Wednesday, 27 May 2009

My Mission to Find Mr Right: an update

Not good news I'm afraid, but I thought I'd give you a quick update on my recent mission to find Mr Right. The free weekend membership turned out to be a farce. Even though it is run by a very respectable national newspaper it has serious problems with the website which, on first impressions, looked pretty good. However, they didn't approve my main profile until the free membership had run out (hmmm....) and I couldn't browse any suitable profiles for most of the time, although I could for a short period on the first day, not sure why.

Anyway, it has taken 4 emails to them to get my profile deleted, and I won't be splurging on a paying membership based on that experience. Well, not until they get their act sorted.

So, the question is: Should I continue on with my mission via another route? Or just put it on the back burner until things change (don't ask me what)?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Film reviewing: It's a tough job but someones gotta do it

Those lovely people at Think Parents (that's you Kerry!) sent me a very welcome present a couple of weeks ago. They sent me and my girlies a free Blu-ray machine, and 4 Blu-ray films to review. Yes really. And what do they want in return for this? Well, they have asked for an honest review of the films, what we think of Blu-ray (viewed on a High Definition TV) as opposed to DVD and I also have to hand over my youngest daughter to work as a slave in the Think Parents offices. OK, I lied about the last bit.

But wait, this means hours of relentless entertainment and popcorn eating. Hours of sitting in the comfort of our own home reviewing free Disney films whilst scoffing Magnums. But, nonetheless, we decided not to shirk our arduous responsibilities and carry on....

The first film we watched was Sleeping Beauty, the 50th Anniversary version with special extras added for Blu-ray only. Small daughter loves this film (we already have it on DVD) and it is a lovely, charming film although it's also 50 years old and while not exactly showing its age, it doesn't have the special effects that children expect these days. Also, to be honest we couldn't really tell the difference between the picture quality on Blu-ray versus DVD. We're giving this film 5 out of 10.

OK, onto High School Musical 3. I'll hand over to Small Daughter who is a HSM aficionado.

"It was really good because the picture was much brighter and clearer than it was on the cinema, and you can see a lot of detail and it's not fuzzy. I loved the film and the music is great."

Even the Teenager-in-waiting has an opinion on this one!

"I'm 12 and I don't usually like High School Musical but it was good because I liked all the action because you could see it really well because it was all so clear. I loved the opening scene. I also like the scene where Troy and Gabriella are dancing on the rooftop because you can see the rain bouncing off the ground clearly. It was magical."

Yep, I'd agree with her. The picture quality on this film was fantastic. From the opening closeup shot of Troy (Zac Efron) playing basketball I was amazed by how clear everything was - the strands of hair, the beads of sweat, his eyelashes.....the colours were brighter, the picture was sharper, everything seemed....well, clearer. We're giving this Blu-ray film 10 out of 10.

We have two further films to review: Wall-E and Bedtime Stories. Don't worry about us, we'll be fine. Just send food parcels to sustain us during the film-fest.

If you're based in the UK and interested in doing some online reviews/questionnaires etc for Think Parents they are very generous with their freebies. Just tell them I sent you....

Monday, 25 May 2009

Making the blogging world a smaller place

It's official. Bloggers are fabulous people. This week I couldn't post any new items on my blog (my pc was away to be repaired by my little brother - who is, btw, 6'3", 39, single, good looking, straight) but I received two lovely surprises from the blogging community.

On Wednesday a postcard from Sydney, Australia was waiting for me on my return from work. It was from the lovely and very kind Mervat from The Writing Instinct. The card shows some of her favourite parts of Sydney which I would love to see myself one day.

Then the very next day another card arrived, this time from the talented and very creative Darla from Bayside to Mountainside. She regularly travels up to her weekend mountain home in California and this card depicted what she actually sees on those trips from the bay to the mountains.

I'll be sending a card or something similar back to Mervat, and would love to send one to Darla (please let me have your address!).

Thanks again from the three of us, it's so lovely to receive something tangible from a virtual friend.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

My blog is fabulous! Who'd have thought it?

Apparently, the south coast of England has something special in the air which makes its residents bestow generous awards on others. The very lovely Emily of Maternal Tales from the South Coast has passed on a really lovely award to me. Thank you Emily, I'm chuffed to little mintballs as they say and will be displaying it proudly on my virtual mantelpiece.

The etiquette of this award states that I must list my 5 least favourite things before passing it on to some of my favourite blogs.

1. Tofu. This is surely the invention of the devil himself? The first time I ate tofu I didn't know what it was but knew that I couldn't bear the texture. I've eaten it several times since, not through choice but either politeness or ignorance and have not had any reason to change my utter dislike of it. No thanks. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if I cut a flip-flip into cubes, pan-fried it, seasoned it and served it up in a dish as 'tofu' no-one would be able to tell the difference. In fact, I'd rather go with the fried flip-flop, sand included.

2. Bad table manners. You know the sort - talking with a mouth full of food; burping at the end of a meal and then saying proudly "If I was in the middle east that would be a compliment"; piling a huge amount of food onto the fork and then straining to fit it all in at once; messing around with food on the plate - if you don't want to eat it, just leave it!

3. Jazz music. I've written about this before, but I just don't get jazz. I can listen to any other type of music and find something I like in it but not with jazz, especially trad jazz. Not for me, and I actually turn the radio or TV off if I hear it.

4. Slugs. I'm not afraid of spiders or other insects, but I cannot stand even the sight of a slug. Oooh, it makes me go all cold just thinking of them so I'll move on....

5. Ironing. Doesn't everyone hate this, or is it just me? I have a pile of ironing which is threatening to take over the spare bedroom. My answer? Only venture in when something needs ironing to wear straightaway, the rest of the time keep the bedroom door closed. I'm a bad person.....

Anyhow, I'd like to pass this award onto some other fabulous blogs. Don't forget to list the 5 things you like least.

Not only did I receive one award, but another one came along at the same time. Mervat from The Writing Instinct is a mum, scientist and brilliant writer who often moves me with her very touching writing style. She's also in the process of sending me a postcard from Oz - can't wait to receive it!

I'm allowed to pass it on to up to 15 other blogs so I'd like to pass it on to these blogs which I always enjoy reading:

Thanks once again to Mervat and Emily for the awards, and thanks to all the other bloggers mentioned here for keeping me entertained. And too busy to do the ironing....

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Too much information?

The lovely Emily of Maternal Tales and wonderful Kayleigh from Fashionably Later recently tagged me, but it's taken me a while to get 'round to doing something about it! Ladies, please forgive me. They both tagged me with a list of questions which were similar but not all of them were the same, so I've attempted to merge the two in a sort of haphazard way which I hope is acceptable. OK, here goes:

What are your current obsessions?
My two new babies! I recently relented to my girls' pleas for a pet, and bought two guinea pigs from an animal rescue centre. I admit that initially I wasn't too keen, but I have fallen in love with the little critters. They are soooo cute. The two we have are a mother and baby. The baby - Trixie -was only 6 weeks old when we got her and was like a little ball of fluff. She's grown quite a lot now, and is very inquisitive and squeaks a lot. The mum, Jess, is black and very quiet. I've discovered that it's very relaxing to go out to see them (they live in a hutch in an outbuilding), sit on a stool and feed them some fresh veg. My girls keep saying 'You love them don't you?'

What's for dinner tonight?
Fresh (but not homemade!) ravioli with passata and salad. Quick and tasty.

What's the last thing you bought?
Well, actually I bought a car today. Not a brand new one, but a newer version of the car I currently drive which is quite old, and has started being unreliable. I pick it up tomorrow. Can't wait!

What are you currently listening to?
I bought Stevie Wonder's greatest hits, and am really enjoying dancing around the kitchen with the girls to songs such as Masterblaster and Do I Do. Brilliant!

What are your favourite holiday spots?
It has to be the Lleyn Peninsula in Wales. We've been going back to the same place for the past 5 years, and will be going there again in July. We stay in a farm cottage, and travel around the peninsula visiting the fantastic beaches there. We love it, and I hope it will be the cause of some very happy memories for the girls when they remember their childhood in later life.

What are you reading now?
Hmmm....I keep starting books and then leaving them around the house. I'm currently supposed to be reading The Shack but haven't got very far with it; I also have The Single Trap on the go (see, I am trying!) and more recently I opened An Open Heart by the Dalai Lama.

Use 4 words to describe yourself? Optimistic, busy, loving, single.

What is your guilty pleasure?
That's easy. The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Have you seen that show? Obscene wealth, ostentation and big egos all wrapped up in one hour a week. It's fantastically trashy TV and I love it!
What is your favourite film? I have a few favourites, but some of them would have to be Mystic River, The American President (such a brilliant romcom), Contact, White Christmas, Singin' in the Rain, Notting Hill.
If you could change anything about your life so far, what would it be?
This is such a negative use of energy in my opinion, wishing you could change something in the past. What's done is done, and what's happened has made me who I am now. Now I'm not saying that's good necessarily, but it's reality. Much better to move on and deal with what you've got.
What do you fear the most? Outliving my daughters.
What's on your bedside table?
Several unread books piled up on top of one another, a radio alarm clock, bedside reading light, small manicure set bought for me by the Teenager-in-waiting, a tub of Dove body moisturiser which rarely gets used.
What's the best thing you ate or drank recently?Last weekend I cooked salmon fillet which we ate with homemade potato salad and a green salad. Delicious!

What single piece of advice would you give to a Mum-to-be? (this is the question I have added to the list)
Trust your instincts. You know your own baby best.

I'm obliged to pass the baton onto 8 other bloggers. I'm tagging:
Sunday Painting (if you haven't been to visit her blog, please do. She writes beautifully.)
Some Mothers Do Ave Em
Not Wrong Just Different
More Than Just A Mother (when she gets her pc fixed, hopefully soon!)
Living Abroad
39 and Counting

I know that's only 7. Oh well, sue me.
Apologies if you've already done this tag but I'm too lazy to check!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Take time to smell the roses

Be kind to yourself

Hold your head up

Be spontaneous

Try everything once

Colour outside the lines

Embrace change

Believe in yourself

Do what you love

Eat dessert first

Be nice to strangers

Send thank you cards

Enjoy the silence

Be the change you wish to see in the world

Stop and smell the roses

Play in the rain

Do random acts of kindness

Make time for family

Nurture your friendships

Forgive, even when it's hard

Don't count the lines, count the laughs

Look at the scenery

Don't take yourself too seriously

Send handwritten letters

Count your blessings

Photo from here

Monday, 4 May 2009

A Magical Place

I'm home again after my weekend away in the Lake District. My friend Julie had suggested we go to Conishead Priory to attend a Buddhist retreat and I jumped at the chance to spent a couple of days with the idea of relaxation at the forefront of my mind. But although it was probably one of the most relaxing weekends I can recall ever having, it turned out to be much more than that.

Conishead Priory was originally built in the 12th century by the Augustine monks and run as a hospital. In the 19th century its ruins were demolished and a house was built on the site. It was built by a local magnate who lived there with his family, after that is was bought and turned into a hotel, then later a nursing home for convalescing miners and during the Second world war it was used as a military hospital. It later became derelict before a Buddhists group bought it in the 1970s and began a long process of restoration which is still ongoing.

The whole weekend was calming and refreshing. From our arrival on the Friday evening until we reluctantly left on the Sunday afternoon it was just perfect. The setting for the weekend couldn't have been better. The tranquil surroundings and peaceful atmosphere added to an other-worldly quality, the Buddhist monks, the staff (all practising Buddhists) and the visiting practitioners (everyday people like you and me) exuded serenity and grace. Everyone was welcoming and kind. Nothing was too much trouble.
At 8am on the Saturday morning, after showering and before breakfast in the huge communal servery hall, I decided to go for a walk in the beautiful Priory grounds. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and I decided to follow a gently sloping path though the bluebell covered woodland, crunching the gravel of the path underfoot, past swathes of wild garlic......

....past the rabbits jumping through the bushes. After a short stroll of 5-6 minutes I found myself at the entrance to a deserted beach.
At first I just stood and enjoyed the tranquil setting. In the distance a heron was dipping into the water. A flock of birds took flight across the bay. I could hear the sound of the waves lapping onto the pebble beach. In the distance I could hear the gentle swaying of the woodland trees and the occasional, distant sound of the temple bell.

I walked along the shoreline for a short distance, feeling more relaxed than I had been in.....well, I couldn't remember when. This really felt like nourishment for the soul. And it was still only the first day.
Over the course of the weekend we attended most of the classes where, after a short meditation, a Buddhist priest talked about the foundations of their faith. Each talk was interesting and extremely thought-provoking. Could it really be possible to remove all negative emotions from our lives, such as impatience, jealousy, anger and greed in order to gain lasting inner happiness? Well, it would appear so as there were many examples of people at the Priory who had done just that. Talking to some of these people opened my eyes to a different way of living.

This weekend retreat was a potentially life changing experience. The time spent there was so calm, so peaceful and so spiritually enriching that I want to be able to hold onto some of it. It's a very seductive idea but also a very daunting prospect.

To be able to do it would require an immense amount of dedication, energy and time. But as far as I can see, even to be able to maintain the calmness of mind I have right now would be an incredible achievement. This weekend has touched me deeply and has shown me that it's possible to develop a fresh perspective on life, one that can bring real contentment. I have no idea how far I can go with this, but it feels like this has come at the right time for me.