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It was rainy outside. Really rainy. And I had exhausted all options for entertainment in the afternoon so thought 'Cinema.' The only films playing at the time I was there were Ali G and Crossroads. Yes, I've read the reviews of Crossroads but I bought tickets anyway. Confession time: Actually the film is very much like the pop princess herself- quite watch-able and entertaining in a kind of mindless way. The kind of entertainment that you feel almost guilty for secretly enjoying. The film is a generic road movie: three girls graduate from high school in the south and spend some time driving across the whole of america to end up in California to perform in a talent competition. They stay in abominable accomodation, jump on beds, get in their PJ's, laugh about old times and bond over the minibar. It was entirely predictable. Cheesy. And at various points of the film, I found myself almost pissing myself with laughter (particularly in the scenes where Britney is poised with pen to paper writing wonderful poems like any dreamy high school valedictorian does. Oh yes, she plays a valedictorian. Brilliant!). She sings a bit. Dances a bit. Lets loose with a miniskirt and bare midriff. Perhaps the film is best for those that it is catered for- presumably preteen girls (the kind who wear sparkly pink bangles and trot around in heels that are far too tall for them) and Britney fans. However, if it is rainy outside and you're desperate for a laugh, you could do worse than to see 'Crossroads.'
Visiting Selfridge's Foodhall in London is a real treat- It always makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. There is always the peculiar scent of fish when you walk in, but aside from that, it is a feast for the senses. There is a super deli with display cases revealing everything including Turkish, Japanese, fresh pasta, cheese, sushi, traditional English fare (sarnies, quiches), fresh fish on ice, hot pretzels, Chinese and Indian delicacies. Prices vary- you can buy a spring roll for example for about 80p. And of course mix and match various items to create a fabulous smorgasbord. One little secret that I've discovered is that at about 7pm every evening, they slash the price of sushi to about 50p per piece, which is an amazing saving. In addition, they also have a fresh produce section, a huge bakery (fresh baked cakes, biscuits, pies), lots of American goodies (like cake mix and bisquick), ethnic ingredients as well as fresh oils (truffle oil, chili oils, a range of novelty oils). They sell fresh flowers, juices, eggs and other normal supermarket goods (butter, milk, etc.) Smack dab in the centre, there is also a Yo Sushi, with its revolving conveyer belt and chairs all around so if you can't wait to indulge in the deli, you can pull up a seat and grab a few coloured plates of fresh sushi (plates start at about £2 per plate). All in all, well worth a visit.
For anyone who has ever swooned at John Cusack in a romantic comedy like High Fidelity or Say Anything, prepare yourself for Serendipity. He is once again in the leading man role, playing the character of Jonathan, a very sincere New Yorker who is going shopping for his girlfriend in a manic Bloomingdale's three days before Christmas. He spots the last pair of black cashmere gloves and grabs hold only to find a mysterious female stranger, Sara (played by the beautiful and far-too-skinny Kate Beckensale), has already gotten her mitts on the same pair. He offers the gloves to her, and to thank him, she treats him to a coffee sundae at her favourite cafe called Serendipity. From there, their chance meeting leads to a lovely evening skating under the stars. Both characters already have existing girlfriend/boyfriend but are enchanted by the chemistry they share. At the end of the evening, he asks for her number, she reluctantly gives it to her but the piece of paper gets blown up and away by a passing truck. She declares it must have something to do with the fates not wanting them to take their relationship to the next stage. But offers to give fate a small crumb - she will put her name and phone number in her copy of 'Love in the time of cholera' and then donate it to a second hand bookstore. Which one? She wouldn't tell. If they were meant for each other, he would easily stumble across this book and their paths would meet again. The film then leaps a few more years into the future where both characters are preparing to get married. I don't want to give all of the film away so will only say that things don't turn out quite the way you might expect. Sara, for one, has relocated to San Francisco, which makes another chance encounter less than likely. But the morale of the story is that fate works in mysterious ways. The performances are undeniably charming and include a lively supporting cast. Jonath
an's best friend Dean (played by Jeremy Piven) is a great ally and has some great lines ("Maybe it's all for the best. British women don't age well. She might have been a lucious thing when you met her- she might have been Baby Spice. But now, well, she could be Old Spice"). Jonathan's fiancee is played by Big's 26-year-old wife from Sex and the City. The father from "American Pie" plays the Jobsworth salesman at Bloomingdale's. If you are a fan of romantic comedies, you will be fated for "Serendipity."
I have been shopping at Muji for years and it remains a reliable favourite of mine. Go into Muji and you'll find it is all very functional, simple, classic, Japanese. Not too flamboyant- the shop seems to have a lot of blonde wood items, cardboard, brown things, clear plastic things. It sells stationery items, frames, housewares, furniture, and clothing with a reasonable price tag. Muji is actually a non-brand so if you buy a jumper there, you won't find a label. This presumably keeps costs down. What do I love most about Muji? It is particularly good for the essentials- you can buy some wonderful bowls (about a fiver each), plates, platters, trays, utencils, chopsticks (£2) all in muted cream tones or speckled cream colours in the houseware department. As far as furniture goes, there are sofas (£100+), tables, shelving, lots of storage ideas. Stationery is also very good here from pencil cases to notebooks, business card holders, file folders, etc. The men's and women's clothing are also very classic- jumpers starting at £25, ties, skirts, shirts, coats- minimalist chic at its best. I don't actually think there is another store like Muji in the UK (it is truly a one shop stop) and what it does, it does well.
Fancy imagining your life is so much more than the job that you do or the house you live in? Want to try to actually reach for your dreams, whether it be losing 100 pounds, being a mentor to neighbourhood kids or organising your closets? Then watch "The Oprah Winfrey Show." It is all about self-improvement from the beginning intro titles and song ("Run on" sung by Oprah herself) with visuals of a young boy hugging Oprah saying, "I love you" and her saying, "I love you too." It's easy to be cynical but actually Oprah is wonderful, inspirational and perfect daytime viewing. She has strayed far from the constraints of the typical chat show (a la Trisha and Maury Povich) and has actually dedicated her show to improving the lives of her viewers. Episodes include lifestyle makeovers, fashion shows (how to wear the latest fashions without spending a lot of money), celebrity interviews and the "Use your life" awards (in which she gives $100,000 to someone who has used their life to enrich the world around them. Bring a tissue.) They have great guests like Suzy Orman who deals with money and how families can practically improve their financial situation. There's Dr. Phil McGraw who dispenses tough love as he relationship counsels (and he does have a tell it like it is style that is remarkably refreshing. He doesn't coddle his guests and raises some important issues). There's the guy who wrote "Seat of the Soul" who talks about ways that we can connect with our inner soul. At the end of each programme, there is a five minute segment called "Remembering your spirit", where a guest will talk about ways they get in touch with their spirit, with some background about their life and situation. It is all very touching and practical. The main crux about the Oprah show is it shows that you don't need anything to be a better person. The answers are
inside and you only need to locate them. I think this is very powerful statement and after watching an hour of "Oprah," I really feel that all is right with the world. That i should be doing more to give back to the world around me. And for a programme to make me feel that way, it must be doing something right. I only wish that it was on in the evenings so I could watch it every day (rather than only days that I am home sick from work or when I remember to set the video)...
I started playing this game Smart Ass two weeks ago and have found it thoroughly addictive! The game is a trivia SMS game with attitude, which lets you play anywhere, anytime whenever you have a mobile (perfect for work since it's less visible than playing a game on your computer)! The process to start playing is simple. Go to http://www.23rdfloor.com/start_central_games_s.htm and register to play. You choose a username and enter your mobile phone number. Once you're registered, text message the word 'ass' to 23277 and you will be ready to begin. You'll get a text message with a trivia question with three multiple choice answers to choose from. There are four levels of questions (from easy to hard) and they are randomly generated. When you decide what your answer is (and there's no time limit), you reply in a text message with the answer (a, b, or c) and then wait to hear if you are right or wrong. You'll get another text message back almost instantly which will tell you if you are a buckaroo, a dumb ass, or may get some other funny retort. If you get the right answer, you'll get some points (based on what level of question it is) and if you get the wrong answer you'll lose points. Your score is kept on a leaderboard on the website so you can always check and see how you are doing. You can keep playing for as long as you choose. The questions will keep coming as long as you want to still play. Every Friday at 1:30pm, the 40 players with the top scores will play sudden death Smart Ass Showdown. They are given questions by text and people have a time limit to respond. The last person standing wins a new Sony Playstation 2. I haven't made it to the Showdown yet but am determined to do it yet! I challenge any of you to also try it out and see how far you get. :)
My man and I went away for a week to Cancun at the end of this September. I found a JMC deal on Thomas Cook's website - £589 for an all inclusive resort called El Pueblito in Cancun. After checking other deals in the Mediterranean and finding similar prices, we decided it would be fun to go the extra distance and come back with a different holiday experience. We're not sorry we made that choice. Cancun was beautiful. Clear, crystal green waters, white sandy beaches and back to back hotels in the Hotel Zone for as far as the eye can see. There are over 70 hotels in Cancun all along one strip of road- it is a bit like the Las Vegas strip only bigger. 85% of the tourists are American and of the Europeans who visit, the majority are Germans and French although more British visitors have been coming in recent years. Our hotel had a majority of British visitors. Unfortunately the majority of them were old yobbers, wearing football shirts and drinking pints. Not that there is anything wrong with that. In general though, Cancun attracts a good deal of couples as well as a lot of students and young people. Cancun has an amazing nightlife- tons of bars, clubs and restaurants, although many of them charge $5-$10 for one drink and dinner for 2 can cost about $60 (not bad compared to London prices). Be prepared for that. We generally stayed at the hotel for drinks and food since we had an all inclusive meal but after eating the buffet for a few days, we did wander out and found some fantastic Mexican restaurants. One place in particular is a must-visit: La Distileria, which is housed in an old tequila distillery. They have a live mariachi band in the evenings, they give free tequila shots after your meal and have an intriguing array of bowl-sized tequila cocktails, ample for 2-3 people. Cancun's coast is beautiful and the beach is never too busy. It is easy to find a secluded spot. It's also very nice that you don&
#39;t get harassed by merchants (quite a difference compared to my experiences in Barbados) selling on the beach and any one that is selling anything will go away if you simply say 'No gracias.' There is a pretty strong current in the water so isn't ideal for poor swimmers or children. The people of Cancun were very friendly and pleasant and everyone spoke English (they are particularly pleased when people do speak Spanish, however, so if you have a basic command of Spanish, use it). The minimum wage in Cancun is $4 a day so those in the tourism industry depend on their tips. Hence, tipping is a big thing here. You may find it strange at first but you do get some pretty fantastic service here as well. Overall, I wish that we could have spent more than a week here because there is an overwhelming number of things to do. Cancun has over a half dozen shopping centres, Aqua World, you can go scuba diving and see the second largest coral in the world, you can go horseback riding on the beach, and you can go inland to see Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the world and well worth a visit. However, if you are quite content to just sit on a lounger and watch the world go by, you can do that too in Cancun. Enjoy, compadres!
BT's incompetence never fails to astound me. How a telecommunications company has such a stronghold over the British people and yet can be so crap is really quite remarkable. Their latest debacle is their failure to receive my direct debit form twice. I filled them out- they say they never received it. When I gave them my name (I have a surname which is double-barrelled) the ignorant muppet told me that my name was too long. Could I shorten it, she asked me. Well, no, that is my surname. I doubt that I will change my name by deedpoll just to satisfy some ignorant ass working for BT. In fact, maybe that is why they are known as 'BT' rather than British Telecommunications- because the darn name is too long. Er. A bit insulting, I reckon. Anyway, aside from their sparkling customer service, their actual service is not very good. They make it very difficult for other telecoms to operate in their space- for example, when I changed my phone company from BT to World Online, I was without a phone line for over a month because BT took their sweet time, knowing full well that they were in the position to make their competitors' customers suffer. World Online could only tell me that the transition from BT to another telecom is unfortunately in the hands of BT and they have to complete all of the paperwork themselves to release their customers. Very tricky. I currently have two phone lines- one line is Telewest, which I think is a feasible alternative to BT since it doesn't use any of BT's lines. But unfortunately the second line remains a BT line (to avoid drilling or putting another cable through our rented accomodation.) If there was another alternative (and I am still exploring it), I will gladly leave BT.
I recently flew with JMC for the first time, on a holiday to Cancun, Mexico. Since it was a long haul flight (the journey was just over 10 hours), I imagined that the flight would be a nightmare. Cramped seating, poor food, etc. and it wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. However, I would say the experience was just fair overall. --CHECK IN-- The check in process was long, gruelling and painful. We arrived at Gatwick Airport 2.5 hours early (they recommend that you arrive 2 hours before departure time), but the queue was horrendous. It went beyond the cordoned off area and moved at a snail's pace. We waited in the queue for about 40 minutes. However, we were given pre-booked seats already so we had a window and aisle seat. --BOARDING-- Boarding started at about 45 minutes before departure. There were two staff members on hand to check through everyone's carry on luggage and body check. Since there were only two staff members, this process took a long time and by the end of it, I doubt they were being very thorough. Still, there were no delays to flight times, which was impressive. --SEATING-- The seating arrangement for our long haul flight was two seats on the side (one window, one aisle) and four seats in the middle. It turned out that we travelled on a Brittania Airlines going to Cancun and coming back to London. The seating was cramped but probably not much different from what I've experienced with British Airways or Continental. --SAFETY-- One thing I found distressing was just after take off, there was a thin stream of bluish gas coming from the wing. I've never seen this before and have travelled by plane a lot in my life. It scared a lot of passengers on our side (no one on staff was around to ask since the seat belt sign was on) but it stopped after the seat belt sign turned off. --IN FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT-- There were no seat back TV's, only big screen monitors. They
showed two films both ways. On the way there we saw "Shrek" and "Sleepless in Seattle." On the way back, we saw "Heartbreakers" and "The Family Man." There were also TV shows- "Third Rock from the Sun," and "Ab Fab" but nothing that was very worthwhile. --FOOD-- The food was actually very good going over to Cancun. I ordered a vegetarian meal and received a nice veggie korma with rice, potatoes, roll, and chocolate cake. On the way back, the food was really poor and made me and my partner very sick. I had a stuffed pasta, salad, hard roll, and vanilla sponge cake. --DRINKS-- The variety of drinks were pretty poor. No Coke, only Pepsi. Only juices on offer were tomato and orange. The wine was cheap and gross. All non-alcoholic drinks were 50p. Mini cheddars accompanied the drinks. --STAFF-- The staff were pretty helpful, friendly and seemed to be in good spirits. --ARRIVAL-- Arrival was smooth and we arrived only a few minutes late. Overall, the flight was okay. We did get a fairly cheap package holiday and you do get what you pay for. Don't go expecting luxury but it's pretty bog standard fare.
If I ever have a friend visiting from out of town or am meeting a big group of friends, I always instinctively think, "Belgo's!". I had heard about Belgo's here and there but it was only after reading about Belgo's here on Dooyoo that I decided to give it a try. I met up with 4 friends for a late dinner and have fallen in love with it ever since. The Zuid branch is particularly nice- a big cafeteria sized room with very high ceilings. It feels airy, unlike the Centraal one which feels fairly low at basement level. There are always people at Belgo's which is also a nice touch- you'll never worry that you'll be the only one there when you walk in. What is really shocking is that I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat moules frites and still am a converted Belgoian. For vegetarians, they always have a vegetarian starter or two and a vegetarian main course to choose from. I've had their onion tart- sweet and not too oniony or eggy with a flaky shell. Very tasty. I've had their eggs benedict (very odd pick for a dinner item, I must admit) but was tasty over some fries. I was particularly delighted by the grilled vegetable thing- it was aubergine and peppers, stacked high with a pesto base and some mozzerella cheese. Their Belgian mash is also a very nice touch (about £1.50) and has bits of cabbage in a very fluffy, creamy, tasty mashed potato. The moules frites come in a giant metal bucket. I can't say more than that since I don't eat them- (they scare me, did you know they have a part that looks scarily like a mouth?) The fries are crisp and golden and taste pretty good with the garlic mayo in the silver pots provided. They will also bring you some nice dark pumpernickel bread. It has a very hard crust but is soft and tastes slightly of honey. It is divine. The beer menu is also very impressive- I usually go for the Mais Pils which is a very light lager
on tap, but they also do some quirky beers like banana beer, pineapple beer, and raspberry beer, although the waitstaff generally warn you off of the dessert type beers, claiming they are too sweet. If you are going to go for a beer, the raspberry beer is your best bet, they say, although I have had their raspberry beer and found it putrid. You can also get name brand beers like Hoegaarden, if you are so inclined. If you have kids, kids eat free at Belgo's. AND they give kids crayons and a fun sheet with puzzles and some pics to colour in. Be wary of the toilet situation- very metal cubicles with men's and women's side by side. Inside each private cubicle, you'll find a toilet and sink. The door sticks with a magnetic hold and you can use the lock, although this is floor to ceiling metal and feels a bit claustrophobic because it is so small. One more note: if you are there between 6pm and 8pm, take advantage of the Beat the Clock menu. You can choose any of the main dishes along with a half pint of something and will be charged whatever time it is. Hence, if your waiter takes your order at 6:30, you will be charged £6.30. Moules frites typically start at £11 so it is a very good deal. They'll also give you a Beat the clock return visitors card- if you go there 4 times for the Beat the Clock menu, you'll get your fifth meal free. For the first time, I have good reason to not be fashionably late for dinner!
On weekends when I do some shopping in Covent Garden and am hankering for something aside from a soulless sarnie from M&S (would prefer not to stand on the street corner with plastic sandwich box in one hand, shopping bags leant up against my legs, scoffing sarnie in other hand while cars go by), it is nice to sit down and eat, without paying an arm and a leg. Soupworks provides a perfect place to rest your weary bones and fill up on some heartwarming substance: soup. The menu is vibrant and long with simple soups for the purist and very complex soups (pumpkin with parmesan is what I had last time) for the more daring. All are supplied, very hot, and come in three different sized cups, depending on how hungry you are. You pay a little extra if you want to eat in but it's a small price to pay if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden shoppers. I typically get the medium size and for about £2.50 get a nice meal. If you want additional toppings- croutons, or grated cheese for instance- those are extra, but also not really necessary. If you want to stave off the hunger, a plain medium soup is all you need. Bread rolls, fruit and cake can be purchased at an additional cost. The only complaint I have is the bottled SoupWorks water, which has a rather dodgy label and appears to me to be nothing more than bottled London tap water (I can't remember the exact phrase they use but something like distilled filtered water, which doesn't say much really). To pay £1 for some water that isn't really bottled from a mountain stream seems a bit extreme to me.
I have used Thomas Cook's website a few times before in searching for holidays but always found that their offers tended to be a bit pricey. Still they have a very impressive selection of holidays, both short and long haul, city breaks and sun holidays. In searching for a summer holiday, I once again tried Thomas Cook's website and this time pleasantly surprised to find some very good long haul deals to the Caribbean. I was specifically looking for an all-inclusive resort for 7 days for under 600 pounds and Thomas Cook found me a deal on their site: all inclusive resort in Cancun for 7 nights- a JMC deal, for 589 pounds per person. From there, I could book online, but between the hours of 10pm and 8am, you would need to call a Thomas Cook operator to book your holiday. A call-back button was also on the site so if you were interested, a sales rep could call you back. I called the Thomas Cook operator (it was an 0870 number) to book my holiday- and it took about 20 minutes in total to do so. The operator was very helpful and it was a very straightforward process since I quoted the accomodation code and flight code from the web page where I found the offer. They will send me a written confirmation in 7-10 days after my booking and the tickets 10 days before departure. Since I just booked my holiday today, I can't say whether or not this is a completely flawless process but I feel optimistic. I found an excellent deal and for that I am happy.
After being a PC convert, I decided to try something new- and who could resist the new Apple iBook? I intended to use it initially for its tote-ability: it was lightweight (i believe it weighs in at about 4 lbs) and I could take it with me to do some writing. But let's face it- who could resist its outer beauty. Sleek and sexy, the new cream coloured amalgamation is very zen. It's the quietest computer I have ever had and it has a wonderful feeling keyboard (if that makes sense...)- it feels good to punch the keys! After having it for about a week, I realise that the iBook is capable of so much more than just good writing. It is also an excellent multi-media player. The one that I bought came equipped with CD-RW and a programme called iTunes so I can burn my own CD's and compile my own music library. Furthermore, the iMovies programme enables me to download footage from my digital camcorder and compress them into small Quicktime files- perfect for emailing around to friends and family or burning onto CD. There is impressive surround sound which beats all of the PC laptops I have used. And for those who like to play games- it comes equipped with three very visual 3D style games. My favourite is a bug game called Bugdom, where you play a rolypoly that is trying to free all of the ladybirds. Very sweet. All in all, if you are in the search for something different, you would not do too badly getting an iBook. Prices start at around £1200 and go up depending on whether it comes with CD-RW, DVD-Rom, or both.
I've had my fair share of Frappucinos in my sorted past but nowadays, I don't normally go to Starbucks. Since I've lived in London, Starbucks shops tend to make me irritable because they are always filled with people who really don't clean up after themselves. The seating area is strewn with disgusting used mugs, plates with crumbs, soppy brown stained napkins, spilled sugar, the lot. Like a snapshot of what it must be like to live with a 2 dozen toddlers. Not a place you want to go to relax after a Saturday's shopping on Oxford Street. In addition to the place's untidiness, I find their crowning glory- their coffee drinks- at best, mediocre. I love their holiday drinks (which unfortunately are reserved for holiday time). Their gingerbread lattes and egg nog lattes are magical and really are like seasons greetings in a cup. But any other time of the year, they just seem overpriced, sugar-spun concoctions. The average medium sized coffee drink is already about £2.20 and to be honest, their beans taste too strong. Like dirt. Or maybe burned dirt. Their fabulous frappuccinos (which are even more expensive) are no longer very special- you can get that type of thing in most London Starbuckesque cafes (Coffee Republic, Caffe Nero, to name a few). The snacks are abysmal. The last time I went, I ordered a chocolate chip cookie the size of a saucer, which unfortunately tasted like dirt (and was an appalling £1.20ish). They also do brownies, cakes, and slices of millionaire's shortbread. They also have ready-prepared sandwiches with pretty ordinary flavours (think Boots or Sainsbury style sandwiches). But what annoys me most is the denseness of their staff. Let's face it, they aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. Last time I was in, I ordered a grande iced skinny latte. The cashier rang up my order and then someone spoke to him for a brief second. He turned back to me and said, "You ordered a venti i
ced mochaccino, right?" Uh, no...
How do I hate Le Grande Curl? Let me count the ways... It doesn't curl the second that you put it on. It doesn't curl minutes later. It never ever curls your lashes. Even when you curl your lashes with an eyelash curler and then put Le Grande Curl on, it doesn't hold the curl. It actually straightens it out. And it's blooming expensive compared to regular mascaras. I was so outraged when I bought Le Grande Curl that I sent an email to L'Oreal and explained that Le Grande Curl didn't make my lashes neither Grande nor Curled. They apologised profusely and sent me a cheque for the cost of the crap mascara. I reckon they already knew it was Le Grande mistake.