Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Norngirl has turned to the blog-side

It's true! I can happily point you in this direction Is it Friday yet?, a blog about: "The life and times of a 26 year old Belfast girl, living for the weekend when, well, she probably won't do very much to be honest, but when she does she'll write a bit about it".

Norngirl, as those of you who may follow my ramblings here will already know, is my amazing wife who has many talents, one of which is knowing exactly where I've left things I can't find - as mentioned in her post entitled Love and marriage (and crazy adventures)

"I suppose it's different for couples who haven't lived together for long (or at all) before they get hitched, because their first year is probably spent learning about each others' foibles. However I already know that the correct answer to the Yorkshireman's frequent cries of "Where did I leave that thingumyjig?!" is usually, "At your ass, darling!"

However on this occasion, it might be apt to mention her abilities in the use of English. Most of the time she is the very patient one who proof reads my posts (though not this one) to ensure that they are at least partially readable and in all honesty, that's no mean feat! She knows of punctuation I've never heard of and knows her way around Latin - That's enough in my book to be classed as an expert in such matters. Therefore the read will be, and is, a smooth one on her blog - even if at times it may smoothly reveal how much of a numpty her husband is *hangs head in shame*. I'm really glad she has decided to publicly blog though, the pitfalls of putting your head above the parapet aside, there is so much more you get back from simply thinking about and putting your thoughts in writing.

Norngirl is undoubtedly the best thing in my life so I can say with 100% certainty, if you can stomach my waffling then her more eloquent writing style will be a breath of fresh air for your reader should you fancy keeping up to speed from both sides of our ramblings and our shared lifes adventure :)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Thoughts from my 1st transatlantic flight

1075 miles or 2 hours and 5 minutes from landing in JFK international airport, I was flying over North America for the very first time. Here are my thoughts from that point in our transatlantic flight to New York, my very first time across the pond.

"The map on the screen in front of me on our Virgin Atlantic flight had the nearest city down as Goose Bay but it was still a long way off as I couldn't see it out of the window. Maybe I was on the wrong side of the plane?

The flight so far has been a good one. I've watched two movies, The Other Guys and Dinner for Schmucks (both good movies though Dinner for Schmucks was my favourite of the two), had a meal, a couple of snacks and have had plenty of wine - kudos to Virgin for basically recreating our living room but making it fly. The free sky bar is just the icing on the cake! Even after a few glasses of red wine I managed to beat the chess game on medium setting so either the AI on the game isn't up to scratch or the wine needs to be a higher percentage :P

So far however, apart from the excitement of heading to a continent I've never visited before, the main highlight of the flight (Norngirl's manic smiling aside) has been a fly-by of the Virgin Atlantic Orlando flight. It flew by underneath us at a safe distance, both flights seemingly flying on the path of plaited hair criss crossing in the skies. It flew by close enough to see the plane properly, to be able to read the Virgin sign and to see the trail of its engines like air rising from a heater. Amazing to see as you see it on adverts but never in the sky and it was like being able to see a mirror of the vehicle you were in but from the outside, zipping through the sky like a bird, well, if birds could survive at minus whatever ridiculous temperature the outside air temperature is. In the middle of the Labrador sea at 38,000ft it was quite a sight to see another plane so close.

There has been one disappointment so far but this was entirely self made. I really want to see/visit Greenland and the path of the flight at its closest point that has already passed didn't take us close enough for me to glimpse it. Thankfully the view of Canada I do have out of my window is quite enough to satisfy my Geography nerdiness. The islands off the coast were leaving trails of white disturbance in the wake of their shorelines in relation to the prevailing currents as they flew by us. At this point in time I'm seeing more lakes, hills and forests than I've probably ever seen at once.

Though I'm heading to New York, I would love to also visit the part of Canada below me - nay, all of Canada! Maybe one day :)

Even from the skies it looks to be a beautiful, if not a scarily remote, part of the world. If I'm not seeing ice, sand or rivers, it's the browns, greys, greens and blues of the forests, hills and lakes. By the coast it looks like bacterial cultures in a petri dish peppering the landscape ending with a barrier of pristine looking coastline.

When we fly it amazes me how small Northern Ireland and the UK really is in comparison and overall how small the world really is too! Although I do go on a lot about what in reality is a tiny part of the planet's surface, these times really are a good reminder at how amazing the world is and how much there is out there. Something which puts it into even greater perspective the size of our little planet in the universe.

I've decided to take in some music for the rest of the journey and though we're on one of the older planes without the on demand media, there is a channel playing music I caught onto whilst browsing through them all. As I see the first signs of inhabited North America with strips of cleared land either side of lines dissecting the wilderness, I'm listening to the sounds of Seth Lakeman and what sounds to be folk rock. Quite apt for the tranquil looking scene from so high in sky.

The linear settlements have been closely followed by highways and small towns, I got a little lost in looking out into the distance there and apparently now close below us is Bangor, Maine (not to be confused by the Northern Irish or Welsh or any other Bangors). I have to say that from the air it really does look like something from a Stephen King book, he wasn't just making it up!

We've filled in our immigration form and are ready to see what NYC has instore for us. In all honesty, apart from movies, TV, books and blogs, I've not really any idea what to expect when we land. We plan to get a cab from the airport to our hotel and I can't wait to be somewhere new and to have every glance out of every window to be a new sight. I'm so very much looking forward to this trip for our anniversary that I just can't wait to see it all for myself."

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Now back on GMT after NYC

Well, we're back from an excellent time New York now and almost (just about) in the swing of the local time zone again. It was an awesome trip and I'll be sure to let you all know some more about it as soon as possible however when I came to turn my lap top on yesterday, it came to life but then sadly, about 10 seconds later, unexpectedly cut completely dead on me! Looks like it's a motherboard or circuit failure, so until I can get that fixed I'll be borrowing time on Norngirl's laptop to make any posts. Sadly it means I can't really get everything typed up in a speedy fashion but I'll get there eventually, please bear with me, especially with all the other stuff needing to get sorted too, Christmas around the corner and the likes, eeek.

In the meantime, whilst I try my best to find if my laptop is still under warranty or at least is repairable, I'll try to post some short posts and share some photos. To that end, here is a small sample of some of the photos:

Empire State Building in the cloud

Staten Island Ferry and Statue of Liberty

Manhattan at Sunset November 2010

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Bus Etiquette

After far too many uncomfortable bus rides, I bring you this list. We all know the basics, don't push and give up your seat up to the old, pregnant and infirm. However it seems many, especially the younger and older generations are forgetting a few basic common courtesies. So to anyone old enough to own and handle a mobile phone I implore you to adopt the following 20 point guide to bus etiquette to ensure a nice journey for everyone concerned:

Mr Happy Bus

1) If the bus is half empty, please don't sit next to someone sat by themselves unless you know them, especially if you are a smoker or haven't washed in 5 days.

2) Not everyone wants to know what you did last night-like or what you discovered from the gynaecologist, if you're talking on your mobile phone, consider what you're telling the bus as well as your mate on the phone.

3) If you have earphones that aren't noise-cancelling consider that we can hear your grunge, trance and gangster rap at 8am and really, most of us don't want to... we don't want to as much as you don't want to listen to your grandma's favourite Daniel O'Donnell songs.

4) Playing voice synthesized music or any music from your mobile phone so that everyone around you or even the whole bus can hear... is not cool.

5) Signing along (loudly and badly) to said media player 'music' is obscure and we're not thinking 'wow she can sing' or 'how cool', we're thinking WTF-LMAO-OMG and wondering if we should call social services because you have no self awareness or shame.

6) Although maybe uncomfortable, talking to a stranger or being sociable (as long as both parties seem comfortable with it) is fine BUT preaching to the person next to you and giving them leaflets for your church is crossing the line.

7) Remove feet from seats if someone is looking to sit on it and if you've wet or dirty shoes please don't do it in the first place.

8) Food and drink is fine but try to take your rubbish off the bus with you.

9) If the bus is pretty empty, please don't sit on the seats right behind someone, sitting on a bus isn't an excuse to loiter in someone's blind spot and whilst behind someone don't repeatedly knee the seat in front.

10) Could bus drivers please consider that some passengers don't have reflexes of a fly or the balance of a seal. When we get on, accelerating before we're 2 feet from the ticket machine and have our hands full doesn't necessarily speed up the seating process even if we do fly down the bus at a higher speed.

11) Please consider that not everyone wants to rub themselves against your backside to get on or off the bus. If there are seats free, please use them.

12) If it's busy don't hog the whole pole, we're all in this together, if I fall, I'll bring you down with me anyway should I happen to fall your direction because I'll have no choice.

13) If you know it's going to take you a while to obtain your ticket (say if you've only a note, need to find if it's the right bus or don't have your pass to hand, please consider letting other passengers go before you, especially if its inclement weather.

14) Please don't assume other passengers on the opposite deck of the bus will provide free child care for your kids.

15) Sneezing and holding onto something without wiping your hands is considered unhygienic, scratching your genitals and holding onto the pole is considered gross.

16) If you're going to people watch or stare, please use the windows. Directly staring strangers out is not good crack.

17) Sitting on the isle seat when the bus is busy is just rude unless you have some good reason, not wanting to sit next to strangers isn't good enough on public transport, they've technically paid to use the seat your bag is using - unless of course 1) overrides the scenario.

18) Using the seat in front as a hand-rest feels awkward for the person in front. Unless it's a rough ride, consider the fact you're not on a roller-coaster. Please only use the seat in front sparingly for support. Having strangers touch your shoulders, neck or head without permission or reason is weird.

19) Try to keep the bus in one piece. If you burn it, smash it and just generally trash it it's only tomorrows bus ride you're making that little bit worse. If you smash your own windows at home and pull your sofa apart seek psychiatric help.

20) Any other activity which invades someone else's personal space is generally frowned upon, especially if it involves anything near the face or groin, even worse if that anything IS their face or groin near your face or groin.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Lights of Belfast: My Bonfire Night and Diwali.

Around the world right now, people are celebrating Diwali (Deepavali); the festival of lights. A religious celebration based on the lunar calendar celebrating good over evil and various other human values tied to light over those tied to darkness. I'm not religious but I do appreciate the sentiment and good will behind many such tradition. According to one of my Hindu work colleagues it is a big hit amongst children because of the pretty lights and sweets. To be honest I like both sweets and lights too! So on Friday the 5th of November, a date also well known across the water in England for being Bonfire night (the English celebration of the foiling of the Gunpowder plot of 1605 which is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks) I was feeling somewhat left out. Shattered and not in the spirits to head to Jordanstown to join in the Diwali celebrations there, I needed another outlet. So to address this, on my way home from work I took a walk around Belfast City centre to take some pictures of the prettiest lights I could find. Here is what I found...

Cracked light oval in Belfast

Spirit of Belfast Arches

Red lit building in Belfast

Belfast City Hall Stained Glass Windows

Pottingers Entry Belfast

Cornmarket Starbucks lights in Belfast

Bfestive Belfast lights

An Entry in Belfast City Centre

Belfast Albert Clock at night

Friday, 5 November 2010

Come Dine with Me: Home Edition - Results

The scores were revealed and the verdict was joint last for my gruesome cheesy meat feast. Apart from all being bloated from 4 days of 3 course meals, unlike the show on TV there were no fall outs during our 4 days of parties but sadly unlike the actual show there was no voice over dude with sarcastic comments (or 1000 prize money)! The scores were very close. Mum in law won with 23 points and a main of nom-a-licious Monkfish wrapped in Parma Ham with lemon flavoured Broccolini and roasted potatoes. The other scores were Sister in law on 22, and me and Brother in law/Norngirl both on 21. So with just 2 points in it between first and last it was a tight run thing. In the end the best meal won the prestigious accolade of hosting the best dinner party of the week :)

Here are some pics of the winning meal and the setting (thanks go to Norngirl for putting the camera to good use once again):

A starter of Savoury Tatin:

A main course of Parma Ham wrapped Monkfish with Rosemary flavoured potatoes with lemon and garlic flavoured Broccolini. It may look sparse but the overhead view doesn't do it justice and the flavours were delicious.

Pudding of lemon flavoured tart:

Served by candle light:

So what dinner party tips did we learn?

1) Heated sugar and butter are universally accepted forms of nom.
2) We learnt that we could all do with at least one table between us that can be used as a dinner table which isn't too tall or short for the chairs we own.
3) There is such a thing as too much meat
4) Limit the complexity and amount of hands on cooking time unless you've a chef or some help (keep it simple).
5) 4 three course meals in 4 days is an awful lot of food.
6) The early evening schedule of the Vintage channel rocks as background entertainment (unless you're still a teenager and like auto tune more than actual tune).

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Come Dine with Me: Home Edition - Halloween Special

Halloween spookily flew by on Sunday. Happily I bring you some photo's from what was my night of a Come Dine with Me: Home Edition... and for the special occasion; a Halloween Special.

Me, my mum in law, a two-headed crazy team comprised of Norngirl and my brother in law, then last but not least my sister in law, are having a bit of fun with the TV sarcasm classic that is Come Dine with Me. I'll fill you all in more after the 4 day event but in the mean time as this is eating into time to blog this week, here is a selection of photos from the first night and my attempt at some spooky food:

The scene was set with a some inter-webs tableclothage.

Starter was two of these each. Chicken and Pak Choi Eyes

Followed by a main of Cheese Coated Fingers with Roast Pork, Roasted Parsnips and Cauliflower Brains. If only I'd had been able to source some grated cheese or a grater... I mean who doesn't own a grater... oh yeah, that would be us!

Never having made caramel before this was a bit of trial and error but beginners luck paid off!

Some Halloween decorations garnished the walls

The pudding was finally ready, the cake baked and shaped the night before (after a bit of a minor disaster with the flour) and the popcorn courtesy of a bag of unpopped corn and the microwave, but it all worked out in the end... well when the clotted cream ice cream and Haribo was added at least.

I called it; Spooky sponge cake with a creepy caramel popcorn & ice cream haunting.
Everyone had a different cake shape :)

Ghoooooulish Ghosty

And kitteh who I promise is not having a poop of carmel onto the pop corn!

And the crème de la crème... a giant inflatable spider... is there anything supermarkets don't sell?
Overall was pretty happy it all went pretty much to plan, way out of practice with all this cooking malarkey and no one fell ill overnight! w0Ot :)

P.S Kudos to Norngirl for taking most of the photos when I was indisposed.


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