Wednesday, 28 December 2011

New Year Directions

It's been another stellar year in Boston. I love living here, especially in Cambridge. It's fun being surrounded by Harvard's leagues of preppy students (normally in Starbucks!) and professors who reside in the borough. During the winter months as flakes of snow settle layer after layer, the street is practically empty with only a few souls braving the minus temperatures. As spring and summer dawn, over the hum of air conditioners, I will hear someone playing a piano in the apartment block opposite or the lady that practices her scales again and again (will she ever learn the words I wonder?)

But not only did I enjoy my immediate surroundings, Hubby and I managed to explore further field. We visited the Fort on Georges Island where the Americans battled against the Brits (Hubby is often ribbed about owing the US a lighthouse?), Spectacle Island where we enjoyed not the beautiful scenery but the little girl who was very good with a hula hoop. I sampled peanut butter taffy on a pier in Salem and munched fried dough, covered in cinnamon sugar at a huge corn maze - I'm just about forgiving them for not letting us visit the farm animals because we didn't have a child with us!

We had a blast in Las Vegas  - Celine, slot machines, the gun range and the best waffle fries and chilli ever. Oh and I almost forgot "Britain's answer to Frank Sinatra" - Matt Goss - appearing weekends at Cleopatra's barge. The ropey cocktail waitresses and the spectacular views of the strip and the Nevada dessert from the Eiffel Tower. A few months later, we went to the nations capital and I'm amazed at how much we saw in four days. I'm still in awe at being able to stand at the feet of Abraham Lincoln's memorial, look down to see the National Monument and Capital building. Saw the Library of Congress (despite being shooed out a couple of times by security because of a private tour!), marveled at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum and stared through the railing at The White House dismayed that we had to make an application to see inside two months in advance.

I got caught up with the glitz and glamour of the Oscars, puzzled over the sports, got embroiled in new TV shows (Hart of Dixie, Falling Skies, Suits...) and desperately tried to understand the politics. Having read vol. 3, I'm about to start reading volumes 1 & 2 of William Bennett's America - The Last Best Hope, so I'm hoping I'll eventually get the difference between a democrat and a republican. I know I've left out so many memories (having my picture taken with Elvis (swoon)...OK, OK his wax model and filing taxes), but we've had another amazing year.

As the new year approaches, Hubby and I are looking forward to spending time with the great friends that we've made in the last 2 years. Hubby's wishes for the 2012 is to continue our stateside adventures as well as reach level 100 in GOW, get the Calendar Man achievement in Batman oh and for him to be a kept man. So, I'm thinking that I'll have to take serious steps to get published or open a really successful (illegal) cantina. Nevertheless, I've seen the future; Hubby donned with inch thick gold bracelets and shiny suit wowing at the Black Jack tables, me with a blue rinse, cigarette in one hand sitting at the 1c slot machine in Vegas. We'll make millions...

Whatever direction 2012 leads us in - the end of the world, visits to other states - I'm pretty sure that Hubby and I will make it a great year.



Friday, 16 December 2011

Christmas Cards Galore

I just read an article in The Times (London edition) - "All I want for Christmas is a card or two" by Carol Midgley. It detailed her "suffering from the seasonal afflication known as the 'Why have I received so few Christmas cards and does it mean everybody hates me?'" - although she doesn't send out that many herself, but that's not her point, it's still great to receive them.

And, I completely sympathize with Carol. This year, I decided to make my cards, so created a list of people to send them to. A list I make every year and to which Hubby asks - why not keep that list and save yourself some time next year? A valid point perhaps, but my list does change. After all, people leave his office or someone I sent one to this year may well annoy me and therefore find themselves removed from said list for next Christmas. Yes, I know, a little Ebenezer of me...

But lately, over the last few years, I've made the list with a slightly heavy heart. Will I get any cards this year?  The numbers have dwindled. As Carol rightly points out, people are less and less inclined to send out cards. Be they environmentalist - save a tree, don't send a card or consider it a lengthy process - buy the card, find the address, sign card, get stamp, post card...it's a lot of hard work.

I firmly believe that receiving a card at Christmas makes a person know that they are special, that you're thinking of them. That in an 'e' driven world, a tangible item such as a card means so much more. And despite knowing that I'll get a few e-cards (not everyone has my mailing address), I do so cherish the posted ones regardless of who sent them....I was both pleased and slightly horrified that I received a card from my local curry house one year..

So I sent out about 50 cards to those for whom I have an address and hung my ribbon (above picture is representative of my display) in anticipation that in a few weeks leading up to this wonderful holiday, I will be filled with cards of all shapes and sizes from family and friends wishing Hubby and I a joyous (US) Christmas. To date I only have 17 cards displayed but there's still one more week to go...maybe I should have left my forwarding address to The Sitar?..

Friday, 18 November 2011

Bah Humbug!

Forgive me my American friends and family but Thanksgiving isn't my thing. I appreciate the sentiment and I'm certainly thankful for a lot of things. But, as the cold winds set in, the days draw darker, it's Christmas that I'm looking forward to.

Oh yes, the snow in the air, the smell of cinnamon, hands cupped around a hot cup of peppermint cocoa, sparkly red and green garlands hanging in shop windows, Christmas trees twinkling in living rooms. Such a magical time. And of course, the myriad of productions of A Christmas Carol. Over the years I've seen practically all of these versions of this classic tale which is no doubt one of the most interpreted of Dickens' stories. My all time favorite version is with Patrick Stewart - a sumptuous production so brilliantly told. There have been a few that I'm not adverse to such as the musical portrayals (with Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge) and even the animated versions are not too bad; although I was dubious about Jim Carrey playing an English octogenarian, but he did a good job.

Despite seeing so many versions, I'm ashamed to admit, that I've never actually read the story. So this is the year that I sit down with a cup of cocoa and read A Christmas Carol. I'm sure that I will conjure up images of all the films I've seen, and I hope that the films have stayed true to the words. I find that books never translate to the screen very well. So, I popped along to the bookstore and purchased a copy at the bargain price of $10. And now that I have it, I'm sure it will become a tradition to read it in the days leading up to Christmas Day.

"I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their house pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it."

Charles Dickens, December 1843

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Fashion Faux Pas?

I taped the season finale of Project Runway (S9), finally got around to watching it and I am so disappointed with the judges final decision. Did Anya really deserve to win?

The young Trinidadian has a great sense of style; her choice and use of patterned material is exceptional almost effortless but unlike the other contestants, she lacked excellent sewing skills. And for that she shouldn't have won. I've read comments that Project Runway is about design and business capabilities not just sewing. Well, in that case I'm the next Stella McCartney or L'wren Scott because I've designed a ton of dresses but wouldn't necessarily be able to sew a garment properly!

Anya believes she captured the Caribbean style of women - really? I don't remember seeing tall, skinny women swanning around in flowing silk kaftan type dresses whilst in Guyana or Barbados. Oh hang on, I do remember my mom wearing them....but that was about 20 odd years ago! The judges decision process included comments like "you can see her bags, jewellery line.." Er, what about her clothes? That's why she entered the competition - to showcase her clothes!

Heidi Klum said that she fought for Anya (said on the Piers Morgan Tonight program) because she (Anya) showed that you didn't need to go to school to win a competition like PR and with enough hard work and determination you can make it. Hats off to Anya for getting so far, but during the entire show, she didn't show one piece of structured tailoring - a jacket, a straight-leg trouser...as a designer, shouldn't you be able to make these items? I have the utmost respect for the judges, but I think they should see the 'behind the scenes' videos - I reckon it would make them re-think the final outcome.

In my mind, a designer is not just about styling or business know-how, you need to understand the fabric, the cut and flow of it - the right side of the material (in one episode, Anya cut the fabric on the wrong side). Well done to Anya for learning to sew in four months, but other contestants were consistently better than her, had far superior sewing skills and in my mind far more drive and ambition and were more deserving of the final prize.

I'm looking forward to seeing 'Anya' designs but I have a feeling I won't be buying anything from her collection any time soon!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Cor Blimey, I'm speakin' American

Well, it had to happen! In order for me to be understood, I have to forgo the Queens' English and speak "American".

Perhaps I shouldn't, but I find myself giving into it. As I've mentioned previously, my very English accent is still a problem. So, I find myself dropping letters, over emphasizing others and basically, trying not to sound...well, English!

When ordering a sandwich (I won't mention the cheese debacle again); I'll say "too-nah" instead of "choo-nah" for tuna (who's to say which is correct?) and with the song cropping up in my mind, I have to say "toe-may-toe" and not "toe-mah-toe" to avoid said product being in my sandwich (sub, grinder...) and to just stop the withering look of "what the heck you sayin' lady?"

And whilst I haven't quite resorted to ending the admiration of a new born baby, or seeing a really nice pair of shoes with "awesome", I do find it occasionally popping up in my vocabulary.

Essentially, one must adopt these ways to avoid sounding so English, but find I myself thinking of Professor Higgins' contempt of the incorrect pronunciation of words but take heart that a part of me will always remain Eliza Dolittle, regardless of how I have to say things...bloomin' lover-ly.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

...and world peace




As I flicked through the channels thinking that despite 500 odd channels to choose from, there wasn't anything I really wanted to watch, I happened across the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant. Great, I love this show...actually, I used to watch it when it was just Miss World...why is it now called Miss Universe? Are there other pageants taking place across the delta quadrant that once we're able to fly huge distances, we'll be able to meet up and have the ultimate Miss Universe contest?

I was very happy that Miss Angola won. Spotted her from the start; she was a natural beauty plus had an amazing evening dress on...not that that counted towards the final score. It's all about, beauty, poise and elegance.

Anyway, I appreciate that in the politically correct world that we live in, that we shouldn't like these types of programs. But I say, why the heck not? No one is forcing those young women to take part. Yes, perhaps it is a sophisticated step up from Toddlers and Tiaras but for the winner it's is an amazing opportunity. Unfortunately the opportunity is provided by Mr Trump, which makes me wonder what he gets out of it, I can't help but mutter, dirty old man! I'm not a fan of Mr Trump...but if he can't make money on hair pieces, why not invest in another kind of beauty eh?

As some may know, I did make the comment of '82 women and I saw only five worthy of the crown'. Seriously, I'm the first one to appreciate beauty in other women, but to me they all looked the same! Long, slightly curled brunette hair, painted red lips, whiter than white teeth and bodies that would make Jenny Craig happy. Is that what we see beauty as? And no doubt along with those proclaiming that this contest objectifies women, it's also a poor role model for young girls and tells us what to accept as beautiful. Yes, there is an element of this argument that I agree with, but surely we can appreciate beauty in others. It's not their fault that they're pretty!

In previous years I have questioned the winner as I thought there were far more prettier women in the contest. If I remember correctly, so didn't agree with the 2008 winner. Anyway, there were the usual 'mini contests' including best national costume which was open to all 82 ladies. And the inevitable swimsuit section, which I personally think they should rename to "scantily clad bikini" section (especially this year, as the bikini's had to be sent back because there wasn't enough material to them!) The evening dress part was my favorite bit. They all did look lovely, but some dresses...Lord knows what Miss Australia was thinking; apparently it was sent back and forth many times because of the style. Personally, she would have been better off leaving it where it came from! Really didn't do anything for her...

As the girls were eliminated from 16 to 10 to 5, came the final mini contest of being asked a question by one of the judges. This bit cracks me up and bizarrely enough comes across as the most false. Of course they have to give an answer that shows them in a good light. I'd love it if one year a judge asked the Miss Congeniality question "what is the one most important thing our society needs?" and they quoted..."harsher punishment for parole violators Stan...and world peace!" Hilarious...funnily enough, no-one did mention world peace...

Hubby asked why I liked watching Miss Universe and I said, that I appreciate beauty, I love the glamour of it all...and it's an opportunity to bitch about how they look in their bikini's, walk in their heels and carry themselves in evening dresses, after all I should know...I am the epitome of beauty, poise and elegance...ahem...

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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Stormy Weather




Wow what a summer's it been! I've always been a fan of extreme weather, in particular tornadoes. And, a part of me did wonder what it would be like weather wise over here. I mean, everything is bigger and that had to include the weather, didn't it?

After the banks of 6ft snow that dominated the sidewalks slowly melted away in late March, everyone (bar me!) looked forward to summer. I'm not a huge fan of hot days. For starters, warmth coupled with humidity means that I end up looking like an extra from a 70s flick for the best part of three months!

Unlike ol' Blighty, there are prolonged days of sunshine as well as the hot temperatures. Las Vegas and Texas can consistently reach 104degF+ everyday and unfortunately this year the heat was relentless with a whole month of these temps with no rain! The South were plagued with countless tornadoes. East coast, we're a little bit luckier. Whilst we'll have the sun, guaranteed there's a thunderstorm close at hand to either lower the thermometer a couple of degrees or my favorite add to the humidity! As I've said before, the thunderstorms are just marvelous. It's an amazing sight - sheet lightening, rolling thunder and Hubby pleading with me to stay away from the windows. I convince him that I'll be fine and that my flip-flops are rubber soled!

Last year summer, Hubby and I didn't get our AC unit until quite late into the summer season. Our naivety that we'll be fine with the heat shattered quickly as we reached 80% humidity and moving a little finger resulted in an outpouring of sweat (nice, I know). So, this year, as soon as it hit mid May, we got the AC installed. Weeks later, we were still experiencing spring like weather and we thought that perhaps we were a little hasty in getting the unit so early. But, soon enough along came the hot weather.

What we didn't expect was a tornado that touched down west of Massachusetts...and the loudest thunder I've ever heard and the most fabulous prolonged sheet lightening. I couldn't actually "ooh and ahh" over it for very long as Hubby, when realizing that I wasn't back from getting up from the sofa would come looking for me and drag me away from the window, muttering, "yes very nice and exciting but if anything happens to you, I don't want to have to deal with your mother!"

We didn't think anything else of the summer after that; we had the AC at home, I had Starbucks (and their AC) during the day. Then Hurricane Irene decided to make herself known. At the time I wasn't particularly worried as the meteorologists were saying by the time it hit Boston/Mass it would be classed as a tropical storm but still to take it seriously. So, we bought bottled water, extra food, turned the fridge down in case of a power outage, got a torch but did forgo the wind-up radio. I-Day arrived and, whilst other areas got hit quite badly, Cambridge didn't. We have had worse thunderstorms. Yes, it was continuously windy and it rained a lot but it seemed more like a typical November day. Thankfully, Irene passed without affecting us too much. But I've now experienced a tropical storm.

The US are pretty well equipped with dealing with natural disasters. During the build up to the hurricane, we came home to find a voice mail giving advice of what to do during one, emergency contact numbers to keep at hand etc. (Unfortunately) I couldn't imagine ol' Blighty being so prepared. I mean, a leaf on a train line causes numerous problems!

Now that I'm here, I'm even more fascinated with extreme weather simply because if it can happen, it will happen here. I would love to go storm chasing. But I'm thinking, that if Hubby worries about me standing by a window looking at a storm, 'e ain't going to be best pleased with me in a 4x4 driving at 50mph, driving through darkening skies, with thunderous rain and hailstones trying to catch up to a tornado...

...oh well, looks like I'll just have to stick to watching Storm Chasers on the Weather Channel...

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Picture House Rules




As many of my friends raved about seeing the final (sniff) installment of Harry Potter, I waited patiently until a couple of weeks after to go see it. Why? Because people suddenly change who they are in a cinema and they become chatterboxes who can't watch a film without talking, eating or drinking noisily.

I believe it was HP 3 that as the film started a burst of applause and mild cheering erupted. Hubby and I exchanged 'per-lease' looks but things settled down fairly quickly and no further interruptions were made. During another HP film, the girl behind us kept whispering to her Dad why something was happening. I wanted to turn around and tell him that maybe he should have asked her what the film's all about before they sat down or indeed just read the book!

Don't get me wrong, I love going to the cinema. The smell of popcorn (although the US don't do sweet just salty popcorn with extra butter) grabbing a coke (US small is equal to a UK large!), the anticipation of watching my favorite actor on the big screen...love it all. I'm not even that adverse to some noise - honestly! I can drown out the occasional crinkle of a sweet wrapper, the clinking of ice-cubes and even the odd gasp or loud whisper of "no, she didn't?!". But what I can't stand is people not being able to be still, and appreciate that everyone has spent $20 or so to watch a film in relative quietness. I'd rather not have to endure the constant impression of a snake as someone whispers to their mates about the latest gossip or whether anyone wants a jelly-bean!

My aversion of seeing anything in the opening week came after watching Memoirs of a Geisha. At the scene where Chiyo is about to do an important dance to impress the Chairman, four college girls burst out laughing because of the 5" wedged shoes that she wears. It was a dramatic moment and those stupid girls ruined it by their giggling! I wish I had the nerve to slap the back of their heads - but I believe that's frowned upon and I would have been charged with GBH/ABH. Pity...

So, with that in mind, I thought that nearly three weeks after HP's release, it would be a fairly quiet room. Wrong! By then, they had moved the film to a smaller screen, so seats were taken up fairly quickly. Hubby and I sat in the back in the last row, with no-one in front of me. A guy sat in front, to my left, two empty seats to his right. His girl came back and then before I knew it, they had moved along. So now I have this tall bloke with hair that looks like he stuck his finger in an electric socket sitting right in front of me. Hubby asked if I could see, I said no; we swapped seats. I then asked Hubby if he could see to which he replied "er, I'm 6ft 4 love.." I'll take that as you can see then. Ahem...

Just as the film starts, another bloke comes in and sits next to 'electric boy'. Oh for crying out loud, bleedin' marvelous! I shifted around and as long as 'late arrival' doesn't also shift, we're good to go. And then he starts rustling something. I'll give him a little (that's very little) credit as he was rustling during a scene that didn't have anyone talking. But who cares...atmosphere man, atmosphere! During the film he scooted down and I could watch the screen straight on. But then the Bad Posture Fairy tapped him on the shoulder which meant he sat up straight again. Thankfully, said Fairy didn't bother him again when he slumped back down again. Yeah.

I managed to enjoy the rest of the epic saga that is HP but it also reminded me that whilst I love going to the cinema, I need to consider the following before I see the next film:

- people dithering, swapping seats, drinks, snacks...
- people getting up and going to the loo 8 times during one film (I'm sorry to be harsh, but why if you have a bladder problem, must you sit in the middle of the room, in the middle of the row?)
- those that have a need to discuss every dramatic moment
- or those who need to share their feelings during the film by cheering, clapping, sobbing or heckling.

And if it will be too annoying, I'll wait until the DVD comes out and watch it quietly on my sofa with a nice brew and some biscuits.


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Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sin City

The main reason for hauling ourselves across country was to see Celine Dion (please see my previous post for details). And, besides that, I was looking forward to visiting Las Vegas because of its links with Elvis and more recently CSI...although, despite being an avid fan it did cause a little hesitation; I mean did I want to got to a place where a lot of gruesome crimes took place? What if we accidentally walked into the wrong part of Vegas? The episode of Greg encountering the gang of thugs who preyed on tourists filled my mind!

But I pushed them aside - Las Vegas was on my list of places to visit!

Packed and with Celine tickets in hand, we arrived late evening. And, when I say late, I mean ten to midnight. We found it quite difficult to find a flight that arrived midday but me thinks it's a marketing ploy. Flying over the city is an amazing sight. The strip and all the lights from the surrounding area twinkling above you is impressive. It also has a slightly surreal look to it as the city is ablaze with lights and its surrounded by a deep darkness that makes the place look like it's floating in mid air.

Before we arrived, we checked out the weather as we knew mid-June would be hot. So we knew to expect 100deg/F temps; the airport doors opened and "the air that came in was like the breath of an oven" (Roald Dahl, The Visitor). Hubby and I looked at each other wondering if we would survive the heat?!

We stayed at Caesar's Palace and were given a room in "The Towers", with a 'breathtaking' view of The Colosseum and a 1/3 of The Flamingo hotel. Despite the late hour, we dropped our bags and wondered around part of the hotel. Next morning, as suggested by the guide books, we allowed ourselves to acclimatise to the Vegas temperature...by staying in mostly! We ambled around the Forum Shops, stopped by a few Black Jack tables and tried to avoid the smoke. We didn't realize but smoking is allowed in all casinos and if you're not careful, as you walk through, a puff of smoke will drift in your direction from the patron 'spinning' the Wheel of Fortune wheel! Lovely..

Our ethos for the week was "path of least resistance". Why? Simply because of the throngs of people that sauntered along the sidewalk, through the casinos...at one point it felt like we were trapped on a conveyor belt just walking up and down the strip. And the remarkable thing? We walked miles that week but never left the strip! That's how big this place is - you think, lets just pop along to MGM, you see the sign in the distance, 20mins later, you're no nearer!

Hubby and I did quite a lot on our week away. Besides the marathon walking through hotels (I'm sure they perfected the "you have to walk through the entire hotel to get anywhere" stance from IKEA!); we saw the lions at MGM, walked beneath sharks at Shark Reef, donned flak jackets and became CSI rookies; brunched at The Four Seasons, took the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, met Elvis, Oprah and the President at Madam Tussauds watched the Sirens at Treasure Island, oohed and ahh'ed at the Volcano (ok, I did that) at the Mirage and went to marvel the Hoover Dam.

The best thing we did was visit the Gun Store, which basically gave anyone a chance to shoot a real gun! We had to choose which weapon we wanted to shoot and after a while, I eventually decided on a Glock 19, Hubby went with the Sig Sauer 226 and an M4 machine gun. After choosing our targets it was time to shoot and naturally, I was a tad anxious having never done it before. Boy the recall on the Glock was powerful, I have no idea how gangsters and the like can be so 'baad' ass with these things. And the noise! Geez...we both managed to cause serious wounds to our target, some were kill shots and others - well they were lucky we missed. The time flew but it was great fun..

Vegas is a shoppers paradise! I was amazed at the amount of people who popped into Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Cartier and actually came out with bags. But whilst trying to avoid being enticed, I spotted the Michael Kors handbags. My eyes were drawn to the beautiful Tangerine Gia Satchel. As I picked it up, sales assistants swarmed me. Hubby completely floored me by asking if I wanted it. "Is the Pope Catholic? Ah...if only" I sighed; and then he bought it for me! I kept saying no, you can't but Hubby being just Hubby ignored the mouth and followed the longing in my eyes! Gawd Bless 'im...

Overall, I'm glad we went to Sin City. Although disappointed that I couldn't feed actual quarters into the slot machines, I played the slot machines...in Vegas! There were some hotels that really needed a revamp (Imperial Palace was ropey to say the least!) and the cocktail waitresses that bought you drinks as you played the tables/slots were a lot of the times mutton dressed as lamb and some could do with whitening their dentures. The Pussycat Dolls tables were a highlight (I wonder why?!) but the girls doing the pole dancing a) didn't do it in time to the music and b) looked so bored?! Come the nighttime and there was a plethora of men and women dressed up to the nines queuing to get in to the clubs. Which made people watching a blast...ok it was mainly me bitchin' at what people wore, stunned at the heel heights and how many 'sugar daddy's' were around!

So if you're off to visit the great Las Vegas, I recommend (in no particular order) the following:

1. See Celine Dion - Caesars Palace
2. Lunch at Munch Bar - Caesars Palace (the chilli is to die for)
3. CSI Experience - MGM
4. Breakfast - Mandalay Bay/Four Seasons
5. The Gun Shop
6. A cup of tea & a slice of cake - Payard, Caesars Palace.

Oh and if you're going to gamble, study how to play the games...you could go home with a lot of money. Sadly, Hubby and I came away with $25 at the end of the week. Ah well, I'll stick to the Grand National, better odds. But I still won big time anyway...with my fabulous new handbag!! Viva Las Vegas...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Fabulous Celine





I've just come back from Las Vegas having seen Celine Dion in concert...it was AMAZING!!

There are very few artists that I 'love'. Readers of a previous entry will know that one of these few loves is my undying one for Rick Astley; and that was really it until Celine Dion came along.

I wouldn't claim to be her biggest fan, but I certainly have the majority of her albums and know the lyrics to all the songs, the names of her children, that she has a home in LA, Las Vegas and Canada...but, no not a huge fan.

I've always wanted to see her in concert but with one thing and the other, never got around to it. When she announced six years ago that she was going to do a five year show in Vegas, it got me thinking...wouldn't it be great to go and see her. But yet again, life intervened and pushed it to the back of my mind.

The five years came and went and I felt saddened that I didn't make it to see her. Sister kindly tried to get tickets to see her when she was doing her world tour, but it never happened. Then, Celine made an announcement that she was returning to The Colosseum and my mind started to race - for at the same time Hubby and I were America bound.

I again, put it to the back of my mind for a while but then April last year, I called Hubby (who was already stateside) asking nay, begging to go to the concert. I argued cost wise it may not be too much as we're already in America...cutting a long story short, my wonderful and generous Hubby agreed and a year later we were on a plane heading to Vegas.

The evening of the concert, as I got dressed I began to get very excited. Staying at Caesars Palace meant that we had a very short walk from the elevator to the main doors of The Colosseum, so I wore my strappy wedge heels without fear of a blister!

I wasn't 100% sure of the seats that I booked. Looking at a diagram when booking I figured we had pretty good seats. When we were shown to our seats we were less than 10ft away from the stage; albeit we would spend most of the show looking side onto Celine, but frankly, I didn't care! I was seeing Celine live!

Before we went, I said to Hubby that we had to dress up. No ball-gown and tiara but nice, smart jeans and a shirt type thing. So we did that but actually felt a tad overdressed when we looked at what some people wore. Forgive me for sounding like a snob, but why have people lost the sense of occasion? You're here seeing Celine at Caesars Palace! A few people were wearing three-quarter length trousers and trainers, one guy had on a shorts and a vest type thing. I couldn't help but have a look of disdain on my face!

Moving on....

....we settled into our seats and the show began; and boy was it amazing! The stage setting was simple as its main focus was the orchestra that played behind Celine. As she sang her first song, images of when she first started singing appeared. The show included a tribute to Michael Jackson who came to see her at the first set of Vegas shows and a duet with Stevie Wonder and an incredible french song which reduced her to tears.

Her array of dresses were stunning - long flowing numbers with just the right amount of sparkle and the shoes! Fabulous...works of art.

The concert was soon over ending with a couple of numbers that had us all on our feet dancing. Thankfully, it drowned out the old guy who sat next to me who insisted on humming away to most songs. I wouldn't have minded except he hummed out of tune and a tad loudly...

Celine's encore was to sing My Heart Will Go On. She wore a sea green/light aqua flowing dress with a jeweled flower motif at the waist. As she sang, she was raised on a podium and as the song hit its crescendo, down came a circular cascade of water around her. Breathtaking!

Even if you're not a fan of Celine, I would recommend seeing her. She's funny, chats with the audience, she sings live every night...and boy is she a powerhouse of a singer. Brilliant stuff...I wanted to see her all over again...but we had other things to do in Vegas and well, I couldn't subject Hubby to another Celine concert....or could I?


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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Driving on the wrong side - Part 1





So, my UK license is only valid for about a year in the land of the free.
That's fine. I know how to drive and cars being mainly automatic - no problem (my beloved peaugot was an automatic).

Knowing that I'd have to get a US license, I ventured into the nearest bookstore thinking that I'd purchase the US equivalent of the Highway Code. I looked and looked but to no avail; so I spoke to the lady at Information. Luckily, she was English and understood me saying "do you have the American version of the 'Highway Code'?" It seems no, but if you go the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) site I can download it for free (as opposed to going to the DMV office and paying $5?!! Go figure, someone missed a trick there!)

Whilst chatting, she (Information Desk lady) said the road test was very easy - 10/15min it's nothing to worry about. Excellent, I thought but then again ten or fifteen minutes road test? No wonder there are so many bad drivers around. No wait, that's due to them driving, whilst on their cell phones, around corners, ignoring/getting annoyed at pedestrians on the crossing.

Moving on. Hubby, the gem that he is, printed out a copy of the Massachusetts Drivers Manual for me to start revising. I should point out that every state has their own set of road regulations and signs as well as the 'doesn't matter where you live, these are the road regulations'; and if you move to another state, you need learn their state laws, re-take your test and surrender your previous state driver's license. Geez...

I start to read/memorize road signs and regulations. And, although I've driven a few times on American soil, reading said material made a lot of things clearer! having said that, common sense plays a major role in driving - where ever you are in the world (lesson over, ahem).

There isn't a lot of difference in US signs to UK, just different expressions. For example, the 'Give Way' sign is 'Yield', the motorway is called the interstate etc; oh and of course, driving on the right hand side of the road. That's not too much of problem...it's the fact that the drivers sit on the left-hand side of the car. Thank God an automatic car means no shifting gear otherwise I would be doing moves from Saturday Night Fever trying to remember that the gear stick is to the right of me!

As I continued through the book I came across the section on 'Rotary Systems'. And in English...that's a roundabout; but bizarrely enough a smaller 'rotary' is called a roundabout?! In my world, ain't that the same thing? I have no issues with roundabouts, but being over here...well, I'm not overly keen on them. Firstly, I'm approaching them from the right hand side of the road and then giving way to the left. It was clearly stated that the car travelling in the rotary has right of way. Well, duh! otherwise you'd go ploughing into them?!

Anyway, I found a free online testing site and worked through the test papers getting between 80-95% (who had the right of way at an intersection always tripping me up). So between reading the manual and taking the online tests, I figured I'd pass the written exam.

I arrived at the DMV office, sat around waiting for my ticket to be called then realised after 40mins that the receptionist didn't tell me that I had to go to the 2nd floor. She claims she did. I refrained from pointing out that if I had heard her would I have not trundled up there? So, having cursed her with a miserable day, headed up to hand over my paperwork. This aforementioned paperwork consisted of -

my passport
my UK license
my application for a drivers permit
my birth certificate
a letter from the social security office stating that I don't get benefits and documentation with my current home address

I'm only getting a drivers license...not a renewal of my visa!!

Anyway, the guy at the counter didn't take long to go through all of that stuff. Unfortunately, he mumbled so I felt like I kept saying "Hmmm?" and "Sorry?", "Ah..um, excuse me?" all time and thought he'd insist on my taking a hearing test. He was interested and pleasantly surprised that I was from Guyana and recommended that I go to South Africa - although he hasn't been himself? (shaking my head in a perplexed manner)

I then entered the room where you take the "written" test. It is in fact a touch screen set up. I had 25mins and had to get 18 questions correct. The first 8 questions, I sailed through (they tell you straightway if you got the question correct), got the next 6 wrong only because they were blithering on about if you're 16 what's the minimum fine for driving without an adult, what's the fine/sentence if caught with an illegal substance. I don't know...I completely forgot reading about that and who cares if a 16yr old gets done...it's their problem for getting caught! The next 10, fine...they were road signs and before I knew it I had passed (yeah me!)

I now have the road test to endure. And for that...I need to have a sponsor. What's that? I hear you cry. No, it's not someone I will call in the middle of the night when I have a crisis about why it can't be called a roundabout instead of a rotary, no, it's someone who will be with me in the car as I take my test. Yes, in the car with me as I take my test. Crazy, I know. It's bad enough I'm worrying about taking a test on American roads, but I have to have a passenger with me? beyond comprehension, I tell yah.

Oh and as for my 'curse' to the receptionist who claimed she told me to go to the 2nd floor? As I left the DMV offices, she was talking in an exasperated manner on the phone and had a queue of 12 people, looking bored and annoyed, waiting for a ticket...



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Chauncy St,Cambridge,United States

Monday, 6 June 2011

What, No Cheese?

Americans have an obsession with cheese; and not in any 'la-dee-la' have you tasted this sheep's milk cheese infused with a hint of garlic and a sprinkling of chive way. No, it's the square, processed can be used as putty type of obsession.

Once you get over the initial cloying slightly plastic taste (oh and the luminous yellow color) it's not that bad. It actually has a nice flavor to it - but am I just lovin' the processed part? Plus it has a good melting consistency to it - all gooey and stringy - very nice.

But, what I want to know is - does everything have to have cheese in it? Let me enlighten you...

Like its 'rival' state NYC, Boston is well known for its sandwiches. Call them what you may - subs, panini's, grinders...they'll make whatever you want...all with added cheese. And to be fair, it's not just the great American slice that's your choice; there's also provolone, pepper jack, swiss and non British cheddar (Cor, do I miss a nice bit of British cheddar...said in my best Wallace voice). Picking up one half of a sandwich requires both hands and that's not to do with just the size but more to stop the filling from falling out.

Once you've accepted the cheese in your sandwich - comes breakfast and cheese. Even if "America runs on Dunkin' (Donuts)"...there's a plethora of other breakfast items like croissants, bagels and English muffins (yes, you can find English muffins over here - they love 'em). And whilst you can get it plain (the offer of some sort of cream cheese or butter is never far behind), the most popular way to have these breads is with sausage (flat patties - not the bangers that we're used to), bacon, egg and of course cheese! Sometimes because of our 'deep' English accents, they mishear us and forget the sausage altogether and we've ended up with just an egg and cheese muffin.

Pop into a restaurant for brunch and the scrambled eggs come mixed in with cheese. I'm not convinced how much flavor this adds - chives yes, spring onion or red peppers definitely, but cheese? Hubby doesn't mind it too much...I've yet to be convinced.

Why this post on cheese? Well, the other day I popped into get a sandwich from a local place. A sandwich of turkey on rye, black pepper, lettuce with mayo and the following conversation ensued...

Me: can I have a turkey on rye, lettuce, mayo and black pepper please?
SL (sandwich lady): did you want cheese?
Me: No (otherwise I would have asked for it, I thought)
SL: OK. So, that's turkey on rye, lettuce, mayo, black pepper.
Me: Yes, thanks
SL: No cheese
Me: (oy-vay), no...thanks
SL: OK
SL to assistant: Turkey on rye, mayo, lettuce, black pepper - no cheese
Assistant: no cheese?
SL: no cheese

For the love of all that is good! I'm asking for a sarnie without cheese not an assault rifle (although I'm sure that wouldn't be given a second thought if I did ask for one!) So, now the word will spread around all Cambridge sandwich proprietors...watch out for the woman with a funny accent who doesn't like cheese in her sandwiches.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good bit of cheese as much as the next person...just not in everything...America - please forgive me!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Madeline

I despair!


Over the years I've always been drawn to the appeal of madelines...or rather
the tins in which they are baked. The shell-like pattern is what defines the madelines from other cakes. (Also the use of melted butter - melted to the point of just browning that adds to the distinct flavor). But for me, it's mainly to do with the baking tins.

I confess, I love baking tins - I'm slightly obsessed with them. At any given opportunity I will amble into a kitchen shop and peruse their collection of tins in quiet contemplation. Ah yes, as I pick them up be it a muffin or bundt tin, I'll think of recipes that I've come across and how lovely they would look in said tin. My tenderly holding them has led to some sales assistant sauntering over and asking me if I need any help. No thank-you, my gentle caress of the tin doesn't mean I want to pilfer the thing!

Not that I'm some sort of strange person that needs psychiatric help to understand why I love baking tins. I won't be appearing on an edition of Taboo or anything like that (Taboo for those who have not seen the program is about people who have strange loves; like a man who likes being dressed up as a baby or a woman that's in love with an object, which is a wall I believe). It's just a healthy appreciation.

So whilst visiting Williams & Sonoma (anyone not knowing what the shop is about, you must pay a visit to their site. They have the most divine things for all kitchen/dining related items. Pricey, but my piece of heaven on earth!) Anyway, I sauntered over to the baking section and whilst I mulled over how much use I'd get from the Star Wars pancake moulds I spotted the madeline tin. Now, I have one back in the UK; unfortunately, it's neatly packed away metaphorically gathering dust in storage. So my dilemma - should I get another one? The last time I baked said cake, they didn't turn out the way I expected. To say they were a little dry and 'heavy' was an understatement!

As I contemplated whether to buy or not, I noticed that they had a mini version. It looked so damn cute that my failure hurtled to the back of my mind as I reached for the shiny metal object. Ahh yes, I have a home you my mini madeline tin.

Fast forward to my day to bake. I looked in my cookery books for a good recipe with doubt settling in quickly about how good they'll turn out. Now the US don't really do 'self-raising' flour; they do 'self-rising' which to me is the same thing, but they mainly use 'all purpose' flour to which you add baking powder/soda/helium - anything to make the cake light. But they also have 'cake flour' - which I used for this recipe. I promise I followed the method and although it said to use self-raising/rising I thought cake flour should suffice - wouldn't it? But maybe there is a huge difference in cake flour and self raising? Back in ol' Blighty I used sponge flour for all my cakes to no ill effect - Lord I miss McDougalls!!

Cutting this saga short, I baked 32 mini madelines and were they light and fluffy? About as light and fluffy as a hippo on a tightrope.

The recipe that I used advised: "best eaten on the day made - except if you're Shalini, in which case, give up all hope and find another use for your madeline tin".



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Chauncy St,Cambridge,United States

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Starbucks, Apple & A Good Idea

Forgive the interruption in service. There really is no excuse for not making regular posts. But, being a new 1950s housewife is very time consuming ahem...

So, where was I? Ah yes...

...Hubby has hit upon a brilliant idea. Whilst passing by (my beloved) Starbucks, we looked in to see if there was any room. Alas, on a Saturday afternoon, it's nigh on impossible to find room for one, let alone two people.

I suggested to Hubby that we loiter and stare at people so those sitting with empty cups and half eaten brownies will feel guilty and vacate their seat/table. Admittedly, I lack the courage to actually carry that 'threat' out, so we stood for a moment contemplating where to go for a cup of java.

Whilst standing there, Hubby surveyed the tables. And smiled, "you know", he said to me "Apple needs to open up a 'Genius Bar' here...or at the very least PC World should sponsor this place. Actually make that Best Buys."

Brilliant idea! Each time I enter SB, I don't see tables laden with used paper cups or crumbs from a devoured coffee cake, but rather laptops, i-pods, and i-phones. With the amount of Apple laptops that adorn the front window benches, a Genius Bar would do very well. How many essays, thesis' or notes have disappeared or a web page not loaded properly? Their frustration would be resolved in an instant. But, would having a Genius Bar encourage folk to stay even longer and therefore deprive me from leaving crumbs of coffee cake behind?

Still, I reckon Hubby is onto something - I should get in touch with Apple & SB to suggest the idea...and obviously get some sort of compensation...

My Hubby, not just a handsome bloke


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad






Location:Cambridge

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Take A Hint

I was reading the Metro section of the The Boston Globe recently and happened across the agony aunt section. I normally read these (problems) just because I'm nosey and possibly, selfishly, feel better about my life because at least I don't have their issues.

And, after reading them it does make me wonder why people feel motivated to write in and share with the world their dilemmas. Yes, I appreciate that 'talking' to a stranger allows a little perspective, but why do it so publicly?

Mind you, writing in about a problem is much better that airing them on national TV - need I mention, Jerry Springer, Trisha and the like? Why people, does finding out that your best friend slept with your mother's best friend's daughter make for interesting viewing? (rolling my eyes). Moving on...

...this particular problem...this woman wrote in saying that (in short) her husband has changed his Facebook profile picture from the two of them to just himself. When seeing his friends she doesn't get invited along, although sometimes the friends wives do; on occasion their dog attends events. She asks what she should do, as the relationship has changed.

I can't remember what the agony aunt's response was but this is what I would say (and I appreciate that it may come across as a tad harsh but..)

"Dear Unsure,

Lord have mercy, how thick do you have to be?

The DOG gets invited out but you don't. Er, let me think - yeah love, I'd say your relationship has changed!!?! Maybe he's not 'man enough' to leave you, but girl...get the heck out of there!

Hope it all works out for you.."

Yeah, I know...maybe a career as an agony aunt is not quite for me...




Friday, 25 March 2011

The Power of Body Shop

I'm always amazed at no matter how determined I am to just "pop in" to The Body Shop to pick up what ever it is I need at the time, I end up with eight things that I liked but had no intention of buying and didn't really need it at that particular moment.

With the whole spiel of "if you spend $40 now, you'll get a point which means 15% off your next purchase..", they really know how to make their money. Really, a whole point now...oh well if you said earlier...

The training they receive must be fantastic. I can just imagine they're all sitting in a large conference room, the trainer is looking at the latest recruits saying "remember ladies and gentlemen, sell, sell, sell...it's all natural, good for them, for the planet and if they still won't purchase the bath lilly...tell them about the stop cruelty to children petition..."

The other day I went in for some bath wash and was pounced on. I did avoid eye contact, but the sales assistants have grown wise..yes, customer dear, we've been trained...we know you're not looking at us, but we're still going to ask you if we can help!

So, the young man asks "is there anything I can help you with? By the way, the mango wash (which I had in my hand) is so refreshing." I smiled, as he chatted away about "have I tried satsuma". I tried to quell my mind and my mouth from asking a question, but I rarely listen to anyone, so why would I listen to me?! "Actually, I was looking for an exfoliating face wash". His eyes brightened...no, could it be true, she wants something else. Oh you've done it now, I chastised myself. "Of course" he replies practically jumping up and down. He takes me to a shelf with said product, "try this one, with camu camu seeds; its really good and I just love saying that - camu camu seeds." Ok, I get it you like saying "camu camu"...he goes on to ask if I want a hand exfoliator...dragging me to a bowl of warm water, where he applies a salve and starts massaging my hand; "doesn't it feel lovely?" I smiled, "yes it does, but no thanks." That's it girl stand strong.

Then he says, "can I interest you in a make-up case, with make-up brushes? Only $15..if you buy one more thing...?" Nah, mate, suckered into that one last week I almost respond...but smiled and say "thanks, but I already have that." Disappointment flashes in eyes.

I wanted to reassure him that next time I'm in, he can corner me with another offer that they are promoting and that I will no doubt succumb to. But refrained...then felt a tad guilty so I added to my bath lily collection...


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad



Location:Cambridge MA

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Golden Globes

I'm not a huge fan of award ceremonies. I like to know who won what at the BAFTA's, the Oscars, Grammy's and even the Raspberries (is that the correct name?), however, that doesn't mean I'm inclined to sit and watch actors and musicians alike picking up their well deserved piece of display for their mantelpiece. But, like my love for country music, being in America, you can't help but get drawn into the glamour.

So, Hubby and I (well, Hubby kept one eye on the proceedings, whilst I had both firmly glued to the screen), settled in and watched the Golden Globes. And, to be perfectly honest, I was much more interested in who was wearing what. I love fashion but I'm certainly no fashionista! To be honest, I like seeing who's wearing what and 'avin' a bit of b*tch about whether they should be wearing that on the red carpet. C'mon on now, don't tell me you wouldn't do the same thing.

I tuned into E! on the red carpet with Ryan Seacrest, who was interviewing the likes of (OMG!) Justin Bieber, Brad and Angie as well as Michael Douglas and CZJ (Michael, by the way looks so good after all his chemo...). Ryan would ask who the designer was and well, I didn't actually know all the designers they mentioned (did I say I'm not a fashionista?!) but I recognized the usual like Prada and Armani. My observation is that green is the new purple which was the new black. Some great designs and as always the jewelry was er, blinging! (can you use that word as a verb?!) Anyway the highlights for me (oh and don't expect some elaborate description detailing the cut and flow...sorry!) were:

Angelina Jolie: Long vintage looking green sparkly dress (Versace)- very nice, demure and understated...and did I mention green? And what's with the draping/leaning constantly against/over Brad? Angie love, we know you're together, no need to stick to the man like glue...are you that worried about Jen?!

Sandra Bullock: Hmmm...pink, sparkly, off the shoulder, crystals flowing across the length of the dress...but her fringe was a little too long and detracted from the dress. Although Ms bullock is one of my fave actors, I expected something that didn't look so dated. Lets just say it wasn't her best red carpet look!

J-Lo: white dress, gathered at the front, strapless with a chiffon, sequin studded 'shawl'. She looked goddess like, beautiful as always...although e! seems to think she looked matronly?!

Olivia Wilde: Gorgeous, gorgeous, chocolate colored tulle ball gown which was packed with sequins from the bodice to a gentle cascade over the skirt. And the heels - divine! Gold sequined Louboutin shoe/boots!

Halle Berry: some didn't like her basque and chiffon number, but I thought she looked stunning. And her skin...flawless.

Natalie Portman: beautiful in a pink empire waist number with a red appliqu├ęd rose across the sweetheart neckline. It showed off her bump in a lovely, demure way.

Megan Fox: Stunning! This was my favorite dress of the evening. It was a pink number (actually, they call it 'blush'...looked pink to me!) with the bodice part 'sections' of material criss-crossing with some of those strips of material studded with sequins/rhinestones (couldn't quite tell! But see the picture attached!) It was by Armani Prive.

Lea Michele (Glee): looked very sweet in a Oscar de la Renta ruffles and flowing fabric. Some say she looked a little twee; I didn't think so.

Jane Lynch: Considering how tall she is, Ms Lynch looked elegant in her black, dazzling dress.

Tilda Swinton: hmmm...it looked like she dropped something on the top part of her dress at home, didn't have time to don another dress, so put on a white shirt (crisply ironed!) with a lemon (duchess silk?) full length skirt. Eh? Sorry...not a red carpet combo at all!

Helena Bonham Carter: for starters the hair. She looked liked she had just left the HP set. So, her coif was Bellatrix crossed with someone getting dressed in the dark - she wore two different colored shoes. I appreciate wearing Westwood means being a little out there...but there's "out there" and then there's "can I hitch ride back to Earth?"!

Overall, I thought the majority of the women looked so beautiful...as for the men; unfortunately, there's only so many ways to wear a tuxedo! Which is worse for them as if they don't have the stature to carry it off, they can look odd. Justin had to wear sneakers with his ensemble...ok Bieber, we get it, you're young, you need to stay hip. But mate, this is the Golden Globes...dress for the occasion. Johnny Depp...suave as usual without a tie. But as Hubby put it, that man can wear something from the reject bin in Oxfam and still look good.

Check out www.eonline.com for pictures for some of the ladies mentioned above.

With the glitz and the glamor all over, I must say, I'm looking forward to the Oscars...