Friday, April 29, 2011

Kate and William wed - some last thoughts - and words

In the end, I watched Kate and William's wedding. Didn't even need a clock radio to wake me. Went to sleep pondering whether or not to get up but obviously my internal body clock sent a message to my brain to get conscious at 3 a.m. Once up and with the TV playing softly, I conducted a perfunctory scan of the various networks to see which one suited my personality. Sort-of disappointed in CNN although Piers Morgan, a Brit, was witty. Then continued pressing the channel selector buttons and finally ended up with ABC. Since everyone was using the same feed, it was the commentary accompanying the visuals that was the deciding factor. The ultimate celebrity interviewer, Barbara Walters, was professional and relaxed providing background commentary along with the ABC team including co-host, Diane Sawyer, and Robin Roberts reporting direct from London. Very obvious why Barbara gets to interview all the VIP's world-wide: she's good. More than very good - at least in my humble opinion.

All the networks had reporters interviewing your ordinary folk lining the streets waiting and hoping for a glance at the newly weds. There were people who flew in from all over the planet from as far away as South America to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who excitedly explained that they were there to be part of history. All those people, many of whom slept for days in tents to get a good place, led me to wonder the bathroom situation. I mean, where did they - to put it in blunt terms - pee? I didn't see any porta-toilets, at least in camera range, but perhaps there were some hidden away behind trees or bushes or something. Still, that's a lot of people who had to relieve themselves, somewhere. Speaking of hygenic concerns and given the number of parade horses trotting along the streets, are royal horses toilet-trained, perchance, to avoid an embarrassing situation? But I digress.

The bride was resplendent in a stunning gown that suited her to a "T". As expected, female guest's hats were a cross section of personal statements including lots of feathers, flowers and shaky thingies. Some were actually visually nice while others were...interesting. Let's leave it at that Hopefully, the feathers were artificial.

One wonders what type of gifts they received. I mean, what does one give a couple with royal connections? A hand mixer? Coffee maker or a toaster? A gift certificate from Macy's or the British equivalent? Gift certificates are always a good option since recipients can buy what they need.

At one point I fell asleep but I'm not concerned since there will be wedding highlights on TV for the next couple of weeks. Probably longer. Tonight Queen Elizabeth is vacating the palace for the night, to the royal couple. That's a nice gesture. Then again, Prince Charles has set up a disco in the palace. Even a queen needs her sleep.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

To watch or not to watch the royal wedding. Decisions...decisions

Can't even believe that I'm writing this but I've been thinking further about the royal wedding. Perhaps I've been caught up in all the frenzy stirred up by the media and don't want to appear out of the loop, if, or more likely when, the topic is discussed. In particular, the issue focuses on whether or not to get up at 4 a.m. in the morning to watch the TV coverage. Logically, I could record the program to watch later at a decent hour but somehow live broadcasts are more exciting.

What is obvious is that all the TV networks have sent a team of reporters or high profile personalities to cover the event. I'm wondering how close they will actually get or will they be joining the throngs of people hoping to capture the event for posterity. Most likely and being that they have special privileges, they will acquire a special area specifically designated for media. Your ordinary Brits and visitors who flew in for the occasion are sleeping in tents to ensure that they have a secure place to watch the parade pass by.

On Thursday, Barbara Walters, who seems to have reached the "I'm a special person and get to meet all the important people!" status will be examining the home and life of Queen Elizabeth. What's there to look at? She's royal, likes hats, does an amazing hand wave and lives in palatial splendor. That should take five minutes but guaranteed it will be stretched out for an hour or more.

So in the event that I'll watch, I'm thinking whether or not to dress up for the event given the early hour. I mean, I could watch in night wear but it seems so uncivilized, not that anyone would know. Perhaps I'll settle for a pair of comfortable jeans, my favorite piece of wardrobe, a nice top and maybe - haven't decided yet - a hat. Seems that hats are "in" these days but I've always found that they leave a helmet head shape upon removal.

Also, what should I eat? There are some frozen crumpets in the freezer along with my favorite berry jam and a cup of boiling hot (not tepid) tea served from a teapot, a slice of lemon, optional, would be appropriate. Actually, some finger sandwiches would add that certain je ne sais quoi feel to the event. So many choices...

So this is my dilemma. My apologies to William Shakespeare: to wake or not to wake. That is the question. Mr. Shakespeare would understand.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to make a decent cup of tea in case Kate and William come to call

This is the week when all eyes, especially the media, are on England in anticipation of the royal nuptials. We are inundated with news about who is invited and who will be attending (not me), what they will wear and the wedding menu. Most likely the celebrants will be drinking tea, although coffee could be an option.

Being a born-Brit and raised on tea at an early age, over the years I have bemoaned the lack of a decent cup of tea served in some restaurants. The secret to a good if not at least decent cup of tea is to start with really briskly boiled water. Although this might seem simplistic, in my experience many restaurants can't seem to go beyond luke-warm at best. Coffee does not have to be boiling hot but in order to make a good cuppa as the Brits say, hot water is a must. None-boiled, tepid water is easy to detect by the thin white-ish foam floating on the surface. In fact, a quick glance at the water surface would be advisable before inserting a tea bag into the small tea pots. Frequently at restaurants, a signal to the waiter to replace tepid water for boiling water results in a bewildered look that says, 'lady -hot water is hot water is...' In my opinion and in my experience, tea will not properly steep if water is luke warm. Really. Tea should never be served in a styrofoam cup because it dilutes the flavor and most importantly, it's just not...done. But I digress.

My grandfather who came from Russia, used to drink his boiling-hot tea in a thick glass with a dollup of jam swirling around the bottom. One of my grandmothers also from the old country, used to hold a sugar square between her teeth followed by gulps of tea. Tricky but effective to obtain the full flavor of the tea.

Everyone is getting in on the Kate/William wedding celebrations including tea companies and Twinnings tea, which happens to rate high on my favorite list, has even created a special blend in honor of the occasion. According to the blurb on their site:

"To celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton the master blenders here at Twinings have developed a wonderful light tea, which is a White Earl Grey Tea with light flavours of Rose Petal.

Best served without milk (although, that's our choice, you are welcome to add a drop of milk according to your taste), this bright, sparkling amber coloured tea is perfect for your Royal Wedding Tea Party."

In other words - a very perfume-y flavor, perhaps not robust but refreshing none-the-less. Good tea as I view it, is like a good wine. Smell-taste-swish and swallow.

This leads one to wonder how many people are having Royal Wedding tea parties. More to the point, at what time would one hold a celebratory tea party, given the time varients around the world, since tea is usually takes place in mid-afternoon. For many people, the wedding ceremony will take place in the middle of the night but any time is a good time to drink tea.

The only thing remaining is the menu for the tea party and whether or not guests would consider attending at 3 a.m. in the morning. Be that as it may, the menu could include finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off of course because - well - don't quite know why but presumably they look better, scones with jam and cream, tarts (I'm partial to lemon tarts), petit fours and of course, a pot of boiling hot tea brewed in a tea pot.

So cut the crusts of the sandwiches, bake some cakes, pull out the best china and invite your nearest and dearest for afternoon or middle-of-the-night tea. Kate and William would be pleased.

For those who really enjoy tea and would like to try their hand at growing their own at home:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On being cosmetically challenged

It occurred to me while conducting one of my favorite pastimes, which is hanging out at the cosmetic display that this is one growth industry and one which thrives on our vanity. Over the years I've bought, used and then tossed out thousands...maybe even millions of lipsticks not to mention foundation, eye shadow and other supplies after one use. It's not that I want to discard them given the price of these "necessities" but after bringing them home and applying them, they just didn'

Right? C'mon - you know it's true!

Some people collect antiques. Some people collect dolls. Then there are others, like me, who collect makeup because we can't admit we made a mistake. Well...not really a mistake as such.

Cosmetic companies spend millions of dollars perfecting their products and still more millions in advertising in an attempt to convince us to try their line. If there is one sure thing in life in my humble opinion it's that a decent lipstick shade will be discontinued. It's as if the marketing department monitors the various shades sold (I'm actually sure they do) and then decide that purchasers are becoming to complacent and happy with a color and then pull it. Let's face it: a happy and contented lipstick purchaser means that all the other new shades will languish on the shelf. In dealing with this reality and whenever I find a decent lipstick shade, I buy at least three more in anticipation of their disappearance. A person can't have too many lipsticks.

Right now in my cosmetic bag, there are:

* 3 Oreal lipsticks, kind-of tangerine shade that I bought six months ago, which appealed to me at the time. I assumed they would be pulled. They weren't. I'm stuck with them. Could toss them in the trash but keep them just-in-case.

* 4 tubes of Maybelline lipsticks that were discontinued. I loved the shade...once. I'm bored with it now.

* 1 Luster...something-or-the-other lip color. Can't read the brand because the writing is miniscule. Discontinued shade. Loved it and miss it, still.

This leads one to wonder:
- Why the writing on the under-side of the lipstick is so small, anyway.

- Why can’t manufacturers use the sides of the lipstick cover to indicate the shade and/or number? Most lipstick wearers don’t carry a magnifying glass when choosing a new lipstick and checking the name given to it in order to remember the shade

- Why do long-lasting lipsticks – at least in my experience – all seem to end up in a pink shade?

- How come the plump-up-your-lips products cause your lips to tingle but do little else.

- Why don't all cosmetic companies provide testers for their products, especially lipstick? Why do shoppers have to guess if the shade is the one they're looking for?

There are also 5 bottles of liquid foundation (brand name(s)withheld)included in the collection, which all looked neutral-beige, the desired shade under store lighting but weren't when brought home and applied on face. Enough said.

- 2 eye shadow trios. Both tops are broken because the hinges always (at least for me, anyway) fall off and the subsequent broken pieces of shadow adhere to the sides of the cosmetic bag. Blechy mess.

- 4 eyebrow pencils of various shades of light brown...or what appeared to be light brown but all the wrong shades because they looked the correct shade in store light.

What's in YOUR cosmetic kit or bag and what have you thrown away lately?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Of goldfish racing, royal wedding TV watching menu options & other stuff

As a former caregiver of fish, both gold and tropical, there were times when I toyed with the idea of training a pair of angelfish to appear on TV to perform stupid pet tricks. Unfortunately, Frik and Frak (the fish) refused to be trained even when fish food was dangled within their sight range. Dreams of glory faded fast along with the acceptance that fish can't be trained. Maybe they have a rebellious nature - go know.

In any case, a Tacoma, Wash. bar that held gold fish races as a means of entertainment were forced to cancel this form of entertainment after receiving complaints from animals rights activists. Every Tuesday night the Harmon Tap Room would feature races in which cheap feeder fish from a pet store were "raced" down two 8-foot troughs. Racers guided the fish with squirt bottles.

According to the bartender, the fish were cared for when they weren't racing, but he admitted some did succumb. Not surprising. In my experience in fish raising, fish are prone to early death as in the day after adoption. In any case, following complaints, fish racing was replaced by beer pong.


Talk about money not going as far as it once did... In Northern India, an army of termites ate their way through 10 million rupees or $222,000 in currency note stored in a steel chest in a bank. The damaged money was discovered by the bank manager when he opened a reinforced room in an old bank building. Over time, the termites had damaged furniture and documents and police have registered a case of negligence against bank officials while the termites go off free and fatter for the experience.


This is one of those stories that makes one ask: "why?" A man in Connecticut poured -wait for it - $200 worth of gas on to a city street, after which he tried to sell the empty container to a scrap metal yard for $60. According to the owner of the scrap yard, the dump-ee dumped the fuel, which was dripping gas, as he drove up to the scrap yard. Most likely many people reading this would have been very happy to take the gaoline off his hands. Right? The dump-ee was charged with illegally dumping hazardous material. According to the dump-ee, he did it as a least resort after failing in efforts to sell it.


Royal wedding menu options?

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about what type of menu would be appropriate while watching the royal wedding on TV, if it's possible to get up that early. Perhaps tea and scones with heavy (or low-fat) cream and fresh strawberries or strawberry preserves...or crumpets with jam...some watercress sandwiches would be nice... I'm open for suggestions...

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Royal Wedding List - minus my name

This makes it really official now and I must accept the reality that somehow, someway, my name did not make the royal wedding list and my invitation is not in the mail. Inject big sigh. Here I went out and bought a hat replete with fake-ish feathers and fruit and now am wondering when I'll ever wear it. It's not the type of hat that one would wear a ball game, nor at the beach, so for now it will be stored away in a box in my cupboard in the event of another royal nuptial. There's always Prince Harry and gossip has it that he's seeing Chelsea Davey somewhat seriously. For the record, I'm putting in my name for a royal invite. Pass it along.

Wonder if Donald Trump was invited. Anybody know? Or Oprah? Don't see their names on the list. Also, if anyone reading this knows any of the people listed below, you could hint about the invitation over-sight. Just so they know for next time.

In any case, while cyber surfing came accross "the" official list and just in case I missed it, let me know if you see my name there. Talk about name-dropping...

If I had been invited, I would have wanted to make a statement with a hat. These definitely say...something, especially the "Spirit of Africa" model.

Prince William and Catherine's List

Viscount Althorp - William's cousin. The son of Princess Diana's brother Earl Spencer.
Miss Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe - Stunning friend of William.
Miss Helen Asprey - The couple's personal private secretary.
Mr and Mrs Rowan Atkinson - Comedian and Mr Bean actor, and his wife Sunetra.
Mr Harry Aubrey-Fletcher and his wife, Hon. Sarah Louise - William and Kate's close pals.
Miss Annabel Ballin - Party planner is a friend of Kate's.
Mr and Mrs David Beckham - Footballer and his pop star wife Victoria.


Prince Harry's girlfriend Chelsy Davy (my hope for the next royal wedding invite)
Doctor Holly Branson - Daughter of tycoon Sir Richard.
Mr and Mrs Fergus Boyd - William's flatmate at St Andrews University.
Miss Jessica Craig - One of William's former girlfriends.
Mr David Dugmore and Mr Roger Dugmore - Safari park owners from Botswana.
Mr Mark Dyer and his wife Amanda - One of Prince Harry's best friends.
Mr Ben Fogle and wife Marina - TV star and a friend of both William and Kate.
The Lord and Lady Jane Fellowes - William's aunt. The sister of Princess Diana.
Alexander Fellowes - William's cousin. The son of Jane.
Eleanor Fellowes - William's cousin. The daughter of Jane.
Miss Rosie Farquhar - One of William's former girlfriends. An actress.
Mr Rupert Finch - One of Kate's former boyfriends.
Miss Alicia Fox-Pitt - One of Kate's oldest friends.
Ms Daniella Helayel - Kate's favourite fashion designer.
Miss Olivia Hunt - A former girlfriend of William.
Emilia d'Erlanger and David Jardine-Paterson - Emilia is Kate's old schoolpal. William and Kate went to couple's wedding last year.
Mrs Tiggy Legge-Bourke and her husband Charles - William's former nanny.
Mr and Mrs James Lowther-Pinkerton - Part-time private secretary to William and Harry. Captain Jack Mann - The polo-playing son of British mercenary Simon Mann.
Mr Willem Marx - One of Kate's former boyfriends.Lady Sarah McCorquodale and husband Neil - William's aunt. Princess Diana's older sister.
Miss Emily McCorquodale - William's cousin. Daughter of Sarah.
Mr George McCorquodale - William's cousin.Son of Sarah.
Miss Celia McCorquodale - William's cousin. Daughter of Sarah.
Mr Harry Meade and wife Rosie - Showjumper.
Mr and Mrs Edward Milbank - Old friends of William.
The Hon James Tollemache - Childhood friend of William.


TV star Ben Fogle and wife Marina
Tara Palmer-Tomkinson
Miss Arabella Musgrave - William's first girlfriend.
The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland - Land-owning peer.
Tara Palmer-Tomkinson - "It Girl" is the daughter of Prince Charles's pals Patti and Charles.
Mr Guy Pelly - Party organiser and close friend of William and Harry.
Mr Guy Ritchie - Director of films (and Madonna's-ex) including Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
The Earl Spencer - William's uncle. Princess Diana's brother.
Lady Kitty Spencer - William's cousin. Earl Spencer's daughter.
Lady Amelia Spencer - William's cousin. Kitty's twin sister.
Lady Eliza Spencer - William's cousin. The twins' older sister.
Mr Thomas van Straubenzee - William's closest friend.
Mr and Mrs Hugh van Cutsem - Another of William's close friends.
Mr Edward van Cutsem and the Lady Tamara Grosvenor - Hugh's brother.
Mr William van Cutsem - Third van Cutsem brother is also very close to William.
Major and Mrs Nicholas van Cutsem - Fourth brother, a soldier, shares military bond with William.
Sam Waley-Cohen - Gold Cup-winning jockey.
Sir Clive and Lady Woodward - World Cup-winning rugby coach.

The Queen's List
CROWN Prince of Abu Dhabi.
THE Aga Khan.
QUEEN Sofia and Crown Prince Felipe of Spain.
CROWN Prince of Bahrain.
KING of Bhutan.
SULTAN of Brunei.
KING and Queen of Bulgaria.
QUEEN of Denmark.
KING and Queen of Greece.
SHEIK Al-Sabah of Kuwait.
PRINCE Seeiso of Lesotho.


King Siaosi of Tonga, left, and the Aga Khan
GRAND Duke of Luxembourg.
KING and Queen of Malaysia.
PRINCE Albert of Monaco.
PRINCESS Lalla Salma of Morocco. PRINCE Frisor of Holland.
KING and Queen of Norway.
EMIR of Qatar.
KING and Crown Princess of Romania.
PRINCE bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.
KING of Swaziland.
PRINCESS Maha of Thailand.
KING Siaosi of Tonga.
CROWN Princess Victoria of Sweden.
CROWN Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Yugoslavia.
KING of Cambodia is yet to reply.

The Political List
PRIME MINISTER David Cameron and wife Samantha.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER Nick Clegg and wife Miriam.
CHANCELLOR George Osborne and wife Frances.
OPPOSITION LEADER Ed Miliband and fiancée Justine Thornton.
FOREIGN SECRETARY William Hague and wife Ffion.
HOME SECRETARY Theresa May and husband Philip.
PM David Cameron and wife Samantha
Ed Miliband and fiancée Justine Thornton
CULTURE SECRETARY Jeremy Hunt and wife Lucia.
CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF General Sir David Richards.
CHIEF OF NAVAL STAFF Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.
CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF General Sir Peter Wall.
CHIEF OF AIR STAFF Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton.
VICE CHIEF OF DEFENCE STAFF General Sir Nicholas Houghton.

Middletons' List
The Hon Brian Alexander - MD of The Mustique Company.
Mr Gregory Allen - yoga teacher.
Mr Alexander Bridport - banker.
Mr Richard Benyon - Tory MP.
Mr Tim Billington - horse breeder.
Ms Jeanette Cadet - head of rentals, The Mustique Company.
Mr Basil Charles - Mustique bar owner.
Mr John de Blocq van Kuffeler - chairman of Provident Financial.
Mr Martin Fidler - butcher.
Mr John Haley - landlord of Middleton family's local.
Mr & Mrs Anthony Henman - parents of tennis player Tim.
Mr Timothy Hirst - B&B owner.

On the list
bar boss Basil Charles
Kate's uncle Gary GoldsmithMr Gary Goldsmith - Kate's uncle.
Mr John Madejski - Reading FC.
Mr & Mrs Torquil Montague-Johnstone - the Middletons' neighbours.
Ms Philippa Naylor - designer.
Mr Ryan Naylor - postman.
Mr Roger Pritchard - MD, The Mustique Company.
Mr & Mrs Chan Shingadia - shopkeepers in Middletons' village.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Who is reading this?

Don't get me wrong - writing for me is like breathing in and breathing out. I love it. This blog and my five other blogs(!)(warning: shameless self-promotion) focusing on various subjects ranging from gardening, playwriting, rants, a funny romance soap opera, blah-blah...are a means in which to express my views on anything and everything and stimulate the creative side of my brain. is one of those days in which I'm wondering: who's reading this? I mean, are there people 'out there' in cyberland who actually look forward to my updates?

The reason for my introspection is my daily look at the stats counter indicating the number of people dropping by to read the blogs and their country of origin. Perhaps I should have left well enough alone and eliminate the counter since it is giving me a complex. I'm of the belief that ignorance is bliss in some cases. Today for example and according to the counter, six - count 'em - six people have dropped by for a read on my piece about royal etiquette. You know - how to conduct oneself in case you're ever invited for tea with royalty. Go figure!

Furthermore, 29 live in the U.S., 11 are Canadian and 10 from Iran. Nine people from the UK, 6 from France, 2 from Australia, 2 from China, 2 from Germany, 2 from India and 2 from Malaysia. Let me make it perfectly clear that I'm thrilled that these people dropped by, for whatever reason. A reader is a reader is...

Still, it makes one (me) wonder why more people don't find my literary output - well - interesting.

My experience as a former columnist for a number of newspapers, has taught me what type of subjects people enjoy and move them to write letters or react generally. Politics is always popular and a hot subject, profiles of interesting people is another favorite and people enjoy seeing their names in print. As a blogger with a potential readership of millions, finding interesting subjects is a challenge so I write what hits my fancy at any particular moment or day.

Today, it's introspection day and pondering if it's all worth it in the end. Comments (when they're not spam) are always welcome but are few and far between. I suppose I continue because - really - writing is a compulsion and a habit I'm not prepared to break. I'm a communicator who loves sharing information and writing in my blogs is the perfect means in which to do this. Of course if anyone reading this wants to comment on any of my literary beau mots - that would make it even sweeter.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The children have left the building along with the other soap operas

Shocked initially but not surprised that two more soap operas have been cancelled. One of my used-to-be-favorites, All My Children, received its walking papers and now I'm faced with how to fill the hour but I digress.

Over the years there has been a deterioration of plots and story lines along with the addition and sudden deletion of characters. Some, as is the case in any soap opera, suddenly vanish never to be seen or heard of again, while others disappear for a while to suddenly show up as a twin of the deceased or suffering from amnesia or serving a term in jail... Things that we normals rarely encounter. The story lines were at least plasusible if that's possible living in Pretendville and seemed to have a direction to sustain interest. However, over the past year or two, missing a day or even a week of Erica's love quandries or Tad's PI investigations and the frequent appearances of love children didn't really bother me and therein lies the problem.

A soap opera or day time drama as some people call them, requires the telling of a story that holds the interest of the reader and in this case, the viewer. In the end, it's the story that is the glue to hold things together. Unfortunately, the writers of AMC seemed to have forgotten this. It was as if they were trying out various ideas and then if the ratings didn't pan out, suddenly try something else. The low ratings can't entirely be blamed on the viewers, who stop watching when they are presented with stupid premises that are...dumb. Seems that people are hooked on reality TV, which is where the industry appears to be heading. Cheap to make and attracts sponsors, which is what it's all about: $$$$$

Perhaps in the end, the TV soap opera which was a main-stay in the 1950's to now, has grown out of fashion with this generation. Back in the day as they say, there were stay-at-home moms who lived vicariously through the glamorous and exciting lives of soap opera heroes and heroines. Many women these days are actually out of the house and contributing to the work force, while teens and tweens are busy texting and involved in social networks.

It's sad to see their demise especially since word has it they're being replaced by talk and reality TV shows. How many talk shows do we really need or want to watch? As for reality shows - been there, seen too much of that.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Royal etiquette - what are the rules? Debrett's knows!

Like many people, we are still waiting for our invitation to "the" royal wedding. Somehow it must have gone astray in the mail, stuck in the same place our Publishers Clearing House cheque for a million dollars in addition to the backlog of lottery winnings. These things do happen.

So much pomp and circumstance and all because the Queen of England's grandson is getting married. Okay - so they're rich and they have royal titles and they live in splendor in a beautiful castle with antique furniture to die for. Still, they could have extended some invites to some of the people living in the commonwealth, like us.

Just in case my invitation does arrive, and a quick trip to England to attend the wedding is necessary, one should know exactly how to conduct oneself as to not embarrass oneself. The ultimate guide in this area is Debrett's, "the modern authority on all matters of etiquette, social occasions, people of distinction and fine style."

After checking my social agenda and assuming the day is open, there would be some royal etiquette that one would have to know when mingling, eating and socializing with the royals and their friends. First and foremost on my mind is the correct way to curtsy and how to address the Queen. Does one place the left or the right leg behind when curtsying and how low does the leg go? Is there a certain length of time one have to remain in the curtsying position and what happens if one has bad knees? Does one back up once the curtsy/bowing introduction is over or just return to the standing position?

"Hi there, your royal Queenship. How's the family?" somehow seems a too...common or trite greeting.

Or perhaps being Canadian and all, she would appreciate comments to the effect: "good picture of you on our money."

Most worrisome would be at dinner and knowing how to use which utensils and at which time. When out with friends we decide amongst each other which rolls belong to whom and even if one of us takes the wrong roll, we just pass them along and no harm done, however amongst royal types, one couldn't play, "pass-the-roll."

There are some general guidelines of etiquette offered by Debrett's.

- Napkins (one should avoid calling them serviettes) should be placed on laps, never tucked it into shirts (or in dress tops). Corners of the mouth should be gently dabbed, if necessary, during the meal. No grand wiping gestures with napkin (or back of the hand). Napkins should be placed, unfolded, beside the plate when leaving the table. Not mentioned here is what to do if one spills some - say - gravy on one's dress or shirt for example. Is it socially correct or acceptable to dip the napkin in the water glass and rub the spot, gently, or does one leave the stain for all to see? When seated, one should sit up straight and make sure one's elbows don't encroach on the space of the person beside one. How much space is allowable? One foot...two feet... No resting elbows on the table or leaning on them when eating.

- For meals served on a plate, wait until everyone has been served before picking up cutlery. One wonders the reason behind this rule. To ensure that everyone finishes at the same time? Anybody know? One would assume that it would be a faux pas to turn over the cutlery to ascertain the weight and/or to ascertain whether it's real silver - In a group dining situation, it's acceptable to offer side dishes around the table and hold them to assist the other diners In other words, pass things down but under no circumstances throw your roll or bread accross the table, in case you miss your target

- Mouths should be closed to keep chewing noises to a minimum. Lip smaking is a no-no as is talking with a full mouth. This means don't eat with your mouth open so that everyone around you can see the saliva and ground up food moving up-and-down and from side-to-side. This is gross! Or don't make like a chipmunk while storing food in cheeks and trying to speak

- Talking while there is food in one's mouth should be avoided at all costs - even when you have a conversational gem up your sleeve. Oh those Brits - "conversational gem up your sleeve..." Don't try to tell a joke, clean or otherwise, with a full mouth.

- Knives and forks should be placed with the fork tines facing upwards when finished - side-by-side - on the plate. This leads one to wonder what the consequences would be if one accidentally disobeyed this directive and left the tines facing downwards. Could a beheading follow?

So right now, you're probably wondering: what is the socially correct way to hold one's knife. No problem-o. Debretts advises that "a knife should be held firmly in your right hand, with the handle tucked into your palm, your thumb down one side of the handle and your index finger along the top (but never touching the top of the blade). It is never acceptable according to Debretts, to lick your knife under any circumstances, no matter how delicious the meal is. Presumably, the rational (pure speculation) is to avoid cutting one's tongue and surrounding areas with the unsavory appearance of spurting blood, which could spoil appetites. Furthermore, "when used with a knife or spoon, the fork should be held in the left hand, in much the same way as the knife, with the prongs facing downwards. On its own, it is held in the right hand, with the prongs facing upwards, resting on the fingers and secured with the thumb and index finger. A spoon is held in the right hand, resting on the fingers and secured with the thumb and index finger. Food should be eaten off the side of the spoon; it should never be used at a right angle to the mouth." This is all well and good but...what happens if a person is say...left-handed? Is it acceptable to inter-change which hands can hold which implements? These are important issues!

There are foods in which one wonders the best and socially acceptable ways in which to proceed. Asparagus falls into this category but Debrett's has this area covered too.

- The asparagus spear should be picked up towards the end of the stem, dipped in any accompanying sauce and lowered into the mouth, bite by bite. There's no need to chew through the tough, woody ends of the stems; they should be left neatly on the side of the plate.

- Peas: This was a real eye-opener for me. Avoid turning over your fork and using it as a scoop; instead, squash the peas on to the back of the fork. Utilise any aids on your plate, such as mashed potato. So now we all know there's a no-scooping-rule.

- Lobster: A whole lobster in its shell will typically arrive at your table already cut into two halves, allowing easy access to the flesh for your knife and fork. It is also fine to use just your fork while holding the shell steady with your hand. The big claws usually come cracked but if not you will need to use special lobster crackers. Once claws have been cracked, pull out the meat with a fork. If you want to get meat out of the smaller attachments use a lobster pick. I tend to stay away from lobster and all shell food, actually, because it is just too much work. Also, I just can't live with the guilt of having two beady black eyes staring back at me.

Next comes an important section focusing on managing stones (not as in the rock type) and bones as in olives, cherries etc. Pips and Stones and stones (cherry, olive etc.) should be discreetly spat into a cupped left hand and deposited on the side of the plate or discarded. One does not bend over a plate or handy receptable and spit out pips and/or stones.

- Pieces of bone should be manoeuvred to the front from where it can be discreetly removed with thumb and forefinger and placed on the side of the plate. It is not socially acceptable by the way, to dig around with one's fingers to find and remove the bone - unless choking is involved in which case someone must do CPR...but I digress.

- When serving tea, if a waiter places a teapot on the table without pouring the tea the person nearest the pot should pour for everyone. Biscuits should not be dunked in tea (or coffee for that matter) and slurping is a real no-no.

So now that one knows all the social niceties and the rules, the only thing remaining is the arrival of the invitation. As they say - it's in the mail. Anybody else waiting, too?

UPDATE: Seems that my name is not on their guest list to attend the royal wedding. Had my suitcase packed and everything... Oh well...

However, should I have been invited, I would have danced in a nightclub to be created specifically for the occasion within Buckingham Palace, replete with dance floor and dj. Wonder what Queen Elizabeth thinks about that what with all the noise and everything.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Whatcha watching on TV? Glad you asked

"So tell us Eleanor - what programs are you watching on TV these days?"

Glad you asked.

Well, as I've shared before in this blog, I'm watching this season's American Idol with the two new judges or whatever you want to call them. In my mind, anyway, the purpose of the trio is to select potential contestants and judge their singing talents accordingly. Having had reservations about the addition of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, they have proven in my eyes to be kind of wishy-washy. While Ms Lopez is a good singer, her contribution to the show has been to wear gorgeous outfits for various designers who want their designer duds seen by the public. I have yet to see her wear the same outfit twice but then why should she if she has all the designers fighting to get their stuff out there. In as far as judging the singers, she rarely (if ever) has heavily criticized their singing, the reason for her having been chosen in the first place, one assumes. She does, however, have a nice smile and I like her makeup and hair.

New judge no. 2, Stephen Tyler, has a good voice and is an entertaining singer with a lot of charisma, however his judging is limited to praising...everyone. Rarely have I heard him utter any negative comments about the young singers and on occasion some of them have deserved negative criticism. He sort-of sits there looking somewhat bored. Relieve the man of his misery someone!

The Idol contestants on the whole are a cut above past seasons but it would add so much more to the show if somebody would tell them they sucked when their singing abilities...sucked. It will be interesting to see how Simon Cowell's "X" Factor fares against Idol and soon The Voice. The what?

In as far as Dancing With the Stars - what stars? Few of them are recognizable other than Kirstie Alley and Ralph Macchio, who I remember from The Karate Kid. Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard has some recognition but who are the rest? As a former - not current - viewer of the show, the nimble-footed professionals dancing with the not-so-nimble stars was an entertaining way to spend an hour. Somehow knowing that there are no...stars to speak of, I'm passing on the show.

Also enjoy watching:
Detroit 1-8-7 - great story lines and acting
Secret Millionaire - always great to see someone in the position to share money with those who can use it
V - love the vile Queen of Lizardness, Anna - so cold and...lizard-like
America's Got Talent - best thing that NBC could have done was to add Howie Mandel. A perfect fit for his personality
The Event - interesting at the beginning but slowly deteriorating into your 'seen that before' sci-fi series. It sure ain't no "Lost"!
Minute to Win It - tried watching the show for a minute but it didn't win me over Survivor - better this season but once Russell was voted off, it lost its appeal and is getting boring

So which programs is everyone watching?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Laugh it up! April is National Humor Month

"Humour or humor (see spelling differences) is the tendency of particular cognitive experiences to provoke laughter and provide amusement. The term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which taught that the balance of fluids in the human body, known as humours (Latin: húmor, "body fluid"), control human health and emotion". ~Wikipedia

Once again as it occurs every year since 1976, National Humor Month is celebrated around the world by people who have a sense of humor. Perhaps even people who don't have a sense of humor but enjoy the mere act of laughing out loud, or in private, but I digress.

It's interesting to note that a month devoted to humor starts on April 1st being April Fools Day. For the record, Larry Wilde is responsible for the creation of National Humor Month, which devotes the entire month to laughter. His aim was and presumably still is, to heighten public awareness of how the joy and therapeutic value of laughter can improve health, boost morale, increase communication skills and enrich the quality of one's life.

Researcher, Robert R. Provine, a neuro-scientist engaged in studies of the development, evolution and neural mechanisms of behavior, has focused on studying laughter and observed thousands of incidents of laughter spontaneously occurring in everyday life. He shared his findings in Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (Penguin Books, 2001).
"Laughter is not primarily about humor," wrote Dr. Provine, "but about social relationships."

Among some of his surprising (at least to me) findings:

- Health benefits of laughter are probably coincidental, a consequence of a much more important primary goal, which is bringing people together. Not too sure if he's entire right, at least IMHO. Given the choice, people would prefer to laugh than cry. Right?
- Laughter plays a big role in mating. Men like women who laugh heartily in their presence. Won't touch that one with a ten-foot pole.
- Both sexes laugh a lot but females laugh more - 126% more than their male counterparts. Men are more laugh-getters
- The laughter of the female is the critical index of a healthy relationship. Again, this is a questionable statement. I mean, it would depend on the reason for the female's laughter. Is it at or with the person?
- Laughter in relationships declines dramatically as people age

Interesting statistic that females laugh 126% more than males. Perhaps - pure speculation and some observation - females have a better sense of humor. By laugh-getters I'm assuming that they prefer to get/acquire the laughs, which in turn the females will respond by laughing or in some cases, rolling their eyes.

Another theory of why people laugh professes that people laugh to assert that they are on a level equal to or higher than those around them. Research has shown that bosses tend to crack more jokes than do their employees. I would also imagine that employees laugh at their bosses jokes for obvious reasons, especially if a raise in salary is imminent.

Women laugh much more in the presence of men and men generally tell more jokes in the presence of women. Men have even been shown to laugh much more quietly around women, while laughing louder when in a group of men. Males could consider laughing quietly while in the presence of females to be polite. I mean, a loud, coughing and snorting laugh could be considered brash or socially unacceptable. JMHO of course...

Over the years researchers have explored laughter's effects on the body and produced some interesting information on how it affects us. For example, a study conducted by researchers of the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas and concluded that blood vessels of the group watching comedies expanded and contracted easily, while the blood vesssels of the people watching dramas tended to tense up restricting blood flow. More proof?

There's scientific evidence that it may offer protection against a heart attack. A study with results presented at the American Heart Association's 73rd Scientific Session showed that people with heart disease were 40% less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. This all means that it's good for your health to laugh.

In honor of this month of merriment, here are some jokes. Warning: some are groaners.

Two cannibals were eating a clown. One said to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"

Did you hear about the man who spent too much money on Viagra: Now, he's hard up

Did you hear about the guy that lost his left arm and leg in a car crash?
He's all right now.

What do you call four bull fighters in quicksand?
Quatro sinko.

Some questions worth thinking about:

Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?"~ Steve Wright

Why is abbreviation such a long word?~ Steve Wright

Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them's making a poop, the other one's carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge.
~ Jerry Seinfeld

Don't know who wrote this but it best sums up being happy: "Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life."