Thursday, 25 March 2010

meet the flintstones

The power went out this morning. I said, "I'll do some sewing", which would have been a grand idea if my sewing machine had a battery back up. Ah. Yes. "I wish we had a stovetop kettle" I sighed, before realising several minutes later that a pot with water in it would do precisely the same thing. Then I remembered my beloved Bialetti espresso maker - I could make coffee! Except that I buy my beans whole and grind them in an electric mill.

THIS is what modern living has done to the human brain, people. No wonder the world's in such a state.

Monday, 22 March 2010

tally ho, jolly good, bob's your uncle

So I did a terribly English thing recently that I've never done before: a car boot sale. To us North Americans, this is basically a yard sale out of the back of your car. Usually held at venues with large grassy areas or big parking lots, you drive your car up and you can literally pop open the trunk and sell your wares or you can set up a table. Ours was at the local cricket pitch, and I stumped up the five pounds to get my spot amongst the other sellers.

Just like back home, people swarmed the sale in the hour or so leading up to the "official" starting time. Looking for early bargains and the pick of the best ("best" being used very, very loosely in some cases) items, people crowded around my table rummaging through boxes and bags as I unloaded. "How much for this?", someone asked hurredly, waving something at me. "Erm, what is it? Oh, a sealed boxed set of books.£2?" I had no clue. I'd never done a sale like this here and really had no idea what to charge for anything, let alone be able to come up with prices as I was unloading the car. I quickly realised that I was severely undercharging, blurting out prices randomly. I hadn't even had my Thermos of tea yet, and there was the small matter of a baby in the back of my car who may or may not settle down to nap nicely in her seat during the sale. I had my float in a biscuit tin sitting in the boot, and a man peered over at it excitedly and said "Oooh I want to know what's in that!" "My change", I answered, at which point he left looking glum and probably went off to buy a solitary used running shoe in consolation.

A woman came up to browse through some girls' clothing I was selling, and I asked what size she was looking for. She pointed at her granddaughter and said, "She's 2 1/2". "Sure, I've got size 2 and 3 here. Would you like me to show you what I have?" The woman stared at me blankly for a moment and said "But she's 2 1/2" in a voice not dissimilar to something you'd expect to hear from Kathy Bates shortly before she whacked at your ankle with a large mallet. Dejected, she wandered away.

On the most part, people were kind and chatty, and we had a sunny (but brisk) day for it. Thankfully Isla slept through it all and my big Thermos full of tea kept me going. It was good fun, although not terribly profitable. I made £16, on top of the fiver I paid for the pitch. Rather annoyingly, I made £50 on eBay the following weekend, selling things from the comfort of my warm sofa and a glass of red in one hand. I suppose the benefit to a car boot is that you can get a little money for something that probably wouldn't sell on eBay (old books and DVDs, for example), but it means having to stand by the boot of your car chatting to people who are a little bit mad.

You know, experiences like this ought to count towards your British citizenship, not a silly multiple choice test about facts that even British people don't know about. When are you ever going to need to know what percentage of teenagers in Wales get pregnant each year? Car boot sales are one of the ultimate British experiences, along with pub lunches, discussing the weather at great length, and complaining about bad service to your family/friends but not actually saying anything to the people providing the bad service. All of this I can do with great skill, and yet I still need to take that damn test.

a very filmy catch up

I'm such a naughty girl. I've been a part of Think Parents for ages now, and they've very kindly sent me a bazillion films that we've watched - but I've neglected to blog about. So, here are some reviews of the movies we've seen, with many apologies to the lovely gang at Think Parents.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The Disney film that started it all, the first feature-length animated film has come to Blu-ray. They've jazzed up the colours and backgrounds, and added some effects (like rippling water) that are conspicuously out of place. There is an option to watch the film in its original format (i.e. with a lot of black space around it to fit modern television ratios), or an option to watch it in "picture frame" format with backgrounds to compliment the film and fill in the black space.

It is, without a doubt, hugely dated. Even Jack (who's 5) immediately spotted that it was an old film. However, both Jack and Mia sat through the entire film and enjoyed it. Myself, on the other hand, wanted to rip my ears off after five minutes or so. The songs aren't exactly catchy (the dwarfs' songs being the exception, obviously) and the vibrato helium-sucking voice of Snow White should never, ever be inflicted on anyone. It's, sadly, one of those films that the kids may like but the adults will wander away to do the washing up or regrout the bathroom.

The bonus features include a Disney sing-a-long and game for the kids and, for the adults, a film showing how the original film was made.

Diamond Edition Featurette: Creating Snow White

Clip: Whistle While You Work

Santa Buddies, G-Force and Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure

Santa Buddies: terrible storyline, terrible script, terrible acting, but the kids absolutely loved it. It's almost the end of March and they still force us to put it on for them. It's dogs and Christmas - Jack and Mia couldn't ask for much more in a film. (and they won't get it in this one)

G-Force: another "cripes, is it over yet?" film for the grown-ups but again, the kids adore it. To be fair, it's got its moments and is slightly more clever than most kids' films out there. It does have a unique storyline and is filled with fighting spy rodents. Again, the kids couldn't ask for more.

Tinker Bell: Mia adores this one! It's actually good fun, the animation is fantastic (and is especially impressive in crisp, vibrant Blu-ray format), and I don't mind watching this one repeatedly. Think Parents sent along a pack of goodies to go with the film, so we could host our own Tinker Bell movie viewing party. As Mia was a little young for this, we've saved the Tink gear for her birthday this summer. She's a big fan, so she'll love the invites, napkins, etc.

And last, and certainly nowhere near least, the magnificent film Up. We saw this in the cinema, and the first 20 minutes made me cry. Then I laughed. Then I laughed a lot more. We got this on Blu-ray, watched it at home, and the first 20 minutes made me cry again. Then I laughed a lot again. And again. And again. (We've seen this film a few times now, to put it mildly.)

It's worth every ounce of hype it's received. Like "Wall-E", the beginning is mostly without dialogue, telling the story simply with beautiful animation and music. It's laugh out loud funny (the dogs are brilliant), genuinely moving, and thoroughly enjoyable. It's not as good/slick/innovative as "Wall-E", but I don't know if that was ever its intention. Kudos to Pixar for coming up with yet another film that we, as parents, will be forced to watch a billion times but we won't mind a jot.

Some clips:

Dug the dog

Russell meets Kevin