Monday, 31 August 2009


So much fun, aren't they? My gran came in this weekend. She was originally scheduled to land at 10.50 pm, Saturday. She rang Saturday morning to say, my flight's been delayed. Won't be leaving til 4.30 pm. Which put her getting into London Heathrow at 6.15 Sunday morning. Oh the joys. I ended up getting up so early I might as well have not gone to bed! We're more or less recovered (we were both in bed, asleep by 10 last night!) But this weekend we're off and . . . well, flying, not running . . . again. Destination? St Petersburg, Russia! So, I'll be away for a couple of weeks, but watch this space. When I get back, I'll be sure to post some photos. St. Petersburg - Moscow, cruising down the Volga River!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Seizing the Day on Planet Mithi

Visitors!! I love having visitors. And these ones were extra special. Mithi and Drew (whose wedding I attended in July) are 2 of my favourite people, ever. They're very playful, which is right up my alley. I know Mithi from my London dancing days (as in, Living and Dancing in London, not my current, Live in Colchester, Dance in London habits). It was so much fun having them come! For most of Sunday afternoon, we sat around my kitchen and garden, chilling out, Hoola Hooping, having dinner and talking. Drew knows a few Hooping Tricks, so he taught me how to do them. It was really funny. Mithi watched, laughed at me getting it wrong, took photos and dodged runaway Hoops! Then we went up to the Uni and fed the ducks and had a wander through the park-like grounds. We ended up back at mine, swapping music, talking, sharing crazy youtube videos and funny Internet sites til gone 1 in the morning, at which point we decided we really needed to crash. We all toddled off to our respective beds, Drew and Mithi being the first to sleep in my brand-new guest bed (delivered the previous Thursday!) Apparently it passed the test, because they say they slept great.

Monday morning I made cornbread waffely/pancakey things. I have this pan that has 7 little waffle shaped circles (6 around the perimeter, one in the centre) and it creates a waffle pattern on pancakes. It's really cute, and really yummy, too. After breakfast, we puttered around the house, figuring out what we'd need to do a couple of DIY projects. Then we went to every DIY store in Colchester, and found almost none of the bits we needed! I'm going to have to import them from the US (grumble grumble). But we did manage to get 2 mirrors hung. One in the guest bedroom, and one in the stairwell. So, that's two projects off my list. Somewhere in the middle of that we took a break and had gorgeous open-faced sandwiches (suggested by my fabulous sister, Lois). Then Drew took off for home. Yes. Just Drew. Mithi had to be in London today, so she stayed behind, because it's closer to get into London from my house than from hers. So we went down to the local crafty shop and wandered around. Mithi's an artist, so she had fun looking at the random things that are available here in Colchester, as opposed to there in Bristol. And we walked up to the Castle Park, and wandered around there for a bit. Finally, we ended up back near my house, at the local kid's park. It's got a physics jungle gym. We ended up watching the stars come out as we sat on this crazy net/swing. Then we came home and had dinner, and Strawberry Pavlova! With loads of strawberries and silly amounts of whipped double cream. Yum! We tried to get to bed reasonably early, but it was still well past 12 when we made it. Oops. We managed to get up around 6 this morning and get Mithi to the train station for 7.

Thanks to Drew and Mithi for the lovely visit!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Through Your Eyes

Have you ever wondered what you looked like through someone else's eyes? I've often wondered, because it seems like whenever I see myself (either in the mirror or in a photo) whatever my worst feature is at that point (it varies from day to day and month to month) is all I can see. Like, if you've got a spot on your chin, it's all you can see, even though no one else even notices. Well, recently I saw a photo of myself from the summer of 2006, and all the sudden, it was like I was looking at a photo of someone else. I wasn't entirely objective (I don't think you can be, even if you're actually looking at a photo of someone else) but I wasn't nearly so critical as I have been. Maybe it's part of maturing. Or, maybe I was just so much closer to my perfect body weight that summer that I'm jealous now. Funny thing is, at the time, I actually couldn't see it. Gave me new insight into people with eating disorders. I've never been able to understand how someone as thin as various cadaverous Hollywood stars could look at themselves and see fat . . . and yet, I distinctly remember feeling like I wasn't thin that summer. But looking back, I was! I looked really good, not overly thin, just fit and shapely. It was an interesting experience. Hope I can keep that perspective (though considering I still feel like I'd really like to lose 5 pounds, I'm not holding my breath.)

Monday, 10 August 2009

Hooray for Hooping!

At the wedding in Bristol the other week, I saw a bunch of grown people doing something really odd . . . they were Hoola-Hooping! And not just the swinging it round the waist sort of thing you did as a kid. These people were dancing with a hoop for a partner. It was beautiful! And it looked like such fun. So I started asking around and found out some of the details for where to go and what to get to start hooping. I ordered my hoop, and it arrived last week! So, all week long, I've been playing with it. I'm not quite ready for any competitions . . . but I've got the hang of keeping it going for as long as I want. It's brilliant. So much fun. Can't wait til I start getting the hang of moving it up and down my body. If you're interested in seeing some serious hooping, have a look at this. Enjoy!

P.S. - It's brilliant exercise.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Books I Have Read

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Copy this and bold the ones you have read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Total: 9

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

Total so far: 16

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

Total so far: 24

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma-Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Prydaine Cycle - Lloyd Alexander
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

Total so far: 30

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

Total so far: 35

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafo
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Total so far: 40

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

Total so far: 44

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

Total so far: 50

80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Colour of Magic - Terry Pratchett
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

Total so far: 55

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 The Eyre Affaire - Jasper Fford
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Grand total – 60 (Don't forget, I did my Undergrad degree in English Literature)

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


I love visitors. It's so fun! One of my students from BYU has been on a study abroad to London. So he emailed me and we met up for dinner one night in London. Then, last week he emailed and said they were going to be leaving for a week of travel before heading off home, and would I mind if he came to visit for the afternoon before they left? I said, of course come and visit! So he and his roommate from the programme came and hung out with me all afternoon. They arrived around 4.00, and we headed up to the castle, where we enjoyed the last hour of the museum. Then we ran back to my house and got stuff for crabbing on Mersea Island. When I suggested it, I figured we'd be there for half an hour, or so. No. We were there for an hour and a half! We had a ball. It was so much fun. There were all these cute kids with their families crabbing along side, and they were so friendly wanting to know how many crabs we'd got, showing us theirs, etc. The boys were very surprised by how much fun crabbing was, and kept saying how much fun they'd had and how pleased they were that they came out, rather than staying in London for their last day.

After crabbing, Jacob wanted to swim in the North Sea, just to say he'd done so, so Garret and I hung out for 5 minutes whilst Jacob had a quick dip. Then we packed up and went back to mine for an Indian take-away. I'd tried to choose things to do/eat that would be truly typically English, as opposed to stereotypically Hollywood myth English. And it sounded like the boys enjoyed! I hope they had as much fun as I did.

Sunday, 2 August 2009


I am such a Harry Potter geek. Seriously. After all, I'm an academic. We're all a little OCD in some ways, and when we find something we enjoy, that compulsion tends to reveal itself. For example, I happen to know that, were Harry real, he'd be a year younger than me. Told you. Geek.

Anyway, the new movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is out (as I'm sure you are all aware). I love it. I've heard some criticism about it, but I love it. Half-Blood Prince is my least favourite of the books, so it's not all that surprising that it would be my least favourite of the movies, as well. (My top picks are #s 3, 7 and 4, in that order. Then, 1 and 5 in whichever order you please, with 2 and 6 bringing up the rear.) However, I understand the narrative reasons for what has been done in this book. Each of the prior 5 books has had a discrete plot and a series plot. That is to say, in book 1, Harry had to defeat Quirel (discrete plot) and learn about Voldemort and the Wizarding World. Each of these discrete plots gets a resolution (defeat of Quirel, defeat of Basilisk and Riddle, saving Serious . . . ) which leaves the reader with a feeling of resolution, even though the larger plot is still open. Book 6 doesn't do that. There is no discrete plot. It's filling in all the blanks left by the previous 5 books (thus all the trips to the pensive) and setting up for book 7. Which means, it moves slower and doesn't have any resolution at the end. Especially since, in order to fulfil the 'coming of age' bit of the quest narrative, he has to be left all alone, without any adult help. That's why his parents, Serious and Dumbledoor all had to die. The Weaslies escape because they don't have any authority over Harry. They're friends, not guardians. Therefore, there is a feeling of tragedy and impending doom, rather than the hopefulness and completion of the previous books. It's the same reason why most people like Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi better than Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. You can't solve the problem if you haven't gotten into trouble first! So, whilst book 5 will never be my favourite of the series, I understand its place and function.

Told you I was a geek!