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Wednesday, 31 December 2003

it was a very good year



Ah, 2003. The year in which we became homeowners and dog owners, we visited California and Nevada, hosted our very first Christmas together in England, and every one of my friends got pregnant, gave birth, got engaged, or got married. I walked through London in my bra, I saw Wales for the first time, was swept away to London for a birthday surprise and saw Gandolf live, and got my very first diamonds from a boy.



In 2003, this site got 729,916 hits and had 60,214 visitors. In 1996 when I first put together a web page (if you want to call it that), I could count all my visitors on one hand.



To all 60,214 of you, no matter how you stumbled across this site, here's to a very good year for us all.

Monday, 29 December 2003

your questions answered



Once again, I have poured through my usage statistics and taken note of particular search strings leading to this site. I shall attempt to answer some of the questions that bring you to my site, with the hope that I can provide some sort of insight to you, my beloved readers. It's in the spirit of the holiday season, an' all that.



1. what kind of life incanada how they spend the time canadian?

Judging by the lack of spaces and punctuation in this query, I'm guessing that this Googler was so keen to gain any knowledge about Canada, good sentence structure went right out the window. Good for you, Googler! Life in Canada, for me, was good. A little chilly, but good. We spend our time just like anyone else, except with more beer, ice hockey, and swearing in two official languages.



2. why do dogs make funny noises when they are asleep?

I've come to the conclusion that dogs do it to freak out their owners. Not only do they make funny noises, they twitch and spasm like they're going into convulsions, and sometimes sleep with their eyes open (usually staring right at you while they twitch and make funny noises). I am also convinced that our dog belches deliberately whenever I happen to be very close to his face.



3. how to hard boil an egg?

One: boil water in a pan. Two: put egg in water, turn down heat slightly. Three: let sit in gently boiling water for about 11 minutes. Four: remove from water and let cool slightly before peeling 'cos it'll be really, really hot. Five: try to enjoy hard boiled egg regardless of the bellowing laughter from your partner who can't believe that you don't know how to hard boil an egg.

Sunday, 28 December 2003

a taste of home



It's official - several Britons agree that tourtiere is darn tasty. I went all Delia and put a doughy holly decoration on top (god help me).







The holidays have been fab and a lot of fun, spent eating and drinking far too much and seeing lots of friends and family. The most beautiful present I received was a diamond and white gold necklace from Paul. The most hilarious (and slightly frightening) present I received was a book from my Mom and Dad called "About My Dog", which is very similar to a baby record book. Although there is no page in which to insert his first lock of shed hair or his first lost baby tooth, it does allow you to record all sorts of information that only the nuttiest of pet owners would seriously log. My favourite Christmas photo so far is this one of Paul's niece Polly. I love it because it sums her up perfectly that day, following me and constantly asking me "What are you doing?" with that inquisitive look on her face. Oh and this photo as well because it reminds me of the Grinch's dog Max when he straps the reindeer antlers to his head (another gift courtesy of Mom and Dad).



We've still got another week off and a lot of leftover chocolate to get through. Somehow, I think we'll survive.

Tuesday, 23 December 2003

have yourself a merry little christmas



Have a fab holiday and may lots of good stuff happen to you in 2004. :)



Festive smoochies,

The broad, her bloke, and the dawg

xx



Sunday, 21 December 2003

it's the most wonderful time of the year



Everyone decided to go to Tesco yesterday. That is, everyone who is a) midly brain damaged and/or had a common sense-ectomy b) clinically insane or c) over the age of 102. People abandoned their trolleys in the middle of aisles as if they suddenly remembered that their houses were on fire. Those who didn't abandon their trolleys used them as battering rams to push their way through the crowds. For some bizarre reason, everyone was in the cheese aisle. It was refreshingly quiet in the gluten-free food section, so I took refuge there for a few moments. I said "oh, excuse me" sarcastically when people shoved into me (that's how rude us Canadians get, really). I did deep breathing exercises to calm down and stop myself from throwing packages of pitted dates at the next person who stopped in front of me for no apparent reason.



Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I just don't know it until it's all over.

Friday, 19 December 2003

ho, ho, ho



I'm all set. Got my tourtiere recipe (thank you Maggie and Terry!). Got my food shopping list done. Have eaten way too much junk food in the past two days, and I don't care. Am feeling splendidly merry without the aid of red wine or a gin and tonic. Spent lunchtime hugging Jasper and telling him that he's the best puppy in the world (including such clever snippets of conversation as "Who's the puppy? You are, Jaspey!"). Have hung the Christmas cards up on a pretty red ribbon on the French doors.



It must be Christmas. Or I'm going a little bit loopy.



Does anyone in North America remember a commercial from about 10 years ago for Cornflakes, where kids leave a bowl out for Santa? The little girl (a la Cindy Lou Hoo) wakes up to discover Santa eating the Cornflakes and she whispers "Shhhh. Ho, ho, ho!" to him and goes back to sleep. They are airing this ad now in the UK, dubbed with the voices of English children who have spent too much time in bad acting schools. No, seriously. It's bizarre.



So spray on the fake snow, hang up your stockings, deck them halls, and steam your puddings. I'm outta here until January 5, and I couldn't be giddier (I will be away from work, but will undoubtedly fit in some time for blogging over the hols). Let the countdown to the end of the work day begin...

Tuesday, 16 December 2003

sorted



We want to see Lord of the Rings: Return of the King tomorrow, but we can only see it after work. This is a bit of a problem because this would mean leaving Jasper alone for too long. My friend Paul G. came up with the following solution:

"bring him - I am fairly sure that he will really enjoy it - mind you - make sure to give him all of the back story first - otherwise he might get a little lost and bored - which would likely result with him chewing the seat apart and taking out all of the stuffing. if he saw the second one he is good to go - just dress him up like a hairy little kid and it will be no problem - buy him a glass of ice and he will be happy as a clam."



Fantastic - I'm booking for two adults and one child right now.

Monday, 15 December 2003

festive blockage



"Thames Water estimates that the annual yuletide feast of turkey, goose, beef, and ham leads to a 25% increase in the amount of fat ending up down the drain."



Mmmmm. Drain drippings.
a holiday plea



Does anyone have a good (i.e. tried and true) recipe for tourtiere? Please leave a comment or send me an email at broad[at]wittydomainname[dot]com. Along with Nanaimo bars, this is my attempt at integrating some Canadian goodness into this year's holiday season.



Well it's either that, or we go out and play road hockey and get really drunk.

Friday, 12 December 2003

bits n' bobs



Heyho, haven't done the Friday Five for a while:



1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays?

Cold weather no - snow, yes. See my snow nostalgia post here.



2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? How, where, with whom would you celebrate to make things perfect?

There's nothing better than being at home for the holidays, but I'm really looking forward to our first Christmas in the new house here. I dearly miss spending Christmas day at my Grandma and Grandpa's house in St. Catharines, Ontario.



3. Do you do have any holiday traditions?

My parents and I started doing stocking stuffers on Christmas Eve when I was a pre-teen (usually after the late night service at church - no really, I've been in one before). Paul and I are continuing this tradition with his parents this year.



4. Do you do anything to help the needy?

Not specifically for the holidays, although I try to do what I can throughout the year (e.g. donating loads of things to the Salvation Army).



5. What one gift would you like for yourself?

I could be really corny and say that I already have the best gift of all - the love of my boyfriend and my dog - but I won't. I am absolutely rubbish at thinking of gifts for myself, as Paul can attest to. I love being surprised and because I have such a crappy short term memory, I find myself being surprised quite often. I'm a bit like Dory in Finding Nemo, really.

Tuesday, 9 December 2003

reasons to be festive



In the spirit of the season, I've added snowflakes to the left menu and changed a couple of colours. Don't say that I don't go all out for you people.



Early on Sunday morning, the fabulously lovely Ruth gave birth to a bouncing baby girl. Naomi is the first child for Gary and Ruth, and another little one to make me all broody. I'm starting to get the urge to dress the dog up in little outfits, for goodness sake. What was I saying? Oh yes, congratulations to you both and we'll be over to make funny faces at your newborn very soon.



After having been around various malls looking for baby-themed presents for various friends, I've come to one conclusion: we need more shops that sell baby-themed presents. It's been surprisingly difficult to find things like baby books and pretty photo albums. Could I find a Christmas ornament that said something to the effect of "Baby's First Christmas"? Heck, no. Back home, I'd probably find this stuff at my local Hallmark shop or I'd just ask my Mom because she knows where to find everything. No, seriously, it's scary. Ask her where to purchase any item, and she'll be able to tell you. This is the woman who found Marmite in Toronto for Paul last Christmas, she's that good. So anyway, I've tried to be as creative with the baby gifts as possible but it's been quite a challenge. If anyone would care to open this sort of specialty shop, please open it near me. Thank you.

Monday, 8 December 2003

threes



My alarm didn't go off this morning, so I ended up sleeping in a bit. Nothing too tragic; it was only an extra 20 minutes. So I got up and started running the shower, which would only provide me with a slow trickle of relatively cold water. Again, nothing too tragic as I used the other shower instead. I knew there was a third thing coming because things always happen in threes. I thought it would be something like running out of toilet paper or finding that we had no skimmed milk this morning*.

*(The latter did actually happen, but I'm over it now.)



Number three - a FedEx man arrives at my door while I was home at lunchtime and hands me a letter. It's from a corporate lawyer threatening to take legal action because I put samples of manuals I worked on 18 months ago on a Tripod personal web site that nobody visits (or so my stats tell me). Apart from the fact that this is unnecessarily dramatic (I know the Americans are a litigious people, but this is silly), it really hacks me off to think that ex-colleagues couldn't drop me a note or pick up a phone to ask me to remove the files. It was obvious that the samples were part of a professional portfolio, and I included the company's copyright information with the excerpts. I now understand that this violates the NDA I signed when I joined the company, but did this warrant a heavy-handed letter couriered to me from some lawyer in Ohio?



When I left that company, I could have slagged people off in my exit interview, but I didn't. I didn't badmouth anyone because a) I have never disliked anyone enough to bitch about them to someone I barely know in HR and b) there was no point. I was moving on to another company, I had made some great friends at the former, and there was absolutely nothing to gain by burning bridges. I didn't think anyone there harboured any bad feelings towards me, but maybe that's just me being the innocent Canadian that I am.



Although this wasn't really the nicest thing to happen to me (and things like this do put a bit of a damper on my view of the human race and makes me want to run away to a desert island with my dog and my boyfriend), it does convince me of one thing: I have a really fantastic job. It has its moments of lunacy and frustration, but I do love my job.



And now I'm wondering if I can get sued for talking about an incident in which someone is threatening to sue me. Damn.

Thursday, 4 December 2003

shift



I have one final assignment and a portfolio to submit for my MA course, and it's due in about two weeks. Four weeks ago, I worked out a strategy. I had a plan. I was a woman with time on her side. I could do one section of the assignment/portfolio per week, and I'd be finished on time. Hurrah, I thought. And now it's four weeks later and I have no idea where the time went and now I'm starting to panic.



I am suffering from Procrastinatory Paralysis; a condition in which the subject has been unable to complete a task and eventually experiences the inability to get her arse in gear. Symptoms include: an aversion to looking at the pile of paper and textbooks on the desk next to you, a sudden interest in any activity that doesn't involve essay writing, a heightened sense of urgency (for all tasks with the exception of the task that has a rapidly approaching deadline because that one doesn't exist la la la I can't hear youuu), and the inability to fall asleep quickly because your brain won't shut off for the night.



Cure: get my arse in gear.

Tuesday, 2 December 2003

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow



We watched a television show with Billy Connolly in the Arctic last night, which was good fun (do try to catch any of his "Around the World" tours on television or DVD - they're hilarious). He was in the snowy wilds of the North West Territories, and oddly, it made me nostalgic and homesick. I didn't grow up in the NWT nor have I ever been there, but most of the programme was about snow. Lots and lots of open space and snow (and bears, but they don't make me nostalgic, really).



I miss how silent the world becomes after a snowfall and the squeaky crunchy sound that your boots make when you step onto a snow-covered surface (and the slight thrill of being the first person to leave a footprint). I remember the snowsuits I had as a kid - the one piece snowsuits that always made you feel like you had to pee the second your Mom zipped you up, and the two piece snowsuits you got when you were a bit bigger. Both styles made arm and knee bending impossible, and you had to complete your outfit with a toque, probably knit by an older relative (complete with a giant pompom on top). I had a Krazy Karpet (a bright orange sheet of thick plastic) that was likely pulled off the market for being hazardous to children, while other (older and cooler) kids skidded down the hills on inner tubes. I miss the quiet beauty of big fluffy flakes drifting past my window in the evening. I never thought I'd say this, but I miss Canadian winters. To a point.



Do British people get nostalgic for rain if they move to a drier climate?
stop, thief!



I generally review my Web stats for three reasons: to find out how people stumble across this site, to giggle at amusing search strings, and to check for twonks* who are stealing images (and bandwidth) from my site.



If anyone knows how to a) find out who is linking to images on this site and b) prevent people from doing so, please let me know. Paul found something that I could do via php scripts, but I don't think I can do that unless I start hosting this page on my own server (as opposed to Easily's).



*(The hijacked image has been renamed; another bandwidth pirate has been thwarted. Victory is temporarily mine!)

Friday, 28 November 2003

american turkeys



Happy Thanksgiving, my American friends. Although I still maintain that we (Canadians) have a much better deal because our Thanksgiving is in October (i.e. not close enough to Christmas to make you think, "Bugga, I've got to do this all again in a month"), I wish our neighbours to the south a happy turkey day. My friend Paul G. sent me this article about a failed veggie Thanksgiving - well worth the read for a giggle.

Thursday, 27 November 2003

woman on a mission, coming through



I turned to Paul in the car today and proclaimed, "I'm going to the gym after work today, and YOU can't stop me!" Not like he was preventing me from going to the gym, but it sounded much more dramatic and effective this way. It sounded a lot better than saying, "I don't feel like crap today, so I might haul my Canadian arse to the gym for the first time in a month". I've been plagued by a wacky combination of allergies (hurrah for the first frost!) and RSI (boo to working on a computer all day, every day for the past 6 years). And I've been really, really lazy. I discovered that it's a lot more fun to skip the gym, go home, and eat lavishly prepared gourmet dinners accompanied by a bottle of red wine. Who knew? Although it's been a lot of fun, it does create a dilemma - eating rich food and drinking wine combined with no exercise makes Lisa sleepy and devoid of energy. Eating healthy, drinking on weekends only, and exercising makes Lisa feel much peppier and alert. Plus, I gotta find me a yoga class 'cos I really miss it.



So if you find me visiting the water cooler/toilet every hour or so and doing the sun salutation at my desk, you'll know why. Or not, if you don't read this blog. Then you'll just think I'm being weird(er than normal).

Wednesday, 26 November 2003

and we never once ate a leek



[A much more detailed and possibly more entertaining account of our holiday coming soon. With pictures, even.]



Wales was fantastic; as rugged and breathtaking as all the brochures promised. While it poured rain here the entire weekend, St Davids remained sunny and crisp. Of course we felt smug - we were prepared to spend 2 days walking in mud and torrential downpours. Instead, we had glorious walks along the coastline and Jasper got to frolic in the sea for the first time. We walked, we ate, we drank. It was good.



Oh yeah, and England won some sorta rugby thingy on Saturday morning. Paul was overjoyed; I fell asleep during the match twice (only because I wasn't feeling well). I like rugby, actually. It's a sport you can follow and enjoy without knowing much about the rules. It also helps to have a partner who used to play rugby, and who is incredibly patient (and who explains stuff really well). Plus, some of those players are really dishy. Well they are.

Friday, 21 November 2003

leeks and daffs



Somehow "we're all going on an Autumn holiday" doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but it's still pretty exciting to be off for a long weekend. We are heading to St Davids, which is the furthest city west from England whilst still remaining in the UK (confused?). Never having been to Wales, I enlisted the help of friends and people who claim to be from Wales (yet have no discernable Welsh accent) and the consensus was that the Pembrokeshire coast was well worth a visit. Armed with newly purchased waterproof fleecy things and boots, we will be trekking around the countryside for the next four days. In the pouring rain, no doubt.



They have hills in them there parts and I haven't seen a hill since...since...well, since we were in Kent two weeks ago, but normally we go a really long time without seeing hills. Jasper will love it, and I'm giddy at the thought of walking along coastal paths and over rugged hills. Rain or shine.



Until Tuesday, then.

Tuesday, 18 November 2003

gah!



Too much to do, too little time. Deadlines at work, I am a judge/team lead for the STC Europe Competition (which is nearly, but not quite as exciting as Eurovision), and I have to submit the final assignment for year one of the MA programme I'm doing in four weeks. I. Am. Stressed.



On the plus side, my fabulously wonderful boyfriend has been cooking dinner the past few nights (Has the novelty of being with someone who can cook worn off yet? Heck no!), and we are off to Wales on Friday for a lovely long weekend. Oh, and that cat up my nose feeling seems to have vanished and never did develop into anything.



So what am I bitching about? Can't remember. Too tired.

Thursday, 13 November 2003

sneezing my way to the weekend



Paul's niece Polly very proudly announced to me on Saturday that she was over her cold, and displayed the inside of her nose for me to prove her point (don't you just love that age and wish you still had that same mentality sometimes?). Then Paul's other niece/goddaughter Grace started sneezing on Sunday and looked a bit weary. Today, I woke up feeling like someone filled my body with wet cement and just for extra kicks, shoved a cat up my nose, spawning a day long sneezing frenzy. I have a deadline at work and I have my 2.5 favourite Kiwis to see tomorrow night; I have no time for this so-called "cold" nonsense.



Away wit' ya.

Tuesday, 11 November 2003

behold, my powers have expanded



Not only is everyone around me getting pregnant due to my fertility goddess powers, all the lovely ladies around me are getting shiny new rings on their fingers. Congrats to Russ and Debs who got engaged in New York last weekend! They flew across the pond for Russell's birthday, where he popped the question to his gorgeous girlfriend. Awwww bless.

Monday, 10 November 2003

spam spam spam spam spam spam and spam



For those of you who were using the lisa[at]wittydomainname[dot]com address to email me, please use broad[at]wittydomainname[dot]com from now on. My Yahoo and wittydomainname addresses are getting spammed to death (which is quite a feat considering I never use either address to sign up for or register for anything). After filtering through 95 junk emails yesterday, I've decided to stop using Yahoo and switch to the new wittydomainname address and start using my Pipex address as well.



I'll switch back to Yahoo if I feel the need to learn about reducing my debt, obtaining pharmaceutical drugs without a prescription, enlarging my penis, or meeting Christian singles. Having said that, I cannot wait to see the Google hits I'll be getting this month.

Friday, 7 November 2003

sleepworking



I am ridiculously tired today. Like someone put lithium in my tea this morning tired. My limbs are heavy, I can't concentrate, and if I closed my eyes right now, I'd be snoring in another 20 seconds. I have no idea why; it's as if someone woke me at 2am and made me go to the office.



Just to keep myself amused and awake, here's the Friday Five:



1. What food do you like that most people hate?

Sushi (it is NOT raw fish, you people!) and as my friend Paul G. knows well, plastic cheese slices on a bagel.



2. What food do you hate that most people love?

Raw celery. I know Paul and I were made for each other 'cos he also hates celery.



3. What famous person, whom many people may find attractive, is most unappealing to you?

Kylie Minogue. It's those teeth. Brrrr.



4. What famous person, whom many people may find unappealing, do you find attractive?

Hmm not everyone likes George Clooney, I suppose.



5. What popular trend baffles you?

The Atkins craze. If carbs (like rice) make you fat, why are Asians generally slimmer and less prone to obesity-related diseases than Westerners?

Thursday, 6 November 2003

oooooh aaaahhh



Pictures and mpegs of hot firework action can be seen here.



We started the evening off at The Boathouse pub (or the "boot hoose", as people insist I call it) then wandered over to Midsummer Common for the fantastic fireworks display. What fun! What excitement! Especially when the wind kept blowing the fireworks over the crowd, causing burning embers to fall on us like hot and slightly painful snowflakes. The evening ended at the Hotpot, one of our favourite Chinese restaurants. It was great fun, and no one told us to "SHUSH!" this time.



I would like to take this opportunity to clarify something I mentioned a few days ago. Chris W. did not, in fact, actually propose to Melanie; he just bought her a nice shiny ring but never actually popped the question. Chris W. would also like me to mention that he's very romantic and that you can indeed be engaged without asking your partner to marry you or having an impending wedding of any sort. This is, of course, the same man who last night shouted out "Jack! If you can hear us, lift up your ponytail!!" really loudly in a large crowd.

Wednesday, 5 November 2003

hours of amusement



Thanks to Chris G. for passing this URL around work today. Build your own warning/safety sign!



Tuesday, 4 November 2003

bits



For today's limited attention span-inflicted society, I will present today's blog entry in short bullet point form. Feel free to watch commercials in between reading bullet points.



  • Highlight of my day: Many thanks to Pete, who was genuinely surprised to learn that I'm over 30. Or at least he seemed genuinely surprised.

  • Ooooh shiny: Melanie's got a beautiful new ring, thanks to Chris who finally proposed and splashed out for a lovely, sparkly piece of jewelry. Very jealous, me.

  • You know you're getting broody when: Your friend's baby dribbles and you think it's really cute, and/or, you pass around your friend's baby's little boot going "awwwwwwww".

  • Best costume award: My Mom said that she had a kid come to her door on Halloween with a bag on his head like the Unknown Comic (is anyone else old enough to remember "The Gong Show"?).

  • Silly question award: Whilst lying on a table half naked with 8 acupuncture needles protruding from my back, the osteopath asks, "Are you comfortable?"

  • Stay tuned: Fireworks pictures and perhaps a short mpeg or two from Guy Fawkes night coming soon!

Saturday, 1 November 2003

maybe they'll get the hang of it one day







I bought way, way too many chocolate bars, especially considering the fact that our doorbell rang a grand total of three times last night. Trick or treating is a relatively new concept here, and I think the spirit and excitement of Halloween that we experienced as kids hasn't quite made it across the pond yet. The first lot of kids consisted of three children with felt pumpkin masks and one small child not dressed up at all, but they did think our pumpkin was cool. The second kid was a little girl dressed as a witch with her mum (also dressed as a witch), who had the life scared out of her when Jasper came bounding out the door. When I gave her a handful of candy, she looked at the package of jelly babies amongst the goodies I just gave her and said "I don't like these." Ah, kids. The third lot of kids were two girls in skull masks (you may have noticed that the English concept of dressing up for Halloween is limited to ghosts, goblins, witches, and the like) who barely mumbled thanks when they walked away. There was a distinct sense of apathy, almost like these kids were forced to haul themselves around the neighbourhood by irate parents who wanted an evening alone. There was no sense of fun or that excitement of getting another handful of chocolate. There were no laughing children running around the streets comparing their loot and telling their friends which houses were giving out the good stuff (or warning them about the houses that were giving out healthy things like fruit or dental floss). No one had a pumpkin on their doorstep except for us.



Considering all the Halloween-related items that have been in all the shops lately, I was a bit surprised that this Halloween thing hasn't caught on that much. I knew that trick or treating hasn't been a tradition here, but seeing all the costumes and decorations in the shops made me think that maybe it was becoming more popular. Perhaps bonfire night overshadows this North American import, and kids experience the same fun and excitement on Guy Fawkes night instead.



Well, at least my workmates will be pleased to see all the leftovers in the kitchen on Monday.

Friday, 31 October 2003

throwing fun-sized chocolate bars







WoooooOOOOOooooooooooo! It's Halloween, which can only mean one thing - I'm gonna be stuffing myself with little tiny chocolate bars all weekend long (I may have inadvertently bought a few too many for any potential trick or treaters this evening). *cough*



I've thoroughly enjoyed all the comments from my previous post, and will eventually come up with a list of films I've enjoyed. In keeping with the Halloween theme...



Nine Horror Films* That Didn't Make Me Shout at the Main Characters and Actually Had a Good Storyline:





  • Carrie - I first saw this film on television when a babysitter let me stay up late. I was so frightened by it that when I went to the bathroom afterwards, I was convinced that a bloody hand was going to reach up and grab me (for those of you who haven't seen this film, this relates to the final scene). You can spot a Brian dePalma film a mile away (he's a big fan of using split screens), but he has a knack for creating some of the spookiest images on screen. Look for the scene when Carrie's in the bath after she returns from the prom, and note her mother standing behind the door as she closes it. It's a very quick shot, but incredibly unsettling. Dressed to Kill is another great dePalma creation.

  • The Exorcist - Okay, I admit that there are scenes in this film that make me giggle when I watch them now (particularly the scene where Linda Blair is prancing up and down on her bed chanting "Lick me! Lick me!", but maybe that's just my juvenile sense of humour), but I think this is one of the scariest films ever made. You'll see a theme with my list of scary films; most of them involve religion. I find films about demons or with religious images to be extremely disturbing, which is odd considering that I didn't come from a religious background. It's the "quieter" scenes that I find most frightening - particularly the scene where the priest is listening to Regan speaking in tongues on his tape recorder.

  • The Shining - The parody of this film was on last night's rerun of the Simpsons, which is a must see if you enjoyed the original. It's not Jack going insane nor Shelly Duval's chain smoking terror that frightens me, it's Kubrik's talent for putting together vividly unsettling images. Those twin girls will give you the willies for days after seeing The Shining.

  • Poltergeist - Again, there are scenes in this film that make me laugh out loud now, but when I was 11 and saw this film for the first time, I almost cacked myself when that clown doll came to life. I HATE films where inanimate objects come to life and start wreaking havoc. I like this film because it's got a creative plot (talk about your child getting lost in television - literally), some clever lines, and for its time, decent effects.

  • Nightmare on Elm Street - The sequels were beyond inane, but the original was rather clever. It's a good story with a delightfully malevolent villain. Plus, it's got a very young Jonny Depp for comedic value.

  • Jaws - Not really a horror film per se, but this film scared the life out of me when I was a kid. My Dad thought it would be really funny to joke that Jaws Jr. lived in our swimming pool, however that summer no one would come over to swim and I was terrified of the deep end for months afterwards. It's tense. It's bloody. It started a trend of really bad sequels (anyone go see the 3D sequel? I did.), but this still has the ability to keep you on the edge of your sofa.

  • Amityville Horror - I mentioned that I am frightened by films with scary religious themes, inanimate objects coming to life, and this genre: hauntings. Especially films about hauntings that are supposedly based on a true story. I will never forget the glowing red eyes. Brrrrrrrrr.

  • Sixth Sense - An excellent plot twist, a film in which Bruce Willis is actually bearable, and a fantastic script. I couldn't sleep after seeing this film; the thought of dead people popping up around the house kept me awake for hours. What a shame that Unbreakable and Signs paled in comparison.

  • The Omen - Again with the scary demonic horror films. An absolute classic (and originator of many 666/Damien jokes) starring one creepy kid and one of the scariest soundtracks ever.





*keeping in mind that I haven't seen many horror films in the last 5 years or so.

Wednesday, 29 October 2003

throwing tomatoes



Johnathan Ross has asked us to list the worst films ever. I usually rate a film's horribleness by something I call the "Plane Factor": if it's so awful that I won't even watch it on a long haul flight, it must really, really suck.



Nine Films That Failed the Plane Factor:



  • XXX - Vin Diesel in the dullest action film ever. I opted to watch the channel that shows the flight's altitude, speed, and external temperature for 2 hours instead.

  • Daredevil - I'm starting to think that anything Ben Affleck touches turns into a diva with a large caboose, or a very bad film. I believe reruns of Cheers and sports news won out over this one.

  • The Blair Witch Project - Perhaps the back of the airline seat in front of you is not the best screening medium for this film. Still, I think the sign of a bad horror film is when a) it makes you giggle and b) you utter a small "Yay!" every time a main character gets bumped off.

  • Titanic - 2 1/2 hours of mindless drivel combined with a theme song by Celine Dion. There is nothing more sinister and tortuous on this earth.

  • The Avengers - I am a huge fan of the original series and I love Uma Thurman. This film was truly awful. Truly. If this was showing on a flight, I would have grabbed a parachute and headed for the nearest emergency exit.

  • Unbearable Lightness of Being - Or as I like to call it, "The Unbearable Length of a Film". I couldn't even make it through the book. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy many lengthy arty films ("Camille Claudel" is one of them) but this one is painful.

  • Jacob's Ladder - I saw this film for free and I still felt ripped off afterwards. It's one of those films that makes you say to your cinema companion, "What the flaming hell was that about?"

  • Tomb Raider - Not even Angelina Jolie's incredibly pert boobies could keep me watching this film. It's been shown on two flights with two different airlines I've been on, and it was on television recently. I still haven't made it all the way through to the end.

  • Moulin Rouge - I wanted to like this film. It had Ewan McGregor in it. It looked luscious but was too corny to digest.





What's on your worst film list?

Monday, 27 October 2003

boo!



The tradition of trick or treating has slowly made its way across the pond. We don't expect many kids to come round this Friday night, but I'll go get some little chocolate bars just in case. Otherwise, it'll mean handing out Oxo cubes, bags of microwave popcorn, and packages of instant oatmeal, and I have a feeling that wouldn't be terribly popular with the kids. We're also going to carve a pumpkin, and I will be introducing Paul to the North American culinary delight known as roasted pumpkin seeds. It is my mission to frighten the English with our odd pumpkin-related Autumnal cuisine.



Although extremely tempted to dress up our dog as "Jasper The Friendly Ghost" for Halloween, I shall refrain.



Friday, 24 October 2003

words fail me



When something tragic happens to someone you care about, your immediate instinct is to do or say something that will help somehow. But this is futile because it's impossible to find the words to express how heartbroken you feel for this person and there's nothing you can do to make things better. We end up feeling useless (especially when you have to resort to impersonal communication like emails) and you really wish that you could wrap your arms around this person until the tears are gone.



I feel so lucky that I've never had to go through such pain, but I feel so awful that there's nothing I can do. Except be here.

Thursday, 23 October 2003

easy peasy



I have a confession to make. I ate mushy peas yesterday and enjoyed them. And I wasn't even drunk at the time. Granted, they were mixed together with a bunch of other things so they weren't that apparent. I made Silvana Franco's mushy pea fishcakes last night, and they really weren't half bad. A spoonful of mint jelly and a tin of mushy peas are mixed into mashed potatoes, then poached haddock is flaked into the mixture. This is formed into patties, dusted with flour, dipped in egg, and then coated in seasoned breadcrumbs. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown, and serve with lemon mayonnaise (and with chunky chips, of course).



Whilst searching for information on mushy peas, I came across this story. I thought stuff like that only happened in cartoons.

Wednesday, 22 October 2003

bouncing baby boy



Just so you know what I was going on about in Monday's post, here's a picture of Aidan in his bouncy jumpy chairy thingy.







(Photo courtesy of Aidan's Mummy and Daddy)

Monday, 20 October 2003

mythology 101



Before I begin today's post, I feel the need to clear up two things. One: sushi is not raw fish. It's like saying every sandwich has to be ham and cheese. Sushi means yummy sticky rice, sometimes wrapped in stuff, with other stuff in it or on top of it. Two: I don't hate cats; I'm just allergic to them. I've known some very fine cats in my time, and most of them aren't evil creatures who are secretly forming plots for world domination and only love you for your ability to provide food.



Ah, I feel better now. Thank you.



One of the most entertaining things I've seen for ages was Micky and Susan's little one Aidan in his bouncy chair. It's a very clever little device that you hook to the top of a doorframe (like a vice grip) with a seat suspended from elasticized straps. The baby sits in the chair and can bounce him/herself up and down for hours on end. What's even more fun is watching your dog watching a baby bouncing up and down in this thing. I'm sure he was thinking how similar it looked to the fun ball on a rope he likes to swing around in our garden, except on a much larger scale. Luckily, Aidan wasn't mistaken for a chew toy at any point during the afternoon.

Friday, 17 October 2003

gah!



Whilst searching for a recipe for apple crumble (I know it's easy; I just needed the proportions), I came across this site.



It's funny and slightly disturbing at the same time. Exactly what I look for in a good web site.

Thursday, 16 October 2003

i leave town, and it all goes to pot



I was surprised to read this news story from Montreal on the BBC news site today. I'm shocked and dismayed! I cannot believe it. The Exploited are still touring? Gads.
moving



Heather felt her baby kicking yesterday for the first time, and said that it was a bit of a strange sensation; like being poked in the tummy from the inside. A thoroughly exciting and wonderful moment, and a very cool thing indeed. I wonder what it's like to feel something moving around inside you that's got a life of its own. It must be surreal, although I suppose the fact that it's your baby takes away most of the weirdness. Maybe it's more like being a kangaroo and having your offspring in your pouch, rather than something more akin to John Hurt in "Alien".



Ah, the mysteries of life.

Wednesday, 15 October 2003

insert clever title here



The following post doesn't really have one particular point, but contains random things I felt the need to blog about. If you prefer something more intellectually stimulating, you could always watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire while you're reading this, and laugh smugly at contestants' incorrect answers. "B? B?!? Hah! I can't believe he went for B! *snort* Fool." - like that.



Random thought 1: The director of software development has written the numbers 41 and 10 on pieces of paper and stuck them to his door. This is his way of basking in Wales' victory over Canada in Sunday's Rugby World Cup match. His taunting would have been more effective if a) I knew that Canada played on Sunday and b) I actually cared about sporting events. I think I may have spoiled his fun somewhat when he strolled up to me and said, "Sooo...how was YOUR weekend?" and I had no idea what he was on about.



Random thought 2: I am starting to feel really guilty about leaving the house. Whenever I turn around to lock the door, my dog stares at me with a look that says, "I cannot believe that you are abandoning me. After all those hours of love and pure joy that I bring you, you turn your back on me and walk away. You, madame, are a monster. Good day." Alright, I am exaggerating slightly. It's more of a look that says, "Ruh?" in a Scooby Doo kind of way, but it makes me feel like a monster nonetheless.



Random thought 3: I made a fabulous hot and sour soup for lunch today. Here's the recipe, if anyone's interested.

2 pints of good stock (I use vegetable or chicken)

Bamboo shoots (1 can)

1/2 block of tofu (get the silky kind if you can find it)

Handful of shiitake mushrooms

Handful of straw mushrooms (you can buy them in cans here)

4 tbsp. soy sauce

5 tbsp. rice vinegar

Chili oil or tabasco sauce (optional - add to taste)

1 tsp. sugar

Cornstarch/cornflower disolved in cold water

1 beaten egg



Bring the stock to a boil and add the bamboo shoots (julienned), tofu (diced into small cubes), and mushrooms (sliced thinly). Simmer for a couple of minutes then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, tabasco, and sugar. Simmer a few minutes more. Just before serving, mix in the cornflower water well and stir in the beaten egg quickly. It's low fat, good for you, and it tastes good. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 14 October 2003

facelift



And as you've probably noticed, I've changed the look of this page slightly. When I found myself sitting with my nose pressed up against the monitor to read my blog, I figured that it was time to make it a bit more user friendly. So clean the noseprints off your screens and enjoy.
good stuff



So to counterbalance my last story, here's something nice (nicer for me than for you, but I'm sure you can appreciate it nonetheless): we're off on a short holiday next month to Wales. I've never been and it looks lovely. We're heading to St David's in Pembrokeshire, for a few days of stunning coastal walks and ooohing over fantastic scenery. We're taking Jasper with us, so we had to find a dog-friendly place to stay. I'm surprised by the number of places that allow pets (maybe this is less common in North America) and even more surprised that most searches on various accommodation sites include a "dogs allowed" checkbox. We're staying at the Twr y Felin hotel (don't ask me how to pronounce that), which looks quite nice and interesting. We are really looking forward to this break; I always get a little bit of cabin fever this time of year and need to get away from it all.



Another bit of good news: I've been promoted and got a nice raise to go with it (Paul also got a raise - it's appraisal time at our company this month). It's not just the money and the prestigious new title that make this a good job; I work with people who give positive feedback about my work and I have a manager who is supportive. After all the negative attitudes I encountered at my last job, I almost want to burst into tears (or song, depending on my mood) whenever I get a performance review here. It's nice. I think I'll stay for a good long while.
whutevah



One more for the "A Little Bit of Customer Service Training Would Be Nice" file: my gym. LA Fitness is a large chain, which should be staffed by professional and courteous exercise experts, but is instead staffed by the most apathetic people you will ever encounter. I just got off the phone with one of the many surly receptionists, and the conversation went something like this:



Me: "I'd like to book a spot in the body combat class tonight, please."

Surly girl: [pause] "You wanna speak to who?"

Me: [a bit louder] "I'd like to book a spot in the body combat class tonight."

Surly girl: "Which class?"

Me: "BO-DY COM-BAT"

Surly girl: "It's fully booked. You wanna go on the waiting list?"

Me: "So how does that work?"

Surly girl: [confused pause] "Uh..."

Me: "Would I just show up before the class and see if there's a spot?"

Surly girl: "Yeah."

Me: "No thanks, that's okay. I'll try again next week."

Surly girl: "Okay."



Last night when I went to the gym, the receptionist very artfully ignored me whilst she discussed a broken fingernail with the woman in front of me. I'm not exaggerating. So why do I go there? Because I need a gym, it's close to my house, they have good equipment, and they had a deal on recently (no joining fee). On the plus side, at least the people who go there are normal squidgy people like me. You won't find women putting on makeup whilst strolling on the treadmill at 1mph, or muscleheads admiring their pecs in the mirror whilst they grunt loudly. It serves its purpose and they do have some nice perks - just try to avoid the receptionists.

Monday, 13 October 2003

what a turkey



Thanksgiving dinner went very well (although the pumpkin pie drew strange looks) and as an added bonus, we've got a whole pile of turkey leftover. Not only have I introduced Paul to the tradition of Thanksgiving dinner, I have also introduced him to another North American tradition - post-Thanksgiving hot turkey sandwiches. Mmmmmmmm.



On Saturday, we took Jasper on a walk and showed Paul's parents around town. Pictures can be seen here.



If you need me, I'll be sitting here digesting for the next week or two.

Friday, 10 October 2003

the royal family must be smaller here



Speaking of king sized beds, did you know that a king sized mattress is much smaller here than in North America? You can get "super king" beds here that are 6 feet wide, which to me, is a regular king back home. I think you can buy "American" beds here, though. And that's my interesting UK fact of the day. No, thank YOU.



It's Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday, but we're having the big turkey dinner tomorrow. I am being culturally oppressed and have to work on Monday, so I have to rearrange the traditional "stuff yourself with way too much food and drink, then collapse on the sofa with your trousers undone" festivities to tomorrow instead. Oh the plight of an immigrant girl like me. We're having 8 friends and family over, plus 3 dogs. I have a feeling that it'll turn into an episode of the Brady Bunch (cue dog running away with an entire roast turkey in its mouth with wacky incidental music in the background).

Thursday, 9 October 2003

menage a trois



As I mentioned the other day, I bought a body pillow at Costco. It's a long, tubular pillow that you can wrap your arm and leg around whilst you sleep on your side. It's supposed to be better for your back, and for the very lonely, can provide something to snuggle up with on those cold winter nights.



So I've got this anatomically incorrect sleeping partner next to me, and it is indeed comfortable. There is one problem, however - there ain't room enough for the three of us. The pillow takes up quite a lot of space and it's been infringing on Paul's territory. It ends up on the floor halfway through the night, and sometimes ends up under the dog if he comes up to greet me in the morning. The only solution is to get a super king size bed so we can all fit happily. Or get rid of the pillow, but nobody wants that.
crime doesn't pay



Mugger snatches star's dog dirt



Either this guy was really, really stupid, or there is a market for this sort of thing. If it's the latter, I don't want to know.

Wednesday, 8 October 2003

if it ain't DIY, it's dogs



Yeah, I know this blog is getting boring but DIY and the dog take up our lives. Perhaps one day we'll take up an exciting hobby like bungee jumping into tanks of angry bees, but in the meantime, there are updated pictures of Jasper on his picture page here (see Sept. 21 and 28 for the latest pics).
an open letter





To the people of California,



Yer kiddin' me.



Sincerely,

Chuckling in Cambridge

Tuesday, 7 October 2003

big buys



We went to Costco with Paul's Dad on Saturday. Everything was big. I mean really big. As we walked through the warehouse, I kept thinking of Marge Simpson saying, "That's a great price for 12 lbs. of nutmeg!" The thing is, I'm not entirely sure if prices are substantially better buying in bulk but we stocked up anyway. We got decent bagels (not the doughy horrible things you get at Tesco), 24 cans of Diet Coke, 2 massive bottles of olive oil, a barrel of soy sauce that would have made my Grandma proud, a huge bottle of tobasco sauce, Oreo cookies (now I can make the base for my Nanaimo bars at Christmas), cheese the size of breeze blocks, Christmas wrapping paper and bows, and a body pillow (no, I'm not pregnant but I do have a bad back). We would have bought more if we didn't need to leave room for our suitcases and Jasper. Now we're stocked up for years to come, and are well prepared in the event of a tornado or other such natural disaster.

Friday, 3 October 2003

ooooh aaahhh



More DIY pictures (and probably the last for a good long while) can be found here.



There are some final bits and bobs left to complete (skirting board in the living/dining room, for example), but the big stuff is done. For now.