Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weekender


Between Facebook, APYOC and uploading pics to Kodakgallery every now and again, the computer has an amazing capacity to take up alot of time! This is my round about way of excusing myself for the less than daily posts here at Always Paddle. I know, I know. It's simply not good enough!

I was going to blog about the unholy nature of housing prices in Belfast, but I want to think out my rant a bit more carefully, so you've got that to look forward to in the near future! Instead, I will give a quick rundown of our long weekend, because what better place to share random and insignificant details about my life? :)

After the Willy Mason debacle (okay, it wasn't that bad - now I'm just being overly dramatic!) I enjoyed some serious sleeping in on Saturday morning. Eventually I got myself going and did a good and proper spring clean of our spare bedroom which is usually unbearably messy (picture heaps of clothes!) I ruthlessly packed the bags for the charity shop and must admit that it felt good. I think I have a tinge of the pack rat syndrom and so every now and then I have to get serious about clearing things out. Cleaning was followed by grocery shopping (how very grown up and boring huh?) which was followed by a visit to a new vintage clothing shop in Holywood which was followed by coffee at our favourite hangout The Yard. It was all good and sufficiently chilled. Saturday night was great because we spent the evening with my mom and dad (I'm in denial that they're leaving in a matter of weeks!)

Where are we? Oh yes, Sunday included sleeping in (again - true confessions!), a nice long-ish run along the Lagan river, church and coffee with friends afterward. Then yesterday (yes, it was yet another long weekend! Ninny, I know you're jealous) we had both our sets of parents over for brunch (I made cinnamon buns which remind me fondly of my Grandma Broten.) In the evening we got together with friends for Chinese food and a movie night where we watched Talladega Nights which was a delightful mix of funny and stupid (I can't over emphasise the stupid here, just to warn you! I heart Sacha Baron Cohen in this movie although I can't bring myself to actually watch Borat.) So that was then, and now it's Tuesday.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

In my opinion . . .

As I sat down at the computer to blog tonight Stu asked me if I was going to wield the power and influence of AYPOC to, and I quote, 'stick the knife into Willy Mason.' Ever the benevolent blogger, I shall try to be gentle as I review the concert we went to last night. While Willy's voice was incredible and I really like his music, I felt progressively throughout the gig that we were watching an artist who has not quite arrived. The whole show was kindof sloppy with long breaks between songs where the band tried to figure out what to play next. I think the thing that really annoyed me was that the gang seemed drunk-ish at the start and then the star preceded to get absolutely 'blocked' (NI slang for hammered) as the concert progressed. The student crowd at the venue cheered wildly as Willy chugged a bottle of Buckfast (sweet cheap wine drank by fourteen year olds in back allies and parks across the UK.) Maybe I'm just getting old, but paying to watch someone become inebriated is just not my thing! That said, his voice was amazing and he had good stage presence that just needs some honing. I'm glad we went because I really think he's on the cusp of making it fairly big, but the bottom line that that I'm hoping that next time I go to his gig things are more polished and professional. Nonetheless, it was a good night out and we went with some friends so that was fun.

Moving on from my minor concert woes, we had a lovely Saturday today. It was fairly chilled out and we really enjoyed having my parents over for dinner and a movie tonight. I cooked an Indian dish from my new Madhur Jaffrey book and it turned out really well (ever notice how I never mention the things that I cook that don't turn out?) After dins we watched On a Clear Day which is a lovely, funny Scottish movie (reminiscent of Calendar Girls) about a Scotsman who decides to swim the English Channel. It was great.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Chocolate Factory

Had a lovely evening tonight. We got together at my sister-in-law's place for a lovely meal to celebrate Stu's mom's birthday and it was great. I suppose I must admit that in addition to the good company and fun conversation with our families (my mom and dad were there too!) I was doubly happy because the gluten free Chocolate Cupcakes with Ancho Chili and Whipped Cream that I made for dessert turned out a treat. Gluten-free baking (for my beloved father-in-law) can be tricky (what with no flour and all) so it's satisfying when I find a recipe that works. I know the chocolate chili tradition has a long Mayan tradition (or something like that . . . picture me channelling Juliette Binoche!) but it was a bit freaky spooning the chili powder into the lovely mixture of melted chocolaty, buttery, sugary, egg whitey goodness but it was a hit!

Oh, and while I'm on the foodie topic, I wanted to post a link to a new recipe site recommended by my friend Beth. Visit Jill Dupleix online for a good selection of Aussie recipes. I haven't gotten to try anything yet but lots of things look yummy and of course I keep ya posted!

What else is new, she says?? I just downloaded Rufus Wainwright's new album but haven't had time to listen to it yet. I like Rufus - I have very fond memories of baking in the treeplanting kitchen, his tunes doing a fairly effective job of helping me ignore the heat and bugs. Also, bully for him, he's the darling of the lefty British media so he's regularly featured in the weekend papers. Anyway, as I said I haven't had time to listen because I've got myself plugged into Willy Mason (not to be confused with Willy Nelson) in preparation (that sounds like I'm studying!) for his gig at Mandela Hall in Belfast on Friday! Looking forward to it :)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Break away

How much am I loving this pic of Big Chris and Dunc da Funk keeping it real on the tube this weekend? We are now back safe and sound in little old Belfast after a great long weekend away in London. It was a perfect mix of seeing the sights, visiting friends and generally enjoying the hum of the city (oh yeah, and Stu did a bit of work too!)

Fortunate to have non-stop sunshine in the city known for London fog, we walked lots, shopped some (three cheers for H&M!) and spent a few evenings in the pub (when in Rome . . . make mine a Pimm's old stick.) We stayed with Duncan in his supa cool, supa central flat which was great for experiencing the city. Personal favs were wandering around Kenzington as well as our visit to Borough Market (aka foodie heaven!) I'll be back :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

London calling


I've been living in the UK for quite a while now and so even though lots of things are somewhat different, for the most part I feel quite at home. However, every now and then I have a 'wee moment' where I think . . . that was weird. I just had one such moment - the news this evening featured a special report about the military's final decision not to allow Prince Harry to go on patrol in Iraq because he'd be such a target for insurgents (gee, ya think??) First of all, I don't really understand why we're all supposed to feel sorry for Harry because the poor lad won't have the chance to get blown up etc (the much talked about threat is idea of insurgents cutting off his ears and send them to his gran - eww.)

Anyway, enough of my rant and back to my culture shock moment. The illustrious MP Desmond Swayne (never heard of him - pictured left) was interviewed about Harrygate. Which featured Mr Swayne exclaiming - wait for it - that the army's decision over Harry's military service has been, and I quote, 'on and off like a bride's nightie!' Wow, Dessie. I've never heard that one before. Viva the plumby Englishman.

But enough about that - I just couldn't resist recounting that interview. Must run now and pack my bag as we're going to London tomorrow afternoon for the weekend (yes, I'm all holiday all the time these days . . . like a bride's nightie.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday's child


So, I sat down at the computer quite a long time ago with the intention of posting. Instead I got sucked into 'Facebooking,' writing to my little heart's content on people's walls. My, my, where did the time go? I've been reunited with more old friends from elementary school and other long ago exploits and believe you me, it's exciting.

Well, I made it to AYPOC (as we like to call it) eventually. I don't have too much to report except that it was a long day with French class after work. Sometimes when I'm on my way to evening class feeling hungry and tired (I know, would I like a little whine with my cheese?) I wonder about all this personal betterment but then when I actually get there c'est beau as they say.

When I finally got home this evening at nine (in time for CSI Vegas, which is a good thing) the great and the good Stu had a lovely dinner of tofu mushroom stroganoff all prepared (another good thing.) I know I am reporting the minutea of my day, but it's my blog, so I'm pretending you're interested!

By the way, if you have a chance read Kate's blog about my parents. I read it on the sly during my class (we meet in a computer lab) and it had me shaking with silent laughter during a listening exercise. Thanks Kate. I can see it now and I'm glad you didn't get scared off by that first encounter.

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Generation

I saw this video quite a while ago on youtube and was inspired to post it when I saw the lead singer featured on BBC Breakfast news this morning.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Home again

Well, we're home again after a glorious holiday in lovely Devon - how quickly a whole week goes by when you're sleeping in, eating yummy food, going for long walks, enjoying good company and just generally relaxing! It was a great week despite the gray skies and wet weather that dominated - I've included this picture of the lovely sunny beach where we were staying as proof that it didn't rain the whole time we were away, but just about - truly, the weather was (as they'd say here) crap but thankfully it didn't stop us from having a good time!

So, what did we get up to? Lots of day trips including a walk to another village for a pub lunch (how typically English hey?), a day trip to Padstow where we had very posh fish and chips at the one and only Rick Stein's chippy (Stu's taken to calling it Pad-stein because he seems to own half the town!), a day trip to the lovely Clovelly which was great (and the sun shone!) and a day trip to Ilfracombe (unremarkable - I think it had it's hay day in the '30s and never really recovered - the piss pouring rain could have dampened our impressions though!) Of course there was the recurring theme since January of how great it was to spend lots of chilled out time with my mom and dad :)

We also walked on the windy beaches alot, swam in the hotel pool, had one or two cream teas (you have to when in Devon!), I knit (the sweater is coming along really well - pics coming soon) and everyone read lots. Thanks for all the recommendations and feel free to keep 'em coming - they are going on my summer reading list! Being so organised I ended up reading things readily available in the airport bookshop including the similarly titled The Memory Keeper's Daughter (good holiday read) and The Aboritionist's Daughter (just okay - it's a quick mystery.) My mom has discovered that all these years a voracious novel reader lurked within who just never got enough peace to read so she's been flying through the Maeve Binchy like nobody's business!

Okay, that's probably just about enough gloating about how nice it was to be off and away - Now we're home again and I'm trying to hold on to the last vestiges of that very relaxed, chilled out feeling that we enjoyed all week! One last funny thing - Stu grew a beard while we were away and tonight he shaved but left the most disgusting 'tash that you ever did see. It's definitely not a good look for him. Thankfully he has rectified the situation but I've got photographic evidence of the dastardly deed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

. . . the old man is snoring . . .

Greetings from windy rainy Devon! This is just a quick post as I'm on pay-as-you-go internet - We are having a lovely holiday although so far it has been more of a knitting/chilling/reading (thanks for the book recommendations!) inside sort of week than the sunshiney beach-fest that I had originally (naively!) envisaged. When we arrived on Saturday Croyde beach where we are staying (in absolutely fab accommodation I might add!) was absolutely packed with people surfing and enjoying the sun, but soon enough the gorgeous weather turned a bit greyer and wetter. It hasn't been too bad though and so far the weather hasn't stopped us from enjoying lots of day trips and walking in the amazingly green countryside - the coastline of North Devon is stunning. Still to come - surf school - I'll let you know how that goes! ;)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Booked!

This is just a quick post to put out an urgent call for suggestions from the oh-so-learned community of Always Paddle readers! Anyone have any quality suggestions of a good holiday read? If you've enjoyed some fiction lately and you think it might be up my alley (I am definitely not above beach books!) give me a comment. Perhaps I should explain further - we're going away for a week to Devon in England on Saturday (yes, I'm just a bit excited about the time off!) and I'm starting to get myself organised. Reading material is a must on the packing list!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

You're fired!

Oh, how I love The Apprentice (point of clarification - we're talking the British version with UK millionaire Sir Alan Sugar - I find Donald Trump and that animal on his head more than just a bit creepy!) I must admit, every Wednesday evening I look forward to this delicious blend of arrogance, chaos and sheer lack of common sense! All I really want to know is how in the world did these seemingly incompetent people get so confident!? It's pure gold.

What else is new in my world?? Well, one year ago today Stu, Dunny and I ran the Belfast marathon. I know that's not news really, but I enjoyed a sweet moment of nostalgia earlier today when I remembered the agony and the glory of running through the good (and the bad) of this fair (and not so fair) city!