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


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


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.

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, " 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


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.

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?"


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.


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.
all the news you need to know

News item 1: Vintage chutney passes taste test (you know, you could just go buy yourself a new jar at Tesco for �1.29)

News item 2: B&Q wrote back to us today, apologising for the "inconvenience" and their lack of customer service, and enclosed �20 worth of vouchers. I will go into one of their shops for future purchases, but will probably never order anything online from them again.

News item 3: No one has thrown anything at David Blaine today. My only question is: why not?

Thank you, and goodnight.

Thursday 2 October 2003

thanks, i think

We received a letter today from the Spawn of Satan, or as some people call them, Marks and Spencer. They apologised for not keeping us informed about our order, but said that "all furniture orders are subject to availability and occasionally we do experience delays". That wasn't really our point. We were miffed because not only did no one bother to keep us informed, no one could tell us why our order was delayed or give us an accurate date for delivery. Saying "it'll be here in 7-10 working days" every time we phoned wasn't particularly helpful. There was also the fact that no one really seemed to care, or offered to come up with any sort of compromise when it was apparent that we had been given the runaround. The final straw was when we were told that we'd have to go all the way back to the shop where we placed the order in Milton Keynes to get our refund (which is over 40 miles away). So after all of this, we get a letter saying "sorry for not keeping you informed". Oh yes, and an offer to send us a �25 voucher - if we ring the customer service department and request it.

So ring them I did (why they couldn't just send the voucher with the letter is beyond me), and our voucher is in the post. It also didn't help that the letter was just addressed to Paul, even though I was the one who wrote (and signed) the letter of complaint and the original furniture order was in both our names. No, the letter and voucher certainly doesn't make either one of us feel terribly compelled to shop at Marks and Spencer again. Well, except to spend the voucher.

But not a penny more.
beat the stuffing out of him

I go home at lunchtime every day to feed Jasper and keep him company for a bit. When I came home today, I opened the kitchen door and discovered this:

Doodles's head was attached by a thread or two, and most of his insides ended up scattered around the floor. Needless to say, Doodles has now gone to the big Toys R Us in the sky.

Wednesday 1 October 2003

i knew that

I've been waiting two weeks for my mobile to be activated. I ported my number over to Vodafone, and was starting to get annoyed that my SIM card still wasn't activated. Every day, I checked my phone to see if the "inactive SIM" message was still displayed on my screen. I finally got fed up with waiting and rang the Carphone Warehouse to find out what was happening. I rang the department I spoke to when I first got the phone, and was told I needed to speak to someone in customer service. After waiting on hold for several minutes (and being forced to listen to "Connected" by Stereo MCs repeatedly), someone finally answered, listened to my tale of woe, said "Hold on a minute", and I was suddenly on hold again waiting in a queue to speak to yet another department. Getting my "fed up customer" hat on, I was mentally preparing the angry letter I was going to send to complain about the runaround I was getting. A few more minutes later, I got through to someone and explained that my phone still hadn't been activated. After a few clicks of the keyboard, she said "Is your mobile switched on?" "Yes." "Can you switch it off then on again, please?" Welcome to Vodafone, my mobile said. Alrighty then.

In my defense, I'm sure most people don't switch their mobiles off while they're waiting to be connected. I left mine on since I got it, expecting it to activate itself at some point. Anyway, I'm still in a huff because I'm sure I could hear this woman's eyes roll when I told her that my phone was working now. Perhaps I will forgo the angry letter, though.