1 teaspoon of corn flour (corn starch)
•    2 teaspoons of Hungarian paprika powder
•    salt (Hys) and pepper to taste
•    dash of hot sauce (only if using mild sausages!)
•    1 Bay leaf (optional)
•    Fresh parsley or dill to serve – optional
Method
1.    Clean and prepare the vegetables
2.    Boil Sausages for a few minutes. Pour off the water.
3.    Slice Sausages into small pieces
4.    Cook the onion and garlic on the oil till translucent
5.    Take off the heat and stir in the teaspoonful of paprika powder
6.    Add the vegetables and cook on a moderate heat for 2-3 minutes while stirring
7.    Pour in the water, add the sausages, drop in the bay leaf (if you have one), salt and pepper to taste, and cook on low heat till the vegetables are tender (50 minutes)
8.    Combine the teaspoon of corn flour and the sour cream evenly, ladle in some of the hot liquid from the soup to even out the temperature between the two, mix well then pour the sour cream mixture into the simmering soup and stir until thickens slightly.




It tastes as good as it looks. Hmmm--Yummy


Sunday, April 30, 2017

#Who's Bad--the Michael Jackson Show




Last Friday we went to the Casino to watch the Michael Jackson show. The show was called ‘Who’s Bad’. There were two impersonators. One of them was better than the other one. He looked more like Michael Jackson and he had the moves down to perfection. His moonwalk was smooth and impressive.

Both performers did a great job.

That was the only good thing I have to say about the show.

For me, it already started out badly. The guy who sat in front of me blocked half the stage, he was so big. I could see the performers only either with my left eye or my right eye, depending on which side of his huge head I looked past him. It was one of my nightmares come true. I have this fear (and rightfully so) that a big person will sit in front of me when I go to a performance, even the movies. It happened too many times. It happened again this time. Even the people sitting beside us felt sorry for me.

Expecting the music to be loud, I took out my hearing aid. When the music started, I stuffed pieces of Kleenex into my ears, but it was still so loud, the noise echoed inside my head and my chest vibrated. You could barely hear the singers, because the drums and other instruments were overpowering.

To make it even more pleasant, the women behind us shouted and screamed most of the time. When they didn’t, they filled the time with chattering. Why do women scream at these shows? Don't they have any self-control?

So many women and girls ran to the front of the stage and danced, sang, and waved their hands over their heads to the rhythm (if there was one) of the music (translate: noise). I can’t understand this hand-waving. I thought they did that only in some of the churches in the South.

The other thing that annoyed us were the lights the lighting people constantly shone into our eyes. What is the purpose of that? I want to see the stage not the audience.

If I could have uttered the magic words ‘Beam me up, Scottie’ and they would have worked I would have yelled them out loud to escape Never-never-Land.

Even my wife, who is more of a fan than I, didn’t enjoy it. We left early and went to play the machines. We each had $20.00 of FREE PLAY. To ease the pain, we managed to leave the casino with $40.00 of winnings between the two of us. That lifted our spirits a little.

I am willing to bet that most of the people who go to these shows end up with massive hearing loss sometime in the future. They’ll all be wearing hearing aids.

We’ve seen great Michael Jackson impersonations when on holiday in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. We expected a similar performance. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. This was a waste of money and an evening.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

#Iberostar Daquiri, Cuba, Review

I sent the following review to TripAdvisor, but they rejected it, because of some unspecified content. They don't like personal opinions. So I deleted much of the review, things that I thought were actually relevant, things other travelers might find useful and submitted it again. Most likely it was my opinion about the CUC. Mustn't offend Cuba. Can't write about the truth in this political correct climate we're living in.


This review is, of course, only my opinion and is based on the experience my wife and I had.
We stayed at the Iberostar Daquiri from March 5 until March 19 of this year. It cost a little more than we usually budget for, but we thought a 4-star resort would offer more. Now we don’t believe it was worth the extra cost. In our opinion it is only a 3 to 3 1/2-star.
The resort itself is clean and well taken care of. We stayed in the last building to the north, Pinar del Rio, in room 5150. It was considered Ocean view, but our view was obstructed by a building. It didn’t bother us too much, because we don’t spend much time in our room and we were close to the beach. One problem with ocean view: When the wind blew from the East, which was often, we couldn't sit on our patio.
The room was basic with a King-size bed, which was comfortable. The toilet worked and so did the shower. We never had an issue with the bathroom and we didn’t run out of hot water. The fridge leaked water when we moved into the room, but that was fixed within a short time. The Air Conditioner had only 2 settings: On of Off.
One beef we have: They wanted $28.00 for the safe. Since we never take much money or valuables on vacations, we didn’t take the safe.
Our maid, Ary, did a great job with cleaning and she changed our towels when needed. The fridge was always stocked with a new water bottle.
Beach towels: We didn’t get any until the next day and we had to go to Guest Services to get them. Exchanging beach towels was a bit of a problem. We exchanged ours only once.
The Beach: Iberostar Daquiri has a long stretch of beach. It was also quite wide, but the beach was not as nice as the beach at other resorts in Cuba. Lots of seaweed along the shore, especially after a storm. There are plenty of palapas, not the round ones but the rectangular ones. They don’t give much shade, because they are not covered with palm leaves. The roof is constructed from poles and the rays of the sun come through between the cracks.
I’m not sure if it is the location of Guillermo, but it seemed to us it was windier there than in Cayo Coco. Already the presence of a place that rents out wind surfing equipment makes us suspect that we are correct. We had stormy weather the first five days and we couldn’t stay at the beach. Because of the high winds, everyone went to the pool. It was nearly impossible to get a spot by the pool. The wind surfers though had a great time.
Food: The food was okay, but there were issues. Long lineups at the food stations where they prepare the food. The chicken was always overcooked which made it dry. I had pork chops three times. The first couple of times they were not bad, but the third time I could not eat them, because they were so tough. The beef was also tough. There was lettuce every day, but for the last week there was no descent salad dressing, only vinegar. Probably not a big deal to some people, but too me it was, because I like to eat lettuce every day—with salad dressing. They had shrimp every day, but they were always overcooked and next to impossible to peel. No lobster.
The fish was excellent; many varieties to choose from, but you had to stand in line. French Fries were great. Other potatoes were hard. Great soups which is important to a soup lover like me.
Breakfast was always good with eggs cooked different ways, pancakes etc. Always yogurt and the buns and bread were good. Cold cuts were fine; many different kinds of cheeses, but no jam.
The Cuban a la cart: Big disappointment. They offered the same stuff you get in the buffet only less. We had the lamb stew or maybe I should say the ‘lamb bones’. The little bit of meat that clung to the bones was so tough to make it impossible to eat. Little choice of salads and no choice of desert. Also beware of the fact that they try to sell you the wine. It comes in bottles and is prohibitively expensive. Take the house wine or drink beer.
The Mexican a la cart: Better, but again, basically they serve whatever the buffet serves. We had pasta with small shrimp infused in whiskey. Okay but nothing special. My wife got an upset stomach after eating there.
We never tried the Italian one because of the negative reviews.
One thing that disturbed us were the filthy cushions in the dining rooms.
Service was fine, except the big tippers got the hugs and the closer attention. We noticed that tipping was rampant. People tipped the servers, they tipped every time they got a drink from the bar, and they even tipped the cooks. I only tip after I receive good service not before.
Entertainment: The entertainment was first class. Those dancers were so talented. They had a different show every night.
The only problems were the noisy people at the bar which is behind the last row of seats. Why they bother going to the show is beyond me. Talking loud during the show displays disrespect for the performers and disturbs the guests who are there to enjoy the show.
Other observations: The CUC, the Cuban Convertible, is in my opinion a scam from the Cuban government. It isn't worth anything on the world market, but in Cuba it was pretty much on par with the Euro. How they arrive at that I have no idea. It cost $1.40 Canadian Dollars for one CUC, which makes no sense, since the Canadian economy is so much better that the Cuban economy. In a way, they cheat the vendors, because prices are way out of line. A T-shirt, for example, costs between 11 CUC and 20 CUC, which makes it approximately 28.00 Canadian Dollars, and the quality isn't there. We don't buy much in Cuba because of that, but it doesn't keep us from visiting Cuba. It is still a wonderful vacation destination.

We probably won't go back again to this resort because of the winds and the condition of the beach. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

#Cuba

We’ve been to Cuba seven times now. Every time we come home from Cuba we say ‘this may have been the last time’, but then we decide to go back again. The reason for that is quite simple. We love the beaches—the best beaches in the world. Of course, we haven’t seen too many other beaches, but I don’t believe they can get much better. White sand and at most resorts you can walk far into the ocean, and when the tide is low, the beach gets even larger.  We love the turquoise color of the ocean.

The food can be a bit of a problem; it is sometimes not as good as in the Dominican or Mexico, but it is okay and not as bad as some people make it out to be. Most resorts we’ve been to we got plenty of seafood, important to us, and shrimp every day. We even had lobster in Varadero.

The resorts in Cuba are much safer than in other countries, like for instance Mexico. Crime is practically non-existent. The Cuban government sees to that, because vacationers are an important part of their economy, providing work and bringing in money.

Another reason we go to Cuba it is still more economical than other countries.

The only problem I have is the Cuban Convertible Peso, the CUC. It is worth nothing on the world market and only good in Cuba. To me, the whole thing is a bit of a scam. I have no idea how they figure out the value of the Convertible Peso. It seems to be on par with the Euro. On our last trip, it cost $1.40 Canadian to buy one Cuban Convertible. That is a bit of a joke, because our economy is so much better than the Cuban economy. Let’s face it, the Cuban people live in poor conditions and they don’t earn much money. How can you compare that with Canada? We are the ones going on Holiday in Cuba not the other way around. Neither can they buy everything they want and even need. They drive old cars, even though they take much pride in restoring them; they are still old cars.

We never buy much anymore in Cuba, except for liqueur. Depending what you buy, liqueur is still a bargain. On our last trip, we paid $15.00 Canadian for one liter of rum. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, our Canadian government is ripping us off. But the selection is quite small in Cuba. Imported liqueur is prohibitively expensive. They wanted over 100 Dollars for a bottle of Gin. The only cheap alcohol we found was imported whiskey from Spain. I’ve been buying a bottle every time we go and the whiskey is good, especially if you only use it for a mix, the way I drink it. Rum, of course, is also cheap.

Like I said, we don’t buy anything else, because of the high Cuban Peso. T-shirts cost between 11.00 CUC and 20.00 CUC. 20.00 CUC translate into $28.00 Canadian. And the quality isn’t there. So we don’t buy them. I wonder how many other vacationers don’t buy as much as they used to. This is not good for the sellers who rely on this income.

As soon as I find some time, I will write a detailed review of the resort we visited this year. Come back and look for it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

#Pussywillows



It must be #Spring. The catkins on the pussy willows are probably ready to be cut. Our Canary is enjoying our Sun-room. It is the first day this year we are using it. It is only a Three-Season room. The sun is shining hot and heating it up, with the help of an electric heater. I can hear the little guy singing from my office in the basement. I see the sunshine only through the window. Too many things to do. We came back from a two-week holiday in Cuba and now we have to catch up with all the stuff that’s been accumulating in those two weeks. I’m also busy smoking a couple of Whitefish, so I’ll be outside in the afternoon. The water in the aquariums needs to be topped up and I have a few batches of wine to be filtered, transferred and bottled. And I’m going to look at my seeds that need to be seeded in flats for my garden.

Oh yes, there is no shortage of work. Most of it, of course, self-created, but that’s okay. Keeps me in shape and my mind sharp. Before I retired, I asked a friend who was retired what he was doing all day long with all the free time he has now. He just laughed and said, “What free time? I’m busier now than ever (He keeps bees). I don’t know how I ever had time to work before I retired.”
Now I know what he means.

There is no reason for anyone to ever be idle and bored. Stuff to do is all around us. That is why I cannot understand why the members of our native population living on the reserves are so bored and turn to drugs and alcohol, even committing suicide. Perhaps they should look around and start cleaning up all the garbage that is everywhere and fix up their houses, like painting them and repairing the damage that somehow occurred inside the houses. We have no holes in the floors and walls in our house. We never made any in the first place. I have a garden that keeps me busy in the summer and shrubs and flowers in the yard that need to be tended. No shortage of work that needs to be done—ever. All that is needed is the will and drive to do it. And to enjoy everything you do.

Nothing to eat? Raise rabbits for meat and goats for milk, chickens for eggs and meat. We did that after the war when there was nothing to eat in Germany after the war.

Just saying.

A couple of days I saw my first goose in the field and yesterday a small flock flew across the highway. I also say the crows that live all year around in our yard. I have no idea where they went for the winter. They are looking at the old nest in the tree in our neighbor’s yard. I wonder if I’ll catch enough mice this year to feed to the crows.

In February, I bought a new pair of glasses from Costco. Progressive and transition. I paid extra money for a frame made from Titanium, which is stronger than other metals. Well, that strong titanium frame broke into two pieces on our second day of our holiday, which means I was left without glasses and sunglasses for the entire two weeks. Not a good thing when the sun is blaring down from the sky and reflecting from the white sand and the ocean. Fortunately, I had an extra pair of reading glasses along, so I could at least read my electronic reader. I have no problem seeing without glasses, but reading is a different story. That’s when things become blurry. Anyway, I’m picking up my new glasses tomorrow. I hope that strong titanium frame doesn’t break again. In all my years of wearing glasses I never even broke a lens, never mind the frame. And none of them were made from any special metal. It proves again to me that expensive does not mean better. Sometimes it is best to stick with the old, the proven stuff, but there is always somebody popping out the woodwork who claims to build a better ‘mousetrap’. I’ve had those also already—mousetraps made out of plastic. Half of them have already given up the ghost.

This was supposed to be only a short blog, but, as usual when I begin writing something it turns into a novel.

Enjoy the rest of the day and the next and the next and…….