Arnott’s Entertainers Scoops – Poppy and Sesame Seeds

December 16, 2016 at 12:28 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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entertainersboxChristmas is coming. A time for entertaining. And what could be more entertaining than a box of pear-shaped mini-biscuits called ‘Scoops’?

Scoops. There’s just something unfortunately scatological about that word.

Anyway, these biscuits for clearly for loading up with dip, which is handy at one of those entertainment gatherings where there isn’t enough proper food to soak up the alcohol. Armed with these biscuits, you can get through most of a bowl of dip in just a few minutes.

When I first saw these, I assumed they were just a small, shaped version of an existing biscuit. But if they are, I am not familiar with the prototype. They are actually quite nice – crunchy but not too hard, with a salty / malty taste that is quite addictive. They are perfectly snackable on even without any dip. I like them, and am gong to give them an eight out of ten.

Wearing out…

December 13, 2016 at 10:31 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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tyreIt’s Terrific Tuesday! Time for our dose of cycling good news and upbeat blogging. And today’s theme is – things wearing out.

‘But how is that good news?’ I hear you cry. Well, because it pleases me. I have had a bunch of things wear out just recently:

  • the front rim on the fixie
  • the rear tyre on the fixie
  • the bottom bracket on the Radish
  • the cleats on my shoes
  • the chain on the fixie
  • the brake blocks on Mrs Chillikebab’s electric bike
  • my favorite cycling knicks

Now, I suppose this is Bad News. I mean, that’s all cost I have to bear, goods that have to be manufactured, carbon footprints to be agonised over.

But actually, I feel rather positive about it. All of those things have been well used. They represent thousands of kilometres of happy cycling. Hours of safe, fun riding. Each of those things can tell a story – the places they have been, the hills they conquered, the loads they hauled. And, when examined, it’s really not that much. A few bits and bobs that have made my life easier and happier, and probably have had less impact on the world than one tank of petrol for the car.

And in getting them sorted, I’ve spoken to nice people in local bike shops, chatted online with like minded souls, compared notes with other riders.

So raise a glass to bikes that get used, that wear out, that can be renewed. Not discarded capriciously, nor rendered obsolete, but simply worn out by the actions of my own muscles over months and years. It’s the best way to travel. And a good way to live.

 

Shapes Light and Crispy – Sour Cream and Chives

December 8, 2016 at 20:15 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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shapes-light-and-crispy-boxShapes. It all seems to be about Shapes in biscuit-land at the moment. New Shapes, Original Shapes, New-but-now-original-again Shapes – it has been dominating the biscuit community for months.

And into this maelstrom comes yet another Shapes variant – the ‘Light and Crispy’ range. I snapped up a box to see what they were like.

Well, you will remember some time ago when we started on this whole ‘savoury biscuit’ thing. At that time, I was nervous about the whole cross-over with ‘savoury snack’ thing. When does a biscuit become a snack? Well, it might just be with Light and Crispy Shapes, as these are definitely dipping a toe into the waters labelled ‘snack’, if not going for a full swim.

shapes-light-and-crispy-biscuitsThey are very light (which, I suppose, given the name is hardly a bad thing), thin, crunchy ‘biscuits’. Yes, the packet still has them labelled as ‘biscuits’. So that’s OK then. You can very easily shovel several at a time into your mouth, which to me is a definite sign of ‘snack’. And when you eat them, they crunch down quite quickly.

For all that, they have a nice enough texture, and the sour cheese and chive is pretty standard for the genre. Nothing stand-out, but quite pleasant. As a snack. I’m going to give these four out of ten.

City cycling without ID

December 6, 2016 at 11:13 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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cyclewaysIt’s Positive Tuesday again. Eagle-eyed readers will note that I’ve exceeded the initial promise to do six good news stories, but I figured that pushing on can’t be a bad thing. Apart from anything else it improves my mood, even if you are getting sick of the relentless positivity.

And there’s two bits of good news this week. The first is that the NSW government has dropped the requirements for bicycle riders to carry ID. This bizarre law was slated to come in in 2017, but now it’s not going to happen. To be honest, I had a suspicion from the beginning that it wasn’t going to eventuate, given the various legal and logistical hurdles any such legislation would need to overcome. It was always about creating another headline to beat-up cyclists, and given that this desired effect was satisfactorily delivered, I guess the rabidly anti-cyclist NSW government figured there wasn’t anything else to gain and quietly dropped the idea. What has been interesting though is all the cycling ‘advocacy’ organisation who previously supported the law now coming out can claiming they never wanted it, and were instrumental in getting it scrapped (take a bow, AGF). With advocates like these, who needs enemies…

And so onto the other bit of good news. I had occasion to ride through the city at peak time last week, something I now rarely have cause to do. And what struck me was how many cyclists there were. Yes, there have been reports that cycling levels have declined slightly (the NSW government are rejoicing at this, given that have also just dropped any targets they might have had for cycling participation). But when you ride in the city, you can’t help but be struck by how many cyclists there are. The best part about this for me was how courteous the motor traffic was. On my normal route to work I am a lone cyclist, and I experience inconsiderate driving often. But it really seems that, in a place where motorists are used to cyclists and accept that they are legitimate road users, they behave better. This cheered me up no end, and reinforced to me the feeling I had after visiting Manly. In NSW we have the most anti-cycling government anywhere in the world. At every turn they find ways to discourage, punish and harass cyclists. And yet cycling is happening in large numbers, with what feels like unstoppable momentum. Duncan Gay won’t kill it. The best he can do is constrain it a bit, but when finally we get a more progressive government, I sense the cork will pop and suddenly there could be a surge in cycling, benefiting everyone who lives and works in Sydney and NSW more generally.

Don’t get discouraged folks. Just keep pushing those pedals. The revolution is coming.

A cycling suburb

November 29, 2016 at 14:10 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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manly-bike-rackI recently had to go to Manly for a meeting, so rode my bike into the city to catch the ferry. This is really a great way to start the morning – a ride, followed by a harbour cruise. Taking bikes on the ferry is very easy; access is flat or via ramps, there are wide gates and plenty of room, and bikes are welcome on Sydney ferries. The Manly ferry has dedicated bike storage places near the gangway. (Sydney Trains could learn a thing or two about being bike friendly from the ferries).

And when I got to Manly, I was struck by how many bikes there were. bikes-on-railingsLots of people riding – a diverse group, with plenty of women and people in regular clothes. This is a good sign of a healthy cycling culture. I also happen to know that Manly has a very low (by Australian standard) rate of helmet wearing – something not entirely unconnected to this. In the past, Manly police have publicly said they do not focus on helmets, as it is not an important issue. A rare example of sanity on this issue. More recently the government-sanctioned police harassment of cyclists over the new rules has occurred to a degree in Manly, but I was pleased to see cycling is still apparently thriving. The bike racks around the ferry wharf  were completely full, with bikes locked up to every available railing nearby – it was a positively Dutch scene. The insouciance of cyclists blatantly ignoring the directions to not put bikes on the wharf was also heartening to me.

There is no doubt that the current NSW government is doing their best to remove cyclists from our streets. And this can be depressing sometimes. They will not succeed. They may try to hold back the tide, to cling to a 1950’s car-centric world view. But it is futile. Around the world, and in Manly, that tide is turning.

Bicycle fossicking

November 22, 2016 at 13:47 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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oldtonewWell, it’s that time of the week again when we switch on our unrelenting positivism and take a look at the joy of cycling. (Something that is, admittedly, a little challenging this week, with stories like this in the news.) Anyway, this week’s small tale involves me riding to work along a street preparing for council clean-up.

There’s a certain fascination at looking at the things people put out on the verge; a sort of glimpse into the lives of others – and riding a bike is a good way to do it. Slow enough that you can take a look, but quicker than walking (so you cover more ground), and not too quick (as in the car, when you should be concentrating on the road, not the junk on the verge).

Anyway, as I rode past a house this morning, I noticed a broken down cubby house of the same type the Chillikebab kids like to play on in our garden. As it happens, the Chillikebab cubby is not in great shape, as the connecting strut is showing the strain of having excited kids hanging of it. So I stopped, and noticed the house owner was sitting outside on his verandah enjoying the sunshine.

‘Mind if I have a rummage?’ I asked, and he said of course not. I looked, but it seemed this vital piece of the cubby was missing. ‘Do you have the bar thing that goes across?’ I asked, and he said he hadn’t been able to find it. I explained why I needed it, and he said he’d keep an eye out for it, and put it up on his wall for me if he found it.

And, on the way home, there it was! He was still outside his house, so I said my thank yous, chatted for a bit, and then headed home with my prize, which pleased the little Chillikebabs no end. A nice little story – reclaiming some junk, fixing something, having a pleasant interaction with a neighbour. All facilitated by a bicycle.

One Man and his Bike – Mike Carter

November 16, 2016 at 04:04 | Posted in bicycles, books | Leave a comment
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one-man-and-his-bikeAnother uplifting and happy cycling story, as promised. Actually, this one isn’t really about me cycling. But I reckon reading about someone else cycling, and enjoying it, probably counts. And it’s sort of cool that I get to put this post in both the ‘books’ and the ‘bicycles’ category on my blog.

Mike Carter is a bloke who was unhappy with his life; unsure what he wanted and where he was going. So he got on his bike, and pedalled all the way around Britain. Along the way he met a lot of very nice people, had a lot of lovely experiences, and met a few not so nice people sometimes.

It’s an easy book to read with a gentle, self-deprecating humour. And the key themes that come out are:

  • Riding a bike is the best way to travel
  • Most people in the world are very nice
  • The secret of happiness is less stuff, and more connectedness with other people. And to ride a bicycle.

In a world that seems to be going increasingly crazy, perhaps those are things we should all reflect on.

Two Brothers – Ben Elton

November 10, 2016 at 12:19 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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Mben-elton-two-brothersotormouth stand-up comic, social activist and novelist; Ben Elton is a man with many strings to his bow. Usually his novels are satirical reflections on the state of society – fun, fast-paced and a bit preachy. Much like his stand-up routines.

However, in this novel (billed as ‘his most personal to date’), he assumes the mantle of a more serious novelist, tracing the story of two brothers brought up in pre-WW2 Berlin in a Jewish family. The twist, though, is that one of them is not Jewish at all, but adopted at birth to replace a twin that was stillborn.

There then follows a rather unlikely story, involving the two brothers both falling in love with Dagmar, a Jewish heiress whilst maintaining a friendship with Silke, daughter of their maid. It twists and turns, with each brother taking the place of the other, into an ultimate scenario where one brother enlists with the Waffen SS and the other in the British army. Be clear, though, the brother in the SS hates Nazis, and is only joining it to save Dagmar. Who does Dagmar really love? Why does one of the brothers marry Silke? The plot has been described as ‘Archer-esque’, and indeed it does have echoes of a Jeffrey Archer novel.

It’s easy to read. But. It’s long and clunky, with far to many side-expositions, sub-plots, back-stories and lengthy discourses. Yes, we get that the Nazis are bad. Really really bad. Yes, we get pre-war Berlin was a crazy city. Yes, we understand the horrors of WW2. Whilst reading this book, I kept wishing great chunks of it could be excised or pared back. Elton can’t avoid preaching, and it gets in the way. Less could have been more, I think.

Elton can write with pace, and the story rattles along well enough. The historical backdrop is well researched, and vivid. But it’s not quite the novel I think he wanted it to be.

 

Vale Peugeot

November 9, 2016 at 12:46 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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img_9172Another in my series of happy tales about cycling. At least, I think it’s a happy tale. You may disagree after you read it.

Do you remember this bike? Well, you will remember that I sold it some years ago to a mate. And, since that fateful day, he has been riding it everywhere. A daily commute from Alembie Heights to the city. Tours of the inner west. And even a stint in Fiji, when he worked there for a year.

img_9175Well, the other day, I received some sad news. The wonderful old lady had pedalled her last. Whilst pulling up the Lilyfield Road hill, the frame snapped. Of course, my friend was adamant that this was due to the awesome amount of power his legs were undoubtedly transmitting through the frame. More likely the thirty-year old frame simply succumbed to corrosion.

Now, this is, I suppose, sad. But I prefer to look at the positive. This is a bike that gave at least two people the passion to ride. It’s a bike that was in use up until the end, rather than rotting away on a roadside verge after a council clean-up. It’s a bike that was loved, and will be remembered and replaced.

We went out for beers to celebrate the life of the Peugeot. Quite a lot of beers, actually. Now I just have to persuade my mate to replace her with a fixie…

Shapes – Cheese and Bacon (New)

November 5, 2016 at 19:37 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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arnott's shapes bacon and cheese flavourThere’s an old saying amongst chefs; if you want to give something that is otherwise a bit bland instant appeal, simply add cheese and bacon. There’s something magic about that combination of fat, protein and salt that is just irresistible. But do Arnott’s capture this irresistibility with the Cheese and Bacon shapes?

Of course, the controversy is still still raging about the ‘new’ Arnott’s Shapes. I covered this new Shapes debacle last time when I looked at the Barbecue flavour. Almost half a year on, the backlash continues; social media is still alight with negativity about the new flavours, and Arnott’s have actually had to re-introduce the original Pizza flavour in an attempt to prevent street riots and the like.

Cheese and Bacon is not a flavour I have previously tried, so I have no idea what the original ones tasted like. So in one way this is a kind of more pure review, untarnished by sentimentality.

The biscuits themselves are dusted with flavouring, and appear to have flecks of bacon embedded in them. With no bacon listed in the ingredients, however, I’m fairly confident these are just coloured bits of – something. Perhaps it’s best not to ask too many questions.

And they taste sort of cheese and bacony. Salty, cheesy, savoury. Not too sweet (a fault which bedevilled the new Barbecue flavour). Nice texture. Not a classic, but pretty good. Suitable moreish. So for these at least, I’m going to give the new flavour a thumbs up with a creditable five out of ten. Those with experience of the original Cheese and Bacon can unload below in the comments…

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