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Archive for June, 2010

tunesday!

Hey everybody! Guess what?

It’s TUNESDAY!

Yes, that time has come again where I pick a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately and force you to care about it even if you don’t! Aren’t you excited?!

The Song: Eat That Up, It’s Good For You

The Band: Two Door Cinema Club

Two Door Cinema Club is another band I discovered with help from XFM radio. About a month ago I heard their song “Something Good Can Work” and went straight to iTunes and bought their album, Tourist History. I can tell you now; it was well worth what I paid. This is a fantastic album that I can listen to all the way through, and I am very, very glad it is summer because there is something completely wonderful about driving around town with your windows down, listening to this album and enjoying the sunshine! It has become my go-to sunny day album.

The song I have chosen, “Eat That Up, It’s Good For You”, was not immediately my favourite on the album but now it is the track I play more than any other. It’s upbeat, it’s fun and it sure is catchy. Look out for the change at the end – it’s the best!

Eat That Up, It’s Good For You by Two Door Cinema Club
You would look a little better, don’t you know
If you just wore less make-up
But it’s hard to realise when you’re sky high
Fighting off the spaceships

And so you’re drinking in your room (To make it all go)
It didn’t end too soon (You’ve got the next one)
You’re holding on too long (You’ve got to let go)
Your other love is gone
And you know

It’s too late, it’s too late
You’ve got another one coming
And it’s going to be the same
(x4)

I tried to find a quiet place that we could go
To help you make decisions
But I didn’t find it easy to tell them apart
With double vision

And so you’re drinking in your room (To make it all go)
It didn’t end too soon (You’ve got the next one)
You’re holding on too long (You’ve got to let go)
Your other love is gone
And you know

It’s too late, it’s too late
You’ve got another one coming
And it’s going to be the same
(x4)

It’s not the same
It’s not the same
It’s not the same
You’re gonna tell me that I’m right
You know you’re gonna come back down
And find yourself where you are again

You didn’t know
You didn’t know
You didn’t know
So don’t pretend you saw it now
It’s not something you’d want to happen
Now you know who you are again

It’s not the same
It’s not the same
It’s not the same
You’re gonna tell me that I’m right
You know, you’re gonna come back down
And find yourself where you are again

So, that’s my second tune for Tunesdays. Do yourself a favour and check these guys out. Listen to the song then listen to the album and then buy it. I promise you will not regret it!! (If you like their album, check them out on their upcoming tour. S and I are going to see them in September, and I can’t wait!)

xo
A

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I want to preface this by saying that I love coffee.  I love coffee more than any other beverage. If there is a fresh pot brewing within 20 feet of me I am liable to turn into a living, drooling version of Homer Simpson (mmm…coffee!).  If I could handle the caffeine I would probably drink 4-5 cups a day.  However I have very strong reactions to the caffeine – my heart rate rockets to crazy high levels (170 resting heart rate, anyone?!), I get the shakes, my concentration disappears completely and I have a prevailing wobbly feeling for hours after even having a few sips of “high-test”. I also get debilitating caffeine withdrawal headaches that can last for days.   And, before you say that it’s psychosomatic, I’ve done blind tests before and it is NOT all in my head.  Anyway, I stopped drinking real coffee years ago, excepting the occasional treat when on holiday because I miss it!

Well I read something today that may change my habits forever:  I was casually browsing List Verse this afternoon on my lunch break and I discovered something very disturbing.  Rather than try to paraphrase I will just go ahead and quote directly from the site:

Top 10 Food Myths Debunked

4. Decaf Has No Caffeine

The Myth: Decaffeinated coffee contains no caffeine

International standards require decaf to be 97% caffeine free (EU standards are a little stricter at 99.9%). The process of removing caffeine is a long one and it also means that many other chemicals (up to 400 in fact) that are essential to the taste of coffee are lost. If you have an allergy to caffeine, you should probably keep away from all forms of coffee – decaf included. But for those who can cope with caffeine – unless you really can’t stand the slight “high” produced by it, you will have a nicer tasting drink if you just opt for regular coffee. And if that hasn’t convinced you – the chemical often used in decaffeinating coffee beans (dichloromethane) is also used as a paint stripper.

Now, I have always known that decaf coffee contains some caffeine, and that I am prone to get headaches with decaf as well, but what I did not know was that the caffeine in decaf coffee was removed using paint stripper.

In fact, I was once told that all coffee is naturally decaffeinated and that the caffeine is added after processing. I can’t remember who told me that, but I believed them and I have even told other people this (what has turned out to be a) myth. 

So, does this mean I can switch back to regular coffee?  If I thought my heart could take it I would switch back in a minute.  I would drop everything this second, drive into town and go to my favorite café (Café Koko, in case you’ve forgotten) and buy the largest cappuccino they would make me.  As it stands, I’m afraid I’m going to have to think about giving up decaf as well.  Which is a shame because I certainly do love coffee…..

xo
A

p.s. I know I linked you to the List Verse website, and I think everyone should go there to at least read the rest of the Food Myths list, but for heaven’s sake please be careful – this is the most addictive website I have ever seen.  Each list is more interesting than the last one and, to make matters worse, at the bottom of each page they link to SIX more lists that you might enjoy.  And each of those leads you to SIX more and before you know it you’ve spent hours on the site reading hundreds of lists.  Then even longer on Wikipedia finding out more information about your favorite lists and subjects or looking up people/things just to get more information.  Honestly, it’s a trap! Don’t ever go there!!  Except do go there, because the site is amazing.

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a test on life

Tomorrow morning I am sitting the Life in the UK test.  Passing the test is a requirement before I apply for an extension of my visa in November. There are 24 question and you have to get 18 of them right to pass.  The book you need to study in order to pass is over 150 pages long.  For a 24 question test.

I have read the book twice and taken countless practice tests and yet I am still nervous about the real test tomorrow morning.  Nothing really bad happens if I don’t pass it, I’ll just need to take it again and pay the £34 test fee again which is not something I would like to do.

A lot of the study material is simple stuff, about holidays (When is Christmas Day?) and everyday life (What numbers do you dial in an emergency?) which is second nature to me because the UK and US are so similar and I have lived here for 5 years.  Some is more difficult – there’s a whole section on politics that is giving me a headache, for instance.  Some of the material is just plain ridiculous.

The statistics are the part that is causing me the most trouble, and there’s no surprise there, really.  I do understand that this test needs to be a comprehensive overview of modern life in the UK and that it serves to assimilate persons from other cultures into the ways of life in the UK.  I do get that.  I just don’t understand why I need to know that as of the 2001 census, there were 0.7 million people of “mixed” race in the UK and that they made up 1.2% of the overall population.

I don’t understand why I need to know that 0.3% of the population are Buddhist.  Or why I need to know that ethnic minority groups make up less than 1% of the population of Northern Ireland.

Of course, I could throw in the towel the regard to those sections and just hope that no more than 6 of the questions on the test tomorrow relate to percentages and numbers, but you never know?  The randomly generated questions could somehow KNOW that I am useless with numbers and dates and make the entire test out of questions I can’t remember the answers to.  Then again, all of the questions could be ones like “What day is April Fools celebrated on?” and “Is Boxing Day a public holiday in the UK?”

Fingers crossed I pass this the first time, because I need to free up my brain space for more important things.  Like what percentage of the weekend I am going to be able to spend sleeping.

Fancy trying your hand at the exam? This Website has a lot of practice tests if you want to give it a go!! Let me know how you do!

Wish me luck!

xo
A

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I’ve been meaning to start this feature for months now – before we left for Europe, actually, and then I fell into a blogging black hole and didn’t post anything for ages and ages.  So, now that I am back (sorry about that folks, I promise it is not your fault), I have decided to finally implement my new feature:

Tunesday!

I would like to pause and make the stipulation that you have to pronounce “tunes” like they do in Glasgow on a good night out, kind of like the “choo” in “choo-choo”, but with many,  more “o”s.  So it would be more like Choooooonsday.

Without further ado, welcome to the first Tunesday!  I am not the first to have this idea and I won’t be the last.  I have no clout in the music world, I just thought I would tell you what I like and what I am listening to.  Hope you enjoy it!

So here we go:

The Gaslight Anthem

The Song: The ’59 Sound

The Band: The Gaslight Anthem

I first heard of The Gaslight Anthem only a few weeks ago when we were listening to XFM radio and they played American Slang from the band’s third album of the same name.  Immediately I knew this was a band I needed to know more about.  So, I Spotified them and fell head over heels in love.  Over the past month I have listened to all three of their albums more than any others in my library, I’ve added at least one track of theirs to every one of my playlists for the gym (I’m very choosy with these lists!), and have listened to American Slang obsessively.  I happen to be very lucky to have tickets to their show in Glasgow tomorrow night and I am very, very excited!  Although, I can’t help but think that if I still lived in Ohio I may have heard of them a few years ago. Stupid Atlantic Ocean!

The song I have chosen, The ’59 Sound, is the title track from their second album and I loved it from the first time I ever heard it.  I don’t have much to say that the song won’t say for itself.  It reminds me of myself.  It reminds me of one of my best friends.  It reminds me of my Grandmother.  It reminds me that, at the end of it all, we still have music.

The ’59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem

Well, I wonder which song they’re gonna play when we go.
I hope it’s something quiet and minor and peaceful and slow.
When we float out into the ether, into the Everlasting Arms,
I hope we don’t hear Marley’s chains we forged in life.
‘Cause the chains I been hearing now for most of my life.
The chains I been hearing now for most of my life.

Did you hear the ’59 Sound coming through on Grandmother’s radio?
Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?
Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?
Did you hear your favorite song one last time?

And I wonder were you scared when the metal hit the glass?
See, I was playing a show down the road when your spirit left your body.
And they told me on the front lawn.
I’m sorry I couldn’t go,
But I still know the song and the words and her name and the reasons.
And I know ’cause we were kids and we used to hang.
And I know ’cause we were kids and we used to hang.

To the ’59 Sound coming through on Grandmother’s radio.
Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?
Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?
Did you hear your favorite song one last time?

Young boys, young girls, ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night.

Did you hear the ’59 Sound coming through on Grandmother’s radio?
Did you hear the rattling chains in the hospital walls?
Did you hear the old gospel choir when they came to carry you over?
Did you hear your favorite song one last time?

So, there you have it; the very first Tunesday.  And what a tune, let me tell you!! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Tomorrow is going to be a good day: First the USA play Algeria in the World Cup (yay!) and then, after that, we are going to see The Gaslight Anthem at the Academy in Glasgow.  Do yourself a favour. Buy their albums. All three of them.

xo
A

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buying used

I know a lot of people who might have a problem with buying certain things from the second-hand market.  Not so much with clothing or furniture, but stuffed toys and books are sometimes an issue.  Germs, I think… I buy most of my books second-hand, and I know Amazon even has an online store for only used books.

Whether you’re a big fan of FreeCycle or Gumtree, or you’d rather buy everything brand new so you can still smell the factory when you unwrap it, there is one item in life that most people will probably never buy brand new, and that is a house.  I don’t know the exact numbers, and I couldn’t be bothered looking them up, but I would say that the vast majority of homes on the market today are “used”.

When buying a used item over the internet, for instance, the description could include such phrases as “worn gently”, or “like new”, but these are not phrases you would ever find in the description of a property.  My question is, why not?

OK, I know there are other ways of telling exactly how “gently worn” a house is and that’s what surveys are for, but I think it would be helpful to know some of these things up front.

What about you?  If you were in the market for a property, how new would it need to be? Would you want something only worn gently or would you accept a property under the category of well-loved?

And what would you want to know about the history of the house?  Would you like to know how many owners it has had? The year it was built? Whether it was a mass-market house or built with care by hand?  What about the people or number of families who lived there?

Say, for example, that you had a spare $1,000,000 and were looking for a 3-story waterfront Dutch Colonial with a boat house and swimming pool on Long Island?  Would you mind if the house wasn’t in the well-loved category?  Probably not, right?  Well….

Would you mind that the house was the scene of a gruesome murder in 1974 when a Ronald DeFeo shot and killed his mother, father and his four siblings in their sleep?

Would it bother you that these killings reportedly sparked supernatural occurrences (read: haunting) that caused previous owners to move out of the house? One family lived there for less than a month!

Would it matter to you that the supposed haunting of the property has been the subject of quite a few books and feature films and that you could possibly get enthusiasts showing up wanting a tour of the attic rooms?

Well, if none of the above really bothers you, and you do happen to have a spare $1,000,000 lying around, then perhaps you’d be interested in buying this, even if it is the Amityville Horror house….

xo
A

Me?  I’d rather just keep on shopping…..

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There are going to be a lot of pictures and not many words this time. At least the first half…

On our last day (apart from the flight home) we drove from Geneva over the Alps to Turin. We knew the only way to go was through the Mont Blanc tunnel and we were very excited about it! Imagine driving 7.25 miles through solid rock. Awesome, right? Well, it went by pretty quickly. I tried not to pay attention.

On the French side of the tunnel we wanted to stop and take some scenic pictures, so we pulled off at the first turning. Small town called Courmayeur. Well, they had a gondola ride thingy where you could go up the mountain. So we bought tickets, just to see how scared I would get riding up in the tiny, dangling box. We had no idea it went all the way to the top.

Let me say that again. It went all the way to the top. 11,371 feet up.

This is where I stop talking.

Mont Blanc itself:

Do you see the glacier?

The smallish, triangular peak in the middle distance is the Matterhorn.

I could go on and on, but I won’t bore you. It really is something you need to see in person. We stayed up there for four hours. It was amazing and awesome and an absolute must see. Go there. Seriously. Or, just go HERE and look at the rest of our pictures.

After we travelled back down the mountain (by the way, I don’t like heights and I did NOT like this journey!!) we drove onwards to Italy and Turin, where we were staying the night.

Now, I am going to try to make this brief as well. I LOVED Turin. It was my favourite stop on our tour, I liked it better than Venice and even better than those mountain views above you. Well, maybe not that last one, but you get the picture.

We were there for only a few hours but we got a lot done. We had an excellent map and actually found everything we were looking for quickly. It was already dark when we got there, but my camera takes great pictures in the dark, which is lucky!

We saw museums, palaces, churches, all by the light of the moon. All of our pictures can be found HERE. My favourite part of the city was the original Roman city wall and gate.

If you know me at all you know I am a sucker for Roman history, monuments and the like. This was like accidentally walking into a dream. Honestly, I pranced around for a good half hour touching bricks and going, “Look how old this is! How long it has been here!!”. S gave up on me and wandered off on his own after a while.

I must have walked in and out the gate five or six times pretending I was a chariot. Why a chariot, you ask? Because you could see the chariot wheel marks in the stones on the ground. Maybe not chariot wheels, but wheels of some kind, anyway. See?

If you go to Italy, go to Turin. OK, go to Venice and Rome and Pisa if you must, but I would skip all that and just go to Turin. Every building in the old town was more beautiful than the next. It just seems like every single person who has ever lived in Turin and had any money or influence used it to make the city a better, more beautiful place. Honestly, it was fantastic. I would go back again in a heartbeat. I would spend weeks there. I would live there, probably, if I spoke any Italian…

Although if I did live there then I’d probably weigh about 20 stone because we had dinner that night in a Ristorante on the Via Plana and it was, hands down and by far, the best pizza I have ever eaten. The place was called Rubirosa and this is a picture of it in case you are ever in the area:

As usual, the rest of our Turin photos can be found HERE.

Well, it may have taken a long time for me to get here, but that is the end of our trip to Europe. I know I have said this before, but I would go back again. I would go back again tomorrow if I could. We had a great time. We saw everything we wanted to see and more. We drove a long way. We ate a lot of Italian food.

My favourites? Venice, Mont Blanc and Turin. Where wouldn’t I go again? Milan or Zurich.

So, there you have it folks. Italy, Switzerland and France. Hope you liked it!
xo
A

Day 6 – Lausanne & Geneva
Day 5 – The Alps, Rothrist & Zurich
Day 4 – St Moritz
Day 3 – Milan & Nembro
Day 2 – Venice
Day 1 – Airplane & Selvino

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When we asked the woman at the hotel in Rothrist how far away Zurich was she looked at us funny and said we shouldn’t bother with Zurich at all, but that we should head to Lausanne. Turns out she was right! What a lovely place!

Apparently Lausanne is the Olympic Capital of the World. I would say that this fact surprised me, but considering I had never even heard of Lausanne until the day before we got there, really anything you could have said about it would have surprised me.

Again, it was a beautiful day! Lovely blue sky and lovely white, fluffy clouds! We really lucked out on this trip, I’ll tell you! We were a bit nervous about driving in the city so we parked near the outskirts and, because of this, spent about an hour of our afternoon wandering around, hopelessly lost. This is why it pays to 1) Have a MAP of the city you are visiting, and 2) Have a map with street names. This may seem quite obvious to some of you, but we like to play it by ear.

Anyway… Lausanne was beautiful. We spent most of our time just walking around, taking it all in. The only part of the city we were really set on seeing was the cathedral – apparently the most well reconstructed cathedral in Switzerland! – so we focused on getting there. Once we did, it was very worth it.

Once there we were afforded an amazing view of the city right down to the water of the lake. The city is built on quite a steep hill and the cathedral is very high up, so the views are unbeatable. It was a Monday so, unfortunately, the cathedral was not open for visitors. Apparently all museums in Switzerland are closed on a Monday. Who knew?

If you would like to see the rest of the pictures from our Lausanne album, you can find them HERE.

From Lausanne we drove to Geneva which was where we spent the evening. Actually we stayed in France, just over the border from Geneva. And, actually, there are two towns quite near each other in France with the same name and we drove to the wrong one. 35 miles out of the way. This never would have happened if we had relied on real, paper maps instead of satellite navigation, but that’s technology for you!

Geneva was wonderful. I really wish we’d have known we were going to like it so much because we could have spent more time there. As it was, we arrived around 6pm and parked somewhere that closed at 8.30pm. Which, admittedly, we did not know until we were walking out of the car park! So we didn’t even stay there for dinner. We basically just walked around for two hours and then went back to the car.

We walked along the waterfront a little, while the sun was setting. Gorgeous:

Have I mentioned before how clear and clean the water was? Because it blew my mind.

While walking we came across a pedestrian area which was paved with square cobblestones. Some of them were illuminated and printed with greetings in various languages. I can’t really describe it properly, but it was so original, and SO awesome!


Illuminated paving stones:

Doesn’t it look cool??

I know we didn’t really spend much time there, but I do have to say, if you are going to Switzerland then I would go to Geneva and I would enjoy it! I really do hope we get to go back some day because I would like to see the city in the daylight. As it was, we had to content ourselves with the dusk.

Still, it gave me a great chance to take this picture:

If you would like to see the rest of our Geneva pictures, you can find them HERE.

xo
A

Day 5 – The Alps, Rothrist & Zurich
Day 4 – St. Moritz
Day 3 – Milan & Nembro
Day 2 – Venice
Day 1 – Airplane & Selvino

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