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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Strawberry candy cane: don't let it happen to you

My ever so thoughtful sistah Char bought me a candy cane at the Christmas tree farm yesterday. My first of the season. Oooh, how exciting!

Just before I sank my teeth into it unleashed my tongue upon it, my phone rang. It was Char.

"Just called to let you know, the candy cane is STRAWBERRY FLAVOURED!"

"What!? Oh christ no."

"I know; I'm so mad. I'm on my way to Sainsbury's right now to try and find normal ones."

Weird. #TheOldenDays
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Seriously, why do we need candy canes in any flavour other than peppermint? That's what a candy cane is. It's a peppermint stick. "Strawberry candy cane" is a non sequitur. Candy canes are by definition peppermint. If they aren't, then it's not a candy cane. And if I wanted a sugary hit of strawberry, I'd suck on a Jolly Rancher.

I've never understood all the varieties of candy cane. Blue ones, orange ones, black ones. Bloody hell. What exactly is going on? Is it just capitalism run amok? Maybe so—but who's the target market!? What kind of new age heathens are buying them? Are you? IS IT YOU?! I hope you're happy.

Serial update

Switching gears, here are a couple of tidbits that have come out during the Serial bye-week that I think you'll find interesting.

Shared by @rabiasquared, on Reddit and elsewhere on the Internet.

Full article here.

That's all for now. Andy and I are having Quorn mini sausage rolls for dinner, on Char's recommendation. We're nervous, but excited.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

But I was just doing what Sheryl Sandberg told me to!

Andy and I sent off his US visa forms this week. We each needed a 2x2 inch photo to pair with our 'Biographic Information' page. There's a kiosk in the Post Office by our house that does all types of official ID photos, so we pooled our change (£7 each!!) and took turns behind the curtain.

Example photo booth. Not the actual kiosk we used.
Image by Paste Talk via Wikimedia Commons
Andy went first, while I bought scissors, envelopes, paperclips and pretty much every other office material required to send a letter. That happens every time. I swear, each Post Office visit costs me at least £20.

His photo turned out great. He even managed to get a smize in there. That handsome devil.

Then, it was my turn. Andy had lowered the stool so he could squeeze himself into the tight quarters, but I couldn't figure out how to raise it back up again. Instead, I just did this hover-squat thing and focused on lining my noggin up perfectly with the oval outline on the screen.

4  3  2  1...CHEESE!

Happy with my first take, I pressed the print button and listened to the machine's miniature mechanical brushstrokes paint my face with ink.

After about a minute, the pics dropped into the tray and OH MY GOD MY HEAD. It was huge. It made Andy's look like a grape with shoulders. He looked at it and said, "Hmm...why did you lean in?"

I seriously don't think they'll accept it, but it's not like I had another seven £1 pound coins stuffed in my wallet. So off it went—recorded delivery.

Hopefully they're so bewildered by the bowl cut that they just stamp 'accepted' and send us the visa posthaste.

Nighty night,

Friday, November 28, 2014

Good, better, best

I have a bunch of half-written blogs sitting in my 'drafts' folder. Full disclosure: this was one of them. I came up with the concept a while back and wrote the first set of three, but quickly abandoned it to write about candles instead.

Anyway, tonight I revisited it and decided it's worth following through on. Have a look and let me know if you agree with my selections (but not if you disagree—I despise opinions other than my own) or if you have any other examples of 'Good, Better, Best'. 

TV sitcoms/dramedies targeted to a female audience
  • Good: New Girl 
  • Better: Girls
  • Best: Mindy Project
(Since I wrote this, I'm not sure I can count 'New Girl' as good anymore.)

Autumn holidays
  • Good: Thanksgiving
  • Better: Halloween
  • Best: Christmas

  • Good: Kim
  • Better: Kourtney
  • Best: Khloe

Peace-keeping heroes
  • Good: Gandhi
  • Better: Nelson Mandela
  • Best: Tim Gunn
  • Tim Gunn embroidery.
    Image by Totally Severe via Flickr
  • Good: blueberries
  • Better: raspberries
  • Best: strawberries
(Assuming they're all perfectly ripe, and you're thirsty. Note: doesn't apply to jams.)

Bodies of water (for swimming)
  • Good: swimming pool
  • Better: ocean
  • Best: lake

  • Good: palm tree
  • Better: leafy maple tree
  • Best: evergreen tree

French fry types
  • Good: Sweet potato fries
  • Better: Seasoned curly fries
  • Best: McDonalds fries

Books from the days of yore
  • Good: Babysitters Club
  • Better: Boxcar Children
  • Best: Sweet Valley High Senior Year

Tay Swift songs off '1989'
  • Good: 'Blank Space'
  • Better: 'Style'
  • Best: 'I Know Places'
(Although this changes every day. I love them all.)

Days of the week
  • Good: Thursday
  • Better: Friday
  • Best: Saturday

  • Good: Feeling 100% healthy again after you've had the flu
  • Better: Turning off your alarm (you accidentally set it ) and going back to bed 
  • Best: Finally peeing when you've had to go really bad for a long time

See ya soon,

    Thursday, November 27, 2014

    Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    No Thanksgiving over here in the UK. For the first couple years, Char and I made the effort to recreate the famous feast in a mini celebration across the pond. It was fun, but not sustainable.

    When you live abroad, it's difficult to keep the Turkey Day tradition alive. It's just such a non entity over here that you actually forget all about it until you wake up and see "Happy Thanksgiving!" all over Facebook. We're already in full-on Christmas mode. The German markets are up. The carols are blasting over every shop's sound system. I'm brainstorming present ideas (hint: you get a pair of socks, you get a pair of socks, everybody gets a pair of socks!!!!).

    Instead of stuffing a bird and stuffing my face, I'm busy collecting memories and evidence for 'Murder in Kenmore: Part 2', which will be out next week. I was going to post Part 1 and Part 2 back to back, but I realised I had some actual journalism to do to make sure I was getting all the facts, opinions and speculations right.

    Anyhoo, in the spirit of T-Giving, why don't I share what I am thankful for? Oh, but I'm not going to do boring things like "my family" and "my health". Those are obvious. Instead, I'll go for a sitting-here-on-the-couch, want-to-write-this-quickly, stream-of-consciousness approach.

    Things I am thankful for:

    My reusable, apple-print grocery bag from QFC.

    The fuzzy warmth of a new hooded sweatshirt that's only been washed a couple of times.

    The US Postal Service and the Royal Mail, without which these beloved photos would have never made it to my kitchen door.

    A heater for drying clothes and keeping warm. Seriously, this one's a biggie. I take for granted the fact that warm air just comes out of a thing on the wall whenever I tell it to. When we first moved in I was warming myself by the heater after a shower and I burnt my bare bottom. There were grill marks on my left buttock. But I'm even thankful for that learning experience. 

    OK, I'll admit it. Those were just items that I could see and photograph whilst sitting on the couch. I didn't have to move a muscle. But the point we can take away is: I'm thankful for everything

    If you're reading this, then you're probably one of the 12.55% of the population to be born above the poverty line in a first world country. We hit the jackpot. Sure, I whine sometimeswhen the sink gets clogged, when Serial takes a week off or when I just can't handle all the GODDAMN CLUTTER. But I'm going to try to do it less. I'm already better at not-whining than I was a few years ago.

    Alright, I got to go. I need to whip up that most traditional of Thanksgiving dishes: gnocchi with peas and a creamy parmesan sauce. YUM. 


    Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    Murder in Kenmore: Part 1

    Is it customary for six-years-olds to take the garbage out? That dreaded chore is what kicked the whole thing off—the twisted series of events that would become known as the 'Murder in Kenmore'. 

    That day lives in the minds of all seven of us. Rich, Nancy, Max, Anna, Char, Francie, Margaret. We will carry it with us always. But now, for the first time, this true tale of crime, mystery and heartbreak will be recorded and preserved for future generations. 

    Let's hope they can make more sense of it than we ever will. 

    *                      *                      *                      *

    I clutched the greasy plastic knot and heaved the bag over my scrawny, six-year-old shoulder. Teetering under the heavy load, I walked out the front door into the open-air carport of 6227 NE 154th Street. My bare feet hit the cold cement floor, toes recoiling like snails in a windstorm. Goosebumps rose from my wrists to my neck and cool air wafted through my baggy t-shirt. 

    Emerging from under the covered area, I stepped into the low sunlight of a late-August morning. The driveway was wet from rain and the air smelled of damp leaves. Signs that summer would soon be a fading memory. 

    Turning right into the side yard, I set the garbage sack down and stopped for a minute to catch my breath. I peered up at the basketball hoop, with its frayed rope and and rusty rim the colour of dried blood. Maybe I'll shoot some hoops later, I thought. Even six-year-olds like to start the day with a plan. 

    Truthfully, garbage duty or not, I liked being outside on my own in the morning. The calm. The quiet. I was less than 30 feet from my front door, but I felt totally alone. When you have a big family, you need moments of solitude to feel vulnerable—to feel alive. 

    I decided to drag the bag the rest of the way, pulling it across the gravel path toward the backyard gate. Sour juices leaked from pebble-sized tears and left an acrid brown trail in its wake. I reached up and fiddled with the gate lock. It was a tricky one. My raised arm always got sore trying to undo the latch. 

    Finally, the wood door swung open. And I saw them.

    It took me a minute to realise what I was looking at. Two small, white shapes resting parallel in the bright green grass. They looked like matching hand towels, fluff matted by the wet hands of dinner guests. 

    But no. They had eyes. They had noses. They had perky lemon-shaped ears with delicate pink lining. 

    They were our pet rabbits—Binky and Dinky. 

    Perfectly still. Perfectly dead.


    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    Thought that counts

    I have so many amazing ideas for blog posts, but I've been so dern busy. Fam in town. Work. You know how it is. 

    Tomorrow is my first "day off" in a while, and I can't wait to finally transfer my ideas from brain to blog. In the meantime, I'll list them here. 

    • The story of Annabelle, our elderly neighbour with dementia who went missing
    • Murder in Kenmore: a true story that directly involves my family 
    • Christmas gift ideas
    • "Notes on a sandal" — don't actually have any idea what the content would be, but that catchy title came to me in a dream. It would obviously be something about sandals. 
    • Why does everyone accept Angelina's super thin frame, but not Tara Reid's? 
    I created this in Google Drive. Halfway through I realised my WiFi had gone out, so I had to make it again from scratch. I almost gave up, but I persevered! Patting myself on the back as I type this.  


    Monday, November 24, 2014

    A glass pumpkin of emotion

    The year: 2002
    The place: Inglemoor High School cafeteria
    The occasion: German Club Oktoberfest / International Night 

    I walked through the glass doors and was hit by a cacophony of food smells. It was a potluck. Dishes from across the globe—enchiladas, stinky brie, sushi, bratwurst—formed straight lines on the long cafeteria tables, like soldiers in a culinary world war.  

    My friend and fellow Deutsche schüler Erika ("Klara") and I ("Hedwig") wandered over to the German Club's table. Nestled among the thirteen-by-nines of lukewarm food, we spotted two beautiful glass pumpkins filled with gummy bears.

    A printed sign lay flat between each gourd-shaped bowl.

    Play our Guessing Game!
    Guess the number of gummy bears in each pumpkin. The guesser who comes closest for each will win the pumpkin (and the gummy bears inside!)

    Name:           Guess:
    Bob Smith      312
    Suzy Jones     535
    ________      ___
    ________      ___
    ________      ___

    Name:           Guess:
    Bob Smith      422
    Suzy Jones     815
    ________      ___
    ________      ___
    ________      ___

    I made a circle with my thumb and pointer finger. Holding it up to the glass, I counted the number of bears that fit inside. Then, I imagined how many of those circles would fit in the bowl. But in the process of figuring that out, I forgot the first number (the amount of bears in the circle). So I gave up and wrote down a random number for both. Erika did the same.

    An hour and 17 mini dinners later, the results were announced.

    "The winner of the first pumpkin is....


    I was stunned. First time winning anything (but not the last). Fighting back joyous tears, I scurried to the table and collected my winnings. But that wasn't all.

    "And now, the winner of pumpkin number two is...


    Cue excited screaming. Jumping. Twirling. Oprah-style hand-clasping. We'd done it! We had BOTH WON. It was incredible. The birth of my first child has a lot to live up to if it's going to overtake that moment as the best experience of my life.


    So, why bring this up now? 

    Once the gummy bears were gone (it took about a day and a half), I used my gorgeous glass pumpkin for note storage. Notes were a big feature of my high school life. My friend Connie and I would exchange notes—intricately folded into perfect squares—at least once a week.

    I figured the glass pumpkin and Connie's notes got the heave-ho along with all my other beloved-yet-neglected childhood items. But when I asked my mom to hunt around for a glass, note-filled pumpkin, she FOUND IT under the stairs! I guess even Nadinski couldn't bring herself to throw away such a stunning piece of crockery.

    The pumpkin didn't fit in her suitcase, so a ziplock bag had to do. 

    I've read a few and man, do they take me back to the bizarre, mundane world of high school. I'll feature some of the best ones in upcoming 'From the Archives' posts, but here's a taster to get you in the mood:


    Sitting in McNeil right now. This is the dullest pencil I've ever encountered in my life, but I'm not about to go and sharpen it. We just took a basic skills test, it wasn't too bad. 

    There's like 16 minutes until our 3 1/2 day weekend begins. YAY! Freedom! 

    Ha, McNeil is giving us a talk about how we shouldn't throw things to each other if there's somebody in between the two people. 

    We all have bitten1, what a BURDEN! 

    T-22 rules, down with mean Bus Driver. 


    - Connie

    1Editors note: "Bitten" was our code word for menstrual period.
    T2 was our bus from junior high.


    Sunday, November 23, 2014

    10 essentials to help you hibernate this winter

    I find it really difficult to shave my legs in the winter. The process itself is annoying in any season (bending down in my cramped shower, having to be careful around the ankle, water gradually getting colder...). But in winter, the main struggle is motivation. I wear jeans every day, so it's hard to be bothered with the whole dang rigamarole.

    I was just reading about Bruce Jenner in US Weekly. It said he was recently spotted around town sporting a pair of freshly shorn pegs. Oh Bruce. Do whatever makes you happy, but why start with shaving the legs? It's the biggest pain in the arse ever. Don't let society pressure you into thinking hairless legs is some sort of hallmark of feminine beauty.

    OK winter, let's do this. 
    Anyway, enough about all that. I promised you a stereotypical top-ten blog post, and that's what you're going to get. Here it goes. Essential items for your winter survival.

    1) Electric Kettle — If you're British, you definitely already have one. If you're American, maybe you only have a stove-top kettle. Get with the times. Don't wait eight minutes for water to boil—you need tea fast, and often.

    2) Hot water bottle — When I was younger (but probably still too old for this) I used to dress up my hot water bottle and call it my baby. My warm, snuggly, faceless rubber baby.

    3) Vita bath — Hands down the best bath gel on earth. It smells of fresh pine trees. Or, as Andy put it, "It smells like the definition of clean."

    4) Pretzels — Stock up on lots of pretzels, and various items to pair them with (dips, cheese, peanut butter, etc.). It's important to snack a lot during winter, because you're cold and bored. Get under the covers, get a good show up on your laptop and treat yourself to tea and snacks. Change the sheets whenever the crumbs start to inhibit your sleep.

    5) Candles — Exhibit A.

    6) Potatoes (large)— Baked potatoes ('jacket potatoes' if you're British) are the perfect winter dinner. Lots of delicious carbs to keep you warm. Top it with beans, cheese and bits of bacon (if you're a carnivore).

    7) Theraflu® (Lemsip if you're British)— Drinkable medicine for those nasty winter colds. Please note: don't try to eat the powder raw. See the video below of a weird long-haired girl learning that lesson the hard way.

    8) Reddit — If you're still scrolling through Buzzfeed for your daily fix of amusing web content, go ahead and stop. It's time to graduate to Reddit, which isn't as scary or confusing as you think. It's also where all decent Buzzfeed stories come from, before they're chopped up and spun into ridiculous clickbait about why the 90s were great. You don't have to sign up for an account or participate in any discussions to find Reddit a useful source of news and entertainment. I'm not saying it doesn't have it's flaws, but it certainly beats Buzzfeed, Gawker, Upworthy or any of that other nonsense.

    Oh, and you need it for winter because you'll be spending even more time indoors, on the computer.

    9) Kindle — Because you're not going to emerge into the wind, hail, sleet and snow to hit up Barnes & Noble (Waterstones if you're British). And don't give me that "I just love the feel and smell of an actual book" crap. We get it, you're classy. But the truth is that Kindles make reading super convenient, and you end up reading more because of it. On those blustery winter days, knowing that the entire Hunger Games trilogy is residing in your e-Reader is a very secure feeling.

    10) Matches — For lighting candles (see above), fumigating the bathroom after a particularly smelly number two (you can't crack the window, it's too cold out there!) and, for those of you lucky enough to have a fireplace, building a lovely crackling fire to cosy up next to. Unlike the Kindle, when it comes to creating fire, a classic approach is best. Forget those fancy butane lighters. Head to the shop and pick up a box of wooden stick matches.

    What are your winter must-haves?


    Saturday, November 22, 2014

    Long in the tooth

    Not my teeth.
    Image by dozenist via Wikimedia Commons

    Teeth are such a buzzkill. Always having to be brushed, flossed and doted upon. The dreaded dentist appointments. The sensitive toothpaste. The fillings. The root canals. ENOUGH ALREADY. Let's be honest, teeth are a problem. They're a bloody medieval annoyance. It's 2014—isn't it time we find a solution?

    Well, you might be surprised to hear the answer already exists. Scientists at Kings College London and the University of Leeds have invented a way to reverse tooth decay. They've done it!

    From the article:

    Nigel Pitts from the Dental Institute at King's College London said, "The way we treat teeth today is not ideal - when we repair a tooth by putting in a filling, that tooth enters a cycle of drilling and re-filling as, ultimately, each "repair" fails. Not only is our device kinder to the patient and better for their teeth, but it's expected to be at least as cost-effective as current dental treatments. Along with fighting tooth decay, our device can also be used to whiten teeth."

    WHAT!? Why isn't this being rolled out in dentist offices everywhere!? Maybe it's because fixing tooth decay permanently will mean a lot less business for dentists. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but if the dental crown fits...

    BB and D

    Every family has its colloquialisms, its own set of slang that you gradually learn nobody outside your extended family says. We have:
    • Gunders (underwear)
    • Toe-do (large green garbage can, or "rolly bin" if you're British)
    • Hukilau (thingamajig)
    • Sloboblian (extended form of "slob")
    • Vivian butancles (your bottom)
    • Po-to (poached eggs and toast)
    • Pudin (term of endearment/vagina) 
    Another one we have is 'BB and D', which stands for 'bad breath and dogs', which basically means really really really bad breath. Sometimes we sing it to the tune of "and many more" (what you sing after at the end of the 'Happy Birthday' song): bad breath and doggggggs!

    The New Deal

    Today my niece Keeley was brushing her teeth in the living room of the rental flat they're staying in.

    Anna: "Keeley, do you brush your tongue?"

    Keeley: "Yeah." She sticks out her tongue and brushes it. 

    My mom: "You know, that's a new deal. You never used to hear about brushing the tongue. That's a new deal."

    What are your tooth-related anecdotes? How often do you floss? Let me know in the comments!


    Friday, November 21, 2014

    To Char and William!

    It's the morning of my sistah Char's wedding. It's also my brother-in-law William's wedding too. They're getting married to each other. See, I already consider William my brother-in-law, so it doesn't feel like I'm "giving Char away" to any ol' boyfriend. William's already part of the family and has been for years now.

    Anyhoo, I'm on aunt/bbsitter duty, so I'm up with birds and ready for my first of many coffees. I've decided to write today's post now, before the wedding shenanigans whisk me away.

    Chin Chin, Char and William!
    P.S. See what I mean about the Deryck Whibley hair?
    P.P.S. That OJ has gone off. I only poured it to use as a prop for this photo. #Honesty
    I owe a lot to Char and William. When I first moved to Edinburgh, I was in that horrible post-university stage. The one where you suddenly have all the responsibilities of an adult but none of the financial, intellectual or emotional skills to uphold them. 

    Well, Char and William took me under their wing. They introduced me to exotic British foods I'd never heard of before—Quorn escalopes, potato waffles, bran flakes (like Raisin Bran, but without the raisins), the list could go on. And don't forget the TV shows! X Factor, Celebrity Jungle, Come Dine with Me, Grand Designs—all the greats of British television.

    When I moved out of my post-grad student accommodation because I couldn't pay the rent, I moved on to their couch. For three months, they tiptoed around a snoozing grassyllama each morning before work, eating their bran flakes in silence, in the dark. 

    Every other day I would cry about something—not knowing what to do with my life, missing my carefree college days, having to fill out a form so I could start paying my student loans for the next 15 years. They would console me and give me the perfect advice. 

    I suppose it's too late to try and make this post not about me, so enjoy some photos of the three of us. Let's raise a glass to Char, William and I! Wishing us many happy returns!

    At the pub way back in the day. We were wild arses. Look at those spaghetti straps!
    Pizza in Malta!!!! It was the best pizza ever, with the saltiest cheese. I can still taste it. YUM.
    Also, Char's hair looks amazing. 
    Shootin' pool. Char got a hot chocolate - classic!
    Whale watching!!! Have you done it? Do it. Absolutely incredible. It's like seeing a unicorn or a hippogriff. Unreal.

    Fo reals though, happy wedding day Char and William! And thanks for being the best friends a gal could have!


    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    We should be florists / Serial Ep 9 Review

    Holy hell. It's 11:30pm. I'm sweating like a pig. My foot blisters are throbbing. I've got 30 minutes to write this thing. Here it goes.

    I've just returned from a pre-nuptial gathering at Char's flat. She's getting married tomorrow. Her and Francie went to Sainsbury's, picked up a few bouquets of flowers, brought them back to the flat and we worked our magic on them. Magic none of us knew we had. But boy, did we turn those supermarket flowers into luxurious, boutique blossoms. As Nina Garcia would say, "They look expensive." The ultimate compliment. 

    But really, you can't quite tell from the photo, but they look AMAZING. Turns out, it's not that hard. We may have missed our calling to run a flower shop. 'Margaret & Sisters Florist', we could have named it. I suppose it's not too late for a career change.

    Gal talk!

    I made the executive decision to keep the TV off during our bouquet-making session (shocking, I know). After all, what's the wedding eve night for if not a bit of gal talk! Here's what we covered:

    • Dr. Oz turning out to be a quack (Francie didn't know)
    • Birth canals. We reckon mine is large, judging by my wide hips (let's hope so!)
    • Pizza, and how good it is (we split one, but wished we each had our own)
    • The potential of HR departments, and the reality of HR departments (why they hafta be so ruuuude)

    Serial Episode 9 Review

    First, can you believe there's not going to be a new episode next week? I think I speak for all of us when I say: F-you, Thanksgiving. Waiting two weeks is going to feel like forever.

    Anyhoo. For me, Serial episodes fall into one of two categories:

    1) Evidence-based episodes. Lots of new tidbits to stew on (even though they never add up to anything)

    - OR -

    2) Narrative episodes. Not too many new facts, but a clear story arc that makes me ask: why is she choosing to say this now? Is she setting us up for a fall? What's her angle?

    This week's episode falls under the second category. It was really interesting. Really, really sad. But it didn't leave me questioning the evidence (or lack there of). It left me wondering why Sarah would choose this time to present quite an Adnan-friendly episode, putting him back in our good graces after the Jay episode. Is she starting to slowly build up a clearer case for Adnan's innocence? Or is she getting us back on his side, only to blindside us with something damning next week? Or, could it really be true that she has no idea how the series will end? I can't believe that. I think she knows more than she's letting on.


    Gotta go.

    - M

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    What it's like to have a bowl cut

    Last week at the pub Andy interrupted me mid-sentence with a loud guffaw. He had spotted something hilarious happening behind me. 

    "What?! What is it?" 

    "That guy over there is taking the mickey out of your bowl cut."

    "Oh noooooo. Should I look?"

    "No. Don't look," he cries laughing. 


    "He's pointing at you and doing this—" He takes his pointer finger and twirls it around his head in a perfect circle.



    Image by AudunLG via Wikimedia Commons

    When you have a bowl cut, you learn to own it. Questioning it is not an option (think about the bloody grow-out). 

    You've made your bowl, and now you have to lie in it. Sleep in it. Eat in it. Walk in it. Talk in it. 

    Other things you have to accept:
    • People in the UK might call it a basin cut. I think this is terrible. I really prefer 'bowl cut'. But C'est la vie.
    • You have the same hair as Angela Merkel.
    • You have the same hair as Simple Jack.
    • If you sleep on wet hair, you wake up looking like the guy from Sum41. Deryck Whibley. Remember when Avril was married to him?
    • Often, you look very middle aged. There's really no way around it. Although today I got carded for buying glue, so maybe I've still got it. 
    But there's a massive upside.
    • You are UNIQUE. My number one goal in life. 
    • It's an attention-grabber. And boy do I love attention! For me, it's up there with food, water and shelter. 
    • You don't have to worry that you're slowly causing your hairline to recede by wearing too many ponytails.
    • Ponytails! That reminds me! You don't have to search high and low for the one hairband you've somehow managed to cling on to for the past three months. 
    • It's easy. You don't have any options other than just letting it sit there and be a bowl cut.

    My hands are so dry I want to cry. 


    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Another poem. Sorry.

    Scotland v. England

    Scotland versus England football tonight
    Watch it on the telly? 
    I think I just might!

    And while I watch, I'll think about blogging
    Uh oh. 
    No ideas. 
    My brain pipes are clogging.

    It's gonna have to be a poem post, written in a flash
    Because, let's be honest
    I only work for cash.

    Blogging is fun, but I'll make this quite clear:
    Right now I want to watch men kick a sphere.


    Monday, November 17, 2014

    What's more fried: my brain or my Swedish style balls? Oh snap!

    Workin' 9 to 5

    Proof that my brain isn't used to the eight-hour workday:

    Just got home. Spotted dirty soup pan on stove. Turned faucet on so I could fill it with soapy water. Looked out for the window for a second. Looked back at the sink, saw the faucet running and thought: CRAP! Has that faucet been running since morning!??! 

    Yes, in the two seconds I spent looking out the window, I had forgotten that I turned the faucet on. I panicked, thinking about how much water I must have wasted leaving the tap on all day. I looked around the flat guiltily, just to make sure the police weren't hiding in the corner, waiting to arrest me.

    I sat on the couch and bowed my head in shame. And then I remembered turning it on. And then I opened the computer and clicked 'new post' on Madgespace because I knew this story would be blogging gold. #SlaveToMyReaders

    Swedish style balls

    In other news, I am ecstatic because Andy and I are having pesto pasta with meatless meatballs (remember what happened last time?) for dinner. Actually, their official name is 'Swedish style balls'. Eww. Who signed off on that? But what's in a name, I suppose, because they're de-bloody-licious.

    Celebrity jungle

    The reality show 'I'm a celebrity get me out of here' (still the worst name ever; Andy and I call it 'Celebrity Jungle' instead) has started back up in the UK. It's THE BEST. You may remember the short-lived American version from a while back, but just like yoghurt, hummus, debit cards and nothing else, the UK version is waaaay better.

    The premise: Throw a bunch of C-list/D-list celebrities into the brutal Australian jungle for three weeks and make them eat nothing but oats. Let the viewers at home vote for who they want to see do the food-earning challenge in next week's show. Make the celeb with the most votes do something horrific, like lie in a coffin that slowly fills with water and 40 snakes. If the celeb does it, give them a food prize that actually isn't very good at all, like a measly portion of dingo meat, or something.

    The reason it's good: The show is actually pretty hardcore. Celebs are put through hell, and they're STARVING. That's why only really desperate ones who need the money do the show. Alfonso Ribeiro was on it last year. A couple seasons ago a guy got repeatedly bitten by a snake doing a challenge. It's brutal. Also, the hosts of the show—Ant and Dec—are just the most lovable guys.

    With Celeb Jungle, Real Housewives of Atlanta and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (premieres tomorrow) all back on the telly box, well, I'm just a pig in mud.

    What TV shows are you watching? Let me know in the comments!

    (That's what they call a "call to action" in the copywriting biz)


    Sunday, November 16, 2014

    Today's rash decision

    I emailed Edinburgh Council today. It was a rash decision made in a moment of forced insanity. But I went overboard to try and lay out my feelings logically and kindly. I wonder if they'll write back.

    In related news, I am no longer spellbound by brass instruments. The girl was playing a saxophone. I'm done with horns for a while.


    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    In too depp

    I debated about making Johnny Depp's intoxicated award show speech the subject of tonight's blog. It's wrong to take pleasure, or even just interest, in someone else's pain.

    But then I thought, hey, who am I to say the guy has a problem? Really! Who am I to assume that he has some sort of serious issue, just because he did one drunk/high speech at an awards show? If anything, I owe him the benefit of the doubt.

    Instead, I'm going to assume he ate one too many amaretto-soaked cherries and give him a pass. Maybe it really was just one of those nights. Let's hope so.


    This actually brings up a larger issue that I've been going back and forth on for a while now. Celebrities: is it mean to make fun of them? Or is it fine because 1) it was their choice to enter the public eye and 2) they're rich.

    Alsosecret option threethey're ridiculous people.

    Yikes! Looks like that guy J-Lo used to be married to. The one who sang, "I need to know. I need to know. Tell me baby girl cuz I need to know. I need to know. I need to know. Tell me baby girl cuz I need to know."

    Image via micadew via Wikimedia Commons

    For the most part, I don't feel bad poking fun at the rich and famous. But sometimes our celeb gossip culture brings out the high horse hypocrite in me. For example, when I think too long about TMZ, I sink into a deep, dystopian depression. Is this really the best us humans can do? Sure, the celebs are awful, but those TMZ folks are THE WORST. And when I see articles about Amanda Bynes being crazy, I feel a bit like: come on, let's give it a rest. 

    I actually think this moral conundrum is the reason why I like the Kardashians. They clearly wanted fame for fame's sake, so I can "take the mickey" out of them completely guilt free! It's not like they're brilliant actors who happened to land in a world of paparazzi and red carpets. The only goal they ever had was to be famous. And they totally own their fame whorishness. They wear it with pride. Even when they're upset about how they're portrayed in the public eye, they're only pretending to be upset to create drama for their reality show! It's so wonderfully contrived. We all know where we stand.

    Breakdown of the  Kardashian's relationship with the public


    • The trade-off: Being ridiculed and hated by many.
    • The reward: Being mega loaded. 


    • The trade-off: Having to put up with the Kardashian-saturated celebscape. Their photos on every other magazine (and even in a lot of newspapers). Being annoyed that they're so rich for "no reason". 
    • The reward: Getting to make fun of them without feeling bad. 


    Friday, November 14, 2014

    Troop Beverly Pizza / Best of Michael Kors

    It's Diva Night at my flat, and we're ordering pizza! I keep singing 'Cookie Time' from Troop Beverly Hills to myself, but instead of saying 'cookie time', I'm saying 'PIZZA TIME'!!!! HAHAHAHAHHA

    Oh man, Troop Beverly Hills is such a fantastic flick.

    Reminds me, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is starting back up next week! I'm a bit worried that all their storylines have been played out, but you can always count on Brandi to bring the drama, and did you see that Kim's dog (speaking of played out storylines) bit Kyle's daughter? She had to get surgery and stay overnight at the hospital. I hope to dear god they were filming at the time, but I have a hunch that filming had wrapped already. Still, we'll hear about it at the reunion fo sho.

    It's been a busy day of writing, and I have bit of a headache lingering around the ol' left eye (that's why they call me Grassy 'Left Eye' Llama), so I'm going to have to leave it at that.

    As Dr. Laura would say: "Now, go take on the day!"


    OK, Diva Night is over now and gosh darn it if I don't feel a bit guilty about writing such a short post earlier. I'm going to make up for it by writing a bit more down here below my sign-off.

    Three things:

    1. The pizza was a hit!

    2. We Googled 'Best of  Michael Kors Project Runway' and the video we found really delivered. Watch it and LOL until the cows come home.

    3. I've been terrified to use my migraine medicine, because it's serious stuff and has tons of potential side effects. But tonight, when I felt the classic Friday night headache festering behind my left eye, I decided to bite the bullet at swallow the pill. Guess what? My headache went away. AND I'm still alive. Turns out, medicine works. I'm thrilled!

    Goodbye again,


    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    Serial Review: Episode 8

    Woah, two reviews in a row. Sucks for those people who don't consume the same media as I do and only come to Madgespace for the sage advice. Don't worry, there will be more insightful wisdom in the coming days. But for now, let's talk Serial. Episode 8. The Deal with Jay.

    Poor Jay?
    Uh oh. It turns out that Jay is a kooky, beat-of-his-own-drum, remorseful, polite, lacrosse-playing guy who got put in a tricky situation and wanted to protect his girlfriend above all else.

    Feeling a bit guilty? Me too. But let's not wallow too much in self pity. It's possible that Jay is even better at being a charming sociopath than Adnan! Maybe SK got lucky with two charismatic psychos for the price of one podcast. I'm open to all theories.

    What's this about a pool hall? 
    Another reason why we can't count Jay out 100%—Chris' story about the pool hall! Wow. Exactly how many versions of events did Jay dream up until the state landed on one they liked? Aye yi yi!

    Barbie, William and I at a pool hall of sorts back in 2008. 

    This isn't gonna end well...OR IS IT!?!
    As we get closer to the end of this audio journey, I have a hunch that we're not going to get the tight ending we're all hoping for. We might get some troubling insight into the failures of our justice system, but I don't think we'll be any clearer on who did it.

    OR WILL WE? Yep, I'll admit. I'm still hopeful that something amazing is going to happen. A new witness or damning DNA evidence from the rope. I'm still holding out for a complete WTF, jaw-dropping, text everyone you know, holy moly moment.

    Sigh. How many days until it's Thursday again?


    Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    Taylor Swift 1989: REVIEW

    It's been a while since I bought an entire album on iTunes, but the Tay Swift hype got to me. My cousin Martha was the first to tip me off about it. "Every song is good."

    So, a couple weeks, seven login attempts, and an Apple ID reset request later, I BOUGHT IT. I've only given it a few listens, but if gut reactions were made for anything, it's a Taylor Swift album review.

    My verdict?

    Throw a handful of Skittles in your mouth and scroll down!

    I would never ask you to do anything I wouldn't do myself.

    It's a 9/10!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    It immediately hooks you in and speaks to your soul. Brilliant, story-telling verses and snappy, upbeat choruses. Lots of energy. Lots of heart. Lots of classic TaySwift on-the-nose lyrics. LOVE IT.

    As I walked around Edinburgh listening to it, I kept thinking to myself, 'OMG, I bet this one's about Harry', 'Wow, this one's definitely about Harry.' 

    If I had to fault it for anything (aka the reason it's not 10/10), its that the songs can feel a bit samey when you listen to the album the entire way through. Kind of like how Nina Garcia had to remind kiwi Sean not to rely too much on fringe for his fashion week collection, well, TaySwift might rely a bit too much on amazingly-catchy love songs. And it's hard to blame her, she's so dang good at them. But I would also love to hear her take on an anti-war protest song or a girl power duet with Celine Dion. 

    Also, it's worth repeating: nothing will ever beat 'Trouble'. That tune belongs in a hall of fame. It's impossible to top. 

    Ugh, the post-Skittles tummy ache is starting to set in. #WorthIt


    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    Things they should teach in school

    Ahoy hoy. Another day, another blog. Let's get stuck in, shall we?

    I am constantly reminded of how ill equipped for adulthood I am. And it's not like I'm a fresh-faced 18-year-old. I've been an adult for a decade now! School did a really good job of teaching me about Paul Revere, photosynthesis, the Donner Party and the Pythagorean theorem, but it left me in the dark about some pretty important topics. Here are just a few things I wish I was taught in school:
    Every year you guess your way through a bunch of forms, and then a month later the government sends you a check for some arbitrary amount that you just assume squares everything away. TAXES. WTF. Other than death, they're the only inevitable part of life. Yet, just like death, we don't have a clue what they're all about.

    Taxes are a huge cause of stress in our lives and a major component of our sociopolitical environment, and yet we never get taught ANYTHING about them in school. Even the totally sane, in no way mentally ill, former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld (and his wife, a college graduate) can't wrap his head around taxes.

    We all leave college with loans. We all eventually get a mortgage (although I'm not convinced I ever will). Wouldn't it behoove us to enter adulthood with some rudimentary knowledge of interest rates, down payments and credit scores? High school guidance counselors are great at supplying us with university brochures, but it would have been nice to learn the basics of investment planning before making a massive financial commitment at the age of 18.

    First aid
    This one seems so obvious that I'm sure Bob Education, or whoever it was that invented school, simply overlooked it when assembling the syllabi. If every teenager learned CPR, how to dress a wound (ew), the applications/dangers/benefits of common medicines, LIVES WOULD BE SAVED.

    It seems so strange that, if you want to learn basic first aid, you have to sign up and PAY(!!) for a class. Free first aid classes seem like the exact type of thing taxes could subsidise. But then again, I know nothing about taxes.

    Basic car mechanics
    Like, where's the battery? Where does the oil go? How much is too much to pay for tires? I'm not talking rocket science. And I'm not looking to put mechanics out of business. I just think that kids should leave school with a rough idea of what's under the hood (bonnet for you Brits) of a car.

    "Please, sir, can you teach me about taxes?"
    I am presenting this adorable photo of a young Keeley Fitz (my niece) to bring my point home.  

    This child represents our future. Teach her well and let her lead the way. Show her all the beauty she possesses inside. Give her a sense of pride, to make it—OH ALRIGHT THEN, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to call to the stage the legendary Whitney Houston.


    Monday, November 10, 2014

    Bananas on a window sill

    Bananas on a window sill 
    What a sight to behold
    We'll eat at least three
    But the others will get old
    Brown spots, mushy guts, fruit flies and a ripe stench
    Ageing bananas on their window sill bench
    Admire them now before it's too late
    For soon they will meet their garbage can fate

    OK, so blogging didn't go as planned tonight. Poems are what happens when life gets in the way. I'll be back here tomorrow with a post on the things they should be teaching in school. Hmm...sounds intriguing. I'd tune in if I were you. 

    Peace be with you, 


    Sunday, November 9, 2014

    I want to play a brass instrument

    A military marching band went by our flat today, and boy could those ol' geezers play! It made me think: Have I missed my calling? Was I never meant to be a digital marketer, but actually one of the great horn players of my generation? Cue spine chills. 

    Have a listen for yourself.

    I'd like to learn the...
    • Trombone, so I could look awesome and tone my arm fat. 
    • Saxophone, so I could be mates with Kenny G and ask him to guest star on one of my tracks.
    • Bugle, so I could wake up summer campers and, that's it I suppose (is there any other purpose for a bugle?). 
    • Sousaphone, so I could find out what that is.
    • Tuba, actually, I don't think I want to learn the tuba. Far too heavy. 
    Kenneth Bruce Gorelick. The man, the legend.
    Image via Wikimedia Commons

    Boo hoo, the weekend's over. Tell me again why we've all decided that a five-day work week is OK? We've done this too ourselves! Oh well. Treat yourself to a pastry of some sort tomorrow morning and it will all be fine. 


    Saturday, November 8, 2014

    Observations from a brief jaunt in the real world

    I worked a few days at an agency last week, which means I was forced to emerge from my candle-infested pizza den and experience the outside world for a bit. It was weird at first. The hustle and bustle. The wind on my face. The stench of freshly showered commuters standing in a bus queue, trying not to lock their knees and doze off standing up.

    During my time in the real world, I jotted down a few notes that I figured I'd share here on the blog. Here they are:

    • Long leather coats
    • Irrational fear of witnessing a public suicide
    • Sighing at a crosswalk (headphones)
    • Fly down
    Image by Tom Thiel via Wikimedia Commons

    Should I elaborate? Well, ok. 

    Long leather coats — During my walk home one evening, within a timeframe of about 15 minutes, I spotted not one, but TWO ladies wearing shin-length black leather overcoats. Two different, completely unrelated ladies. Strange to say the least. 

    One was a nerdy gamer type gal, about 20ish. Her coat, not fitted in the slightest, looked like a leather refrigerator box draped over her scrawny shoulders. It had big white buttons running from the very bottom all the way up to the base of the lapels. The other was in her late 40s, with Texas hair and a donkey booty (which the leather coat did no justice). Her coat was a shiny trench with a matching leather belt that tied at the waist.

    Needless to say, I was baffled. Could these heinous garments—heavy, frumpy, gratuitous—really be back in fashion? Or was it just an unfortunate coincidence? 

    And before you ask, no, there wasn't a shin-length leather coat convention in town. I checked.

    Irrational fear of witnessing a public suicide — This one's pretty self-explanatory, but yes, I have an irrational fear of witnessing a public suicide. I realised this when, at the third crosswalk in a row, I found myself taking a mental note of the cross streets and practicing my conversation with the 999 operator. This always happens. As I wait for the light to change, I can't help but imagine one of my fellow commuters jumping out into rush hour traffic. Sometimes I picture one of them pushing me off the curb into the path of a city bus. It's horrible. I always stand at least two feet back from the street, knees bent, with one foot slightly forward, bracing myself for the push.

    One time, in Spokane, I witnessed the sudden aftermath of a public suicide. The guy had jumped off a parking garage and landed on a cement awning below. They'd covered him with a sheet, but his feet were sticking out Wicked Witch of the East style. It was spooky, and maybe it's stuck with me all this time. Or maybe I just seek the glory of being a top-notch ambulance beckoner. 

    Sighing at a crosswalk (headphones) — Another one from the crosswalk files. On the walk to work, I let out a massive sigh, like UH-Aaahhhhhhhh, while I was waiting for the light to change. I was listening to the latest episode of Serial (reviewed here) and didn't realise how loud I was being. The old lady next to me gave me a major side-eye and actually stepped away from me. I don't know if she was weirded out or just startled.

    Fly down — For half the work day I had my fly down. Nobody told me (obviously, this is Britain). But I don't blame them. I wouldn't tell me if I were them. I think most people probably think taking the person aside and quickly whispering "just wanted to let you know that your fly's down" is the noble thing to do. But I actually think ignoring it and never saying anything is the best approach.

    What do you think?

    Love, Margaret

    P.S. I'm watching X Factor right now, and this season has an eight-piece boyband. There are EIGHT of them! It looks cray cray on stage.

    OMFG~!!KJH!KH!!! A random guy just walked on stage and pretended to be one of the band members and it took security forever to notice! Hahaha. It was inevitable. INEVITABLE. #EightPieceBoyband

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    Is this what heaven smells like?

    I have a blog post half written, but it's Friday and I am stereotypically exhausted. Rather than doing, as my mother would say, a "half-baked job" on a potentially decent post, I'll save my original idea for tomorrow's offering and give you a photo of me huffing a candle instead:

    Arrived today. "Christmas Cookie" scent. Rich, sweet, pungent, vanillay musk. Like the farts of angels. 

    Yes, it's a photo post. The mommy bloggers (I'm looking at you, Char) do it all the time and don't get any flak for it. So, I'm trying it out. But don't worry, I'll be back with some more words for you tomorrow.


    P.S. If you got the link to this post from Facebook, two points for Gryffindor if you can tell me what I'm quoting in the post description.

    Thursday, November 6, 2014

    Things that polarise us (plus a bonus review of this week's 'Serial')

    America just had mid-term elections. Living in the UK (and banned from voting for being gone too long), I'm out of the loop when it comes to American politics. But if I had to guess, I would say that there have probably been a lot of heated debates both online and in the 'real' world over hot button issues like guns, abortion, taxes and all that fun stuff. How exhausting it can be...

    If you've found yourself in the midst of a political debate with a friend, coworker or relative, and thought to yourself, "Christ! How did I wind up here? Can I rewind? I'm in too deep!", then here's my advice:

    1. Recognise that there's no such thing as a right opinion. OK, occasionally someone will have their facts wrong. If that's the case, you might just be able to convince them with some statistics. But the root of 99% of political arguments is IDEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES! There's not much you can do about that other than try to understand where they're coming from and agree to disagree.

    2. Care a little bit less. Apathy is underrated. You don't have to completely hide your passion under a bushel, but try to calm the shize down a bit. My sister Anna once taught me that the person who cries in an argument always, always loses. Maybe you're not crying in these political debates with your cousin/neighbour/colleague but, trust me, it's obvious if you're getting emotional.

    I came across this great infographic showing the typical divisions between the Left and the Right. Reading through it, it's clear that both sides form their opinions based on certain values. When you identify with a certain side on one issue, it's simply because you're prioritising one value over another (e.g. equality over fairness). But the point is, there is value on both sides.

    Click to expand.
    Image by David McCandless & Stefanie Posavec via InformationIsBeautiful.net

    There's also a UK version of the infographic (tweaked slightly).

    Serial Episode 7: Review 

    SPOILER ALET, this review contains spoilers. 

    Speaking of polarising, the latest episode of 'Serial' is dividing the podcast's fans into two camps. Based on what I've gleaned lurking on the Serial subreddit, it seems people either:
    • LOVE the episode and appreciate the break in character/evidence related plot points in favour of a more 'big picture' narrative. They see it as a "breathe of fresh air."
    • HATE the episode, feel like they've learned nothing new about the case and are annoyed there aren't more hard facts to investigate before next Thursday comes along. They see it as a "waste of time." 
    My thoughts? Well, being the nuanced, emotionally mature intellectual that I am, the episode both excited and disappointed me. I'm in both camps. OF COURSE it was thrilling to hear that The Innocence Project is investigating Adnan's case. And OF COURSE it was unsatisfying to have no new insight into the details of the investigation.

    If I had to lean closer toward one camp, I would go with the LOVE folks. After all, I feel dissatisfied after every episode, simply because I'm always left wanting more (and I suspect that won't change, even after the series is over). So I'm used to feeling this way. It's part of what makes Serial so great.

    I change my mind on Adnan after every episode too. This week, he's innocent (DUH). But next week, I'm sure I'll have diagnosed him a textbook sociopath. You wouldn't want me on your jury, I can tell you that!

    If you're a Serial fan and haven't yet delved into the deep Serial web, here are some good resources worth checking out:

    • Serial subreddit — Where the Internet gathers to discuss Serial. Heck, even Beau Willimon, head writer of 'House of Cards', created an account to get in on the discussion (although his posts are longwinded, philosophical nonsense, sadly). 
    • Slate's Serial Spoiler Specials — Yep, a podcast about a podcast. David Haglund, Katy Waldman and Mike Pesca discuss the latest episode, what they liked, what they didn't, the story's narrative arc, predictions, etc.
    • Rabia Chandry's blog— The lawyer and friend of Adnan who first introduced Sarah Koenig to the case. She's obviously majorly Team Adnan, so that's worth keeping in mind. 

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