Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today


Today wasn't what you'd call a good day for Northern Ireland.

Today we discovered that more than a few mice have moved into our office and I am not loving the idea of a bunch of rodent office workers tap tap tapping on the keyboards a la Ratatouille . . . although it does bring new meaning to the phrase 'stuck in the rat race'.

Today we were privileged to visit another gorgeous baby. My friend N's little imp Oisin is now over a stone and almost three months old!

Today we had hardshell tacos for dinner. 'The baby' loves Mexican food.

I wonder what will happen tomorrow?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

23 hours old

Meet the beautiful Emily - our brand new niece, born yesterday evening to the delight of her grandparents, aunties, uncles, excited cousins and champion older brother! (Less than one day old and Emily thoughtfully bought her brother a new fire engine as an 'I'm here' gift which we thought was very clever of her!) Our house continues to be all abuzz with excitement about all things baby as we had the pleasure of visiting the hospital to meet her tonight and she is just gorgeous! (Meanwhile, Stu and I will try not to freak ourselves out too badly over the thought of having one of our own to care for!) Mom and Dad are doing well too so good news all around :)

Monday, January 26, 2009

My little Mars Bar


I had a great Monday!!! This morning we had our 20 week scan and I am still smiling thinking of the amazing experience. Slightly nervous and very excited, Stu and I looked intently at the computer screen trying to decipher different body parts from the grey and black lines and curves wiggling about on the screen. During the scan the sonographer kindly took lots of time while measuring and checking around to explain different aspects of our baby to us - she pointed out facial features, thigh bones and arm bones and four ventricles in the little heart which was pumping away (but no gender hints which was good with us because we do love a good surprise!)

When I asked how big the baby was, she said, 'about the size of a Mars bar' which struck us both as funny! In addition to a kidney bean, a size 5 shoe and a honey dew melon, we have now added that sweet descriptor to the whole host of great comparisons that have been drawn to describe the baby's size at various stages!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Seventh Day

For all you LemonLyman.com fans out there I thought I would post this story about the inspiration for Josh and the official new White House hottie (as if there was ever any doubt . . . ) Hey, who you callin' shallow? And, in the event that you're not completely Obama'd out after last week (I'm not), check out this fantastic slideshow that Stu found of Obama's people.

Have had an absolutely vunderbar Sunday - truly full of rest. After church we indulged in our usual ritual of coffee, toast and newspapers where upon I carefully purused the Observer Food Monthly, somehow managing to not tear the magazine into tiny pieces after reading this article which for some unquantifiable reason I found intensely annoying (recurring theme with the Guardian, I have to admit, even though it's hands down my favourite paper!) Anyway, I was pleased to find this lovely recipe for White Chilli which I made tonight. Very flavourful (not to mention easy and cheap) - perfect for winter's evening and, I have to say, kindof fun to start a recipe with a bottle of beer!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stream of consciousness


Oh, but I do love a good weekend.

Last night we went to see Frost Nixon and give it two thumbs up. It's really well done with very good character and plot development. I know Watergate is one of the epic scandals in American political history, but you can't help but think probably every president has done things as dodgy but old Tricky Dick just got caught. I didn't know anything about David Frost before watching the film and Stu remarked that Frost interviewing Nixon is kind of like Jonathan Ross - lovable rogue that he is! - interviewing George Bush, which is a funny thought.

Maybe I'm overly empathetic these days, but I left the theatre feeling kind of sad for Nixon but that is probably just because the film does such a good job of portraying him as something of an outsider who fell so far from glory. I am sure also I share a different perspective as I am many decades removed from Vietnam and therefore don't share the anger of that age. I would be interested to hear what people who lived through the Nixon era think of it. Come to think of it, I suppose Nixon is partially responsible for some of the cynicism within the American electorate that people have been so ecstatic to take a breather from with the arrival of Obama!

Have just been out for a walk this evening around East Belfast in the crisp Northern Ireland winter air (we're talking 3C here people.) It was lovely. I did have a sad thought on my trek though - walked by a really nice little bungalow on Circular Road that was bought by a developer obviously during the boom. Now that we are well and truly experiencing the bust (no matter what Gordon says) the windows are boarded up, the grass is overgrown and the local hoods (didn't know there were many of them up in those posh parts) have grafittied the front of it. It's sad because it was a perfectly lovely 1960's era family home with a nice big yard that quite frankly didn't need knocking down to be replaced with 10 squishy over priced flats in the first place. Okay, rant done, but I just thought it was sad.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Boss(es)

This morning after church Stu and I headed to out for our weekly dose of coffee and newspapers (we know this DINK-esque ritual will probably come to an abrupt end in the spring, but for now let the good times roll!) As a big fan of both Springsteen and President Elect Obama, I was delighted to read this interview (complete with free download!) which was the cover story for Observer Music Monthly.

Thinking ahead to Inauguration Day on Tuesday (believe it or not Dunny got a ticket!!), I was interested (and yes, inspired) by this excerpt from Springsteen's Cleveland speech during Obama's campaign -

"I spent most of my life as a musician measuring the distance between the American dream and American reality. For many... the distance between that dream and their reality has never been greater or more painful. I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and work. I believe he understands in his heart the cost of that distance in blood and suffering in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president he would work to bring that dream back to life.

"So I don't know about you, but I want my country back, I want my dream back. Now is the time to stand together with Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the millions of Americans that are hungry for a new day, roll up our sleeves and come on up for the rising."

In other news, January semi-frugality continues . . . I seem to be border-line obsessive about having a well stocked freezer (not sure this is a pregnancy thing or just a me thing) so yesterday afternoon while listening to the fantastic Imelda May on Dermot O'Leary I went slightly overboard and made ratatouille, sweet potato curry, oatmeal raisin cookies and banana bread. This afternoon my slow cooker has been dusted off for beef bourguignon which I'm quite looking forward to - any good recipes or bits of crock pot wisdom out there gladly accepted!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cheer up!

At the risk of people thinking all I do is watch movies, I have another recommendation for you! Happy Go Lucky is a wonderful film and completely refreshing compared with the usual fare in the video store (can you still call it a video store?) these days. Set in London, the film follows Poppy who is an irrepressibly happy primary school teacher. It's hard to describe (I find I often say that when 'reviewing' movies and books!) but I can say that Stu and I found it both funny, touching, and even thought provoking. As the blurb on the film's website asks, 'Just how hard is it to be happy?' (Deep thoughts for a Sunday night!)

Having recently passed my driving test, I especially appreciated some of the moments between Poppy and her driving instructor (although I should quickly clarify that I drew no comparison between my great teacher and her crazy one!) Interestingly, a bit of online background reading revealed that the film is shot in director Mike Leigh's style where the director and actors improvise the scenes before they are shot and this made for very natural dialogue and great comedy timing. Sally Hawkins is both hilarious and lovable as Poppy - I notice that she's up for a Golden Globe award tonight for best actress in a musical or comedy and I'm rooting for her!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Must see

Stu and I celebrated the arrival of Friday with a visit to Boojom (drool!) followed by a night at the movies - thought we'd better get out there since cinema visits are one of the many things people have been telling us to do before the kidney bean arrives in the spring (because apparently as parents we will never ever have the opportunity to - among other things - read, sleep, eat out, go out for coffee or watch a film again!)

We saw Slumdog Millionaire which was really amazing. Definitely one of the best films that I have seen in a very very long time - the story follows Jamal as he grows up in a Bombay slum and goes on to become an unlikely competitor on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The movie promo poster above is very mis-leading actually - while it is certainly a 'feel good film' there are parts that are very gritty and I actually had difficulty watching several scenes (blame my delicate constitution), especially those that displayed the harsh reality of life in the slums for children (but then come to think of it you wouldn't really expect anything else from the director of Trainspotting!) Anyway, without giving anything away I will say that it is a wonderful story which is beautifully shot with fantastic, empathetic characters. How refreshing after a long drought in movies worth watching!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Failte!

The Irish immigration officials are the friendliest I've ever encountered. Wait - let me re-phrase that. The Irish immigration officials are the only friendly ones I've ever encountered.

We flew into Dublin last weekend and as usual I had to part ways with my beloved Stu in order to go through a separate immigration line to be asked what I was doing living in Belfast and why (good questions, come to think of it.) As I stood waiting with a bunch of other people who'd journeyed a fair distance, mostly from Africa it seemed, I watched as the officials interviewed weary travelers through perspex glass. Wait a minute . . . while scanning a passport and looking up details on a computer, one official and a man from India were 'bantering' about something and let me tell you, judging from their shared laughter, the craic was indeed mighty.

Moving up in the line and pulling my little suitcase behind me I smiled to myself, thinking how this moment contrasted sharply with my usual encounters with officials of this ilk. Take, for example, the time my university friend's car was impounded by the friendly Canucks at the Canada-US border in the middle of the night during a snowstorm (reason still remains a mystery to this day.) Or I personally like the story of when Stu was unceremoniously thrown off a train traveling from America to visit me and was 'officially denied entry to Canada' which, as you might imagine, leads to all kinds of pesky questions each and every time we travel home.

But my rant, I think, is inspired by a more recent experience. Just this past autumn upon arriving in Toronto, the very first Canadian we talked to was the rudest immigration official ever (think doberman Mountie.) It broke my little heart to have my precious notion of the 'friendly Canadian' shattered by an unnecessarily harsh interrogation (perhaps I'm overstating the case somewhat but it's my blog so bear with me.) And come to think of it, while we're on the subject, can I ask why exactly (apart from an extreme need to intimidate) these officials were all wearing bullet proof vests seeing as we'd just come off a transatlantic flight (I, for one, was hoping that none of my flightmates were packing heat on the way over from London!)

So, while I tend to whine and complain about quite a lot of things related to being an 'innocent abroad' (Stu's gently mocking term for me), for that brief moment in Dublin airport I will 'fess up to feeling all warm and fuzzy for the shamrock.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Booking it

Did you do any good holiday reading? Over the break I read The Story of Marriage which was kindly passed on to me by Beth. Truth be told Ms B gave it me a long time ago, but I am a horribly sporadic reader and lately have found that any time I might have normally spent reading before bed gets subsumed by the seductive lure of sleep.

Anyway, this won't be much of a review as I don't want to reveal anything from the story (there are a few key unexpected elements!) but I will say I really enjoyed the story and found it very engaging. If you're interested, it's reviewed here by Mr Self (but be warned as he didn't like it!)

All booky recommendations gladly accepted as I am hoping that there will be more reading to come. After a busy busy December (is it ever not?) I am quite looking forward to bit of nothing this January. So far our new year spirit of simplicity and frugality (credit crunch meets impending maternity leave!) has included mining the depths of our freezer and using up all kinds of delightful leftovers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year (six days in!)





Well, it's 2009!! As we turned a corner to another year, while others made resolutions left, right and centre, for probably the first time in a long time I didn't think about revitalising (or for that matter embarking on) a fitness regime. In fact, I can say with near certainty that from here until late spring I am actually going to gain weight - get this - on purpose :) *lol*

Still somewhat groggy from the night before's shenanigans (par-tay at Anon's and then Skyping with the rents until 3am!), on New Year's Day we headed down to Dublin to catch a flight to Bournemouth to visit Stu's lovely sister and family. I am pretty confident that we are blessed to have the three bestest nieces in the whole world so it was exciting to get over and spend some time together in their rural paradise on the South Coast. We got good and muddy walking in the New Forest, played a whole lot of Wii (Stu's officially addicted and I am officially crap), sat cozily by the fire with hot chocolate and a bonkers game of Clue/Cluedo and did some pretty mean light painting in the expansive darkness of the countryside. A good way to start an exciting new year!