19 December 2013

25 Years Ago


Some of my friends have been posting photographs on Facebook of themselves twenty years ago. I wanted to join in, of course I did. Sadly I couldn't find the album from 1993. What I did find was this photograph of me in 1988, twenty five years ago.

Twenty five years ago, in this photograph, I was 18 and had just left school. I was waiting for my A-level results and discovering which university that would lead to. I had money, having worked 22-25 hours per week throughout the sixth form. I had a boyfriend and plenty of friends. This was taken at a house in London. We partied all weekend. I was slim and I had great hair. I mean, look at it. That is seriously great hair.

I look back at that day, that weekend, and I can clearly remember feeling invincible. The world was my oyster. I wonder now why I made the choices I did in the weeks and months following this magical moment in time. I can't help regretting many of my decisions. My life didn't turn out the way I'd hoped. I certainly didn't make the most of my potential.

Twenty five years later I am in a good place, despite the years of self-sabotage. I wonder if there is any of that 18 year old girl left in me? I think perhaps there is, a little. It's just a shame my hair won't go that big anymore though...




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4 December 2013

Three things that are wrong with the cinema




I love going to the cinema. Let me start by saying that, otherwise the rant that follows has no context.

I've always loved films. When I was single I regularly went to the cinema on my own. Sometimes it was just me in the cinema. Well, me and a massive bag of Revels.

When I went travelling I often enjoyed sitting down for a few hours during the day. One particularly memorable film experience was 'Best in Show'. I saw this is Christchurch, New Zealand, on a rainy Tuesday. There were a dozen people in the cinema, mostly pensioners, we all sat at the back. The film, as you would expect from Christopher Guest, is hilarious. What started as a few little chuckles here and there quickly escalated into belly laughs from everyone, and a wonderful shared experience.

These days I mainly see children's films, on a Saturday morning. There's not much to say about that, other than it's a sit down in the warm.

Recently I did see David Tennant in the live RSC production of Richard II. That was amazing. I thoroughly recommend this cinema option as the next best thing to actually being in the audience at Stratford. Again, it's the shared watching that enhances the experience.

This week I was chatting with my oldest friend (well, you know, she's not old, we've been friends for 34 years) and we arranged an impromptu trip to the cinema to see Philomena. Another excellent film, I'd give it a three hanky rating.

This brings me on, however, to what is wrong with the cinema today.

1 - Trailers
When did film trailers change? What happened to a teaser, to whet the appetite? Now you see the whole film. You see all the explosions, all the jokes, all the sad bits, all the spoilers. And it does spoil the film for me. I'd rather not see the trailer. Andy and I watch a lot of DVD's through our Lovefilm subscription and after each trailer we usually say, 'Well, I've seen that, no need to bother watching the DVD'. Last night we saw the trailer for Star Trek: Into Darkness. We've seen the film and were amazed how much of the action is in the trailer. Are trailers for the lowest common denominator? Will people only see a film is they know exactly what they are getting? I don't like it.

Dear People Who Make Trailers,
Please please please go back to proper teasers. You're putting me off your films by showing me the whole story.
Thanks,
Sandy with a brain.

2 - Screening Times
This is my biggest bugbear. I'm freelance. In between working, school volunteering and PTA duties I occasionally like to squeeze in a little me time. Every week I look at the cinema times in the hope that there's a film I can watch, that finishes in time for the school run. This hardly ever happens. Andy has a day off before the children break up. We'd like to see the new Hobbit film at the cinema, but the showings start at 12.40. That's too late for us. Instead we'll wait for it to come out on Lovefilm and move the sofa closer to the television to watch it. It's not the same.

Dear Cineworld,
Please please please show more films that finish at 2.30. Think of all the stay at home or work at home parents who would skive off and spend their money with you during the day.
Thanks,
Sandy with time and money to spend with you.

3 - The Price of Snacks and Drinks
Nothing new here, snacks and drinks have always been a ridiculous price. If cinemas charged a reasonable amount we wouldn't all pop to Sainsbury's beforehand to buy our family-sized bags of Revels.

Dear Cineworld,
Me again. £2.80 for a bottle of water? You robbing so and so's.
Thanks, for nothing,
Sandy.

Do you agree?



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Saving Money on your Energy Bills with Hive

This is a sponsored post, but I've enjoyed researching it and I think Hive looks like an exciting and worthwhile project.



You know when you're buying a new car, you see that car everywhere? It's the same with Hive. I was asked to take a look at it and now I see it everywhere. I even had  a letter about it today.

What is Hive?

Hive is a new way to control your hot water and heating remotely. If you're away from home, you can use an app on your smartphone to tell your heating to cool it for a while. You'll never have to heat an empty house again. Coming home? Simply use the app to crank up the heating before you get there and by the time you get home - bingo - lovely warm house. Similarly, if you're out walking and would love a long hot soak in the bath, simply turn on your hot water remotely so that there's a tank waiting for you as soon as you get home (and have drunk your hot chocolate).

I love the sound of this. Our heating and hot water are currently both run off a timer and a thermostat. This is actually quite inefficient. I wonder how much we would save on our family hot water and central heating bills if we managed them better? Hive claim that an average family could save £150 per year on their heating bills. What could you do with an extra £150 per year?

How does Hive work?

Hive offer a professional installation by one of their engineers that takes around an hour. Hive runs off your existing heating system. There are three main parts in Hive Active Heating: the wireless receiver, thermostat and hub. The hub plugs into your broadband router so that your thermostat can be connected to the internet allowing you to operate it from your online dashboard

How much does Hive cost?

You can buy Hive today for £199. This investment would pay for itself pretty quickly.

I'm tempted to give it a go. I hate waste and I dislike paying my energy bills, so I'd happily kill two birds with one stone.



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3 December 2013

How to make the perfect cup of tea


I think I may have hurt Andy's feelings today, but I couldn't go on living a lie.

I wasn't rude, I didn't shout, neither did I call him a name. I was just honest.

I've written before about my dislike of rudeness dressed up as 'telling it like it is'. I prefer to spare people's feelings if I can, but sometimes you just have to come out and say it.

Andy and I were having another discussion about the science of making tea. Don't get me wrong, it's not a major topic of conversation chez Calico, but I'm a little fussy when it comes to hot beverages. I commented that he doesn't always draw fresh water each time he boils the kettle. He said that his tea can't be that bad as I don't complain. I told him that was true, but also that I have to pour some of the tea he makes me down the sink as it is undrinkable.

I know. What a horrid thing for me to say.

He'll get over it, of course, but I'm not expecting many hot drinks to be made for me for a while.

So, how do I like my tea (just in case you're brave enough)?

  • Use only new, fresh water in the kettle
  • Pour boiling water onto the tea bag
  • Let it brew for a few minutes
  • Add a tiny drop of skimmed milk

See - I'm not that fussy, after all. I'm NOT!

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I wrote this post ages ago, but hadn't published it because it's a bit, well, grumpy. Today I was having a chat with Michelle from The American Resident and she admitted that she doesn't like making tea for people. When they're as fussy as I am, frankly I'm not surprised. I seldom accept a cup of tea if I'm at a friend's house because I start to twitch if they don't pour the water the second the kettle boils (they never do). If they put too much milk in my tea I want to cry. It's safe to say that if I go to your house I will ask for coffee (and then flinch as you pour the water the second the kettle boils). Hey, T from Mummy Barrow, you of the tea linky, how do you make tea?


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Review: Lucky Voice App




Earlier this year I reviewed Lucky Voice Online Karaoke. It was a huge hit with my family.

Now there is a new mobile karaoke app available for iPhones and iPads. The app is free to download and comes with 25 songs. These songs will be refreshed weekly. This week's songs include a mixture of karaoke classics (think 'Summer Nights' from Grease and Elton John and Kiki Dee's 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart') to songs from right now, such as 'Somewhere Only We Know' by Lily Allen.

If that's not enough for you, you can subscribe for as little as £1.49 per month and have access to 8,500 songs. If you already have a Lucky Voice account, as we do, you can also access this through the app.

If you're out and about and fancy a bit of karaoke action, then you can be singing along to your Lucky Voice app within seconds. Of course, by out and about I mean in the pub...

The app is great fun. It's the same high quality karaoke experience you would expect from Lucky Voice.


Disclosure: this app is free from the iTunes store. I agreed to take a look at it, and write about it on my blog, in addition to my original review of  Lucky Voice Online Karaoke.

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