31.12.09

HAPPY NEW
YEAR 2010!



BETULA UTILIS VAR.
JACQUEMONTII

We have our very own
Snow Queen.


Our Snow Queen. Please ignore the surrounding
mess, it's a work in progress!


Remember when we had the big storm in November
and a tree fell down in our garden? Well, just before
Xmas we received a wonderful surprise gift from
out lovely neighbour Mr G. He'd bought
us our very own birch!

They have one in their garden that he brought over
from Sweden years ago. Ours is a Himalayan birch
"Snow Queen" (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) and
it's going to look like this when it grows
(obviously without the "pots"):

Thank you once again Mr G for the
brilliant present! May it grow
to be as magnificent as
your birch!


28.12.09

PENGUINS

One of the best nature documentaries I've ever seen,
March Of The Penguins, was on telly over Xmas.

It's beautifully shot, funny and sad, makes you
smile, laugh out loud and reach
for a box of tissues.

Nature is so cruel yet these amazing creatures
get on with their astonishing feat to keep the
next generation going year after year. Some
of them do not of course make which is
when the tear ducts get a workout.


The 2006 Oscar winner (Best Documentary,
Features) narrated by the honey toned

Morgan Freeman is an absolute
joy, recommended!


HE'S A BIG 'UN!

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the
size of this dog. I know he is a
Great Dane but still!

George, a four-year-old blue Great Dane from
Arizona (above with his owner Dave Nasser)
is certainly a contender for the
world's tallest dog.

The gentle giant, who measures 7ft 3ins (2.22 m)
from nose to tail, 42.625 inches (108 cm) at the
shoulder and weighs 245lbs (111 kg) could take
the title from the former record holder

Gibson, a harlequin Great Dane who
passed away from cancer last August.


Our Siouxsie (below) looks like a Chihuahua
compared to him! Even our
Archie The
Wolfhound, who was a giant, looks tiny!


EDIT 26.2.2010: George has now has been
officially recognised by Guinness World
Records as the tallest dog ever on record.


IT'S NOT NEWS

Well, not for us Finns anyway.

The fact that the tragic ski jumper legend
Matti Nykänen made it to the top of the BBC's
news feed this morning made me chuckle.

Apparently he tried to "murder" his wife on Xmas
day and for some reason the news agencies
around the world made top
headlines out of it.

Except he has tried to kill/maim/mutilate/divorce
his wife on every single public holiday and other
dates when they've happened to be in the same
room (with alcohol of course) for more than
10 minutes in the last 10 years! They married
in 2001 and by last year she had tried to
divorce him 14 times and vice versa!


He is undeniably the greatest ski jumper the world
has ever seen, even though it may be by a
combination of freak of nature and luck
that he climbed to the top podium
time after time.

And his private life, a colourful story which was
told in a full length (acted) feature film
"Matti" in
2006, has kept the Finns amused all these years.

Apart from bashing his wife he has made a
career out of singing, stripping, a cider named
after him and various other doomed projects.
Not to mention the famous, mostly
unintentional Matti sayings like
“The chances are fifty-sixty.”


So what's next for the happy couple? True to form
the latest divorce application will be cancelled,
a two week holiday to Tenerife booked (paid for
by a local glossies like
Hymy or 7 Päivää ) and
a warts and all interviews arranged.


20.12.09

HAPPY XMAS!

I'd like to wish all of my regular readers
(and passers by) a very happy Xmas!

Mira the cat wishes everyone
Happy Holidays as well!

PS: You can track Santa's
movements in
HERE


18.12.09

ANGRY

POUND PILLOW

Things you notice on TV: I was just watching last
night's Alan Carr: Chatty Man as one of his quests
was the divine Ms M (she was the only reason
I taped it in fact!), Bette Midler
(top pic with Alan).

At one point she was hiding behind a pillow (middle
pic) and I noticed it was the same one (plus a
fringe) I've got on my sofa (bottom pic)!

Funny thing is I bought mine from a pound
shop in Tooting (last of the big spenders,
eh?!), the producers of the show have
probably spent loads on theirs!


16.12.09

LET IT SNOW

As the song goes

"Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
Let It Snow!"


Our garden this morning

It started snowing about 11 o'clock this morning and
hasn't stopped. According to the Met Office it's

going to be like this for the next few days! Yay!

There was also a nice surprise in the post today:
my good friend
Sanna send me the most
beautiful Xmas decoration. I hung
it up in my bedroom window.


EDIT 18.12: Whereas the rest of country woke
up to
a Christmassy scene...we had no snow! Boo!
Well, they are forecasting for more over the
weekend so hopefully we'll get some.

EDIT21.12.2009 at 16.45:
We finally got some snow!
Yay!

I love it when it snows but then I'm not
trying to travel anywhere...Seems
rest of Europe is in a mess as well.


14.12.09

LEVEL 68

NIPPY

While over here the mercury is set to dip below zero
in the next few nights, spare a thought for the
Finns: Lappland is -28 C at the moment
and even the south is in double
minus figures at -14.

I'm so glad I don't live up there anymore! As
much as I miss proper snow and skating on
the lake ice...nah, I'm glad I'm in good
old Blighty for the winter!

Well, at least all the kids who get to visit
Santa in Rovaniemi are going to
get their money's worth!

Here are some icy pictures from the readers
of a Finnish newspaper to get you in the
mood for the arctic blast!



12.12.09

RETURN TO THE
VICTORIAN FARM

I thoroughly enjoyed BBC 2's Victorian Farm
which aired in the beginning of the year.

Now the team, archaeologist and historian Alex,
archaeological digger, supervisor and teacher
Peter and historian Ruth return to the Shropshire
estate to celebrate a traditional Victorian
Christmas in a three part special.

From the left: Peter, Alex and Ruth

I just watched the first episode and it was as
funny, entertaining and indeed educational
as always. Makes you appreciate how
easy life is in the modern world!

The first outing for the team, Tales From The
Green Valley (in 2005) was set in Tudor England
of 1620 and Victorian Farm followed. I loved
both of them so I hope they do another full
length series set in yet another time.

The website dedicated to the specials is full of
handy hints on how to create your own Victorian
Xmas including cards, crackers, wrapping
paper, decorations and many more.


9.12.09

MOM SMOKES IN THE CAR.
JESUS IS OK WITH IT BUT WE
CAN'T TELL DAD

My favourite comedy series of the last few years
Big Bang Theory makes a welcome return
this month, season 3 premiers
on E4 on the 17th.

I've just watched season 2 again, can't
wait for the latest run to start!

The superb Christine Baranski reprises her
role as Leonard's mother which is going to
hilarious as she's like a female Sheldon!


MOTHERBOARD

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE
YOUR MOUTH IS

These are funny!

The phrase "putting your money where your
mouth is"
has taken on a different meaning.

The latest internet craze is to take photographs
of your friends combining their faces with
those on banknotes from around the world.


DIY TILLS

Those unexpected items and the feeling you're paying
and doing all the work. Self-service checkouts are
expanding throughout the UK, but many
of us aren't happy with them.

So why is the relationship so
fraught, asks the BBC.

I wasn't keen on the DIY tills when they first appeared
in our local supermarket but since they've made
the whole process a bit simpler it's a breeze.

The only gripe I've got are that the scanning plate
should be cleaned at regular intervals as
sometimes they are so grimy you have to
do the barcode a few times
before it "beeps".


Also people please take note: the person after
you cannot start the process before you lift
your bags off the bagging area as the whole
thing is a scale. While you start to sort out
year's worth of receipts in your purse the
queue behind you is standing still.


NOT OUT OF THE
WOODS YET

So. The tally is 11 and counting. A
classic case of "can't keep
it in his pants."

I couldn't care less to be quite honest but
this in the Finnish paper Iltasanomat
made me laugh today.

They polled their readers: "Are you
Tiger's secret lover?" and at 5 pm
70% of 11 078 people said yes!

4.12.09

CAT CAM

What do cats do when their owners are away?
There was one way to find out - "cat cams."

Fifty American house cats including Leo-Hector (below )
were given collar cameras that took a photo
every 15 minutes. The results put a digital
dent in some human theories
about catnapping.

About 22 percent of the cats' time was spent looking
out of windows, 12 percent was used to interact
with other family pets and 8 percent was spent
climbing on chairs or kitty condos. Just 6
percent of their hours were spent sleeping.


"What surprised me was how active the cats were.
I believed my three cats were sleeping during the
day," said Jill Villarreal, an animal behavior
scientist who collected the data for
Friskies brand of cat food.

The 777 photos studied by Villarreal showed
the cats looking at a television, computer, DVDs
or other media 6 percent of the time and hiding
under tables 6 percent of the time. 5 percent
was playing with toys, eating or looking
at finished food came in at 4 percent.


LEVITATING

MISSED

"Oh great! I missed the
6.42 again!"

TO GIVE OR NOT
TO GIVE?

Should we give the tradition of buying Xmas pressies
to people we don't like or hardly know the
heave-ho, asks the BBC Magazine.

My answer would be a resounding yes. Waste of money
and everybody's time. The gift will most likely be
half-heartedly bought and the recipient will
pretend to like it for about three seconds
when the giver is around.

Even worse they haven't got anything for you and now
feel obliged to rush out to get something which
again will probably be not wanted.

I'm so glad I don't have to be part of the Xmas
present merry-go-round with friends and
relatives, let alone work colleagues.

All of my family live abroad and we've all agreed not
to send each other presents. For instance my
mum gives me cash for both birthdays and
Xmas when we see each other and when I go
to visit relatives I take them bits and
pieces they've asked for.

I buy Xmas presents for exactly four people and
always check if there is something they'd
like and that's what they'll get.


GO JIMMY!

I've thoroughly enjoyed this year's
I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!

My favourite from the beginning was 80's page
three pin-up Sam Fox but since she got voted
out I've liked both snooker ace Jimmy White
(below on the left) and The Queen Of Clean
Kim Woodburn (below right).

I didn't know what to make of "The Whirwind"
at first, he didn't really say or do a lot (well
nobody had the chance because Katie Price
got voted to do everything!) but towards
the end he's come up with some cracking
one-liners and turned out to
be great entertainment.

My favourite moment was when Kim was hassling him
to hand over his clothes for a wash and then pack
because he might be the next one out and he
just said: "I'll tell you what, if I leave
you can burn the clothes for heat."

I don't mind if Kim winds, she's as mad
as a bag of spanners but funny with
it. Oh yes, luvvie! That's right dah-ling.

But I hope Jimmy is crowned the new King
Of The Jungle tonight, not only is he deserving,
he's a
Tooting lad as well! I read his
autobio a few years ago.

Mind you is he wins ITV2 are buggered next year
because traditionally the King hosts the Get
Me Out Of Here, Now! show and Jimmy...well,
he's not exactly the most talkative of the lot!
Last years King
Joe Swash is perfect for
the job, you can't shut him up!

EDIT 5.12.2009: Gino won,
Kim came second and
Jimmy third.


30.11.09

BETTER A KB IN A PIVO THAN
TWO IN A TOWER
(DON'T ASK!)

Greetings from wonderful Prague!

The weather was spot on (sunny, about +10 C),
food and drink cheap as chips (huge portions!),
shopping great and people friendly.

We visited Petřín Hill, the castle, the old town,
Žižkov Television Tower and the total tourist
trap U Fleků brewery but as it turned out we
met some great people from all over
the world in there (below).

In the photos from top left: Miro, KB, me, Drasco, Jan.
Bottom photo from the left: Michael,
Alison, KB, Jan, Ronni.


We had a fantastic meal in U Emy Destinnove near
our hotel. My steak was easily in the Top 3 of
All Time Best Steaks. Recommended!

We also frequented Banditos bar for those afternoon
perk-me-up glasses of wine and discovered another
local restaurant Hostince ResPUBlica on
Bělehradská when we couldn't get into
our first choice restaurant.

It's a real "local bar for local people" with added
cigarette smoke! There were three of us (our friend
Heidi was in Prague on business and joined us
for dinner), we had a main course each and
tons to drink - the whole bill was £16!!!

I fell in love with the city, there is still so much
more to see and discover, have to go
again soon! Below some pics, enjoy!













21.11.09

AHOJ
PRAHA!

Next Wednesday KB and myself will hop on a Czech
Airlines flight to Prague for three days. Yay!
It's nice to have a change of scenery again.

Although the country is known for dozens of varieties
of beer (which I do not drink) I'm sure I will be
able to sample some local vínos! I will steer clear
of Absinthe though, I don't think I could
handle the headache the next day!

The weather over there is pretty much the same
as here with an added danger of snow so
hats, gloves and thermal socks are packed.


Also, my friend Heidi is arranging a work trip
for the same days so we will be able to meet
her as well! She has actually lived in the
city so some local knowledge will be handy.

It's doodlepip for now as I have to reserve
my energy so I'll be back next
week after the trip.


SIMON'S CAT

A cartoon of Simon Tofield's cat has become
one of the most-watched videos ever
posted on YouTube.

Hugh has become an internet celebrity after the
London-based illustrator focused his animations
on the antics of his cheeky feline friend.

He said: "I basically sat down one day and thought
I'd teach myself to use some new computer animation.
That morning Hugh, who was then a tiny kitten, had
been jumping all over me - pulling my ears and
scratching me, trying to wake me up for his breakfast.
So I decided to do a little film of a cat trying to wake
its owner. I made it up as I went along."

Over 45 million people are thought to have viewed
the videos in a little over a year, with Mr Tofield
being offered book deals as a result.

The Simon's Cat book was published in October
- and although Mr Tofield has not made
money from the YouTube hits, he describes
the book deal as "a dream come true".

He has also created a website and a
YouTube channel dedicated to his cat.

Mr Tofield said that it takes him six weeks
to create a minute and a half of animation,
and one week to do the sound.


He says the animations have a broad appeal
due to their slapstick, old fashioned comedy
values. "He's worked out how to twist me round
his paw," Mr Tofield admitted. I think a lot of
cat owners can relate to that."


SHOO!

This is funny!

A police camera has captured the moment
a cat became overly friendly (video) with a
Texas police officer while he was
writing a traffic ticket.

The footage caught by the patrol car's dashboard
camera shows a black cat clambering up and down
officer Keith Urban, until he finally
gently shoos it away.


Captain Don Georgens of the Taylor Police
Department said: "We see a lot of horrendous videos,
the officers go to all different types of calls,
to traffic accidents and things of that nature so
when we come across a video like this it
kind of helps with our humour
around the station."


100 YEARS ON
THE ROCKS

After a century buried in the Antarctic ice, a rare
batch of whisky which belonged to the polar explorer
Sir Ernest Shackleton is to be recovered.
So what will it taste like?

A team of New Zealand explorers heading out in January
has been asked by Whyte & Mackay, the company
that now owns Mackinlay and Co, to get a sample
of the drink. The two cases of "Rare Old" brand
Mackinlay and Co whisky were left behind by
Sir Ernest (below on the left) when he
abandoned his mission to the
South Pole in 1909.

The crates were discovered again by polar explorers
in 2006, but couldn't be removed as they were too
deeply embedded in ice. Now the team plans
to use
special drills to rescue a sample.

A whisky can survive indefinitely and taste the same
if it is stored correctly. It should not be exposed to
light or heat, which change the colour and make
it fade. Most importantly the bottle should be
kept upright, unlike wine.


Alcohol erodes cork over time and whisky is about four
times stronger than wine so if it is in contact with the
cork it will damage it quickly. The vapour in the bottle
should be sufficient to keep the cork moist and
prevent it from drying out and air getting in.
If whisky is being stored for any length of time
you may have to wet the cork occasionally,
but even then only once or twice a year.


Extremely low temperatures, like those in the Antarctic,
will make the whisky cloudy, but this should fade
when it is warmed up, says David Stewart, a master
blender at distillers William Grant & Sons Ltd.
"If these bottles have been stored upright there
is every chance they will be drinkable," he says.

The fact the temperature will have been consistently low
will also work in the whisky's favour. Fluctuating
temperatures are worse because they cause the cork
to contract and expand, which could allow air in.

If the whisky is drinkable, experts say it will taste
different from what is on sale today as the "Rare Old"
brand of Mackinlay is not made any more. Also,
different casks are used to make whisky
now so it is blended differently.


"Whiskies back then - a harder age - were all quite
heavy and peaty as that was the style," says
Whyte & Mackay's master blender
Richard Paterson.
If the team of explorers are unable to retrieve a full
bottle, they are hoping to use a syringe to extract
some of the contents. "We might get enough to
be able to take a stab at recreating it,"
says Mr Paterson.


NICE COLOURS
OF THE DAY

FRUITY
SKYLINE

London's skyline has been recreated using
fruit as part of a promotional campaign.

Photographer Carl Warner, famous for his foodscapes,
and a team of five model makers spent three weeks
crafting the scene using hundreds of pieces of fruit
and veg - all painstakingly glued together.

The Houses of Parliament are built from a mix of
asparagus, green beans and runner beans which
are mixed with baby sweetcorn to depict
the intricate stonework.

The Gherkin, found in the Square mile, is cunningly
crafted out of two types of melon and embedded
with green beans to highlight its
spiralling glass frames.


Nelson's column is cleverly constructed from a
cucumber, baby courgettes and a carrot with a
monkey nut and almond stuck on to it.
Other
high profile London landmarks given a
makeover include The London Eye which
has green beans as spokes and its pods
made out of baby plum tomatoes.


It even features the Thames-side lampposts which
are made from onions wrapped in vanilla pods
for the lamps, asparagus for the posts and
mackerel for the ornate fishplinths.

The spire on St Paul's Cathedral (above) has been
given a fruity new look after it was created from
roundels of carrot, yellow and green courgette
and baby leeks.
The famous dome has been made
using a melon, while the impressive columns
have been crafted out of baby sweetcorn.


Roopa Gulati from the Good Food channel, the
company who commissioned the work, said the
image represents how fruit and vegatables can
be used imaginatively in the diet.


He said ''This stunning image has quite literally
transformed the London skyline with good food
and it proves that fun with food in a creative
and light-hearted way is the way forward''.