Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Its not Rocket science

In the BBC News today, according to recent research, having sex every day improves sperm quality and could boost the chances of getting pregnant. No kidding! So if you have sex every day for a week, you are ....hmmmm, let me throw a wild guess in here....about 7 times as likely to get pregnant than if you indulge only once per week? Wonders will never cease! I wonder how much that bit of research cost?

And here's another finding (presumably from the same researcher who gave us the previous gem). Obese women who lose even a small amount of weight may boost their chances of getting pregnant. You don't say?! Probably something to do with the fact that if they look less like a whale then they have more chance of getting some 'lurvin' 7 times a week......

When the rubber hits the off-roader

On the way to work today we were behind one of those kamikaze drivers. By this I mean one of those drivers who swerve sharply and unexpecedly across the road to avoid cracks in the tarmac, potholes or manhole/drain covers. I have to laugh, especially if they are driving one of those huge 4WD, jacked up suspension, supercharged off-road vehicles and they are swerving to avoid a puddle or a drain cover! God help them if they ever actually took their car off-road...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hi! Billy Mays here...

Billy Mays was found dead this morning. He was a well-known 'pitchman' on the TV infomercials, with a booming voice that declared "Hi, Billy Mays here" at the start of every commercial. He had a way of making you believe in some of the awful prodcts that he was advertising, making you think that they would actually work (they never did!).Without him, would you ever have bought the Ding King, Oxiclean, Kaboom, Mighty putty, the Awesome Auger or the Grater Plater? I think not....
Here's Billy advertising "What Odor?". I just love the way he sniffs the litter box up close and sprays himself to get rid of the skunk smell. But look closely at that skunk clip. It looks to me like he's screwing his nose up....methinks that "What Odor" was not powerful enough for that clip!! Nice one Billy. RIP.

Its raining, its pouring, its friggin annoying....

We've had pretty crappy weather so far this summer. Drizzle, showers, rain, thunderstorms...everything except sun. However I can now officially guarantee that we will have no further rain. How do I know this? Simple. I have just finished preparing and seeding an area of lawn out the backyard. We are now guaranteed a heatwave with drought conditions. Obvious init?

Shrewsbury Street restaurant- Via

Had an enjoyable evening with friends last night at an Italian restaurant called Via on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. The atmosphere, the setting and the food were all excellent. The restaurant specializes in gelato, so we finished up with a set of 5 samplers, tiny cones each with a different flavor of gelato. Scrummy.
Shrewsbury Street is only a 10 minute drive from our house, and is renowned for being full of good restaurants, yet in the 8 years that I have lived in Shrewsbury I have only ever been to 2 of them, one of which (Brew City) could hardly be considered a restaurant (as its name suggests). There are many restaurants that look worthy of a visit, and I think that is just what I shall do. Why trek to Boston for a night out when this is on our doorstep?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Death of a Legend

Well, he was definitely a bit weird in more recent years, but even so I have to say, Michael Jackson, RIP

Sunday, June 21, 2009

CVS - Call yourself a Pharmacy?

I went to CVS today. You know, CVS? The pharmacy? I went there to get some dental stuff that Robert needs for his braces (orthodontic wax to be exact). I could've bought a bucket and spade, a small space-saving heater, a portable air conditioner, a deck chair, a set of stackable bowls, a watch, a 12 pack of Pepsi, a sunhat, a set of crutches, a set of false nails, a small fuzzy mouse for my cat, any variety of chocolate (as long as it was Hershy's), a Shamwow cloth, a cuddly toy :-), a set of matching candle holders and an ab lounger. But could I find any orthodontic wax? As they would say in Coronation Street "Could I eck as like!". Call themselves a pharmacy. They get more like Building 19 by the day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A rant a day keeps the Prozac away...

I feel another rant coming on....

It was the last day of school yesterday. I spent an hour sorting through the piles of books and stationary that the kids bought home with them. At the start of every school year parents are presented with a huge list of school supplies that we must buy for the year. It includes things such as "6 composition books, set of 24 pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, rulers, calculator, tissues, disinfecting wipes, glue sticks, markers, dry-erase markers, white board eraser, colored pencils...." the list is endless but this would be pretty typical. Throughout the year we are also asked to top up the supplies.

The thing I am annoyed about is the amount of waste! Nearly every one of the composition books were mostly unused apart from a handful of pages written on to ensure that we could not use them next year. There were 24 partly used pencils, 3 part used glue sticks....you get the picture. What a waste! When we were in school the school supplied the stationary-you got a new composition book when you'd completed every page of your old one (both sides). You got a new pencil when it was so small you had to hold it with tweezers...The schools nowadays can afford to be wasteful because they are not paying. What sort of message does this send to the kids?

OK, I'm done with my rant. Now I can get on and enjoy the brief burst of sunshine before the next downpour. Summer! Pah, call this a summer?! We've had so much rain I've had to buy a pair of wellies for my cats. I feel another rant coming on.....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

School field Day

Its field day today at both the Elementary and Middle schools in Shrewsbury. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, its not too hot or buggy. The kids have each been assigned a color that they must wear to identify their team, face and hair paint spray is not allowed much to the kids' disappointment!

On field day the kids play games such as Dodgeball, Catch the flag and pass the sponge, and they have a healthy slice of pizza with cookies for lunch (good energy food...not)

Things haven't changed that much from the school sports day I remember, apart from the games being given more interesting sounding names nowadays (oh, and we never had pizza either :-(
We did the standard competitions such as a regular "running" race, hopping races and relay races. We also did the egg and spoon race, the sack race and the 3 legged race.

The egg and spoon race was always a favorite. Run with an egg balanced on a dessert spoon. First across the line wins. I recall it wasn't a real egg though, but one made out of clay or something to avoid the otherwise inevitable mess...
Sack race - each competitor is resplendant in their mother's best pillowcase. First one to bounce over the line is the winnner
Three-legged race : you compete as pairs, hopefully with your best friend and not with the class geek, side-by-side with one leg from each contestant tied together (preferably the right leg from contestant #1 and the left leg from contestant #2 - this was not a time to get your left and rights mixed up :-). First pair across the line win the race.

I think we should have a field day in work. Could be a good team building exercise; Maybe I'll suggest it...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Its completely Blitzed

I think I need some new hobbies. What has brought about this revelation? Well, I've just finished getting dinner for the kids, have tidyed up the kitchen, made a cup of tea, and sat down in a comfy chair for a well-earned rest and a half hour of my favorite game, Bejeweled Blitz. But horror of horrors, disaster and calamity! The site is .....I can hardly bear to say it....down for an upgrade! What is the world coming to? Apparently the game has become so popular that their servers are crashing under the strain (I wondered why I kept losing gems and creating black holes on the game board!)

Now the problem is, what do I do to occupy my time? I guess I could read a book? Or tune into "New England Cable News" to listen to news reports that are of no interest or relevance to anything. Or brush the cats (getting desperate now....)

I know! I'll write a blog entry about it!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Throw a Banger on the Barbie....The best of British

An American couple we work with have just returned to work after spending a year working in the UK, for the British arm of our company. I was chatting to the husband (Larry) and it was fascinating to compare notes on what its like to be a visitor in a strange country, and relate it to how I felt when I arrived in the US 12 years ago. He stayed just outside of London and he loved it. His young son is now addicted to Beans on Toast, that great British staple meal that is unheard of in the US, he has a British accent and he tells his dad off when he says pants instead of trousers!! They loved things such as Rountrees fruit pastilles, Muller Rice, Twinings tea, cider, the great British breakfast (eggs, bacon, Cumberland sausage, tomato and mushrooms), and Jamie Oliver cookbooks (OK, I suppose I can't agree with his taste on everything!). He found it pretty easy to get used to driving on the other side of the road, and manoevering through roundabouts. He also said that, however annoyed a Brit got in work, they stayed polite and never lost their temper. Hmmmmm, not sure about that one....

Happy Birthday Sarah!

Happy birthday to Tony's cousin Sarah, seen here frantically trying to beat Robert on a "DS" game... Hope you enjoyed your day and your meal. See you in July!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Its not Purgatory

We spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon at Purgatory Chasm State Reservation last weekend. This is a very popular attraction located in Sutton, MA, and consists of walking trails, picnic areas and the chasm itself. The park, managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, is notable for its .25-mile (0.40 km) long, 70-foot (21 m) deep chasm of granite bedrock featuring abrupt precipices and boulder caves in which ice lingers into the early summer.

According to the most recent research, the Chasm was created when glacial meltwater from a burst ice dam ripped out blocks of bedrock at the end of the last Ice Age (14,000 years ago).

The weather was perfect for walking, not too hot and with a breeze to keep the bugs away. We finished up with ice cream from the creamery nearby. Very welcome after all that walking and climbing.

Its back!

Back in March I posted a blog entry "Better now than we've ever been?" which discussed the demise of some children's playground equipment. One of those was the Witches hat, a fun but dangerous roundabout-style thing. Well, would you believe it, I actually saw a new one in a childrens playground last weekend! Slightly modified from the original, but still a witches hat. There were tons of kids playing on it, and in the space of 5 minutes I saw kids falling off, hanging on and getting dragged around on the floor, and a girl fall off only to be kicked in the face by a boy who came flying off on top of her. Still.....they looked like they were having fun....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hail Mighty Caesar!

Rob went on a school trip today to the Worcester Art Museum (http://www.worcesterart.org/). I must be honest, I'd never heard of it before (I'm not much of a museum type o' gal), so I had to look up some details on their website, which says "The Worcester Art Museum is acclaimed for the quality of its collections. European and North American painting, prints, photographs and drawings; Asian art, Greek and Roman sculpture and mosaics and Contemporary art. "

Robert is currently studying Greek and Roman history in school, so thats mainly what they went to see. He also spent some time there in their craft room creating his own mosaic picture frame (see above).

Its ironic to see that he likes this era in history, being as he was born in Newport, with Caerleon and its Roman remains right next door. When he visits Wales in the summer, we will have to make sure we visit; See below for a picture of the remains of a Roman amphitheatre in Caerleon, South Wales.

Anyway, being as we are on the subject of Rome, here's a little joke I found that will appeal to historians and soccer fans alike...

Julius Caesar was addressing the crowd in the Colliseum.

"Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your ears. Tomorrow I take our glorious army to conquer Northern Europe and I shall start with France. We shall kill many Gauls and return victorious."

The crowd are up on their feet "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, hail mighty Caesar"

Brutus turns to his mate and says " He doesn't half talk some rubbish eh? He couldn't fight his way out of a wet parchment bag."

Six months later, Caesar comes back having conqured France and addresses the crowd in the Colliseum. " Friends, Romans and Countrymen, I have returned from our campaign in France and as I promised, we killed 50,000 Gauls".

The crowd are up on their feet again. "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, hail mighty Caesar".

Brutus once again turns to his mate "I'm sick of his nonsense, I'm off to France to check this out."

So Brutus sets of for France and three weeks later he comes back to Rome. Caesar is addressing the public in the Colliseum again "Friends, Romans and Countrymen, tomorrow we set off for Britain and we are going to sort those b*stards out"

The crowd are up on their feet. "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, hail mighty Caesar"

Brutus jumps up and shouts "Caesar, you are a liar. You told us that you had killed 50,000 Gauls in France but I've been there to check it out and you only killed 25,000 !!!!"

The crowd are stunned and all sit down in silence.

Caesar gets up and looks slowly round the Colliseum then across at Brutus and says "Brutus, you are forgetting one thing.........

Away Gauls count double in Europe."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Boston Tea party

Emma's class have been rehearsing hard for a play of the Boston Tea Party. To those that don't know what this is (probably applies to everyone who is not from the Northeast of America!), it was a protest by colonists in Boston (or was it Dunkin Donuts employees?) about taxes on tea. On December 16, 1773, after officials in Boston refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, a group of colonists boarded the ships and destroyed the tea by adding the milk before the teabag had time to brew properly.....
Sorry, couldn't resist......they destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor. The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War began near Boston in 1775 which ultimately lead to America's independance from Great Britain. Smart move, who knows what would've happened if independence hadn't? Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts wouldn't have existed (Brits prefer tea to coffee), which would not be good. But at least Hershey's chocolate and baseball may not have existed either, I suppose there's an up-side to everything....
Anyway, I digress.

We went to see the performance this evening. Emma played a British soldier who, for some reason, I imagined would have a broad North Yorkshire accent ("Now then, We don't want no trouble")

All the kids did really well, making the best of only having one microphone which they had to pass around to each speaker. I did a bit of filming - the results are below.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Last Saturday afternoon we went to watch Emma's soccer game, one of her last games before the end of the season. . She played for the Shrewsbury travelling team, quite a strange name for a team that only plays games in Shrewsbury.... Tony usually attends the games and has become known as the team photographer. He takes pictures of all members of the team, not just Emma, in action and posts them on a website for the other parents to enjoy. Because it was such a beautiful day, I made one of my rare appearances at the game, and did a bit of filming with the camcorder. Its a bit shaky unfortunately. Towards the end of the game Emma did a great pass which setup her teammate to score a goal, but my camcorder was busily trying to refocus itself at the time so I missed it. Oh well....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Making a list...

My parents are coming to visit in a couple of weeks time. So its that time of year when I have to start thinking about the things from the UK that I would like, and cannot get here. So Mam & Dad, here's my list for this year, I hope you can fit it all in your suitcase:

  • Some spring-like weather in April

  • A pub with atmosphere

  • A sandwich without a pickle on the side

  • A driver that understands the meaning of "right of way"

  • A cream bun filled with real, unsweetened, fresh cream and jam

  • A loaf of bread that does not taste sweet

  • A local rugby or cricket team to keep Tony happy

  • An apple pie without cinnamon

  • A decent cup of tea

  • Marks and Spencer

Counting down from 14

Two weeks (and counting) until the kids are out of school and starting their long, 11 week break. In my opinion this is a ridiculously long time. By the time they return they will have forgetten how to read! One thing I will be happy about however is to have a break from the endless homework. Even though its their homework, I seem to have to get involved to some extent every single day. With Rob its not so bad, he asks the occasional math question, which by the way, are getting harder by the day and there will come a point where I will have to say "ask your father". He learnt a long time ago not to bother to ask me about American history or geography so I'm OK there.

Emma is the homework headache. She scrawls at her homework assignments as quickly as she can, and that is when she remembers to do them. I have to keep track of everything she has to do that week, as well as the daily assignments. At the end of the year all the special projects come too - more for me to remember. Then theres the soccer practice, the soccer games, the early morning drama practice, the math club, the concerts....the list is endless. Its no wonder I have no room in my brain for anything else.

School Concerts - you need a strong constitution

Last night we went to see a concert at Robert's school consisting of chorus and band. Rob was in the chorus, although you'd hardly know it - he was hiding amongst a mass of 70 sixth graders. The chorus was quite pleasant to listen to, apart from a strange piece which was basically trying to state the 'Preamble" in time to some music. (To those non-Americans, the Preamble is a brief introductory statement to the US Constitution, to describe the fundamental purposes and guiding principles which the Constitution is meant to serve). But once they sung the more light-hearted stuff, it was quite enjoyable, although "High School Musical" it was not....
The band however, was a different kettle of fish altogether. The kids tried hard and are obviously only just beginners, but truthfully, with "mommy hat" taken off my head, I have to admit that they were pretty bad! It was not helped by the sombre, heavy choice of music, but unfortunately they did sound better when they were tuning up than when they performed (awwww, bless 'em). It was amusing to see the teacher who obviously had aspirations to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra but quite frankly, he was fighting a losing battle. It was all I could do to keep a straight face....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Emily Dickinson - Get a life!

My challenge for the weekend was to help Emma with her end-of-year school project. The task was to create the desk of a famous person. The idea is that the children research their selected person, find out about their background etc, then they place objects that represent that person's life on a posterboard, which represents the desk.

Emma had a whole host of famous people to pick from, including ex-presidents with event-filled lives such as JFK. So who did Emma pick? She picked Emily Dickinson, a poet who was also a recluse. She had no hobbies, she never married or had a family or a pet, she only attended college for 1 year then dropped out because she was home-sick. She basically stayed at home all day every day writing poetry until she died. I challenge you to come up with an interesting desk for Ms Dickinson....