Wednesday, 30 January 2008

My Daughter's Graduation

I was in Birmingham today for my daughter's graduation from the Faculty of Art of the Birmingham City University. Here's a little clip I took with my camera.

I'm not used to video-ing with the camera and I missed the start, where the Chancellor announces that she won the British Airways Award. You just can catch the last bit of that announcement at the start of the video.

We're all really proud of her.

Isn't the Chancellor's costume impressive. I loved the hat!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

More About Buckingham

This is an interesting looking building, next to the Post Office, and facing the open space in front of the Old Gaol. At first glance, it looks like a block of 6 or more apartments. However, I was curious about the stone plaque on the chimney, so zoomed in for a close-up.

This is the close-up. If I'm correct that first number inside the triangular bit is 1312. The Queen Elizabeth who refounded it in 1597 was the First one, otherwise known as Good Queen Bess or the Virgin Queen. And then it was rebuilt in the 60th year of Queen Victoria's reign.

So what is it? I've looked on every website I can think of which shows historical buildings in Buckingham, and it doesn't even get a mention. I have a book called 'Buckingham, A Pictorial History' which contains 158 photographs, most of which are of buildings in Buckingham. There are pictures of all the buildings to the right of this building and the Post Office, and there are pictures of all the buildings to the left of this building and the Post Office. Every building across the road is photographed, but these two buildings may as well not exist.

It's all very strange. But just for the record, here's the Post Office, which also doesn't seem to feature in any of the places I've looked.

Cute, isn't it?

I'm sharing 7

I've been tagged by Karen of Karen's Korner to do the "Share 7 random/weird things about you" meme. The rules are that you list the seven random/weird things about yourself and link to the person who tagged you (see Karen's link above). Then you tag 7 other people to do the meme, and you list their names with links at the end of the post. So, here goes:

  1. I’m very disorganised, probably because I’m a procrastinator.

  2. I hate going to the hairdresser. I’d rather go to the dentist.

  3. My toenails curl up instead of down.

  4. I can’t write if the paper is straight in front of me. I have to turn the paper sideways 90 degrees and write upwards, even though I’m right handed.

  5. I’m always taking courses.

  6. I love spinach but I hate beetroot.

  7. I’m scared of going in cable cars, and I would never go up in a hot air balloon. As for space travel…. forget it!

I would like to tag:

  1. Sally at Whispering Hope
  2. Anne at 'Sunday's Child' Lives at Annie's House
  3. IcyCucky at Wandering Thoughts
  4. Changes in the wind at Changes in the wind
  5. Dawn at What About Tomorrow
  6. Donna at Made in Heaven
  7. Betty at Betty's This and That

Monday, 28 January 2008

The Great River Ouse

This is the Great River Ouse as it passes through Buckingham.
Under the pedestrian bridge.....
What are seagulls doing this far away from the sea?

Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Old Gaol in Buckingham

This is the Old Gaol in Buckingham, which was one of the earliest purpose built prisons, and is now a museum. It stands in the centre of Buckingham, and is quite an impressive building. It was built in 1748.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Tonight's amazing sunset

I had to share this, it was so spectacular. I was cleaning my garage, and the time just flew by, but suddenly I looked up and this is what I saw..... it was breathtakingly beautiful.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Joke time

Good afternoon. I just got an email from a friend, and she sent me a very funny joke, so I thought I'd share it with you. Here it is:

Why I fired my Secretary
Last week was my birthday, and I didn't feel very well when I woke up that morning. I went downstairs for breakfast hoping my wife would be pleasant and say "Happy Birthday!", and possibly have a small present for me. As it turned out, she barely said good morning, let alone "Happy Birthday". I thought...Well, that's marriage for you, but the kids...they will remember. My kids came bounding down stairs to breakfast and didn't say a word. So when I left for the office, I felt pretty low and somewhat despondent.
As I walked into my office my secretary, Jane, said "Good Morning Boss, and by the way Happy Birthday!" It felt a little better that at least someone had remembered. I worked until one o'clock , when Jane knocked on my door and said, "You know, it's such a beautiful day outside, and it is your Birthday. What do you say we go out to lunch, just you and me." I said, "Thanks, Jane, that's the greatest thing I've heard all day. Let's go !"
We went to lunch. But we didn't go where we normally would go. She chose instead a quiet bistro with a private table. We had two martinis each, and I enjoyed the meal tremendously. On the way back to the office, Jane said, "You know, it's such a beautiful day...We don't need to go straight back to the office, do we?" I responded, "I guess not. What do you have in mind ?" She said, "Let's drop by my apartment, it's just around the corner."
After arriving at her apartment, Jane turned to me and said, " Boss, if you don't mind, I'm going to step into the bedroom for just a moment. I'll be right back." "Ok." I nervously replied.
She went into the bedroom and, after a couple of minutes, she came out carrying a huge birthday cake ... followed by my wife, my kids, and dozens of my friends and co-workers, all singing "Happy Birthday"......and I just sat there.....on the couch.....naked.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Is spring about to get sprung?

It's pretty warm here at the moment, and today I noticed that the daffodils have started to push their way up out of the ground, and catkins are appearing on the willow in my front yard. Also, my neighbour's magnolia tree has tiny flower buds on its branches. Could an early spring be just around the corner, or is it just a trick? Will February or March bring icy Winter weather? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Even though grass isn't supposed to grow during the Winter, I could swear ours is growing very very slowly. I notice this because I'm looking after a rabbit, and I move her run regularly so that she has fresh grass to hop about on and eat. I've noticed that the grass she's eaten down short has grown progressively, and you can see by the length of the grass where she has been most recently.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

It's Tuesday

I don't know quite how I ended up watching this, but it was so cute and funny and so cleverly done, thought I would share it and hopefully liven up your Tuesday. It's a video called:
How To Re-Gift - GI vs Barbie
Just click on the name, turn on the sound, and prepare to be amused.

Saturday, 19 January 2008


Good Morning. Today I started my day well. The first email I opened was a newsletter that was so positive and uplifting I thought I would spread the feeling. Being a freelance writer can sometimes be quite depressing and this newsletter from the Writers Bureau made me feel positive and determined and ready to give my writing efforts 110%.

The main article in the newsletter was by Simon Whaley, a bestselling author and WB tutor, who tackled the issue of rejection letters very entertainingly. He pointed to the Murphy's Law that for every 10 query emails we send out, we'll receive 11 rejections. He said that the positive way to look at this is to be thankful we have ten ideas to send out.

There is a good link at the end of the newsletter to an article in the Independent dated the 6th of January 2008, called 'There's life (and a living) after rejection', which is very upbeat and encouraging. Don't forget to click on the link at the bottom which says 'Interesting? Click here to explore further'.

I wish everyone a happy, productive and posititive day.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

An open letter that made me laugh

A friend sent me an e-mail in which an open letter was reproduced. The writer is a lady called Wendy Aarons and she's writing to the Brand Manager of Proctor and Campbell about Always Maxi Pads. I won't copy the letter onto this post, but I have found the original blog post, and you can click here to read it. It has to be one of the funniest things I've ever read. Chances are you've probably already seen a copy of this letter, since I'd guess it's been around the world and back a few times by now. But in case you haven't, just click and laugh, you'll find it's worth it!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The Cheese is Ripe

The brie is ripe and ready to eat. I have the cheese, a cheese knife and some grapes, and Ex-Shammickite said she would bring the biscuits and the Merlot. If anyone else would like to join us, please come on over. I've had a little taste and it's quite delicious!


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Art Show

I spent the day in Bristol yesterday, visiting my daughter who is holding an art show this week. I took a lot of pictures, and here are a few of the pieces she has on display. At the moment most of her work looks at the interrelationship between consumerism and nature.

Here she is in front of a series of pen and ink drawings of roadkill. I nicknamed this The Wall of Shame, but I don't know if the name will catch on!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Another cheese update, Weather Report and Garden Art

Brie Update II
After being left to ripen for 2 days, the brie finally started to show signs of letting itself go, and by last night, I felt it was finally relaxed enough to be frozen. Here is how it looked:

Clearly more soft and squidgey, so I wrapped each piece up in cling film and froze them all. Sometime soon, I'll defrost one of them and see how it tastes.

Nice Weather for Ducks
We've had a lot of rain the last few days, and even a bit of snow last night. Not much, but some of it settled on the windscreen of my car, and there were bits of it in the grass this morning. Yesterday afternoon, though, we got rain and sun at the same time, a classic combination to produce one of these........

I still get a thrill each time I see a rainbow!
And an even bigger thrill when I get to shoot one with my lovely camera!

Lazy Gardener's Artiness
When I went to the Chelsea Flower Show last year, one of the gardens on display had paving stones with moss imported to the show and inserted in the cracks between the slabs. This was all the excuse I needed to stop clearing out the moss in the cracks and leaving nature to take its course. This is gardening as I like it: namely, lazy.

By this time last week, I was congratulating myself on how nice (and arty) it looked with cushiony moss inside the cracks softening the hardness of the stones. Then we had a terrific hailstorm a few days ago, and when I looked at my patio in the cold light of day, this is what I found:

This is a close-up of just one small slab. There's a lot more mess where that came from! There are displaced bits of moss all over the place.

Friday, 11 January 2008

A clever old dog with a new trick

A friend emailed this to me today. It's so cute, I thought I would share it. I don't know where the story began, it seems to be one of those things that gets forwarded and forwarded and forwarded on.

An old dog wandered into the yard.
You could see from his collar and belly that he was well fed and had a home.
He followed me into the house,and fell asleep in a corner of the couch.

An hour later, he went to the door and I let him out.

The next day he was back, resumed his position in the hall and slept again.
This continued for several weeks.

Finally, being so curious about his home, I pinned a note to his collar saying: "Your dog comes to my home each afternoon for a nap."

The next day, the dog returned with a new note on his collar.
"He lives in a home with ten children -
He's trying to catch up on his sleep -
Can I come along to join him tomorrow?"

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Cheese Update

It's been about 19 hours since I set the Brie out to ripen. Here's how it looks:

I got quite excited because they all looked as if they were starting to bulge, and in particular the topmost piece was looking exceedingly relaxed. I decided to move them to a darker cutting board, so that I could get a better contrast, but when I carefully lifted the pieces up I realised that it wasn't so much a case of the creamy centre starting to soften, but more a case of the rind starting to dry up and curl around the edges. And to make matters worse, the navy blue cutting board I chose to display the cheese on, just made the pieces look a sickly green colour.
See what I mean? Rind is dry, cheese is still rubbery, and now it has a repulsive green tinge to it. I'm covering it loosely in cling film, and I'll wait another day to see what develops.

How to Quit Smoking

I've finally finished an article about the different options available to anyone who might want to quite smoking. If anyone is interested in quitting, my article can be seen here.

Many thanks to Karen of Karen's Korner for the following award. She has a really great blog herself.

Karen was off-line for a few days, but is back and blogging again now.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Still on the subject of food

Today's Creative Blog featured the Crockpot Lady today, an adventurous soul who has made a New Year's resolution to make and share one crockpot recipe per day in 2008. I'll be going back to check it out regularly, since I have a crockpot that I don't use often enough, and her recipes are easy and timesaving.

Ripening Cheese

A few days ago I mentioned that I had enough cheese and wine to throw a party. I had a few suggestions, including to freeze the cheese. Unfortunately, the cheeses that had been opened and cut into were beyond saving, and I had to throw them away. However, there was a large piece of Brie which hadn't been unwrapped or cut, and this was still good.

Yesterday, someone told me that Brie from supermarkets is hardly ever at the correct ripeness for eating, which is when it starts to ooze. She said that supermarkets wrap them so tightly in clingfilm, that they just can't relax! These are the instructions she gave me:

Unwrap the brie, and leave it out at room temperature for as long as it needs to reach a ripening point (when it's starting to bulge at the sides). This can take anything up to two days. Then carefully wrap it up in some fresh cling film and put it in the freezer. When you want to eat it, take it out and leave at room temperature to thaw, and it will be perfect for eating.

So, I've cut the brie into three equal wedges, and left them on the table in the dining room so that they can ripen. I will keep posting photos if and when there are any developments. After I've frozen the three wedges, I'll take one out and test the thawing/perfection theory (with pictures, of course). Here's the before picture:

I should have used a darker cutting board to do this on, but never mind. More pictures to come when they start to bulge....

Working by timer

I'm so far behind on various projects that today I'm working by timer. I set the timer for 15, 20, or 30 minutes, depending on what the task is, and then I begin and try to do as much as I can within the allotted time. Right now I'm on a 15 minute timer, so that I don't get side-tracked.

I already got side tracked once when I was cleaning out the kitchen. I found 1 mango, 4 apples, half an onion, one tangerine, 5 baby plum tomatoes, all in various states of exhaustion. They were past being eaten raw, but not bad enough to throw away, so decided to make a chutney using all of my finds. I added 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of sweet chili sauce, a pinch of nutmeg, two pinches of ground cinnamon, 5 whole cloves, 3 whole cardamoms (cracked open so the seeds can fall out), about a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, and enough water to cover, and then I brought it to the boil, lowered the heat, and simmered for about 30 minutes. Then I mashed it with a potato masher, and carried on simmering till it thickened to about the consistency of apple sauce. I had to fish around with the spoon to find and take out the cloves and the cardamoms, and then I had a taste.

Verdict: it's okay, nothing exciting, can't imagine what you'd eat it with, but I'll put it in a jar and refrigerate, and then if nobody's found a use for it after one month, I might end up binning it anyway.

I'd better post this now, because my timer is about to go off!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The day started nicely, with sunshine and by noon, even a little warmth. By 5 pm it was pretty cold. I had to go out to a class at 7.30 pm and the wind was starting to build up. By the time I came out at 9 pm it was howling around the car park. On the way home there were small branches in the road (nothing too big or dangerous) and I managed to drive around them.

The Weather headlines are for gale force winds of up to 80 mph in the next 24 hours, but I thought it applied mainly to Scotland and the north of the country. It seems the wind down this end of the country must have misunderstood, and thought that it was included in the forecast.

I wrote an article today about the rising cost of petrol, and compared prices in the UK and the USA. I calculated that the cheapest petrol close to where I live is costing the equivalent of $7.77 per US Gallon! More than double what it costs in the USA. According to Wikipedia, UK taxes account for $5.04 of that total. In the US taxes are much lower, but vary according to the State you're in.

Harry Lamin's letters home

I spotted this link on Yahoo, and checked it out. It's very interesting, and seems to have been quite popular for the last year or so. Has anyone come across it before? It has had a BBC progam made about it

It's a collection of letters written by a W.W.1 soldier called Harry Lamin. His grandson was given the letters, and he is putting them on his blog on the same dates as when they were written 90 years ago. Nobody knows what happened to Harry yet, and won't find out until the equivalent date when the war is over, or a telegram is delivered to his family.

It's really interesting, with pictures and comments.

Monday, 7 January 2008

First Monday 2008

I don't have much to say today. Karen H of Karen's Korner gave me this award:
Thank you Karen, that's very sweet of you.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Update on 12th Night

A lot of comments on the last post were asking about 12th Night, and so I googled it and I found a site at this school in Kent: Woodlands Junior School. They asked for people to send postcards to their students from wherever they live in the world, so I thought it would be nice for anyone interested to read the excellent entry in their really informative website as well as maybe sending them a postcard. (If anyone spots that I got it wrong, and that I should have taken my decorations down yesterday, pretend you never noticed).

Also, I've put up a link to Free Rice, which I had fun playing. I managed to get up to 48. Have a go if you like, it's free, and every time you get a word right they donate 20 grains of rice through the UN to someone who's hungry. Improving word power while helping to feed the hungry seems like a win/win situation to me!

The link is at the top of the left hand side of this page. I can't figure out how to join the link and this banner together.

Twelfth Night

Tonight is twelfth night, and at midnight Christmas will officially be over. Also, all decorations need to be down by midnight or else (what, I don't know), so I'm busy packing stuff away any-old-how, as long as it's down it counts as gone. If I get it out and sort it out tomorrow, that only counts as organizing and tidying. All I have left to do is take the Christmas tree out, and take down the outside icicle lights.

Invariably I find something that my eagle eyes missed about a week after Christmas, and then I have to leave it around all year or else (what, I don't know). Where did this superstition come from? I just don't know! Last year I forgot to pack a little jingle bell that was hanging on the banister post, so I left it there all year, and each time I'd pass with a wide load (ironed clothes, stuff to be moved upstairs, suitcases) it would jingle and remind me that it was the one that was left behind! This is my chance to put it away, but I got used to it's friendly little chime, so it's staying there for another year!

I just took a picture to show on this blog, and realised that Jingle Bell has been Reindeerised!

Someone has added antlers and a red nose since the Christmas Holidays started. It used to be a plain little bell, I'm sure. Here's a close-up...

How very very strange.......

Saturday, 5 January 2008


We went to see the Disney movie 'Enchanted' today, and I was truly enchanted by it. It's such a feel-good movie. I'd heard rave reviews about it, so though it would be worth a look-see. It was hard to imagine how a cartoon/real people combination film could charm realists, and when it started I thought, cute, old school Disney.

It all begins with the Cinderella/Snow White type of scenario: Prince Charming, Wicked Stepmother/Witch, cartoon animals who do housework and stitchery, musical duets, the whole kit and caboodle. Then the wicked witch sends the heroine, Giselle, to New York City, and she changes from a cartoon into a real person, while retaining her cartoon characteristics.

Of course, her Prince follows her, but not everything goes smoothly. This film is corny, funny, romantic, sad, happy, and at times completely over the top. It's Disney having a little chuckle at itself and somehow it works. For just a little while you can let go of disbelief, enjoy the journey, and come out of the theatre smiling.

When I Quit Smoking

Four years ago today, I quit smoking, and I haven't touched a cigarette since. I think it's one of the best things I ever did. I read a book called 'Easy Way To Quit Smoking' by Allen Carr through two times, and then I threw away all of my cigarettes and never looked back. It was actually an easy thing to do. Years of trying and failing had made me think that it was almost impossible, and one book changed my whole outlook. It didn't scare me, it didn't threaten me, it just informed me of what I needed to know. This is a book I would recommend to anyone who'd like to quit but think they can't.

Christmas is over, I think. Most of the family have gone their various ways, the decorations are starting to look tired, and I think it's time to take them down.

And as for chocolate, I have to say that I'm sick of chocolate. I have a house full of the stuff, and all I feel like eating now is fruit. I've had chocolate overload. Is that actually possible, or am I fooling myself.?

I also have loads of mince pies, about 10 boxes and tins of biscuits/cookies, and enough cheese and wine to throw a couple of parties. Now, that's an idea.......

Friday, 4 January 2008

Snow No Show Day

We were promised snow today, or even some sleet, and after a few feeble attempts at snowing the clouds gave up and just did nothing except float around up there. I was quite looking forward to waking up in the morning to the silent world of the snowscape, but it was just another day like all the others, snow-free.

So I went shopping with my sister-in-law and nieces, had lunch at my mother's house, and in the evening went to dinner with my son and my eldest brother and his family. Yesterday we said goodbye to my youngest brother and his family, as they prepared to return to the US. Today we said goodbye to my oldest brother and his family, as they prepare to return to Australia. Our family reunion is over until the next time.

Time to put away the Christmas things and get back to work. I have Spanish to learn and assignments to complete, something I've neglected these last few weeks.

I've been a bit worried about Janey the rabbit over the last couple of days, but hopefully she's on the mend now. She's grooming herself, eating properly and drinking, running up when she's called and not as lethargic as she's been. I bought her a new toy that flashes when it's moved in the hope that she might play with it. I noticed it flashing earlier on and thought she was playing, but I think it was just the result of her accidentally nudging it while she groomed herself.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The Eighth Day of Christmas

This was in a music shop in Milton Keynes:

This is not for the fainthearted.................

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year

It's New Year's Day. Last night we saw in the New Year at my brother's house. When midnight struck we had a lovely view of fireworks displays in the town at the bottom of the hill.

Here's wishing the whole world peace and happiness in 2008!