12 December 2011

Beat the "walk of shame"

We've all been there...

I LOVE this advert! I feel like it really captures the atmosphere of the holiday season and gives us all some helpful advice: if you're looking good, the shame is dramatically reduced!

What's your worst walk-of-shame moment? and What's your best strategy for beating the embarrassment?

5 December 2011

I may never sleep again thanks to Charlie Brooker and Black Mirror

Did you watch Black Mirror? It was certainly the most interesting thing on tele this weekend and possibly the most talked about. Have no idea what I'm on about? Let me help you.

Black Mirror is an original drama mini-series on Channel 4 written by Charlie Brooker. It is satire for our contemporary media saturated society. The first episode, called The National Anthem, begins with the Prime Minister being woken in the wee hours to find that the nation's sweetheart princess has been kidnapped. Obviously this is a national crisis and the PM must respond. But the demand of the kidnapper is unusual to say the very least; the Prime Minister must have sex with a pig on live national television. The rest of the episode tells the story of how the Prime Minister, the press, and indeed the nation handle the crisis.

Scene from The National Anthem in 10 Downing Street

I usually think of Charlie Brooker as quite funny. But funny this was not. That's not a criticism. It was gripping, fascinating, emotional, realistic, confusing, disturbing, dramatic, thought-provoking... and on and on. I felt sick watching most of it. But I think that's the point. I think Brooker has done a good job here, not by creating a great piece of entertainment, but by telling a story that forces the audience to react. A story that, at the very centre, is about our relationship with media and the internet. It shows that in our world of Twitter and YouTube, the public is often flippant, and at worst cruel, about how our actions online affect the personal lives of public figures. In the end, (sorry spoiler!) the PMs career survives but his marriage does not. He's had to act to appease the public and in doing so ruined his previously good relationship with his wife.

There is so much more that can be said about Black Mirror. I think this first episode was truly amazing and I am still processing my own reaction. I'd certainly recommend that you watch it. But that also comes with a warning that it can be uncomfortable viewing. If you're in the UK you can watch it on 4OD here. And you can tune in to Channel 4 next Sunday at 21:00 for episode 2. If you're not in the UK, I'm really sorry because it is good television. I'm interested to see what next week will bring us.

2 December 2011

Caribbean Christmas

This is the first year that I will not be going home to my little island in the sun for Christmas. This year will be new and different and exciting all the same. But there are a few things that I'm certainly going to miss from home. Most of them are food... surprise, surprise. These are the things that define Christmas at home for me.

Ponche Crema
Mmm... Ponche Crema! This is a little bit like American Eggnog, but very very alcoholic and infinitely more delicious. It is rich and creamy, and with a perfect sprinkling of nutmeg it just tastes like Christmas! You can find a recipe here. I must stress that it wont be any good unless you use a proper West Indian dark rum, preferably Cockspur. Don't even try to use Bacardi! Throw that shit down the drain!

Mmm... Pastelles! So this is a Trini/Venezuelan dish. There is a similar Bajan version called Conkie that you can read about here. Really I prefer the Trini version (and this is the only time you will ever see me admit to anything from Trinidad being better than Barbados). The filling is a mix of meats, heavily spiced and finely minced. It's then covered in a cornmeal casing and wrapped in a Banana leaf. From mid-December to mid-January my family eats these for breakfast at least twice a week. Pastelles really make me feel Christmassy!

Parang Music

So I really love traditional Christmas songs- Jingle Bells and Let it Snow and all the usuals. But these songs don't really tend to be party songs. No one ever jumped up to the dance floor for Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. At home we need something to dance to! We always need party music and Parang fills this space for the Christmas season. Most Parang songs, just like Calypso, are filled with suggestion and innuendo. Parang is funny, fun, festive... oh I just love it! 

Ok, so Cadbury biscuits obviously are not West Indian. Or even very Christmassy for that matter. But this very tin of biscuits means Christmas to me. You see, my family is a bit obsessive about presents. We're all pretty much grown, but still are up before 7 on Christmas morning to see what's under the tree. This means that there is no time at all to make or eat breakfast. Instead, a nice big tin of Cadbury Biscuits gets opened and we all gorge ourselves on chocolate while wrapping paper and ribbon gets torn to shreds!  

Christmas Ham
Mmm... Ham! Turkey is not the holiday meal of choice at home. It's ham. A nice big pig leg, honey glazed, covered in cloves... my mouth is watering just thinking of it. My Dad has one of these electric carving knives that whirs and buzzes as he carves our ham. The noise of the knife plus the smell of the ham is like a magnetic pull to the kitchen. We often eat it faster than he can carve!

Of all the things that mean Christmas to me, of all the delicious things that I love, none compares to my absolute obsession with sorrel. I LOVE sorrel! This beautifully red, fragrant juice is the most wonderful thing that December has to offer. A glass of sorrel with my pastelle in the morning, a vodka-sorrel to match my party dress in the evenings, sorrel-tinis getting mixed up on Christmas Eve... oh my oh my oh my. Many of you know what I'm talking about, but for those of you who have never had the pleasure of this beautiful drink, I cannot even describe to you how nice it is! It's like nothing else I've ever tasted. And if anyone reading this can tell me where I can get sorrel in London you will be my new best friend! Seriously, I'll bake you something delicious. 

If you're looking for more delicious Caribbean eats, head over to Skip to Malou* today for some more perennial dishes!

30 November 2011

God Bless Bim

Today is Barbados Independence Day! 

Our lovely little island became its very own nation state on November 30th 1966.  We didn't have a silly war or anything... we just asked politely like the decent folk we are. So today we mark the 45th anniversary of Independence. 45 might be middle-aged for human beings, but for a country I'm pretty certain its the equivalent of being a teenager. Which means we're still cool and fun; no back pain or arthritis.

To celebrate I'm bigging up some fabulous Bajan talent! Here's Cover Drive's Twilight. Nothing to do with vampires, don't worry.

I must say, Amanda is looking fairly sweet in this one. Boys looking nice too. Hope everyone is waving their blue and yellow today!

28 November 2011

A slightly different sort of muppet...

TWO muppet posts within a week?! Too good to be true? These aren't the Jim Henson kind though. Catchy song, fun video, but probably not appropriate for the wee ones...

This made me smile. Hope it's had the same effect on you!

25 November 2011

Chocolate Salami

This is one hell of a way to get your chocolate fix!

I've been wanting to try out this dessert for ages and finally gave it a go last week. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take any photos of my own. So I've stolen some from here. Truly it was incredibly easy to make and is perfect for dinner parties as you can prepare it well in advance and it keeps really well, as long as it's cold.

I got the recipe here, which you'll find is in Italian but Google Translate does the job. All the recipes I found for this suggested "Oro Saiwa" biscuits. I'm assuming these are a typically Italian kind of biscuit as I've never heard of them and couldn't find anything with that name in the supermarket here. I used malted milk biscuits and they worked very well (That's Shirley biscuits for those in B'dos). I also used rum for flavour instead of coffee. I think that it requires a hell of a lot of rum though, as I was quite generous and you couldn't taste it at all in the end product.

I would highly recommend this dessert. It's easy, beautiful, and absolutely delicious! It is the perfect thing for all those hundreds of holiday parties coming up.

23 November 2011

Life's a Fillet of Fish... Yes it is!

Here's a video that put a great bit smile on my face.

Kermit the Frog is one of my all time favourite celebrities and probably always will be. He and my Dad share the same Birthday so I kind of feel a special connection to this wonderful green amphibian. Bret McKenzie is also pretty funny. I hope this made you as happy as it made me. Anyone else excited for the Muppets Movie?

21 November 2011

The Grinch who told the truth about Christmas adverts

Charlie Brooker's rant about this year's Christmas adverts in yesterday's Guardian has become quite the talk around town! He's titled his article: "This year's Christmas adverts aren't adverts, they're 'events'. Ghastly events", and added a tagline that pokes fun at all the sappy cry-babies in Britain: "The John Lewis commercial doesn't make me cry. It's just an advert for a shop". You know, after all the emotional hype about this John Lewis advert that literally had grown men admitting to tearing up in front their teles, I expected more of a backlash against Brooker's witty cynicism. But No! People love it! Only days after tweeting away about how that advert "changed their lives", Britain has changed tune to laugh along with Charlie at the ridiculous spectacle of it all. I don't mean to call the country a bunch of hypocrites, not at all. Rather, I think it's the perfect example of how ready Brits are to laugh at themselves. It's a great quality and one that is characteristic of this country.

But Brooker doesn't restrict judgement to just John Lewis. Oh no, everyone get's a hit! Littlewoods, for openly advertising the "truth" about Santa Claus; Morrisons, for the inappropriate sexualisation of British food (not to mention cricketers); and Marks and Spencers, for cheap exploitation of momentary celebrity. He's harsh but he is hilarious!

Morrisons has got to be my favourite! I'm very curious to know whose idea it was to start this Christmas advert with a reference to a [very bad] Kevin Costner film from the 80s?? "If you build it, they will come!" Now, I know there is often a cultural confusion of the two sports, but the people at Morrisons do know that baseball and cricket are not the same... right? In fact, I'm kind of insulted by the comparison. And if you were in doubt about Brooker's interpretation of this ad as overtly sexual, take a closer look at the busty butcher making eyes at Freddie over the "British Beef". Yup, there's no two ways about that; food = sex. Can't say I completely disagree, but it's an unconventional and amusing representation of the Christmas Spirit.

The icing on the cake in this article is Brooker's shock and awe over who managed to produce the most appropriate advert this Christmas: Iceland! Well there's an ending no one was expecting! Well done Charlie, witty and refreshing as ever. 

5 November 2011

Onion and Courgette not-so-pie-like Pie

Well I'm posting on Saturday this week instead of Friday. Mostly because I've been battling a silly Autumn-cold for a while now and yesterday I just felt totally rubbish! I woke up with the worst headache in the world, which is never a good start to the day, spent the morning coughing up my lungs, and then decided I couldn't stand it any more and drugged myself up with all the flu-related medication I had at hand. This consequently sent me into a zombie-like state of something between consciousness and an acid trip. And I was still in a bad mood. So truly, had I chosen yesterday to tell you about my kitchen adventures, all you would have got was an incoherent stream of negativity (more so than usual). 

But today I am feeling much better! So here is my "pie":

So this is the Bajan version of pie that is explained here. So no pastry in this one. But looks good, eh? That is bubbling, crispy, delicious cheese on the top there. Mmm!

Actually, this really didn't come out how I wanted it to, but it was tasty anyway. Here is a semblance of a recipe.

One courgette, grated
One and a half large onions, roughly chopped
A big knob of butter
Equal amount of flour
Lots of grated cheese
An egg
Garlic powder/salt

The first thing to do is grate the courgette. I use the medium size holes on the box grater but its really up to you what size you want it to be. Once it is grated, put it into a colander and cover it generously with salt. Let that sit for about half an hour and then press out any extra water you can by pressing down on it with a kitchen towel. This is to help draw out the water. Courgette will spring a lot of liquid in the oven and that would make the pie really runny, which is not a good thing. 

Then chop up your onions. Again, size isn't important. Cook these on a low heat with a bit of butter just until they are soft and white. You don't want them caramelised, and remember they will cook more in the oven. 

Now you have to make a roux. This is actually a lot easier than it is often made out to be. Melt a big knob of butter on the hob at medium heat. Then add an equal volume of flour to butter. Stir this in until the flour is dissolved in the butter and you've got a paste. Then turn the heat to low and add some milk. Stir continuously making sure that the paste is combined completely with the milk. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat off. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens. This can take a while but I promise it will thicken so just be patient. At this point add a bit of black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. You can add a bit more salt but be stingy because remember the courgette is already doused in it.

Beat an egg and add a drop of milk just to make the texture a bit smoother. Make sure the white sauce has cooled a bit, to almost room temperature. If it's too hot it will scramble the egg and that's just gross. Stir in the beaten egg, and half of the cheese. Seriously, put as much cheese as you want. Put a lot if you like cheese, and whole lot if you love cheese. If you don't like cheese at all, see a therapist. 

Then dump in the courgette and onion and give it a mix. Pour the whole mixture into a buttered baking dish and cover with lots more grated cheese. Again, the more the merrier. 

Put this is an oven at about 180C or 350F for around 15 mins or until all the cheese on top is melted. Then put it under the grill/ broiler for 5 more mins to crisp up that topping!

This is how mine came out:

Yeah, doesn't look so appetising, does it? But it was YUM, I promise. Really my problem was that my ratio of sauce to veg was wrong. I needed more veg, less sauce, for it to be a bit sturdier. The egg helps with getting a good texture, too. 

2 November 2011

Cultural Conundrum of Pie

Pie = Delicious, Right? I love pie. And I love to say that I love pie because it could mean totally different things depending on what country I'm in. 

When the Brits say pie this is what they're talking about:

Hairy Bikers' Steak and Ale Pie
Or some variation on this; steak pie, pork pie, fish pie, whatever! Essentially, a yummy savoury filling covered in yummy buttery pastry. I love pie! Nom nom nom.

But ask the Americans for some pie and this is what you'll get:

Shop.Cook.Make. Apple Pie

Good Ole American Apple Pie! or Cherry Pie or Pecan Pie or Pumpkin Pie or French Silk Chocolate Pie... and now I'm drooling. So yes, the key ingredient in American pies is sugar. Drop a sweet seasonal filling on a crispy pastry crust and you've got yourself a pie. I love pie!

But should you land your two feet in Barbados, stumble into a rum shop and order some pie, this is what you'll be served:

Proper Bajan Macaroni Pie
No pastry, no crust, just mouthfuls of starchy, cheesey bliss! This is the definition of PIE in our homeland: a brick composed of some long macaroni and a mob-a-ton of cheese. There are some other ingredients too; here's a recipe. I love pie!

Macaroni Pie is indeed our holy grail of all things pie. But we also do corn pie, yam pie, sweet potato pie... A pie is anything starchy, covered in some kind of white sauce and/or cheese, and baked in the oven. These are all standard side dishes in any meal. 

My mother is naturally one of the best cooks I know (aren't all Mums?). But Macaroni Pie isn't her speciality. Instead she does an Onion Pie. This isn't really keeping in tradition with real Bajan pies as being super-starchy. But it is a hell of a lot closer to Bajan than the Brit or Yank versions. It is the same concept as a Macaroni Pie but the onions replace the pasta. I LOVE onions and I LOVE this pie. 

I've recently tried a variation on Mum's Onion Pie. Thus was born: Onion-Courgette not-so-pie-like Pie. Photos, recipe, and war-stories from the kitchen to come...

If you want recipes for the pies on this page you can find the Brit one here, the American one here, and the Bajan one here. Now you're craving pie aren't you?

31 October 2011

Daddy's team

I grew up in a family of girls. I have two sisters and our closest family (physically) were four girl cousins. And we are GIRLY-girls! Nail varnish and lipstick, dresses and high-heels, handbags, cute boys, celebrity gossip -- all eternally common topics of conversation. So it's no surprise that in my youth, "Who's your favourite Spice Girl?" was infinitely more important than "Who's your favourite football team?".

But I've recently become fascinated by this whole palava of choosing a team. Or, do you really get to choose? As I've said, for me, picking a team, be it football (the real kind or the american variety), baseball, rugby, or anything else... it was just never an issue for me. The only team I can say I "support" in any sense of that word is West Indies cricket, which yes, my Dad also supports. But it's our national team and there is NO choice!

Supporting Windies

Last week I read this: How We Become Sports Fans: the Tyranny of Fathers by Robert Krulwich on the NPR website. The video below accompanies the article and sums up, in both a funny and sad way, how the majority of little boys and girls learn which team to support: Dad!

The article discusses statistics that show that most people choose to support the team their Dad supports. A lot of the time, as we see in the video, there is immense pressure to go with your Dad's team. I think this is in large part because being a fan, a real fan, means having such a great emotional connection to your team. Being a real fan involves such an insane sense of loyalty; you're team becomes, in a way, your family. So who would want to create a conflict of interest between your real family and your sport family? Krulwich also argues that sharing in Dad's emotional reaction to the triumphs and defeat of his team is important bonding opportunities for kids. It's a fair point.

But there are people who choose not to support Daddy's team. It is rare, but it happens. What about you? Did you pick your Dad's team?

28 October 2011

Intrepid Fridge Forager

If you live in the UK and you own a TV, you've probably seen this advert a few times this year. But watch it again, you know you love it!

This tele advert is the shining star of a whole campaign put out by Lurpak: Good Food Deserves Lurpak. I LOVE this campaign. It is built on the premise that in a world where everyone is always busy and fast-food and ready-meals are quick, cheap and easy, fewer of us are making the effort to cook real food. Of course, for a company that produces and sells butter this isn't ideal. You don't need butter for your microwave dinners. So these ads are inspiring consumers to cook and eat REAL food. But the point that makes it brilliant is that most of the ads feature really simple, hearty, tasty food; you don't need to be a Master Chef to make an omelet.

from here
from here
from here
from here

These are some of my favourite of the print ads. They are plastered all over tube stations across London and I gawk at them shamelessly all the time. Though in true form, I've borrowed all these pictures from somewhere else as my own photographic skills are seriously lacking. In my search I also found that Lurpak's Flickr is a gem for food porn! Score!

There are tonnes more of these around and I'm sure many of you have seen them. What's your favourite?

26 October 2011

Lovin' Lego

Last week two great new music videos hit the internet. In six days, one of these already has over 11 million views on YouTube. The other, a mere 2 and a half million in comparison. You've probably already guessed that the first one is Rihanna's We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris. This video has gone viral on a massive scale! I'm always ready to big-up Ri-Ri and I actually do think this video is very cool (and also a little scary).

But it's really the other one that I want to share with you. It's Ed Sheeran's Lego House. I think it is brilliant! In case you haven't seen it yet, I don't really want to give away the ending except to say that it is unexpected and hilarious and just pure class. Watch it! I've seen it again and again and I laugh every time.

Many of you who know me personally already know that TWO gingers in one video... it's practically porn for me! Go ahead, judge away... I'm not slightly embarrassed that both of these boys are on my celebrity crush list.

24 October 2011

Warning: Academic Content!

I recently came across this article in the New Left Review: The Political Economy of Unhappiness, by William Davies. So, yes, it is quite academic and intellectual and the writing style isn't exactly light-leisure-reading. That said, it is a relatively easy read and makes some really interesting points. Bare with me. You'll like this, I promise (maybe).

In a very basic summary, the premise for this article is that physical and mental health (or "wellbeing" as Davies says) are economic resources. Why? Well, for starters the annual cost of health related absence from work in the UK is £100 billion. That's a lot of money and a HUGE concern to employers, economists, and policy-makers. If you're sick you can't go to work, and this gives your health an economic value.

Davies discusses a recent shift in the way we understand health and recovery. Whereas the traditional prescription for most illnesses is to rest and let your body recover, research is now showing that going back to work may actually help recovery.
"...Even where work is primarily physical, medical and economic orthodoxy had underestimated the importance of psychological factors in determining health and productivity. Being at work has the psychological effect of making people believe themselves to be well, which in turn has a positive effect on their physical wellbeing."
Essentially, we are likely to recover from illness faster and better at work: Work = Happiness = Health.

Now here is where it gets interesting. As labour has become more immaterial (we're not putting machines together in factories, we're now putting ideas together in conference rooms), illness has become more immaterial too. We don't suffer from fever and runny noses as much as we suffer from depression and anxiety. Look at this graph; it shows the increasing number of sick days taken on account of mental ailments. 40% of all sick leave in 2007!

Ok, back to the economics! So more and more people are missing work because they are depressed and this is costing employers and costing the government. So now it is a lot easier to get psychological treatment through the NHS in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (apparently CBT tends to be controversial among psychologists but I lack the knowledge to comment on that). Simply put, the government is investing in your mental wellbeing so that you can go to work! In line with this, CBT has also become an important part of programmes for the unemployed.

You've probably noticed a little contradiction here. Work is meant to make us happy and healthy. So why are we increasingly skipping out on work because of unhappiness? Well, this may come as a shock to you, but work isn't the only thing that makes us happy. I know - mind boggling, right? Oh... you're not surprised? Ok then.

Studies repeatedly show that access to public goods makes people happy. Davies gives examples of this research technique that asks people to give a monetary value to social or public goods. For example, how much extra income would you need to maintain your current level of happiness if you, say, couldn't attend concerts? This particular public good happens to be valued at nine grand/year. Personally, I think this kind of methodology is pure genius! It is simply an extension of school-boy bets: "I'll give you £2 to eat a handful of dirt." "No way! I wont do it for less than £5!" Thus, the happiness value of not eating dirt is the equivalent of £5. It is so simple and so effective.

I may think it is great, but the results worry liberal economists. This kind of research ultimately shows that the private income needed to compensate for public goods is very, very high. This means that £1 spent on public goods generates much more happiness than £1 spent privately. The evidence shows that public spending makes us all happy and, therefore, makes us all more able to go to work, be productive, and boost the economy. Neo-classical economists (i.e. those currently making policy) don't like this because they like to argue that public spending is bad. But the evidence is there and they can't ignore it. But as Davies so rightly points out, they don't exactly shout about it:
The political ramifications of such a technique have to be carefully concealed by the neo-classical economists currently seeking to introduce it to policy-making. But, arguably, a spectre is haunting liberal economics.
You may find the whole idea of trying to value happiness/unhappiness a bit absurd. And I'd say that is a valid opinion to hold. But read this article and you'll see how Davies grapples with the ontology of happiness and unhappiness and looks at the historical relationship between capitalist markets and mental wellbeing. Then you'll begin to see why some people find it so very important to put a price on happiness.

OR, you could just go the Peanuts-route and simply accept that happiness is a warm blanket.
Happiness is a Warm Blanket :)

21 October 2011

Roo gets a Facelift!

Hello and Happy Friday to all!

If you're a regular reader you'll have noticed that the blog has adopted a new look today. I felt I needed a little refreshing. I've been struggling for the last couple of weeks with giving Roo's a bit more direction. My posts have been getting less and less frequent but that's not for lack of ideas. I've been indecisive on what I really want this to all be about. The original idea was to write about nothing and everything. That sentiment is still there, but it needs some tuning. To be perfectly honest, I just need some sort of structure to stay on track. 
So I've done some thinking.

I had started doing Wednesday's "reading list" of cool stuff I find on the internet. I'm going to hold on to this idea, but deviate a little bit. I'll only give you one article/video/film/blog to look at each week. But I'll also include a more detailed review of it with some of my own opinions thrown in there.
I'll also be doing a weekly food-post. Some of my favourite posts I've done (and some of my most read) are the ones about food. Week to week this is going to vary: things I've cooked, things I've eaten, things I'd like to eat, whatever! Anything food-related to be honest.
My third post of the week will remain a wild-card. Anything random I want to share or rant about. I do so love ranting. Good for the soul. They wont be in any particular order; sometimes I'll do food on a Monday, sometimes it'll be Friday. CRAZY, I know.

So here's what I'm promising:
Three posts a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
One review, one food, one wildcard.
More pictures (I'm terrible at this).

14 October 2011

A Single Earring

You know when you have those days when nothing seems to go right and everything is harder than it ought to be? Well, I've been having that day for the past month. Today seemed to be my absolute breaking point when I lost an earring. This sounds ridiculous, I know. In fact, it doesn't just sound so, it IS ridiculous.

But seriously, few tragedies are worse than losing a single earring, a single glove, a single sock. These things are meant to be pairs! My lost earring was one of my everyday pair. The pair I put on every single morning just after fumbling for my glasses and just before brushing my teeth. Yet today, as I walked home from the grocery, I realised that one lobe was completely bare, its usual decoration unhinged and discarded, lost somewhere between the way-too-shiny-veg aisle and the surly cashier. And I broke. How is my life to continue without two earrings to put on in the morning?

I could be happy, I would be happy, if only I had two earrings to wear every day, more money in my bank account, fluffier pillows on my bed, newer shoes, a trendier coat, more books, better glasses; I could be happy, I would be happy, if only I were stronger, smarter, taller, more attractive.

Then I saw this beautiful film made by a group of Dutch film makers during the 48 Hour Film Project in Utrecht. It's called Page 23. Things don't equate to happiness, or any sort of meaning at all for that matter. Stuff is just stuff and we all kid ourselves into thinking that a pair of earrings to put on in the morning [insert your own equivalent here] makes our lives complete.

"Amazingly beautiful, yet hopelessly impractical"

In the end, I think I'll be ok with a single earring.

5 October 2011

Wednesday Friendsday

This weeks list of things I find on the Internet is friend-themed. (in the loosest sense of the word "themed").

1.) The Democratic Republic of Facebook
We all know friends aren't real unless they are on Facebook. This article is a little reminder that while we may love Facebook, we may spend ridiculous amounts of time allowing it to consume our lives, we may use it as a tool for everything from chatting up that hottie we saw on the train to sending wedding invites. But Facebook doesn't belong to us. It is not ours. We belong to it. Important lesson here!

2.) Magic Brownie Adventure Movie
Have there ever been two better friends in history than Cheech and Chong? I mean, they are the epitome of friendship. Now here is a "film trailer"-come-advert that highlights the significant role of Brownies in friendship (and digestive systems).

3.) New Condoms
I wouldn't want to alienate any part of my audience by appealing only to platonic friends. This one is for the "special friends". It is a tumblr that puts brand slogans on condoms. Now wouldn't you rather have one of these than a JLS face on your rubber?

4.) The Adventures of Tom & Atticus
Nothing compares to the friendship between a man and his dog. Here's a blog about a guy following his dog around a bunch of mountains. It is really sweet and sometimes funny. And when all else fails, cute pictures of a dog.

Happy Wednesday! Go make some friends.

3 October 2011

The Best Country in the World and The Worst Company in the World

If there is one thing that gets me vex it is really bad customer service. Not because I demand perfection and expect to be served like a queen. But because it is SO easy to do very basic things to make your customer happy and SO rare that people even make an effort.

A few days ago I was on my not-so-rare rant about the best country in the world; it's Barbados obviously. Not that I'm biased or anything. There is a long list of reasons why Barbados is so great, but good customer service does not usually appear on that list. In fact, I'm among quite a few Bajans who often get distressed, and frankly, embarrassed, at the level of service in some of the most tourist-visited places. Like the Airport, for starters. It is not that Bajans are a rude people, not traditionally anyway. We used to have a reputation for being warm and welcoming, kind and helpful, funny and good spirited. But more and more I come across cashiers at Super Centre whose only form of communication is grunting, shop clerks in Cave Shepherd who think it is helpful to finish their chat on the phone before doing their job, and my real favourite, taxi drivers who like to tell young ladies that they have got particularly attractive rear ends. Their language tends to be more colourful.

However! During my epic argument about the best country in the world, a Trini (one of those renowned Bajan-haters) conceded on the one point that he got pretty damn good customer service in Barbados. I was floored! And incredibly happy. Maybe there has begun a turn-around on my beautiful island. What's more, the next day I had to ring up the Barbados High Commission in London. I was fully expecting to hold for twenty minutes and then speak to a machine. Wrong! Two rings and the lovely Jackie answered. Not only was she pleasant and articulate, but she was also genuinely helpful. Can't say the same for the US Embassy; service was disgraceful. 

Not the best photo of The Best Country in the World
Batts Rock Beach
So we've got the Best Country decided. Now for the Worst Company - Argos. Ok, this might be an exaggeration. I'm sure there are arms dealers and market traders and soft-drink manufacturers and all sorts of other companies that do much worse things than Argos. It might not be The Worst but it certainly is Terrible. Mercia Garden takes a big load of the blame too as you'll see in a bit. 

Here is the tale of the Terrible experience had by a Friend:
Friend ordered a garden shed online, as one does, from Argos. Friend assumed she was getting an Argos product. Wrong! Argos out-sourced to Mercia Garden. Now the product was just slightly too big for the letter-box, so someone had to be home to collect delivery. Sure. No problem. Friend was given a day for delivery. No time frame; no "we'll come between 10 and 2"; nothing. So good responsible Friend sat at home ALL DAY! No delivery. Customer service department (if we can call it that) tells her, "Oh, we're very sorry. Bit of a mix-up. We'll deliver tomorrow". Fine. Good responsible Friend sat at home ALL DAY! No delivery. Ultimately, FOUR separate delivery dates were set up and still: No delivery. Now, I don't know what you like to do with your time, but Friend and I, we don't think sitting at home waiting on a non-existent delivery is particularly fun or productive. What's worse, the so-called customer service department is less than apologetic and less than helpful in sorting the whole issue out. 

Argos ad deemed misleading
Dear Argos, You Suck.

There's MORE! Friend, being a patient and forgiving and generally awesome person, makes another order from Argos. This time, for next-day delivery. Now, you may have seen all these adverts that Argos has got posted over half of London and ALL over the tele; they claim they can do same-day delivery, within 90 minutes if you're that eager for it. You'd think with the ability to do 90 minute delivery, the next day should be do-able. Wrong! The f-ed it up. Surprise surprise! For more on shit from Argos read this

Maybe one day Argos will surprise me in the way that Barbados has. Until then,I shall not be ordering from Argos. I will not be gracing them with my time and patience. There are a million other places I can shop and now, I will.

28 September 2011

Things I find on the inter-web + some other junk

1.) Nursery for Men

I find this weird. And maybe a little bit offensive. I don't know... Men? How do you feel? I kind of feel sorry for Australians.

2.) Carlsberg prank

Beer adverts make me wish I liked beer. Not sure I would have passed this test. Would you?

3.) Porker floats above Battersea Power Station

I promise this is the only time I will ever link you to a Daily Mail article. It has good pictures, and that is why I chose it. Pink Floyd is re-releasing re-mastered versions of all of their albums. In case you don't know this (shame on you) their 'Animals' album featured a picture of an inflatable pig flying over the power station. To commemorate that album and to get some hype for its re-release, they put up another pig! Flying pigs = just plain funny. I live real near to Battersea now and so I got to see the big ole ham in the flesh. I think it's a clever PR move. Did any one else see her?

4.) Skip to Malou*

Fellow-blogger Malou has just started an incredibly cool series of posts called Windows to the World. She's borrowed the idea from somewhere.. and frankly, I'm jealous I didn't think of it first. Each post is a photo taken through a window from somewhere in the world with a short caption. Today is Dubai. Can't wait to see where she will take us next week!

That's all for today folks! Not too many words.

23 September 2011

Put Down Your Phone!

All of our lives rely on technology. We can't live without it. And don't even try to say "Oh no! I hate the way technology rules our lives!" You love it. If your phone goes a whole hour without going bu-deep for a text/tweet/facebook/email, you start to fidget and worry: "Why doesn't anyone want to be in touch with me?" Don't deny it. We're all guilty.

With that said, I'd like to now say: I hate the way technology rules our lives!

From here

Recently I was chatting with a friend who works for a big international accounting firm. She is debating now whether or not she ought to get a smart phone on the company. At first I was a bit taken aback. What do you mean debating? Everyone has a smart phone! Especially every high level professional. It seemed that this decision was like ten years too late. Today the answer is obvious: smart phone = happiness. Right? Apparently not.

She explained to me that the pros are the usual; clients can be in touch at any time, she can work while she's not at work, etc (these don't always sound like pros, but you know what I mean). But the cons are things I hadn't thought about before. The biggest being confidentiality. Naturally, working with high profile clients she is privy to some accounting information that really ought not to be public knowledge. All of her correspondence about client portfolios is strictly confidential. This means that even having her work-phone on her at a social event is a big risk.

I know that since half the population all have identical Blackberrys, I've many a time picked up the wrong phone thinking it is mine. But when your phone holds sensitive information this is a big deal. She said that even if her phone was lost or stolen she would be liable for any information that was potentially stolen. So she's torn. On the one hand her bosses and clients want to be able to be in touch 24/7, and she works hard and wants to make them happy. On the other hand, there is this massive risk of breaking confidentiality agreements and screwing up her entire career. This makes me hate technology!

Why do we all have the SAME phone?
From here

Another friend of mine is currently on a rant and rave about the total lack of real social interaction. And here she has got a real point! She is (as am I) fed up with trying to talk to people in person while they refuse to tear their eyes away from Angry Birds. Fed up with trying to organise a coffee date with a friend who is more concerned with boosting their Bbm contact list into triple digits than actually having a meaningful conversation with someone. I've got to admit that I've got a couple of ex-friends that landed in that ex-category not because they are bad people, but because I've sat through entire dinners where no more than three words were said to me, the person sitting in front of them, because there was a continuous stream of texting that was WAY more important.

This woman should have never been given a microphone
From here

Many of us find these things annoying, and more of us are guilty than we think. I know I am guilty even though I try not to be. Sometimes I have to remind myself: Put the phone down. Turn off the computer. Whatever it is, it can wait. The irony is that the above conversation is happening over facebook, and I'm sitting at my computer ranting away. Does this make me a hypocrite? Maybe. Truly I love the internet. I love Facebook. I love my Blackberry. I couldn't live without Google or email or blogs. Ultimately, I think we all need these things in our lives. But we also need to remember that they can be great and awful at the same time.

19 September 2011


My latest hiatus was a bit longer than expected I'm afraid. My life is in transit and it has been pretty difficult to find the time to sit and write something a little bit interesting.

So to London I've come to be a grown-up. I've been finding myself a job and a flat and a general pattern of life that doesn't give me a panic attack each day. So far success has been found on two of the three. Finding somewhere to live has been more difficult than I thought. See I've done the whole house-hunting thing before in Florida and now I'm doing it here in the UK. Now, I've noticed some quirky differences between here and there; some basic anthropological observations, if you will. (You probably shouldn't)

Randy Glasbergen

First, there's the adverts. UK has gumtree and US has craigslist. They are essentially the same thing with slightly different formats. I prefer craigslist only because it is simpler and I get easily distracted by fancy colours and shapes. Give me white squares please. But format is not what I'm getting at! It is content! The content of the ads is so hilariously different. In the US the emphasis is on the property: exact location, square footage, when it was built, who maintains it, full specs on kitchens/bathrooms/windows/walls/ceilings. Ok, maybe that many people don't talk about their ceilings, but you get the point.

In the UK it seems adverts are mostly unconcerned with the property itself. You get a general area (Clapham), a general size (spacious), a general feeling (bright), and that's about it. For all you know, a bright, spacious place in Clapham could be a picnic blanket on the commons. The priority is on the people. You can find out a hell of a lot about potential flatmates from an advert on gumtree; how old they are, where they were born, what they do for a living, what they do on weekends, their favourite beer, their favourite food, preference for pets, cleanliness habits, and often much much more! I may be wrong, but if you asked an American advertising a flat for their date of birth and nationality you would probably get reported for identity theft.

Then, once you get past the adverts there is the matter of viewings. In the US you are urged to look at all the physical attributes that were spelled out in the ad. "Observe the excessive square footage of this room", "Take a look at this shiny silver fridge", "Notice the perfectly smooth dry wall." Yeah, I've always dreamed of a really good dry wall. Then the questions: "What is your credit score?", "What is your income?", "How soon can you bring the deposit?" The flat goes to the first person to arrive with cash in hand. Money money money.

In the UK, or at least in London, it goes something more like this: "Don't worry about that hole in the floor, the landlord is getting around to fixing it", "No, that isn't mould. I don't know what it is but it is NOT mould!" Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. Then the questions: What do you do? Where are you from? Do you eat? Do you drink? Do you cook? Favourite band? Favourite film? The flat goes to whomever is deemed the "coolest" potential housemate. Must! enhance! social life!

Conclusion: both ways suck. Really, I do prefer the Brit-way but it is so much pressure. I've got to prove that I can be your friend? I'm not very good at making friends. This may or may not have something to do with the negativity and the sarcasm. How am I meant to convince you in 20 mins that I'm going to be more fun to live with than the next guy? It's hard!

8 September 2011

Things I find on the internet

So Wednesday's post got moved to Thursday. First, because I was lazy yesterday and didn't feel like blogging. Second, because there will be no Friday post as I shall be in the air somewhere over the Atlantic. So I thought I'd give you Thursday to hold over until next week.

Same Wednesday drill though: things I've been looking at online. Think you should look at them too.

1.) Are jobs obsolete?
I like this article. Mostly because I don't have a job and it makes me feel less depressed about that. Not sure I really buy into the idea of information and creativity becoming new market goods. We're all too accustomed to getting that stuff for free now. Still, it's a bit different. Something to think about. What do you think?

2.) Sciences Still Young
My entire academic career has been devoted to the social sciences. Many of you are in the same boat too. And we continue to hear (from policy makers) that social sciences aren't useful to society and government funding will be cut in all those departments. We, those of us who do social science, know that this argument is total bollocks. This article is a really interesting rebuttal to this kind of argument. We're just on the brink of cool discoveries in a lot of social fields. Methodology is expanding and getting better. What if all interest and funding for natural sciences had been stifled just as Einstein was about to give us E=mc²?

Postcard depicting scene from Daniel Fran├žois Esprit Auber's "The Mute Girl of Portici"
The Mute Girl of Portici

3.) The opera Belgium can't see
This one is about a play that has been a symbol of Belgian unity since there was such an idea as Belgian unity. I'm not really sure why to be honest. It doesn't make much sense to me. Anyway, there is a big production of this play coming along soon. But they can't show it in Belgium because unity is too controversial right now. I find the irony of this situation really quite funny. But more than funny, it is a really interesting illustration of how politics influences all spheres of society. I study politics. These things entertain me.

4.) Back to the Start
Ever a sucker for good advertising, Chipotle won me over with this one. Well, kind of. I don't live in a country where I can get Chipotle so I can't give them business. But I sure would after this advert. Can I get an AMEN for sustainable farming?

Piggies found here

5.) CUBE
Ah... the mystery of design. This is a lengthy intellectual interpretation of an incredibly simple object. If the first article is right, and ideas are the new currency, then this guy ought to be a zillionaire! He got all that from a box? I mock, but really I am very impressed (and a bit jealous). You'll have to read subtitles if you don't speak German.

Happy Reading!

5 September 2011

My Love of Food Part II: Food P**n

While I would love to spend all of spare time eating and cooking delicious things, it just isn't the best idea (see previous post as to my deserved weight). So the next best thing is staring at delicious things! I can spend hours flicking through luscious images of everything from simple fruit salads to ultra-decadent chocolate monstrosities! I always prefer the latter. Here are some of my favourite sources of sensual, cuisine imagery.

Crap I Eat (And Drink) - This is probably my favourite food blog. There is nothing simple, minimalist, or healthy about the food featured here. The name of the game is decadence. He has an attraction to exotic foods and strange flavour combination, but also a genuine love for classic comfort food. The focus is less on photography and more on descriptive (and funny) writing. Seriously, I can hardly wait for the next post!

Crap I Eat (And Drink)

Cherry Tea Cakes - Jana, from this blog, lives in DC and bakes up all kinds of tasty treats. This is my go-to blog if I'm looking for a recipe for a tasty dessert or tea-time treats. She also uses her blog to raise money for local food banks. Pretty inspirational stuff. Cherry Tea sounds like Charity.. get it?

Of course, the blog-o-sphere is not the only place for one to find food-pleasure. My addiction was probably initially sparked by the Food Network. My favourites are Iron Chef America and, of course, Ace of Cakes. Duff and his friends make AMAZING cakes! My personal preference for a celebration cake is a traditional stacked, but no one can help getting hooked on the masterpieces they make at Charm City Cakes!

Cake: Bagels
Charm City Cakes. Yes that IS cake!

Unfortunately, when I moved to the UK I realised fairly quickly that Food Network is a scarcity. So I had to grow attached to some Brit-cooking-shows. My favourite is the Great British Bake Off. Every week is a whole bunch of beautiful baked goods accompanied by minimal amounts of reality-TV drama.

Of course, there is the crown of all Food Porn: foodgawker. If you don't already know and LOVE this site, prepare to be delighted! Food Bloggers extraordinaire all come together and contribute to an endless stream of mouth-watering photos of all kinds of food. I have literally spent entire days on foodgawker. It is pure bliss!
Hosts of The Great British Bake Off

2 September 2011

My Love of Food Part I: The Beach House

What gives you pleasure? When you think about complete and utter bliss, what is it that you're doing? Well for me, the answers are FOOD and EATING. I love food. No, I luurrrvve food. Really I ought to weigh about 190 kilos and it's really only miracles (and exercise) that prevent this. I live for food. I dream about food. "Diet" is a very threatening four-letter word. The truth is that I don't eat in excessive quantities (usually), but I'll eat just about anything. In particular, new flavours make me happy. I love tasting something for the first time and deciding that I really love it. There is nothing better than learning about interesting and unique flavour combinations that work!
So this post is going to be in two parts. Part I: review of dinner last night at The Beach House, Barbados, and Part II: my top picks for Food P**n (I'm afraid of generating unwanted traffic with the p-word)

Part I: The Beach House
As a family, we like to go out for a nice meal when we're all together. Especially because we aren't all in the same place that often. Last night was my parents' 32nd Anniversary (big up) so that was our excuse this time. We went to The Beach House in Holetown. I'd never been before, and to be honest, it wouldn't have been my first choice of restaurants. But I'm really not that picky and I was happy to give it a go. Let me tell you, VERY good decision. The food was excellent!

First I ate Grilled Scallops with Pumpkin Risotto. Mmm! The scallops were big and juicy and perfectly cooked. Living in the UK, nice fresh scallops is not something I eat very often. So I was really pleased to have these. The risotto was just a tad undercooked (which is rare for risotto) but it was nicely flavoured and to be honest I was too taken with my delicious scallops to care. Other starters of note were the Crispy Pork Belly. I cannot describe it any better than that. It was crispy. It was pork. It was belly. And it make my belly very happy indeed.

For the main course I had Grilled Swordfish with Melon Salsa. The fish was delicious. Fresh, perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked; just a perfect piece of real Bajan fish. But the star of that dish was the melon salsa. That surprised me. I'm not in general a big fan of melon. I find it a bit boring and a bit tasteless. But this was anything but tasteless. First, it was beautiful! So many different colours really made it appealing. I took my time tasting each little colour at a time to identify it. As far as I worked out, it was honeydew melon, watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, tomato, and butter-nut squash. These were all diced finely and seasoned with a mix of herbs, the dominant flavour being cilantro. It was absolutely delicious. It was surprising and refreshing and colourful. I'm definitely going to try to create my own version of this sometime. Amazing!

My family always shares desserts. In fact, we share most food, but there is an unwritten law about sharing desserts. So between us we had three: Bajan Lime Tart, Bread and Butter Pudding, and Apple and Sultana Crumble. The Lime Tart was not what I was expecting. It was a deep pastry shell that was thin and just a bit flaky. The lime filling was a mouse-like texture and barely-green colour. It was topped with a coconut meringue that smelled like bonfire-roasted-marshmallows. It was really very tasty. I like that the lime flavour was subtle yet refreshing and the thin pastry didn't make the dish too heavy. I would have preferred a bit more contrast in texture between the lime-filling and the meringue topping, but in general a very good dessert. The Bread and Butter Pudding was probably my favourite. This is unusual because this is not really my favourite dessert. This one, however, was not a heavy dessert as it often it. It was light and fluffy and had the perfect amount of cinnamon and raisins. It was also served with a really nice vanilla ice cream. The last one we had was the Apple-Sultana Crumble. This wasn't very good. It was more sultana than apple and there was too much of the crumble bit. It was the heaviest of the desserts we ordered and didn't really satisfy the sweet-requirement at the end of a meal. On the up-side, it was also served with that delicious vanilla ice cream.

My overall opinion: go eat at the Beach House! Just don't order the crumble. The food is simple but very well prepared. The menu blends West Indian and English inspirations, but I left feeling as though I had had a genuine Caribbean meal. My one critique is that the option for appetizers is not very great for a vegetarian or someone who doesn't eat seafood. Neither my mother nor my sister eats seafood and they were both quite disappointed at the options: Caesar Salad or the Pork Belly.The only vegetarian option was the soup-of-the-day (Potato and Onion), but I couldn't help but think that some days the soup might have a meat-based broth... So maybe not the best place to go if you eat veggie, but if you love a good piece of fish, a good view, and decent service, I would highly recommend The Beach House.

Sorry no pictures, I was enjoying the food way too much to get the camera out. Look at some photos on their website.

Come back Monday for Part II: Food P**n!

31 August 2011

Listening List

It is Wednesday. So that means it is time for my weekly recommendations. No reading this week though. Just listening. In the spirit of being home and being local and all that, I wanted to big-up de Bajans (highlight some local talent). In the last five years or so there has been an explosion of musical talent on our island. We've always had the soca artists many of whom are extraordinarily talented. But this new surge is really a diversification of genres represented by bands at home. My home-friends will know all of these. But for those of you across the pond and elsewhere, I hope this introduces you to some new favourites.

So I think all these artists are really cool. I hope you do too. Of course, can't big up local talent and forget this girl. She is an inspiration. And I can't help but think that her massive success has in some way driven all the guys above. Also, amazing video!

30 August 2011

Being a West Indian

Yesterday I traveled all the way home to my lovely little island in the Caribbean. It is a long journey but one that is totally worth it! I love my island and I love the feeling of coming home.

On the plane on of the films they showed was Fire in Babylon. I've been meaning to see it since I first saw the trailer a few months ago. But it did a really stingy tour of UK cinemas and I hadn't had the opportunity. So obviously I was really excited that they were playing it on the flight. I've got to say, it definitely lived up to all the expectation. It is a fantastic film! If you have any interest at all in the West Indies, cricket, sport, racial tension, regional identity, or team dynamics, you should definitely give it a go. Watching this film made me so proud to be a West Indian. It reminded my what the spirit of our region is about. It is about working hard, defying prejudice, exceeding expectations. It is about forging a culture out of a complex history but not conforming to colonial pressures. We may be small islands but we are not insignificant and we will not be ignored. I'm not going to give a summary of the film because you can find a better one here and here. And you should just watch it yourself anyway. One of my favourite quotes was this (and I'm paraphrasing a bit because I can't remember exact wording): Babylon is not a place. It is a condition. It is a state of being in which unjust actions are cast upon a people who do not deserve it.

from here