Wednesday 20 April 2011

The Royal Wedding Drinking Game

I am beginning to regret my rejection of the Royal Wedding after reading the latest edition of Glamour magazine which contains the best article ever in the history of women's trash magazines.  They have come up with a drinking game to play whilst watching the event that sounds so fun, I could cry that I will be on an airplane during the nuptials.  I couldnt resist sharing a few of my favourite rules to the game, but you'll to pick up the mag for the full game (it's the one with Cheryl Cole on the cover, but don't let that put you off - you can draw mustaches on her after purchase).

Glamour reminds us that the Wedding is at 11am, but don't let that stop you from playing along...

Kate looks a bit overwhelmed =  1 dainty sip of Cava

A horse does a whoopsie (that's British for takes a poop) on the pavement = shot of Sambuca

It's Prince Edward! = Yawn and get someone to pass you a strong drink of you choosing 

Celebratory swig for each time Kate is described as "radiant" and DON'T put your foot through the telly. 

Prince Phillip looks as if he might be thinking something racist = 1 shot

Wills' bald spot on TV again = Open the tequilla 

Spy Prince Harry psyching out Wills by pelvic thrusting during this vows = Shotgun a Bacardi Breezer

And my personal favourite - When you see Ben Fogel, last to shout "Fogel alert!" drinks whatever's in their glass.

And the fun doesnt stop there - Glamour has also published a fun game of "Guest List Bingo" as seen below.

This wedding could be a good time after all. Enjoy yourselves! I'll be back when its all over.

Monday 18 April 2011

The Ranch Dressing Fixation

What is it with American expats and ranch dressing?  I like a good splodge of ranch just as much as the next person and will choose ranch as my dip of choice for french fries, mozzarella sticks, carrots, pizza crust and just about anything else dippable, but I am continually amazed at how many expats act as if they've lost an arm when they lose the ability to buy ranch dressing at their local grocery store.
Photo: Facebook

Not surprisingly, ranch dressing has been the most popular salad dressing in America since 1992 and can be found in just about any restaurant and any store that sells food of any kind.  An American who has lived in America their whole lives couldn't dare to imagine a day the creamy goodness wasn't readily available... Until they move to the UK....

Here's what happens:   A happy expat gets up the courage to visit his/her local supermarket (as discussed previously here) ready to stock their undersized UK fridge with a few necessities and head to the condiment aisle.  Ketchup? "Check".  Mustard? "Where's the French's bright yellow stuff? That’s ok. I can do without the mustard"   Ranch dressing? ....  Ranch dressing? .....  The salad dressing shelves are nearly bare in comparison to the heaving shelves they are used to in America and there is NO RANCH DRESSING.  Gasp!  Bring on the heaving breathing, the heart palpitations and try not to faint.   Sit down while I tell you that it's true - 99% of grocery stores in the UK will not sell ranch dressing.   Do not panic.  You will survive without it.  And more importantly, it doesn’t make this a bad place because it's natives do not enjoy the fatty (15 grams of fat in 2tbs) creaminess that is ranch dressing.  

My unsolicited advice: You know that saying "when in Rome"?  Well, if you're a recent expat or thinking of making the move, you're in (or will be in) "Rome" now and don't make it harder on yourself by dwelling on the unavailability (is that a word?) of silly things like ranch dressing, or Triscuts, or Paul Newman salad dressing or whatever you're having trouble finding UK. Have a bit of fun trying out local alternatives or if you must have your ranch fix, order it from one of the very many American food vendors (my favourite is this one).  Remember, there is more to life than popular American condiments, no matter how delicious and versatile they may be.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

The Grand National - By the Numbers

People have been racing horses in the UK as early as 200AD when Roman soldiers organized casual races in Yorkshire.* By the 18th century, during the reign of Queen Anne, breeding of thoroughbreds strictly for the purpose of racing began and continues today.

There are 62 race courses in the UK and countless numbers of betting shops where people placed over £12 billion (with a B) in bets in 2009.

One of the most biggest races of the year is the Grand National which is watched by over 600 million people world wide and asks a field of 40 horses to run at top speed (which is between 35-40mph for the average race horse) AND jump over 30 hurdles for four and a half miles.  That's right - FOUR and a half miles of running and jumping.

Now for some math... what does 40 horses + 30 hurdles + 4.5miles equal?

Answer: Twenty dead horses.

Since 2000, there have been 20 deaths (mostly due to broken necks) at the Grand National, including two at the lastest race which was run last weekend.  Note: this is just the Saturday headline race, not the other races in the annual three day event at Aintree.  There is also a jockey fighting for his life in a medically induced coma after being thrown from his horse.

The field is too crowded, the race is too long with too many jumps and despite the 150 specialist staff at Aintree who are supposedly dedicated to making the race "as safe as possible", the risk is still too high.

I appreciate hearing that the organizers of the race are taking the deaths of the horses seriously and that they aim to reduce risk in the future, but I cant help but think that it will take 20 jockey deaths (and who knows how many more horse deaths) before any changes are actually made to this sporting tradition.

I don't know if it will actually make a difference, but if you'd like to add your name to Animal Aid's petition to ban the Grand National, you can do so here.   Or if you'd prefer to petition to keep the race going, but make it safer, sign this one.

*says Wikipedia, anyway.  Don't hold me to it.

Friday 8 April 2011

Oh the Places You'll Go: Longleat House and Safari Park

Longleat House
Looking for a quality day out?  Stately homes are nice, but really once you've seen one, you've kind of seen them all, don't you agree?  We need a stately home with a little something extra... enter Longleat House and Safari Park.  The house is an Elizabethan stately home near Warminster in Wiltshire, but it also just so happens to have a Safari Park on the grounds and is a MUST VISIT for anyone.

The house is currently the residence of the Alexander George Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath (herein known refered to as Lord Bath).  You know when people say that British people can be quite"quirky"? This is the kind of guy they are talking about!
Lord Bath in his signature colourful vests
He has a signature style (as seen above), a love for primary colours (showcased in his artwork displayed at Longleat House) and in Charlie Sheen style, Lord Bath has a polyamorous lifestyle.  Instead of "godesses" he has "wifelets" (over 70 of them if you believe his count in 2002!) and one legal wife who is apparently accepting of his lifestyle choice.  Take a look at his own website... seemingly developed by him personally (or a really bad web designer).

The house itself a worth a visit and the chance of running into Lord Bath whilst there is definitely reason to go, but the real reason is the drive-thru Safari Park. It was managed by Lord Bath until 2010, when the reigns were handed over to his son, keeping the first-ever safari park outside Africa in the Thynn family.

Highlights include:

Seals in the lake (clearly this is on a boat, not in the drive-thru bit).  They give you fish to feed them!
Monkeys!  This is the best part.  As you can see, the monkeys climb on your car and cause general mischief and endless entertainment.  Word to the wise:  If you have a very nice car, skip this part.  The monkeys tend to rip windshield wipers (and anything else they can manage) off the car.  We saw a few chomping on antennas and even one rip the rubber seal thing off someones roof.  Luckily, my car escaped unscathed... in this area at least...

After going through some hippos, zebras, vultures and even lions and tigers, you'll come to the wolf enclosure. We spotted some wolves fighting over what looked like an animal pelt (no flesh, just the fur) and they were really riled up -growling and snapping at each other.   One wolf won the fight and ran off with the pelt and the others came to inspect the passing cars.  When one came to our car, he sniffed the mirror (seen in the poor quality photo below) for a second and then bit it with his giant wolf mouth!
Thankfully, Volkswagen was prepared for this when they designed the wing mirrors and it simply snapped in the middle, but just as easily snapped back together (Take note Volkswagen marketing department: VW Polo - good gas mileage, roomy interior, and tough enough to withstand a wolf attack.  Sales will go through the roof! )

What are you waiting for?  Borrow a friend's car and head to Longleat! You owe me one for this recommendation.