Let's enjoy English!

FANTASTIC Off The Beaten Track Travel Spots ~ 5 ~ BARNARD CASTLE -> my hometown

Barnard Castle 1

Yes, as you’re still up in the north of England ~ after going to Whitby and driving around the Lake District, YOU HAVE TO make a brief stop at Barnard Castle (where I was born).

Yes (again ;-) as you can imagine by the name, the olde town does have a Castle, yes on a hill, and yes that looks over the local river (as you see in the photo).

The castle was built from around 1095 to 1125, meaning this village/town goes way back in history.

The small town has a thriving market down by the original “Buttergate Market” roundabout every Saturday.

Driving (or riding) around the winding country roads overs the Moors is a driving/riding treat you will never forget ~ absolutely breathtaking views make a fantastic drive/ride!

You can go walking along the river Tees and thoroughly enjoy a nice picnic lunch next to the glistening water ~ the countryside around ‘Barney’ (as we call it) is truly spectacular.

For those of you who enjoy ‘art’, you can’t go wrong by visiting “Bowes Museum” ~ it has one of the most impressive collections of pictures, ceramics, textiles, tapestries, clocks and costumes in the north of England, and used to be the home of the family of the late Queen Mother' s extended family. 

Other nearby places to visit are ‘Raby Castle’, ‘Bowes Castle’ and ‘Eggleston Abbey’.

There are some very nice traditional places to stay in Barney -> ‘The Rose & Crown’ or some local B & Bs are great choices to make, and local restaurants and pubs having some delicious food, too!

If you like old English gardens, then a quick drive down to Eggleston is needed, as they are famous for flowers and gardens ~ my father lives there and shows his garden to the public every year. Check out Eggleston Hall Gardens here.

If you head that way then let me know, as I’ll tell my Dad and I’m sure he will invite you into his home to have a nice cuppa tea, while enjoying his garden and the magnificent view he has over the hills ~

Yes, all-in-all Barnard Castle IS an off the beaten track place that you definitely do want to put on your travel agenda!

See you again for another spot tomorrow . . .

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FANTASTIC Off The Beaten Track Travel Spots ~ 4 ~ Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

“The Lake District” is about an hour by car from where I was born (we’ll go there tomorrow), and is one of THE MOST beautiful areas in the whole of England ~> just plain gorgeous! On a motorcycle or in a convertible car is the only real way to see and ‘feel’ this wonderful piece of pure countryside...

Lake Windermere, at 10.5 miles (16.8 km) long, one mile (1.6 km) wide and 220 feet (67 m) deep, is the largest natural lake in England, and is fed by numerous rivers.

At the southern end of Windermere is ‘Lakeside Pier’ and ‘Lakeside Station’. In the late 19th century, wealthy businessmen built grand mansions overlooking the lake, and many of these have now been converted into hotels, such as the Langdale Chase Hotel, and the Belsfield Hotel. Others houses include The National Park Visitor Centre at Brockhole and Wray Castle almost opposite Brockhole, and the first Lake District holiday home of Beatrix Potter.

 Beatrix Potter wrote the famous “Peter Rabbit” stories, which are all written about areas in the Lake District. This is definitely one of the most beautiful countryside areas that should not be missed!

Stay and drive around The Lake District but don’t miss tomorrow ...

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FANTASTIC Off The Beaten Track Travel Spots ~ 3 ~ WHITBY

Whitby 2

Whitby's skyline is dominated by the ruins of St. Hilda’s Abbey high on Whitby's East Cliff. Spreading below is Whitby, a maze of alleyways and narrow streets that run down to the busy quayside.

From the old town of Whitby, 199 steps lead up to the parish church of St. Mary, whose churchyard on Whitby's East Cliff gave Bram Stoker the inspiration to write his world famous book, “Dracula” (for more about Bram Stoker, see Dracula)

Yes, it is a little ‘out of the way’ to get to - unless you have a car - but it IS worth going to. This seaside town is situated on the Yorkshire Coast, with other lovely coastal villages and resorts to the south; Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington.  All these are well within a short drive from Whitby. The nearest city inland is York ~ also a “MUST SEE” place.

Arriving up the hill at St Mary's Church via Caedmon's Trod (an alternative way to the famous “199 steps”) you will see this funny sign:

'Digging the Donkey Field'

 ~> 'Donkey Field' (or properly known as “Jacky Field”), is a large open-space near the Medieval ruins, that in recent excavation work showed-up ancient evidence of black smiths forge from slag and ‘hammer-scale’ (the sparks produced when a black smith hammers iron), showing that Whitby has olde history relating to the metal industry, too.

This beautiful village and surrounding areas is definitely worth a visit when trouping around England ...

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FANTASTIC Off The Beaten Track Travel Spots ~ 2 ~ in LONDON

Brunel Museum

Everyone goes to London when they visit England ~ of course, as it is the capital and has hundreds of great places to go and see ~ but here are a couple of “off the beaten tracks” places that are not known by most people, though MUST-BE spots to go to . . .

The Brunel Museum - the Thames Tunnel

The Brunel Museum in the historic area of Rotherhithe in London. It is a small but very interesting museum in the engine house of Brunel´s tunnel.

 Constructed between 1825-1843, it was the first thoroughfare under a navigable river in the world. The tunnel was constructed by Sir Marc Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, in order to carry cargo on horse carts under the river.

In the first 10 weeks after it opened, one million people paid an entrance fee of a penny for strolling under the Thames. They had to go down the shaft and into the Grand Entrance Hall. In the tunnel were shops in arcades on both sides. This must have been quite a sight in those days, seeing dressed up people strolling under the Thames!

Check here :


Are you a Beatles fan?
Abbet Road stud

Well, you can go to the “Abbey Road” studio easy enough. The Beatles began recording there on June 6, 1962 and they recorded a vast amount of their singles and albums at this studio -> it is still a working studio today. The famous ‘zebra crossing’ from the cover of their ‘Abbey Road’ album is still there, too!

Check here :

Tomorrow we’re going up north to the seaside, so bring your swimming costume ...

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FANTASTIC Off The Beaten Track Travel Spots ~ 1 ~ The Cotswolds

Lazy days in the countryside: The Cotswolds

This week we are going travelling again ~ not to the main-stream spots that every tourist under the sun goes to, but some out of the ordinary wonders that most people don’t know about. SO TUNE-IN ALL WEEK. Here we go ~

Many visitors often only visit the well known places and miss out on some of the extremely beautiful experiences that the countryside can provide. A day trip to the Cotswolds will be an extremely refreshing and unforgettable trip.

Do you remember your childhood days, when you first drawings of English scenery with a cute cottage, gardens all around, a river or pond nearby and probably amongst hills, too? A visit to the Cotswolds will make these images ALL BECOME REAL!

The Cotswolds has many small villages and I recommend doing some research on the Internet before deciding which places to go to. "Bibury" is one of the most beautiful villages in the Cotswolds that I found ~ have a look here ...

Where shall we go tomorrow ???

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B logo

I hope this week’s theme helped you realise how useful and benefitial the BASICS really are. Here are a few more to help with your studies...

* Don’t be afraid to make mistakes - we all do (me too) - be confident that you are trying hard. People can only correct your mistakes when they hear you make them ~ learn from those mistakes.

* Keep a notebook handy to write down new words you learn. Then use them in sentences and try to say them at least 3 times when you speak, so you will remember them.

* Use your body clock -> if you’re not a morning person, then study in the afternoon (and visa versa).

* Do not translate things into English from your own language -> think in English to improve your fluency. Talk to yourself - ->> like I said before, read books/magasines out aloud, write a daily diary and read it aloud.

* If you get nervous when you speak, take two deep breaths before you say something ~ you will speak better when you feel relaxed.

Use these and all the other BASICS mentioned this week, as they are a great addition to your studying and should never be forgotten to use ~> THEY REALLY HELP!

See you next week for another great theme . . .

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This is another powerful one and sooooo easy to do . . .

Simply say “Hello” or “Lovely day today” or “Good morning” to a non-Japanese person when you see them ~ it is a great way to practice speaking and for YOU to understand that ‘English really is easy!

“Oh, I’m too shy.” ~ “Ooh no, I can’t do that!”

WHAT? You do it all the time in Japanese with your neighbour or may be with someone in the supermarket; “おはようございます” or “今日はいい天気ですね”. It is that simple in English, too. No big deal ~ they may say “Hello” back to you or they may not (which is fine) ~ the important thing is that this is for YOU ~ not just ‘thinking’ in English but to be speaking English!

Try it, it’s easy and it gets you into realising that speaking English is a lot easier than you think ~>
Remember this “Nothing changes if nothing changes!” ~ be the change to make your English speech even better ~ it’s easy ~> “HELLO” ...

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voice recorder

The way we think we “SOUND” and the way we actually “SOUND” are very different. Let me give you an example;

During a speech one day ~ I thought my voice was clear ~ but I was told by a couple of people in the audience that they couldn’t quite get every word I said.

Hmmm, that got me to think ...

My mouth is very close to my ear, so I can hear myself pretty well ~ I thought I sounded OK but people in the audience (or in a meeting or anyone you are talking to for that matter) are a lot further away than your ear, so they hear your voice very differently!

So I learned from that lesson that I need to speak with more clarity.

One very good way to see how your voice sounds to people is to record it -> yes, record yourself speaking!

I know it is a little embarrassing (it was for me at first, too) but it is a lot less embarrassing than someone telling you that they can’t hear you or understand you ~ right!?!

So, recording these 3 things regularly and listening to them, then criticising yourself is a great thing to do. You will notice your GOOD points and your WEAK points. Do the following:

1) Say the date (so you know when you recorded it)
2) Read a paragraph or 1/2 a page of something (newspaper, magazine etc)
3) Imagine you are having a conversation with a friend on the phone; “Hello Robin, how are you? I’m great thanks. Yes, last night was so much fun...” etc.
4) Imagine you are in a meeting/giving a presentation to some important people, so speaking CLEARLY is very important; “Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is ***** , I will be your speaker for today. We will be starting the presentation very shortly, so please take your seats ~ thank you ...”

Listen to how you did, make a note of your GOOD and WEAK points and practise in order to improve them ~

Do this recording exercise regularly (once a week) and you will soon start to notice where you are improving and how much your voice “SOUNDS” better...!

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Sir Roger Moore

Continuing to use the “BASICS” to your advantage and making your study/practise time fun . . .

This is a GREAT way to practise your Listening and Speaking skills in a positive way --> when you don’t have time for a lesson with a Native Speaker, look-up your favourite actor (I like Roger Moore's voice)/actress/professional spokesperson (someone’s voice you admire; BBC News announcer, the UK Prime Minister or Margaret Thatcher etc.) on YouTube.
Listen to them speaking and copy them ~ copy their words, copy their speech and copy their calm/natural/confident style.

“BASICS” are easy to do and give you fantastic results ~

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Whether your hobbies are Kickboxing, Aikido, Shopping, Cooking, Painting, Soccer, Gardening or Travelling or others, you can use them to help improve your English ~ read on ...

Think back to when you were studying a text book at school or university ~ “ahhh, this is hard” or “boring” ~ that is because your mind was ‘pre-set’ to the thought that “this is going to be hard for me”.

When you are reading (make sure it is aloud - this then becomes reading, listening AND speaking practise) about one of your hobbies, your mind is ‘open’ ~> “ooh, interesting!” or “wow, look at that!” or “hey, I want to go there!” etc. etc. My point is this ~ there will still be new vocabulary and unknown phrases but WHAT YOU ARE ARE READING ABOUT IS INTERESTING TO YOUR MIND, so your learn more and a lot easier!

Reading magazines and websites related to your hobbies and interests make studying/practising easier, fun, enjoyable and BENEFICIAL!


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This is one of THE BEST ways to help your voice sound ‘natural’ . . .

Professional singers (like Adele) sing and sing and sing and sing and ... you get the idea ... in order for their voices to sound clear and strong and natural and REALLY GOOD.

You will notice that when you are speaking Japanese, there is only a very little amount of movement in the jaw area -> just around the mouth. However, when you speak English, you use a lot more muscles in the mouth, the jaw and the throat areas (ie, when you say “WOW” or “REALLY? etc).

Go one step further ~ when you sing (take a look at the vocalist’s throat -> expanded muscles and veins) ~ it is as though they are taking their vocal cords and all of their speech-muscles to the gym for a hard workout!

Singing helps ‘train’ your muscles and vocal cords to be in the correct shape when speaking English. Just one song won’t show results but if you sing several times everyday, after a week or so you will start to notice how your speech is a LOT smoother and sounds a lot more ‘natural’. (Plus it is good for karaoke practice, too ;-)

Bring music to your world and improve your speech . . .

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basics 1

This week I will be going over some of the VITAL BASICS that help us with language study/practice. Unfortunately, many people seem to push these ‘basics’ aside, thinking that other ways are better. Yes, there are numerous ‘ways’ of learning and practising ~ all very useful ~ but the basics DO WORK, so make sure to include them somewhere in your daily study/practising schedule and you will quickly see great improvements in your speaking ability . . .

Today, let's go back to how your learnt your mother-tongue -> yes, I know it is a little hard, as we were only 6 months ~ 1 years old.

When we were all little toddlers (yes, me too ;-) we weren’t born being able to speak English or Japanese or French or Russian etc. So what did we do in order to be able to start speaking? Come on ~ think BACK TO THE BASICS...

Yes, we listened to the ‘noises’ that our parents were saying to us; Mama, Papa, food, hungry, toilet, bedtime, sleepy, yes, no etc. and we REPEATED them. That CONSTANT SAYING & REPEATING of those ‘noises’/words slowly built-up our vocabulary and we began to be able to speak.

The important point is to LISTEN & REPEAT ~ if you don’t “speak”, it is rather hard to improve your Speaking Ability -> right!?!

Go back to the basics of how your learnt your mother-tongue and do the same thing in order to start to learn a new language ==> SPEAKING COMES FIRST (not reading or writing!).

See you tomorrow for more great help ...

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English Baking Recipes 7 ~

Indian curry party
I am going to finish off this week's theme with a recipe I love ~ "Veggie Thali". "Curry" is actually one of the most popular types of food eaten in England! Coming from India ~ the same as 'Tea' ~ Britain has brought back a couple of really good things from one of the countries it used to rule. This is a great recipe to make and have a 'Curry Party' with friends or family ~ enjoy ...

Veggie thali

* 1 lemon, zest pared (cut) and juiced
* ½ tsp mustard seeds
* 3 cardamom pods, bashed
* 1 mugful basmati rice

* 250g red lentils
*1 tsp turmeric
* oil (I prefer 'Canola' or 'Virgin Olive Oil')
* 1 onion, grated
* 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
* 1 red chilli, shredded
* 1 tsp garam masala

* 1 x 250g block paneer, cut into cubes
* groundnut oil (again, I use 'Canola' or 'Virgin Olive Oil')
* 1 onion, grated
* a small chunk of root ginger, finely grated
* 1 garlic clove, crushed
* ½ tsp ground cumin
* ½ tsp ground coriander
* 300g spinach, washed and chopped

* 1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
* a handful mint leaves, chopped
* a handful coriander leaves, chopped
* 200ml natural yoghurt

* 1 onion, chopped
* oil (I use 'Canola' or 'Virgin Olive Oil')
* 1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
* 1 tsp turmeric
* ½ tsp ground cumin
* 1 tsp ground coriander
* 1 tsp nigella or black onion seeds
* 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
* a handful coriander leaves

For the lemon rice
1) Cook the lemon zest and spices in a little oil until fragrant.
2) Add the rice and stir well.
3) Tip in 2 mugs of water and 1 tsp salt, bring to a simmer, put on a lid and cook until water is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Add a splash of lemon juice to serve.

To make the dhal
1) Put the lentils and turmeric in a pan and add water to cover by 2cm.
2) Season and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender, adding more water if needed.
3) Heat some oil in a pan then cook the onion, garlic and chilli for a few minutes.
4) Add the garam masala, cook for a minute then stir into the cooked lentils.

For the saag paneer
1) Fry the paneer in a little oil until golden.
2) Add the onion, ginger, garlic and spices, and cook until softened.
3) Add the spinach and a splash of water and cook until wilted.

To make the onion raita
Mix everything together just before serving and season.

Make the aubergine and tomato curry
1) Frying the onion in oil until soft. Tip onto a plate.
2) Add a little more oil to the pan and fry the aubergine in batches until browned all over and tender.
3) Add another slug of oil to the pan and fry the spices for 30 seconds.
4) Add back the aubergine and onions, plus the cherry tomatoes, and cook everything until the tomatoes have burst. Season with salt and scatter with coriander leaves.

Serve with hot naans, if you have them (if not, message me and I'll send you a recipe). This is a fantastic, delicious and healthy and fun meal to have together with friends or family.

I hope you enjoyed this week's them ~ I am actually eating a "Glazed Chocolate-Avocado MILA Cupcake" as I write this -> I had friends over today (I'm glad I made double the amount, as everyone loved them!) See the recipe: Glazed Chocolate-Avocado MILA Cakes

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English Baking Recipes 6 ~

Blueberry orange cake

Blueberry & Orange Bread Recipe

Can you believe that a light, moist and fluffy blueberry bread like this can be egg-free? Try it for yourself if you don’t believe me...

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 1 hr 10 mins
Yields: one loaf

* 1 + 1/2 cups all purpose flour
* 1 scoop MILA
* 1/4 tsp baking soda
* 1 + 1/4 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 5 tblsp butter, (measured and melted)
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
* 1/4 cup plain yoghurt
* 4 tblsp orange juice (freshly squeezed)
* 2 oranges - zest
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans (or nuts of your choice)

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180C for 15 minutes. Coat a 22×12 cm loaf pan on the sides and bottom with butter.
2) In a medium size bowl sift together the flour, MILA, baking powder, baking soda and salt; keep it aside.
3) In a small bowl whisk together the applesauce, yoghurt, orange juice and zest.
4) In a large bowl cream together the melted butter and sugar for about 5 minutes. To this add the above wet mixture and beat well for another 2-3 minutes. (The mixture will look curdled but it’s okay.)
5) Now to this mixture, add the flour and milk alternatively and beat for a couple of seconds after each addition ~ add the flour in three parts and the milk twice ~ so you would start with flour and end with flour.
6) Fold in the blueberries and nuts. If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw them.
7) Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake between 60-70 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the bread comes out clean. (Mine was done in 60 minutes.)
8) Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let it cool for about an hour before you remove the bread from the pan. Cool it completely on the wire rack (preferably overnight) before cutting it into slices.

This delicious Blueberry & Orange Bread also goes great with some Organic India Tea ~ my favourite (organic) herbal tea. See you tomorrow for another great recipe ...

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English Baking Recipes 5 ~

Organic India Tea and LemonHoney pudding

It’s now time for dessert . . .

Honey-Lemon Cream Pudding

Serves: 6-8

Preparation time: 6 minutes plus 4 hours setting time
Cooking time: 10 minutes

* 600ml cream -> the BEST QUALITY and creamiest you can buy!

* 8 tbsp honey -> the nicer the better

* 50g brown sugar
* 100ml fresh lemon juice, strained
To garnish:
 fresh raspberries or fresh blueberries


1. Place the cream, honey and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boil, stirring gently until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer for three minutes.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the fresh lemon juice, then strain the lemon cream through a sieve into six to eight ramekins or cups and chill in the fridge until set.
(This should take about four hours.)
Serve topped with fresh raspberries or blueberries.

The better the quality of the Cream and Honey you use, the BETTER and RICHER the taste will be!

Enjoy this delicious and easy-to-make pudding with some special Organic India herbal tea ~ what a wonderful treat . . .

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English Baking Recipes 4 ~

DELISH veggie muffin
Glazed Chocolate-Avocado MILA Cupcakes

Avocado replaces the eggs and most of the oil in a rich, chocolaty-batter that turns into these super-moist, super-delicious, SUPER-HEALTHY baked goodies.

Makes 12 Cupcakes
* 1 + 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 tsp. baking powder
* 3/4 tsp. baking soda
* 3/4 tsp. salt
* 1 avocado, pitted and peeled
* 1 cup pure maple syrup
* 3/4 cup plain soy milk
* 1/3 cup canola oil
* 2 tsp. vanilla extract
* 1 scoop MILA

* 1/4 block soft silken tofu (from a 400g container), drained and patted dry (this is important or the Glaze will be watery)
* 3 Tbls. pure maple syrup
* 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
* 1/10 tsp. salt
* 115g semi-sweet vegan chocolate, melted
* 1 scoop MILA

To make Cupcakes:
1) Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and MILA in a bowl.
2) Purée the avocado in a food processor until smooth. Add maple syrup, soy milk, oil and vanilla, and then blend until creamy.
3) Combine the avocado mixture into the flour mixture until smooth.
4) Preheat oven to 175C (350°F).
5) Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
6) Spoon the batter into each cupcake cup.
7) Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out with some crumbs attached - then you’re ready!

To make Glaze:
1) Blend the tofu, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in food processor until smooth.
2) Add chocolate and MILA to tofu mixture and blend until smooth.
3) Transfer to a bowl and dip the tops of the Cupcakes into the Glaze, pulling straight up to form peaks.


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English Baking Recipes 3 ~

Date cake

Today’s recipe can be made into biscuits or a cake ~ I personally prefer it in a delicious cake-form ~ let’s go cooking ...

Oatmeal, Fig and Walnut Bars
This dessert is kid-friendly, vegan, and very delicious.

* 2 cups chopped stemmed dried figs (280g)
* 1 cup water
* 6 tablespoons sugar
* Pinch of salt
* 1 + 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 cup walnuts (almonds), toasted, coarsely chopped

* 1 + 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
* 1 + 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1 scoop MILA
* 1 + 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup (225g) chilled vegan "butter" cut into delicious cubes
* 1/4 cup powdered sugar

NEED 20cm diameter cake tin/pan - lightly butter the inside to prevent sticking


1) Combine the dried figs, water, sugar and salt in a heavy medium-sized saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5 minutes.

2) Uncover and simmer for about 10 minutes until the figs are very soft and the filling is thick ~ stirring often. Mix in lemon juice and vanilla, then walnuts.

Cool completely. DO AHEAD OF TIME -> Can be made 1 day in advance. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

1) Position the baking tray in the top third of the oven and preheat to 175°C.

2) Combine oats, flour, MILA, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and whisk to blend.

3) Add cubed "butter." Using fingertips, blend until the mixture forms small moist clumps.

4) Firmly press half of the crust mixture (about 3 cups) over the bottom of the prepared tin/pan. Spread the filling evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the filling and press to adhere.

5) Bake until deep brown and firm to touch, about 35~45+ minutes.

6) Cool in the cake tin/pan on a cooling rack.

* Once cool, remove from the tin/pan and cut into slices.
* Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top of half of the pieces, then re-arrange the coated and plain pieces alternately on a platter ~ looks like a zebra crossing ;-)

It looks and tastes delicious ~

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English Baking Recipes 2 ~

chewy orange

Here is another yummy-recipe for you to make:

Chewy Orange (or lemon) Sugar Biscuits

YIELD: 24-30 Biscuits

2 + 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 scoop of MILA

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened (220g)
1 + 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg (or the same volume in tofu or apple sauce if you’re a ‘veggie’ like me ;-)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zest of 1 ~ 1 + 1/2 large oranges (or lemon), finely sliced

4 tbsp fresh orange (or lemon juice) -> you may need more moisture/liquid but don’t use too much ‘lemon juice’ or it will become bitter


****** SAUTE/STEW THE ORANGE (or lemon) ZEST FIRST ******

a> Peel the orange (or lemon) zest/rind and cut into thin 4cm slices.
b> Gently sauté with 1/2 tablespoon of butter for 2 minutes (do not brown), add 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of fresh orange (or lemon) juice.
c> Bring to boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
d> Set aside and let cool ~ the mixture should look similar to marmalade

- - -

1. Preheat oven to 175C degrees. Line your baking trays with cooking sheets.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, MILA, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and very fluffy.
4. Beat in egg (or tofu or apple juice), vanilla extract and fresh orange (or lemon) juice.
5. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.
6. Using 2 spoons (I used dessert spoons), scoop a spoonful of mixture and place it on the baking tray - with 3cm gap for breathing space while baking.
7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned.

Let stand on the baking tray for two minutes before removing to cool down on a wire racks.


Makes About 1/2 Cup Icing

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

1 cup powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
¼ cup of fresh orange (or lemon) juice
1~1 + 1/2 orange (or lemon) zest (made at the beginning)
1/4 cup milk
1 + 1/2 tsp butter

Melt/boil milk & sugar for 5 mins (until thick), adding in orange (or lemon) juice -> when it reaches the right thickness, remove from heat and add in the butter & MIX, MIX AND MIX UNTIL THE PAN BOTTOM CHANGES FROM HOT TO WARM

=> The glaze (icing) “hardens” fast, so quickly pour it over the tops of the biscuits and decorate with the orange (or lemon) zest (see photo). <=

These look and taste REALLY nice ~ have fun baking in English ...

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English Baking Recipes 1 ~

shortbread hearts

Some of you may know that I like to cook - yes, I have dabbled my hands in a professional kitchen a few times in my life - but recently I particularly like to bake.

I am a vegetarian (have been for a couple of years now) and pay special attention to my health (exercising everyday), eating natural foods, whole raw foods and things like that, so not only are the things I cook yummy but they are good for you too!

This week I will give you some English ‘baking’ recipes that are easy to do and go GREAT when having Afternoon Tea (of coffee, if that's what you prefer ;-)


Today we’ll start with the infamous, English “Shortbread” ~

(I use brown sugar when I cook, it's more natural than granulated sugar and there is a big difference in the end result)

Serves: 24

* 200g butter
* 80~100g dark brown sugar
* 270g plain flour, or as needed
* 1 Scoop of MILA

Preparation method
Prep: 15 mins | Cook: 25 mins

1) Preheat oven to 160 C

2) Whip the butter (gently warm first in the microwave) and brown sugar together until light and fluffy (3~5 minutes - the fluffier the better).

3) Add 250g flour and MILA and mix well.

4) Then knead (3~5 minutes), adding the remaining flour to make a soft dough.

5) Prinkle flour on your kitchen-top (cutting board) and roll to a 1 cm thickness. Cut into 7 x 2 cm strips (or whatever shapes you want). Prick with a fork and place on ungreased baking trays.

6) Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes - until light brown on top.

7) Leave on tray for 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack.

** Of course you can eat them straightaway but -> THEY TASTE BETTER THE NEXT DAY! **

Bon appetite ~

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Trips down memory lane #6 ~


Driving (or riding, as I also like to do) down ‘memory lane’, there are still many, many places and experiences that I want to share, as I know you will also enjoy and value them. As today is the last day of this week’s theme, let’s visit the next step in the journey and go to The Bahamas ...

After leaving Japan, I moved to the Bahamas for a couple of years. The northern-most island is only 80 km east of Florida, so it is very easy to reach from the USA. The Bahamas though, is much larger than what most people think -> consisting of over 700 islands -> that’s right; not 7 or 70 but over 700! - and 2,000 cays that span across the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

As you can imagine, anywhere and everywhere you go is water, and LOTS OF IT! The seabed is very shallow around the islands and the water very clear, so the light ocean-blue colour is very distinctive (as you can see in the photo - that was the view from in front of my apartment).

Because there is so much water, it is great for sailing, kayaking, swimming, snorkelling, diving and fishing. With there being warm weather all year round, the lovely ocean and friendly people, it definitely IS another place you will want to visit (and never leave) ...

We’ll save all the others travel spots for another time ~ enjoy your weekend and don’t miss next week’s interesting theme ~

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Trips down memory lane #5 ~


I hope you are managing to stay warm & dry on this rather ‘drizzly’ day.

So let’s fast-forward from Holland to Japan. I first lived here from 1988~1998, at which time I lived in Tokyo (Itabashi, Ogikubo and Komazawa). Back in those days there weren’t as many foreigners (non-Japanese people) as there are now, but it was still possible to practice and speak English back then.

Yes, having ‘native’ friends and times when you are often talking with them (may be at work or the gym or shopping etc) is one of the better ways to naturally pick-up a language. But presently there are so many more ‘gaijin’ living here, so there is no excuse that you ‘live in Japan and don’t have a chance to speak English’.

Even with this expansion in the non-Japanese population, some people are still going to give excuses that they don’t have any foreign friends or any time to study!


You may have heard of some of these inventions that you can use:
1) TV
2) DVDs
3) Radio
4) CDs
5) Internet

They are quite incredible things, you know ~ you can listen to English and repeat what you hear (listening & speaking practise), read websites about your hobbies (reading, grammar and vocabulary practise), sing along to music (listening and GREAT speaking/singing practise ), all from the best speakers in the world, AND YOU SAY YOU DON’T HAVE ANY FOREIGN FRIENDS OR TIME TO STUDY!?! (if this is you, re-read this last section again and again until it hits you, as you CAN do it!).

So the point I am wanting to share with you today is this; there are hundreds of ways to get going - IF YOU REALLY WANT TO SPEAK BETTER ENGLISH, just pick one and make that first baby-step to get you moving . . .

Repeat after me;


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Trips down memory lane #4 ~


For today, I think we’ll stay in Holland and Europe, as there is (and ‘was’ for me) just sooo much to see and do.

Riding (a motorcycle) and driving cars around the different countries in Europe was such an AMAZING experience. For example, a couple of friends who also had the weekend off, we’d ride down to Paris after work on Friday, for a couple of days and then ride back in-time to start work again on Monday morning.

The same thing to places in Germany or Belgium or Austria or Switzerland. Meaning, it wasn’t that far and you are in another country - another language, different food, culture and countryside etc etc. It is hard to fathom riding or driving this way from south Korea to north Korea and then into China and Russia and Mongolia etc but in Europe you CAN do that with ease.

Yes, each city in each country you visit, has so much to offer and so many places of value to see, therefore spending your time visiting and seeing all the different spots at that destination will make some wonderful memories to your holidays. But if you are also a fan of riding and driving around, then renting a bike or convertible and making your way from country to country using the different back-roads and country-lanes, and staying a B&Bs is a fabulous trip that you will never ever forget!

Happy travels ~

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Trips down memory lane #3 ~


Today is going to be short ‘n sweet , as I am heading out for the door for a business meeting, so cannot stay for too long.

Following yesterday’s timeframe, after college I moved to Holland - Amsterdam and Amstelveen. I started to work at ‘Hotel Okura’- do you know the name , where I picked-up my Japanese skills (like in the last two Blogs -> Listen and Repeat => the natural way we learn our mother-tongue) ~ so do use that way to be a better English speaker...!

If you haven’t been to Holland yet, YOU HAVE TO GO! Amsterdam is a lovely city; amazing history, great architecture, fantastic art museums, concerts, shows, theatre, windmills, clogs, cheese, beer, pickled-herring, Dutch diamonds ~ the list goes on and on ~

This is one of the many places I have lived and visited, and thoroughly enjoy going back there again and again. So do add this destination to your “I want to visit here” list ~ you will be glad you did!

Have a terrific Thursday and I will see you tomorrow...

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Trips down memory lane #2 ~

southend 2


Before I switch to a few years later in life and move to a different part of the UK too, I want to recommend a few places you really should go to:

The Lake District ~ of course ~ absolutely gorgeous countryside!

A quick trip to Scotland: the Isle of Skye, Edinburgh, and to St. Andrews (if you like to play golf).

Back to the north of England to York (lovely city) and Robin Hood’s Bay ~ a very quaint seaside village.

Go further south to the ancient town of Bath and the beautiful Cotswolds ~ ALL must-see places to visit!

I could spend days and days telling you about lovely spots and villages and areas to go to, but those above are some of my favourites. Have a look at my Travel-theme week Blogs #s 159 ~ 165 for more places;

Also, this site is pretty informative on great places.

So, when I was 11 years old (half way through my 1st year in High School), we moved from northern England down to Southend-on-Sea in Essex (on the coast about 50km east of London).


Hey, I was 11 so I could speak pretty good English by then, BUT everyone spoke with a funny accent different to mine ~ it was like we had just moved to Hungary! Do you speak Hungarian? No? Me neither!

I was used to saying, “Hello, how are you?” but they said, “Watch-ya mate, how ya doing’?” -> WHAT? DO YOU NEED TO KNOW THE TIME OR SOMETHING!?! HMMM, CONFUSING!

As you can imagine, I was a little confused at first but continuing with yesterday's Blog on how I originally learned my English => Listening And Repeating What My Parents Said, I did the same thing and started to understand what they were saying. This also worked at High School, as I was listening and repeating French and German, and so began to be able to speak these languages, too. If I only realised how EASY IT IS TO LEARN THIS WAY, then I would have continued from age 3 or 4 or 5 and now be able to speak 10+ different languages!

It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, YES you can learn another language at any time/any age but starting earlier IS better...!

See you tomorrow ~

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Trips down memory lane #1 ~

The Music man

This week will be interesting, as the topics not only relate to things I have done and places I have been, but they will all connect with you in some way or other ~ whether that be of a similar interest, a place you have been or want to go to or a way that will enhance your learning and speaking ability, so read on . . .

Back when I was a little toddler in the north of England (near the Lake District), I was not born being able to speak fluently ~ no-one is. So, ‘how did I learn my English?’ you are probably asking -> the same way you learned your Japanese; listening to the ‘sounds/words’ that my parents said, copied what I heard and after a while was able to put those sound/words together and was able to speak.

THIS is the most natural way of picking-up and speaking a language for everyone!

Reading and writing came waaay afterward, but that is the way things are taught at school; 1) Reading, 2) Writing & 3) SPEAKING -> the opposite order in which we picked-up our mother-tongue.

So, doesn’t it make sense that the best way to be able to speak English is the same way we picked-up our mother-tongue? OF COURSE IT IS! Therefore, listening and REPEATING is vital to make you sound ‘natural’.

Yes, Reading and Writing are also important to learning, but Speaking is THE most important factor when learning a language.

How much are YOU doing everyday? ? ?

Continued tomorrow ...

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Last day of GW ~

gw end

I hope you had a nice holiday and are resting now, in preparation for the start of the work week tomorrow. As for me? Eight (8) lessons today means NOOOOO TIME to write any fancy Blog, my friends ~ tune in tomorrow and see what is going on ...

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May days #7 ~ Children’s Day Celebrations +

Kodomo no hi
Today is “こどもの日” Children’s Day. As far as I know, it is only celebrated in Japan and other Asian countries. It is a nice thing, as it is another day for children to enjoy being a child. The fact it is now for ‘boys & girls’, makes it all the more with the times (up-to-date) and something that everyone can participate in.

Day’s like today - I believe - are an important part of everyone’s upbringing, so that we can build our life’s memories of wonderful times -> what do you think?

Relating to 鯉のぼり(carp-shaped streamers) that are used today, one time I bought some for my nephew’s birthday when he was 5 and took them back to England. He loved them sooooo much that he asked his dad (my brother) to leave them up in the garden for the whole month! It was something special for him, plus a great attraction-point and easy when giving directions to friends; “go down the road towards the sea-front, and the house with the bright ‘flying carp-shaped streamers” in the garden - that’s us”. Killing two birds with one stone, as such - ha ha.

I hope you are having a wonderful day ~ tune-in next week for more interesting British things ...

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May days #6 ~ Oak Apple Day (Pinch-Bum Day)

Charles II

This is the day that traditionally people wear oak apples or oak leaves pinned to them to remember that on May 29th King Charles ll returned triumphantly to London after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

The reason for the wearing of oak apples or oak leaves was to celebrate the King's narrow escape from capture by Cromwell's soldiers by hiding in an oak tree.

Charles II - 2

Until well into the twentieth century, anyone caught not wearing an oak leaf or oak apple on 29 May could be pinched, kicked, or otherwise abused. Whipping with nettles was a favourite punishment, hence the name 'Nettle Day' used in some areas of the country.

Okay, yes I get it ~ England has some weird traditions ~ ha ha!

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May days #5 ~ The Ceremony of the Lilies of the Roses

“Lilies and Roses”

King Henry VI was born at Windsor on 6th December 1421 and succeeded to the throne at the very young age of nine months, as King of England. He was crowned on 6th November, 1429 at Westminster Abbey a month before his eighth birthday.

Henry VI was not considered a successful king but rather a good and holy man, who was widely regarded as a saint. His one lasting achievement was in education, founding Eton College and King’s College, in Cambridge.  Each year at Windsor we commemorate his birthday with the “Ceremony of the Lilies and Roses”.  Boys from Eton College attend a service together with representatives from both colleges, who lay lilies (Eton) and roses (King’s) on the tomb of Henry VI while special prayers are said.

He was imprisoned and died in the Tower of London on the 21st May, 1471.

Read more on the King’s College site...

R.I.P. great King Henry VI ~

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May days #4 ~

Florence Nightingale

There are a lot of things that go on and have gone on in the month of May. Here are a few important dates that you ‘may’ (ha ha) know of:


1st May - Labour Day
1st May - May Day
5th May - 1930 Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia
6th May - 1840 The world's first postage stamp, the 'Penny Black' stamp, became valid for use in the UK
6th May - 1954 Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes
8th May - 1945 VE (Victory in Europe) Day
9th May - Captain Blood attempted to steal the crown jewels in 1671
10th May - 1994 Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa
12th May - 1820 Florence Nightingale was born
18th May - 1991 Helen Sharman became the first British woman in space
21st May - 1946 Bread rationing was introduced in the UK
28th May - 1908 Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, was born
29th May - 1953 Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mt. Everest
29th May - Oak Apple Day
30th May - 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake
30th May - Death of King Arthur in 542

Checkout other things that happened ON THIS DAY ...

Also, some important May dates in UK HISTORY ...

Enjoy your reading ...

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