Saturday, 31 December 2011

Closing of 2011

New Year's Eve...the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, in just a few short hours. We began this year watching television at my grandparents' house, but fortunately, this will not be the case for 2012 (well, I would not mind being at my grandparents' house, but I am glad we will not be watching TV!).

2011 has certainly been an interesting year, although there are several occasions where I wish it had been better: we all could have done without moving to Cambridgeshire in January, only to have to move again in the middle of the year to Northamptonshire (having to move really did slow things down for us). I also think I could have spent more time outside...thanks to the situation this year I spent a greater proportion of time inside than usual. On the bright side, we have able to see more of the United Kingdom this year, I have met interesting and kind new people, and we had a brilliant week in Nottingham with family during the summer. Another great event this year was starting Air Nice-to-Livelands! It has been good to share my thoughts, improve my typing, and meet new people through my blog...all at once.

I am looking forward to 2012: to begin with, there are some very important world events that I will be keeping a close eye on, although I admit I have already been following their progress for this year. There are issues that my family...and myself...have to work on in 2012, but I am sure we will deal with them accordingly.

Finally, I should also note that 2011 is the first year since 1995 that we have lived entirely in the United Kingdom.

I have said all I wanted to say for now. Have a good New Year's Eve everyone.

Friday, 30 December 2011


People add new words to their vocabulary every year. At the start of our lives, we learn simple words such as "mum" or "dad", followed by advancing to slightly more complex one-or-two syllable words, and then on to developing sentences from what we pick up in the speech of others. As we get older, while we are not still learning how to talk in the way we did when we were very young, we still continue to increase our vocabulary, and it helps us with our education and interactions with other people.

Of the new words I learnt this year, I think that "antepenultimate" is my favourite. While I have known about the word "penultimate" (meaning the second to last in a sequence, somehow the existence of the word "antepenultimate" (something that is sequentially the third from last; for example, the song "No More You" on the Sugababes' album Sweet 7 is track 10 out of 12, and is therefore the "antepenultimate track" of the record) escaped me until this year. It is one of those words that, to me, has an interesting meaning and a nice sound to it when spoken aloud. Judging by the fact I had not heard the word until this year, it is not one said often in everyday conversation or most writings, but I do look forward to times when I can utilise it.

Ironically, despite being about the word "antepenultimate", this post will not be my "antepenultimate post" for 2011! Instead, it will be my "penultimate post" for this year, and I do find that a little amusing, though perhaps not quite as amusing as I find the word "preantepenultimate" to be.

Thursday, 29 December 2011


I promised to post a picture of the smaller cheesecake once it was ready. Well, we did not make a smaller cheesecake out of the remaining batter; instead, we chose to make twelve "mini-cheesecakes". Here is a picture of them (taken inside one of our refrigerators):

A few of them did fall apart when I removed them from the pan, but rest assured that they taste great!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas and family 2011 (2)

Prior to going to bed on the 26th, Mum informed me that Dad would be up at 7:00 the next day in preparation of leaving early for Nottingham. So, you can imagine my Dad's frustration when he got up at that time, had his shower, sorted out some things in the living room, etc., only to go back upstairs and find us all still asleep! (Well, in all fairness I was half-awake.) I overheard the conversation between my parents in regards to getting up early, and had to stifle laughs when thinking about it while eating my breakfast.

We arrived in Nottingham around 10:00, and upon greeting us my grandfather was remarked how surprised he was at how early we had made it there. Nevertheless, he was very pleased to see us and he let us in. To begin with, he prepared some drinks while I had to rest (not sleeping, just sitting down) on the sofa for half an hour for my stomach to settle from the journey (I am prone to car sickness, and the roads we travelled on the way up to Nottinghamshire have an abundance of twists and turns). My grandmother soon joined us.

My grandparents did have gifts for us: I received some clothing (I had some nice new shirts), chocolates, a Kindle, a phone, and some CDs I had requested. The phone is actually second-hand, and my brother received one too, but receiving second-hand gadgets from our grandfather never bothers us, as the items he gives us are always useful (such as my Vado camera). The only thing I found bothersome about the gifts was that I wished we had given better items to our grandparents!

Rather than having a large meal in the evening, my grandparents had set the main course for lunchtime. They had prepared a ham, salad, pickled cabbage, chips, pasta, and cranberry sauce. Both of them are fantastic cooks, and the meal they prepared for the six of us was as good as the food they had prepared for the party last Christmas. The meal was so satisfying that we all decided to delay eating dessert until later on in the day.

Much of the afternoon was spent in my grandparents' living room chatting. My Dad helped sort out a problem with the sound system on my grandparents' television: while he did this we ended up watching an episode of something called Family Fortunes, and afterwards half an episode of Mork & Mindy. It was not something that had been planned on...but it worked out!

The evening meal was light...consisting of leftover turkey on buns, followed by dessert. There was a choice of mince pies, or a plum-cake with icing that one of my cousins had made by herself. Being impressed with her cake from last year, I was eager to try the one she had made for this Christmas. Unsurprisingly, it was wonderful, and I was glad it was an alternative to the mince pies!

My aunt then came over after "dinner" to say hello, although she did not stay long as my uncle would soon be back from work. Not long after she left, we said goodbye to my grandparents and headed back home; the return journey was uneventful (it is easier for me to travel as a passenger in a vehicle at night).

As far as I am concerned, the day went very well. As per usual, I am looking forward to the next time we go to Nottingham, or when family comes to visit us!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas and family 2011

We have recently returned home after a spending the day with my grandparents up in Nottingham. I will have a more informative post up tomorrow...once I have rested!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas 2011

Our Christmas was quiet and relaxed this year, certainly in contrast to the parties we had in Nottingham with relatives the previous Christmas season. We opened our presents in the morning, listened to Christmas music for most of the day, and treated ourselves to food suited to the time of the year (the cheesecake was brilliant!): this may sound uneventful and boring, but rest assured that we did have a nice time!

I took a picture of the gifts I received:

The clothing is some new sets of pyjama pants, on top of them are two bags of jelly babies, to the left is a bag containing a few bottles of soap (no, this was not a hint that I stink...I needed some more soap!), a 2012 Shakira calendar, a plastic tub of Celebrations, and four CDs (Autobiography - Ashlee Simpson, Animal + Cannibal - Kesha, the deluxe edition of Goodbye Lullaby - Avril Lavigne, and the deluxe edition of Evanescence - Evanescence). Gifts for my brother involved a similar group of items, although he had a tin of Quality Street chocolates, different music, and a different calendar. My mother received the new Christmas album by Michael Bublé plus one of his older albums, and my Dad had a new bathrobe.

Of course, we are certainly not avoiding family for the season! We are going up to Nottingham tomorrow to see our relatives then. I hope everyone has had a great time!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

To all my regular readers and people who come across my blog, a very Merry Christmas to you! I hope everyone is having a wonderful time.

(As an aside, this is the first time in years, if ever, that I have used a computer on Christmas.)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve! I am amazed at how fast this month appears to have gone feels like just yesterday we were celebrating my 21st birthday, and we are now only a few hours away from celebrating Christmas! It will be a quiet night before Christmas, but I will be up until midnight (ha, ha...I have not had to worry about going to bed early on Christmas Eve for years now). In case I am not online tomorrow, I would like to wish every a very Merry Christmas!

Oh, and as promised, here is a picture of the chocolate cheesecake we made yesterday; the cakes made from the remaining batter are still setting. I would love to list the recipe, but it needs refining first (otherwise it makes too much):

Friday, 23 December 2011

Chocolate cheesecake

We made a chocolate cheesecake this afternoon for Christmas dessert. Its base is made out of digestives mixed with cocoa powder, and the top is made from cream cheese and milk chocolate; there was also enough of the batter for the top to make another (but smaller) cheesecake, which we will make tomorrow. I will be posting pictures of the cheesecake and the smaller cheesecake when they are ready. This is the third time we have made our own cheesecakes.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

On Kepler-22b and space travel

Over two weeks ago, it was announced that the first Earth-sized planet located within the habitable zone of a star the same type as the Sun (both are class G stars) had been discovered. Currently, it is still not known if Kepler-22b is rocky, liquid, or could be a place completely hostile to life, but even so, the discovery of a planet both similar in size to Earth and a similar distance from its star as Earth is to the Sun is fascinating and important: I have always been interested in extrasolar planets and space travel.

The only thing that does disappoint me with the discovery of thousands of planets outside the Solar System, especially the ones capable of supporting life (we may not have found them yet, but we will), is that we will not be able to visit them. If it is confirmed that Kepler-22b can support life, being 600 light-years away it would take 600 years to get there just at light-speed (technology that humanity does not possess at present). Even our closest star besides the Sun, Alpha Centauri, would take four years to get to at that speed. The Moon is the only place outside Earth that humans have been to so far, and I am enthralled by that, but saddened that we have not gone to it since the 1970s.

While humans are unlikely to be able to personally travel to extrasolar locations for the foreseeable future, at least we have plenty of places within the Solar System itself to visit long before then. Granted, I doubt I will be able to visit a base on Pluto (although I would be delighted to), but I remain optimistic, even with cuts to space programs, that in my lifetime trips into space (and possibly the Moon) will be commonplace and Mars will have been visited by humans

I strongly think that one day humanity will be able to travel to these distant places and beyond. In the meantime, I also think it is important to care for and protect our current residence in the Universe: the Earth.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Another one of my jokes (7)

A short post today, and it is a joke: I wrote this one for Christmas 2007:

"What school do people go to so they can learn to scream? At the 'Aaaaa!-cademy'."

If I had to re-write this one, I would change it from this to "At what type of school do people learn to scream? An 'Aaaaa!-cademy'."

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" - Mariah Carey

Since I have been listening to the radio on frequent basis, I have heard "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey at most if not all Christmases from then up until and including now. The song is really beautiful, and it does not ever get tiresome no matter how many times it is played over the season. It is also an original song and co-written by Carey, not something she popularized by covering.

It is such an impressive song that every year since its release in 1994 it has returned to music charts all around the world: while we have heard it both in the United States and United Kingdom, my Dad was in Germany recently and he heard it over there. In addition to hearing the original version, the "Extra-Festive" and "Superfestive!" (with Justin Bieber) have also been played on the radio here.

Here is a link to "All I Want for Christmas Is You":

The song comes from her 1994 Christmas album Merry Christmas. The Extra-Festive version is on her 2010 Christmas album Merry Christmas II You, and I think the Superfestive! version with Justin Bieber will be on the deluxe edition for next year. I have Merry Christmas but not Merry Christmas II You: I am waiting for the deluxe edition first!

Monday, 19 December 2011

The bird on the roof (2)

Not only did I hear the bird yesterday, but I have heard it today as well, and as per usual, the bird has mainly been above my room with occasional walks over my parents' part of the house. We definitely think it is a pigeon, as my mother and brother saw one fly off the roof this morning, and when the pigeon returned the noises above started up again.

We are wondering what it is doing up there: last night when listening to the bird my brother said something along the lines of "what is that pigeon doing up there? Having a party?" It certainly sounded like it was having a party from all the noise it was making (especially from what sounded like the thumping of bird feet)! The only thing I can think of is that it has or is building a nest up there, but Mum reckons it is too early for them to creating nests at the moment.

For now, it seems I can look forward to morning, evening, and nighttime pigeon activities above my room. What can I say? Whatever the pigeon is doing, I should feel flattered it chose to do it above my room!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The bird on the roof

At 6:00 yesterday evening, my brother and I were sat in my room when we heard something on the roof. We dismissed the brief noises as some light rain on the house, but then we heard the noises again, and this time we heard what sounded like claws scraping down the roof. It became clear to us that there was a bird moving about on the roof, and the most likely type of bird up there was a pigeon.

We heard the bird continue to scrabble about up there until we had to go to dinner; upon coming back up to my room after the our meal, the bird was still moving around on the roof and above my room in particular. It briefly walked over onto my parents' side of the house before coming back over to mine; the bird stopped sometime after midnight, but resumed at two in the morning for a few minutes before either stopping again or I fell asleep.

I heard the bird briefly again this morning, but it stopped. However, as I have been writing this, I can hear some activity up on the roof: I am not exactly sure what it has been up to with its rooftop antics, but it is certainly an interesting noise to listen to. Will it fly off eventually, or return each evening?

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Friday, 16 December 2011

Last year's decorations

It was a year ago tomorrow that my brother, mother, and myself were putting up decorations in my grandparents house. Our decorating of their house was the first time we had ever put up decorations in somebody elses' home: it did feel strange doing it, but we were given a lot of leeway in what we were allowed to do.

We were able to put up lights, tinsel, stickers of snowmen, bells...and even the Christmas tree (an artificial one): Everywhere except the bedrooms and bathrooms had a decoration in them, including my grandfather's office, where we got away with placing a small decorative item; and the conservatory. The kitchen looked festive with some well-placed tinsel on top of the cabinets, and the living room looked splendid with the tree and bells, but what was best was that my grandparents were pleased at what we had done and did not request or tell us to remove anything.

It certainly was an odd experience putting up decorations in a house that was not our own. This year I can look forward to seeing what decorations my grandparents have put up themselves!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Decorations pictures

For the fourth post in a row about Christmas decorations, here are two pictures that give a little insight into what we have done:

This is the smaller of the two "Christmas trees" we assembled yesterday; it was Mum who decorated this tree while my brother and I were decorating the other.

This is one of Mum's ornamental tins decorated with baubles; Mum was trying to find a way to brighten the tin up, and I was able to come up with this arrangement.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Our own decorations (again)

Day two of putting up our decorations took place today! Ironically, the larger items were far easier to put up than the smaller pieces we did yesterday. We strung up some lights in our living room and dining room, and assembled the "tree"; in fact, we were able to build two trees from the branches we had collected from our backyard. The inside of the house looks great, and ready for the season.

The only task that needs completing now is for me to put up some decorations in my room; other than that, I think the decorating is done for this year. In addition, Mum had to move the wreath from the front door to the inside of the house: unfortunately, having it up somehow prevented us from fully locking the door.

I have taken a few pictures of the trees, but when I upload an image it will be of the smaller tree. I will have it ready for tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Our own decorations

We started to put up our own decorations today! Excluding the wreath, for the most part we have put up minor items such as beads, hearts, stars, ribbons, and baubles, but the house is looking a lot more "Christmasy" already with those small decorative pieces.

Interestingly enough, we have plenty of places around the house to put tinsel (while our house in Oregon was big, it was hard to line it with tinsel), but prior to us leaving the United States we sold all of it along with the Christmas items we could not bring to or would be useless in the United Kingdom (such as lights, as the voltage is different). Still, tinsel can be replaced!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Building a Christmas tree

Myself, my brother, and my mother spent some time in the backyard this afternoon collecting some branches for our Christmas tree this year, as we are going to "build" the Christmas tree from them. Sound strange? I will go into our history of a home-made Christmas tree.

For the first three years in Oregon, we purchased natural Christmas trees, and thanks to having acres of land we were able to plant them all in our yard once the Christmas season had finished (we strongly dislike the practice of throwing away a living tree after Christmas, so we were fortunate to have plenty of land for the trees). In later Christmases we had a fake Christmas tree, but in 2009, our last Christmas in the United States, we decided to do something different and make a tree from branches in our yard.

We went into the woods on our land one morning and collected a few pine and oak branches. We allowed them to dry out for a few days and made sure they were bug-free, then we brought them into the house. After finding a suitable tin to place the branches in (to ensure they could stand up without falling over), we decorated it as we would a normal Christmas tree (although it could not have too many decorations otherwise it would fall over). We even placed the gifts for that year underneath it. It did not look anything like a regular Christmas tree, but it was significantly more fun making our own tree rather than getting a fake one out of a box and subsequently setting it up.

Assembling our own Christmas tree out of branches from our yard is the plan for this year, as we had such a great time making one two years ago. The only thing we need once the branches have dried out is a container to stand them up in, but I am sure we have one somewhere.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Another one of my jokes (6)

This was a joke I wrote for Christmas 2008:

"In what California city do the people do lots of cooking in open grass spaces? Bakersfield."

You have probably noticed by now that the jokes I have posted on my blog are stated as being written at Christmas: this is because nearly all of my jokes have been for past Christmastimes...very few of my jokes were thought of during other times of the year.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Pigeon flash

A couple of days ago, there was a pigeon with its feathers fluffed perched on the fence in our backyard. The winds were so strong at the time that the pigeon likely found it difficult to fly, as it remained on the fence for the duration of the strongest winds of that day (over an hour). I decided to take a few pictures of the perched and fluffed-up pigeon, but it was not easy taking pictures through the window, and it is even harder when having to use the flash. However, I was amused by how one of the pictures turned out:

I love the position of the flash and how the pigeon was looking towards that area! While a flash shot in a window normally ruins a picture, I think in this case the image was enhanced instead.

Friday, 9 December 2011

"Barbie Girl" - Aqua

"Barbie Girl" by Aqua was a song we often heard on the Open House Party on KIFS (107.5 Kiss FM). The song is often considered annoying, but I am fond of listening to eccentric songs such as "Barbie Girl", and since the Open House Party playlist is decided by requests, evidently there are others who share that opinion! In all fairness, I was not too sure about it at first, but the song quickly grew on me (not to mention the fact it is an earworm!).

It is hard to believe "Barbie Girl" was released back in 1997. I wonder how often it gets played on the Open House Party now.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A new series

Now that the My "Recipes" series has concluded, I am currently thinking about a new series to replace it with. I have been looking at old works of mine to possibly post on the blog, but I have also been thinking of typing up some new material, such as short stories or something along those lines. I admit that I will miss critiquing my old recipes, but I will also state that I have no plans to type up new recipes.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

My "Recipes": Andrew's Fried Egg with Meat and Vegetables and Toast

The fourteenth and final episode of the  My "Recipes" series is called Andrew's Fried Egg with Meat and Vegetables and Toast:

Fried egg
Cooked Turkey

How to make it:

Fry the egg then put it on the toast. Put the turkey on the egg then put the avocado on the turkey and then put the tomatoes on and then sprinkle cheese on it.

My verdict: there is nothing wrong whatsoever with the meal is the instructions on putting the ingredients together that needs work here: to begin with, it does assume that the cook knows how to fry an egg, but I think that is a reasonable assumption in this case and I will comment no further on that part. However, the recipe states one of its ingredients as "avocado", but does not specify if the cook is supposed to put slices of avocado on the meal or to turn it into guacamole.

This also seems to be another recipe that cites "cheese" as an ingredient, but does not specify if it should be sliced, in pieces, or grated, until the the part that tells the cook how to put all the ingredients together. Finally, "Cooked Turkey" is ambiguous...does it mean a fresh turkey that has been cooked, or turkey from a packet that states it has been cooked?

Quibbles on the instructions aside, Andrew's Fried Egg with Meat and Vegetables and Toast seems a perfectly good recipe.

That is the end of the My "Recipes" series; I hope you have all found my old recipes at least interesting, or even good enough to want to try out! As I have said before, do let me know if you try any of my recipes: I am interested in knowing how they turn out for other people.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A correction

I stated the following in my "How to drink coffee" post:

"...and to be honest, I cannot remember the last time I had a cup of tea in the place of a coffee (I do not think I have had any since we moved country)."

It is true that I have not drunk tea in the place of coffee since we moved to the United Kingdom; however, since that post I remembered that I did have a peppermint tea a few months ago, although I drank it for medicinal reasons (I was ill) not because I felt like having tea. Not that this is a big deal, but I would rather correct/address factual errors on my blog when I can.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas decorations

Christmas decorations are now clearly noticeable in our neighbourhood: a house to the back of our place have put lights up, and our neighbours in the house opposite to ours have put out a beautiful tree next to their front door.

I think that we will be putting up decorations next week, as we need to sort out the boxes they are stored in first (Christmas boxes were some of the ones we did not bother to unpack or sort out). We normally do our decorating near the middle of the month, and I doubt we will put up anything too extravagant, though: we tend to use decorations that are simple to get out/put away, but they always look good.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to seeing what decorations appear in our neighbourhood!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

How to drink coffee

I prefer coffee to tea: water and coffee are the two types of drinks I have every day, and to be honest, I cannot remember the last time I had a cup of tea in the place of a coffee (I do not think I have had any since we moved country). Oddly enough, I do have an interesting way to how I drink coffee; and no, I do not mean I pour it in my ears or anything like that.

I rarely drink hot coffee, mainly for being hard to drink but also because I do not think it is as flavourful as cooled-down coffee. To me, a good cup of coffee is one that has been cooling down (for a good period of time, not just cool enough to drink)...or is even cold: for whatever reason, doing this seems to improve the flavour (at least for me anyway). However, it has to originally be hot first: making a coffee using cold or lukewarm water has always given it a horrible taste whenever I have drank it.

I am not alone in preferring to drink a heavily cooled down cup of coffee: my grandfather and even one of my cousins also do this, although I am not sure if their reasons for drinking coffee this way are the same as mine. My grandfather has been known to make a coffee, go out for a few hours, and then drink it when he comes back home. The longest I have left a coffee was overnight, and subsequently drank it when it was very cold in the morning (and before breakfast at that): even though it was like it had been in the fridge, it tasted much better than a coffee made with cold water!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

"Firework" - Katy Perry, a piano cover

I love this piano cover of Katy Perry's "Firework" by Youtube user Yew2533; in addition to being played well, it has a cheerful feel to it:

A great rendition!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Another one of my jokes (5)

A joke I wrote for Christmas 2007:

"What are PC’s for female sheep called? Comp-ewe-ters."

I wrote it after I learnt that "ewe" is pronounced "you" not "eee-weee".

Thursday, 1 December 2011


In a game of Run Off that my brother and I played last night, we achieved the 269-269 tie in our electoral votes. We unintentionally managed to pull off a combination of states that lead to a 269-269 result, albeit with the 1990 Census the game is based on: originally, when I counted up our votes from the states we thought I had won with 272-266, but when one of my brother's states had accidentally been counted as my own (North Dakota), we discovered that the vote was tied. Here is the electoral map (my states are purple):

In the end, my brother won: we continued to role the dice and answer questions until one of us got one wrong. We got to a fourth question each when I slipped up and my brother won the game. However, a real-life 269-269 result would not be solved as simply as answering questions on game cards until a candidate answered incorrectly!

Note: the above image is not originally mine, but rather, is our modified version of Licensing is listed on that page.