best_hiddenbeaches_california_limantourbeach-XL

The best beaches you’ve never heard of

There’s nothing people look forward to throughout a year of toil and tears than taking a week or two away from the rat race to kick back and relax on a beautiful, sandy beach. The big name beaches – Venice Beach, Miami Beach, Malibu, Acapulco – often come up short when it comes to turning people’s dreams into reality. As these are the most famous beaches, they attract a lot of people. Crowds of them, in fact. So many that you often can’t find a place to sit down, and when you can, you have to put up with the sight and sound of the same people you have spent all year dreaming of getting away from. Not only that, but accommodation and food prices get hiked up to a ridiculous level. You end up paying a fortune for a mediocre experience. On the other hand, if you opt for a cheaper resort, such as certain places in Hawaii, the Philippines or Australia, you could easily find out exactly why they are cheaper – you might end up going home with half your leg chewed off in a shark attack, your bank balanced emptied out at gunpoint, or in a bag after having been sucked under by the incredibly strong current.

A great way to get around this is to avoid resorts altogether. There are still some incredibly beautiful and peaceful spots around the world that the tourist industry hasn’t yet destroyed. They are invariably in isolated areas where the government hasn’t yet ruined the view by reclaiming land for an international airport and bulldozed the forests and farms to make way for tacky high-end hotel chains, rip-off restaurants and seedy casinos.

Take Smuggler’s Cove in Zakynthos, for example. Ask a travel agent about this remote, secluded bay and they might think you have been reading too many pirate fantasy novels. Yet Smuggler’s Cove exists, surrounded on all sides by steep white cliffs, its golden sands descending smoothly into the turquoise-clear waters of the Ionian Sea. Aside from being located on an island in the first place, Smuggler’s Cove is made even more inaccessible by the fact that it cannot be reached on foot. You need to sail around the coast of the island if you want to set foot there. Once there, the only company you’ll have will be the gentle ripple of the sea, the sun and the wreck of the smuggling vessel Panagiotis.

If you’re looking for something slightly more accessible, but still uncrowded and unspoiled, you might not need to look much further than Nantucket, Massachusetts. Despite the island’s name, which is literally translated as ‘faraway land’, you can get there easily by ferry or light airplane from the mainland. The true beauty and charm of the island lies away from the main town, and you won’t find it in a car. A beach bike (in case you’re not familiar with beach bikes, take a look here: http://www.cyclingplaza.com/comfort-cruiser-bike-reviews/), is the best way to take in the coast, secluded beaches, romantic views and historical sights.

A ride along Dionis Beach will take you to see the second-oldest lighthouse in the country; a daytrip cycling along ‘Sconset Beach will take you 18-miles along a coastline full of interesting views, including the Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum.

The whole place is best avoided in high-season, when obnoxious bankers and traders from New York and Boston can be seen jostling for the best table in every restaurant. Come out of season and you’ll find that top-quality service endures, along with a charming local friendliness. It’s a safe place for kids to explore alone and is remarkably well-protected in environmental terms. The island’s wildlife and around one third of its territory are protected. These lands include the beaches, forests, grasslands, meadows and heath in which you can really get away from it all.

Whereas Smuggler’s Cove in Zakynthos, which is just like the type of desert island you would expect to see in a castaway movie, can be just a bit too isolated and lonely, Nantucket offers you the peace and tranquility you seek, along with accessibility to shops, groceries, restaurants, entertainment, shelter and civilization in general.

Ever wished

Ever wished you were somebody else?

As the baggage of life accumulates, some people inevitably begin to wonder how they can cast it off and begin afresh. The fact that we were born and raised a certain person, doesn’t mean we have to live out our years in that identity. In many ways, it doesn’t make sense to. The cells that make up our body are regenerated at most every seven years, meaning that if you are eight years old, none of the cells in your body were there when you were born. If you are 35, you’ve already gone through five different bodies. As we have seen, an old photograph of you may not show any of the cells that make up your body now. The chances are your appearance differs substantially, too.

Unfortunately, your memories are simply thoughts that are occurring at the present moment – electrochemical reactions which are produced by neurons which, themselves, periodically regenerate. What people believe they remember does not correspond with actual events that have taken place. This is often observed when two people reminisce about the past and realize they don’t remember things in the same way, if they even remember the same things. And so it often is with personalities, too. Changes in the way cells interact with each other in our bodies have profound effects on the way we act, and the way we perceive things. Seven years ago you may have been a jolly, outgoing type with an exaggerated libido, whereas these days you are depressed, reclusive and have no desire to make love.

It is clear then, that if you want to be someone else, all you have to do is wait around seven years. At least, that is the case if we look at you in isolation. The reality of the vast majority of us, however, is that we are not isolated. We have friends, jobs, bank accounts, passports, duties and obligations. The reason we perceive ourselves to be the same person throughout our lifetimes is that we allow the world around us to label us with an identity and, often to mold us.

It is probably that your name was decided for you. You had no control over which gender you were born as, nor the date on which you were born. If you have a religion, this is probably heavily influenced by others around you. For many people, their lifestyle and belief system are basically projected on to them – it is often only the ‘black sheep’ who have managed to find something of their own, true personalities. The things you enjoy, care about and have strong views on, may not have been important to you at all if you had been born to different parents in a different part of the planet.

By the time we have figured this out, we have accumulated a lot of baggage. Friends, enemies, savings, debts, responsibilities and obligations, reputations, records and much more, surround us, smother us and force us to continue being ourselves. Certain groups of people become aware of this more than others – expatriates, military veterans and prisoners are among those who feel that they experience more than one person’s life within a lifetime.

In order to be yourself, it is often necessary to remove yourself from the environment that stifles you. If you’re not comfortable chugging beer, waving flags and talking about Nascar, you might try your luck in a different place with different people, analyzing fossils, conducting research and discussing it with others. Only you can find the real you.

In terms of switching identities, it is often enough to simply move where nobody knows you. Some of us don’t like to be recognized – men might grow beards, some might opt for cosmetic surgery. For most, traditional options for adjusting one’s image are enough.

For those who want a complete change, it’s possible to create a whole new identity, although this, ultimately is traceable, if done legally. If done illegally (and well), it can be an excellent way to avoid creditors, the long arm of the law and other antagonists. Ultimately, however, the rise of ‘Big Brother’ states which hold our biometric data and a clear picture of our behavior from birth onwards, means that hiding and escaping is probably impossible. It took the combined resources of dozens of governments to find and kill Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Ten years had passed since the attacks on New York and Washington, hundreds of thousands had died and billions of dollars had been spent, but eventually, they got him. Only he wasn’t physically the same Osama Bin Laden they had set out to kill all those years before.

sell your home

Things you can do to help sell your home

Regardless of the state of the market, there are certain things that homeowners can do which affect how quickly they can make a sale. For example, someone who has a lot of experience in selling homes, or who has some hidden advantage, may get a quicker sale and a better price if they act as their own agent. However, most people who take this approach, having no prior experience, will probably miss out on multiple opportunities to sell before they finally get an acceptable offer.

If your priority is getting a quick sale, you may find that you have to compromise on price. There may well be buyers out there who would be willing to stump up much more than most for your property, but if they don’t know about it, it’s not going to happen. You have to be sure that the price you are asking is reasonable, so get a few different valuations and set the price accordingly. You shouldn’t have to sell it for less than it is worth, but always be prepared to negotiate.

When it comes to making a quick sale, first impressions are everything. A great first impression simply means that you are able to capture the attention of more people. It can mean the difference between getting the future buyer through the door to take a look, and watching them drive on by.

One expression you may hear a lot is ‘curb appeal’. Everyone will tell you that you have to increase your curb appeal to enhance that first impression. But how, exactly are you supposed to do that? It can be difficult to know what kind of improvements you can make when you’re so used to your own home.

Firstly, if your house number is on your mailbox, then this is the first part of your home people are going to see. Having an old, rusty, beat up mailbox isn’t going to make people want to look further. If it’s that bad, just invest in a nicer, new one. Plant flowers or a small rock garden around it to make it look as homely as possible. As potential buyers cruise down your street looking for your house number, they’ll be both relieved and pleased when they come across it on the nicest mailbox on the street.

Next thing you can do, if you haven’t already, is to edge your driveway. A driveway which is clearly delineated makes it look much neater. Uneven driveways with weeds eating away at the edges indicate that you don’t care for your property properly. A viewer might see it as causing them extra work and hassle in the future.

Planting flowers is probably the easiest and most cost effective way to improve the appearance of your home. They add charm and warmth to a home which otherwise might look characterless and forlorn in a street with thousands of near-identical properties. Perennials save you the hassle of actually having to take up gardening, if all you want to do is make your home look nicer. Plant them along the edge of your lawn, in front of the building, in flower boxes and in hanging baskets and be sure to keep them looking tidy.

The first impression that many potential buyers get of your home won’t be from the street outside, however. Around 90% of then will visit a realtor’s website and browse through their photos of your home before they show up in person. This is where you can make your home stand out from the rest. Whereas the realtor will most likely have a professional photographer who can make the interior of your property look as appealing as possible, you can get an advantage by investing in a small drone to fit out with a camera. The drone can capture views of your property from flattering and interesting angles. It can also give potential buyers a better idea of the extent and dimensions of the property. You can browse through some drone reviews here, http://www.rotorcopters.com/mainstream-multirotor-reviews/, so as to decide which might be the best option for you. If you really like the idea, you could even use the drone to create a promotional video to help sell your property.

High school home essentials

High school home essentials

As you get older and graduate from middle school, everyone is going to expect you to take on more responsibilities. This might mean helping out more at home, taking a weekend job or helping out at church or in the community. Plus, you’ll have more work to do now you’re going to high school and all the pressure that goes with that. So it’s only natural that with all this additional responsibility, you should have more independence.

Depending on where you live, you might already hold a driver’s license. If you don’t already have one, you’re probably aching to get it! One of the most recognizable steps that youngsters take on the path to adulthood is being able to drive an automobile. You’ll get the respect of your parents and your peers if you can take Grandma home after church, pick up the groceries and never have to rely on other folk to get around.

Once you’ve got your license and you’re enjoying your new freedom on the roads, it won’t be long until you’re ready to get your first car or pick-up. You can’t always be borrowing your daddy’s ride – he probably needs it more than you do, and it is, after all, his and not yours! Now the best way to do this is to save up some money from your job and looking at buying a used car, maybe a good old Dodge Charger or a Chevy Silverado, preferably from a friend or someone in the family or your community. That way, you’re likely to get a better price and fewer questions about the condition of the vehicle than if you went to a used car dealer.

Now that you and your friends are mobile, you’re going to want to be able to reach each other no matter where you are, and for that, you’ll need a cell phone. Lots of people will automatically go for whatever is coolest at the moment and whatever style they like. But remember, what’s cool now is going to old news in a few months. If you play that game, you’ll find yourself blowing all your money just keeping up with the latest trends. Instead, talk to people who have owned their phone for a year or so about its performance. Can it run multiple apps at the same time without slowing down? Is it sturdy enough to survive being accidentally dropped? Find someone who is happy with their phone and then go out and buy the same model. I bet you can find it in the store for half the price is was sold for when it was new.

You’re also going to need a laptop. The way the world is going, this could actually be number one on some teenagers’ lists. Today’s laptops aren’t just used for surfing the net, chatting with friends, gaming and updating your Facebook – they can help you with everything from schoolwork, home accounting, shopping and just about everything else – whether you want to learn how to make the most delicious boiled peanuts or just find the location of your nearest animal shelter or gun store. Finding the right laptop for you will be similar to finding the right phone – do a lot of asking around and find out about the terminology used to talk about computers – RAM, processors, video cards and all that. Only in this case, I would say you’re better off buying new and from a local dealer that offers a good warranty. Laptops don’t have a great lifespan and sustain damage to their components easily. As a result of this, they get slower and more unpredictable relatively quickly. If you do have a problem with your laptop you don’t want to have to wait months for it to be sent half way around the world to be repaired – you want a local service who you can trust to get it done as soon as.

You might already help out in the kitchen and be familiar with the kitchen appliances. No doubt some of you can serve up some real treats – cheese balls rolled in nuts, fried Twinkies, or perhaps even some delicious shrimp and grits. You can’t always be spending all that time in the kitchen when you want a snack, especially with all the schoolwork you’ll have to do. That’s why you’re going to need a toaster – perfect for breakfast and snacks throughout the day – make your grilled sandwiches chock full of bacon, egg, jalapenos, maple, ranch and of course all that extra sharp molten cheese, wow! They’re great for making other stuff, too – pizza anyone? Fried bologna and mayo sandwich? Yum!

These are just some of the essentials that you’re going to need in high school. Of course there’s going to be an even longer list of things you need which are more specific to you. Depending on who you are that may be sports apparel, headphones, gym membership, games consoles, rod and reels, ammunition, sneakers… the list is as long as you want it to be. But make sure you’ve got the essentials locked down first!

The internet is full of interests!

The internet is full of interests! (asiaricecookers.com)

What are the things you struggle with most in this world? Some people are never going to be able to climb Everest, some may want to become a professional football player and fail miserably (I’m not bitter at all with regard to that one, honest), and some may just struggle with the small things in life like cooking. Now it is safe to say that absolutely everyone worldwide has something they just can’t do and it probably bothers you no end. Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that there is something that can be done about this and: it is incredibly easy to do, 99% of people have some sort of access to it, and all it involves it is little bit of effort from yourself. The answer is the Internet.

Since the turn of the millennium the Internet has really taken off. What was once a thing designed for purely military purposes for internal communications has blossomed into the most powerful learning tool the world has ever seen. If you want to learn how to become a better basketball player then watch a YouTube video, want to increase your psychology knowledge? Then find and listen to a podcast on the subject, even if you want to find the best rice cooker on the market there is a website for that and it is called asiaricecookers.com. It really doesn’t matter what you want o learn, you can do it.

So why isn’t everyone an expert in everything then? Well, the answer is quite simple. There isn’t enough time. From starting with a few very scientific pages the Internet has blossomed into a fountain of knowledge and it has gotten to the stage where there is simply too much information for my one single person to digest. You have to be testament to the tricks of the trade if you want to truly utilise the Internet. Concentration is key as it is so incredibly easy to be distracted when on the Internet so you have to stick to your goal and break it down into manageable targets. Rather than sitting through an entire episode of how to learn Chinese in 10 hours you should break each lesson down into smaller half hour long segments. This may sound completely contradictory to the earlier point about not getting distracted but it is not. If you break things down into smaller chunks then you are less and less likely to get distracted and leave them ongoing. You will go back to the task at hand and finish it. It is simply human nature. This is one of the main, small, but very useful tricks you can use to focus when on the Internet.

The other may seem incredibly self explanatory but it is still well worth mentioning. This simple but effective technique is to pick a topic or subject you like and stick to it! Whilst that won’t set the world alight as ideas go, it is a very important one nonetheless. If you do something you love then it won’t feel like working at all. You may always have wanted to learn more about dogs. Go and do it. If you are more of a cat person and have been planning the best way to build little mittens cat palace for years now, go and find out how to on the Internet and as it is something you love you are sure to see the job through to the bitter end, no matter how unappreciative mittens is at the end of it…. Long term projects are always a labour of love, and if you love doing it then this labour will become that bit easier.

So what have you learnt today by reading this piece? Hopefully you don’t say nothing and you go with something along the lines of “a few different lessons!” You should have been given a bit more confidence that if you want to take on a big and potentially life changing project then you have the tools to do so sitting in your hand right now. The Internet is easy to use and can help you to better yourself in so many ways that they would all struggle to fit in this article. Go and learn now! It’s never too late.

The different ways you turn people

The different ways you turn people off and what to do about them

Whole industries have grown up around making ourselves more attractive to people. Sometimes this is for the purposes of finding a partner, at other times it’s to help us sell a used car or make ourselves seem electable. While we may be aware of the basics of attraction, we make actually be doing more to turn peopleoff us, rather than to attract them.

One of the most common ways people get turned off is by having to put up with your bad breath. This is especially true of those who smoke, drink too much alcohol or consume a great deal of smelly foods such as fermented bean paste or kimchi. One of the easiest ways to prevent this is to clean your teeth after eating. Using an electric toothbrush is a real smart choice as manual brushing can miss areas in which bacteria can build up and produce foul odors. Sometimes bad breath can be caused by acid reflux from the gut. In this case, cleaning your teeth won’t help – the answer lies in addressing your acid reflux.

Chewing gum can be used to reduce reflux and improve your breath, but it’s best to do this alone as many people find chewing gum to be distasteful and disrespectful. Try to avoid foods which trigger acid reflux, eater smaller meals more often and use antacids if necessary.

Another way in which you could be turning people of is by being rude. Many people have been told that assertiveness is a good thing and that they should always be assertive. Assertiveness certainly has a time and a place but it is not all of the time. It can make people unable to relate to you. Sometimes you may overdo it and show that you are not listening to others. Interrupting and talking over others are sure-fire ways to turn people off and make enemies as people view you as arrogant and small-minded – believing that what you have to say takes precedence over what others are trying to say, and believing that it doesn’t matter if you and everyone else miss out on hearing what others have to say. Listen to others and consider what they are saying. Being right and winning arguments all the time actually drives people away from you.

Another thing that will cause people to avoid you is if you are a bore. It’s likely that nobody in the world thinks that they are a bore, but a clue could be if you consider yourself to be passionate about something. For example, being passionate about political issues, could mean that others regard you as always harping on about politics which they’re not interested in. Rather than persuading these people to come around to your point of view, you are likely driving them away. If you just love cars and engines, no amount of talking about them and showing photos of them to others is going to make them interested. They will just think you are boring and think twice about hanging out with you again.

The other side of the coin is equally irritating. If you don’t talk about yourself or your interests at all, and simply ask one question after another about other people, they will become uncomfortable around you. It is presumptuous and invasive to continually ask people questions without even pretending to volunteer the corresponding information about yourself. Break up the interrogation with your own anecdotes and observations. If you feel you must ask sensitive questions, explain why and apologize in advance.

Sometimes you can turn people off simply by acting ‘normally’. This often happens when people cross cultural boundaries. For example, the American who goes to Britain and wishes everyone to ‘have a nice day’ is likely to be regarded as superficial or even sarcastic, rather than friendly and genuine. The British tourist who tucks into a sandwich on a train in Japan may be viewed as uncouth and selfish by the locals, whereas back home nobody would bat an eyelid. It’s always worthwhile familiarizing yourself with local etiquette in order not to cause offence. Many times people will be understanding as you are not from the same cultural background but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to look as good as a movie star

How to look as good as a movie star

Have you ever wondered how people in movies look so much better than people in real life? Even the actors look better in movies than they do in their day to day lives. So how do they do it? And, more importantly, how can you get the same effect and get the movie star look? Here, we’ll take a look at the tricks of the trade and insider secrets that can give you that Hollywood look, no matter what you happen to be doing, whether you’re picking up some groceries, going to see the doctor or just relaxing in front of the TV.

First off, you’re probably going to have to do something about your hair. It’s not possible to give one-size-fits-all advice about hair as your hairstyle should complement the shape of your face and your physique. For guys, if you look like Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson, you’ll be able to save money on a stylist by simply shaving your hair off. For men and women who don’t have the physique to pull that off, a trip to the salon is in order. So, here’s our first insider tip: when stars are invited to the Oscars, they’re asked to turn up with unwashed, dry hair. The reason for this? Unwashed hair holds its style much better than recently-washed hair. It’s then styled with a wet brush, dry shampoo, spray and a blow-dryer. Apply extensions and highlights to get the look you want.

Makeup makes the biggest difference between how someone looks on the big screen and how they look when they’re lying in bed with a hangover. Again, there isn’t one solution to fit everybody – it really depends on what image you want to portray. Take a look at the movie star you’d most like to resemble and try to mimic what they do. Be realistic about who you choose, too – if you want to look like Park Min Young but you closely resemble Robbie Coltrane, you’re going to need a lot of surgery before you even think about makeup.

For women, the basic rules are to accentuate the lips (lipstick – go red) and eyes (mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner), and soften the skin (foundation and blusher). The whole idea is to appear healthier and more youthful. For men, the big thing is ‘no makeup’ makeup. You want to hide bags under your eyes, wrinkles, blemishes and scars while subtly accentuating your jawline, chin, nose and eyebrows. The colors you use should not differ greatly from the natural colors of your face.

It’s very rare to see anyone on the big screen with less than perfect teeth. If you’re young, you can save yourself a lot of money down the line by acting now and taking good care if your teeth for life. Use fluoride, don’t smoke, floss your teeth and use a brush with adjustable settings (something like this: http://www.toothbrushbest.com/philips-sonicare-diamondclean/) to clean your teeth after every meal. Orthodontic treatment is usually cheaper and quicker for young people. For those who are less fortunate, the most extreme option is to invest in a completely new set of piano keys. Short of that, look into straightening and whitening and start taking your oral hygiene more seriously.

It’s almost impossible to think of a movie hero who wasn’t in good shape. Even those who make it onto the big screen with a few extra pounds are given quirky or buffoon-like ‘fat person’ roles. The fact is that the actor who plays the ‘average guy’ spends a lot of his time with his personal trainer at the gym, getting leaner and more pumped than you’ve ever been. The same goes for the nerdy girl in films. Take off the glasses and cardigan and she actually looks more like a cheerleader. The message is clear: if you want to look like a movie star, you are going to have to get into good shape. Cut out the beer, nachos and pizza, put down your games controller and start crushing it and sweating buckets five times a week. Don’t forget to adjust your diet accordingly.

The last thing we need to look at is your clothing. Firstly, choose a style and stick to it. Don’t go mixing up hipster and hip hop. Don’t try to wear a Panama hat with bling and a pair of Nikes. Whether you want to look like James Bond or Tank Girl, choose the appropriate clothes and stick with them. It’s essential that your clothes are clean all of the time. If they start to fade or look worn, replace them. Hollywood doesn’t do dirty, stinky or worn out, and that’s nothing new – why do you think people buy brand new ripped clothes for hundreds of dollars at a pop?

Once you’ve got the look down, it’s time to get into persona, get out there and start turning heads! Whether you’re sitting down at church or just mowing the lawn, you’re bound to make a big impression!

What you can do for your village

What you can do for your village

Those of us who choose to live in villages often do so because of the things that village life offers that cities and towns don’t – a sense of community, knowing your neighbours, helping each other out, peace, tranquillity, home-made produce, proximity to the countryside and so on.

As our villages offer us so much and enrich us in our daily lives to such a great extent, it’s only fair that we should offer something back. In fact, one of the things that give villages their character is the fact that they are run and cared for by the people who live in them.

Keep it beautiful 

One of the most obvious things you can do for your village is to keep it tidy. This means ensuring that you and your children avoid littering at all times and dispose properly of cat and doggy do. If there aren’t adequate litter bins, recycling points and dog waste disposal points around your village, make it your duty to raise this with the parish council to get it fixed. If your village is popular with tourists and visitors, find discreet and polite ways to discourage littering. If you see litter or anything else that needs scooping up, take it upon yourself to do it.

If you have any gardening, painting, sculpting skills, etc., volunteer to use them to make certain areas of your village prettier. A bus stop with a flower garden is much nicer than just a bus stop. A sculpted ‘Welcome to’ sign is much more appealing than a standard village name sign along with the speed limit accompanied by some condescendingly sarcastic along the lines of “30. Had you forgotten?”

Share your talents 

The whole point of living in a village is to get involved with the community. Even if you’re not particularly talented at anything, this doesn’t mean your contribution won’t be appreciated. If you’re not good enough for the cricket team, you can still help out with organising the kids’ team.

There are plenty of ways that you can get involved. Try paying support visits to the elderly and disabled villagers, organise the village fete, start a book club, organise the neighbourhood watch, get involved with the scouts, put on a village pantomime – the list is as long as you want it to be. If you can make the commitment, join the parish council or even stand as a district councillor.

Take care of the environment 

Some of the most attractive villages in the country have been spoiled by the amount of traffic that passes through them. This is mostly blamed on commuters, tourists and people passing through, but quite often, the villagers are to blame themselves.

If you have to drive out of the village, whether it’s for work or leisure, look into carpooling options – if you work in a nearby town, it’s probably that some of your neighbours also do. If you follow a football team in a nearby city, you’re unlikely to be the only one.

Stop driving your children to school and stop getting in the car to ‘just’ pop down to the bakery/ off-licence. If it really is too much to walk or cycle there, have a look at motorised options which don’t cause congestion or pollute the air, such as electric bikes – you’ll be surprised at how they can really benefit your family, your wallet and your village – read more about them at The Electric Rider.

Community spirit 

The most important thing you can do for your village is to make community spirit a priority in your life. Be prepared to help your neighbours out, take care of their pets, call on them when they’re sick, watch their houses when they go on holiday. Don’t speak ill of other members of the community and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Bake a cake when a new family moves into the village. Raise money for community good causes. Cheer on your school sports teams.

The most important things to remember are the more you put into village life, the more you’ll get out of it. Take care of your community and your community will take care of you.

Special Dietary Requirements

Special Dietary Requirements – Can Rice Help?

I was turning 30 in a week and I decided instead of sitting around in my house and just hiding away depressed, I was going to see out my twenties in style.

This was going to be a big party and I wanted to do everything properly.  I bought invitations, new plates and cutlery, a few bits of equipment for my kitchen including a bread maker, electric wine cooler and a rice cooker.

I was determined to cook everything from scratch. So the menu would need some planning.

The list of guests was sorted and invitations sent out. Two of my friends have special dietary requirements.  One of my friends has a gluten free diet and the other is a vegetarian.

What to cook?  One of my pet dislikes is treating people with dietary requirements like the poor relations. It really isn’t fair. This party was going to be different, I love my friends very much and I want them to enjoy the food as much as everyone else.

I planned to have a table where everything was clearly marked up. I would make enough of the gluten free and vegetarian food, so that everyone else could eat it too.

I decided to make gluten free flat breads with avocado and feta, vegetable sushi rolls, 8 veg tagine, spinach and cheese falafels, along with the usual dips and chips.

I also put together the following gluten free recipe (this went down so well with everyone at the party).

Gluten-free Party Food: Wild Rice Salad 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups wild rice
  • 2 cups of vegan/veggie stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsps sea salt
  • 3 rainbow carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1/2 cup raw organic walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

The Dressing:

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • zest from one large orange
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar (may also use rice or balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 tbsps finely minced shallot
  • 4 tsps honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt (to taste)

Directions:

Follow the package directions to make your rice with the broth, water, and salt.

While the rice is cooking, make the dressing by adding all of the ingredients to a medium-sized bowl and whisking to combine. Check the seasoning and, if needed, adjust to taste. You may need to add more lemon, vinegar, or honey, depending on your ingredients.

Once the rice is cooked, as mentioned earlier, I invested in one of the best rice cookers online, allow the rice to cool a little, then add the carrots, diced apples, pomegranate seeds and dried cranberries. Toss to incorporate all the ingredients. Dress while still warm with the citrus dressing, spooning it a few tablespoons at a time to be sure it’s dressed to your liking. Add the chopped toasted walnuts at the end.

The main vegetarian dish I made was as follows:

Leek, Cheese and Potato Pasties

Ingredients:

  • 2 small potatoes, approx. 300g/11oz), cut into 1cm cubes
  • knob of butter, split in half lengthways and finely sliced
  • 3 thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • Gluten free flour for dusting
  • 500g block shortcrust pastry
  • 140g

Directions: 

Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water for 5-8 mins until tender, ensuring they are still holding their shape. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and thyme and soften for 10-12 mins. Drain potatoes and add to the leeks with the mustard and plenty of seasoning. Stir in the cream and leave to cool a little.

Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a 10 cent coin. Use a side plate or a bowl as a template to cut out 6 x 15cm circles. Mix the cheese with the leek mixture and pile a mound of the mix onto the center of each pastry circle. Brush around edges with a little egg, then bring edges together and crimp with your fingers to seal.

Place pasties on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, brush with the remaining egg and bake for 40-45 mins until golden brown. Serve warm or leave to cool.

I served up all of the food as planned and it went down so well.  I spent half of my time at the party explaining the recipes and the fact my gorgeous friends with dietary requirements didn’t feel singled out was brilliant.

The party was amazing.  What a lovely way to spend my birthday, with all of my favourite people.

Pressure Cookers

So Many Different Pressure Cookers

When looking for a new pressure cooker, you will find many different makes and models available. Here you will find a guide to which types of cooker are available, and a few pro’s and con’s for each. Make sure you research the model you are interested in, and be sure to read plenty of pressure cooker reviews.

Stove Top Pressure Cooker

A stove-top model is one that the user places on the stove and manually sets the temperature to achieve the correct amount of pressure. Then, once the desired pressure is reached, the cooker must be removed from the energy source, the time must be monitored.

The pressure inside the cooker must be released before removal of the lid. These models can be very time consuming because the user must continuously monitor the pressure, cooking times and the pressure relieving stage.

Electric Pressure Cookers

The electric pressure cooker allows the user to prepare all of the ingredients and place them into the pot, set the timer and the cooking will automatically start at any desired time.

These cookers automatically heat the liquid inside the vessel until the desired pressure is reached and then it automatically maintains that pressure for the specified time. After the time has passed, the cooker automatically turns the heating element off, and allows the steam to drop until it is safe to open the lid of the cooker.

The electric pressure cooker allows the user to prepare meals without having to monitor the process. This is of huge benefit because all the user has to do is prepare the meal and set the timer, no monitoring has to take place. One disadvantage is that the internal heating element takes a little longer to reach the required temperature, also, the cool down time for the electric models is significantly longer because the cooker cannot be removed from the heat source like a stove-top model.

Aluminum

You will find models that are made from aluminum and stainless steel. There are advantages and disadvantages to both materials, so the user must determine which one is best for their use.

A big advantage of the aluminum pressure cookers is the weight, they are significantly lighter than the stainless steel models. The lower cost makes them attractive to consumers, and the heating process is generally more uniform because of the good heat conduction properties of aluminum.

Aluminum pressure cookers have a few disadvantages. They will usually stain and pit with heavy use, although this will not have a detrimental affect on the way it works.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pressure cookers have certain advantages too. They are not porous so they are less likely to stain and pit, they have a beautiful shiny surface. Stainless steel is also very durable.

Some of the disadvantages are that they are a little heavier, and more expensive than aluminum cookers. Stainless steel does not conduct heat as well as aluminum, so it may take a little longer to reach the desired cooking pressure. Buying one with a triple wall bottom that has an aluminum core will help reduce the problems that the solid stainless steel bottom would cause.

Capacity

There is a multitude of makes and models for both stove top and electric cookers. The most common sizes you will find when researching cookers are 4 quart, 6 quart, and 8 quart liquid capacities.

When choosing a model, you must remember that the capacity that you can cook with is around half to two thirds of the pot, this is to allow room for the pressure to build. The needs of the user will be related to family size and normal meal size.

Preserving Foods

One thing to remember is that not all pressure cookers can be used as pressure canners. If you require this facility, ensure the model you are looking at has a canning option.

Pressure canners are used to preserve a food, which is also commonly referred to as canning. Canning is when food is put into glass jars that are specially made for food preservation. A lid is then placed on the mouth of the jar and a ring is screwed over the lid. The jar filled with food is then placed into the pressure canner and processed for a specified time and pressure, depending on the food being preserved. Once the processing time is fully complete, the pressure is reduced and then the jars are removed from the pressure canner. As the jars cool, the lid seals onto the jar and the food will then last for several months without spoiling.

Using pressure canners to preserve food has been done for many years. In fact, when a person thinks of a pressure cooker, preserving foods in jars probably is the first thing to come to mind, but there is a definite difference and a pressure cooker may not be suitable for canning. Home-canned foods have a better flavor and are more nutritious than commercially canned foods.

If you grow your own vegetables, you know if any pesticides have been used and which type of fertilizer has been used to grow the produce. The same can be said when buying vegetables from a dedicated store.

Summary

When looking for a new pressure cooker, simply assess your needs, read some reviews and look at the specification for each model. With such a wide variety of makes and models, all of which have different features and functions, there is a model that is suitable for everyone.