It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Museum Review : Warsaw Uprising Museum, Warsaw, Poland

We spent several hours at the fascinating (and heart breaking) Warsaw Uprising Museum, located in the Wola district of Warsaw.  I'd heard of the Uprising, but am ashamed to say that I didn't actually know that much about it.  I was astonished and humbled by the bravery of these regular citizens, who in their fifth year of German occupation, decided to "rise up" against the Nazis.

For 63 days from 1st August 1944 at 5.00pm (known as "W-hour"), around 40,000 Warsaw citizens, who only had enough weapons for 2,500 people, made a stand against the Nazi occupation.  They initially believe that their uprising would only last about a week, and were unaware that the Germans had decided to defend Warsaw and to counter-attack Red Army forces to the east of the city.  They bravely continued to fight, and die, whilst facing a force of around 30,000, armed with tanks, planes and artillery.

Around 15,200 insurgents were killed, 5,000 wounded and, after their eventual surrender, 15,000 were sent to POW camps.  Amongst ordinary Warsaw civilians, around 200,000 were dead, 700,000 were expelled from the city, and 55,000 were sent to concentration camps.  94% of historic Warsaw was razed to the ground and almost 1,000,000 inhabitants lost all of their possessions.

The Uprising Museum was opened in 2004 and occupies a huge space.  It's been set up really well, and you can buy an audio tour which translates the information into English.  The museum runs over several levels, with a bullet riddled iron core rising through the levels.  You can put your ear to the bullet holes and hear battles taking place, and the core "breathes" (hard to explain, you need to experience it) to keep reminding you that these were real people, just like you and me, who were just trying to survive in absolutely terrible conditions.

There are some sections containing footage and information on the concentration camps, but they are clearly marked and you have to make an effort to view them - you don't stumble upon such horrible images without warning.  You can spend a few hours here without a problem, and there is a small cafe should you feel peckish.

Entry fees are very reasonable, at 14PLN for adults and 10PLN for the audio guide (you must leave a photo ID for each audio guide hired, but we didn't have any on us, so they took our hotel room keys instead).

Go to this incredible museum, read and learn more about these astonishingly courageous people, and ask yourself "Would I have been brave enough to stand up and fight in the face of such dwindling odds?".  I'm not sure I would have been.

Warsaw Uprising Museum
ul. Grzybowska 79
00-844 Warsaw
Phone:- +48 22 539 79 05

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Museum Review : Chopin Museum, Warsaw, Poland

The Chopin Museum in Warsaw is fascinating, and incredibly well put together.  It charts the life of Fryderyk Chopin, a child prodigy, who was born in 1810 in Warsaw.  We are not huge classical music buffs, but this museum was really interesting and very technologically advanced.

Chopin grew up in Warsaw and completed his musical education there.  He composed many of his works there before leaving Poland at the age of 20 to settle in Paris.  During the remaining 18 years of his life he gave only around 30 public performances, preferring the more intimate atmosphere of the salon.  He supported himself by selling his compositions and as a sought-after piano teacher.

All of Chopin's compositions include piano, and his highly individual and technically demanding keyboard style were noted for their nuance and sensitivity.  His major piano works include sonatas, mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, etudes, impromptus, sherzos and preludes - many of which were only published after his death.

He had a decade long troubled relationship with the French writer, George Sand, and after suffering from poor health for most of his life, died in Paris in 1849.

As with most things in Warsaw, the Museum is very reasonably priced, with adult tickets at 22PLN and the audio guide is included in your ticket price.  Your ticket is a credit card type that you hold up to the exhibits and it changes the language into English - very impressive.

Chopin Museum
Okolnik 1
Warsaw, Poland

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Recipe : Creamy Smoked Salmon Pasta

I stole this photo from their website too - bad!

I found this fab and easy recipe on one of my new favourite blogs, www.domesticsl* (the home and lifestyle blog for women who have better things to do) - and, yes, I have put a "*" where the "u" would be to wind back the NSFW of the name.  And for those of you that think I've gone off the rails putting "rude sex stuff" (I so did not!) on my blog, here's what the writers of the blog have to say about themselves:-

The Domestic Sluts like their ordinary things to be extraordinary. We want our homes to look good, we want damn tasty food and we want our outfits to be unusual. But we're busy and we enjoy being a little bit lazy. We'd much rather go out dancing than tidying up. Frankly, a five course meal sounds like far too much effort and our idea of 'decorating' is to hide a spaghetti stain on the sofa with a nice cushion. If you think we're going to spend hours in a shopping centre, you're mistaken. We're probably tipsy. Or napping. We do like a nap.

We're a UK-based blog, with male and female writers across the country (all with our own tastes and opinions) discovering the best in design, fashion, food and travel. We don't for a minute think that cupcakes can save the world, but cake will always make you smile on a rubbish day. We'll never tell you about a faceless hotel chain, we want our adventures a little more interesting than that.

We basically want to cheat our way to the good stuff and ignore the crap bits of life for a while. You should come exploring with us.

So, you can all relax now and get cooking on this really yummy pasta.  I know I normally only post recipes for cakes (because, who doesn't love cake?), but I think everyone likes to throw an easy new dinner recipe into rotation, and this one rocks.  My notes, as usual, in italics:-

Creamy Smoked Salmon Pasta (serves 2)

  • 150g pasta, any shape you like (I don't think 150g is enough for two people, and I used 250g of pasta shaped like little horses that I found in the back of my pantry - not sure how old it is, but pasta doesn't really go off, does it?)
  • one small onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed (I used more, because we LOVE garlic)
  • 240g smoked salmon trimmings (I used a 200gm pack from the supermarket.  They didn't have "trimmings", so this was proper smoked salmon, but it was still less than €3/pack)
  • Glug of white wine/gin/whisky (I used gin, and probably more than a "slug" because I spilled it all over the stove top whilst being generous)
  • Squeeze of lemon, optional (I used the juice of a whole lemon that I found in the bottom of the crisper - tasted fab!)
  • Pinch of smoked paprika, optional
  • 200ml sour cream (I used low fat, because I couldn't find any other kind in the supermarket)
  • Lots of black pepper

  1. Get a pan of salted water boiling for the pasta - if you're using dried then pop it in at the beginning (once the water is boiling, natch), if you've got fresh pasta then hold off to the last few minutes to cook it.
  2. Saute the onions over a medium heat in some oil (you can add a knob of butter for a little extra flavour if you like) for about 6 minutes before adding garlic.  Cook for a further few minutes.
  3. Throw in the salmon (I chopped mine up a bit first because it was in fillet form) and stir so it starts to get cooked through.
  4. Once half of the salmon has turned white, pop in your glut of desired alcohol and let it reduce for a few minutes, adding the lemon juice and paprika if using.
  5. When the liquid has reduced, add the sour cream and raise the heat slightly so the sauce begins to bubble a little.
  6. Keep string constantly for about 5-8 minutes and take off the heat.  (I didn't stir constantly, I was trying to get the spilled gin off the stove elements - the waste!).
  7. Drain your cooked pasta and put it back int the saucepan.
  8. Pour the creamy salmon sauce over the top and mix thoroughly so every bit of pasta gets coated.  (I tipped the pasta into the sauce instead of the other way around - rebel!)
  9. Throw in a load of black pepper and give it one last mix - and you're done!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Restaurant Review : Rozana, Warsaw, Poland

I made a booking at Rozana after researching on and we enjoyed it.  The food is good, and it's certainly well priced, but it wasn't a patch on Dom Polski which we visited with friends the next day.

The restaurant seems to be located in a residential area, in a big old house.  It's very chintzy and there's lots of ornaments and pictures scattered about.  The staff were very good and friendly, and there's a pianist in the lobby playing a selection of mazurkas and movie themes (granted, it was odd mix, but it worked).

Rozana reviews really well, the food was good and there wasn't an empty table.  The menu wasn't huge, but it was pretty comprehensive, and I started with crispy spinach and almond filled pancakes, and had roast duck with apples for main.  The roast duck tasted like wild duck to me, which I ate a lot as a child, it certainly didn't taste farmed - serving it with roast apples was a good idea, yum.

The amazing dessert trolley was wheeled over after dinner but unfortunately my stomach isn't as big as my eyes, and I couldn't fit anything in.  It did look fab though.

Staff were happy to call us a cab when they delivered our bill.  Cabs are very affordable in Warsaw, so there's no reason to bring your car.

Restauracja Polska Rozana
Chocimska 7 Street
00-791 Warsaw
Phone:- 48 22 848 12 25

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Win a Flight to Paris?

Do you live in Switzerland?
Want to win a 2 x return flights to Paris?

Air France are running a competition for 2 x return flights
from Zurich, Basel or Geneva to Paris.

All you have to do is click HERE and answer a very simple question.

Good luck!

This photo gives you the clue to the answer ...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Kitchen

I've had a few people ask me what my kitchen is like, considering I keep managing to churn out cakes on a semi regular basis, so here's a photo.

My kitchen is a dark, 80s style, galley kitchen.  You're looking at one side of the galley in the photo above.  I have very minimal bench space, and the useable bench space I have is about the width of a dinner plate, though it's quite long.  

The tiny amount of workable bench space makes cooking a bit more of a challenge.  As you can see, there's nowhere to put my mixer, except on the stove top.  For example, if I have to melt chocolate in a double boiler for a cake recipe that also requires the mixer, I have to be very delicate indeed!

I've got a total of four power sockets, so I'm guessing whoever designed the kitchen didn't do a lot of cooking.  Our fridge is actually plugged in to the dining room, because there's no socket for it in the kitchen.  My mixer is Australian, so I have to use a plug converter to plug it in, and the only socket that I can reach from the stove top is a bit wobbly, so the mixer turns itself on and off when it should be mixing.  Sometimes I have to hold the plug in with one hand whilst adding things with the other, or I don't get any mixing done at all.

Some of our other kitchen equipment is American, so I have to use a power converter as well as a plug converter for those things.  The converter takes up quite a bit of room, so I tend not to use those appliances much at all.

My kitchen is one of the reasons that I'm a huge fan of Pinterest.  As we live in a rental property, we can't change anything really, so I have to live with the kitchen we've got (and it could certainly be a lot worse, I'm not complaining too much), but I dream of one day having a perfect kitchen.

I guess we're pretty lucky that we've got a kitchen at all in our house.  Here in Germany it's very common, when you're renting a property, to have no kitchen installed.  Really.  You have to buy your own kitchen and install it yourself, and then when you leave, you take your kitchen with you.  We really didn't want to do that.  I viewed several properties before we found this one, and the kitchen is just a big empty space with the water pipes hanging out of the wall in most of them.

So, if you've got a lovely kitchen with lots of bench space and general fabulousness, you should definitely be able to make any of the recipes I put up on the blog - easy peasy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Restaurant Review : Dom Polski, Warsaw, Poland

We were taken to Dom Polski by friends in Warsaw and it didn't disappoint.  Dom Polski is in a beautiful large house located in the lovely Saska Kepa district.  The restaurant is situated in a gorgeous garden, which is available for seating in the warmer months, that said it was a freakishly warm 22c when we were there in late October and we could have comfortably sat outside.  It's got a great atmosphere, traditional yet modern, and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

After perusing the good sized menu, I started with the truffled duck and cherry pierogis (Polish dumplings) and they were AMAZING!  It was my first experience of a pierogi and I will definitely try them again.  My main was roasted pork with fried cabbage and bacon, which was lovely.  The serve was very generous and I couldn't finish it.

Luckily I'd saved a tiny bit of space because the dessert trolley was astonishing.  Dessert trolleys must be a Polish thing and I'm all for it.  Their gorgeous array of desserts is wheeled over to your table and your waiter talks you through them all.  I fell madly in love with two huge meringue desserts, and our fab waiter offered to give me a small slice of each - brilliant.

Restauracja Dom Polski
ul. Francuska 11
03-906 Warzawa
Phone:- 48 226 162 432

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Recipe : Peanut Butter Sheet Cake With Chocolate Icing

I'm a big fan of The Pioneer Woman, not only for her funny posts about life on a cattle ranch, but also for her recipes, which are easy to follow and generally VERY yummy.  I particularly like it when I can source all of the required ingredients here, which doesn't happen with every recipe she posts.

I'm also a big fan of cake (who isn't a fan of cake?), and an ultra big fan of Sheet Cake.  My friend Kris in MI makes a gorgeous Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake which blows my mind, and I can never replicate it as well as she can.  The only thing with Sheet Cake recipes is that they seem to use every flipping bowl in your house, so maybe it's not something that should be attempted unless you've got a dishwasher - or a lot of time on your hands.

This is a great Pioneer Woman recipe; it's easy to follow and it works.  Get out all of your bowls and let's get cooking!  My notes in italics, as usual.  Oh, and yes, I know it uses a lot of butter and sugar, but it's really yummy and I'm not advocating you eat it all yourself (though that's certainly possible, I'm not judging!).

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake with Chocolate Icing
  • Cake
  1. 2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 2 cups sugar
  3. quarter teaspoon of salt
  4. half cup of buttermilk
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  7. 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  8. one and three quarter sticks of butter (about 210gm)
  9. half cup of peanut butter
  10. one cup of boiling water
  • Icing
  1. one and three quarter sticks of butter (about 210gm)
  2. 4 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
  3. 6 tablespoons of milk
  4. 1 pound powdered sugar, sifted (about 500gm of icing sugar, and I forgot to sift mine)
  5. 1 teaspoon of vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (about 180c).
  • In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar and salt.  Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whist together buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla.  Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt one and three quarter sticks of butter.
  • Stir in peanut butter until smooth.
  • Add boiling water.
  • Let the mixture bubble up for about 10 seconds.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Pour the peanut butter mixture over the flour/sugar mixture and stir until halfway combined.
  • Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir gently until the batter is smooth.
  • Pour the batter into a sheet pan or jelly roll pan (I'm never quite sure what a sheet pan or jelly roll pan are, so I used 2 x 28x23cm non-stick pans, or you could upsize and use one larger one) and smooth the surface.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven.
  • While the cake is baking, make the icing.
  • Okay, to do the following bit I melted the butter in a small saucepan and added the cocoa powder and milk whilst it was in the saucepan.  Then I tipped the saucepan contents into a bigger bowl and added the icing sugar that way, or I find that you get icing sugar all over your kitchen (and yourself).  I added half the icing sugar in one go and stirred that in, and then the rest of it in intervals whilst I stirred it in because I didn't want it to be too thick.  At one point it looked like it was splitting, but I kept stirring and it was fine once I poured it onto the cake.
  • Melt one and three quarter sticks of butter.
  • Stir in cocoa powder, then the milk.
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla and powdered sugar and stir until smooth.
  • Pour the icing over the warm cake right out of the oven (yes, really) and smooth the surface.
  • Allow to sit for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and eating warm.  Nah, didn't do that.  We ate ours cold later on and it was still yummy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Two Roads Diverged ...

As I was out walking with Archie recently, my favourite poem came to mind as we turned a corner to see these two roads diverging in a yellow (well, yellowish) wood.  We didn't take the one less travelled by though, we took the one we always take to get us back to the car.  But in life I know I've taken the one less travelled by more than once, and it's always lead me to good things.  Do you sometimes chance it in your life, and take the less travelled path?

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Oh, and I know that somewhere there's a certain Mr Bukva saying "That's NOT what this poem about!", and Beth is saying "Oh, I love this poem"!  I guess we've all got different ways of looking at things - and I choose to think that this poem is saying "Take a chance!".

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Restaurant Review : Tenth Avenue Cookshop, 156 Tenth Avenue, NYC, USA

After our nice, yet bland, breakfast experience at Sarabeth's, we were looking to try something a bit more adventurous and the fabulous Tenth Avenue Cookshop fits the bill perfectly.

Tenth Avenue Cookshop is an exciting restaurant in Chelsea and you'll need to book, this place is jumping - and deservedly so.  These guys are mad for sustainable ingredients, humanely raised animals and supporting local farmers and artisans.  Their menu is American with a focus on seasonal availability.  The staff are top notch, friendly and passionate, and there are loads of them.

We'd booked in advance, and the line was already forming outside as the doors opened for the day.  We were shown to our table by cheery staff and were handed tempting menus whilst our coffee orders were taken.  The menu is clever, different and imaginative - no boring hotel breakfast staples here.

I had the cornmeal pancakes with fresh raspberries, and also the beignet special to share, both of which were glorious.  The boys had other hot dishes that they raved about.  To drink I had a yummy coffee and a Ithaca Ginger Beer, whilst the boys had coffee and BLT Marys.

This place has a real buzz to it and everyone seems to be smiling, both staff and diners.  We really enjoyed it, and then went for a walk along the Highline in the sunshine to walk some of it off.  Tenth Avenue Cookshop?  Go there!

Tenth Avenue Cookshop
156 Tenth Avenue (at 20th Street)
Phone:- 212 924 4440

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

40,000? Wow!

My blog has just clocked over 40,000 visits and, besides being utterly amazed, I'm also very thankful that so many of you have taken the time to come over and have a look at my ramblings.

I just want to say a big THANK YOU to you all.  I hope you've managed to get some useful info out of my travel tips, some decent food out of my recipes, and some laughs out of my adventures.

Thank you so much, and have a fabulous day.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Restaurant Review : Sarabeth's, Central Park South, NYC, USA

Going out for breakfast isn't really a "thing" where we live, and if you do find a place that does breakfast, it's cold continental style, which isn't terribly exotic.  I'm a mad fan of going out for breakfast or brunch, so we try and do it when we travel if we can.

We'd heard good things about Sarabeth's in NYC, and bookings were advised, so we booked well in advance and there weren't many bookings remaining - it's VERY popular.  Sarabeth's has 5 locations, and we booked in at Central Park South, within walking distance from our hotel.

On arrival on a chilly morning, there was already a line forming outside as they opened.  Luckily we'd booked and were escorted to our table and offered coffee as we were seated.  Now, I'm no huge expert on NYC, but I'm almost sure that we stayed in a hotel on this exact spot about 20 years ago.  It's not a hotel now, but the decor is the same as it was back then, very 90's pastel-y with definite "hotel breakfast room" feel.  It's also very large.

The menu looked good and I ordered the Classic Eggs Benedict (my fave breakfast dish) and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice to go with my coffee.  The boys ordered other hot egg dishes and we shared a side of bacon (mmmmm, bacon).  Breakfast came to well over $US100 for three.

Honestly, the food is good, but it's not fabulous.  I'm not sure what the buzz is about this place.  It's absolutely jammed with tourists and it's not cheap.  By the time we left, the line was working its way down the block.  If you're mad for eating what amounts to a nice pricey breakfast in a fairly ordinary atmosphere, then this is the spot for you, but you could replicate it in lots of hotel breakfast rooms in NYC, and find better in lots of other lesser known cafes (like the fab Tenth Avenue Cookshop, which I'll review later).

40 Central Park South
(59th Street, between 5th and 6th)
Phone:- 212 826 5959

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Best Places To Go In 2014 : Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet has just published their "Best Places To Go In 2014" list, and I'm thrilled to see that my home town, Adelaide in South Australia, is in their Best Cities to Visit category - yay!

Lonely Planet say "The often overlooked Adelaide should have a big 2014.  The city has just completed a multimillion dollar refurbishment of the "Oval", which links the centre of the city with the more historic parts farther north.  Add new boutiques and eateries and Adelaide is ready to take front and centre in Australia".

So, come and visit lovely Adelaide and see how pretty a city can be.  Experience this fabulous "lifestyle" city, enjoy top notch food and wine, and visit "The Oval" for the cricket and football.  Here's a link to Lonely Planet's "Adelaide" information page.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Could You Travel For A Whole Year?

You know those days when life gets all a bit much and you want to throw your hands in the air, scream at the world, throw your job in, and just take off?

Well, Clayton B. Cornell did just that (and so did my cousin, Moose, but that's another story).  He took off and travelled for 12 months.  He did it on a budget of around $US1,200/month and he had an absolute ball, made loads of new friends, had amazing experiences, started up an online business and drank a little too much (whilst sticking to the budget, of course!).

He travelled from Honduras to Uruguay.  With a surf board.  On a bus.  And he loved it.

His trip wasn't so much about sightseeing, though he did lots of that, but it was more about "living" in different places.  Experiencing life in different places where you don't know what's what and you don't speak the language.

I'm going to pinch one of his lines and tweak it a bit, because I really do believe that "if you want a fast track to self development, get on a plane".  I would add "alone" to the end of that.  Because if you've only got yourself to depend on in a strange place, you'd be amazed at how resourceful and strong you are.

  • Click HERE for a link to the 20 things Clayton learned from his year of travel
  • Click HERE for a link to his web site so you can read his adventures

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Restaurant Review : John's Pizza, New York City, USA

I think we all know that there aren't any shortage of food choice in NYC.  There are more than 4,200 restaurants for you to choose from, and around the tourist areas you get lots of choice and varying levels of value.  

We were based in Times Square and there was a restaurant on every corner looking for our money.  The guide on our second day of the hop-on hop-off bus tour recommended John's Pizza as a place that had great pizza and didn't rip you off - gotta love getting advice from a local!

We headed into John's after catching a show on Broadway (half price tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square, yes you do have to line up for a while, but it's well worth it), about 9.30pm.  The restaurant on 44th Street was huge and looked like it might have been an old theatre at one time. 

The dining room - how fab!

We were seated immediately in this big, buzzy place and our drinks came out within minutes.  Our shared starter (yes, America, we've learnt about the size of your food!) of Mozzarella Wedges (John's homemade breaded mozzarella wedges fried golden brown and served with marinara sauce, $8.50) was with us in about 10 minutes, and it was lovely, certainly enough for two.

We ordered one large pizza (8 slices) to share between us, as we'd seen the pizzas come out to other tables and there's no way you could eat one yourself (though there were certainly lots of people managing it!).  We had the basic Margherita (mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, tomato sauce) and then added Italian Pork Sausage, Mushrooms and fresh Garlic - and it was scrumptious!  It was just the right size for two people and we finished it, but couldn't have eaten more without feeling like piggies.

Not my photo, but that's how they manage to
get two large pizzas on one small table.

Including a few beers and sodas, tips and taxes, our dinner for two in the middle of Times Square came to under $US60 - which is amazing value for the centre of one of the busiest cities in the world.

John's Pizzeria
Times Square
260 W 44th Street
New York

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fire Preparedness for Horses

I know, I know, this isn't my normal kind of post, but you know that horses play a big part in my life, and with horrific bush fires currently devastating New South Wales, Australia (my home country), I thought it might be an opportune time to pop up this post for my horsey readers on fire evacuation safety for horses.

This information comes from the Colorado State University but the bulk of it applies in any country.  I must admit, it wasn't something that I had really considered before, but it certainly pays to take five minutes to read and see what you should have in place if you've got a horse property.  And let's face it, normal barns filled with bales of straw and hay are pretty easy to catch fire, you don't have to be in a bush fire situation to suddenly be faced with this kind of disaster.

For example, it's great having lead lines and halters ready for an evacuation, but did you think that your horses nylon halter can melt onto their head if they get too close to the fire?  Choose leather or rope halters for your evacuation and you might just save yourself and your horses some serious trauma and injuries.

Here's a few basics that you should know - there's much more detailed info below if you scroll down.

  1. Teach your horse to load and tie.  Horses must be able to load fairly well immediately, no prancing about and being a clown.  Minutes might be all you have.
  2. Take at least one bale of hay and a bucket, you never know where your horse is going to end up.
  3. No matter what, if you take your horse or not, make sure you take your proof of ownership/brand inspections.  This will help you prove the horses are yours later on.  Photos work in non brand inspection areas.
  4. If you cannot take your horses, turn them loose.  They have great survival instincts.  It's better than dying in a locked barn.
  5. If you turn then loose, write your phone number on them in some way.  Spray paint or shoe polish or whatever you can find.
  6. If you turn them loose, take their halters off.  Imagine all the debris your horse is going to encounter, you don't want them snagged up.
  7. If you turn them loose, lock them out of their barn/pen/stall/yard - they WILL go back.
  8. If you take your horse to an evacuation centre it is still a good idea to have your horse marked in some way.  Sometimes evacuation centres have to evacuate.
  9. If your horse is in a large pasture area, cut the fence in corners and leave the gates open.  When horses can't find their way in smoke/debris they will follow fence lines.

The info below is a direct copy and paste from the link to Colorado State above:-

Quick Facts...

  • The safety of you and your family should be the first priority.
  • The greatest factor in limiting your losses during a wildfire is having and using a preparedness plan.
  • An equine first aid kit is essential for all horse owners to have in the barn or trailer in case of emergencies.
  • Prioritize a list of tack to take during an evacuation.
  • If you get word that your area is being evacuated start the process immediately.
Along many high country Colorado roads you may see signs indicating the “Fire Danger Rating” level. The likelihood of a wildfire increases dramatically when the fire danger is moderate to high combined with a large number of dead trees in forested areas. Wildfires may be one of the most common types of hazards in Colorado. If you have horses and you live in a high-risk area for a wildfire, are you prepared to protect your horses? They need your help and planning.
First, you have to access your risk. Consider your location and your local situation. Knowing your risk will help you prepare your plan.
Having a plan and implementing that plan is the greatest factor in limiting your losses. With horses, we are not only speaking of a monetary loss but also the emotional loss of losing your horse which is impossible to calculate in dollars and cents. Your plan needs to be communicated to everyone who is living with you or to anyone who will be taking care of your place in your absence.

Key Elements of a Preparedness Plan

Evacuation Routes

When considering the potential hazard of wildfires, an evacuation plan of yourself and your horse(s) is a major part of being prepared. You cannot wait until you see smoke or fire to make the decision to evacuate and determine your evacuation route(s). And you cannot simply turn your horses loose and rely on their natural instinct to figure out for themselves where they can flee to safety. They need your help to survive a wildfire. However, in some situations where you cannot evacuate your horses according to plan and there is imminent danger to you and your horses, it is better to turn your horses loose instead of leaving them confined to a barn or pasture.
To plan your evacuation route, contact your local emergency management officials, your county law enforcement officials, or your local animal control officers to find out what they recommend and what procedures they have in place for disasters. Make plans for more than one evacuation route in case the wildfire cuts off one of your exits. Prioritize the routes if you have the choice. Drive all the evacuation routes with your horse trailer. The exit routes must pass the questions of: Can I get out with my size of trailer?; Is it passable in all weather conditions?; and, What if there was flooding and a wildfire at the same time – how would the routes be affected? In some areas, you can have wildfires raging at the same time that flooding is occurring.
Be aware of dangerous fire conditions in your area and know how to find information on potential conditions or situations.
Have your trailer in good condition and available to hitch up and load at any time. Keep a full tank of gas in the vehicle that you will use for towing the horse trailer. If you do not trailer your horse often or if you do not own a trailer, work with your horses to get them trained to load easily. Make it a goal to be able to load them by only one handler so that in the case of an emergency they could be loaded quickly and easily. If you do not own a trailer, contact a neighbor who does and find out if he would be willing to help you evacuate your horse. It’s good practice to load your horse in the trailer you will be using to evacuate.

Team-up with a Neighbor

Develop a team plan with a neighbor. This may help in the joint use of resources such as a trailer and supplies. It also helps to outline a joint plan. Inform each other in the case of an evacuation. Working as a team, you will be better able to efficiently evacuate in a shorter amount of time.

Horse Identification Packet

Being able to identify your horse is important in large-scale emergencies where horses could be housed at the fairgrounds or large boarding facilities. It is also essential in situations when you are not at home to evacuate and your horses are hauled to a collecting facility or maybe were simply turned loose. Identification papers enable you to claim your horse more quickly. It also prevents someone else from falsely claiming your horse. In most cases of a major disaster, documentation of ownership will be required to claim a lost horse.
In situations where your horse has been lost, the legal entity in most communities to work with is the animal control agency, and it is usually under the law enforcement division of that county. In Colorado, most livestock identification and ownership issues are under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Division of Brands, part of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
It is important to note that in Colorado brand inspection is required for horses any time an animal is sold, transported over 75 miles, or leaves the state. Even if your horse does not have a brand, a brand inspection is required. A permanent travel card may be obtained from your local inspector that eliminates the need for future brand inspections for movement of your horse. In addition, “any time livestock is to be transported on a public road, proof of ownership of the stock being transported must be available for inspection by the Colorado State Patrol, local law enforcement, or a livestock inspector. If the animal carries your Colorado brand, this can be your proof of ownership. Failure to show proof of title is a misdemeanor.” (C.R.S.35-53-117, Colorado Dept. of Agriculture, Brand Inspection Board web site) You can see that having a permanent travel card or brand papers will aid in claiming your horse and in meeting brand laws concerning movement of horses.
Horse identification is accomplished by microchip, brands, pictures, unique markings, registration papers, brand papers, or by a combination of the above. Make a packet on each of your horses and have it readily available to grab and load with your horse in case of emergency. Also in that packet you can file your health certificates, brand paperwork, vaccination records, and other health information. If you put all of your paperwork in one small portable file container it can be quickly located and loaded in case of an emergency.

Equine First Aid Kit

An equine first aid kit is essential for all horse owners to have in the barn or trailer. A well-stocked first aid kit kept in the barn will always be available when the trailer is loaded with tack and supplies. A general first aid kit that is routinely updated can be used for emergencies like wounds, colic, foot injuries, or other trauma and then be available for an evacuation in case of some type of disaster.

Horse Medication

If possible, clearly label all horse medication and keep it in an appropriate container that can be quickly located and loaded in emergencies.


Prioritize a list of tack to take during an evacuation. With a list, you are more efficient and do not have to take time to plan or decide what to take. The most important tack to remember are ropes and halters (leather or rope halters are preferred because nylon halters can get too hot if the horse gets too close to a fire). Include a water bucket on your tack list. Prepare neck bands for your horses that have your contact information written on them. These neck bands would only be used in an emergency evacuation in which you only have time to turn your horses loose. Another option is to create an identity halter that has a metal or brass plate riveted to a leather halter. You can have metal dog tags made for this purpose. Briefcase identification tags also work well when filled out and kept in the tack room for quickly attaching to halters. Of course, these items should be prepared ahead of time.

Boarding Arrangements

It cannot be overstated about making arrangements for the boarding of your horses at an outside facility. In the case of a major disaster, the county fairgrounds may be the appointed shelter for livestock, horses, pets, and maybe even displaced people. You can also make plans with friends who have equine facilities that are located out of harms way. Or you could use a large commercial boarding facility. The important point is to have a place lined up to take your evacuated horse. Write down your arrangements and the list of your contact people, stick it on a clipboard and hang it in the barn.

Contact List

It is best to have an outside contact of someone who lives in a different area of the country to be the clearinghouse for calls from your family and friends. You can make contact with the clearinghouse by whatever means possible and then they can relay information to others. By appointing a contact who lives outside of your area, they are less likely to be affected by your area’s possible failures of infrastructure and communications. Other family members from around the country can check in with them to get an update on your condition. Your contact can relay messages from you to them or vice versa.
In a disaster situation, you will be very busy with evacuation and may not be able to be reached due to failures of communication lines or cell towers. Place these contact numbers on another clipboard in the barn. You can also use this contact list clipboard for other important phone numbers such as your veterinarian or sheriff. Another place to post your contacts is in your cell phone address list, but it is best to have a written form available in the barn too. If first responders come to your place and you are not home the contact clipboard will provide valuable information to them.

Priority List

Once you have made your plan you need to prioritize it. This helps you during an actual emergency or helps others in the event that you are not home at the time. Even though it is hard to think about, priority is given to people over horses. So on your priority list keep human safety as your guiding principle. Maybe you only have a two-horse trailer and you have 5 horses, a priority list must be made. Or maybe you have limited time because of a rapidly advancing fire, so priorities must be made on what you will have time to do. You can also keep this list on your contact list clipboard in the barn.

In the Event of an Actual Emergency


First and foremost, the safety of you and your family should be priority number one! That cannot be emphasized enough. If you get word that your area is being evacuated start the process immediately. Wildfires are very unpredictable and can spread rapidly. As soon as you get word of a forced evacuation, begin to implement your evacuation plan as sometimes the loading of horses and other necessary items will take longer than you expect. This is especially important if you have many horses to evacuate. Make contact with your neighbor if you are working as a team and get in touch with your outside contact to give them your updated status.
If the fire is close and you are unable to get your horses out, do not leave them confined. After getting them out of the barn or pasture, close the doors or gates, as horses in danger will often seek the comfort of the known—their pastures and stalls. Also keep in mind that your horse in the face of danger may not react to you the same as they usually do. Use caution as their instincts may take over and they may be in the flight or fight mode. If possible, have someone help you handle the horses.
If you have not had your horses permanently identified in some way such as microchips, brands, tattoos, or photographs then paint your cell phone number or the last four digits of your social security number on the horse. Place your identity halter on your horse (if you’ve prepared it ahead of time). If you only have nylon halters, remove them because if your horses get too close to an actual fire nylon halters get hot and could cause further skin damage. If you have time, try to lead your horses away from the buildings before releasing them to encourage them to move away from the buildings and the impending fire.

Emergency Evacuation Checklist

    √paperwork (health certificates, vaccination records, brand paperwork)
    √first aid kit
    √horse medication(s), if applicable
    √leather halter(s)
    √water bucket
    √identity halter/tag
    √boarding arrangement list
    √contact list
    √priority list


Preparing a plan is the most important element in the preparation for the wildfire season.
Remember to:
    1. Plan.
    2. Practice the plan.
    3. Place people’s safety first – that includes your own!

Thanks for reading, and I'll be back to normal programming next time - I promise!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Try Something New!

If you're lucky enough to be visiting Italy, you'll get the chance to try some seriously amazing food if you eat where the locals eat.  One of the problems you might face is that the menu you're given will be in Italian and that might be just a teensy bit confusing unless you're fluent (or effluent, if you're Kath & Kim).

There's a fab new FREE app for iPhone available called "Menu Translate" which gives you a search on over 5,000 Italian foods, so you can order something new and tasty instead of possibly falling back to the good old Pasta Carbonara (one of my all time faves), or even Spaghetti Bolognese.

There are a lot of fab apps for iPhones, but with so many of them you have to be online to use them.  When you're travelling out of your home country, the only way you can be online is if you pay for (or steal, I'm not judging) WIFI, or, heaven forfend, put on your International Roaming (EXPENSIVE!).  The super double bonus about this app is that it works when you're offline - no faffing about trying to snag some WIFI.

So, get thee to and get downloading!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New York : Gray Line Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Yeah, that's not us.

You know that I love a good hop-on hop-off bus tour to get the layout of a city.  I've written about them a few times on the blog:-

The weather was fab in NYC and we thought we'd try and cover more ground than we did in the Big Onion Walking Tours, so a hop-on hop-off bus was just the thing we needed.

As with most cities, you can buy the tickets at the bus stops, and NYC was no different.  The price of a 48 hour ticket is $US59/person, so it's not terribly cheap (there were cheaper bus tours with other companies).  I'm not going to lie to you, the first day was really disappointing.

The bus was absolutely JAMMED with people and we couldn't get up to the open top deck for ages.  The guide was working to the best of his abilities I guess, but he wasn't good.  English wasn't his first language, and it probably wasn't his second either, and you really do need good English to be a guide in an English speaking country.  In the end we plugged in our headphones and listened to the recorded guide instead.

Gray Line also "wrap" their buses in advertising, including the windows (can you flipping believe it!?!?), so all the windows are covered with advertising on the outside, and whilst the advertising is perforated, you don't see much through all the tiny holes.  It's an absolutely ridiculous idea, and if you have to sit downstairs due to rain or overcrowding, you're pretty much wasting your money.

The second day we had a much better guide as we headed into Harlem on the top deck in the sun.  He was young, cheery, knowledgeable and lots of fun.  We were on the bus with him for a few hours and his demeanour didn't slip, he was a professional.  He was very passionate about architecture, churches, and NYC in general - top notch.

There are other hop-on hop-off buses in NYC, and if you don't want to use Gray Line like we did, check to see if the other companies put advertising all over their windows before you buy a ticket.

Click HERE for the link to take you
to Gray Line's bus tour info.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Don't Get It ...

I love Pinterest, you all know I do, and I'm guessing a whole lot of you do too.  Let's be honest, it's like looking at endless free home decorating magazines, with a side of squee-worthy pictures of puppies and foals (or maybe that's just me?).

There's several things I just "don't get" about Pinterest though; one is how much time people spend painting their nails and applying fingernail art, another is Halloween in its entirety, and yet another is the current obsession of writing your shopping list on a blackboard in your kitchen.  There are so many cute photos of these amazing blackboards with lists of lovely things on them currently circulating on Pinterest, but I don't get it.

As far as I can see, you've written your delightfully posh shopping list on your stylish blackboards with your artisanal chalk, but you can't take that list to the grocery store - can you?  "Hang on, honey, I've got to detach the kitchen door and bring it with us"?  Don't you then just have to re-write your blackboard list onto a pad of paper that you've probably stolen from a hotel (again, just me?) and take that? 

In the immortal words of Sweet Brown, "Ain't nobody got time for dat!".

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Recipe : French Almond Cake

Our pantry is a little bit strangely designed and jammed with stuff, so I often find myself buying a new ingredient and then finding another one wodged in a box in the pantry.  This is how I found myself with two half bags and one full bag of almond meal.

The beauty of Google is that you can just type in "recipes with almond meal", and you get a bunch of recipes.  I had a look at a few and the decided on this one, mainly because I had everything I needed in the house already and it looked incredibly simple.  My favourite recipes involve throwing everything into one bowl, giving it a mix, and then whacking it into a greased tin - this is the recipe for that!

Double bonus?  It makes your house smell amazing!

I pinched the recipe from Happy Home Baking, and they pinched it from Easy Cake by Linda Collister.  Happy Home Baking tweaked the original recipe a bit, and I tweaked it again so I could get rid of the remnants of a bag of cinnamon/vanilla sugar.  I guess that's how recipes evolve ...

Let's cook!  As usual, my comments in italics.

French Almond Cake

  • 110g unsalted butter left to soften (I always use salted butter because I prefer it)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten (I forgot to beat mine)
  • 90 ground almonds (almond powder/almond meal)
  • 40g self raising flour (or 40g plain flour + half a teaspoon of baking powder + pinch of salt)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon flaked almonds for sprinkling (I didn't measure mine, I just sprinkled until I liked the look of it)
  • Icing sugar for dusting (I sprinkled on a mix of cinnamon/vanilla sugar that I found in the pantry BEFORE I put it into the oven)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180c.
  2. Grease and flour the sides of 20cm pan, line base with parchment paper (I only greased with that melty butter stuff you use for frying, and I didn't flour or line with parchment paper.  I also used a loaf pan instead of a 20cm pan.)
  3. Place butter, sugar, eggs, almond powder, flour, milk, vanilla extract in a bowl and beat with mixer or whisk.
  4. When light and fluffy, spoon into prepared pan and spread batter evenly.
  5. Sprinkle flaked almonds over the top (this is where I sprinkled the mix of sugars as well)
  6. Bake at 180c for 30-35 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when pressed (I inserted a knife to see if it came out clean).  NOTE - cover top with foil about 15 minutes into the baking to prevent the top from over-browning.
  7. Run a thin bladed knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.  I'd already sprinkled with the sugar mix before baking, so I didn't dust with anymore sugar.