Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Good Shopping Guide

a note to my US peeps: This is a book aimed at people in the UK. I am sure there must be a US equivalent, but I could not find one. All I ever found on my searches was "good places to shop" with lots of fashion tips. sigh.....

The Good Shopping Guide: Certifying the UK's Most Ethical Companies and Brands (Ethical Company Organization)
The Good Shopping Guide

I recently won a competition where the prize was a copy of the 10th anniversary edition of The Good Shopping Guide and I have been pouring over it with great interest. This is a fairly comprehensive guide to the most ethical--or unethical--companies and brands. 700 consumer brands are ranked and compared in detail in a variety of categories.

There are eight categories that are ranked which include Good Home and Office, Good Energy, Good Travel, Good Money, Good Food and Drink, Good Health and Beauty, Good Fashion and Good Network. This covers everything from appliances to cleaning products, from banks to food for people and animals and much more. 

Each category is ranked with either a green circle for the top rating where they have not found any criticisms or negative records, an empty red circle for the middle rating that indicates there are some criticisms or negative records and lastly a red circle for the bottom rating which indicates the highest level of criticism or negative records. I found this easy to see and interpret at a glance. Each brand name also had its parent company listed as well which was very helpful. We already  try to boycott a few companies such as Nestle and Proctor and Gamble and I was shocked to learn that one of the products we sometimes buy was owned by P&G! I thought I knew everything they owned.

The first category that is ranked is the environment. This includes whether the company publishes an environmental report about what they are doing that shows concrete targets that they plan to do in the future to minimise their impact. Companies who fail to publish a report get the red circle and those whose reports are inadequate are awarded an empty red circle.

The environment category also includes whether the company is involved in the design, construction or operation of nuclear power stations, radioactive waste handling and/or the mining, processing or reprocessing of uranium. Involvement in any of these will earn the company a red circle.

The environment category also cover such topics  Genetic Modification (GM), organic farming and use of rainforest timber. It was very easy to see what companies were concerned about the future and not just the making of a profit in the present.

The second category is animals. This includes animal welfare concerns where the company must be seen to be investing heavily in developing animal testing alternatives as well as lobbying to get them validated and to postpone the search for new ingredients and use the 8,000 established ingredients until non animal tests have been validated in order to be see to be behaving responsibly. In the Health and Beauty section only companies that have been approved by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) receive a green circle.

Animals also includes whether the company supports a meat free lifestyle. All of their products must be either vegetarian or vegan as well as cruelty free as far as animal testing goes. According to the guide if eggs must be used they must be free range. This category applies to only the Food and Drink and Health and Beauty sections. A green circle indicates that one or more of the company’s food or drink or personal care products is approved by either the Vegetarian Society or Vegan Society.

The third category is people.  This includes human rights which covers sweatshop labour in the developing world, unsafe factories and enforced overtime. Companies are penalised with a red circle if in the last 5 years they have been implicated in human rights abuses (either through their supply chain, or connected to places with proven links to human rights abuses or through their economic presence in Burma.)

The category of people also includes armaments. A middle rating represents involvement in the manufacture or supply of nuclear or conventional weapons and a bottom rating indicates the business was listed as one of the world’s 100 biggest arms producing companies in 2007 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI.)  This is the one that really surprised me and it has made me consider some brands that we buy because I do not want to support the “seeds of war.”

Next in the people category is political donations. This was included because the Ethical Marketing Group who produced the book believes that corporations should not fund political parties. A middle rating indicates the company has donated  more than £10,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) to a political party in the last 5 years and a bottom rating is earned by donating more than £50,000 (or equivalent in foreign currency) to a political party in the last 5 years.

The last categories in people are fair trade and irresponsible marketing. I found this section the most eye opening as it contained much information that I was not aware of about different companies.

Other categories include boycott call where the company will earn a red circle if it has an ongoing boycott of either the brand or the company or public record criticism where the company will earn a red circle if there have been more than one serious criticism in the last 5 years from NGOs such as Human Rights Watch or Friends of the Earth.

In the Good Money section banks are judged as to whether or not they have written off third world debt or provide ethical investments.

Overall, I would say this is a fantastic guide for breaking down important issues and helping a person to “search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war” (Advices and Queries 31.) My only complaint is that it seems to be slightly inconsistently organised. Each section has a chart that ranks each product or company. Some of the charts are in alphabetical order by the name of the brand or company whilst others are in order by rank with those receiving the highest numerical scores based on the coloured circles at the top and the lowest ranking scores at the bottom. I could not figure out why some were alphabetical and some were numerical and it caused a bit of frustration. But I felt it was well worth it to struggle through that bit as the information contained therein was excellent.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to spend their money wisely whilst making a contribution to a better world.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Animals WERE harmed in the making of this movie

I got this information from an article I read on yahoo-- and was shocked and sickened by it.  I expected this sort of thing happened in the past, but was horrified to see how recent some of these films were. I am so glad there are regulations to try and stop this sort of needless cruelty.
Animals WERE harmed in the making of this movie
The credits are almost over and a familiar phrase flashes across the screen: “No animals were harmed in the making of this movie”. The words are so familiar they have become part of popular culture.

The American Humane Association is the only organisation allowed to bestow the disclaimer on a movie after trade-marking the first four words. They’ve been working to ensure animal actors – such as Uggie the dog in ‘The Artist’ or the equine thesps in ‘War Horse’ – have been treated humanely on movie sets since 1940, when a horse was needlessly killed during the filming of ‘Jesse James’
They monitor as many films and TV shows as possible – though the trend towards shooting outside the US means more and more big-budget Hollywood films escape their jurisdiction.
On-set observers monitor scenes featuring animals and give the film a rating based on how well they are treated. Those judged “Outstanding” now get the famous credit, while the films which are merely “acceptable” are allowed to put “American Humane Association monitored the animal action” .

Projects are rated “unacceptable” when film makers ignore safety rules and animals get hurt or even killed. The rating has been extremely rare in recent years and can only be found on a handful of films, but some are extremely famous or surprising.
Snow Buddies (2008)
The film: A straight-to-DVD sequel to Disney’s ‘Air Buddies’, about five mischievous golden receivers. Not a classic.
What happened? Basically, five puppies died on set. Disney unknowingly used underage and ill dogs during production, and several had to be put down after contracting parvovirus. Dogs used on movie sets must be at least eight-weeks-old, and these weren’t. The breeder who supplied the poor creatures was charged with fraud for falsifying health documents. Not the best PR for a Disney flick.

Speed Racer (2008)
The film: Misjudged attempt by Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) ‘The Matrix’ Wachowski to bring animation ‘Speed Racer’ to the big screen.
What happened? This notorious flop was a shambles behind the camera as well. Firstly, five piranhas died for unknown reasons on set. Then one of two chimps playing comedy relief ape Chim-Chim bit the hand of a young actor standing in for Paulie Litt (Spritle Racer) for no reason. Finally, towards the end of filming, the chimp’s trainer hit him “in an uncontrolled impulse”.

The Lord of the Flies (1990)
The film: Duff adaptation of William Golding’s classic book about boys stranded on a desert island.
What happened? The AHA doesn’t go into much detail here, but apparently puffer fish were killed while shooting scenes in Jamaica. No laws were broken, but it was still a needless loss of animal life.

Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
The film: Mental Nicolas Cage effort; he plays an advertising exec who thinks he’s turning into a vampire. Famous because…
What happened? …it features a scene where Nic’s character eats a live cockroach. He did this for real, and then did another take. The AHA was not impressed.

One Man’s Hero (1999)
The film: Forgotten historical drama about Irish gang the St Patrick’s Brigade – who caused trouble in Mexico back in the day. Stars Tom Berenger.
What happened? The AHA weren’t on set for this, but they reckon (after several anonymous tip-offs) that horses were tripped with wires during production - which is illegal. The producers did not co-operate and - even worse - slapped the ‘No animals were harmed’ disclaimer on the credits without permission. Speaking of which…

The King’s Speech (2010)
The film: Oscar-winning yarn about King George VI and his stutter.
What happened? We're almost certain no critters were actually harmed in this, but the film got into bother for the unauthorised use of their famous credit. The AHA weren’t on-set and threatened legal action. Producers said they didn’t realise the phrase was copyrighted. This is rated ‘not monitored’.
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
The film: Classic almost mute fantasy flick starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the buff warrior-king.
What happened? Serious abuse of horses throughout the film – at one point a nag falls over pointed spikes. It was shot in Spain, which (at the time) had rather lax laws about animal welfare. The AHA were not allowed onset but organised a protest outside cinemas on its release. Sequel ‘Conan the Destroyer’ was also deemed unacceptable for camel abuse.

First Blood (1982)

The film: First and by-far the best ‘Rambo’ film that starred Sylvester Stallone as a mentally damaged Vietnam war vet.
What happened? An animal care official on set saw rats burnt by an actor, thrown against a wall and “squeezed” by production staff. Apparently the director and crew were laughing at the abuse. Not nice.
Fast & Furious (2009)
The film: Lesser instalment of petrol-head action franchise.
What happened? There’s a cockfighting scene. It was shot in Mexico – where the blood sport is legal – and the film’s producers wouldn’t pay for the AHA to fly out and oversee the sequence (according to their site anyway). After watching the footage they reckon the birds may have actually been fighting - in violation of their rules - and invited the public to complain to studio Universal.

Apocalypse Now (1979)
The film: Trippy Vietnam War epic starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando.
What happened? The finale saw Willard (Sheen) hack Kurtz (Brando) to death while natives sacrificed a water buffalo with machetes. The footage of animal slaughter was obviously real and it got the ‘unacceptable’ rating.
Heaven’s Gate (1980)
The film: Nihilistic western starring Christopher Walken that is infamously Hollywood’s biggest-ever flop.
What happened? All sorts - and most of it horrible. Without going into too much detail, there were cockfights, chicken decapitations and a horse was “blown up”. One owner sued for the injuries his horse suffered and the case was settled out of court. An upshot was that the nastiness prompted Hollywood unions to contractually authorise the AHA to oversee animal actors, so at least the beasties didn’t suffer in vain. Another reason not to watch a truly awful film.
If you want to find more film which were unacceptable then go to the American Humane Society website at

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Kiss my Grits

One thing that we rediscovered on the Voyage of the Damned back to Louisiana was our love for that old nursery food classic--GRITS. We were looking for things we could eat easily in a hotel room and this hit the spot. We discovered that you could boil water in the complimentary coffee pot (be sure to run a cycle with water to clean it out first otherwise all your food tastes like day old coffee) and then use it heat instant stuff like oatmeal and grits. Mmmmm…grits.

They were so good I could not believe how flavourful they were. They were buttery and savoury with just water (I know--I checked to see if there was any hidden dairy making them all butter and scrummy but there wasn’t! pure vegan corny goodness!) and if you added a sprinkle of nutritional yeast cheesy flakes….wowza! Cheeze Grits. Sadly, grits seem to be a thing of the south and you cannot buy them in the shops here much to my dismay and utter sobbing withdrawal upon our return home. We did discover you could buy them online here from a website aimed at ex-pats but the postage was outrageous. Like £5 postage for a £2 box of grits. So what’s a hungry Spidergrrl to do??? Ask her mummy of course!

My mum came through beautifully by sending us 20 packets of grits through the post as our Christmas gift. I was shocked to see that what had cost her probably £4 to buy had cost her $14 in postage, but I am eternally grateful. That kinda puts my sob story about postage to shame, really.

Therefore as there were only 20 bags (only 20 bags, how will we live???) we are rationing them as a special treat--one packet allowed once a week as a special treat. I normally do mine on a Saturday but last week I had a cold and felt all yuck and needed some warm grit-y goodness to make it all better. 

If you live in the south I urge you to try GRITS again. If you love me and live in the south you might send me a care package with some every now and again. If you don’t live in the south and don’t know what I’m talking about--never mind. But you don’t know what your missing. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Doctor Who (what an) Experience

We were gifted at Christmas with tickets to see the Doctor Who Experience in London from Spiderman's sister and her husband and let me tell you--we had the time of our lives. Thanks Leila and Gary! I had a small worry we'd be the only people there with no children, but clearly there were lots of geeks like us just having a good ole nerdy time.

We had seen some of the Dr Who exhibits of costumes and props from the shows in both Cardiff and our own home town museum that managed to score an exhibition a few years back. But this was the exhibits (expanded to include up to date costumes and props--the tree people from the Christmas episode but also past retrospectives of how the console of the TARDIS has changed over time and costumes of all 11 doctors.) But then there was the EXPERIENCE! A hands on, interactive, scary roller coaster ride of fun!!!

It began with a film using clips from the show and the crack in time that appeared on Amy's wall and then the screen magically spilt in the shape of the crack and we entered through the time crack to find that the Doctor had been captured and imprisoned on a second version of the Pandorica and had tried to use his sonic screwdriver to tranmit a message to Amy and Rory for help, but it malfunctioned and instead captured a bunch of "shoppers" meaning us.

We were the ones who had to save him. he tried several times to signal for the TARDIS and then like magic it appeared (from behind a scrim--having been hidden due to clever theatrical lighting--knowing this didn't ruin the enjoyment though!) and then all 30 of us had to pile into the TARDIS which was so cleverly constructed it really did look like we wouldn't fit--but those of us who know, understand the TARDIS looks like this on the outside:

But like this on the inside:

We all crammed in and the kids got to use the controls guided by the Doctor to fly the TARDIS (and the floor moved about and there was smoke and sound effects!) but she crashed and then we had to quickly run out down a scary corridor like the ones they were trapped in on the planet of the Weeping Angels. We ended up on Dalek ship and were attacked by those new power ranger looking Daleks who scanned our human DNA and found us unacceptable--particularly when it was discovered we were friends of the Doctor and they tried to exterminate us with lasers but then another dalek ship came and fought with them over racial (species-al?) purity and we were able to run and make our escape.

Then we were given some radiation shield goggles which turned out to be 3D glasses--which have come a long way from the crap red and blue ones of my youth. We saw the pandorica open and the Doctor escape but then he had to fight in space all his mortal enemies in 3D!!!!!!!
Daleks (see above), Cybermen and Weeping Angels all flew at us in 3D making me duck and dive and have to hold on to Spiderman's arm! the Cybermen were shooting lasers at us:

The Weeping Angels--who are stone when you are looking at them and the moment you blink leap forward at you were advancing (and scaring the crap out of me)

It was brown trouser time but the Doctor saved the day and we were safe once again. I had such a wonderful time and I said to Spiderman, "When I was a child I would have really believed this was happening!" To which he kindly replied, "When you were a child?" Which is true. I was totally into it--as much as an kid (and perhaps more than the jaded munchkin I overheard talking to his very excited dad) and I really felt like I was part of the action--like I was there making it happen.

Maybe I really was.

The experience was the best bit, hands down, but the exhibits were great as well. My second favourite thing was overhearing a conversation of a small lisping child to his parents, "Look! Thyberman headth through hithtory!"

What an awesome, unforgetable experience.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

365 2012

I am taking the challenge to get rid of 365 unwanted things in 2012. Will you join me?  The game is to send on its way one item for every day of the year so that at the end of the year life will be 365 days lighter. I am not sure I will be able to get all the way to 365 as we live fairly simply, but already I have been able to get rid of 30 items. I thought about amending the challenge to get rid of 52 things --one for every week in the year-- but having already managed to locate 30 things I felt sure I could rise to the challenge and simplify our lives even more. And like the geek I am, I’m keeping a list on the computer to keep track of what items I have let go.  So far I have given away things as big as a bread machine and a panini maker we no longer use as I am gluten free down to as small as some cardamom seeds I bought for a recipe and then didn’t like so gave away to someone who loves that spice.

I got the idea from this blog  . Her challenge also states that for every new item she acquires, 2 must go. Pretty harsh stuff. But then we live by that rule in many ways. In the past we just bought without thinking and when the shelves filled up we bought more shelves instead of really weeding what we had. At one point we had something like 27 drinking glasses for 2 people. And we let every one get dirty before we did the washing up because that is the sort of people we are, sadly. Now we have a set amount of storage in our small flat and when new things come in, old ones must leave to make room. This is how we happened to get rid of 16 DVDs recently--we got 2 box sets and so something had to go--and you know it wasn’t as hard as I thought.

  I also agree with her about quite conscious of three Green Rs--Repair, Re-use, Recycle. I don’t plan on just chucking 365 things away because as Jonathan Porritt says: There is no such place as Away.   I will consider prayerfully and mindfully each item and see if there is a use for it. Some items are beyond repair and must be recycled. Many items still have life in them and can go to a charity shop. Some things can go to someone I know (like the cardamom seeds) and make them happy. Even scraps of fancy paper that I can’t use can go to a crafty friend to keep her daughter occupied with some free art materials.

Some of it may just to help me get rid of storage containers I have been hoarding. I compulsively save glass jars for storage, but sometimes never use the ones I have. A newlywed friend came for lunch and remarked how much she liked my spice jars on display in my kitchen as she has none and all her spices are in bags. I buy larger jars and then refill into smaller jars that fit into my kitchen space so I have many spice jars that are empty and awaiting a reason to be used. This way I can save them up and give them away so she can refill her spices. A win- win situation. We also tend to save the plastic containers our raisins come in--they have a good snap on lid and are useful for all manner of storage. But the other day I discovered I had 7 empty containers gathering dust (and inexplicably 10 lids) and so I took them to school to go in the art cupboard as they are perfect for art projects and then can be recycled.  

Because everything you bring into your lives takes up space. Do you really need all those things? Will they make your life better? Are you any happier? Some of those answers are YES. But many, I find, are NO. More stuff just takes up space and needs dusting and then has to be gotten rid of when you grow tired of it. And then what to you do with it?  Take a look and see if there are things that you no longer need or want. Are there things you no longer use?  Do you have more than one of something, but you actually only use one? Are there things that have no sentimental value but just take up space? Could someone else use or get enjoyment out of it?

How about it? Are you willing to make your life lighter in the new year? If 365 things seems too much go for 52. But try it. What have you got to lose?

What a Sweetie

My last remaining grandparent died last night peacefully in her sleep. Here is what my mum wrote in an email to friends and I could not say it any better:

Ruth Elizabeth Crow Tisdale, known far and wide as Sweetie Tisdale, died peacefully in her sleep this afternoon.   She was 92, and had been under hospice care for about a week and a half.    Her main caretakers, Sherry (Garry's sister) and her daughter Teresa were with her.    It was a sweet death, in that she was not in pain and had said all her good-byes.   On Monday last she stayed awake for about 15 hrs straight, talking all day.   She visited individually with each of her siblings and  Mama Crow, her own mom, as well as Garry and Terri, the two children who died before her.    She seemed very animated and chatty with them all.   This is pretty true to what one reads about "near-death experiences."    After that, she fell into a deep sleep and has been that way till today when she just stopped breathing.    

She had lived in her own home until the time she went to the hospice house.   In the past couple of years, her memory had declined a lot, but she managed with having someone from the family staying with her.   We will miss our rascally Sweetie----who is no doubt arguing with the archangels over what's the right way to do something...........and at the same time having a great ole visit with all her many many friends and relatives.   And Heather and Thomas and I all think if anyone is allowed to get away with saying "shit" in heaven, it will be her privilege.    Up until her early 80s she was still the only one at her church who climbed the huge ladder to put the star on top of the Christmon Tree.

She was a funny and spirited lady with a big heart who cared for so many in her community. She was forever working in the food bank at her church or baking pies for those who were poorly or delivering food for Meals on Wheels. All while drinking Doctor Pepper and saying “shit” a lot. She was a character that is for sure. I can recall when she was in her 60s her telling me about visiting “all those old people” through Meals on Wheels and cackling her wicked laugh. She loved fishing and up until perhaps her 70s was an avid walker and did 2 miles after dinner every night through their neighbourhood. She adored antiques and her house is like a museum with so many things to see all over the walls. She also loved to play jokes—one called “feed the crow” comes to mind. If you put your pointer and middle finger on each hand together in a cross hatch shape and then ask some unsuspecting person to put their finger in the hole and “feed then crow.” Then quickly tighten the crosshatch and use your thumb nails to pinch the victim’s finger and laugh and say “Those little crows are biting today!” I fell for it time and time again because she would look at you with the most serious eyes and swear that if you put your finger in the crosshatch she would not pinch this time. And like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football and Lucy pulling it away—I fell for it EVERY TIME. Once I even told my younger cousin Bailey to “go ask Sweetie if you can feed the crow.” I am so going to hell for that.

She was a funny and big hearted woman who weighed all of 100 pounds dripping wet. I am glad in the end she was seeing her sisters and brothers and my dad Garry and her husband, my PawPaw, and her daughter Terri who died so long ago at the age of 5 from leukemia. It is comforting to know that all those whom we love are waiting for us on the other side.

Sweetie, I am glad to have known you and to have been part of your family. I am sure you are organizing Heaven and having a big laugh. I will miss you.   

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy New Year

I have taken a bit of a break from blogging over Christmas--mostly because I wanted to have a rest from the computer but also because computer time was limited not having the internet at home. Our public library has been closed more days than open due to the holiday schedule as well as cut backs in the number of hours they are open to the public and Spiderman’s school library is unheated when it is not term time and so can get a wee bit on the nippy side, if you know what I mean.

But we had a wonderful Christmas with delicious food that proves animals don’t need to suffer to put food on your plate and I’ll be posting some pictures and recipes soon. We had a  lovely, peaceful day with a long walk in the chilly air to feed the swans and the ducks and then a slow stroll around town and finally up Windmill Hill to admire the view of the town we love so much. Couldn’t ask for anything better.

But New Years is always a favourite time for--looking back over the year and recalling all the wonderful things that happened or grieving over the sad ones. For looking at what went well and what went wrong. For seeing where we want our lives to go from here. Some people call them new years resolutions, but to me that indicates something you resolve to do, fail and then beat yourself up over. They are often unattainable goals. A destination not a journey.

On New Year’s Day I like to do a little of everything I hope to do over the  next year--all things that make me happy and whole and the ways that I will strive to help others. I have rested by having a lie in because sometimes I overtire myself with worry and stress. I have been to Meeting for Worship. Unexpectedly, the children showed up (my Sunday School class consists of a set of adorable blond German munchkins who are 2 and half) so I was able to spend time with little ones and we played and sang and imagined and did a nature walk outside and they spoke to me in German and I answered in English and despite the language barrier we got along fine. Then we went into Worship for the last few minutes together as sitting in silence is not so easy when you are 2 and a half. During announcements it was said that they were short handed and asked for help serving tea and coffee after church which I was able to do. This was a huge answered prayer as just this morning when I was lying in bed contemplating what I wanted for the next year I was asking God to find more ways for me to be helpful.

 Then I came home and spent 30 minutes writing in my spiritual journal. One of the things I like to do is when I read something of spiritual significance is write it down. It is important to write it laboriously by hand as it makes me really think about the words as well pick and choose the passages that speak to my heart. Sometimes it is just a few lines or a short prayers other times I have copied word for word a whole book. I found this book at the library called The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön. It is a Buddhist book but it spoke to my Quaker sensitivities about “that of God in everyone.” The book talks about cultivating bodhichitta--which is an awakened or enlightened attitude of the mind and heart. It is about looking beyond the walls that we build up--walls made of opinions and  prejudices that are built with emotions like anger, craving, indifference, jealousy, envy arrogance and pride. Bodhichitta looks for the soft spot--the tiny crack in the wall--that can let love out of ourselves or into the hearts of others who are suffering. Even the cruellest people have this soft spot. Even the most vicious animals love their offspring.  It is knowing that love can flow through us so that we are compassionate with all others--even those who seem different or unlovable.

Next I spent time in prayer with my prayer beads. I have a daily habit of praying on my knees when I wake up to call God close and let go of any “worry, fear, insecurity or weakness” and ask to be “the lamp filled with God’s light” so that I might glow with love and kindness and seek those who need help. I had started praying with prayer beads last year--and the practice somehow got away from me--there were always other things to do and I “ran out” of time in the afternoon. I find it a quiet centering practice where I repeat phrases like “Breathe deep the breath of God” of “Lord make me an instrument of your peace” and then let my mind drift until I am seized by the thought of someone who needs to be prayed for and then I send them love and healing and Light. The whole thing takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how many people I feel need to be prayed for. It is a practice I hope to continue with in the new year as it benefits me and others.

I then  did 30 minutes of kick boxing as I haven’t really done it much over the holidays and I have felt it--when I exercise I have more energy, I eat less and sleep better. Plus I know I am keeping my body fit and healthy.

I am writing for the blog which makes me happy and keeps me connected with the world. I’ll save it to my memory stick and paste this in the next time I have access to a computer.

After this I plan to play the ukulele for about a half an hour. I can’t tell you how much joy Ruth the blue ukulele brings me. I love playing music and it makes me feel close to my dad who tried so hard to play the guitar when I was a girl. When I play I feel like he is right there beside me.

I also plan to make a card for my student Ambra Lily who starred in the BBC comedy The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff. I was so proud of her and the show was really funny. Then I plan to finish my letter to my penpal who is on death row in Texas. I am proud to call him my friend.

When Spiderman gets home from volunteering at the zoo we’ll eat the traditional New Year’s food of cabbage and blackeyed peas (really hope this doesn’t just work on dollars and cents but pounds and pence as well!) and then we’ll snuggle on the sofa and watch some Jeeves and Wooster and laugh our asses off.

Is there anything better that that?