Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Beer and a Sandwich



Off to the Cape today to spend New Years Eve. We have a room booked at a hotel in the town of Sandwich, and are meeting up with friends. The good thing about the hotel is that its next door to the local British Beer Company pub and restaurant, so we can celebrate without having to worry about who is driving. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Stella!




Many Happy Returns to Stella. Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stone the Crows!! It was bloody freezing!!




We spent the day in Boston today. Every year there is a display of ice sculptures on Boston Common, they are usually very large and extremely impressive, and I decided that today may be a good chance to see them before it got too crowded. I knew that the ice had been delivered to the Common and the ice sculptors had only just started work, but I thought they may be further along than they actually were today. In fact, all we saw was a huge block of ice with a very cold man chipping away at it. He looked freezing, must want his head read to be doing that on a day like today!

Here's a picture of how good the ice sculptures can look when they are finished and lit up at night:



Did I mention how cold it was? 15 degrees F with a "real feel" temperature of zero degrees F (0 degrees F is -18 degrees C to those that use Celcius). In fact it was colder than a polar bear’s pyjamas on the shady side of an iceberg. It was so cold the one armed bandit had a glove on. We were so cold we had to stop in every coffee shop and bookstore we passed to warm up. And in every department store to use the bathrooms after all the coffee we'd drunk; it was very slow going...especially after Tony insisted we warm up in the new 3-storey Apple store on Newbury Street! On Boston Common we watched a surprisingly large number of brave/foolish people ice-skating on the Frog pond trying not to get blown off-balance by the strong winds.

On the way home we stopped at the British Beer Company for a bite to eat. The crackling log fire in the entrance was very welcome, as were the fish and chips and beer. Warmed us up a treat!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Those Welsh sheep are smart

I must be the only person who had not seen this YouTube clip before, but just in case I'm not, take a look. Set on the hillsides of Wales and featuring a large number of sheep. Very entertaining.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas TV


I have enjoyed the UK Christmas TV this year. Gavin & Stacey was excellent. Series 3 is primarily set in Wales, and it is very funny to see how accurate the portrayal of the Welsh is! To hear phrases such as "I'll be there now in a minute" cracks me up because I hear myself saying it. I think I am of the wrong generation to use the term "Lush" though! My favorite line of the show was when Staceys next door neighbor Doris was describing to Mick how Barry Island was not the same since "they" all came and took all the jobs. "What, from Poland you mean?" asked Mick, "No, Newport!". LOL (Newport is my hometown, next door to Barry).

We also enjoyed watching the 3 part mini-series "The worst Christmas of my life". Very funny. We didn't realize that there was a whole series of these shows, so we'll have to get hold of a copy and catch up. Not sure what was the funnier scene, spearing the turkey to the wall with a torpedo gun or scalding the vicar's nether regions with the mulled wine. Excellent!

Then obviously there is always a cliff-hanger episode of 'The Street'; this year it was centered on Kevin Webster and Molly Dobb's affair - their decision to tell their other halves was halted when Kevin's wife Sally announced she had breast cancer. I wonder if the actress (Sally Whittaker) is planning on leaving the series? That will dictate whether she survives chemo or not....

The best the American channels could offer for the Christmas season was a re-run of an old House episode.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Too much of a good thing?


It happens every year at this time. All year long I crave cakes, cookies and chocolate, especially the stuff from the UK. Then along comes Christmas, I get bought sackloads of it, its OK to eat it because its Christmas, and I totally lose my appetite! Being surrounded by sweet food actually puts me off it - which is a good thing I suppose....?

I know that this is only temporary, and the urge will come back. The biggest problem I have now is hiding all my stuff from the rest of the household otherwise there will be none left by the time I recover.....

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!


Merry Christmas to all that celebrate it, or "Happy whatever" to those that don't. May your turkey be well cooked, and your wine glass regularly filled; Cheers!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brunette Blogger




I've been asked to post some pics of me as a brunette.

Wood Pellet Stove


After months of waiting, we finally have our wood pellet stove installed and working. I had originally wanted a gas insert to replace the open fireplace, but it was too difficult to run a gas line to the back of the fireplace. I had never heard of wood pellet stoves before but they are a good compromise between the convenience of gas and the look of a real fire. Its a sealed unit with a glass door, you feed wood pellets into the top, and the fire automatically takes in as many as it needs to operate. It ignites via electricity so no hassle of trying to get it to light, and it operates on a thermostat so you can have it come on and off automatically to keep the temperature constant. Wood pellets also happen to be one of the cheapest, most efficient and cleanest forms of fuel, so its a win-win situation. The cat certainly seems to like it, which is a good indicator of the heat that it outputs. She would never sit in front of the open fire because of the cold draft that came down the chimney, even when the fire was at full roar, but she loves stretching out in front of this fire.

Looks good enough to eat


The finished article!

Friday, December 18, 2009

PO: Post Office or Pissed Off?

I went to the local Post Office this morning to send a few last-minute Christmas cards, and to pickup a parcel. What should've been a quick in-out ended up taking forever. It never ceases to amaze me that, on the Friday before Christmas when everybody is doing the same thing as me, and the line of customers is out of the door, the local Post Office assumes they can manage with only one counter open. And the cap it all, the girl being served at the counter had not even bothered to seal up the parcel she wanted to send or write the address on it. And the Post Office worker waited while she did all that, without serving anyone else in the meantime! Very annoying.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Its a bit nippy


Right now (10pm Thursday night) the temperature is 5 degrees F, with a "feels like temperature" (with wind chill factor applied) of -5 degrees F. To my family and friends in the UK who use metric units (i.e. Celcius), that is the equivalent of -15 degrees C, "feels like" -21 degrees C. In England, another way of expressing this is "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey", or in the US "Colder than a well digger's ass".

Do blondes have more fun?


I have had blonde hair (with the help of a few chemicals) since I was 16 years old. A couple of weeks ago I decided to go back to my natural color (or as close as I could get to it) for a change. It is now quite a dark brown color and I am amazed at how much I like it. More amazing is the number of compliments I have received. Maybe I should've done it years ago?

So.....I guess now I can include these jokes:

What do blondes and beer bottles have in common?
They're both empty from the neck up!

A beautiful blonde walks into a bar. A guy walks up to her and says "Hey, those jeans are pretty tight. How do you get into those?"
"You can start by buying me a drink!"

A blonde says to the bartender, "Excuse me, but each time I sip my drink. I get a shooting pain in my eye."
"Well maybe you should take the swizzle stick out of your glass."

See...us brunettes can have fun too!!!

In my neck of the woods, its a dusting

Browsing through the BBC News I saw an article about heavy snow expected in the SE UK on Friday, with up to 20cm of snow expected and gale force winds.

My initial reaction was "Wow! thats amazing!" and my next thought was "How much is 20cm?". After getting my ruler out and realizing its not much more than 8 inches, I went back to playing Bejeweled Blitz.....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh what fun we had!


We had our department "Holiday lunch" yesterday. It was all very refined and respectable. Somehow it did not seem the same as the Christmas "do" we used to have in the UK. Whether it was because it was the UK, or whether it was because I was much younger then, I don't know. But somehow it seemed more fun. People had too much to drink and did things they were probably glad to forget. I even recall someone (who shall remain nameless-and it wasn't me) walking backwards into the canal. Ah, those were the days!

I like a good tune


I have been watching University Challenge over these past few weeks and came to realize how little I know about classical music and the composers. So tonight, while doing the jigsaw puzzle that I'd started with Emma and will end up finishing, I decided to listen to some classical music. I dug out my "Polygram Essential Classics" CD and was amazed that I actually recognized quite a lot of them; "Last night at the proms!", "the Exorcist!", "Nescafe!", "Hovis!", "Emerson, Lake and Palmer!" I shouted out. I knew them all. See, I'm not a heathen when it comes to "the Arts"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Cake recipe


My cake has come out nice, looks good enough to eat! Here is the recipe I used:


Ingredients

8 oz currants
8 oz sultanas (golden raisins)
4 oz raisins
2 oz of mixed cranberries, raisins, etc (from Trader Joe's) to add some variety, or you can just increase the quantity of one of the 3 dried fruits above instead
4 oz glace cherries, chopped in half
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Grated rind of 1 orange
3 tablespoons of whisky, brandy, rum or sherry (I used brandy)
5 eggs - room temperature
2 sticks butter - room temperature
1 cup soft brown sugar (or caster sugar)
1 cup of self raising flour
1 cup of plain flour
Half a cup ground almonds (I used blanched almonds chopped up small in a blender)
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
1 tablespoon golden syrup or corn syrup
Optional 2oz walnuts or blanched almonds chopped.

Prepare the cake ingredients
The quantities in this fruit cake recipe must be baked in a deep round 8-9 inch tin or square 7-8 inch tin.

1. Before you mix up the cake, SOAK the dried fruit and the halved cherries in the alcohol for about 4-8 hours

2. Heat oven to 140 degrees Celsius or Gas mark 1 or 275 degrees Fahrenheit

3. Butter and double line your baking tin with greaseproof/baking parchment paper.

4. Place the tin ready on a flat pizza or other baking sheet – this helps in removing it from the oven.

5. Chop the nuts if you are using them and lightly whisk eggs in a jug.

6. In a large bowl sift the flour with the mixed spice. Add the ground almonds and the chopped nuts to that bowl.

Mix the Cake
In another very large mixing bowl cream the room temperature butter with the sugar. Next add the lightly beaten eggs teaspoon by teaspoon to the sugar and butter, beating well to mix them in between additions. If you add too much egg too soon and it curdles, just add a tablespoon of flour and mix in.

Now add the golden/corn syrup. Dip a tablespoon into piping hot boiling water and remove the spoon of syrup from the tin, drop it onto the cake mix and stir it in.

Next fold in the spiced flour and ground almonds and nuts. Add all the soaked dried fruit. Stir it all together until mixed well

Spoon the Christmas cake mixture into the tin and smooth the top absolutely flat with a spatula. This cake should not rise in the middle, but be flat.

Drop the tin from about 10 inches in the air onto the floor to make sure it has no air bubbles. Replace it onto the pizza support tray

Bake the cake

Bake for 3 hours. A piece of greaseproof paper with a 1 inch circle cut from the middle placed over the top of cake will help retain moisture and prevent too much crusting. It is done when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin. The next day remove the paper wrap. You can either eat the fruit cake immediately as it is or "feed" the cake for a month until a few days before you are ready to decorate. To feed the cake, make some skewer holes on the underside. Pour over 2 tablespoons of alcohol (sherry, brandy, port, whiskey etc). Do this about every 5 days. Each time wrap the cake in double greaseproof paper and then aluminum foil and store in a plastic container.

Decorate the cake
For a traditional finish cover with almond paste/marzipan and icing or fondant. Or instead use a simple glazed topping of crystallised fruits or nuts and encase in large ribbon band. Alternatively, decorate the cake with glace fruits and an apricot jam glaze made from heating 3 tablespoons of apricot jam with 2 tablespoons of brandy or sherry. You could also use a quality selection of various nuts such as brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts in rows or circles.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Its not just any old fruit cake


I've decided to make myself a Christmas Cake this year. Its not a tradition in the US, so its impossible to buy a ready-made one like I used to when I was in the UK. Tescos or Mark'siz were always the best in my opinion. I have discovered that its not all that easy to get the ingredients either, so I will have to improvize a bit. First of all a sultana does not exist. I think that a "Golden Raisin" may be the same thing so I'm taking a chance on that. Mixed peel...nowhere to be found. I could see candied ginger but I don't think that's the same thing. I did manage to find glace cherries after much searching. I gave up on looking for ground almonds for the marzipan, it appears I would have to grind my own if I want some. So I paid some extortionate price for ready-made marzipan, something like $6 for a tiny stick of it - I needed 3 of them (at least).

I have left it a bit late though so won't be able to do the traditional knitting needle and brandy/sherry thing. So far it has taken me ages to find the ingredients, it will take hours to make, then to marzipan, then to ice. And I bet I am the only one who will eat it when its all done. Never mind, I still think its worth it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

St Winifred's school choir

In my previous blog entry I mentioned an awful song that made the top of the British charts over Christmas in 1980. For those of you that have not had the pleasure of hearing this song, here it is. Enjoy!

Ghosts of Christmas past

My kids were getting in the festive mood tonight and dug out our one and only Christmas CD. It brought back some memories I can tell you. "Merry Christmas Everybody" by Slade, "Another Rock n' Roll Christmas" by Gary Glitter, "Lonely this Christmas" by Mud, "Little Saint Nick" by the Beach Boys and of course, "Do they know its Christmas" by Band Aid. It got me thinking, does anyone make Christmas songs nowadays? It used to be an expected, and much anticipated thing. What was going to be Number 1 in the charts for Christmas, would your favorite group release a Christmas song? On Christmas Day every year there was a special showing of "Top of the Pops"; it was the highlight of the day (after the pressies and Christmas pud of course!). It was extremely disppointing if the number 1 spot was filled by some god-awful song like "There's no-one quite like Grandma" by the St Winifred's school choir, and you had to finish up the show with that playing, while all the streamers and party poppers were thrown around the set. It just didn't feel right somehow.

See how many people you can recognize in this video...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

They all looked the same!


It was snowing when we drove back from the theater tonight, the first of the season, apparently we are getting about 6 inches. It reminds me of a true story. My friend Lynne left work one evening after it had been snowing all day. The parking lot was full of cars covered in at least a foot of snow. A male collegue offered to clear Lynne's car for her, which she gladly accepted. So he set to it, using his snow shovel and brush. It was only when he was halfway though the task that Lynne had the embarrasing task of telling him that, unfortunately, this was not her car....oops!

Deck the halls with boughs of holly


Just finished putting up the second of our two Christmas trees. Every year until this one we have had an artificial tree in the family room, and a real one in the hallway. Last year however our real tree fell down, not once but twice; both times fully decorated, the second time taking our clock off the wall on the way down. So this year we are doing 2 artificial trees. Not quite the same as a real one, but gone are the days of the gold tinsel tree, they are pretty realistic now. Our new one even has teeny pine cones on it and a squirrel nesting at the top (OK, I exagerated about the squirrel). I've nearly done all my Christmas shopping and I have a total of 9 more days in work, so all I can say is "Fa,la,la,la,laaaa, la, la, la, la"

We had a (nut) crackin' time



I went with Emma to the Hanover Theater in Worcester tonight along with my neighbor and her daughter.We went to see that traditional Christmas ballet, the Nutcracker. I have never seen a ballet before, and it was quite entertaining and enjoyable. The music was fairly lighthearted, and the stage backdrops and the dancers costumes were very colorful so it was a delight to watch.

When the lead male dancer came on the girls cracked up laughing at the site of his almost transparent tights; They were so sheer you could see where he'd missed a bit while shaving his legs. "Mom!" exclaimed my friends daughter,"did you see the size of his pee-pee". She was right...I'm surprised he didn't topple over forwards, there was so much packed in there.

I thought it was particularly clever the way they had incorporated the music from adverts in the ballet. You know the one;
Everyone's a fruit and nut cake, crazy for those Cadburys nuts and raisins...

(OK, just kidding, I'm not that much of a culture heathen....)

Anyway, the question is, why is it called the Nutcracker? Is it because of the small guy in the red jacket with the large mouth? Or is it because of the lead male in tights - I'm telling you his buttocks were so tight he could've cracked a peanut between them....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The challenge: is it a man or a woman?


Just watching an episode of University Challenge. There's a team on it from UCL (University College London) and the 'spokesperson' is called Woolley. I cannot for the life of me work out whether this person is a male or a female. His/her flowery dress and lipstick makes you think that he/she is a "she", but the deep voice, prominant Adams apple and obviously male chin make me think that he/she is in fact a "he". Its fascinating! I haven't paid attention to any of the questions yet, I've been too busy watching this person!

Blanche - RIP


I was very sad to hear that Maggie Jones, who plays Blanche Hunt in Coronation street, died yesterday. She was an excellent character with some superb cutting remarks usually aimed at her long suffering daughter Dierdre and Dierdre's husband Ken. Here's a few of her best one-liners (shamelessly stolen off the Coronation Street web tribute to Blanche):

Blanche: “Good looks are a curse, Deirdre. You and Kenneth should count yourselves lucky.”

Blanche telling Liz off for leaving her washing drying all over the sitting room. “Kenneth doesn’t want to stare at thongs all day. The man’s an intellectual!”

Ken has just got down on one knee to propose to Deirdre and she’s turned him down. Blanche says: “Well, if you leave it much longer he won’t be able to get up again!”

From the tribute by William Roache who plays Ken: I don’t think Maggie ever realised how much she was loved not only by everyone on the show but by the millions of Blanche fans out there. She will be greatly missed.

Here, here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Stepping up the exercise


I've decided to make a return to the gym. I used to go around 4 times a week, until my back started bothering me. Its been around 7 months since I last went in any earnest so I've decided to get back to it before everything starts sliding south.

The gym I attend does a series of different group fitness sessions. They are produced by a company called BTS (http://www.bodytrainingsystems.com) and the exercises are 'choreographed' to pretty good music. "Group Step" is my favorite, and is nothing like the Step exercises from the eighties (remember the Cher video?!). Another favorite is "Group Power" which involves lifting a barbell and weights to music; not too heavy obviously...the weights I mean not the music!. There are also classes for kick-boxing and Zumba/Groove, which are not really my thing. But I'm looking forward to going again and seeing some familiar faces, and also seeing a new me in 2010! Lets hope my back holds up.

GO TART!

On the way home from work today I was driving behind a car with the numberplate "GOTART". I think it was meant to be read as "GOT ART" (similar to the 'Got Milk?' slogan) but for a while I thought it was quite offensive....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A letter to Santa


Yesterday we took a ride on the "Hobo Railway" in Lincoln. It's an old passenger train (diesel not steam), and it trundles through Lincoln and along the river. Quite picturesque. At certain times in the run-up to Christmas they do a special "Santa train ride" and yesterday was one of those days. Although the kids are a bit old for Santa, we still did it because its a nice atmosphere; the inside of the carriages are decorated with tinsel, and they serve hot chocolate and cookies to the passengers. Christmas music is playing throughout the ride and Santa stops by to say "Ho! Ho! Ho!" to everyone. The kids have to write a letter to Santa and get a gift in return. Emma did the usual "Dear Santa, please don't forget to stop by my house and leave me some presents" whereas Rob's letter was a little more inventive; instead of asking Santa for something he decided to give him some advice about the effects of too many cookies on your health, and he included a a daily diet and exercise planner to help Santa lose some of his excess weight....

I keep asking myself, where does he get it from?!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Good food in Lincoln

Last night we ate at "The Common Man" restaurant in Lincoln. What a nice place! It was really warm and welcoming, with a huge stone firepace in the lounge containing a roaring log fire and live entertainment. The restaurant was off to the side and we were offered complimentary cheese and crackers while we waited to place our order. For the main course I had a very good New England haddock bake and Tony had a mixed grill consisting of fillet steak, maple sausage and crab cakes. Everything was very fresh and nicely prepared. No wonder its a popular place to eat.

Today for lunch we stopped at a cafe with the wonderful name of "half-baked and fully brewed". It specializes in homemade breads, pastries, soups, sandwiches etc. As well as the "eat-in" menu, they also had a large freezer filled with ready-prepared home cooked meals "to-go", chicken pie, lasagna, various pasta dishes, meatloaf, plus a whole range of desserts. What a good idea for a vacation area. I'm sure they are very popular during the ski season. After a hard day on the slopes what better than to eat a home cooked meal without having to do more than press the buttons on the microwave!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Christmas Carol


Today was a very disappointing day, weather-wise. It has rained heavily from the moment we woke up through to the evening. We had planned to go to "Santa's Village" today - a themed amusement park in Jackson, NH. We have been there many times before and this year would probably be the last time, as the kids are getting a bit too old for the rides it offers. However the thought of being cold and wet, outside for the whole day, did not appeal. So we went to see a movie instead.

The movie theater in Lincoln is very small, it only has 4 screens. I have to say it was one of the coldest movie theaters I have ever been in; I don't believe they had any heating on at all and I sat on my hands the whole time to try and keep them warm!

We saw "A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey. It was one of those "not quite real people, not quite animated" movies, similar in style to the Polar Express. It was actually very good. It was obviously based on the Dickens novel, but enhanced with some excellent special effects. The sombre Victorian London setting was well done, in some places it was quite 'dark' in style, but although it was a Disney movie I would not recommend it for younger children. Some of the ghosts were a bit scary, even for Emma (9 years old). I definitely recommend it for everyone else though, it was very entertaining...even if my hands were numb by the end. And it passed a few hours on what was a very cold, wet day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A very non-traditional Thanksgiving




Today the weather was pretty good, unseaonably warm in fact. So we decided to try out some of the walking trails off the Kangamangus Highway. We started off with a very nice walk along oe of the Lincoln Woods trails. We chose the East side trail, 3 miles through woods and alongside the Pemigewasset river, a wonderful crystal clear , fast-flowing river over rocks. Parts of the trail on the return journey involved crossing parts of the river, so we had to balance precariously on rocks to get across. Thankfully we all managed to keep our feet dry and our pride in place.

Then we went to see Sabbaday Falls, only 0.3 miles off the highway and surprisingly impressive.

To unwind we spent an hour or so in the hotel spa. We used the indoor pool and relaxed in the steaming outdoor hot tub, followed by a sauna. Not surprisngly we had the place to ourselves for most of the time.

All of this activity gave us a good appetite for our extremely un-traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We had an appetizer of mini cheese-souffles, followed by Pasta and garlic bread, with apple pie and cream for desserts, washed down with beer, wine, coffee and chocolate mints.

Quite frankly, I enjoyed this as much as any Turkey dinner I've had for Thanksgiving in the past, and we will all be happy tomorrow that we will not be subjected to the after-affects of turkey while living in such close proximity to each other!!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vacation in Lincoln, New Hampshire

First day of our Thanksgiving break in New Hampshire. This year we are staying in Lincoln, right on the slopes of Loon Mountain, at the Loon Mountain Resort.

The resort is very nice, its obviously in the middle of a major renovation and they have done a good job with the rooms. We have a suite, which basically consists of 2 rooms joined together, one containing a king size bed and bathroom, the other containing 2 Murphy beds, with a kitchen and bathroom. Plenty of room for us all. Theres an onsite spa with an indoor pool, outside hot tub, large gym, raquetball court and a couple of restaurants.

We had dinner at the Woodstock Brewery restaurant "The Woodstock Railway" which was a lively place with good food and beer. I sampled a pint of their Golden Ale, a light, dry, hoppy brew, and Tony had a pint of Pemi Ple Ale, which he said was very good. The food was what's known in these parts as "comfort food" - I had "Moms meatloaf" and Tony had a "train wreck" which consisted of an open sandwich of Brie, Ham, Turkey, and roasted peppers. All finished off with moose tracks icecream and homemade chocolate cake. Yum.

Tomorrow we plan to walk some of the local trails before Thanksgiving dinner.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A bed is not just a bed


We've been off looking for a new mattress (aka bed) this afternoon, because I cannot get on with our Tempur-pedic Mattress. Its a bit daunting. We entered the store to be greeted by 50 mattresses that all looked the same. We could select from 4 levels of softness, mattress style (boxspring, foam, memory foam), with or without pillow top (plush, silver, gold, platinum and platinim plus or euro pillow top for the more cosmopolitan shopper). There's even adjustable beds and beds that have a built-in massager. We tried a high-tech gizmo that told us that Tony needs a firm mattress and I need a softer mattress. Luckily for us, its possible to buy a mattress where each side is a different softness. So thats what we went for. Phew! Thank goodness we don't have to do this more often than once every 10 years!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pepper - RIP


My Mothers cat "Pepper" died this week. He was 15 years old, pretty good going really. He was actually my cat but when we moved to the US, we decided that he may be happier staying with my mother. She graciously agreed :-)

Pepper is not the first cat that my mother has looked after for me. Many years ago I pursuaded my parents to let me get a cat (Zoe), then when I left home after University guess who ended up looking after Zoe? Good ol' Mom!

Its a bit more difficult to pass off cats to my parents now I am in the US. I wonder if I could fit my "Bulimic" cat Loki in my suitcase next time I visit?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Facial recognition


Apparently Cardiff Airport is introducing facial recognition gates for passengers at the arrivals lounge. It works for any UK or European adult with a biometric passport issued since 2006. The machines are designed to take seconds to scan passengers' faces against digital photos in passports.

With the tiny number of flights going in and out of Cardiff Airport per day, I would've thought that the average security guard could've performed the same operation without any sophisticated technology. "Alright Butt!, welcome ome... long time no see Dai... travelling again Mr Evans, yew neva ome mun!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Books for Todays children

I must be truthful, I have completely plagiarised this from an email send to me by my brother-in-law Martin. I thought it was worthy of sharing. Here's a plug for his blog by way of compensation (http://martinveale.blogspot.com/)





and there's more....






I left the really rude ones out - this is a G rated blog after all...

Smoothie anyone?


I did not know it was possible to find so many soft/liquid foods. Since my gum graft surgery last week I have had a vanilla smoothie, a vanilla smoothie with banana, a vanilla smoothie with raspberries, soup, soft scrambled eggs, mashed up potato and cauliflower, more soup, oatmeal and a ready-made protein drink called Ensure (the only thing I am Ensure about is that I do not want another one - disgusting)...

I think for dinner tonight I am going to have mashed up carrot followed by stewed apple and custard. Jealous?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Feeling poorly

I don't think its possible to feel any worse than I did yesterday. I had a bad reaction to the pain meds and spent the day throwing up. I haven't eaten since Thursday lunchtime, and the only positive thing is I've lost 5 pounds. Life is not good right now :-(

Thursday, November 12, 2009

British? Not me!

LONDON (Reuters) – Britons are among the ugliest people in the world,
according to a dating website that says it only allows "beautiful people"
to join.

Fewer than one in eight British men and just three in 20 women who have
applied to BeautifulPeople.com have been accepted, an emailed statement
from the website showed.

Existing members of the "elite dating site" rate how attractive potential
members are over a 48 hour period, after applicants upload a recent photo
and personal profile.

Swedish men have proved the most successful, with 65 percent being
accepted, while Norwegian women are considered the most beautiful with 76
percent accepted, the website said.

The way that BeautifulPeople.com accepts new members is simple. A potential
member applies with a photo and a brief profile. Over 48 hours, existing
members of the opposite sex vote whether or not to admit them, the site
said.

Options are: "Yes definitely," "Hmm yes, O.K," "Hmm no, not really" and "No
definitely not."

The site was founded in 2002 in Denmark and went live across the globe last
month. Since then, the site has rejected nearly 1.8 million people from 190
countries, admitting just 360,000 new members.

"I would say Britain is stumbling because they don't spend as much time
polishing up their appearance and they are letting themselves down on
physical fitness," Beautiful People managing director Greg Hodge said.
"Next to Brazilian and Scandinavian beauties, British people just aren't as
toned or glamorous."

Only the male Russian and Polish applicants fared worse than British men,
although Russian women had a 44 percent acceptance rate. Polish women did
not appear in the table.

German applicants were slated for offering up unflattering photographs,
which may have hindered their acceptance rates at 15 percent for men and 13
percent for women, the lowest rate in their category.

"German men and women aren't faring well, but they are submitting stern
images, they need to soften up," Hodge said.

Phew! I'm glad I became a US citizen a few years ago :-)

Today I did not have a nice day


Today has not been the best of days. This afternoon I had what can only be described as a horrific dental procedure done, known as a gum graft. Basically some skin is cut from the roof of the mouth and sewn onto the gums. Believe me, its as disgusting as it sounds. I am currently sat here dribbling blood and popping vicodin into my mouth faster than Dr House. Apparently tonight and tomorrrow will be the most painful. Oh great. Its bad enough now and the novacaine hasn't fully worn off yet....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day


Today is Veterans Day in the US. Veterans Day is to recognize the 48 million men and women who have served or are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, including 23 million living U.S. veterans and active duty service. Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I. The so-called War to End All Wars ended with an armistice signed at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, in Compi├Ęgne, France—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

After World War II it became clear that the World War I armistice marked only the ending of World War I, not of war itself. The holiday was renamed Veterans Day to honor all those who served in the U.S. military.

In work today there was an 11am service for the occasion, and the usual free cake and icecream that accompanies any event at my workplace. There was also a display set up in the cafeteria, consisting of a table set as if for a meal. On the table was a plate with a slice of lemon and some salt. Why the lemon and salt? According to Answers.com, the bitterness of the war is the lemon and the salt means they will always leave their memories in or on our hearts. So now you know...

Two nations divided by a common language



Something amusing happened today in work. My friend from the UK (Hi Sarah!) sent me an email with the usual chit-chat. Then that email was followed soon after by another from her saying "what did I do?". I'll explain...

She had just received an automated email from my workplace, saying that offensive language had been detected in her first email to me. Now, I do admit that her language can be a bit colorful at times, especially after a few glasses of wine, but Catherine Tate's "Nan Taylor" she is not! Her crime was to describe the fact that the faggots she'd had for lunch had been the highlight of her day. As I'm sure you know, the word "Faggot" does not mean "meatball" in the US and the automated "offensive language detector" had decided that this was not appropriate language!

Lets hope she didn't have a tart and a fag for dessert....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Still Rockin the Joint?

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler has left the band, but they hope to continue with a new frontman, guitarist Joe Perry is reported as saying. In my opinion, a new frontman will not work. Look at Fuel as an example. Fuel who? Exactly...

"Wanted, lead singer for aging rock band. Mick Jagger need not apply"

40-27-37


Apparently women with curvy figures are likely to be brighter than waif-like counterparts and may well produce more intelligent offspring, a US study suggests.
Researchers studied 16,000 women and girls and found the more voluptuous performed better on cognitive tests - as did their children.

The bigger the difference between a woman's waist and hips the better.

All I can say is, Dolly Parton must be a freakin genius...

Sniper attacks


I read in the news today that the US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal for a stay of execution for the man behind the 2002 sniper attacks in Washington DC.

John Allen Muhammad is due to be executed for the murder of one of 10 people killed during three weeks of attacks. People were shot while shopping, filling up their car at a petrol station or just sitting and reading, always with a single round and from a distance.

After three weeks, Muhammad was arrested at a truck stop, along with his accomplice Lee Malvo, who was only 17 at the time.

I remember this case well. It made me extremely nervous. I recall that a woman was shot by this pair as she was coming out of Home Depot. Everybody goes to Home Depot! It could have been anyone that they shot. I remember filling up my car at the gas station and, funny as it may seem now looking back, but I consciously moved around as it was filling. I jammed my purse into the gas handle so the pump stayed on itself, allowing me to walk around my car. These guys were shooting people who stood still long enough to be lined up in their sights.

What is it that makes people want to do this kind of thing? I just don't get it.