Thursday 31 July 2003

now we're cooking with gas

Oh yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. We have the ability to cook things now! Yeaaaaaahhhhhh!!!! We made our first stovetop meal last night (my famous spaghetti and meatballs) and gazed lovingly at our new appliances. I used to be afraid of gas burners (and I'm still not keen about the idea of an open flame inside my house) and never had one myself. After using them at Paul's house for a year, I've been converted. There is absolutely nothing better - you can control the heat with much more precision and you don't have to wait ages for it to heat up and cool down. Love love love our new hob.

Now here's something I never thought about before today - why don't we have toaster ovens in the UK? My Mom mentioned them to me in an email recently, and I realised that I've never seen them here. My toaster oven was essential when I first left home. I lived in a university dorm that only allowed toasters (and thus, toaster ovens) and kettles in our rooms, so we lived on toasted sandwiches and things involving hot water. I also had a kettle with a large lid you could open, so that it could be used almost like a regular pot. I must have made 100 boxes of Kraft Dinner in that thing. By the way, I love that picture of the toaster oven above. Like you could cook a pot roast in one of those things! Yes, if it was the size of an ice cube tray.

And finally, here are some "during" pictures from our adventures in DIYland. More pics coming soon!

Monday 28 July 2003

death by diy

Who knew that painting could cripple you? You see people like Bob Ross calmly putting brush to canvas, and you think to yourself, gosh - how serene. Meanwhile, I spent the weekend painting and now I cannot bend my fingers and my shoulders, neck, and back are very unhappy indeed. So Bob may not have been painting entire rooms and he's...well, for lack of a better word...dead, but you think that brushing paint onto a surface wouldn't be so harmful to your health. Ha. Have you ever had a small splatter of paint land right on your contact lens? I have, and it's really, really unpleasant. On the plus side, the main bathroom and one of the spare rooms looks fab-u-lous.

Our appliances arrived this morning! At 7.30 this morning, our shiny new fridge, oven and hob (elements) showed up. Unfortunately, the delivery men broke the foot off the bottom of the fridge, so it's being propped up by a piece of wood until they send us a new one. Very fetching. Still, the appliances look lovely and it'll be nice when we can use them. Oh yes, forgot to mention that now we have to wait for someone to come and hook up the gas to the hob, which will probably take another week by the looks of it. Keep those microwave/toaster recipes coming!

Friday 25 July 2003

roughing it

I'm not the poshest girl in town, but I do need certain creature comforts. An indoor toilet, running water, electricity, stuff like that. Having to spend the last 2 1/2 weeks without major kitchen appliances is starting to get to me. I don't want to come across all snobby like, "Oh it was SO awful. I had to order the foie gras because they ran out of caviar. Tsk!" but man alive...I don't think I can eat another microwaved dinner. I have been through the Tesco Healthy Eating range and have dipped my toes into Sainsbury's Better for You meals. (Not literally, that would be gross.) If we lived close to a Marks and Spencer, I'd be fairly happy eating their ready meals every night - they're fab. We did the takeaway/pub meal thing for the first week and although it was fun for a few days, it does get a bit much. I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with decent meals you can make that only involve a kettle, toaster, and microwave. So far, the most creative idea I had was fresh pasta (boiled in the microwave) with a prepared sauce, added some precooked grilled chicken and steamed rocket (arugula), and served it with bruschetta (toasted ciabatta rolls topped with fresh tomatoes, basil, a squeeze of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper, and rubbed with garlic). Help me. I need to eat something that doesn't come in a small tray covered in clear plastic film.

Thursday 24 July 2003

my little pony

I was going through my portfolio and was reading through a chapter I wrote when I worked at Discreet. I had completely forgotten about this:

My friend Gordon found this little equestrian gem in the garbage one day, and she became a bit of a mascot. We called her "My Skanky Pony" and decided that she previously lived in a trailer park. I took a picture of her standing on a windowsill at the office, and decided to use her in any screen shot I could in every chapter I wrote for this particular product. (I also included the word "pants" in every shot that contained text, but that's another matter entirely.)

Maybe I should have prefaced this tale by saying that it was the last thing I worked on before I buggered off to the UK, so the very small and polite rebel in me decided that this was a really funny thing to do. Apparently my team leader was flipping through the manual when it was done and said, "Oh, it's that pony again!" and wasn't entirely amused. It's the only "Easter Egg" (of sorts) I've done, and it still cracks me up.

Tuesday 22 July 2003

what's mine is...erm...

So I went back to my rented house to pack a few things. My grand idea is to move things over gradually by car, thus saving me several pence in moving expenses. The problem with living in a fully furnished flat is trying to remember what's mine and what belongs to the house. Most stuff is easy: the sofa, beds, kitchen table, stuffed squirrel and parrot, and fridge belong to the house. Then there's the complex stuff: cutlery (I think half the teaspoons are mine), other kitchen gadgets (is that my corkscrew?), glasses (I know the Cambridge beer fest ones are mine), and sundries like light bulbs, tape, and batteries (I left half of each just in case).

I do need to be careful about what I take and what I leave. The evil property agents who rent the house to me created a ridiculously detailed inventory list before I moved in. For example, there are sentences in it that say things like "Kitchen cupboard, far left, upper shelf: one saucepan, one metal grater, one pudding bowl, and one collander". If I don't put things back exactly where they were (according to this list), I get charged a fee. Apparently it'll cost them �75 in labour to get a pudding bowl to the correct shelf. It's like living in a very carefully labelled archeological dig, and if anything gets disturbed, it'll disrupt the space-time continuum. Or something like that.

In completely unrelated news, does anyone else find it ironic that the new Google toolbar pop-up blocker pops up a message to tell you that a pop-up has been blocked?

Monday 21 July 2003

all the news you need to know

News item 1: Dina and Steve are proud new parents of baby Ben who arrived last Friday. Congratulations! Whee!

News item 2: Jack is cycling from London to Cambridge to raise money for breast cancer research. He's cycling 50 miles in the middle of summer - if that ain't incentive to give him a coupla quid, I dunno what is. You can sponsor him here. He's a good bloke, trained alongside his lovely wife Heather for our Moonwalk last May (and endured a night of 30,000 boobies with Paul), and he's gonna be a daddy. Go donate! Go!

News item 3: Nothing else to report, really; it's just that two news items seemed a bit lacking. I feel obligated to put something of interest here. We went up to Warrington for the gorgeous Debbie's 30th birthday bash, which was really good fun. Russ hired a bouncy castle and hoooo boy, did we bounce! Here's a lesson for you - drunken adults and small children on a bouncy castle do NOT mix. Seriously, it was bad enough with tipsy adults with no sense of balance crashing into you, but some of them landed on a few kids (no one was hurt, surprisingly). The best part was when all the kids chanted "GET OFF" repeatedly to one drunken woman until she rolled off the castle.

News item 4: We have frogs! Paul and I peered into our pond last night and watched all the little frogs hopping around our pond. Or maybe they were toads. We're not quite sure, but it's still pretty darn cool to have all this wildlife in our own backyard.

News item 5: We live next door to Brian May! Okay, not that Brian May but that is his name.

Friday 18 July 2003

so easily amused

Is it a sad thing when you receive an email from your partner saying that the ADSL connection will be connected on Tuesday with a "yahoo!" in the message, and you reply "wheeeee broadband wheeeeee"? I thought not. We don't have kitchen appliances, but we've got digital television and a high speed Internet connection. Hoooo yeah!

Now this "profile" of our neighbourhood is hilarious (thanks to Chris W. for sending this to me). The Food and Drink section is the best. How did they know that we like wine, port, and gin? Spooky!

Wednesday 16 July 2003

the only time you want to see builder's crack in your house

In an attempt to rid our house of evil Artex, we've decided to hire someone to do the deed for us. There are some jobs that are worth paying someone else to do, and this is one of them. So here I am, thinking that I'm being very clever by asking five different builders for estimates. Five estimates should be plenty; then we can pick whoever we want to do the job. Two of these builders haven't even bothered to show up for the estimate. One guy stood me up not once, but twice (I feel so used) and another has rescheduled for tomorrow after phoning me to say he was so busy, he forgot to show up yesterday. Am so not amused.

We also had someone in for an estimate to replace the windows. Normally, double glazing (as they're called here) salesmen are pushy hard sellers who won't leave until you sign something. The guy we had reminded me a lot of Jack Lemmon's character in Glengarry Glen Ross. He had an air of despair about him, a melancholic weirdness that almost said to us "Go ahead and get our windows. See if I care. But actually, I do care because I've got to pay my stinkin' bills and it's been 8 hours since I've had a drink and oh god I am so tired; why didn't I retire 10 years ago?" They were very nice windows, though.

Monday 14 July 2003

it's not that bad, really

We recently started a collection of blogs here at work (sorry, they're not on public servers), with the intent of providing an informal forum for people from various departments to interact and share news/views/issues. It's interesting to see people's reactions to the concept of blogging. A few people have put a disclaimer of sorts in their first entries stating that they don't normally do this sort of thing because there's something inherently nerdy about blogging. Bloggers have too much spare time and an unhealthy desire to share the intimate details of their lives with the rest of the online world. Do we? Well yeah, probably on the most part. But not all of us.

I think there is such a diversity in blogging style and content that you can't simply lump everyone into one category of exhibitionists with a lot of time on their hands. Quite a few blogs I've come across are indeed fairly self indulgent (I am not excluding myself), but there are some real gems of excellent writing out there. Some blog writing about everyday things can be as entertaining as articles by Dave Barry or Dan Savage. Some blogs provide better (more detailed, thoughtful, and thought-provoking) news coverage than most major broadcasting corporation's news sites. In fact, some news is broken on blogs before the big whigs get wind of it.

Yes, there are a lot of blogs that consist of nothing but entries like "I bought a new skirt today", "here are 500 pictures of my cat", and "here's a list of songs that make me cry". There are sites out there that ramble on about DIY, puppies, and babies for goodness sake. With pictures! We blog for various reasons, we write about a million different things, which are read by a million different types of people. A blog can be about anything; not necessarily the minutia of boring people's lives in painful detail.

In other news, I took pictures of Paul's stripped wallpaper this weekend and more "during" shots should be available on here soon. Hey, I never said that my blog was a literary gem.

Friday 11 July 2003

i thought i was gonna burst

Now that I've seen it in print on her site, I can finally say it here...

YIPPIE WOOHOO HURRAH AND CONGRATS TO JACK AND HEATHER! Yes, that's right - your two favourite Kiwis are expecting a mini Kiwi in March. How fab is that? I'm thrilled to bits for them both.

Now I'm convinced of my fertility goddess powers. If you want to have a baby, be my friend. You'll be up the duff in no time. And if you Google for "up the duff", you'll find this blog. Quite good stuff!
our house

Pictures of the new house can now be seen here. Please keep in mind that these are "before" shots, and try to keep your laughter down to a minimum. The house is very sensitive, you know.

Thursday 10 July 2003

warning - contains images of rude green fabric

Now I know that I'm probably going to hell in a handbasket (with matching shoes) for finding this funny, but I can't help it. The headline alone is going to make me giggle for hours. Enjoy this scintillating article from The Sun here.

Wednesday 9 July 2003

what, you mean television isn't real?

Here's my advice for those of you who are, like myself, new to the world of DIY. Don't believe all those programmes like Changing Rooms, House Invaders, and Trading Up. You cannot paint an entire room, floor, cabinets, tiles, and windows in one day. You know all those shows you've seen where they take 2 feet of MDF, a bucket of paint, and a couple of yards of fabric and transform a grotty bedsit into the Taj Mahal in an afternoon? It doesn't work that way in real life! I can't believe that television has lied to me. I feel so let down, and I felt it was my duty to pass this information along to you, my beloved readers. Excuse me while I go and throw Artex at Anna Ryder Richardson.

I'm here to talk about real life DIY; DIY done by real people who only have a slight clue about what they're doing, based on watching several hours of the Discovery Home and Leisure channel. For the next few weeks, I shall bore you all witless with endless stories about pulling down dado rails and stripping wallpaper. With pictures. Today's lesson is painting: why you can't slap a gallon of it on whatever surface you're trying to change and have it over with in an hour. I'm painting our beigy brown 80s kitchen cupboards and so far, I've sanded and put on the first coat of melamine primer. That's right, it's taken me 20 hours to put on one coat of primer. Why? Because I got back to the house after work, sanded and washed down all the cupboards, and by the time I got the primer on it was around 7pm. Since you have to wait 6 hours to apply the second coat, we thought it was a good idea to go back to Willingham and eat pizza and drink gin and tonics instead of hanging around the new house until 1am. Tonight: coat two and the painting of the kitchen tiles (no primer needed! Hurrah!).

Tuesday 8 July 2003


We are now officially homeowners! Some nice young men came and packed up Paul's stuff, moved it to our new house, and went on their merry way. This is definitely the way to move - we spent yesterday morning sitting in the sun eating breakfast, and watching them load furniture onto the truck. I was a bit nervous about seeing the house empty (some places look truly dire when there's no furniture hiding its sins) but we were both pleased with it after we did a thorough inspection. It needs a lot of redecorating ("before" pictures are currently on my camera); one of the movers actually cut his finger on the Artex sticking out of our stairway wall. Nasty stuff. Even with its cake frosting Artex, lack of furniture (most of it is in the garage while we redecorate), outdated bathroom suite (I've never seen a dark blue toilet and bath until now), and dado rails, it's wonderful. And it's ours.

By the way, does anyone want to rent my cottage? It's now listed on the slimeball weasel's property agent's web site here.

Saturday 5 July 2003


Get ready to go awwwwwwww. Click here to see pictures of our visit with Micky and Susan's wee one, Aidan.

Friday 4 July 2003

it's all so terribly exciting

It's hard to believe that we're moving house on Monday. Well, more Paul than me - we'll stay at my cottage until the end of this month while we redecorate. After 17 years of renting (I dread to think how much money I've wasted paying someone else's mortgage), I'm finding it a bit strange to think of myself as a homeowner. In a way, it feels like a huge relief. The past two places I've lived in have been furnished, so I've had to be very careful about not breaking or spilling anything. I'm incredibly clumsy, so this has been a difficult and stressful task. Although I don't plan on running through the new house smashing things for no good reason, at least I know that if I break something, property agents aren't going to yell at me and charge me extortionate fees.

It's been a while since I've had a place that felt like mine. Renting definitely gives you a sense of being in someone else's space but it's been much more apparent since I've moved to the UK. I came here a poor peasant immigrant girl, with nothing but a potato, my work permit, and a Canadian credit card. Okay, substitute "potato" for "a few boxes and a couple of suitcases of stuff" and you get the idea. I've amassed a few things since moving here, but I've had to live with other people's decor (need I remind you about the stuffed squirrel and parrot?) and use everyday items that don't belong to me. I'm so looking forward to living in a place of my own, filled with things we've bought ourselves and decorated in a style we've chosen. I will spend time in our garden, watching things grow and naming the 22 goldfish in our pond (you know that one day I will get bored enough to actually do this). I can't wait to wash my car in our own driveway. Most of all, I'm so glad that we no longer have to go back and forth between Northampton and Cambridge, packing bags for a couple of days here and there. Happy girl, me.

To top it all, tonight is curry night and baby ogling with Micky and Susan. As Jack always says, life is good. And then he usually puts his headphones back on and swears a lot.

Thursday 3 July 2003

he's all man, i'm sure

Prince Edward visited Toronto recently, and threw the first pitch at a Blue Jays game.

Even I don't throw like that, for goodness sake.

Wednesday 2 July 2003

i thought it was getting too quiet around here

After a few days without any new comments, I thought either everyone stopped reading my blog or there was something amiss with my commenting system. Well hurray you all still love me (oh shush, you do) - I needed to put my comment code back in my template and all seems well now.

Sorry 'bout that.
adding more people to my Sleep Deprived Friends list every day

Welcome to the world, Andrew Duncan Florio! Presenting the first sproglet of my good friend Tony and his lovely missus Mary Evelyn in Toronto. All together now: "Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww."

you obviously need to get out more and meet real people

Whilst filling out an online survey on the site (I was after the �50 Amazon voucher prize), this question popped up:

Um. Yes.

Tuesday 1 July 2003

looks like rain

Wallace has started up a new feature on his blog called "How's the Weather?" This appeals to me both as a Canadian (we can't stop talking about how it's either too hot or too cold) and as a person living in the UK (we can't stop talking about how it's either too rainy or too cold). Go contribute; I'll wait here for you.