Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The end of 2013

At last, we're at the end of 2013. I hope that everyone has had a pleasant year; I know that it's been difficult for some of my friends, who are now looking at 2014 with enthusiasm. I, too, am looking forward to New Year, as I have some plans to follow through with, which would be highly beneficial to me if they succeed.

Today could have been a nicer day for me, though; I haven't been well since breakfast, I feel cold even though it's warm and I had to have a lie down this afternoon so I can be awake at midnight. Hopefully, I'll be better at New Year.

See you in 2014!

Monday, 30 December 2013

"Dreamer" - Livin' Joy

For my last music post of 2013, I'd like to present "Dreamer" by Livin' Joy, with vocals from Janice Robinson:

"Dreamer" was released in 1993 and comes from the album Don't Stop Movin'. Livin' Joy were an Italian band and were present in the 1990s, but broke up in 1999; their other major hit was called "Don't Stop Movin'". I came across "Dreamer" from listening to Heart radio.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Gift from Beyoncé Knowles

I found this a few days ago; Beyoncé Knowles went into a store to do some of her Christmas shopping and paid for the first $50 of everyone else's shopping:

A cynic would say that it was a publicity stunt but I prefer to think that Knowles genuinely wanted to contribute a little towards paying those people's shopping bills. It was the holiday season, after all, so why assume bad faith? Regardless of the motive, all those people benefited from her generosity.

As an aside, I think it's great what she did with her new album, when she surprised everyone by announcing its release without any promotion or prior announcement whatsoever. I wonder how many other musical artists will try to copy her.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Winter barbecue

Dad pulled off a winter barbecue this afternoon. He had decided to do one more barbecue this year, with today being the perfect day to do it; the sun shone all day and there was no threat of rain. Wonderful walking weather, too.

Why did he want to barbecue? Well, he wanted some barbecued meat and likes to barbecue. What did he barbecue? Chicken, sausages and salmon. Those meats, combined with the remaining Christmas turkey, mean that we have leftovers for the next week! Not that leftovers are a problem, of course; leftovers often make the tastiest meals. They also come with the added benefit of helping you save money.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Nottingham Christmas visit 2013

Today went well. More of my relatives were present at my grandparents' house than I was expecting (four of my six cousins), so no complaints there. As usual, my grandparents provided plenty of conversation and good food - just the best. Lots of chocolate!

My brother went on a long walk and I helped my grandfather, who loves gadgets and technology, install some more games on his smartphone; he likes short and simple games for his phone, and it's nice for him to have a selection rather than one or two. I later had some discussions with my cousins. In all, we had a good time; well, I did, anyway.

Not surprisingly, everyone is tired. It probably won't be long before we go to bed.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas and after

My family had a fairly pleasant Christmas. Like last year and the year before, it wasn't particularly exciting but we had a relaxing time. I received a few gifts, including a calendar, some CDs, chocolate and soap. As for today, I went for a walk during the morning, hiking five miles to a neighbouring town. Longest walk I've had in ages!

Tomorrow, we'll be spending the day in Nottingham. We'll be going to see family, of course, although I'm not sure who else will be there besides my grandparents.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

"Underneath the Tree" - Kelly Clarkson

The fifth and final Christmas song for my blog this December. This is "Underneath the Tree" by Kelly Clarkson.

This song has been played on the radio almost every day this month and has been compared to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" as a new Christmas classic. Clarkson is one of my favorite singers; I would be delighted if "Underneath the Tree", along with Leona Lewis' "One More Sleep", are played during every Christmas season from now on.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope that you've all been having an amazing day!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve 2014

The presents are wrapped and all the cooking (besides tomorrow's main meal) is complete. With both these and all other Christmas Eve tasks done, I can relax for the rest of the evening before I go to bed.

I don't have a particularly substantial blog post for tonight, so I'll just say this: Enjoy the rest of your Christmas Eve.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Wrapping Day

Today is the 23rd of December, which is sometimes known as Christmas Eve Eve or the Eve of Christmas Eve. One radio presenter I heard earlier suggested it be called Wrapping Day, stating that most people do their Christmas wrapping on the 23rd.

This wouldn't apply to my family, as we wrap up presents on Christmas Eve. It also wouldn't apply to at least one of friends, who wrapped up her gifts for others several days ago. Still, I've often wondered if the 23rd of December should have some sort of recognition besides being The Day Before the Day Before Christmas or Two Days Until Christmas.

Do you have an alternative name for the 23rd of December and does it have any sort of significance for you, or is it something you haven't really thought about?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Last batch of 2013's baking

My brother and I completed our third and final batch of Christmas 2013's baking:

Another flapjack; this one has mincemeat mixed in with the oats, unlike last year's mincemeat flapjack, which had the mincemeat used as filling. The flapjack wasn't particularly durable; it fell apart when I tried to cut it. We now have flapjack pieces rather than slices.

Brownies! The smaller batch of brownies, which was cooked in a round tin, also disintegrated when I cut it. Fortunately, the main batch was far more cohesive and didn't fall apart when I cut it and then extracted it from the baking tin.

We now have plenty of baked goods to eat. Despite the large amount, there is little risk of any serious weight gain; my family endeavours to partake in some form of exercise each day, usually walking. We'll be okay!

Finally, I would like to note that the reason I don't share the recipes for our baking is because the recipes are not mine and I do not have permission to share them.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Start of winter 2013/14

The next winter has begun, or maybe, is it really summer now and winter just ended? Back in Oregon, we had a friend who joked that the start of winter was actually the beginning of summer. Why did he think that? Because it's the shortest day of the year and the days get longer after that until the 21st of June, when the days start to decline in length. Did he also joke about that particular date being the start of winter? He certainly did!

It's felt like winter here for the past few days, anyway, so the official change of season is just a formality at this point.

On another note, it's now slightly over three days until Christmas!

Friday, 20 December 2013

"One More Sleep" - Leona Lewis

This song is big here in the United Kingdom at the moment. It's "One More Sleep" by Leona Lewis.

It's Lewis' first Christmas song, which comes from her first Christmas album, Christmas, with Love. "One More Sleep" is not a cover: it is an original song and was co-written by Lewis herself. With any luck, "One More Sleep" will be permanently added to Christmas tracklists in the same way that Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" was.

Lewis won the third season of The X Factor in 2006. Her single "Bleeding Love", taken from her debut album Spirit, was a hit in the United Kingdom and United States in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

More 2013 baking

My brother and I did our second batch of Christmas baking; these are mixed-fruit oatmeal cookies:

Don't worry, we'll be doing more than just oat-based desserts. We have one of my favourites coming up this Sunday!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Cold right now

It has been an incredibly cold day! At least, it has been to me, anyway. It's been the first time in ages that I've had to wear three layers of clothing to keep warm. Perhaps the worst part has been my cold hands. My hands are usually fairly cold but when the weather itself feels as though it's freezing...well, my hands become even colder and it can be tough to typ.

With the cold temperatures - combined with strong winds and heavy rain - today has definitely felt like a winter day rather than a misplaced fall day. Fortunately, my brother and I are doing something tomorrow that should warm me up: the next baking batch! I'm looking forward to it; I'll be sure to take some pictures of the baked goods.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

"The The Impotence of Proofreading"

A friend of mine linked me to this video; it's a clever poem about the importance of proofreading, which was done at the first Page Meets Stage pairing at the Bowery Poetry Club in November 2005:

It's not just college/university papers that people need to proofread more often, just look at Internet comments. They're full of terrible grammar, appalling spelling and incorrect word choices.

Then again, the amount of bad writers around creates jobs for proofreaders!

Monday, 16 December 2013

A graduation

I'd like to take the time to congratulate my friend and fellow blogger Jessica. Yesterday, after five and a half years she graduated from university, achieving a degree in English and minoring in Philosophy. Congratulations, Jessica!

Jessica is delighted by her achievement and I, as well as many of her other friends, am proud of her. It's awesome to see how happy she is; she has some big plans in mind and I hope she gets the chance to follow them through. She definitely deserves it.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" - Leighton Meester

Now this is a Christmas song that I was pleasantly surprised to learn exists; it's Leighton Meester's cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)":

I knew that Meester can sing, for I remember Cobra Starship featuring her in their 2009 hit "Good Girls Go Bad". Her other musical work includes her own single from 2009, called "Somebody to Love" - which featured Robin Thicke - a single from 2011, called "Your Love's a Drug", and an assortment of other songs. Meester's cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" comes from the album A Very Special Christmas 7.

Meester is also an actress, which is still her primary occupation. Her most notable role is Blair Waldorf, from the teen drama television series Gossip Girl.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Starting the baking

My brother and I began the Christmas baking; we made two apple and oatmeal cakes, plus these cherry and coconut oatmeal cookies:

For Christmas this year, we're doing two, possibly three, batches of baking and ensuring that there is a short period of time between each batch. Last year, we baked a load at once and had to eat it all quickly to ensure that none of it went mouldy. Instead, we can eat these at a slower rate rather than rush it.

Oh, and last year we ended up with a record amount of Christmas candy, too, so we had all of that after the baked goods!

More baking-related posts will be coming soon.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Camera with a hat

My "...with a hat" posts are more well-received than I thought they would be. Here is another:

I thought that it was time for my main camera to be featured (although its lens was seen in a Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party post). After all, it (along with my phone) is what I used to capture all the photgraphs I post here; why not let it have a turn, and alongside the hat?

Thursday, 12 December 2013

"Crazy" - Patsy Cline

Not all the songs I like are from the past ten to twenty years; I like "Crazy" by Patsy Cline:

"Crazy" was released in 1961 and is from Cline's album Patsy Cline Showcase. I briefly mentioned Cline in one of my earliest posts, which was about Heart Cambridge. One of the best parts of Heart has been to hear a few old songs, such as "Crazy", which is a lovely and gentle sixties track. It's saddening that Cline died in 1963 because of a plane crash; I wonder how her life and career would have developed if that crash hadn't occurred.

Without wanting to detract from the above, I wasn't going to do a music post today; rather, I had intended to post a picture. Unfortunately, there have been some changes to the Blogger/Google interface recently and I don't know where the link to my photographs is; I had to come up with something.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

An obsolete dating "rule"

While this is an exaggerated parody from CollegeHumor, I thought that it contained an interesting message:

I do not understand, given how easy it is for people to communicate with each other nowadays, why the "2-day rule" is still practised. Even when it comes to dating, I don't see the harm in sending a text after the date or replying to a text shortly after you have received it; it takes almost no time at all to reply to a text or even to send one in the first place. Setting an arbitrary limit on when to contact a potential romantic partner seems counter-productive. Both parties have the ability to rapidly reply to one another...why complicate the matter?

That being said, if someone is needlessly texting another person every hour of every day, that would be clingy and annoying. This, however, excludes a couple happily texting each other back and forth several times over the course of day; after all, by sticking to the 2-day rule, a text conversation isn't interesting or fun because the participants take ages to respond.

I'd really like to hear your thoughts on this. Although I can appreciate why it's preferable to not overtext someone (unless it's supposed to be a text conversation), I think that the 2-day rule and other arbitrary time limits when it comes to communication - especially texting a date - do not fit in today's world of quick communication.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

"Christmas Time Is Here" - Toni Braxton

For today's Christmas song, it's Toni Braxton's rendition of "Christmas Time Is Here":

"Christmas Time Is Here" comes from Braxton's Christmas album, Snowflakes, which was released in 2001. I chose this song because I heard it on the radio in the past couple of hours and I liked it. I was thinking about Toni Braxton this morning, so it's coincidental that I'd hear a Christmas song by her towards the end of the day! I've liked Braxton's voice ever since I first heard her sing and I'm happy to feature her here.

I'm unsure about the relevance Peanuts-related material in this particular video but it does not detract in any way from the song.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A profane - albeit censored - signature?

While this issue has existed ever since I began blogging, I'd like to address the matter of my comment signature here on Blogger, which looks like this:


It's meant to be "Andrew-L'autre" (L'autre being French for "the other"), but for some reason Blogger translates the apostrophe in L'autre into either ASCII or HTML code whenever I comment, displaying the above text. It recently occurred to me that my signature could be interpreted as censored profanity, which it is not.

This is an error on Blogger's side, but just in case it was an error with my computer's browser, I viewed my comments on my phone and saw it repeated there. That being said, please do let me know if you don't see the error.

As for why I use the handle "Andrew-L'autre", I explained this particular subject here. It's also to differentiate me from other Andrews on Blogger. At any rate, I'm definitely not swearing in a censored manner whenever I comment!

I'll also be updating my FAQ page to cover this.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The no-show excuse

On this radio this morning, I heard about some (successful) excuses that some people have used to skip a day of work. One of them involved a person getting the day wrong.

How did the person do this? Supposedly, they went outside on Monday morning to collect the paper. When they did, they found that it was the Sunday paper; as a result, they thought the rest of the day was Sunday based on the newspaper. By the time they realised the real day, it was too late. They contacted their boss, who, believe it or not, accepted their excuse; they did not lose any sick days and it did not cut into their vacation time.

The boss must either have been an idiot or thought that the person was being creative and rewarded them with a free day off. After a little bit of thinking, the excuse doesn't hold up. For starters, the person would have to have forgotten to pick up their Sunday paper the day before. That's not unreasonable by itself, but then they would have to have woken up extremely early on the Monday to have picked up only the Sunday paper, otherwise the Monday paper would have arrived and they would have realised the day. Finally, they somehow dodged both contact with other people (who would have told them the day) and looking at any sort of calendar throughout the day.

What do you think, does the excuse hold? Is the boss an idiot or do you think it's possible that they gave the person the day off because they wanted to acknowledge any creativity involved? Please do let me know!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The camera-shy spider

Dad and I spent the day in Nottingham at my grandparents' house. We were there to see them and to replace an outside light on their garage.

We needed a ladder to reach the light. While Dad was busy up the ladder and in between the moments when I was passing tools up to him, I watched a small spider dangle itself out of its home in one of the ladder's grooves. It did this for several minutes before I took my phone out and attempted to take a picture of it. That's when the spider disappeared back into its groove.

This happened a second time before the spider either gave up or wasn't even paying attention to what I was doing in the first place and had found something else interesting outside its groove (the latter is far more realistic). My pictures of the spider were worthless, however, as the spider appears as a small, blurry dot and isn't identifiable. Still, it's a little funny to think that the spider was merely camera-shy.

I should note that during the times when I was attempting to photograph the spider, Dad wasn't up the ladder!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Another beautiful sunrise

Yesterday morning, I photographed this magnificent sunrise:

This sunrise was extremely difficult to photograph because it was fairly dark outside and my camera had trouble focusing. Unfortunately, many of the images were blurry, but a few turned out okay, such as these two. From what I heard on the radio yesterday, I was not the only person to capture this amazing event.

We had an equally beautiful sunrise last December.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

"Santa Baby" - Sugababes

Last December, I posted a lesser-known Christmas song by a modern artist every five days, which I started on the fifth day of that December. I'm doing the same thing this year and I'm starting with this track:

It's "Santa Baby" by the Sugababes. I discovered it during either the previous Christmastime or the one before it. It was good to find a Sugababes version of a Christmas song because I'm a fan of them; they were an artist whom I was looking forward to hearing when my family and I were in the process of moving back to the United Kingdom.

I previously mentioned the Sugababes in this post. I wrote back then that the exact status of the band was unclear, with one of its members, Jade Ewen, saying that they were finished while another member, Amelle Berrabah, contradicted her. A few weeks after my post, Ewen stated that the band was over and that she, Berrabah and Heidi Range had all gone their separate ways. She was not contradicted.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

"United State of Pop 2013 (Living the Fantasy)" - DJ Earworm

Last night, I learnt that the annual "United State of Pop" by DJ Earworm has been released,

It's "United State of Pop 2013 (Living the Fantasy)", DJ Earworm's mashup of the highest-charting songs on Billboard's weekly Hot 100 charts in 2013. Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Avicii/Aloe Blacc, Swedish House Mafia and Rihanna are the most prominent artists in this year's edition; it is standard in DJ Earworm's annual chart mashups for a handful of artists to be central to the song while the other artists are fitted in around them. The result? An excellent, high-quality mashup.

I took a look at the YouTube comments for the song. Judging by all the likes, the vast majority of people are satisfied with it; however, there is a plethora of people complaining, too. Many of the critics claim that "United State of Pop 2013 (Living the Fantasy)" is worse than its predecessors, with little reason as to why, although I should note that there are always "worse than its predecessors"-style comments on DJ Earworm's songs.

Others thought that DJ Earworm "missed" loads of songs from 2013, but given that he bases his annual mashups on the biggest hits of the year according to Billboard, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone; people should read the video description rather than give mindless criticism. About the only point I agreed with was that Katy Perry's "Roar" and Lady Gaga's "Applause", plus a couple of other songs, should have been given a little more prominence but besides that, I am happy with this year's release from DJ Earworm; I've been happy with his annual mashups ever since he began them back in 2007! The music should be appreciated for what it is.

I wrote about 2012's "United State of Pop" here.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Decorations 2013

It's that time of year again. Each day, another house in the neighbourhood puts up decorations. An assortment of snowmen, reindeer, Santas and festive lights has appeared in the past week. The neighbourhood decorating is still incomplete, though, for when I look out my window at night there are no decorations present. I expect this to change in the coming days.

As with last year, my family and I have not put up our decorations just yet. We'll most likely start that process next week. The vast majority of our decorations will be indoors but I think we will be putting up a couple of lights outside, too.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Bloggers Blog Party - November 2013

My November 2013 pictures for the Secret Life of Bloggers Blog Party; I'm quite happy with this selection:

Friday, 1st November: My brother and mother made a zucchini and sultana cake. The zucchini didn't have much taste by itself, but it did enhance the other flavours present in the cake. I hope that another will be made.

Wednesday, 6th November: I wanted to enhance the flavour of my apple juice by adding a small amount of allspice. Instead, I put too much in and made it a mess. I drank the juice but left a load of allspice at the bottom, as it was too strong to consume. Unlike the aforementioned cake, I have no desire to have a repeat of this.

Friday, 15th November: Fall really kicked into gear and lived up to its name during the middle of November. The leaves came off the trees and coated the ground; I raked them up but more have fallen since.

Friday, 22nd November: My brother took this picture of a bull finch eating berries in our backyard. The bird paid no attention to my brother, given that it had found a tasty meal and was comfortable.

Friday, 29th November: A beautiful sunrise. I just had to make a capture of it. It was a delight looking out of the front window to see this spectacular view that morning.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Christmas riddle

This morning, I heard the following riddle on the radio, on Heart:

"A sleigh full of Santas goes under a bridge and when it comes out the other side not a single Santa is on it. How can this be?"

The answer is between the dotted lines below; as to help prevent anyone from reading it before figuring the riddle out, I have whitened the text. Selecting the text with the mouse cursor will reveal the answer.
"Because all the Santas are married!"
The credit for this riddle goes (I think) to Stephen Mulhern and Emma Willis, as I heard it on their segment of today's schedule. There were several people who correctly guessed the answer and others who gave stupid responses. I thought the riddle was quite clever, even if perhaps slightly cringe-worthy!