Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bargains galore!

I just love the US for shopping, and the best thing about shopping! We get coupons through the mail, coupons in the papers, coupons on the web and coupons in the stores. They are everywhere. If you ever pay full price for an item then you are just not trying! Example: Yesterday I bought a suit - trousers, jacket and top. Original cost close to $300. The price I paid after store discounts, special offers and coupons was $110. You gotta love it!!!

Good riddance

So this week saw the end of the Harold Shipman's life. To those that don't know, Harold Shipman was a doctor who killed at least 215 elderly women and men, by injecting them with an overdose of heroin. This was usually preceded by him pursuading the unfortunate patients to include him as the beneficiary in their will. He was sentenced to multiple life sentences.

He was found this week hanged in his cell. He had hanged himself using his bedsheets. The media interviewed some relatives of the victims and they were disappointed, saying that he had not had to suffer in jail for long enough, and his death was an easy way out.

Well I just don't see it that way. OK, so I'm sure being in prison is not as much fun as being on the outside, but its not as though the prisoners are fed bread and water and forced to work 18hrs a day in chain gangs. They get all sorts of opportunities to educate themselves, train for a trade, etc. They get fed reasonable food although admittedly not gourmet. And all of this costs money, tax payers money. In my opinion good riddance to the man. That's one less murderer to clothe and feed.

Its just a game

Emma's soccer season has started and so far she has played 2 games. She loves playing and really looks forward to each game, wanting to do well but above all to have fun. Usually she achieves this. However earlier this week the two coaches had a disagreement at the end of the game and were shouting at each other. This really put a damper on the kids excitement, and in my opinion, is totally inappropriate. This is the first example we've seen of over-competitive parents at sports event and it was unpleasant. These are 8 and 9 year old girls, they enjoy playing and the aim should be to encourage them, help them develop their skills, get some exercise and have fun. What kind of message are the coaches sending to their teams if they scream at each other because they did not like the way the game went?

An apple a day...

Fall in New England is the best time of year. The weather is usually just about perfect, with daytime temperatures in the 70s and very little in the way of rain. The bugs have all gone somewhere else along with the humidity.

Last weekend we went to Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow. It was obviously the place to be -there were hundreds of cars. But to their credit, they had set up a couple of fields for parking, with an efficient one way system and walking paths for pedestrians, so we managed to get in and out quite quickly.

After a disappointing start where we treked to the other side of the orchard to pick "Royal Gala" apples, only to be greeted by bare branches, we eventually managed to find trees weighed down with ripe red apples. The fun part was climbing the ladders to get to the best ones at the top of the trees. Emma enjoyed doing this, Rob was a bit more cautious and Tony stayed with his feet on terra firma holding the bag.

All in all we had a nice day out. So far this week we've had apple crumble/crisp, stewed apple with icecream, stewed apple with custard and today we are having apple pie. And we still have half a bagful left. I wonder if its possible to make an apple curry?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Strange tastes

In an African Journal of Ecology research paper, researchers described how they filmed a baboon eating a fruit bat.

While baboons are known to eat reptiles, birds and some mammals such as hares, they have never before been recorded eating bats.

"What was really intriguing about this, which may be pure coincidence or not, is that both the bat and the baboon that ate it were pregnant," says Mr Stanley.

In my non-expert opinion I would say that, the fact that the bat was pregnant was irrelevant. The significant fact was that the baboon was pregnant, and in my book there is no mystery. What pregnant woman hasn't longed for a tuna and banana pizza, or a fruit bat sandwich at some time during those 9 months?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Save Money..Live better

Checkout an amusing website called To those that don't know, Walmart is a huge chain of discount stores in the US. It attracts a wide variety of people, but with extremely low prices, it does tend to be a magnet for some, shall I say, less refined characters. The wesbite posts pictures of actual Walmart customers and/or their cars. I've included a few examples below, but you should visit the website for a laugh. The website author's comments often are funnier than the pictures.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Where's me washboard? (Part 2)

Following on from my last post, I felt I had to add this little gem from the Fast Show. This sketch is a skit on the olden day music hall comics. Without wishing to sound prejudiced, I would say that you probably have to be British or have a British sense of humour to appreciate it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Where's me washboard?

With the likely prospect that I will be without a washer for a few weeks, thanks to Lowes and their inadequate stock system, I have rediscovered the joys of handwashing. Emma and I spent a pleasant half an hour washing our "smalls" with the aid of two buckets and a bathtub. There's something quite therapeutic about sloshing clothes around in soapy water, and you can also give them a good ol' thump if you are in that kind of mood (lots of thumping occurred yesterday).Did I mention what happened yesterday when my dryer (without matching washer) was delivered?? The delivery men started up the dryer to demonstrate its smooth operation, and all we could hear was a series of loud thumps and bangs. Turns out they had decided that a good place to store their electric drill while carrying the dryer was inside the drum. Needless to say, the new dryer, complete with its dented interior, will be going back to Lowes (probably much more promptly than it arrived).

Anyway, however delightful it is to do the weekly wash in a bucket, I think I will have to learn how to use the local launderette - it will be like being back in Uni. The only positive thing I can see about the prospect of spending an hour watching my washing go around is that there is a Dunkin Donuts next door. Should make it bearable at least.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Will this ever end?

Apparently the tribute concert for Michael Jackson, set to take place in Vienna this month, is rescheduled to take place in London in June 2010. Oh for goodness sake. Enough already!!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Best laid plans...

We are in the process of replacing some of the appliances in our house. To be exact, the dishwasher, fridge/freezer, washer (aka washing machine in the UK) and dryer (aka tumble dryer in the UK). They were all due to be delivered tomorrow. However nothing goes to plan does it?

Last week I advertised my old washer/dryer and fridge. I washed every piece of laundry that there was in anticipation of being without a washer for a few days. Of course both the washer and dryer sold immediately, so I have been without them for a full week. My baskets are filled to overflowing now with dirty laundry.

We sold our fridge today and 2 men came to pick it up. Now this is not one of those wimpy little British fridges. This is a standard but huge American fridge, 3 feet wide X 3 feet deep X 6ft tall. Try getting that through the front door and down 4 steps. It was a bit scary, and I swear my heart stopped at the point where the fridge toppled over and threatened to land on the man underneath.

Anyway, I have just received a call saying that my new washer has not come in yet and they don't know when it will be available. So I guess I can either go to a launderette, ask my neighbor if I can wash my weeks load of washing in her washer, or hand wash it all in the bath tub. And I have no idea when my new washer will eventually turn up. Great.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Curriculum Night at the Middle School

We have just returned from curriculum night at Robert's middle school. Firstly I have to comment on the parents. I was unimpressed with the number of parents who left their cellphone on and, of course, received calls during the 1.5 hr meeting. Can't they turn those things off just this one time? How important are you that you have to be reachable every second of the day?

I also question the priorities that were used when creating the syllabus. For example, we were presented with a whole slew of "fluffy" subjects such as Band/orchestra/chorus, Art, Drama and Latin. My interest was peaked when the principal described a subject called Technology Engineering, which taught how to design something, proptotype it, test it and perform analysis on the test results. What a perfect introduction to Engineering! There is a huge need for good engineers in this country (and probably elsewhere in the world)...finally a subject that is of some real world use. However I found out that, due to cutbacks, only some of the students would be able to do this subject this year. Why on earth didn't they cut back on something like Drama or Latin instead? The only thing you can do with Latin is become a Latin teacher...or help Dan Brown with his latest novel. I don't understand their priorities.

It amazed me that 30 years on from when I was in school, and 3000 miles across the ocean, and the math teachers all look the same (male, slightly stern), the English teachers all look like your grandmother (poofy hair and a sing-song voice). The only thing that was different from my schooldays was that the Geography teacher was not a guy with a beard wearing a corduroy jacker with leather elbow patches....

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hershey's buyout? Snickers to that!

I heard a Wispa today that Kraft foods had made a bid for the UK chocolate maker, Cadbury's and it had been rejected. Hershey's (the US chocolate maker) and Nestle (don't they make baby formula?) are rumoured to be looking at a Double Decker counterbid for Cadbury with Nestle taking gum and Hershey taking chocolate" ..... OMG!!!!!

As my mother will be quick to remind me, I have already blogged in the past about the virtues of UK chocolate and how much I hate Hershey's. But this is of world importance, and this news has pushed all the wrong Buttons with me, so I feel it is my duty to express my opinion once again.

It will be disastrous if the joint Hershey/Nestle consortium buy out Cadbury, because Hershey's chocolate is revolting. Eventually every piece of chocolate sold under the Cadbury name will smell like vomit, and taste worse than that, as Hersheys chocolate does. So if there must be a buyout, my backing goes to Kraft foods. Because they don't have too much of a name in chocolate already, they are more likely to preserve the brand. And from a purely selfish point of view, they are a global company so they will probably make the real Cadbury chocolate bars available in the US, unlike the fake Cadbury bars we get here now, that are actually made by Hersheys. I hope the Hershey's/Nestle bid is Flakey and they Fudge up their offer.

There, I've said my piece. I'm off to order a stack of Crunchies from Amazon as an emergency measure....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cannon Mountain

Last Saturday it was extremely misty with showers, so we had to be inventive about things to do to entertain ourselves. We decided to take the cable car ride up the side of Cannon Mountain. Now I know that people usually do this on a clear day, as the guide said on the ride up, "on a clear day we can see 4 states from the top". On Saturday we were lucky if we could see further than the door of the cable car. Visibility was officially listed as zero at the top of the mountain, as you can see from the photo

But having said that, it was interesting to experience just how bad the weather at the top of the mountain could be. The wind was whistling, the rain was horizontal, and the cable car swung wildly on its ropes. We sat in the cafe at the top for a while looking at the weather out of the window, then we rode down again. Quite a nice way to pass a couple of hours on what was a pretty dismal day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"It was Gooorgeous!"

We went to the Flume Gorge on Sunday in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire. What a wonderful place. The Flume is a natural granite gorge extending 800 feet at the base of Mount Liberty. Towering granite walls rise to a height of 90 feet. The Flume Gorge was discovered in 1808 and now the attraction consists of a 2 mile walk through the gorge past thundering waterfalls. A wooden walkway has been constructed along the gorge so you can get close to the action. The views are impressive; here's some photos from our visit.

Six feet under

So Michael Jackson has finally been buried.

Thank goodness for that. Can we move on now please?

Why the long face?

While in New Hampshire I went horseback riding with the kids. Oh what fun. We were introduced to the horses, and alarm bells went off in my head when I found out that my horse was named "Stormy". The guide muttered comments such as "you'll be OK as long as you are firm with him", "don't worry about whacking him with the end of your reins if he refuses to obey you" ....

We had an extremely bad start. The guide held onto Emma's horse ("Andy") and led him while riding her own horse ("Belle"). Robert's horse "Token" apparently would follow the group as long as Stormy was following. Stormy decided he liked to eat every piece of vegetation that he passed. I spent the first 10 minutes of the ride leaning over his head trying to pull it up with my reins, digging my heels in his side saying "walk on", or "get a friggin move on" or something similar, and flicking madly at his flank with the end of my reins. Token refused to follow because Stormy wasn't following, so Robert made similar motions with his horse too. The guide started to lose her composure and a few statements like "I can't help you if you don't help me" were uttered under her breath; I wasn't sure if she was addressing us or the horses.

But eventually I got the hang of things and learned how to pull my reins to keep Stormy away from the grass. We trudged up the hillside and through mud that came up over the horses' ankles (do horses have ankles?), and I was glad they were doing the walking not me. All in all, it was pretty enjoyable, with my only complaint in the end being that it doesn't half make your bum sore....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A tight squeeze

We went to the Polar Caves last Sunday. The Polar Caves were formed about fifty thousand years ago as the third continental glacier descended over New Hampshire's White Mountains. When the ice retreated, it left behind an amazing series of caves and passageways for visitors to explore. Self-guided tours take you to the rock garden and nature trails and through the caves. Its great fun, and a bit scary too. The caves have names such as "Fat mans misery", "Orange Crush", "Lemon Squeeze" get the idea. Me and the kids tried them all, but Tony followed "Party Poopers Lane" instead of trying out the Orange Crush. Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How could he?

To all the Coronation Street fans out who is the most unpopular character on the street? Not David Platt anymore that's for sure. The man who gets the Boo's from me is Norris Cole! How could he?! Poor Ramsey :-(