Thursday, 30 June 2011

Local cats

I love the local cats around here, and I will miss them when we move. While there are quite a few of them around, three of them stand our: there is a white and gray one, which we are sure is a male; and two ginger and black patterned cats, both of which we think are female. The gray one rarely goes near our house, but we see him nearly every day at the nearby homes, but the two female cats often come to our house, climb on our fence, and go in our backyard (one of them even came running into our house once!) It is fun to watch the cats interact with each other, or to watch them watch other cats and people.

Here is a short video I took a couple of weeks ago of one of the female cats while she was on our kitchen window ledge and looking into the house. She can be distinguished from the ginger pattern over her right eye...a feature the other ginger and black cat does not have.

Look at her big eyes and lovely pattern...she is a wonderful cat!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Packing update

The vast majority of our belongings that we unpacked during our stay in our current house have now been re-packed, and the only things left are a few pieces of furniture, our beds (all inflatable!), one PC and three laptops (not really that difficult to pack away), the kitchen stuff, some garage things, and a load of fiddly items that need to be sorted into a few half-filled boxes. The kitchen items will likely be the hardest to put away (much of it is still in use), but we will easily have everything ready for the seventh of next month.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

My "Recipes": "Andrew’s Maple-Mallow Ice Cream Topping"

I came across an old document of mine yesterday, and it contained my "recipes". I wrote them several years ago, do not think I have used any of them, and am not sure if they would be of use to anyone. Some seemed okay, but others when I read through them I thought "what the...what was I thinking with that one?"

That being said, I have decided to post them all, in a series I call My "Recipes", at a rate of one per post and no more than once a week. I shall also provide some background when I think I should provide some comments on them (which will most likely be on a lot of them). A couple seem to be similar to regular recipes for certain meals. Be aware that there will be some formatting/grammar errors on a few of them, as I will be copying and pasting them without changing any of their contents.

As I said, I do not think I have ever used even one of my recipes before, but if you decide one seems nice and decide to try it, please let me know how it turned out! Here is the first I ever wrote, Andrew’s Maple-Mallow Ice Cream Topping.
1 large bottle of Maple House maple syrup,
                                                  1 large bag of marshmallows,
                                                  1 Large bowl with ice cream.

How to make it:

Mix maple syrup and marshmallows together thoroughly.
Put on ice cream.

My verdict: Hmm...looking back this does not seem to be too bad of a recipe. However, I do not specify what type of ice cream to put the mixture on (I certainly would not want to put it on anything other than vanilla, to be honest), and I cannot remember what "Maple House" maple syrup is (must have been a brand I liked or something). In addition, I do not state if I should use small or large marshmallows either (I would use small). However, maple syrup on (vanilla) ice cream is pretty nice, and marshmallows are good with ice cream too, so even now I think this is not a bad recipe, though it is probably one for people with a very sweet taste in food, and one you would not have that often.

Interestingly enough, "maple-mallow" in the name refers to the marshmallows and maple syrup, but when I Googled it just now, I found that it is a type of plant.

Monday, 27 June 2011

"Bells Across the Meadows"

I mentioned in an earlier post that the first CDs I ever owned were those from a classical musician named Albert Ketèlbey. The first song of his I remember hearing was "Bells Across the Meadows" on a classical music channel on TV, and I loved it almost immediately. Last night, I went onto YouTube to see if there were other renditions of the song, as I was curious, and I came across the following video:

It has a great sound to it, and all the vocals are good (this is first version I have heard of "Bells Across the Meadows" with any vocals to it): I admit I do not understand the lyrics, but that does not affect how wonderful they sound and complement the song. The original song is one of my favourites, and this rendition is a nice one: I am really glad that the Cantoria Sacra Famiglia performed it and I had the chance to see their performance, I really think they did a fine job.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Mountains of Southern Oregon

It occurred to me that other than the image of me holding a gopher snake, I have not uploaded any photographs of my life in the United States. Here is a picture I took sometime in 2009 during one of our many hikes and walks, and it is of my then-local mountains and scenery. The snow-capped mountain in the background is called Dutchman's Peak.

I have to admit that I really do miss the Oregon landscape, especially that of Southern Oregon. I was definitely fortunate to be living there as long as I did.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Light from the jug

During a bright day we had some time ago, a jug that was near the kitchen window had been unintentionally placed in the perfect position for it to reflect the light coming in towards the wall (our jug is red). It produced a neat rainbow effect on the wall for few minutes before a cloud covered the sun, and then the jug got moved.

It lightens the dull wall, does it not?

Friday, 24 June 2011

Blogging for a month

I have now been blogging for a month! I have been more active in posting than I expected to be, but I have found it does not take too much time to write a blog post...even the long ones do not take that much time to write: it is thinking of what to write than can sometimes be the problem.

At any rate, I wish to thank everyone who reads my blog, whether you follow regularly or occasionally, openly or privately, or have expressed interest in a particular topic. I hope my blog has been interesting so far, and will continue to be for you. Comments are currently open to everyone, including anonymous posters, and my e-mail is open too: I do appreciate feedback.

So, while my blog is still relatively new, thank you to anyone who is a fan!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Heart Cambridge

The radio station I have been listening to the most here in North East Cambridgeshire has been Heart Cambridge. It plays a variety of music, ranging from songs that are new, into the 1990s to the 1970s, and to a few going back to the early 1960s. It is thanks to this station that I have been able to listen to artists such as Patsy Cline, Whitney Houston, the Bee Gees, Robbie Williams, and Barry White...the range of music I have listened to has been expanded. In addition, it has also played a few songs that I really liked listening to years ago on the radio, including "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter, "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt, and "Because of You" by Kelly Clarkson: while I can listen to these songs anytime, listening to them on the radio again brings back memories, and I thank Heart for this.

I tend to listen to it every night, and the late afternoons of every weekend, and at all the occasions I am listening to Heart Cambridge it is once the tasks of the day are done. I like the Late Show with Simon Beale, the Club Classics on Friday and Saturday nights, Harriet Scott on Saturday afternoons (previously Emma Bunton, but she is having a baby, so congratulations to her!), and the Top 40 on Sunday afternoons. The Late Show with Simon Beale is the show playing during weekdays except for Friday, and it is great to listen to it while relaxing to go to sleep. Nicola Bonn is also good whenever I have heard her fill in for somebody.

It has been wonderful to hear songs I have never heard before, and to hear a few songs that I have not heard on the radio for years. I will definitely miss Heart Cambridge, its music, and its presenters when we move.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Eggs in water test

A trick my mother taught me to find out if an egg is a good one or a bad one is to put it in cold water, preferably in a container at least six inches deep. If an egg is fresh, it will sink to the bottom and remain there; if it has gone bad, it will float. We do this every time we need to use eggs, and we have encountered bad eggs with this method several times before. Sometimes we've even had to throw away more than half a carton of eggs.

I decided to look this up: some sources recommend using some salt in the water, but others do not, and I will say that we have had success in testing eggs without using salt. According to this link from (itself recommends using salted water), there is an air sac inside all eggs, and the sac is small when the egg is fresh. The older an egg gets, the sac expands and once it's large enough it will cause the egg to float. The article mentions that eggs are good for about three weeks after you buy them, and we have found this to be the case in our experience. Still, I recommend testing any egg, regardless of age or supposed age.

We taught this to someone who came over today asking politely if we had an egg to spare, and she was surprised to learn about this form of egg testing. She gave me the idea to blog about it!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


It's now summertime! You wouldn't know it to look outside, as it's been cloudy and windy all windy that it's been very hard to have the windows open without them being blown shut. Still, it's technically now summer, and the sun did try to come out from behind a cloud a few times today. Hope it'll be sunny in a little over two weeks!

Monday, 20 June 2011

"The City"

A little over nine years ago, my brother and I built something we called "The City". The City was a "city" we built in front of our house in Oregon out of rocks, bricks, and loose metals scattered around our property (and sometimes from our neighbors' lands too, though in those cases, it was only the junked bricks and metals we collected: no one minded as it got some garbage off their properties).

Originally, it was constructed from a handful of small rocks and stones, but we soon decided to search for bigger materials to build the city with. It also wasn't a "city" brother and I were building a town each to begin with. However, within a day of starting, we had merged our two small towns into a full city, and from the materials we had collected we had made "skyscrapers" (well, two-to-four feet high skyscrapers!) There was even a large piece of quartz that we moved on our yard to place near the heart of The City.

We were pleased by our creation, and people who saw it tended to like it. One of our neighbors was an artist, and The City impressed him: he even copied us and made similar things in his own yard. The lizards used The City as a place to hide out, the birds visited it to collect bugs to eat, and the hummingbirds used the tallest tower in the city as a place to perch so that they could defend the hummingbird feeder more easily. It was a success it its own little way!

The City lasted for about fourteen months before it was decided that it was best to have it taken down. Overall, its existence was a double-benefit as it not only looked good while it was intact, but since my brother and I had collected bricks and metals to build it, it cleared a lot of junk from both our property and a couple of others.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day everyone! I hope the day was good for anyone who celebrated it. My dad spent the day packing items and sorting out a computer, but we made him a card, and a nice dinner for him is almost ready.

Saturday, 18 June 2011


We had a little bit of a thunderstorm this afternoon, but that's not surprising considering it's been raining nearly all day today. Funnily enough, I'm used to occasional storms and/or wet weather in the late spring and into summer: in Oregon, our heaviest rainstorms took place in July, and last May there we had a lot of rain, leaving it nice and green as we drove up the I-5 in early June.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Gopher snakes

In Oregon, we saw a variety of wildlife, but one type in particular that my brother and I were fascinated with were the reptiles. One species of reptile we encountered often were gopher snakes.

Gopher snakes are found over a large range of the United States, but they are very common on the West Coast, and they were most common type of snake we came across (followed by racers, garter snakes, rattlers, and a single kingsnake). With their appearance, they are brown, with black spots up and down their bodies, and rough hexagon-shaped patterns down their backs. The largest we ever came across was over three-feet in length, though I have heard they can grow to be longer. I have caught and held gopher snakes before. They are also non-venomous.

Besides gopher snakes being extremely common, the thing we found most interesting about them was their behavior. Most of the gopher snakes we encountered were highly defensive and angry when we tried to pick them up, which it's only natural for them to do, and they were the angriest snakes in our experience. One of their tactics was to coil up and assume  the "strike" position, and then shake their tail rapidly...simulating the rattle of a rattlesnake (and sadly many people have confused gopher snakes with rattlers when they've done this). The other thing they did when wanting to get away from us as fast as they could was to slither in a rapid sidewinding-like motion: they couldn't do it as well as the sidewinding rattlesnakes, but it was effective. I did not observe any other type of snake do this, not even the racers.

On the flip side, the friendliest snakes we came across were also the gopher snakes. Most gopher snakes objected to being picked up, but there were a few who didn't mind it at all, and we could get away with holding them for long periods without the snake getting annoyed. While the angry gopher snakes would wrap themselves around our arms and constrict defensively when we held them, the docile ones wrapped themselves too, but when they constricted, it was a much softer feeling. They never hissed, bit, nor were they in any hurry to get away while we were holding them or when we put them down. I suppose it's fortunate for those snakes that we thought snakes were great and didn't want to hurt them in any way.

The picture below is of a "docile" gopher snake that wrapped itself around my arm. I was originally holding it with two hands, but didn't need to when it wrapped itself into a comfortable position on me. I wasn't hurting it, and it was quite happy being picked up! It was also the last snake I caught before we left.

Finally, I'd like to add that while my brother and I learned to handle snakes on our own, I strongly recommend others seek advice and do their research before even looking for snakes, let along holding them: the intent of this post was to teach about gopher snakes, not to encourage picking them up. We did indeed pick up defensive snakes, but later on we did learn that it was best to leave them alone. They are animals that live in the wild, not toys or pets, and you don't want to cause either them or yourself any harm.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Rafting down the Rogue River

At the very end of August 2003, my Dad and I went with some friends on a rafting trip down the Rogue River. It was a highly exciting adventure, and to date it is my only experience with rafting.

From what I remember, the journey began at a rafting place in a town called Shady Cove, in Southern Oregon. A bus ride took us, others wanting to raft, and the rafts themselves to a starting point a few miles further up the river. Once there everyone readied themselves and their boats, but when we put our raft into the water, it turned out it was only suited for six people, and we had eight in our group. Despite this, we rafted anyway, with almost everyone sat on the sides, and our supplies in the boat itself. What fun this was going to be!

The raft ride was amazing, and I was pleased at being able to use an oar for a short while on the trip: at first, I remember being concerned when we went near rocks and rapids in case we hit a rock/got knocked by the rapids, and when we got splashed by the water, but once you've been past them a couple of times, you look forward to the next time. As we rafted we passed through heavily forested areas (of the surrounding landscape), parts with houses along the banks, and minor forks in the river. It was sunny and warm out, so the weather was excellent all day.

There was one moment where we did hit a rock, and the boat went spinning: when this happened, one of our friends fell into the boat, and another one fell off. Being distracted by the person falling in the boat, and us trying to control the raft, it took us about a minute to notice that he had fallen off. We got him back in the raft, and no one was hurt: instead, everyone was laughing.

What added to the fun was that we could bring our super-soakers, as a couple of our friends had brought their own water guns along. Not long after we began our journey down the Rogue River, I made great use of all water weapons on board the raft, and it was thanks to me that our raft got into multiple water fights with other boats on the river. Even better, due to my own position on the boat (I was sat on the back, and taller people than I were sat near me), it was very difficult for other boaters to hit me with their own water guns: I would soak other boats, but when they fired back, the other people on our boat got hit, not me. I actually got hit when a couple of people on our boat used our own weapons to soak me for all the times they'd got wet from others. Still, it was all harmless at the end of the day, and great fun.

The voyage ended in the early evening after at least five hours on the river at a docking area for rafts close to Shady Cove, and another bus ride took us back to the rafting place itself. I won't forget the raft ride down the Rogue River, and it is definitely what I would call a "perfect day": it remains my best-ever water-related adventure.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Big Ben

You've most likely heard of Big Ben, an icon of England and London. It's often thought to be seen in pictures of London, movies that involve the city, and on calendars. It's even more notable that the 30 St Mary Axe, and has been in London far longer. What you may not know is that Big Ben is not the name for the tower: it's the name of the bell for the clock, and it's inside the tower.

That's right: the tower, which itself is really the icon that everyone is familiar with, is actually called the "Clock Tower". The bell inside is what is called "Big Ben"; however, due to the misunderstanding being widespread, when people refer to "Big Ben" they almost always mean the entire tower, rather than the bell. Don't worry...I also didn't know about the bell, until my parents told me about it.

This link and this one have more information about Big Ben and the Clock Tower.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Salad and ice cream

Today has been one of the brightest and clearest days we've had so far here in North East Cambridgeshire: temperature-wise, it actually feels cooler than other days we've had, but the brightness of the sun definitely makes it feel warmer than it really is, especially if you're indoors.

It seems a little soon to blog about food when I blogged about it a few days ago, but I do think of salad and ice cream on days like this! Salad is a healthy and cool meal ideal for the weather, and ice cream is just a nice thing to eat when it's hot out. I rarely eat ice cream, and am not likely to eat any at the moment, but weather like this does make me think about it.

However, when I went downstairs a few minutes ago, I found out that we will be having salad as part of our dinner! I'm really pleased. :D

Monday, 13 June 2011


The (re-, re-)packing of our (unpacked) belongings is well underway. We spent this afternoon packing some paintings, as well as sorting out a couple of boxes that were already packed but could be packed more efficiently. When you've moved as many time as we have recently, you get skilled at packing, re-packing, and moving boxes.

It's fortunate that the majority of our stuff is still packed away in boxes in the garage, as our current house is small and it all couldn't have fit in it. It would be very difficult to re-pack everything in less than a month, especially when in Oregon we had over a year to pack all our items.

With the exception of the time we spent at my grandparents, we have been surrounded with boxes containing our belongings for the last two years: it will be nice when we can open those boxes, which will hopefully be soon. They may just be things at the end of the day, and they are, but it will be good to have them again.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The otter and the toddler

I came across the following video of an otter and a toddler playing. I knew that otters were playful animals among themselves, but I wasn't aware that they could do this:

You learn something new and watch a nice little video at once! Glad I heard about this one.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Late nights

Prior to June 2010, I normally went to bed about 10:30, but for the half-hour before that time I would have been listening to the radio, and would still be listening for another half-hour to an hour afterwards before turning the radio off and going to sleep. Only on Sunday nights would I be listening until 12:00, as there was a radio program on where young people/young adults phoned for advice, and I didn't mind hearing what was said on that until the show ended for the night. I would normally be tired in the morning, but once I was fully awake I was fine. Therefore, my late nights took place on a Sunday, and 12:00 was when the radio went off.

Then, during our final week in the United States, there was a film on at night that my brother and I watched, and it went on until for over two hours, past 12:00 and ending at 1:00. We laughed about it, complimented ourselves, reckoned that staying up until 1:00 would be unlikely to happen again soon, and then we went to bed. Really, we thought that watching until 1:00 was the limit, and wouldn't happen again for a long time...

At our grandparents house, to begin with we went to bed at 10:00, and listened to the radio for a little over an hour before we turned it off and went to sleep. One evening, my grandfather decided to watch Stargate SG-1 from the beginning, and so he, my Dad, brother, and I all watched it. We watched it one episode at a time at first (this in itself took us to 11:15 on average), but soon we were regularly watching three, sometimes even four, episodes of Stargate SG-1 in the evenings after dinner! Going to bed at times between 12:25pm - 1:15am, once unthinkable, was happening on a regular basis! There were even a few occasions where my brother and I were up with our grandfather past 2:00, though that was normally because we were watching TV until 1:00/1:30, but would talk for a while afterwards. Going to bed at 12:00 became an "early night" for some time.

Since moving to our own place, we are often still awake at 12:00, but that's mainly because we've been talking and listening to the radio again, and therefore resting, rather than watching Stargate SG-1 and other shows until crazy hours. We've definitely been going to bed earlier and getting a lot more sleep, and we shall be keeping it this way. Those late nights were fun while they lasted, but they couldn't go on indefinitely.

Friday, 10 June 2011

North East Cambridgeshire (again)

Here are two images I took this nice, sunny (with a few clouds) morning here in North East Cambridgeshire during a walk I had. The first picture is of a local footpath:

The other is of a nearby field, with trees and buildings in the background. To the far left of this image the tallest tower of Ely Cathedral can be seen:

It was a beautiful morning! As of this writing, it is cloudy (more so than in the above picture), with rainclouds in the air.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Another nice dish

To my knowledge, the most well-known British dish around the world is fish and chips. There are several countries that serve fish and chips, which either include the dish mixed with some of their own cuisine, or they just try to re-create the dish as close to the British original as much as possible. You ask someone to name a British dish, they'll likely say fish and chips (at least it has been the case in my experience anyway).

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another British dish that is as famous around the world as fish and chips. However, I can think of a dish within the UK that is nearly as popular as fish and chips, is a very similar meal (it's take-out), but in my opinion, it is tastier: pie and chips.

Pie and chips is a wonderful meal: I first had it over here when my Dad, brother, and I were having fish and chips for the first time since moving back, but Mum had pie and chips instead. She couldn't finish her meal, so I finished it for her, and when I did I thought the pie was the better of the two dishes. So far all fish and chips take-out places I've been to or know about serve pie and chips, with the most popular types of pies being steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom, and beef and onion.

Fish and chips is still a great meal, despite the fact that I think pie and chips is the better of the two. I won't discourage you from eating fish and chips if you either like it or want to try it, but pie and chips is certainly a good alternative!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

North East Cambridgeshire

As I'll be moving again soon, I thought I'd blog a little about where I currently live! I am residing in North East Cambridgeshire, a district in the county of Cambridgeshire.

To begin with, it's one of the flattest places, if not the flattest place, I have ever lived; ironic, because Southern Oregon, where we lived before, is a mountainous part of the United States. The highest points around here excluding water or bell towers, or Ely Cathedral, are the levees holding back the river (the "Ouse"), which our house is on a lower level to! Of all the places I've so far been to in the UK, this area has the least amount of trees around (by British standards, as there are still quite a few trees around), but that's likely because it's agricultural: when I look out the front windows I can see farmland behind the nearby houses.

As for the town we are in, Littleport, we live on the outskirts next to both a railroad and the aforementioned levees that contain the Ouse: when I first heard that we were going to live near a railroad I expected it to be very noisy, but surprisingly enough despite trains going past every half-hour or so, they're not annoying in the slightest and they can easily be tuned out. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the town has a lot of footpaths to explore, and these paths are always fun. At least one crosses the railroad!

The central area of our town has a few shops, including a handful of grocery stores (plus at least one on the opposite end of the town to us), a couple of hardware stores, a bakery, and some others. The nearest pub was converted to both a restaurant and a bar, both of which we have tried and are very nice, though the bar area isn't as relaxed as the restaurant. The main take-out place around here is the local fish bar: despite the designation, they do serve more than fish (burgers, kebabs, etc.), and the food there is great! In all, Littleport is a decent place to live.

We're not too far away from a place called Ely: Ely has a population of about 15,000 or so people, but has city status, and thus, is the third smallest city in England and sixth smallest in the United Kingdom overall. Ely Cathedral is the tallest structure in the region as far as I'm aware, and it can be seen for miles. You can see it from our town, and would probably be able to see it from my bedroom window if other houses weren't in the way. :) Ely itself, especially the central area, is a beautiful place, and the cathedral is impressive up close.

I was going to post a picture or two of the area, but I found that I haven't taken any yet! (The pictures taken are all my brother's.) I'll see if I can get a few before we leave. It's really green at the moment, and the farmland I can see from the bedroom window looks pretty. I think I'll take a picture right now.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Inflatable beds

I have been sleeping on an inflatable bed (also known as an "air mattress") for the last several months, and I can honestly say that they are the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on. They are firm, but soft to lie on; comfortable when lying on your side, back, or front; and I've found it easy to get to sleep quickly on them. From what I have read, they are good for people with bad backs. I have overslept more times on inflatable beds than on any other type!

The main disadvantage with them is that a lot of them don't seem to be designed for long-term usage, only occasional. They either start losing air via the valves; or the chambers inside that store the air "pop": this doesn't burst the bed, but rather, causes the area around the popped chamber to bulge; however, I suspect if enough chambers popped it would ultimately cause it to burst. Apparently, there are inflatable beds designed to deal with the popping chamber problem, though we haven't come across any yet.

Regardless, they are still fantastic beds. If you get the chance to sleep on an inflatable bed, I recommend it.

Monday, 6 June 2011


One funny yet silly thing I've seen before was a tomato growing behind the mesh of a vent. It was at my grandparents' house, as my grandfather likes to grow vegetables; in the summer of 2010, he was growing tomatoes, and one managed to grow within the mesh of a nearby vent for the house! Interestingly enough, while all the other tomatoes were going bad by this point (the tomato season was coming to an end), this one was the lone fresh-looking tomato, despite being the same age as all the others!

In the end, I was able to get it out from behind the vent, so it never went bad, but it did get eaten: in addition, I think the vent it was growing near was for the fireplace, but fortunately my grandparents don't use theirs. Here's a video I took of "Ventomato" ("vent tomato"). It's silly, but funny in its own little way:

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco has long been a structure I have admired, and it is easily my favorite bridge. I would easily rate the famous images of the bridge with the city of San Francisco in the background as one of the best views in the world. Whether it's foggy or clear sunlight, day or night, the bridge looks good all the time.

I have walked on the Golden Gate Bridge before, but I don't think I appreciated it at the time, though. I was seven when I walked on the bridge, and do remember being on it, but back then I don't think I understood the significance of getting to walk on the Golden Gate Bridge. It's one of those experiences I've looked back upon and come to appreciate as I've learned more.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

"Pack Up" - Eliza Doolittle

I've decided to do something a little different for this post: to mention a song that I like. "Pack Up" by Eliza Doolittle is a great song, and an earworm! It has a fun sound to it, and Eliza's voice is very good. One of my favorites from the last year.


Hope you like it too!

Friday, 3 June 2011

It's been a year!

We have now been back in the United Kingdom for a whole year! It's hard to believe that exactly one year ago this moment we had been at my Dad's parents' house for less than three hours after a day-long trip up the I-5 from Medford to Portland (we made multiple stops along the way, and we were in a hotel prior to the main flight), a 9-hour flight from Portland to Amsterdam, an hour-long flight from Amsterdam to Manchester, and finally a two-hour minibus ride from Manchester to the Nottingham area (the minibus ride was the worst part of the journey, as I was sat where the window couldn't open, the sun was on me most of the way, and it was a hot day).

Despite being here a year, that doesn't mean we have totally settled in yet: neither of the two places we've lived at since we've been back were intended to be long-term places. The majority of our belongings are still packed away, and are likely to be for at least a couple more months or so...but I remain optimistic that these will all be sorted out over time: it's important to be positive! We haven't stopped and won't stop missing the United States: we think about it often and do care about it, as it was our home for a long time.

It has certainly been an interesting past year, and definitely a major change from the past few years. While we moved a year ago, and moved to our own place here a few months ago, we are currently in the process of moving house again. I'm looking forward to it, and I'll be sure to blog about it!

Thursday, 2 June 2011


I like board games, especially Mastermind, Battleship, and Monopoly, but my favorite is easily Chess. I've had a Chess set since I was nine, and even when I didn't understand the rules of Chess properly (my brother and I called the games we had of Chess during this time "Cheat Chess"), I still thought it was a good game. Whether it's a short or a long go, it's fun to play, though I prefer the long games, as they involve more thinking (wiping the other player out does get tedious after a bit, but that's the same with any game).

While I did like it early on, my interest in the game really picked up when some friends taught my brother and I how to play Chess properly (for example, teaching us that the Queen can go in any direction and keep going in that direction until she reaches the end of the board or another piece, but she can't change direction; or showing us how to castle). We played Chess a lot more often after this, and I am glad they helped us.

Even though the vast majority of my opponents have either been my brother, followed by the computer, Chess has never got old nor lost any of its fun to me. I've heard on occasions that Chess is "predictable" and/or "boring", yet I've not found either of those two terms to be true whenever I've played it, and in fact, I've found it to be the opposite: I love how unpredictable Chess can could be headed for an easy win, but then your opponent makes a couple of strong moves, and suddenly they're the ones going for an easy win; at that point, you have to think really hard about your next moves to avoid defeat, and that clearly eliminates the "boring" aspect.

My Chess set has been packed away for a long time unfortunately. I have been able to play Chess on the computer, both against it and a human player (Chess Titans on Windows 7 is pretty good), but the board game is much better. Hopefully I'll get my Chess board back soon!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

30 St Mary Axe

Have you ever heard of a building in London called the "Gherkin"? (or "Bullet" or "Cucumber Building".) It's real name is the 30 St Mary Axe, and it's a skyscraper in London known for its bizarre shape, and due its shape it's one of the easiest skyscrapers to spot in the London skyline, possibly even the easiest; I have seen it from a distance when visiting the outskirts of London.

It's supposedly a very energy-efficient structure as well, with the shape of the building helping towards that. However, it is not the tallest building in London: that title goes to One Canada Square, although it will lose that status over the next few months to a year as taller buildings than it finish construction.