Friday, June 26, 2009

Driving Lessons

Well, procrastinating is over. I have finally booked my first driving lesson for this coming Monday. Now that I have booked the lesson, I have no clue what I have been afraid of and why I left it until quite literally the last possible second to start my driving lessons.

I think I am a bit ashamed. After all, I took driving lessons ten years ago and now I am back to square one and I have to learn how to drive... again.

Learning to drive the first time around was an interesting experience. When I first started my driver's ed course when I was 15 I was by far the worst driver in my class. I remember my driving instructor telling me that the worst driver in the class always turns out to be the best driver by the end of the class because they have so much to learn. Most teen drivers don't pay much attention and slack off during class and never really improve in class but since I had so far to go, I really had to work hard to learn how to drive.

As a result, I think I am a very safe driver. I had one road accident when I was in college on Woodward Ave in terrible road conditions, other than that I have a clean driving record and have never had a speeding ticket.

Now that I have to take driving lessons again, I suppose I am afraid that my second experience as a driving student will be the same as the first and it will take me forever to master switching gears. I have to remind myself that I do have 10 years of driving experience, and the "easy" part of driving is actually operating the vehicle so I will probably learn very quickly.

Also, I made the mistake of allowing Jason to try to teach me to drive several months ago which was nothing short of traumatic. First there were vague instructions including the very helpful "just do the thing" and other completely incoherent instructions. Then he convinced me that I was driving the wrong way down a one way street (though I actually wasn't). At this point I realized that maybe I wasn't as bad at this as I thought and maybe it wasn't best to be taught by the king of speeding tickets.

I am feeling a bit more confident about the driving lessons now, wish me luck! I hope it only takes a few weeks until I am driving a manual transmission like a pro.

This Week's British TV Review

Come Dine With Me

This is one of my favorite British shows and I started watching it immediately when I moved here. It is a competition where 4 people take turns hosting a dinner party and rate each other's cooking and entertaining skills.

I love cooking and entertaining so its a fun show for me to watch and always gives me great ideas. Each show features a different host or hostess and follows them throughout the day as they prepare their meal. I love watching the cooks scramble to create an impressive feast, often attempting recipes that are beyond their abilities and failing to deliver.

There is also always a bad egg in every group, the snob who turns their nose up at everyone else's food and rubs everyone the wrong way. I love this "reality TV" dynamic of the show.

The prize for the show is £1000 which is awarded to the host who scores the most points after the guests (who all take their turn at hosting) score the night on a scale of 1-10. I love watching the smug snob of the group realize that their superior attitude toward everyone's food wasn't the best strategy when it comes to actually winning the competition!

This show is available on the Channel 4 website if you would like to check it out! (Let me know if the link doesn't work outside of the UK!)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Post coming soon...

I had planned on posting today, then my niece called to ask me if she could come and stay with me for the day. She fell during PE class and bumped her head and they sent her home. She was okay, just a nasty lump on the back of her head, but my sister-in-law had to go to work so she came and stayed with me for the day. About an hour after she left Max got an upset tummy so I had to go boil some chicken and rice to settle his stomach.

Anyway, haven't had the time yet to sit down and knock out a post but I will be able to do it in the morning!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Car Boot Sale

For those of my American readers who are confused, a car boot is the trunk. Don't ask me why they call it a boot, I still can't bring myself to say it. Anyway, this weekend I attended a Car Boot Sale in the parking lot of a local horse racecourse with my sisters-in-law Kirsty, Diane and Paula (Paula is Jason's half sister) as well as my niece Abbie and nephew Jack and Paula's son Lewis.

It was a lot of fun, although I was a bit disapppointed. It was like nothing I have ever seen. Hundreds of cars filed into the parking lot, lined up in neat rows with two rows of cars next to each other and an aisle on either side of each row. People bring their folding tables and all of their old junk and set it up outside their vehicle. I tagged along more for the fun, I didn't expect to make much money and I just brought a few bags of things. I don't have much to sell since I got rid of everything unnecessary about this time last year.

I have never seen a car boot sale in the States, I am sure there are places where people sell things out of the trunk of their car but I think by and large this is an English phenomenon. I think most Americans opt for the traditional garage or yard sale, but here most people that are lucky enough to have a garage either have it out the back or its tiny. Most people don't even have a driveway. Also, most front gardens are small and enclosed so they aren't well suited to a yard sale. Instead they load up all they can in their car and go to these car boot sales. It has kind of a flea market or swap meet atmosphere with all kinds of shady people crowding the aisles. If I really had to put my finger on an American equivalent it was like a having a park-wide yard sale at a trailer park.

I was looking most forward to haggling, but I was sadly disappointed that most of the people weren't haggling. The girls told me this isn't normal, usually people are eager to haggle for a better price and they were also frustrated with the reactions from people visiting our stalls. People would come up to the table and pick up an item and ask how much (everything was reasonably priced) and then when they were told the asking price they would wrinkle up their nose, set the item down and walk away. It got extremely frustrating. What is the point of asking the price of something if you aren't willing to actually work for a bargain. All of the girls expressed that they were annoyed so many of the patrons of the car boot sale seemed to be expecting things to be handed to them for next to nothing.

Given the greedy customers, I only sold two items Jason's broken digital camera for 50p and a panini press for £3. Not much but it was enough to get myself something to eat from the burger stand. The girls did better, my sister-in-law Diane sold lots of Jack's old toys and made about £70. Kirsty and Paula both let their kids do all the selling themselves and let them keep their earnings for pocket money. It was funny to watch them wheeling and dealing with customers and that alone was worth going for!

This Week's British TV Review

Deal or No Deal

I know Deal or No Deal is also on in the US, but in the UK the show is much different. There are no sleek briefcases being carried by scantily clad models. Instead, red boxes are carried and opened by future contestants. They all stay together in a hotel and get to know each other and appear on the show every day until it is their turn to take a shot at the big prize. Other than that the structure of the show is pretty much the same nail-biting excitement that makes Deal or No Deal a hit.

There is a different dynamic to the show since all of the contestants get to know each other so well and often strike up close friendships. As they go along in the game they give each other advice and encourage one another. I much prefer it to watching bimbos with briefcases.

I also really like the host Neil Edmonds who also hosts the British version of Are You Smarter That A Fifth Grader? (called Are You Smarter Than A Ten Year Old? here) and I think he is a great game show host. I definitely prefer him to Howie Mandel, who I think is a bit scary looking.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I've Got Some Good News and I've Got Some Bad News

Bad news first, the job opportunity I had lined up fell through. The investor dropped out so they are unable to pay any employees. I might still have an opportunity for some freelance work with them in the future if a new investor comes on, but for now I am back to the job search. I am okay, I had been sensing for some time they might have some financial trouble and I was concerned that I might start working and a few months later the money would dry up. I am glad it happened before I started working so I can get right back into the job search game.

One advantage is that granted I don't get a job within the next month or so I will probably be free while Jason is home for his pre-deployment leave. It will be great to spend whole days with him before he disappears for 6 months. Also, what had originally been a plan for a camping weekend we can now turn into a camping week.

I LOVE camping, some of my best memories with my friends have been while camping and it just brings out something really wonderful in people. Jason has never been camping so he is very apprehensive so I have to keep reminding him of the finer points of camping:

  1. Bathing is discouraged, as is shaving. This is the only time he will ever get away with not shaving while in my presence.
  2. Having a beer with breakfast is totally acceptable. While camping there is never a time that isn't appropriate for popping open a beer.
  3. Our cuisine will consist of all his favorites, steaks, burgers, hot dogs, sausages and jacket potatoes baked right in the hot coals of the fire.
  4. Comfort is paramount, so wearing scrubby jeans, holey t-shirts and thick comfortable jackets and sweatshirts is highly recommended.
  5. Most campsites have electric hookups, so we can bring along the laptop and watch movies at night if he would like.
  6. Camping is a dog-friendly vacation. Max will be able to enjoy the great outdoors with us.
I am especially excited because this will be my first camping experience in Britain, and Britain has all the makings of perfect camping conditions. There is tons of wilderness and beautiful scenery, which always makes a camping trip special.

Also, the climate is great for camping. There is nothing worse than camping in the heat especially after a humid day when your tent is a sauna. (This might be a good time to point out that I only consider it camping if you sleep in a tent, a motorhome or a cabin is cheating.) English weather is perfect for camping since you can count on it not getting too warm and you can comfortably keep yourself covered up and impervious to insects. The nights cool down to a comfortable sleeping temperature but they never get terribly cold in the summer either.

I am having some trouble finding a campsite. I have narrowed it down to the Lake District but of course there are countless campsites in the Lake District and I don't have a very good idea of which ones are the best. I'd like to get the camp site booked sometime soon, I don't know if camp sites fill up fast here but August is a busy holiday time so its best to book as early as we can.

Update: It turns out most campsites in Britain don't allow campfires. What is up with that? What good is camping without a campfire? What do you sit around? Anyway this actually works to my advantage as it drastically narrows down the number of campsites to choose from. Jason and I have decided on this place It fits all our requirements, great location in the Lake District, campfires and dogs allowed!

This Week's British TV Review:

The Gadget Show

This is the ultimate geek show, in fact I think they should change the name to that. In some ways its like Mythbusters but with (more) electronics. They take the latest gadgets and latest technology and put them to the test to see if they live up to their claims.

Usually they will have a theme for the week. For example one week they had an outdoor adventure theme where they tested high tech walkie talkie systems, rugged digital cameras and GPS navigation systems for hikers. They put the gadgets through the ringer in the unforgiving terrain of Iceland with tests like tethering the digital cameras to the back of a 4x4 and dragging them through a rocky lava field. It is amazing to see which gadgets really live up to their claims and which ones are a rip off.

They also will showcase some of the latest fun gadgets like portable media players, computer software and peripherals and gaming systems. If it is even remotely techy, they will check it out. There are several web episodes available online at

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Getting Rusty

It has been almost a year since I last had regular work. I should be starting my new job shortly but there have been a few more setbacks in opening the new office so for the meantime I am still at home, enjoying time with Max and the beautiful weather. 

Last night I was laying in bed worrying if my year long absence from the workforce has made my skills a bit rusty. I lay there awake trying to walk through the steps of creating a pivot table in MS Excel and some of the other more advanced functions of the MS Office applications that I used to be a whiz with. I also have noticed my spelling and grammar has become a bit lazy. I am cutting corners and not paying as much attention to these things as I used to. Its a really good thing that I have been blogging over the past year, otherwise I think my writing skills may have become truly appalling. 

Big news this week was GM filing for bankruptcy and announcing the closure of several plants, including the Orion Plant in my hometown of Lake Orion, MI which is being put on standby indefinitely. I had a very surreal moment the other night when I was watching Sky News. Every night they air CBS news coverage, and in their story about the GM plant closures they were actually interviewing a plant worker in Lake Orion. Its always exciting to see your little hometown on national news, but to think that British viewers were watching footage of my town was a completely different feeling. 

The GM crisis hits home just as much in Britain as in the US. The British division of GM, Vauxhall is also being effected by GM's financial problems. Vauxhall is being sold off to Magna Corporation as part of the liquidation which will start a new chapter in the history of one of Britain's most popular vehicle brands which has been part of GM since 1925. In fact, we currently own a Vauxhall Astra and Jason's first car was a Cavalier, a Vauxhall Cavalier of course!

Only time will tell how this crushing blow to the auto industry will affect both my hometown of Lake Orion and my new home country of Great Britain. 

This Week's British TV Review:

Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts is funny claymation show created by the same team behind Wallace and Gromit. The show features little vignettes of claymation animals giving their views on a certain topic in a kind of mock "man on the street" format. The characters are always funny and watching the show really puts a smile on my face. 

There is a US version of the show as well, but what I like about the British version is the range of accents. It makes it so entertaining because they have recurring animals some with very posh accents and others with strong Cockney or Geordie accents which just adds a whole new layer of humor. 

There isn't much else to be said, you really have to see it! My internet connection is a bit slow at the moment so I haven't been able to get up a YouTube clip for you, but will post one when my connection gets better!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Anglophile's Digest is moving... Thursdays.

I am sorry to suddenly move my posting to a new day, but with my schedule this works out better and I promise it will also mean BETTER POSTS. I want to give my full attention to this blog when I am writing it, and the beginning of the week for me is the most hectic time so its best to move it to later in the week.

Stay tuned... there will be a new post on Thursday!