Thursday, May 31, 2007

Using what's in the fridge, vol 3

Take out a pint of Tetley's.

Pour it in a pint glass, and dump in a shot of Bulleit.

Savour the flavour. Who needs dinner? Every beer's a sandwich.

(note...I just typed "savor the flavor" and it looked wrong to me. I've officially crossed over.)

Plate o' shrimp, vol 4

I was typing an email to my friend Tim, who has recently established the identity of "Big Hands" so he can comment here. As I clicked send, my iPod shuffled to Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes.

Damn cosmic unconsciousness.

And frankly, I think the cosmic unconsciousness is a little full of itself. I mean, we're already on volume four, not including when Doug wet himself, and it's only been two weeks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Great moments in my history

And they're not even made out of curtains.

I had shorts to match.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Achievement

I believe I completed the New York Times Sunday Crossword today. We'll know tomorrow, but I can't find any mistakes and I have a letter in every spot.

I'm breaking out the champagne.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Plate o' shrimp, vol 3

I looked up from my desk and greeted Anouk, my Dutch colleague. I looked back at my computer, and instantly an email popped up from Holland.com advertising some of their hotels.

Damn cosmic unconsciousness.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Using what's in the fridge, vol 2

Cut up half an onion and some garlic. Put it in a pan with some hot olive oil and some Penzey's chicken taco seasoning. Added a little cayenne. Sauteed.

Put about three cups of stock in there, added a frozen chicken breast and let it poach. Shredded up the chicken, added a jar of salsa.

It makes a passable soup. Who knew?

Great moments in my history


Are those or are those not the coolest culottes ever? (That's rhetorical, FYI.)

Hckhee is a famous kooking men frlrlrom Barthelona....

It's a good thing I'm not the sort to snicker in juvenile amusement at people with accents, because today I had a supplier visit that was like sitting in the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. Belgian, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese and English hotel reps told us all about their lovely properties in some of the most comically stereotypical accents I've ever heard. It's a shame we didn't have a Swedish hurdy-gurdy and a little Irish leprechaun to complete the bill.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Taste Sensations

White stilton with blueberries tastes like cheesecake, except not as sweet. If you put it on a pepper oatcake it is sweet-savoury-delicious. Creamy. Yummy. Migh. T. Fine.

Plate o' shrimp, vol 2

I'm doing a NY times crossword puzzle on line. The common thread is all stuff from The Sound of Music. And I'm watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and they just went to commercial. It's a Skoda ad and there are bakers creating a lifesize Skoda car out of cake and other pastries. And they're playing Julie Andrews singing Favorite Things in the ad.

Damn cosmic unconsciousness.

Using what's in the fridge, vol 1

I have had a freakishly long week (it's Tuesday,) and I was able to come home by 7pm tonight. Unheard of for the days I've had lately. I don't really have much in the fridge, and I did not want to order takeaway or go to the grocer. Here is what I cobbled together.

Pasta Carbonara

I put some pasta to boil. It was either spelt or whole wheat, but I'd emptied it into a jar and I don't remember which I bought most recently.

Cup up part of an onion and two cloves of garlic, heated up a pan, added olive oil and the O/G and sauteed. Added two pieces of turkey bacon and one slice of parma ham. Seasoned with Aleppo pepper from Penzey's and some black pepper.

Beat one egg, added a teaspoon of milk and some salt and pepper, then some grated parmigianno reggiano.

When the pasta was done, I dumped it in the pan with the onions and bacon and tossed it around, added a little of the pasta water, and after about thirty seconds tossed it with the egg mixture until it all thickened.

Very nice, all things considered, accompanied by a green salad with romaine hearts, scallions, tomatoes and a french vinaigrette. Finished with fresh strawberries. Yum.

Now let's hope the egg was still good.

Great moments in my history


Wherein our heroine whimpers in fear at the scary dune buggy.

I am not prone to fits of tears. It happens, but not often. Therefore my family loves to tell the story of how I wailed like a banshee during the entire dune buggy ride in Michigan. I have compensated by learning to drive very fast and crying to get out of speeding tickets.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Another cultural difference

My whole life, I've been making decisions. I see a situation, and I decide what I'm going to do.

In the UK, people take decisions. This seems a bit passive to me. It sounds like someone puts thing in front of them and then they pick one up and run with it. It sounds like, ultimately, the responsibility isn't all yours....it is also the responsibility of the person who gave you your choices.

I believe I will continue to make mine. It feels more independent.

Gawker Slowdown

I do not understand the belligerent binge drinking that the English do. I'm watching a tivoed programme called Bashing Booze Birds about women who binge drink and then get into fights. It's nuts. Here are all these women in high heels and "fashion" rolling in the gutter and tripping on nothing and getting hauled off by paramedics. And they're swearing and clawing and pulling hair and biting off ears. Because someone was looking at them funny. Or dancing with a man they thought they'd like to be dancing with. Or for weaving into them when they're trying to stumble down the street. And they're not just young. They just filmed a woman around my age getting fined £80 for bodily assault outside a nightclub.

I know it's not all of the English. I suspect it is primarily an economic/class sort of thing, based upon what they're wearing and the number of piercings and tattoos on the women they're interviewing. But I don't know this. It's just a suspicion.

It's ridiculous, really. Pathological anti-social behaviour is completely inappropriate and yet it permeates club culture here. Why spend two hours tarting yourself up in a miniskirt and corset just to end up on telly screaming "F**ck you" at three policeman as they try to restrain you and put you in the back of a squad car. Your drunken screaming sounds like a cat with its tail being pulled. And it looks ridiculous.

Does this happen everywhere else? I did my share of clubbing when I was younger but I don't ever remember doing or seeing anything like this. I don't understand.

Banned Phrase

"Death by Powerpoint" - maybe the first time someone said it it was slightly clever. And I'm not saying I like listening to people drone on while illustrating their points with acres and acres of words on a slide.

But let's face it. If you do presentations, powerpoint is a necessary evil. And unless you're the first person in the history of the world to use powerpoint effectively every single time, you are casting stones at the mirror. So shut up and either a) brush up on your PPT skills and teach us all how to do it right, or b) spend your time thinking of a new way to suggest someone is giving a dull presentation with a wordy backdrop.

You've been warned.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Plate o' Shrimp

So I'm on the New York Times website reading an article/interview about/with Paul Reubens aka PeeWee Herman. And I'm watching a Tivoed version of Campus Ladies (which might be the funniest show I've seen in ages, FYI, but I will wax poetic about that another day.) And in this episode, it turns out Paul Reubens aka PeeWee Herman is playing their drama teacher.

It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness, I tell you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Great moments in my history


I think the snow is talking to us. And whatever it's saying must be fascinating.

I hate snow. It must have been something it said. And just last night I was watching the Sex and the City episode where Carrie is a real-person model and has to wear jeweled underpants on the runway. At the time, I thought, "Who would wear that?" Apparently, I would.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Panorama

I just watched the most amazing programme about Scientology. There's a BBC show called Panorama that does a lot of targeted investigative reporting. This week, they checked into the Church of Scientology. You can read about it, and possibly even watch it here. (Not sure if it allows you to view it from the US, but it's worth a try.)

I'm not about to call it a cult, or suggest it is built on the rantings of a schizophrenic or anything. Nope. Scientology is a true religion. It is the one true way. Seriously. You doubt my sincerity? Watch the video and you'll agree.

Oh. And I'm even more distrustful of the swans now. There are nine of them now that the babies are here. But they are not a cult. And clowns? Just good natured comedians.

Please leave me alone. I'm harmless. I like you. Really. I do.

Great moments in my history

Shadows of my MBA, wherein I stand in the middle of a group of men and tell them what to do

I believe the one not listening to me may be dead now. Just saying.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sunday Highlights

Here is a quick little summary of what I did today. I mean, I'm a blogger. We're supposed to share this kind of mundane crap.

Got out of bed at 935. Woke up around 10.
Had a cup of coffee. Made Eggs Benedict to celebrate Mother's Day (even though my mom is in Iowa.)
Called my friend Patricia. Still not fully functioning, managed to spill an entire cup of very strong coffee with milk on my cream sofa.
Put cushion covers in the washer in hopes of getting most of the coffee stain out.
Cruised US newspapers, which put me in the Visa Waiver strop below.
Blogged.
Ate the remaining gambas pilpil from dinner last night.
Did some laundry.
Cursed at the swan, who was in my neighbor's lawn pecking through their trash and strewing it about. Bastard.
Read my Managing Mergers and Acquisitions prepwork. Became obsessed with my hair hanging in my eyes and went to the kitchen, got out the scissors and cut my bangs. They are much shorter, but eventually they were straight.
Took some time out for a bit of the Economist.
Called my nephew Nick to say Happy Birthday and my Mom for a Happy Mother's Day.
Showered. Got dressed.
My friend Nadine picked me up and we went to the Stables to see Clare Teal. She was great.
Came home, made a cup of tea, and now I'm telling you about my day.
Next on the agenda: a bit of Corporate Social Responsibility reading for my Globalisation lecture on Friday and then bed.

Man, it's a breakneck pace here in MK. We expats live crazy, crazy lives.

Great moments in my history


Say, those are some funky Brady trousers.


It's a Great Day!

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon is now available in the US! It won't be published here in the UK for another month or so, but the knowledge that somewhere out in the world there is another Michael Chabon novel waiting to be read is comforting. And the reviews are good thus far, so I'm hopeful that it will be the satisfying, moving, clever story that wowed me in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

I've preordered it on Amazon here. And should have just enough time to finish it before my pre-ordered Harry Potter arrives.

Have you read it yet? Please tell me it's wonderful.

Waiving Visas

For those who don't know much about it, the Visa Waiver programme is a policy established between the US and 27 other countries to eliminate boundaries between allies. The ever brilliant Michael Chertoff is out there on a publicity tour touting the dangers of the Visa Waiver programme. He wants to get rid of it, or at least hack it within an inch of it's life. Allies are a rarity for us in this world these days, and taking away the VWP is going to be a fast way to lose the few we have. That guy is an incompetent hack and needs to shut up.

Why exactly is this being brought up? Well, because there are lots of people of Pakistani descent who live in the UK and other countries involved in the programme. These people have tight bonds with family in Pakistan, they travel there frequently and the US is afraid of Pakistan because there are Muslims there. Osama bin Laden might be there. We believe there are terrorist training camps there. And we're afraid of Pakistanis living in the UK because there have been a few of them involved in terror plots here.

Fine. Perhaps this is something to consider, but it's not a reason to engage in knee-jerk paranoia. The majority of these people we're worrying about are law abiding citizens and are just going home to visit their aging parents, their brothers/sisters/nieces/nephews and other loved ones. They have no reason to hate us, and wish us no ill.

Yet.

These same people currently face racial profiling, discrimination and even violence when they come home, a hot-button issue in the UK right now . This treatment will only intensify if ordinary UK citizens suddenly have to start doing paperwork if they want to travel to the US. The US Department of Homeland Security's pedagogery will be exacerbating a serious social ill for one of our key allies. This not only jeopardizes our friendship by creating internal political turmoil for the UK government, but we will ultimately contribute to the disenfranchisement that alienates young Islamic British citizens, which then leads to extremism and terrorist brainwashing, thus compounding our reasons to be fearful.

There are also economic ramifications to changing the VWP. Right now, a middle class British citizen can spend their holiday dollars on a trip to the US, and many of them do so...it's easy, they can book at the last minute to take advantage of a good fare, and they love the shopping and the culture and the good exchange rate they get on holiday. But if it's a hassle to get there, these same people will just go somewhere else with their money. You'll also lose money from international conferences and incentive travel....we already have upstanding participants turned back at the border because of teenage drunk driving incidents. If we now have to do paperwork for 1500 people to get them into the country, we'll go someplace else. End of story. There's a lot of money in this business. Other countries will be more than willing to take it from us.

Furthermore, the VWP also encourages global commerce by making it possible for someone like me to go back and forth between our US and UK office to work on a joint project without any cost or hassle to the company. You rescind the VWP, you rescind this, too. Suddenly everyday business will require companies to plan ahead, spend money and do paperwork. Sure, they'll still DO it....they won't divest in their US operations because we're gluttons who can't seem to stop spending and they want to take advantage of that. But if tariffs/trade barriers, and economic slowdowns, and exchange rates and now travel policies make it difficult and less profitable to do business in the US, they're not going to expand their investment there, either. Remember, non-US companies have a choice of where to invest their money. As emerging economies in Asia become stronger, they offer a low cost, educated/skilled workforce and a large consumer base for products...they are attractive markets for investment. US arrogance from years of superpower status has made us complacent to many nuances of the changing global economic climate, and we have begun falling behind in our ability to compete (I'm a Flat Earth believer). It seems really silly to be creating more barriers when we should actually be aggressively finding ways to break down existing ones.

And from a purely selfish perspective, remember...if the US changes their participation in the VWP, that's 27 countries that will soon require YOU get a visa before travelling, as well. Visas cost money, people. And take time. Start planning ahead for that last-minute vacation, and add $150 to the cost of your trip.

What are we really trying to do here? As I see it, we're trying to stop terrorists from getting into the US. Surely, we can find another way to do this effectively. Get more robust databases, share information with allies who are keeping track of potential troublemakers on home soil. Changing the VWP is not necessarily going to accomplish this. If the potential terrorists has a criminal record of any sort they are already flagged and sent home. And even Michael Chertoff tells stories of others who technically qualified for the VWP but who have been turned away at the border because the system found something else that was suspicious. To me, that sounds like a programme that just needs assistance, not cancelling.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Finding the next Abba

It's EUROVISION weekend. WHOOHOO!!!!

Eurovision
is the best thing ever. It's a song competition wherein every nation that is part of the European Broadcasting Union can submit an entry. Since France, Germany, Spain and the UK pay most of the cost of the thing, they get a guaranteed place in the final each year. The next ten spots are given to the top ten from the year before. The remaining countries compete for the final ten spots in the final. There is much scandal this year, as the winners of the competitive set are all Eastern European and the Westerners are miffed. (I mean, they were here first.) Countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East compete, too, though some Arab countries get a bit pissy because they have to recognize Israel if they want to play the game.

Watching Eurovision is one of the favourite annual pastimes of music lovers across Europe. Much drinking is involved. BBC host Terry Wogan is giving a comic play-by-play between songs. The rules say that you can't vote for your own country, so you have to pick your favourite song from the competition and then there is dramatic reading of the results with much cheering. I've decided to join this international festival, and am sipping a martini whilst watching. Canadians, you have access to this, even if you can't compete. Surely you're watching! I bet you can find it online, too, Americans. It's a gem, I tell you.

There have been many pretty, dark women in short skirts singing off key with melodramatic hand gestures. If we were lucky, they had dancers who made equally dramatic gestures behind them, and then they would get in a line and do Brady Kids hand moves creating figures behind the lead. My favorite acts were:

Hungary: Good song, good singer...very bluesy, a gravelly voice and a song that you could imagine listening to.

Macedonia: Very skinny singer in a very short dress, but she had a lovely voice and her dramatic hand gestures were some of the best. Her gams make Haley Scarnato's look dumpy. But in the foreign language power-ballads this one is the best.

Slovenia: An operatic Elvira with a glowing hand. Positively terrifying, and so bad she was good.

Romania: They boldly dressed each of their performers in a stereotype costume of one of the other countries, and then sang in as many languages as possible. It takes balls to have a guy in a bowler hat and a plaid vest singing the English portion of the song without any irony. Yet, somehow they ended with a cossack dance.

Sweden: The lead singer had on a bolero jacket with a feather collar and palazzo pants. He was completely over the top. (Much better than the French, who sucked even if John Paul Gaultier designed their costumes.)

Latvia: Looked like they didn't have an entry, so they went to a pub and grabbed the first six drunks they could find, gave them top hats, black jackets and flowers and shipped them to Finland. Sounded like that, too.

But the best without question was the Ukraine: A total freakshow. Everyone was dressed in mirrored lame costumes, and the lead singer looked like Dame Edna and had a giant star on her head. It was a driving funky dance tune, and made me laugh out loud. They made excellent use of the accordion, as well.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Great moments in my history

Because nothing says, "I own the world!" like a patchwork mumuu smock.

God help me, I'm wearing a tablecloth. Obviously, though, I had no idea that it made me look ridiculous. Perhaps I was too distracted by the Pebbles ponytail. Or perhaps I couldn't see through my chubby cheeks. N.B. This is now what I see in the mirror on low self esteem days.

Great moments in my history


Headbands....fashionable, AND able to keep your hair out of the chocolate.

I told you I was the Rhoda. What bold blending of patterns! What bohemian style! Definitely cutting edge. With a bit of chocolate glistening on my mouth. I hope I wasn't eating off that spoon. Yuck. Please note...my mother claims that I refused to wear anything she asked me to after about age 2, so I can't even blame her for this.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

This week's trials and tribulations

The boiler is temporarily fixed...it makes lots of clicking noise and the pilot is currently lit, but the nice repairman told me that it needs two parts to keep that pilot on, and if it goes out in, say a heavy draft from an open door, I won't be able to light it. The parts are due in tomorrow for installation either Friday or Saturday. In the meantime, I wash every dish as I use it and shower in both the morning and the evening, just in case I suddenly find that the water is lukewarm again.

The plus side of the whole situation is that I've now a) gotten a key to open my meter box so I can give my new power company my power reading, and b) I know how to turn the temperature of the tank down a notch to prevent the scalding that most people get when they use the shower for the first time here at my humble abode.

In other news, I am working with our office Satan on a project, and today I got told off for asking her to sit down to discuss the proposal document content and format. (Duh! Just write a proposal like you always do! I can't believe you're asking this!) Call me crazy...if you've got £2.1m riding on a document and you want to set yourself apart creatively, spending five damn minutes discussing how to do it seems prudent.

The BBC has had quite a bit of fun with video of W looking foolish next to the queen. They equated his visible discomfort in black-tie attire to a five year old boy dressed up for church, they made great fun of the 1776/1976 gaffe, and pointed out that winking at the queen (which they had many shots of W doing) is completely inappropriate.

I have covered the grey roots that were overtaking the rest of my hair. Much needed, as I'd started to look like I'd powdered the top of my head.

I made a bitchin' soup last night that is all cauliflower and curry and tomatoes and onions. It is quite delicious, even if it does look a bit like baby poo.

I have unearthed the cd of photos my brother gave me at Christmas time, and will continue to post great moments in Mindy history in the near future. This week's Feral Series is just the beginning...you will soon see Managerial Techniques, Bold Fashion Choices, MJH - Supermodel, and Take the Picture, Dad. Please bear with me until I tire of this.

Great moments in my history

The huntress has captured her prey

Obviously, I was at least six before I discovered grooming.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Supervising Women

My friend Pam over at the Nerd's Eye linked over to this little gem...I think I'm going to introduce it into my MBA programme. Then maybe the boys will break things down into small tasks so a girl like me can understand.

Funny!

The Landlord

Knowing I was a bit downhearted about being broke, my friend Bethany sent me a link to this to help me get some perspective. (Somehow I feel like I'm watching Mama Gin)

The Landlord

Great moments in my history


Hunting for eggs, Easter 1971

I wasn't raised by wolves, but you wouldn't know it looking at me.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Five from CP


I gave CP (shown here ogling the breasts of our friend KC at my brother's wedding) permission to ask me five questions, what since he was such a good sport with mine. Here are the things he wants to know.

1. Describe in graphic detail the angriest you’'ve ever been in your life. What caused your outrage and why? Do you feel your anger and reactions, whatever they may have been, were justified?

I know you were hoping for some juicy story where I opened some can of whoopass on someone, but that's not really me. I'm pretty good at standing up for myself in the moment so things don't build to full-fledged anger in my relationships. I am extremely easy going, I avoid conflict by not letting things build up, and I don't let myself get worked up over things that don't really matter. Most of the time.

But on occasion, I am also prone to bouts of extreme rage, never at someone but at a situation. The rage manifests itself as a physical spasm and I have to let out a blood-curdling scream, hit something or break something to get it out of my system. The first time this happened was in college... I had all sorts of emotional turmoil and stress going on, and then Cantagallo did or said something that pissed me off and I threw a bottle of my roommate's perfume across the room. (Resulting in one pissed off squeally girl from Waukegan. Talk about a voice that could cut glass. All over some Jean Nate or Love's Baby Soft or Enjolie or something.) This continues to happen when I am under extreme stress, usually for something small and insignificant that just triggers me. It's usually not appropriate or justified...I just reach a tipping point and blow. And what's even more stupid is that people watching have no idea why I'm reacting this way because the trigger is always relatively minor...there's just a lot of back story, usually completely tied to my own neuroses. It's not actually anger building up. It's just emotions taking me over.

2. Who do you like better, me or Dale?

Dale, of course. He's handsome, he's funny he's an A1 certifiable deity in the blogging world, and he is a great flatterer. You, on the other hand, ask pointed questions, are obviously emotionally needy and make me wash my car.

3. Select two areas of your life that you feel need improvement. Discuss.

My wardrobe. I am too eclectic and have trouble assembling a cohesively sophisticated work look, and I need to invest some money in properly fitting clothing because most of my stuff is too baggy. I'd be up for some new shoes while I'm at it, because many of mine are starting to look dumpy.

My finances. I am sick of being broke. I don't make enough money and I don't like to budget. I hate all things associated with money.

4. If someone held a gun to your head and said “DENY JESUS CHRIST OR I WILL BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT!!!” what would you do and why? *In case any of your Gentle Readers are wondering, this very question was posited to me by my sixth grade Sunday school teacher.

I would laugh, because that is a ridiculous thing to say. Your sixth grade Sunday school teacher was an asshole. Then I would ask questions. Deny him what? TV privileges? Dessert if he doesn't clean his plate? Nookie? I mean, what does that even mean?

Likely, the lunatic would then explain (in a shouting rage, of course) that I was supposed to deny that JC existed or that he was the Son of God or something. I would then waffle. Because I don't know. I'm not an atheist. I like the idea of Jesus. I like the things he stands for. I like praying, because it helps me focus and makes me feel better. I like to think that there is a pure force of good in the universe, because frankly I have to watch too much evil in my day to day life. And I would want to know what harm there was in that. Why anyone would be such a prick that they'd make you choose. I mean, why be so angry that you're forcing people at gunpoint to deny something/someone that isn't really causing a problem?

Likely by now the sort of moron who would be issuing this sort of ultimatum would have pulled said trigger, but if they were still listening to me, I'd be getting annoyed. So I'd tell the dumbass he was a stupid twat and should just f**ck off, because no one tells me what to do. And get shot in the head for insulting him.

(NB. You know I separate the concept of JC from Kristians, because they are evil spawns of Satan sent to bastardize Christianity, thus making it impossible for thinking people to ascribe to it. I'd tell your Sunday school teacher that he/she/it WAS the gunman, because they were holding a figurative gun to the heads of normal people by insisting on creating some fringe-whackadoo religion that forces reasonable people to flee.)

5. If you had to take a week long cruise, would you rather go with my parents or the Costanzas? (You have to go alone with whomever you choose.)

I'd definitely choose your parents. They're always nice to me, your father's non-sequitors make me laugh and I'd get to do crossword puzzles and story problems at breakfast. The Costanzas...they're just weird.

Rainy Bank Holiday

It is a rainy, grey day, and since the boiler man can't come until tomorrow to repair the heating/water heater, I am currently under the duvet on the sofa. I went to the gym this AM but now I intend to spend the day relaxing...got some schoolwork done yesterday, and now today is a completely non-work day for me. I am going to watch the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, drink tea and nap. There is a sweet potato in the oven, I have chicken left over from last night, and will be making a curried cauliflower soup for dinner.

There is nothing so comfortable as a cozy rainy day. I know most people would prefer a sunny day for being outside and barbecuing, but I think that this sort of day is better for me. No pressure to do anything, just a slow-paced sleepy afternoon.

Reason number 378 to hate spiders

This is so disgusting I can't even acknowledge I read it. Eww. I've been shaking my head and cringing for the past five minutes. Spiders. Living in his ear. His EAR. Jee.SUS.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Boiler Trouble

The worst part of living in the UK is figuring out the utilities and equipment.

I am having trouble with my hot water. It is either the hot water tank (which is rumbling as it usually does so it is likely just fine) or the boiler. I have to figure out which, decide if I can fix it or need to call a plumber, and then decide if I call on Monday (a bank holiday and twice the price) or risk no hot water for 24 hours. I can shower at the gym, I can boil water, but I am CRABBY about having to deal with this.

Grrrrr.

Why I bring an extra suitcase

After posting about Jello, I decided to go check out one of the online stores of American groceries to see what I could find. I made a little shopping cart of items I'd like. I put the following in:

1 pkg sugar-free strawberry kiwi jello
1 pkg sugar-free orange jello
1 pkg sugar-free jello chocolate fudge instant pudding
1 six pack IBC diet root beer
1 13.5oz box of cheese-it reduced fat crackers
1 16 oz box of zesta saltines
1 16 oz Adam's creamy peanut butter
1 12 oz box of reduced fat triscuits
1 46 fl. oz jar of Nalley's Garlic Crunchy Dills
1 24 fl. oz. jar of Vlasic baby kosher dills
1 2.62oz shaker of Old Bay seasoning

Total? £63.78....$126 to you. Can you believe that?

Sigh. August is a very long way off for replenishment of supplies. You can take the girl out of the midwest, but you can't get rid of that craving for cheese-its. (Velveeta was out of the question...it was another £10.)

Jello - possibly the best product in America

When I was a child I loved Jello. Preferably orange, with canned mandarin oranges in it for a bit of added flavour (or maybe the occasional marshmallow). Jello was delicious...sweet, cool, juicy...and it was served WITH the meal so you got dessert, as well, if you were good.

As I got older, I learned that it was not sophisticated to like Jello so I stopped seeking it out. I made fun of Jello salads that had vegetables (carrots and celery were common), laughed uproariously at the recipes that had meat in them, and refused to eat the thing my mom made with cottage cheese, lime Jello and pineapple.

But if the right Jello was available at, say, a family reunion or church potluck, I would take some and secretly savour every bite.

Then about six years ago, everyone I knew went on Atkins or the Zone and suddenly sugar-free Jello was cool. Diet friendly, sweet and delicious...the perfect treat after a meal of meat and more meat (or a 40/30/30 balanced small-plate special). It was safe to love Jello again. I almost always had little ramekins of jello in the fridge, just waiting for a late-night craving or a refreshing afternoon snack.

Here in the UK, Jello is not available. It's made by Kraft, so I'm not sure why.

They have this fruity stuff called jelly that is supposed to be the same. If you make it from scratch, you have to use gelatin sheets and fruit. If you make it from a package, the gelatin gets clumpy no matter how hot the water...it is impossible to get a smooth, easy consistency and the final product is always substandard. What I wouldn't give for jello now.

Jello, I'm sorry for every bad thing I've ever said about you. Please forgive me.

Self Tanning Success

It is one week into my self-tanning experiment, and I will say that it is a relative success.

I am using a lotion option, which is a more gradual process and is supposedly a bit less noticeable. I selected the Dove Fair Skin Summer Glow option, and my legs now look vaguely tanned but not orange or unattractive. There are no streaks or buildups, either, though I have taken a damp cotton pad and used it to even out any excess each day so that may be a result of technique, not product.

I am also careful to use my body puff on my legs to ensure proper exfoliation, thanks to Kirstin's bit of advice...all of which is conspiring to make it look like I spent my weekend in Spain or someplace.

So far, so good.

Where to Dine

I received this tag from Lulu. I don't eat out that much right now because I'm kind of broke, but when I do it is either here in the Milton Keynes area or it's in London, so this list will contain a bit of both.

Here are the rules:

The rules:1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you.
Include the city/state and country you’re in.
Nicole
(Sydney, Australia)
velverse
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB
(San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba
(Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia
(London, England)
ML
(Utah, USA)
Lotus
(Toronto, Canada)
tanabata
(Saitama, Japan)
Andi
(Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Lulu
(Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Melinda June (Milton Keynes, UK)

2. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

3. Tag 5 other people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they’ve been tagged.

The Swan at Salford - An excellent gastropub about three miles from Cranfield and about seven miles from my office. I go here regularly enough with both work colleagues and classmates that most of the staff know me by face, if not by name. It's got a modern, comfortable atmosphere. There are daily specials and even the main menu changes seasonally to keep things interesting, so you never know what you're going to find. They do fabulous deli boards that can be nibbles or a meal, ranging from artisan cheeses or antipasti to Mediterranean or Indian-inspired tapas. They do a bangers and mash with a different organic sausage each week. (I always feel I've hit the jackpot if it's the venison/plum one.) The grilled tuna and citrus salad on the current menu is most excellent, and last winter they made a starter that was all smoked haddock and melty cheese and a bit of crouton. Yum. And they have a spectacular wine list, as well as Guinness, both standard and extra cold. (There are other beverages, as well, but those are the ones I care about.) If they made a proper cocktail, they would be perfect.

Jalori - This Indian is located in Woburn Sands, a posh village just south of Milton Keynes. It can be hard to get a table before 9 unless you have reservations, and for good reason. They have an extensive menu, so it takes awhile to figure out what to have. The spice blends are just perfect, the curries are not swimming in ghee and the peshwari naan is always light and sweet and delicious. Meals always start with papadums with mango chutney, salad, raita and that weird hot-salty pickle stuff, and the Cobra beer is the coldest I've found. Yum Yum.

Carluccios - Technically this is a chain of Italian delis, located mostly in London. I usually go to the one on Oxford Street or in South Kensington, and they are dependably good...I've taken Kimmy, Abby, Frederic and Timmy there when we've been in the city, and no one has been unhappy. The menu is classic, simple Italian. I almost always start with the rocket and parmesan salad and move on to the fish of the day, some delicious chicken special or their ravioli in sage butter. Affordable, delicious wines (they even have wine specials here), and some of the best gelati I've had in London. All in a casually hip, bustling atmosphere with a deli counter by the door.

Tendido Cero - Also in South Kensington, this tapas restaurant has some seriously delicious little dishes, and they don't kill my pocket book. (Although no longer converting £'s to $'s, I still don't have extra spending money to waste so I look for a deal every time.) I think tapas might be the perfect way to eat...grazing your way through little dishes packed with flavour, never eating a ton but savouring every bite. There are these little phyllo rolls filled with sausage and cheese covered with a bit of honey that might be one of the best things I've ever eaten. Good people watching, relaxed and buzzy. (Confidential to TC: when you and Kelli visit me, I'm taking you here. You think Solera is expensive and not enough food, just you wait until you're paying UK prices.)

Siam Boraam - This great little thai restaurant is in half of a pub in the village of Newton Longville. It is the most improbable place to find a thai restaurant, but it is well worth the drive. Their fish cakes are crisp/not greasy, the tom yum gai is hot-sweet-sour delicious, and their pad prik khing is maddeningly good. The service can be slow even by English standards, but I find it well worth the wait. I often call ahead and do takeaway, especially if I'm already out and about. If I had unlimited money I might prefer the Blue Orchid in Aspley Guise, but for the price difference Siam Boraam gets my vote.

Not tagging anyone...if you're reading this, you have a blog and you like to eat, then take a shot.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

F**k Off Postscript

Once I finished watching that, I happend upon Fame on TCM2. There are a LOT of gingers in this movie. Like four main or secondary characters and about 10 main extras. That would never happen in England.

Another in the F**k Off series

Tonight's episode is entitled F**k Off I'm Ginger. The host is a handsome 26 year old comedian who has pale skin and bright red hair. Here are some of the highlights:
- Women are really freaked out by the thought of ginger pubic hair.
- Women would rather have sex with a small-penised non-ginger than with a well-endowed ginger.
- They live in fear of having ginger kids.
- When they see ginger men, they think of wedgies. Yes, pants up the ass.
- Even the host doesn't want to date a ginger because people would think they are freaks.
- He actually found a doctor that said that fair skin and ginger hair makes people think pale, frail and vulnerable...and most people consider it a possible sign of inbreeding.
- He interviews his parents, who tell him that when he was born the midwife said, "Oh, you have a son... And he's a ginger. Is your husband ginger?" She was very concerned, apparently. His mother then blamed her husband for the bad gene. He threw it back...he was not letting her talk trash. They talked about the way they used to keep the host fully clothed when he was a kid and it made him look weird. By fully clothed, they mean when they were on holiday in Majorca they made him wear shorts, a tee shirt, socks and gloves when he went swimming to protect him from the sun. He was also skinny.
- He interviewed a couple expecting a baby...the man is ginger, and terrified that his child would be ginger, too.
- Here are some of the names kids called him at school: copper knob, duracell, rusty, carrot top, ginger balls, ginger minger, etc.
- The host goes to London Fashion Week. He is the only ginger there. One of the designers explains that gingers can't wear a lot of colors so they make bad models. And claims they would tank sales for anyone that used them.
- He talked to a ginger who moved to the States for awhile because women would date him there. He's now married to an American, and plans to leave England and go back to the states before they have kids, just in case they're ginger.
- The host placed two personal ads, one mentioning he was ginger, one leaving that out. He assumed there must be something wrong with the woman who responded to the ginger ad. Turns out she was just ginger. But after all this self-examination he's learned not to care and he went out with her anyway.

I will never understand this.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Kind of Not Guilty

I had to go to court today. This meant I had to miss one of my classes, but I can always go to that lecture with the modulars when they do it in a few weeks. But I figured it was best to show up if Her Majesty's Court in Hertfordshire issues a formal invitation.

Some of you may remember the little welcome home I got from the bailiff back in November. I managed to get that round thrown out, but the court tried again to do me for speeding. I was given an opportunity to be found guilty of speeding AND of not providing appropriate information.

It was for an incident in August 2005. I don't remember if I was speeding. I don't remember being where they say the incident occurred. But the car was in my keeping, and the car was speeding...while it's possible I'd handed the keys to someone else in the company since it IS a company car and I do relinquish it now and again if someone needs it more than I do, it is likelier that I was driving than someone else, as it is with me more than it is not.

The chatty prosecutor offered to throw out one charge if I'd just take a regular old speeding fine. I figured I may as well...I could have dragged it out and tried to prove someone else had the car, but as you can imagine my record keeping is not particularly good. I could have made them show me the picture of the driver snapped by the automatic camera and tried to prove it wasn't me, but if it was then I'd be flustered and might screw the whole thing up. So I agreed to just pay the speeding fine and be done with it. Now I don't have to take another day off to go back to court, which is worth something. It's good not to have to worry about the added aggravation.

I figure I did the right thing. I could have used the £60, but at least it was only £60. And the case is closed.

Tomorrow I get to go tromping through some field or woods or something for school. We're doing personal development. It's supposed to be cold and a bit grey. I am skeptical.

But it is the first of TWO May bank holiday weeks, which means I have two whole days off after the tromping. That will be heavenly. I have a lot of reading to do for my Globalisation paper, I need to mow the lawn, and I could use some extra sleep.

But it's likely I'll go to the beach instead. I mean, it's a bank holiday.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More Late Night Chat Show

Coaster Punchman has his questions...keep checking for his answers. Any more takers?

Giving In

I have given in. I've been in the UK for two and a half years now, and I have finally succumbed to the pressure. I'm not proud. In fact, I kind of hate myself. But I couldn't take the pressure anymore.

I have purchased self tanner.

I am extremely pale by nature. I have translucently pale skin, with freckles on any part of my body that gets regular sun. This has never really bothered me. I mean, I can't help my skin tone, can I? So I lack appropriate pigmentation? So my melanin floats a bit? As long as I used sun screen and avoided extended periods in the beating hot sun it all seemed fine.

I took my share of ribbing, of course. My freshman year of college, I was wearing a lovely pink floral skirt on one of the first warm days of the spring, and my friend Mark asked me if I was wearing nurses tights. I wasn't. More than one person has claimed to be momentarily blinded by the glare from my legs. In my youth, I'd try to correct this by sunbathing, but I'd end up lobster red and vomiting and eventually decided that pale was the way to go, vanity be damned. Plus my friend Darlene is always more pale than me, so I just stand next to her. And my careful sun policy has helped keep me looking far younger than I am, which is fine by me.

The English, some of whom make me look positively swarthy, long for a luscious tan. When you travel with them, they are sun whores...the minute they're off the plane they're disrobing and heading for the nearest sunbed, willing to go any shade of purple in the hope that it will fade to a nice bronze. (Frankly, it can be rather frightening after a few days...you begin to worry that you'll be witnessing third degree burns.) Here at home, most women use self tanner to add some light bronzing whenever there is an occasion to show skin. It can make for some interesting streaking on their legs if they perspire, and I've begun to think orangey brown is a natural tone, but at least they aren't looking all milky like I do. (I've tried to play the classist card and convince them that pale is posh, but I haven't gotten far with this. Apparently that's SO 18Th century.)

So on Monday I was at Boots the Chemist picking up some necessaries and I wandered into the body lotion aisle. In addition to the many self-tanners available for a tan in two hours, there are now many body moisturizers that build a gradual "tan", giving you a "natural glow" within five days. I couldn't help myself. In went the bottle of Dove Summer Glow.

I've been using it for two days now, and I hate to admit it, but legs no longer blend into my white cotton sheets. And they don't look orange, either. In fact, they're about the color of my arms, so they are consistent with the parts of me that do get sun now and again. Who knew I could look like a normal human being?

I'll keep you posted on the progress. If it continues to look like skin and not a cheap handbag and does not go some dark shade that makes me worry about it ever coming off, I will be a proponent of this stuff forever. I mean, pale may be posh, but it'll be nice not to have to listen to the albino jokes anymore. But if I end up the color of an Ikea bookcase there will be hell to pay.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Late Night Chat Show

Some Guy and Kirelime are, as we speak, preparing their answers to my questions. Inquiring minds want to know...what on earth will they say next?