Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Legoland Discovery Centre

Today, we went to the new Legoland Discovery Centre, at the Trafford Centre, in Manchester.

Ever since I was a little boy, I've had a fascination with Lego.  Indeed, it is still consistently voted the number 1 toy.

There is the quality about it that makes it hard to compare to other toys.  Unlike 'posable' figures (Action Man, GI Joe, Barbie or Cindy), Lego makes you use your imagination.

In todays' market, Lego have been forced to adapt, and their licenced tie-ins with famous film franchises (namely Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and now Toy Story), means a slight dilution of what Lego means.  I'm sure there will be more deals in the future.  However, if they can remain true to their values as a toy to inspire and encourage creativity, then I don't think they have much to worry about.

Lego also crosses the boundaries between girls and boys.  No longer just a toy for boys, the girls like to get involved too, and Lego have met that market as well.

So, back to Legoland.  Recently opened, by Merlin Entertainments, in Barton Square, next to the Trafford Centre; this is a fab day out for families young and old.  There's plenty to do, including a 4D Cinema, play area, party rooms (for birthdays) a cafe and the obligatory shop; plus lots more besides.

Here's the trailer, from their website.

We arrived not long after it opened, and it was already busy.  You start at the Lego Factory (where everyone, including adults, is presented with a souvenir brick!) then you can wander as you like to the cinema, the Kingdom Quest ride (you get a chance to 'shoot' the baddies!) the play area, and the Lego Racers area - here there are bricks galore and race tracks to 'test' your creation.

Miniland is delightful, with representations of Manchester (both United and City are sharing a stadium!!) and even Coronation Street is recreated.  As is Blackpool tower and Alton Towers (another part of the Merlin Entertainment empire).

There is also the opportunity to spend 30 minutes with a Lego Master Model Builder, where they take you step-by-step building a small Lego model.  I found this quite good fun, although it was very busy.  Noise from the other parts of the attraction also made it a little difficult to hear at times.

However, it's a new attraction, which is bound to have teething problems.  When we arrived, the ride wasn't working, and when it was, the transition from queue to ride wasn't particularly smooth.  The show in the cinema suffered technical problems, but on the whole, it's harsh to complain at what is, essentially, a fun day out.

The area is not a big as the advertising would lead you to believe, but again, that's just a quibble.  There's lots of empty space, which, when school holiday season is in full swing, will soon fill up.

Finally - as expected, when you leave, you are 'funnelled' into the shop.  An Aladdin's cave of all things Lego.  From the full kits, to buying individual Lego bricks, clothing and gift sets.  It's a kaleidoscope of noise and colour.

If you think you'll visit again, and let's face it, this is the ultimate wet weather destination, you can purchase a one year pass (and get a refund on the current days tickets).

As a sentimental trip down memory lane, this is a fun way to spend a morning, afternoon, or indeed the whole day.

The kids will love it, but more importantly, I defy you to leave without having smiled just once as you remember your days as a child playing with the "worlds favourite toy".

Monday, March 29, 2010

How To Train Your Dragon

The latest outing from Dreamworks (who brought us Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda) is "How To Train Your Dragon".  It's a strange title, and until I went to see it, I hadn't heard anything about it.

Also released in 3D, we saw the 2D version.

It's a strange, but lovely tale.  The graphics are stunning, raising Dreamworks towards the standard set by rival studio, Pixar.

Following the apparent panning I gave "The Spy Next Door", for which my very own father thought I was a little harsh; mainly because I failed to mention any positives about the film; I have decided to take a lighter approach with this cinematic feast.

The story of the Vikings, hunting a dragon nest, centres on a young boy, curiously called Hiccup.  He's not the beefiest of kids, given his father, who is built somewhat tougher! I'm not going to tell you the whole story, but suffice it to say, Hiccup makes good in the end.

What makes this film special is the graphics; you forget this is, essentially, a cartoon; much as you do when watching a Pixar film.  The attention to detail, the sound, the lighting, makes this film so realistic.

So, Dad, I hope this makes up for my previous review!  As always, I welcome the criticism, I just hope that Jackie Chan can accept mine!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Two Hundred

Welcome to the 200th post on My Blog and I.

So is this a birthday, an anniversary or just a good excuse for a celebration?

When I started this blog way, way back, it was more for a way to express myself. For no other reason than I could, and this is the modern way to do it.  I wasn't looking for recognition or a mass following.

Indeed, it was left to gather moss for a long time.  It wasn't until the end of June last year, that I picked up my quill and re-filled my bottle with ink.

So; in the true tradition of our 'auntie beeb' - this post is riddled with repeats.  What's more; I make no apology.  It's a smörgåsbord of topics to read and digest.

As the byline says, at the top of the page, this blog is "like a 3-dimensional diary. News and reviews from all corners of life, the universe and everywhere!!!"

I've covered all sorts of topics; books, films, music, Formula 1 and my visit to the McLaren Technology Centre, to name but a few.

I've also talked about searching for my family history, shown videos that I like and reviewed applications for the BlackBerry, such as Momentem, Poynt and Viigo.

I even ranted and raved about my household insurance renewal premium.

I saved money using my electricity monitor and written about days out.  My post about Marmite proved to be one of the most popular - at least that was a 'like it' moment!!

I'd like to thank you for your support and feedback and if you don't already, why not have the latest post delivered directly to your inbox. The link is over there, on the right, or just click here.

It's been a fun 200 posts; I've had some recognition, and certainly a following.  I hope I can keep you entertained and informed as I embark on the next 200!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Spy Next Door

The other night I saw the latest Jackie Chan film "The Spy Next Door".

You know I like going to the cinema, and I thoroughly enjoy the entertainment value, which is just as well, since when I bought the tickets, I actually asked the girl behind the counter for a mortgage, to go with the tickets and 'refreshments'.  It wasn't the cheapest evening, but the fun value more than made up for it.

As for the film itself, it's not the most high-brow of cinematic feasts.  The story is rather weak, the acting not much stronger, and the comedy isn't, well, funny.  The boys were laughing out loud at the slapstick nonsense, and Jackie Chan, whilst not at his best, certainly worked hard, given the material he had to work with.

Billy Ray Cyrus (he of 'Achy Breaky Heart' fame) also plays a part, as a spy colleague of Chan's Bob Ho.

In essence, the story is about a Chinese secret service agent on loan to the CIA.  He is in love with the next door neighbour (Amber Valletta) who thinks he sells pens for a living; and her children hate him.  At one point, as the story moves on, and he is required to 'babysit' them.  It appears that spying is easier than looking after the children!

The situation lends itself to comic moments, and when the 'baddies' get involved, all hell breaks loose.

The child actors aren't wonderful either; but you can't blame them - it's a fun film for them, but I don't think this will do them any favours launching them into the big time.  I hope I'm wrong.

Chan is best in action mode, and he doesn't disappoint, with his martial arts, using various props to great effect - even though there are many special effects involved.  Before the final credits, there is even a bloopers roll, showing some of the out-takes, which is quite good.

My advice; unless it's pouring with rain and there is absolutely nothing else to see (or do), then save your money.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Formula 1 Down Under

I've been quite restrained of late; conscious that you don't all want to read about Formula 1.  Therefore, this is a slightly different approach - more of a travelogue than a sports report.

This weekend it's the Australian Grand Prix, at Albert Park, Melbourne.

Albert Park was originally part of the Yarra River Delta, which involved large areas of wetlands and sparse vegetation, interspersed by lagoons, some of which were quite large, including the lagoon from which Albert Park Lake was created.

Following European settlement from 1835 onwards, much of the Yarra River delta was drained to dry the land and enable agriculture, housing and grazing. Through the 1840s and 1850s, the area now occupied by Albert Park itself was unofficial parkland, used for military training, grazing and hunting. In 1864 the area was officially proclaimed a public park and named Albert Park in honour of Queen Victoria's devoted consort, Prince Albert.

From 1953-1958, the Australian Grand Prix was held within the park, around the lake, until it was moved to the circuit on Phillip Island. Over the next 30 or so years, general park maintenance was neglected as funding became hard to come by.

During the early 1990s, the lake was drained to remove weed infestations, rubbish and other debris that had accumulated over the years. In 1993, it was announced that the Australian Grand Prix would be moved from Adelaide to a reconstructed Albert Park Circuit, loosely following the 1950s configuration. This was met with much opposition, but the project went ahead and a host of sporting facilities were subsequently constructed and funding allocated to improve the parklands followed.

As the action on the track evolves over the weekend, with 3rd practice tomorrow, followed by qualifying, and then the race itself on Sunday, at least you can watch knowing some of the history behind the park and countryside that whizzes by at high speed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Now For Something Completely Different

Never fails to make me smile. Hope you did too...

Happy Thursday

Happy Birthday Ethan...

I can't believe my 'little' boy is now 10...  The years just seem to have disappeared.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Getting Fit - Update

It's been over a week since I started the regime to "get fit for summer".

I've been swimming, and walking.  In fact, that's it.  No fancy diet, where you have to pay subs to have someone tell you that "you're on course to reach your goal"!!

I don't need that.  I know what I want to achieve, and by taking the steps I am, then I'll be well-placed to feel the benefit and enjoy the best the British summer can throw at us!

You may, or may not, have noticed, that on the right-hand side of this page, I have introduced a feature called "My Pedometer".
The idea being, that I publish how many steps I take each day, which in turn equates to kilometres.  Some days are better than others.  The two big ones are on the 18th (which is a Cub night, so lots of walking around) and on 20th (which was around the Trafford Centre).

The swimming hasn't been as successful as I'd like, but anything is better than nothing.  I just need to build up to a greater distance.  Currently, I swim between 10 and 15 lengths each time - which is up to 375 metres.  The last time I was doing this, I was up at the kilometre mark.  That's the aim again - 40 lengths in one session.

Over the last week, I walked approx 28,420 steps.  This equates to approximately 20Km.  An average of 3Km per day.  Not bad for someone who spends most of the day sitting at a desk.  Add in another kilometre for swimming and it starts to add up.  I just need to maintain the pace.

And telling you about it, is all part of the plan to help me.  So, thanks for reading.  If you fancy giving me some encouragement then feel free.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Times They Are A Changing

This coming weekend, the clocks will advance 1 hour.

To me, that is one of the signals that Summer is just around the corner.  The mornings are brighter, the evenings are longer, and hopefully (just hopefully) the sun will shine and  we'll all feel good.

Why, though, do we do it?  The practice is controversial.  Adding daylight to afternoons has benefits for retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours.  However, this causes problems for farming, evening entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun.

The advance in time is also thought to have a positive impact on the number of car accidents; in other words, less pedestrians are injured in road traffic accidents when daylight lasts longer.
Another positive outcome is the reduction in energy use; electricity, for example; since we don't need to use the lights until later in the day.

The downside to clocks changing is the ever increasing number of appliances that include clocks, and the length of time it takes to change them!! Although many automatically adjust, I still find it takes a while to go round the house making sure all the clocks are changed.

However, (for me, anyway) the impact is the effect the sun can have on your mood.  I love seeing the sun breaking over the rooftops, the cloudless sky that early morning pale blue.

In the words of Nat King Cole - Roll on Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer

Monday, March 22, 2010

Alicia Keys - The Element Of Freedom

Those who have stayed with this blog, and followed my musings and ramblings, will know that whilst music is important to me, I don't write about it much.  Normally, I just post a video here and there, of something that takes my fancy.

This time, I've broken with the norm, and am writing about the latest album from Alicia Keys.

OK - So I admit, I might be a little late to the party, (it was released at the end of last year) but last weekend I downloaded (completely legally, I hasten to add) the album "The Element Of Freedom".

Since I've never written a music review before, this must be something special. And it really is.

It's beautifully produced, each track slightly different; which is removed from some artists whose albums all seem the same track after track (one reason why I don't buy many albums).  For obvious reasons, it's commercial; rather than for the pure love of it; but you can't blame her for that - ultimately, it's a business, but if you can produce music like this, and you have an army of fans who will buy it, then who cares.

It's a great album to chill to.

Do I have a favourite track?  The simple answer is 'No'!
If I had to, then "Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart", "Distance and Time" and the (now) time-honoured "Empire State of Mind" (although this is slower than the version with Jay-Z).

Her newest single (apparently) is "Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)", which is also great.

Have you heard the album?
What do you think?
Am I right?

Since I have quite an eclectic taste in music, I'm considering who to review next!

What do you think?

Cub Camp

Our first camping trip of the year is booked.  Actually, that's not true; it's the second.

Camp No.1 is with the Cubs; of which I'm an Assistant Cub Scout Leader.  Sounds grand, but since 2 of my boys are in Cubs, it's been good to get involved on a weekly basis, running sessions and keeping the pack occupied.  There's another 4 years before son number 3 can join in, but I'll stay... it's good fun.

With the hour about to advance (next weekend), and the evenings getting lighter, it means we can take the boys out for some of their activities - cycling, walking, building bivouacs, etc.

The highlight of the year is camp; this year at the end of May.  We're not going far, and there will be plenty of activities to keep the boys busy.  Hopefully, the weather will be kind, at the very least, dry.

Last year (my first with camp with Cubs) we went to Walesby Forest, near Nottingham, for camp.  There were packs from London and Leeds also present; and the Sunday night campfire ceremony was fantastic.

My duties were in the kitchen, which resembled a set from the TV show "M*A*S*H!! With the ovens, gas-burners, ice-boxes and enough food to power a small army, the logistics were incredible.

Everything from the boys tents, the huge mess tent, the table and chairs, the lighting, the cooking equipment, the food and drink, in fact just imagine an empty field, in which we had to provide EVERYTHING.  Looking back; almost a year later, I am still amazed at how it was achieved.

The schedule was: Rise with the lark to help prepare breakfast, and generally not stopping until sun-down.  Always on-hand to provide refreshments during the day, filling up the water-barrels, making tea / coffee / juice constantly; at the same time preparing the next meal, it was non-stop, it was hard work, but tremendous fun and extremely fulfilling.

More importantly, the Cubs themselves enjoyed it.  For many, it was the first time they had stayed away from home, without their parents, and the responsibility as a leader can be somewhat daunting.  However, undeterred, it was all hands to the pump, as the leaders did everything to make it a successful and fun time.

We're about to start planning the next camp; and I can't wait to get stuck in.  Just pray the weather is kind!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

61 Hours - Jack's Back

Back in September, I wrote a post about my favourite books - you can read it here.

However, yesterday the latest in one of my favourite series arrived.  I love the "Jack Reacher" novels, by the author Lee Child.

Lee is was born in Coventry, but after being made redundant, he moved, with his family from Cumbria to New York.  All of his novels feature the maverick Jack Reacher, and he regularly tops the bestseller lists both in the UK and the US.

I've read all of the previous novels, and as soon as a new one is announced, I pre-order it.

Jack Reacher is an ex-Military policeman, having served 13 years.  He is 6' 5", weighing between 220 -250lbs.  He travels light.  Very light. No bag, no coat.  Just the clothes he's in, his cashpoint card and a toothbrush.

The great thing about the stories is, whilst they won't win Booker prizes, they are extremely good fun.  Good, entertaining reads, that really do the term 'escapism' justice.

Here,  Lee Child explains where he came up with his characters name.

When the parcel arrived (OK - I had to go to the local depot to collect it!) it was with great anticipation that I tore it open.  If you've read previous posts, you'll know that I love the smell of a new book.  The fresh print, the clean pages.  Does that make me a little weird?  Who cares.

I'm going to start reading it now.

Five minutes to three in the afternoon.  Exactly sixty-one hours before it happened.  The lawyer drove in and parked in an empty lot.  There was an inch of new snow on the ground, so he spent a minute fumbling in the foot well until his overshoes were secure...

If you want to know where this takes us, you'll have to read it yourself.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hints on pronunciation for foreigners

I originally heard this read out on the Drivetime radio show on BBC Radio 2, with Chris Evans.  I thought I'd republish it here.

If, like me, you have children in school; maybe we should cut them some slack!!
I take it you already know
of tough and bough and cough and dough.

Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.

Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.

And dead - it's said like bed, not bead.
For goodness sake, don't call it deed!

Watch out for meat and great and threat.
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,

And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for pear and bear.

And then there's dose and rose and lose
Just look them up--and goose and choose.

And cork and work and card and ward.
And font and front and word and sword.

And do and go, then thwart and cart.
Come, come I've hardly made a start.

A dreadful language? Man alive,
I'd mastered it when I was five!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Getting Fit for Summer

The time has come to get back in shape.  Ha ha!! That's a laugh, because I was never really in shape before!

However, whilst I've been losing weight (and to everyone who noticed - thank you), I haven't really been trying. Now, before you all say that's a bad thing, that we shouldn't lose weight for no reason, etc etc; I'm absolutely fine.  I haven't been following any plan, and I haven't been to the gym(!!); I've just been watching what I eat.

So, now is the time to consolidate the weight loss, and do some exercise too.

I like to walk; and will do where possible.  I'm not a great fan of running.  I think my gym teacher at school put paid to that, 'forcing' me to do a cross country run, in the rain, over hill and down dale (in Christchurch!)

Having been a member of a local gym for a while; and like many people, letting the membership roll on without using it; I've decided to get back into the rhythm.

My sport of choice is swimming, so from now on (and starting today), it's at least 3 sessions in the pool, each week.  Usually after work, which will mean I'll have to push myself after a hard days work.

I'll also be carrying a pedometer, to monitor how far I walk each day.  Since most of my work is in front of a computer, I'll have to make an extra effort to get up and walk - up and down the office, around the block (which I do sometimes anyway; but now I can measure it).

Wow! I really know how to live, and now I can bore you with my progress!!

To be honest, I'm hoping that through publicising my regime, this will 'force' me to continue.

I just hope I have the strength to continue writing this after a few lengths...

Finally, I know I said that running isn't my thing, but you can't deny this is one of the most inspiring training videos (well, soundtrack any way!!).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen - Place Your Bets Please

OK.  I am not, normally, a betting man.

However, I felt that I had to have a little gamble on the F1 Grand Prix season!!

The second practice session is over, and there's one more to go, before qualifying (which may or may not be completed when you read this!)

So, I logged onto William Hill (I've used them in the passed for the Grand National) and placed 2 bets.  Now, I'm not advocating gambling; but you're all adults, so I'm sure you can decide when is a good time to stop.

The first was for the Constructors Championship.  That one just had to go to McLaren.  The 'fun' about betting before the first race is - you never really know.  However, I've been a McLaren fan for years, and I couldn't bet against them.

The second was specifically for Jenson Button to win 5 or more Grand Prix during the season.  With a 19 race calendar ahead of us, I hope this is a fairly safe bet.  The reigning World Champion is in a Very Fast Car....

Betting now, before the racing gets under way, means the best odds - once the season starts, the prices will tumble and there will be little or no return.

Should both of these bets come off, I stand to win approx £500.

So, please keep your fingers crossed and the pedal to the metal.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Magic of the Movies

(Repost) The magic of the movies.  Since the early days of the talkie (The Jazz Singer was the first) to the latest summer blockbuster and everything in-between, the cinema has held a passion and fascination for many people.

I'm not a critic; I like what I like and don't like others.  I don't tend to read too deeply into the subject  and rarely slate a film for being bad (with one notable exception - I'll come onto that later).

For me, going to the cinema is to be entertained.  To enjoy a good comic romp, a thriller with it's twists and turns, high energy action with explosive content, or even the occassional 'chick flick'.

As the celluloid races through the projector, the bright bulb casting the image on the silver screen at the front of the cinema, the technological advances have come a long way.

Now the sound is all around, immersing you into the film, making you part of it.  The picture quality has improved; but the lovely thing is, it's still film stock.  We are yet to have all digital cinemas (athough they are coming), which would remove the need for large film projectors.

From the small arthouse film (which sometimes breaks into the big time) to the huge, multi-million dollar blockbuster.  Do you know where the phrase "blockbuster" comes from?  It's because popular films caused the queue for the box office to queue around the block - therefore a blockbuster!!

With the Oscar ceremony done and dusted for another year, honouring and rewarding the stars, directors and cast of thousands who toil to bring us the films we love to watch, this post is to tell you of some of my all-time favourites.  That is, films I really enjoyed, have seen more than once, and wouldn't mind seeing again.

These are in no particular order:

Star Wars - A New Hope.
I was 9 when the film came out, and like everyone else, was awe-inspired by the sheer majesty and greatness of the film and the now famous John Williams theme.

James Bond
I'll include them all here; for, in their own way, each is a classic.  Ignoring the age old argument of who played the best Bond (and Sean Connery is up there with me), the latter day outings have brought it back to life - pure escapism.

 The Shawshank Redemption
For the story, the performances and the ending.  Beautifully shot and it just resonates with me.

The Truman Show
Now, this isn't a classic, and isn't shown on television very often, but it too has a lovely story, with a heartbreaking ending.  Bright and airy, yet dark all at the same time.

When Harry Met Sally
Another lovely film that doesn't get many outings on television.  However, it caught my imagination at the time and has one line I'll never forget:
"I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

 Gone In Sixty Seconds
Good film, great testosterone filled action (with some Angelina Jolie too).  Just good fun.

Oceans Eleven
The Remake - better than the sequels, and George Clooney and Brad Pitt hammed it up brilliantly.  Another 'fun' film.

As for my all-time favourite (if you really want to pin me down to one film) it has to be:

It's A Wonderful Life.
Frank Capra film, with James Stewart and Donna Reed.  It's a wonderful film, and I don't mind admitting that I reach for the Kleenex every time I see it.

So that's it, just a few, and I mean a few, of my favourites.  I haven't included Indiana Jones or Titanic or Pixar animations (because they really are classic) or anything by Alfred Hitchcock (the master of suspense) or Steven Spielberg (my cinematic hero) or ... the list is endless.

Oh, I almost forgot.  The one film that I deem terrible.  So terrible, in fact, that I walked out. 
Back in 1995, it was a Nicole Kidman film: "To Die For".  It was so bad.  I couldn't even tell you what it was about without looking it up - and why would I bother doing that?

"That's a wrap"

(By the way, WRAP stands for Wind Roll And Print - in other words, the director is happy with what they've got, so let's get it developed and edited into the final film).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The #F1 Circus Is Back In Town...

Most of you can't fail to have noticed that the Formula 1 circus is about to start it's annual tour, and the build up this year has been of monstrous proportions.

The first race is in Bahrain; so we'll soon see the teams in action during practice and qualifying, before the race itself on Sunday.

This year is the first time in 42 years that two previous British World Champions (Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton) are racing in the same team - McLaren.

There is the move from Renault to Ferrari, of Fernando Alonso, and then the biggest news that Michael Schumacher has returned to the cockpit, for the newly names Brawn team - Mercedes GP.

That's FOUR World Champions in one season.  Not to mention the arrival of new teams as well; in the form of Virgin Racing, Lotus and HRT

Once again, Formula One Management are staging the races as close to European time as possible, to make sure they capture the largest audience.  When the circus moves to Australia, this means they'll be racing in the evening, so we don't have to get up too early.
Personally, I think this is a shame, since this was part of the attraction of the race calendar - the early starts!!  Maybe it's just me!

I'm doubly excited, because this year I hope to be 'live blogging' on one of the leading F1 websites, F1 Fanatic.  This, essentially, means I'll be acting as a 'producer', choosing comments made by others, to add to the blog, as the race unfolds.
I'm not sure how it will work out, but it will make the watching of the race all the more interactive.

In fact, all the links in this post have been linked back to F1 Fanatic; so you can see the amount of work and effort that has been put into a most informative website.

If Formula 1 is not your cup of tea; I promise that I will write about other subjects too, during the season, but please forgive me for cheering on Jenson and Lewis, in their quest to retain (or regain) their World Championship crown.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

My Family Search - Part 3

It's been a while since I wrote about my investigations into my family history, and whilst I'm sure you're not too bothered about "who I think I am"; the actual process has been interesting.

I've been working on this project for a couple of years now; and had some 'sticking points' where my maternal family was concerned.

Unless you can actually speak to someone, and ask the questions, aimlessly navigating through online pages of documents doesn't really help.

However; I had a break-through about a month ago, when a lady in Pennsylvania contacted me about someone she was looking into.  We both had the same person in our family trees; but I had stopped looking; as I didn't know any more.

I have to admit I was slightly dubious about giving a total stranger some personal answers about someone that (a) I knew nothing about and also
(b) you don't know who you're talking to.
On the other hand, she had said enough to pique my interest, and prove they could be the same.

Well; the floodgates opened, and a whole new side of the family has been discovered.  It now appears that my great-great aunt emigrated to the States (soon followed by her brother and mother).  They are buried near San Francisco.  Following on from that, I discovered another great-great aunt who went to live in South Africa (and is buried near Durban).  They all had children, so somewhere, out there, I have more family.

The history, and some of the stories I've read, are rich in detail; and brings 'alive' family I never knew; indeed family my Mum never knew.

Knowing that I have quite a large family on the West Coast of the States; and also in Pennsylvania, is quite exciting.

My search continues, and I'll be sure to update you here.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

OSCAR is Back In Town

Tonight it's the 82nd Academy Awards (otherwise known as the Oscars').

Tonight, live from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, the stars will come out to celebrate their cinematic achievements over the last year.

It's a long ceremony, and the fun starts here at 11:30pm - you can watch the Red Carpet action on Sky1 (and Sky1HD).  At 1am - switch to Sky Movies Premiere for the full ceremony, inside the theatre.

This year, the hosts are Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

There are some great films included in the list of nominees, and without wishing to bore you, here are the nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress amd Best Animated Film

Best Picture

  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney - Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth - A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman - Invictus
  • Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren - The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan - An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe - Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
  • Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia

Best Animated Film

  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • The Secret of Kells
  • Up

You can see video clips of all nominations here.

I always try to stay up for the full event; but tiredness usually creeps in at some point, and I'll end up watching the highlights tomorrow.

If the opening number (last year done by Hugh Jackman) is anything to go by; we're in for a treat.

So get the popcorn and your carton of Kiora (remember this?..)

Have a great night in with Oscar.

Friday, March 05, 2010

I Love Jelly Belly

This week, as well as the Marmite XO, I also purchased a box of Jelly Bellys'.  It's only a small box, of 10 flavours:
  • Blueberry
  • Buttered Popcorn
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut
  • Liquorice
  • Tangerine
  • Green Apple
  • Juicy Pear
  • Watermelon
  • Very Cherry

These are just sumptious sweets; and the flavours are so real.

I thought I'd look at their website, and find out some more about "The Original Gourmet Jelly Bean".

First introduced in 1976, they were the first jelly beans to be sold in single flavours, and to come with a menu that showed how, by combining different flavours you could create even more of your own.

There are currently 50 Official flavours of Jelly Belly.  New flavours (known as "Rookies") are introduced each year, and subject to their popularity, enter the 50 official line up or are dropped to make way for yet more new flavours.

The beginnings are traced back to a German family who emigrated to America in 1867.  Two years later, they bought an ice cream and candy store in Illionois.  The plied their trade from a horse drawn wagon.

The jelly bean itself was born in Los Angeles, back in 1976, when an local sweet shop owner called on "the best confectioners in California" to perfect a recipe.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The Jelly Belly Candy Co was introduced in the late 1990's to reflect the brand for which it had become famous.

I won't continue with more, but suffice it to say, it's a lovely story, and today, Jelly Belly is the world's Number One gourmet jelly bean.  The bean of choice for all those with the most discerning taste.

(Reproduced without permission from The official Jelly Belly UK website - sure they don't mind)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

"To Blog or Not To Blog..

.... that is the question?"

I should start by saying this is a re-post; this article (well most of it) was published back in October, but since my following has increased, I thought I'd pull some out and re-publish them.  Cheating? A little....

What is the point of blogging?  I've been writing this constantly for a while now, and when I've told people about it, all they've said is
"Who's going to read it?"
"Don't you have anything better to do?"
"Why do people want to read about you?" (I thought that was a bit harsh!!)

Ultimately, the internet is a communication tool.  Millions of computers linked around the world; information being dispersed, scanned, trawled, read, disseminated.

Hords of people wading through the countless search engines for information that will help understanding and educate.

Or the endless websites created for commercial use; the shoppers who can now buy anything they like from the comfort of their home or office.
I know; I'm an avid fan of internet shopping.  It's not always the cheapest way (although invariably there are bargains to be had), but the convenience of shopping online is a primary benefit.

So, what is the point of My Blog and I?  Unlike other blogs, I don't focus on a specific subject.  I have a number of areas of interest, and I like to cover those.

One of the beauties is that it is a two-way 'thing'.  So whilst I sit here and pound out endless articles on whatever takes my mood, you can respond and tell me what you think.

Please tell me what you like, don't like and suggest anything you'd like me to write about...

Whether for the masses (and it would be nice to think that lots of people read and contribute to it) or just as a means for me to 'jot' down my thoughts, it really is just a way to communicate.

A method to embrace the whole ethos of the internet.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Marmite - Do You Love It or Hate It?

I love Marmite.

You may have read this before, but with the launch of their new addition, I just had to re-publish it.

Marmite. The Growing Up Spread.  I was brought up on it.  That thick, black, substance, just oozing out of the jar, spread across a nicely toasted piece of white bread.  Oh, alright, brown too.

Marmite.......             My Mate........                 Lurvely........

Go on then, do you love it, or hate it?

If you fancy some Marmite merchandise; you can buy it here.

The question I ask myself, is why am I writing about it here?  Surely there are more important things in the world to worry about?

What the heck! Blogs are personal.  They allow you to write, be creative, touch others with your thoughts and feelings.

Today is the turn of Marmite.  It holds such a special place in the nations heart, and divides at the same time.  In fact, there have been some special editions, namely Guinness and a Valentines Day jar too.

They've also introduced some wonderful snacks, with the distinctive Marmite taste; peanuts, cereal bars and breadsticks too.

The purpose of this post is due to the introduction of Marmite XO.

Apparently it's stronger than the normal one, and you don't need much - I've bought a jar and can't wait to try it.  I'll report back once I've had a taste.

Ooh - the toast has just popped out of the toaster, and the little black jar with is sitting, waiting.

Don't want to disappoint it now, do I?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Monitor Update - The Truth Is Out

Back at the beginning of December I wrote about our acquisition of an electricity monitor.

At the time, people questioned why, but it seemed like a good idea to try to reduce our energy bills.

Well now the truth can be told.

This morning, the latest bill from E.ON popped into my mailbox; the first since we introduced the monitor, and I can happily say that we have saved just under £90.  This also takes account of slightly cheaper unit charges; however, when I re-calculated (no, I'm not an anorak, but it's important to get a real picture!) using the same charges it was £9 less.

So, a saving of £80 on the same quarter last year!
Which means that if this continued across the year, that's a magic £240 saved.

I should also add that we didn't become a slave to the monitor.  It's on view, and admittedly, in the first week or so, we were watching it and exclaiming how much we appeared to be spending.

In fact, we became more aware of what each appliance is costing.  The oven, washing machine, kettle, tumble-dryer, dish-washer are all money-draining device.

The monitor is still there, but now it's become habit to switch 'stuff ' off; glancing at the monitor every so often.

On it's own, the monitor won't save money.  It's the habits that it drives you to maintain, that does the trick.

The boys have taken to it as well; and they now turn off lights (and the TV) when they leave the room.

I'm sure we could do more, but at the moment I'm happy with the savings that have been made, and as the year progresses, and the evenings get lighter, there'll be less call on the lights and we'll naturally save more.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Grow Claws

No. That's not a direction for budding werewolves!!

It's the name of a budding band, from Brighton.

Now. I rarely cover music that's outside of the 'norm', but maybe I have a bias towards these guys and girls.

They describe their music as 'experimental pop', with influences ranging from David Bowie to The Beach Boys and Kate Bush to Adam and the Ants.

The band comprise the following talented people:
Jez Berns - Bass / Vocals
Chris Griffin - Guitar / Vocals
Rob Ling - Drums / Vocals
Alex Painter - Sax / Guitar / Synth / Vocals
Esther Springett - Clarinet / Synth / Vocals

I'm not one to ram music down peoples' throats; it's a very personal taste; however, please give them a listen.  I've included a video below, of their track called "Rubber Ball" (and it's as far from Bobby Vee as you could hope to get)!!

This is wonderful.

They have a fan page on Facebook.

I'd love to know what you think.


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