Category: Europe

Europe: Should We Go or Should We Stay?

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Europe: Should We Go or Should We Stay?

Yep, we received by post our copy of the Government wasteful spending of tax-payers’ money. The Government’s bias pamphlet on why we should stay in the European Union cost £9Million, which should have been better invested in the ailing NHS and schools which are now UNABLE to cope with the burgeoning population, putting everyone in danger in the long run.

Schools have to cope with children who do not speak English, thus, taking so much time of teachers.

The Government should let the people decide by giving impartial information of the pros and the cons of staying in Europe rather than a carte blanche, we have to stay or we will live in chaos if we leave the Europe Union!!!

It makes you think: “How did we manage to carry on before Europe?” Why did we vote for the Conservative Party, who seems to accept that outside the European Union, the UK will be left floundering!

Anyway, exercise your right on Thursday, 23 June 2016. Vote for or against staying in European Union by thinking things through. Are we better or worst outside?

Autumn Foretold

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who sith: ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all nor be afraid!’
– Robert Browning

Today, being the 1st September means, in the UK, autumn is just around the corner as we would normally say; tree leaves coloration begins to show autumn as being foretold!

With climate changes our summer sometimes lasts longer with September & October, traditional autumn months, are still quite warm and sunny, (we call this having an Indian summer) so the autumnal changes we see can be delayed.

This late afternoon Jean & I were walking home from Golders Green (NW London), it is a pleasant 15-20 minute walk for us, for a bit of exercise 😉

Ever vigilant for good photo opportunities, Jean noticed one tree that had a few leaves turning autumnal colours among the verdant green of the remaining leaves making quite a contrast. I had brought my trusty camera with me and so I took a few shots.

Autumn Foretold

autumn foretold

Autumn Foretold by PH Morton

Autumn Foretold by PH Morton

As I guess most school pupils learn in science or biology/botany lessons, the reason for the dramatic change in deciduous tree leaves are due to the approach of winter.
in order for the trees to survive the long cold dark winter months they must almost hibernate and cease using energy on green leaf production and the sun light needed to produce the trees sustenance via photosynthesis will be in short supply.

A leaf contains an abundance of chlorophyll.

Trying not to bore any dear reader;)

There large amount of chlorophyll in an active leaf masks the other pigment colours. Light regulates chlorophyll production, so as autumn days grow shorter, less chlorophyll is produced. As As chlorophyll amounts start to decline, so the green colour starts to fade from leaves.

Within the leaf, There is as surge of sugar concentrations cause increased production of anthocyanin pigments. Leaves containing primarily anthocyanins will appear red. Carotenoids are another class of pigments found in some leaves. Carotenoid production is not dependent on light, so levels aren’t diminished by shorter days. Carotenoids can have colours of orange, yellow, or red, but most of these pigments found in leaves are yellow. Leaves with good amounts of both anthocyanins and carotenoids will appear orange. tannins in a leaf are responsible for the brownish color of some oak leaves.

Robins our Garden Guardians


As spring turns into summer in the UK, we have enjoyed the budding flowers and trees. Also the first visits to our gardens  of a family favourite, the robin red breast bird.

The European robins (Erithacus rubecula) are descended from Old World Fly catcher birds Muscicapidae.  

A robin  will select a particular garden to live, feed and sometimes nest.

They prefer a garden that has lots of bushes and plants  for them to hide and live in & also provides supplies of ready insects, worms, slugs and snails for their meals.

Robins are fiercely territorial and will sometimes fend off intruding birds to ‘their’ garden.

Every year, we enjoy seeing our cheeky little garden robin hopping about among our bushes and plants. They are also not aversed to having a bath on the running falls by our pond.

He/she is not scared or wary of us and follows us about when we are in our garden,  He or she would remain still watching me mow the lawn and he would happily dart down curiously to the freshly cut grass.

I photographed our robin last week, then yesterday while sitting in my mate Mick’s garden, we saw and I photographed his garden robin 🙂

Our garden Robin

Our Garden Robin!, Photo by PH Morton

Classic pose for the Robin in my friends back garden

Classic pose for the Robin in my friends back garden. @ Mick’s garden, Photo by PH Morton



Commandaria (Nama) ~ Greek Wine

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Commandaria (Nama) ~ Greek Wine

Look what I found hiding at the back of the shelves of our wine cabinet, a couple of bottles of 25 years old Commandaria wines, which we bought from Cyprus 15 years ago. Commandaria is a sweet dessert wine which taste a bit like sherry.

We bought these Commandaria wines near a monastery in Cyprus. I remember having to put a makeshift skirt from a scarf to cover up my bare legs in order to be allowed to tour the monastery which housed beautiful icons and artifacts.

After the tour, we bought lots of lovely cypriot laces, embroidered tablecloths and matching napkins and of course the commandaria.

Commandaria is so popular in Cyprus. Apparently commandaria or Nama as it was originally called is drunk in bucketloads during the feast day of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who we knew was born off the sea of Cyprus.

As early as 700 BC, the farming poet, Hesiod, described how Nama was made. First of, the red and white grapes are dried in the sun for at least a couple of weeks. The wine made from these dried grapes was stored in great earthenware jars and left to ferment until the desired potency or taste was achieved! It was previously believed that this red dessert wine had healing properties.

Modern way of fermenting the wine no longer use earthenware jars but leave the wine to mature using oak cask.

As mentioned above, the original name of the wine was Nama but after the Knights Templars took over and controlled an island in Cyprus which was called Commandaria, the popular nama was renamed Commandaria. And this happened more than 800 years ago, which makes Commandaria the oldest existing name for a particular wine.

Peter had a big glass of Commandaria over Christmas but he found it too sweet.

I had a bit and must admit I am rather partial to it (I like the taste) but in small measure.

Christmas Decor: Christmas Tree


Artificial trees at John Lewis Photo by JMorton

Christmas Decor: Christmas Tree

It is widely believe that the Christmas tree started in Germany. Early Christians would bring in decorated trees inside their houses.

Apparently it was Martin Luther, credited for Protestant Reformation, who first decorated the Christmas tree with candles.

It is said that one winter evening, Martin Luther was deep in thought about his sermon when he  happen to look up and saw the lights of twinkling stars reflected between branches of trees.

Martin was in absolute awe.

He brought in a tree in his house and wired the branches to hold in the lit candles so his family can see what he saw and so admired.

That was the beginning of Christmas light.

Every year, Oslo in Norway gifts the British people with a huge Christmas tree which is erected at Trafalgar Square. Oslo has been presenting the UK with a Christmas tree since 1947 as a show of their gratitude to the British during World Ward II.

If you happen to be near Trafalgar Square, the decorated tree can be seen from the beginning of December to the 6th of January.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

24 Carrots Facts (or More)

Carrots, photo by JMorton

24 Carrots Facts (or More)

Did you know?

The original colour of carrots was purple.  There were also black ones, white ones, yellow ones and red ones.

The orange carrot was bred by the Dutch in order to match it to their royalty, the House of Orange.

The carrot was first grown as something medicinal.

You can make tea out of the leaves of carrots which apparently is good for the sufferer of gout.

There is also some findings that for a smoker to eat even just a carrot a day could half his risk of lung cancer.

Eating too much carrots can turn you orange.

Carrot contains a level of beta carotene for protection against sun damage.

Multi-coloured Baby Carrots, Photo by JMorton

These baby carrots are ideal for raw snack.  Healthy and delicious.  Aim to eat 1/2 cup carrots a day.  They are beneficial health-wise in the reduction of wide range of cancers as well as inflammation conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

Planet-hunter Plato the choice

With the exciting prospect of many new planets out side of our own home solar system  being found, we need more probes to zero in extra solar  planets (exoplanets) that orbit their parent sun in the habitable zone (also known as the Goldilocks Zone-not too hot, not too cold) where liquid water may exists  and being the main precursor  to life.

The BBC science news reports:

A telescope to find thousands of planets beyond our Solar System is the hot favourite for selection as Europe’s next medium-class science mission.

Known as Plato, the concept was chosen by an expert panel as the standout candidate in a competition run by the European Space Agency (Esa).

Impression of Plato concept by Thales Alenia Space

  • Design calls for a suite of 34 telescopes to be mounted on one satellite
  • Mission should confirm and characterise hundreds of rocky worlds
  • Would have the sensitivity also to detect the planets’ moons and rings
  • Intricate measurements of the host stars would yield key information
  • To launch from French Guiana on a Soyuz rocket in 2023/2024
  • Plato would be stationed 1.5m km from Earth on its “nightside”


The Paris-based organisation’s Science Policy Committee will now have the final say at its meeting in February.

If given the go-ahead, Plato would probably not launch until 2024.

The name of the mission is an acronym that stands for PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars.

It is not really one telescope but rather a suite of 34 telescopes mounted on a single satellite.

The intention is for Plato to sweep about half the sky, to investigate some of its brightest and nearest stars.

It would monitor these stars for the tell-tale tiny dips in light that occur when planets move across their faces.

Critically, Plato would be tuned to seek out rocky worlds orbiting in the “habitable zone” – the region around a star where water can keep a liquid state.

A fundamental part of its quest would be to perform an intricate study of the host stars themselves, using their pulsations to probe their structure and properties.

Such observations, referred to as astroseismology, would provide key, complementary information for the proper characterisation of the rocky worlds.

Although, other missions have pursued this kind of science before, Plato is described as a major leap forward in capability.

The hope is that it could find really promising targets for follow-up by the big ground-based telescopes due to come online in the next decade.

These facilities, which will have primary mirrors measuring tens of metres in diameter, should be able to examine the atmospheres of distant worlds for possible life signatures.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, due for launch at the end of this decade, would likely still be working in 2024/2025 and could also pursue Plato’s discoveries.

Artist's impression of an exoplanetThe goal is to find planets like the Earth, not just in terms of their size but in their potential for habitability

Plato has spent the past two years in an assessment process that has pitted it against four other concepts.

All were vying for the third medium-class launch opportunity to be offered under Esa’s so-called Cosmic Vision programme, which defines the organisation’s space science priorities.

“Medium class” means a cost to the agency of no more than about 600m euros (£490m; $820m), although following the practice of previous missions this does not include the budget for instruments.

These are usually provided directly by Esa’s national member agencies and mean the final price tag can approach one billion euros.

All the competitors were invited to make a final presentation to representatives of the scientific community, industry, and national member agencies on 21 January. This was followed by closed-session discussions by two working groups, which rated the quality of the missions.


Artist's impression of an exoplanet
  • Planets beyond our Solar System are often given the term ‘exoplanet’
  • More than 1,000 have been detected to date using several techniques
  • But many of these worlds are large planets believed to resemble Jupiter or Neptune
  • Many gas giants have been found to be orbiting very close to their stars
  • It has prompted new ideas to describe the formation and evolution of solar systems

Their recommendations were then passed to Esa’s top space science advisory committee (SSAC) to make an evaluation.

It proposed that Plato be carried forward as the mission of choice, and this preference has now been sent on by Esa’s executive to the SPC. The committee has the prerogative of “selection” at its 19 February gathering, and could still reject Plato – but this would be a major surprise.

The final green light is known as “adoption” in Esa-speak. This is unlikely to happen until 2015, after member states have made firm commitments on their participation and an industrial team to build the satellite has been identified.

One big industrial contribution from the UK seems assured. This would be the camera detector at the base of the telescope suite.

Supplied by e2v in Chelmsford, the array of more than 130 charge-coupled devices would be 0.9 square metres in area.

This would make it the largest camera system ever flown in space, and twice the size of the array e2v produced for Esa’s recently launched Gaia telescope.

The first two medium-class missions to be selected under Esa’s Cosmic Vision programme in 2011 were Solar Orbiter, a space telescope to study the Sun, to launch in 2017; and Euclid, a telescope to investigate “dark energy”, to fly in 2020.

The American space agency (Nasa) plans a similar mission to Plato calledTess (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) in 2017, but the specifications mean that its rocky worlds will probably be in closer orbits around lower-mass stars than the discoveries made by the European project. In other words, the Plato planets are more likely to be in the habitable zones of more Sun-like stars.


Christmas Arch & Bazaar 033
Flamenco Dancer
Photo by Jean Morton

I love this little Spanish Flamenco dancer figurine that my husband bought from Barcelona for me.  I first saw it and really loved it.  Told him I liked it but because our holiday was so hectic and I seemed to have developed an allergy to the bathroom water in our plush hotel room, my mind was always somewhere else, i.e. the itch.  So forgot all about my Spanish senorita.

I was so ecstatic and really surprised when we unpacked our holiday things and found this little figurine.  My husband was very thoughtful like that.  He also once bought me a teddy bear when we were in Chicago whilst I was raiding the duty free (LOL), again found this teddy in our luggage afterwards.

Sometimes husbands can be useful. LOL

Cookisto: Peer to Peer Pabulum

When we were in Manila, Phillipines last Christmas and New Year, we saw  families in the streets and roads set up small cooking stalls and provide many dishes meat, seafood vegetables, noodle dishes and sweet/dessert for  locals and extended families at  small cost (Turo – Turo).  We selected many delicious dishes for my Birthday celebration.

There is a new ad-hoc food service which I thought mirrors the turo-turo in Manila.   It is called cookisto, where excess food made at home is adverstised on line  and is delivered to locals who request on-line or by phone. It provides a decent  homemade meal at low cost, it also has a value added of preventing food waste. Concurrently it builds cooperation and sharing at a local level in a more personal way.  There is an initial element of trust regarding hygience, etc. but I guess solid dependable reputations will be made as you become known. Those that prepare and cook the food are called ‘cookistas’

Below is an interesting article from today’s BBC  News magazine about cookisto in Greece, which is catching  on in other countries, we do now have cookisto in the UK 🙂

Cookisto: A new Greek way of getting dinner

By Theopi Skarlatos BBC News, Athens

Marilena's kitchen Marilena Zachou making tabbouleh in her kitchen

The traditional way of getting dinner is buy food and cook it, or to go to a restaurant. But what if someone in a nearby street has cooked more than they need and is ready to share it for a small fee? It’s already happening in the Greek capital and will soon be starting in London.

It’s time for Marilena Zachou to get up, make a Greek coffee, get the kids fed and off to school. And when the peace and quiet descends at 10am, the cooking begins. Today it is moussaka.

She gently fries the onion and minced lamb in olive oil. She reaches for the pepper, salt, paprika and tomatoes and inhales as the aroma fills the kitchen and escapes from the windows and out into the street.

She uploads details of the dish and watches the screen as people from the area order their portions.

There will be no wasted food in her household today. At least five other people in the Athens district of Marousi will be sharing her family’s evening meal. By midday the entire oven dish has been sold. She notes down the delivery addresses for later.

This morning ritual is not unique to Zachou. It is happening across Athens.

Foteini and pieFoteini Mangana, another Cookisto cook, and her spinach pie

Office workers, students and busy parents are connecting online with local cooks – anybody who loves cooking and can do it well – who provide them with a meal for less than they would be likely to pay anywhere else. In Athens, the price is usually between three and four euros (£2.50 to £3.40).

“These on line sites generate the social glue of trust between strangers”

Rachel Botsman Author

“I just could never calculate the correct portion amounts for my family,” Zachou says. “We don’t have a dog or a cat. I was throwing away so much. I guess making too much food is embedded in my Greek genes.”

That was what led her to Cookisto, an online community of amateur cooks and hungry city dwellers.

She is now a Cookista, with a profile on the Cookisto website, and her meals are rated every day. Apparently her moussaka has “no excess oil, is always made with the highest quality products, and tastes just perfect”. She is, according to those who eat her food, not just a housewife, but a five-star chef.

The site has attracted 12,000 cooks in Athens in the last few months. What began as a master’s degree thesis (in the form of a business plan) for entrepreneurship student Michalis Gkontas has now become a reality in crisis-stricken Greece, and is due to launch in London next month.

Map of icons for cooks with dishes Cooks with dishes available at time of writing

“It is a win-win situation,” says the 26-year-old Gkontas. “The cooks get to earn a little extra, while foodies get nutritious home-cooked dishes for cheaper than if they were to get a takeaway.”

He is one of many young Greeks turning to the start-up scene following the rise of unemployment to a staggering 27.9%, and the rapid shrinkage of the once-bloated public sector – long the natural choice for many graduates.

For Zachou, the extra money she makes from Cookisto, about 200 euros (£168) a month, goes towards the supermarket shop.

“It’s not all about the money,” she says. “I feel we are pulling together in the crisis. Many students are struggling to make ends meet. I’ve been there… fed up of eating bread and takeaways. It’s nice I can provide them with food their mothers would cook and for very little.”

It’s all part of what Sydney-based innovation consultant Rachel Botsman calls the “revolution” of collaborative consumption, or the sharing economy. Since the global financial meltdown, “people have reverted to old market behaviours that involve trust – swapping, sharing, renting, bartering”, she says.

What is collaborative consumption?

“You can see it in the rise of big businesses like Zipcar, which gives members the chance to share cars part-time… or Airbnb, which allows people to rent their homes to travellers.

“But the real benefit of collaborative consumption turns out to be social. In an era when families are scattered and we may not know the people down the street, sharing things – even with strangers we’ve just met online – allows us to make meaningful connections.”

Cookisto joins the likes of Airbnb (bed and breakfast), Lyft (ride-sharing), Liquidspace (space rental) and Taskrabbit (deliveries and errands) – all occupiers of this online space where trust and online credibility is crucial to success. The reviews say it all.

“It’s what monkeys are born and bred to do, share and co-operate,” Botsman says. “These sites generate the social glue of trust between strangers. Ultimately, a shift is happening from institutional trust to peer trust.”

Office worker Dimitris Coustas buys at least one lunch from Cookisto most weeks.

“The cooks deliver the dishes to you themselves,” he says. “Sometimes they add a free dessert to encourage you to choose them again next time. It’s funny, sometimes the housewives will ask if you have ordered from anyone else on the site and enquire how their food rates compared to others’. I think there is quite a bit of competition!”

Dimitris and friendsDimitris Coustas (in white and grey T-shirt) and friends

Cookisto has no way of monitoring the hygiene of the cooks’ kitchens or checking the freshness of ingredients, but it urges users to post truthful reviews.

“At first it felt a little dodgy, ordering food from someone you don’t know,” says Coustas. “You think, ‘Who are they? Who is this? What will it taste like? What if it makes me ill?’ There is huge trust involved.”

In Greece, the Cookisto community has spread outside the internet realm, with users organising get-togethers and feedback sessions. Evangelia Tavladoraki, a political scientist by training, says being part of that community has helped her gain new confidence after the shock of unemployment.

“Every day I feel proud helping others. And the best reward I can get is when people tell me how much they like my food,” she says. “This is another road I have gone down because of the crisis. I didn’t study cookery. But it makes me feel optimistic.”

She is even considering opening her own business. Her marinated sweet and sour chicken sells out in minutes, which appears to indicate that demand for ethnic food in Athens outstrips supply.

Exactly which dishes make Londoners’ mouths water will become clear in the next few weeks. Perhaps they will order from the ex-lawyer, who has a YouTube cooking channel, the Italian stay-at-home mum, or the recent history graduate who followed up her studies with classes at Le Cordon Bleu.

Currently one of the nearest dishes online is 2,134km away in Athens – stuffed peppers and rice by Efi.

Although Gkontas says he came up with Cookisto “to solve his greatest daily problem – access to delicious homemade food”, Nikki Finnemore, who is handling the UK launch, is keen to emphasise that this peer-to-peer marketplace is about more than lunch or dinner.

“Just like Airbnb is not just about accommodation, but about friendship, Cookisto is not just about food but about coming together as a local community and sharing the fruits of your labour, your creation,” she says.

“It’s the experience of trusting a relative stranger to make a meal for you and to then meet for a face-to-face exchange.”

Philippine Airlines To London

It is a happy and exciting news to hear that Philippine Airlines is to fly  to London once again after it was banned by the European Union for safety concerns due to alleged poor maintenance and regulatory oversight standards on the part of the EU, preventing PAL from entering the airspace of any member state.

But that is now history because as from 4 November 2013 PAL will travel to London by direct flight.

I am so chuffed at this news. Does it mean we can have same baggage allowance as if you come back from the US and Canada?

Can I bring home huge Balikbayan boxes at nominal cost?

I was so envious when my sister and her husband had tonnes of free luggage using PAL. While my husband and I had a combined 60kg allowance on Business Class Cathay Pacific. Not fair at all.
PAL flies to London Nov. 4


5:50 pm | Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
33 1784 1349
MANILA–Philippine Airlines will fly to London starting November 4, 2013, fulfilling the flag carrier’s promise to return to Europe four months after the lifting of the European Union ban.

The announcement was made Tuesday by PAL president and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang, together with visiting British Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Stephen Green of Hurstpierpoint, during a press briefing at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel.

“We’re very happy that London is PAL’s first Europe destination since flights to that continent were discontinued in 1998,” said Ang.

Lord Green responded, saying: “I’m delighted to celebrate a very concrete example of the growing ties between our two countries, that being the reestablishment by Philippine Airlines of direct flights between Manila and London for the first time in over a decade. I am confident that these flights will greatly enhance the relationship between the UK and the Philippines.”

PAL will fly five times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday), departing Manila in the morning and arriving at Terminal 4 of Heathrow airport in London, the premier gateway to the United Kingdom and the world’s busiest international airport.

“That we have been given permission to fly to Heathrow makes our return much more meaningful … We take this as a strong vote of confidence by UK authorities in PAL’s ability to bring in the passenger traffic volume worthy of the world’s top airlines,” Mr. Ang added.

PAL will operate direct, non-stop flights, providing the fastest travel to London (average 13 hours) as well as convenient connections from the UK capital to top Philippine tourist spots and other destinations in Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and Australia. British business travelers can also make Manila a gateway to PAL’s extensive international network.

“With the new direct air links, our country is looking at a potential windfall in tourism, trade and investment from Europe,” said PAL’s chief operating officer.

In 2012, one-third of the estimated 349,000 European visitors to the Philippines came from Britain. In the first half of 2013, arrivals from UK reached 60,234. “With PAL’s new non-stop flights, we are sure these numbers will rise even further,” said Ang.

PAL also aims at providing the more than 664,000 Filipinos in Europe with the most convenient travel to return home “via the airline that knows them best. We are proud to serve these modern-day Filipino heroes,” he added.

The PAL President also said, “Throughout our 72-year-history, PAL has always been a catalyst to our country’s growth and development. This is part of our mandate as the national flag carrier.”

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