Friday 28 February 2020

Leek And Garlic Twist Bread Recipe (for the British Leek Growers Association)

I was sent the ingredients to recreate a Leek Recipe by the British Leek Growers Association in time for St. David's Day this weekend. This is a rare occasion where a recipe post doesn't feel like work, because Leeks really are one of my all-time favourite vegetables and they are very under-used in the modern day UK.

Leek And Garlic Twist Bread Recipe (for the British Leek Growers Association)

I particularly like the look of the Leek and Garlic Twist Bread and I was sent everything I'd need to create the recipe. My 11 year old son was chef and I just gave him a little advice (and kneeded the dough, and did the sticky bits, and the oven).

British Leek Growers Association recipe garlic twist bread ingredients

Wednesday 26 February 2020

COVID-19 Coronavirus, Updates from 24-27 Feb

Current total cases 81270, lives lost 2771 (outside Chinese mainland 4072 total cases, 67 lives lost).

New UK figures for testing and results are published at 2pm each day. So far 7,132 people have been tested in the UK, of which 7,119 were confirmed negative and 15 positive (including 4 positives from Diamond Princess) - 8 people have recovered.

The UK has confirmed 2 new cases of COVID-19. One lives in Buxton, Derbyshire and contracted the virus in Tenerife, and the other had been on holiday in Northern Italy.
One patient has been taken to Royal Liverpool and the other to Royal Free Hospital in London.

Several countries have discovered their first casualty in the last few days - confirmed cases are now in 49 different countries and Diamond Princess (which has it's own category).

Borders are closing by the day and many countries will no longer accept visitors from China, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy and other nations. If you are determined to travel - CHECK FIRST - and best of luck getting back as planned

WHO advice protect yourself from getting sick Wash your hands

Luxury Cruise News

The Diamond Princess continues to add to it's total. Currently 705 confirmed infected persons while on board, and 4 souls who have lost their lives. 35 people are seriously ill. There are also Coronavirus positive ex-passengers around the world, including 4 in the UK, 36 people in the U.S., 8 in Australia,  4 in Hong Kong and 2 in Israel.

The UK 

Schools and workplaces up and down the UK have been closed after pupils and employees returned from Italy and went back in on Monday after half term, some with cold symptoms. Now may not be the time to be so strict on attendance.

After an outbreak of cases across Northern Italy, visitors who return to the UK have been asked to stay home and self-quarantine if they feel ill, or just stay home anyway if you visited any of the following: Lombardy Region: Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano. Veneto Region: Vo’Euganeo.

Strange rumours 101:
If you are suspected of having COVID-19 do they test your acidity?
No they do not. They take a blood sample to look at your RNA - ribonucleic acid - it's a building block of the human body, like proteins or DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid.


China on Monday declared an immediate and “comprehensive” ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals. Thank you. Something we can all be pleased about.

For the last few days there's been something not quite right about China's new cases stats - again. Totals one day don't always match the previous day's figures and the day before last they reported only 5 deaths in all of China excluding Hubei. Their lockdowns you would hope would have an effect, but we are seeing provinces go from a steady case rate suddenly down to zero. There are rumours they've stopped testing, have run out of test kits or aren't including asymptomatic positives again, but no official word other than to say how great the decrease is. Everyone will start returning to work and school within the next fortnight...

On 26th Feb a nurse in China had had a heartbreaking letter begging for help published in The Lancet. Sadly the rest of the world probably now feels it has it's own problems and even if they did not, getting the Chinese authorities to accept help seems unlikely. The letter has now been taken down. 

The Rest Of The World

Sadly Iran doesn't appear to be doing too well. The Deputy Health Minister has been confirmed positive. New cases in Bahrain, Saudi, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Oman, and Iraq stem from visits to Iran and raise serious concern that the Coronavirius spreading across the Middle East is coming from inside the country. Iran currently officially has 245 cases and 26 succumbed, which does imply they have a good few more cases which haven't yet been identified. An epidemic modelling paper has been published suggesting a likely median of 23,070 cases exist within Iran (source below).

Spanish mainland, Greece, Romania, Denmark and Brazil have their first cases - all had just returned from Northern Italy. Visitors to Italy have also taken home Coronavirus to Albania and Switzerland, further strengthening the suggestion it has been spreading in Northern Italy for some time undetected. Total confirmed positive in Italy is now 528, with 14 lost souls.

South Korea now has 1,766 confirmed positive patients and 13 lives lost, and I think it's fair to say they're having a bad week. A lot of the cases stem from a Christian religious group who have passed it amongst themselves and unfortunately have a huge number of infected people. They have ingeniously set up drive-through testing stations, which must decrease risk and save time for everyone involved.

Unconfirmed reports from North Korea do look worrying. A Doctor who has previously worked there has stated he's been asked privately for protective equipment by doctors inside North Korea. They closed the border with China really early on, but suggestions are smugglers may be transporting the virus into the country. (Source below).

Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended entry for religious pilgrims wishing to visit Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Islam, and banned entry for Umrah, in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19

Australia has activated 'Pandemic mode' - implementing their Emergency Response Plan.

The United States has only 60 cases of COVID-19, more than 36 of which came from the Diamond Princess and 14 were travel related. This is really impressive until you realise that this country of 331 million had at time of typing only tested 426 people. The 'leave the cat in the bag' policy is about to end as the CDC finally removed "have visited China in the last 2 weeks" from the United States testing criteria for Coronavirus. Those who can afford it or have the insurance coverage can now get tested for a mere $3000 (surely that counts as profiteering?). We may see a glut of cases over the next few days.

A bus tour guide in Japan who had COVID-19 in late January and recovered became ill and has been confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time. This is not what epidemiologists hoped for at all. Previously it was thought at worst the virus may possibly mutate in such a way that we could catch it again around 6 months later. This new information is very concerning. It could of course also indicate that the virus doesn't completely clear from the host and can reappear. Either way, it's not good news. The article also states 14% of recovered patients in Guangdong still tested positive but I believe this is an error and refers to the same fact as the WHO mentioned in the quote below (source below).

Whole World Information 

The WHO in their press conference yesterday said there was no evidence to suggest there were many people walking around spreading virus while asymptomatic. Anyone who read the previous paragraphs regarding Italy and Iran may not be entirely convinced. They are not yet ready to call the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, but it's clear that it is out of control in more than one area of the world, so it's the opinion of many that it is a pandemic in all but name.

In today's WHO press conference (27/02) 
"In Guangdong, 🇨🇳, scientists tested more than 320,000 samples from the community and only 0.14% were positive for #COVID19.
That suggests that containment is possible. 
Indeed, there are many countries that have done exactly that"- DrTedros"

Now is the time to remind you that this isn't a cold and it isn't flu, but is isn't a particularly deadly virus. Around 1 in 5 people with a positive diagnosis will become quite poorly, around 1 in 50 will die (best current estimates). Lots of people won't even feel ill enough to need a doctor. The main issue is that it is incredibly easy to pass on and around 20% of people will need some basic medical attention. This completely overwhelms medical facilities and staff. It's vital to adhere to any lockdowns or quarantines in order to slow the spread and ensure everyone has best access to the medical help they need, and the least number of people catch it before we have a vaccination and/or faster treatment.

We have some new petri-dish experiments to take over from Diamond Princess, this time it's holidaymakers on land, including a hotel in Tenerife with over 1000 occupants, after a French doctor who was there on holiday has tested positive. At least we know they all get windows this time. No word yet on what they intend to do next, but it looks like a lot of people will get an extra 14 days they weren't expecting in their hotel rooms...

Seasonal flu kills around 0.1% of people who catch it (1 in 1000). COVID-19 seems to have a mortality rate of between 0.7% and 2.3% (7-23 in 1000). It is foolish to suggest there aren't lots of people who are asymptomatic and therefore aren't included in this data, so the mortality rate could very easily be substantially lower.

Here are some very useful statistics from Worldometer, who keep real-time track of numbers and have published new tables breaking down all possible confirmed data so far. This chart details approximate risk of fatality in individuals with no underlying health conditions, based on government data from 71,000 Chinese cases:

COVID-19 Fatality Rate by AGE:
80+ years old - 14.8%
70-79 years old - 8.0%
60-69 years old - 3.6%
50-59 years old - 1.3%
40-49 years old - 0.4%
30-39 years old - 0.2%
20-29 years old - 0.2%
10-19 years old - 0.2%
0-9 years old - no fatalities
In general, relatively few cases are seen among children.

At the time of typing the WHO have not yet declared a pandemic, but there is now little doubt. Minimum criteria have been met and there are uncontrolled outbreaks in at least 2 distinct areas of the world. You won't panic, you know it's just a word. Don't become hung up on it. It has been inevitable for the last few weeks. Sit calmly while the money men flap about how much money is wiped off the value of things they never really owned, and wait for it to settle down.

If you must panic buy, the most you'll realistically need is 2 week's worth of toilet rolls, paracetamol and soup. Remember that stockpiling causes shortages and a vicious circle of panic buying and rationing. There is no point having 300 masks in your kitchen if no-one you know ever tests positive, or enough food to feed an army rotting while you only want a cup-a-soup.

Everything here is publicly searchable, obtained from trusted sources and confirmed unless clearly stated. This is purely a collation of information.


Monday 24 February 2020

Takenoko Family Game Review (Age 8+) Sent by Asmodee Board Game Club

The latest game we've been sent to review by Asmodee for the Blogger Board Game Club is Takenoko, a competitive game for 2 to 4 players aged around 8+. Our younger boys are 10 and 11 and very experienced gamers, and we played 4 player with them.

The aim of the game is to grow bamboo and feed the pandas. You have to care for the bamboo at different stages of growth, develop irrigation and maintain supply. You're a farmer and an ecologist!

Takenoko Family Game Review box front

Inside the box you have absolutely tons of parts: Rules, 28 Hex Tiles, 90 Plastic Bamboo Sections, 20 Wooden Irrigation Channels, 55 Cards, 4 Individual Player Boards, 8 Wooden Action Tokens, 1 Weather Die, 1 Panda Figurine, 1 Gardener Figurine

Takenoko family game box contents need 5 minutes to press out tokens before play

It's a good sturdy box and the contents are almost entirely wooden or card - with a big plastic insert. It is good for keeping everything safe during storage, but it'll be nice to see it replaced with card.

COVID-19 Coronavirus, Updates from the last 5 days...

A lot has happened regarding COVID-19 over the previous few days, and I'll endeavour to update my Facebook page every couple of days with updates, but here is a round up of developments since last Thursday:

If this is all news to you and you know nothing, then I have a plain English COVID-19 Coronavirus information page here.

Current total cases 79684, lives lost 2625. (Chinese mainland 77345/2592).

New UK figures for testing and results are published at 2pm each day. So far 6,536 people have been tested in the UK, of which 6,527 were confirmed negative and 9 positive. There are also 4 positives from Diamond Princess who have yet to receive further test results from UK testing - 5 people are in hospital and 8 recovered.

Several countries have discovered their first casualty over the weekend - confirmed cases are now in 34 different countries and Diamond Princess (which has it's own category).

Borders are closing everywhere - many countries will no longer accept visitors from China, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Japan and other nations. Austria has stopped trains from Italy. If you are determined to travel - CHECK FIRST - and best of luck getting back as planned.

Luxury Cruise News:

Sadly the loss of life from the Diamond Princess is now at 3 souls.
Before disembarking was allowed to commence 634 passengers were confirmed with COVID19, with 27 seriously iĺl. 328 were asymptomatic.
Another 57 cases were diagnosed on board this weekend, even though most passengers have left the ship, and the total is now officially 691. Among the new cases are 55 crew members and 2 passengers. Incredibly importantly out of the new cases both passengers and 50 of the crew members are currently asymptomatic. A reminder that you really cannot contain what you cannot find.

4 UK and Irish passengers in Wigan have already tested positive, as have many other ex-passengers around the globe, including 7 Australia, 2 Israel, 16+ US. (Just maybe the CDC might have had an idea when they said to leave them where they were...).

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Spring New Release Children's Books For Reading Together (sent by Matador)

I try and promote self-published books when I can. and here are 3 children's books for younger readers which I've been sent to look at by Matador Publishing.

Joey, Wyatt And Kamryn and Fat Cat And The Chocolate Sandwich are all suitable for reading together and for newer independent readers to practise reading with support.

Matador Press books to read together Fat Cat, Joey and Wyatt and Kamryn

Joey by Dana Lynn Coles guernsey plane story book review cover photo

Joey is a plane who lives in a hangar on the island of Guernsey with two other planes, Dash and Dornie. He is an old plane and news comes he's no longer able to fly and is going to be decommissioned. For Joey this means a move to a children's play barn, where he is strung from the roof.

Saturday 15 February 2020

February #TBCSmiles ... 66 Months

The weather is a bit grim, outside it's cold, windy and it's wet. People have had their homes and gardens flooded already, we're having another storm and everyone is exhausted because really we should be hibernating. It's definitely time for some smiles!

This month has been stressful and hard work for a lot of people. I'm sorry if you are one of them. If you live in an area where there is chance of flooding, we did a paid post a few years ago which tells you exactly what you should do when you have a flood warning and how to prepare - and what to teach the kids so that they can help too. Fingers crossed none of you need it.

If you are worried about what's happening in China and how it's affecting the rest of the world, I've also done a post about COVID-19 Coronavirus. I've been following it for the last 6 weeks and there really is no need to panic. We will all get it, or we won't, and the vast majority of us will be able to cope with it just fine. Worrying will have absolutely no effect on that outcome. Make sure you have paracetamol and a thermometer in the medicine cupboard if you want to be proactive. I'm updating the post regularly as new information emerges.

Double Cake Day. the cake is full of sugar stars

We also had our double cake day this month, which would have been Elspeth's 22nd birthday. This year a very sweet star-filled sponge, and a banana and walnut loaf to tone down the sweetness. I think she'd approve...

Despite the weather and everything else, you made some awesome smiles this month! Thank you so much to everyone who has shared theirs by using the hashtag #TBCSmiles on Instagram. Anyone can join in, just tag your smiles!

This month we have a lot of smiles that really show how much fun it is to relax and just be yourself...

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Charlie Palmer Says by Beverly Bowry (Young Fiction 9+) Sent for review.

Today's book review is Charlie Palmer Says, which has been sent to me by Matador Self-Publishing for review. Suitable for young readers aged around 9+, this is a book about 10 year old Nathan and his ghost... And it's a great little story that I really enjoyed!

There's a little peril, and one of the characters is a ghost who was murdered, but it's all sensitively done and not what you'd refer to as 'sad' particularly.

Charlie Palmer Says by Beverly Bowry Young Fiction Review

When young Nathan takes his metal detector out into the garden, he discovers it causes a ghost to become visible. The ghost is called Charlie and claims he was murdered by a neighbour a few years ago, and that Nathan is now in danger too.

Nathan's parents go away for a weekend and leave grown up big sister Thea in charge, along with her boyfriend Rob. They not only have to look after Nathan, but his step-sister Hattie too. I like all of these characters a lot. They aren't stereotyped, they're pretty normal, pretty cool, and all get along really well. It creates an atmosphere you kind of wish you could join in with.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Foods To Help Your Body Fight Flu....

We all know that what you put into your mouth has a massive effect on your health. That can include your immune system, and your strength to fight any bugs that come your way. December to March is flu season in the UK, and obviously we are currently unaware whether COVID-19 (Coronavirus) will become a widespread issue in our area of the world.

Flu is nasty, it can make you really ill and it can take a long time to recover, as we found out when we all caught real flu last Winter. It was 4 months before we were all back to full health.

Foods to fight colds and flu boost immunity

While no food is actually magic and even eating a perfect diet won't guarantee you'll stay healthy, having a boost never goes amiss.

Don't 'feed a cold, starve a fever'. You need some fuel in your body to fight, and heating up is a way your body fights intruders. Eat small amounts of easily digestible foods, such as runny soup or broth. Fever is actually helpful to a point, but any patient with fever of 93.4C (103F) needs to be referred to a doctor.

1. Water. It's not a food, but clear, clean water is necessary to prevent dehydration and you will not get better without it. If your patient is struggling to drink or keep anything down, try to sip 2oz an hour, every hour, until the situation improves. Ice cubes or ice lollies can be a great way to keep someone hydrated when they are hot and struggling to drink.

2. Garlic. People have known garlic has benefits since before your Gran's Grandmother was born. It gives a great immune system boost, although it will NOT prevent you becoming ill or cure any illness by itself, including the 2019 Coronavirus.

3. Mushrooms are an amazing anti-viral immune-system booster. They contain B vitamins as well as the antioxidant Selenium and Beta-Glucan (see Oats). They actively help your body fight flu. Try light mushroom soup if you are struggling to eat.

Monday 10 February 2020

Abominable Family Movie Review and 2 x Blu-ray Giveaway (Sent by Universal)

DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s co-production Abominable is an action-packed heartwarming adventure for the whole family, with a really impressive 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Released in time for the half term on Digital 3rd February and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD 10th February from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Abominable blu-ray movie case pack shot

Abominable is brought to us by the team who created How To Train Your Dragon, and has a great voice cast, including Chloe Benne, Sarah Paulson, Eddie Izzard, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Albert Tsai, Tsai Chin and Joe Izzo as Everest.

Abominable Activity Sheet Colouring

Disgruntled teenager Yi is struggling with life a little after losing her Father. She lives with her Mother and Grandmother, and takes on lots of different odd-jobs to save up to try and take a trip that her Dad had planned to take with her. One day while hiding in her den on the roof, she discovers a Yeti, who has escaped from a science lab.

The Yeti is friendly and cute, and just wants to go home. He's also a bit magic and has some tricks up his sleeve involving plants. Along with her friends Jin and Peng, Yi embarks on an epic journey to return her Yeti, Everest, to his mountain home and his family - with the scientists and money men in hot pursuit...

Friday 7 February 2020

Children's Mental Health Week 2020 - Find Your Brave.

Children's Mental Health Week runs from 3-9 February, and this year's theme is 'Find Your Brave'. It's a really positive theme and one that really like. I know just how brave my kids have had to be over the last 7 years, and it's made me far more aware of all of the children who have to be brave. Everyday.

Children's Mental Health Week 2020 - Find Your Brave.

Since 2013 we've been through what realistically can be called some sort of hell. I've had 2 major surgeries, my partner had Meningitis and he's also been rushed to hospital 3 times for other serious conditions. We lost a child to suicide and another sibling then spent 2 years in hospital seriously ill. All the while, our children have had to keep going.

How on Earth they all manage to be so brave is completely beyond me, and I'm incredibly proud of them all.

You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you Mary Tyler Moore

Thursday 6 February 2020

What's It Really Like In China Right Now...

I've been following the 2019 nCoV Coronavirus outbreak since the beginning of January, and from the outset it was obvious it had potential to become really big, and for lies, misinformation and panic to spread around the world.

Is what we see on social media or in the news the truth? I have already written a post which explains the basics about the 2019 nCoV Coronavirus and puts straight a few of the crazy myths going around on social media about the disease, but what is it actually like to live in China at the moment?

I've been speaking to someone who returned to the UK from eastern mainland China a few days ago, to find out what their experience has been...

( This was a surprise interview with about 5 minutes notice and I made up most of my questions on the fly, so there are a couple that could definitely have been worded better... )

Me: Hiya, and welcome back to the UK.
T: Thanks

Me: Was it scary, did you feel like you were in the middle of a disaster, or did you feel it was controlled and everything would be fine?
T: Umm, it was hard. Where I live was super, super quiet and most things were closed. We weren't massively concerned about getting unwell, there were really too few people, however we were concerned about freedom of movement being limited (which has now happened).

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Maki Stack Family Game Review (Age 7+) Sent by Asmodee Blogger Board Game Club

Our first Spring game review for Asmodee's Blogger Board Game Club is Maki Stack, and we were sent this to take a look at last week. A mildly physical team game for 4-6 (or more) players aged 7+, which requires dexterity and co-ordination, but you remain sitting in your chair.

All players have to do is recreate the stack of delicious sushi shown on the card. Think it sounds too easy? Did I mention the blindfold, and the 2 person chopsticks?

Maki Stack Family Game Review for Asmodee Blue Orange pack shot

Inside the box are beautiful wooden playing pieces representing different sushi meal items, plus blindfolds and instruction leaflet. The Earth-friendliness is spoilt a little bit by a big plastic insert, but it isn't single use. It could easily be updated to cardboard instead though.

Maki Stack game review box contents wooden playing pieces sushi soy sauce bowl etc

The rules are simple. Shuffle and stack the game cards on the table. Each has an image showing whether it is an individual challenge Blindfold Round or a two-player co-operative Chopsticks Round.

Monday 3 February 2020

Gemini Man Movie Review (Cert 12) and 2 x DVD Giveaway (sent by Paramount)

Gemini Man is available to Download & Keep from today, 3rd February, and will be out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD from 17th February. Paramount Home Entertainment's newest release is an action thriller starring Will Smith, which will keep you on your toes from beginning to end.

Suitable for viewers aged around 12+ because of the peril and danger which the main character faces, Ang Lee's latest movie is packed with epic fight scenes and some groundbreaking visual effects - Will Smith with Will Smith features quite heavily and it's very well done.

Gemini Man DVD cover showing Will Smith and young Will Smith

The story follows retired hitman Henry Brogan, forced to go on the run because he is being hunted by a keen, highly skilled young assassin determined to catch his target.

I don't want to give away too much of the storyline, as there are twists and turns throughout, but Henry Brogan is an assassin who almost botches his last job and decides it's time to retire. He rents a house boat and settles back, but very quickly realises he's being watched, and his life is in danger.

Saturday 1 February 2020

Swizzels Valentines Gift Ideas For Vegetarians and Vegans (Sent For Review)

The Love Heart is synonymous with Valentines, and Swizzels Love Hearts sweets are the perfect way to pass on your messages of adoration on Valentine's Day, or any day. We've been sent some to review, along with some other goodies from the Swizzels range...and EVERYTHING they've sent me is vegan!!!

Swizzels Valentines Gift Ideas for vegans and veggies

I'm vegetarian and so are several of our children. Swizzels have spent the last couple of years adapting their recipes and this year you have a whole host of sweet treats to choose from. No longer need anyone face disappointment.

I've been sent a Vegan/Vegetarian Hamper, Personalised Love Hearts Tube and some Limited Edition pink Love Hearts - all suitable for vegetarians and vegans.