Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry After-Christmas!

Well, folks, I've been on a bit of a holiday hiatus, but I'm back now, and I have another delicious recipe to share. This Boxing Day, my mother invited my father's extended family over for a Leftovers Party. It was a brilliant idea because we got to eat all new things without actually having to make new dishes AND now I don't have to eat the same leftovers for the next week. Because they're gone. Seriously. Boxing Day Leftovers Party. Try it.

My father's family are very talented in the kitchen, so there were lots of wonderful of things to eat that day, but for me, it was all overshadowed by the dessert my cousin Shawna brought: Cookie Dough Dip with apples. This stuff is incredibly good. There's no actual cookie dough in it, so there's no concern about contracting salmonella, but it's so tasty you wouldn't know the difference. She was kind enough to leave us her recipe, and now I share it with you, dear reader. That's my Christmas gift to you.

Cookie Dough Dip


Ingredients:
  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup toffee bits

Instructions:
  1. Cream together cream cheese and butter.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.
  3. Serve with chocolate graham crackers or apple wedges.

It's that simple! Shawna recommends eating it with graham crackers or apple wedges. I recommend eating it with a spoon!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas in Florida. Jealous?

Sorry it's been a while since I last updated. I'm back in Florida, folks, and it is glorious. You can tell it's almost Christmas because of the penguin wearing a Santa hat!


And I don't want to hear anyone complain that "it doesn't feel like Christmas" when it's 80° outside (~26° C). You want it to feel like Christmas? Drink some eggnog. I will take warmth tempered by a cool breeze over battling wind storms in Edinburgh any day.

Speaking of eggnog, I made some this weekend. It was a smash hit at the party I attended. Below you will find my recipe so you can try it for yourself. That way, you can enjoy a delicious Christmas beverage no matter how many miles per hour the wind is blowing.



Kimber's Eggnog Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 4 cups of light whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (separated)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Alcohol (optional)

Instructions:
  1. In a saucepan, mix milk, 1/2 tsp of vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon and using the lowest heat setting, slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep the milk from burning or developing a film.
  2. In a large bowl, mix egg yolks and sugar and beat until fluffy.
  3. Slowly, SLOWLY, whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. This part is key, because if you add the hot milk too fast, the eggs will cook and you will end up with eggnog that has the texture of scrambled eggs. The way that works best for me is to take a ladle-full of milk, dribble it into the eggs while whisking, and repeat until they are completely combined. It takes a bit of patience, but it makes all the difference.
  4. Pour milk and egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook for 3 minutes on medium heat, whisking constantly.
  5. Ok, here the recipe from which I have adapted mine says to let the mixture cool for an hour. I didn't do that, and my eggnog turned out fine. I imagine if you did let it cool, it would thicken a bit more. You can try it if you want, but if you're pressed for time, this step can be skipped.
  6. Add cream, 2 tsp of vanilla, and nutmeg.
  7. Refrigerate overnight.
  8. Add alcohol if you want. I use spiced rum.
  9. Serve.
  10. Enjoy.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Christmas in Edinburgh University Housing!

Well, kids, the papers are done, the laundry is being washed, and the packing is about to begin. That can only mean one thing: it's almost Christmas! I head home tomorrow, and I cannot wait, but I can't neglect to tell you about some of the Christmas festivities that are going on here in Edinburgh. The first I want to mention is our dorm Christmas party. A couple of weeks ago, our house warden organized a lovely little get-together to decorate the house common room. It came complete with mulled wine, mince pies,


and a British Christmas tradition that, until now, I only knew from Harry Potter: Christmas crackers!


For those of you who have never encountered Christmas crackers, here's the deal: two people each hold one end of this paper device and pull. As it comes apart, it makes a loud "cracking" sound, and goodies fly out! Huzzah! According to my RA, you usually get some kind of toy and a hat. Here's what I got:


You can see that I am wearing a very stylish paper crown. I also got a toy dinosaur and a piece of paper with a joke on it.


DE-lightful. By the way, did you know that in pre-historic times, there were forests of giant pies? 


Michael Crichton isn't going to tell you that kind of stuff.

Well, that's all for this post. But fear not! I have plenty more Edinburgh Christmas festivities to tell you about when I return to the States. So stay tuned!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let's mock Twilight!

Because I don't have time to write actual content today, here are a couple examples of other people on the Internet mocking that most awful of franchises, Twilight. Enjoy!




This is a bit long, but totally worth reading. It helps if you watch the video first so that you can use the appropriate K Stew voice when reading it:

If Twilight 4 Was 10 Times Shorter and 100 Times More Honest

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hockey! What?

Despite the relative success of the Tampa Bay Lightning, I would hazard a guess that most Floridians are not big into the hockey. You see, we lack what you might call "cold" or "ice." Sure, hockey is usually played inside (I guess), and we certainly possess the technology to create an indoor hockey... rink? Yeah, rink, definitely rink. Not a field? No, no, definitely rink. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, hockey as a sport is not really part of our culture in Florida. It's just too hot. I mean, I've seen the Mighty Ducks. It looks great, but I can't say I've ever been to a professional match.

Until now! Spurred on by a pretty good Groupon deal, my friends and I (among us, two Canadians) decided to go see our very own Edinburgh Capitals (very clever name) take on the Hull Stingrays. Ooh! 

Edinburgh Capitals (before the game)
Now, I admit I was a bit skeptical at first. For one thing, you go inside and it's colder in there than it is outside. What's up with that? For another thing, this particular rink did not sell or permit alcohol. Listen, I admit to being a bit ignorant about this sport, but I was led to believe that hockey is all about getting drunk and beating people up. Right? What's more, as my Canadian friends informed me, British hockey is tame compared to Canadian hockey. The first couple of periods (look at me using hockey terminology) were pretty slow, but by the third period things had heated up! Metaphorically speaking; it was still very cold. 

See, we are happy, but also quite bundled.
In the end, I enjoyed this hockey business. I wish more of the players had beaten each other up, but despite my urgent calls for them to throw down their sticks, all sticks remained in hands. Even so, it was a good experience and one that I would probably repeat if given the opportunity. Who knew? 




 We even got our picture taken with the mascot! And that's always fun.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

End of Term Madness (and a funny picture)

I'm trying desperately not to do work right now. I have two 4000-essays due within the next two weeks. The first is due Thursday; the second is due the following Thursday, but I'm leaving Wednesday, which means it's due Tuesday. I was going to write a longer post about my fragile and weakening mental state right now, but I'm sure you all can imagine, and I really should get back to writing.

But first, to lift your spirits and mine, check out this flyer that was on display on a bulletin board in the basement of one of my academic buildings:


Rubber duckies who are into bondage. Classic. I wonder if they get university funding.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Abroad

A lot of people have asked me, "Kimber, do they have Thanksgiving in Scotland?" And I have answered,  "No, that's a silly question." A better question would be, "Kimber, how did you celebrate Thanksgiving while living so far away from home?" Well, I'll tell you! (You were worried I wouldn't, weren't you?)

The first step to a successful Thanksgiving abroad is strategic friendships. Now, I'm not saying I made friends with certain people months ago in anticipation of this one holiday. That would be.... crazy. But what I am saying is, it helps to have American friends with flats. Living in the dorms, I have not the space nor facilities to prepare and serve a holiday feast. So I had to finagle some invitations to other people's festivities. That's the first way in which strategic friendships pay off. The celebration to which I was invited was of the potluck variety, so I needed a place to cook. This is the second way strategic friendships pay off. One of my friends who was recently liberated from the dorms graciously allowed me to come over and use his kitchen. (Thanks, Morgan!)

The second step to a successful Thanksgiving abroad is creative shopping. I had several dishes in mind to make, and while they were ultimately a success, it was not without a few adjustments on my part. For example, one of my dishes called for two cups of shredded cheese. Easy in the States. One bag of shredded cheese generally equals two cups. Here, we run into two problems. First, no shredded cheese. Second, everything is measured in grams and milliliters. As a result of this kind of issue, I ended up with an extra block of cheese, way more butter than I could have ever used, and a kilogram of frozen broccoli. What's more, I was totally unable to find a couple of things I needed, like cinnamon and corn meal (for making cornbread dressing, or "stuffing," if you prefer). This last missing ingredient would have been disastrous if not for a successful execution of step three...

Have great parents. Ok, to be fair, this isn't one you can really plan for. Unless you had the inside track at conception, you kind of have to work with the parents you've got. As I've known for a while, mine are pretty great. In this case, that is illustrated by the package I received from them a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. It contained (among other things) mini marshmallows, a can of french fried onions, JELL-O instant pudding mix, and two bags of stuffing. Essential ingredients for making sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, broccoli casserole, instant pudding, and cornbread dressing, respectively. And each of those four ingredients (with the possibly exception of the marshmallows) is difficult to find in this country. So hooray for my parents! (And for the $50 they spent to mail that package.)

So, armed with all those ingredients (and a healthy supply of red wine), my sous chef Sabrina and I produced four great dishes over the course of about 6 hours and took them over to the home of one of my compatriots for dinner. As it turns out, our dishes made up a significant chunk of the meal, but no one was complaining. Because they were great. And if they were complaining, I didn't notice (remember the red wine).

The long and short of it, readers, is that it was delightful Thanksgiving. Certainly not as great as Thanksgiving at home, but it was a pretty good alternative. Besides great food and delightful company, the best part of Thanksgiving was explaining various aspects of it to the non-North Americans. My favorite things to explain were the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the football game, and Black Friday. Some of it seems a bit silly when describing it to someone not from the US. But that doesn't make it me miss it any less.

Except Black Friday. Forget that shit. Happy post-Thanksgiving!

****

For a much more poetic and touching take on Thanksgiving abroad, I encourage you to read this article by my dear friend Michael McGuire. He tells it like it is, and I will admit, it got me a little emotional. Enjoy!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Recommendation: Lana del Rey

Lana del Rey is a relatively new artist that I discovered through Spotify. (I recommend Spotify, too, if you're not already using it. It's like Grooveshark combined with Facebook, I guess? Although, you don't have to deal with the social networking aspect if you don't want to, so basically it's just like Grooveshark, except that it exists as an application on your desktop instead of as a webpage. Check it out. It's good.) Anyway, back to Lana del Rey.

She has been quite the little success on YouTube with her hit song "Video Games." That song has now been featured on several TV shows, including Ringer*, Gossip Girl, and Made in Chelsea. She doesn't have a full-length album out yet, but she's already playing sold-out concerts, according to her Wikipedia page. Lana del Rey's voice is beautiful. It's resonant and dynamic with a hint of something tragic that really moves me. Check out "Video Games" and look out for more to come from this little lady.




*Also watch Ringer because I don't want it to get cancelled before they solve the mystery!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What I'm reading this week

Hey, gang! I'm sorry for the distinct lack of posts lately. The end of the term is coming up, and I have been at the grind. I thought I'd update you, though, on what I've been reading of late.

Last Friday I finished The French Lieutenant's Woman, an amazing novel by John Fowles about love and duty and identity and stuff in Victorian times. Wow, that was a vastly inaccurate description of what the novel really is. It is set in Victorian times and, in some ways, it's a critique of Victorian life, but it is also (in a way) set in the 1960s and is also a critique of that time. That still doesn't make sense, so you're going to have to take my word for it and read it.



Yesterday and today I read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. James Joyce's semi-autographical novel about young Stephen Dedalus is wrought with existential dread, religious crises, and aesthetic theories. Woot. Not always a page-turner, but worth having in your arsenal of literary knowledge. Plus, isn't Joyce cute and goofy looking in this picture?



And right now, I am about 15 pages into Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I plan to finish by Thursday. We'll see how that goes. From what I'm told, it's one of those "masterpieces of world literature" you always hear about. At the moment, it seems to be a story about a pedophile (please pronounce that with a long e at the beginning). But I'm going to continue reading it because, well, it's an assignment for class. And again, it's probably one of those books I should have read if I want to call myself a literary individual.



Ta!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Remember, remember...

Those of you who are up to speed on your British holidays probably know that Saturday was Bonfire Night here in the UK. You might know it better as Guy Fawkes Night. Whatever you call it, it is a pretty big deal around here, and it was loads of fun.

Around 7pm, a group of us left the dorm and headed to Holyrood Park, home of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, which is conveniently located just behind our residential complex.

Salisbury Crags
We were situated just below where the rock face starts going vertical.

Dozens, maybe even hundreds, of people ranged over the hills to get a good view of the city. And what a view it was! As far as the eye could see, delighted revelers set off fireworks. I've seen many a fireworks display in my time, but never quite like this.

The whole of Edinburgh was aglow with tiny, distant explosions; little pops of color that would sparkle and then fade as you shifted your attention from one side of the city to the other.

I tried to capture the experience on my camera. You'd be shocked to learn that the iPhone does not make the best video recording device, but I think you can still get a sense of the effect from what I recorded. Take a look.

video

I apologize for the shoddy camerawork, particularly at the end; some jerks decided to walk in front of my shot. What I hope you got from that is that the celebration was happening all over town, and it was truly an amazing thing to witness from our perch halfway up Salisbury Crags.


It was chilly. 

After we had had our fill of the fireworks (which was long before they were actually finished), we made our way down the hill and started to head for home. It was around that time that the people on the hill itself decided to set off their own fireworks, so we were treated to a series of close-up displays, made all the more exciting because I knew these fireworks were being set off from the side of a mountain, amid large groups of people. Hooray for danger!

But lest you worry, dear reader, please know that I was not close enough to the actual setting off of the fireworks to be in harm's way. So you can put your minds at ease.

When we reached the entrance to our housing complex, we decided not to go home and instead to have a mini-pubcrawl. First we hit up a pub aptly named the Ale House, where a live musician serenaded us as we consumed a couple of pints and a bowl of chips and cheese.

For the North Americans among you, that is French fries with shredded cheese on top. And before you start thinking "but wouldn't melted cheese be easier to eat on top of the fries?", let me assure you that the heat of the fries melts the shredded cheese, making a delicious pile of cheesy goodness.

Not unlike sratchos* 

Once the chips and cheese were gone, it was off to our favorite local pub, the Montague, and then home to watch my favorite Guy Fawkes Day classic, V for Vendetta.


All in all, the best Bonfire Night I've had in years.


*sratchos (n.) - nachos made in a sorority (or "srat") house by melting cheese on top of tortilla chips in a microwave

Saturday, November 5, 2011

'Tis the Season

Well, dear readers, Halloween is over, and the holiday season is upon us. You know how I know?


Yup, if Starbucks has the red cups and eggnog lattes, that means it's almost Christmas. Only 49 shopping days left, my friends. I hope you're getting as excited as I.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween in Scotland

So I bet you're wondering, "Kimber, do they celebrate Halloween in Scotland?" Heck, yes they do, dear reader! And this year, possibly because of Halloween's weird Monday-placement, the festivities began on Friday and carried on through the weekend. (Another reason for this all-weekend partying might be that people will take any excuse to go out and wear funny costumes. But what do I know?)

I myself only dressed up for the day itself (because I am purist), but dedicated revelers made the most of their weekend. Some of my favorite costumes include a girl in a pirate costume with a giant CD attached to her front and this homemade car costume:



I had a pretty fun weekend myself. Would you like to hear about it?

On Sunday, a group of post-grads from my building went on the Auld Reekie Terror Tour. This is a terrifying 1 1/4-hour jaunt through the streets of Edinburgh and into the famous South Bridge vaults. It can be debated how terrifying the tour itself actually was, but it cannot be denied that those vaults are creepy as hell. While I was not touched by any ghosts (that I know of), I was pretty horrified just hearing about the true things that happened down there. I don't really want to go into detail because it's fairly disturbing. Let's just say, not a fun place. Oh, also, there is a present-day coven that continues to practice there. Even they are afraid of the vaults! 

The tour also involved a visit to the torture museum, which made me want to pass out. What can I say? I'm not a fan of torture. On the bright side, the tour ended with whiskey and shortbread. Hooray!

On Monday, I attended a Halloween party, hosted by one of my classmates and the people she lives with. (I'm sorry, "the people with whom she lives.") One couple come dressed as the Fantastic Mr. Fox and Mrs. Fox, which was a huge win. There was a minor fail involving a terrible pumpkin-and-rum concoction, but we bounced back and much fun was had by all.

Here is a picture of my costume. I'm going to give you a moment to look at it before I tell you what I am.


Less blurry close-up:


Why, yes. That is a full-body pink jumpsuit. No, I cannot explain why I own such a thing. Yes, I did buy it when I was 15. Jealous? No, no you're not.

Ok, figured it out, dear reader? I'm gum! Take a minute, let it sink in. Yeah, I'm pretty proud. All in all, this was a successful Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recommendation: I Love You Phillip Morris

I first became aware of the film I Love You Phillip Morris when a trailer for it began playing in my local Blockbuster. Until that moment I had never heard of this movie, and if I had, I would have thought it had something to with cigarettes, like Thank You For Smoking. Not so.

I Love You Phillip Morris is the true story of con artist Steven Russell, played by Jim Carrey. He is arrested for his cons, and while in prison, he falls in love with a sweet young man named Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). The rest of the film chronicles their love story and Steven's attempts to make a life for the two of them. But can he clean up his act, or will Steven's life as a confidence man continue to cause trouble?


The movie is at turns romantic, touching, sad, and hilarious. Mostly, it's hilarious. Here's what professional film critic (not actor) Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel had to say about the film:
Despite its title, it has nothing to do with cigarettes. But its star, as he once famously said on screen, is absolutely "smokin'." 
Jim Carrey is the narrator, heart of soul of "I Love You Phillip Morris," transforming what could have been a cliched con man comedy, generic Jim Carrey character comedy, or run-of-the-mill gay coming-out comedy into something smarter, sweeter, and downright giddy.
There's a lot more to the film than I have described, but I am loathe to give anything away. Just take my word for it. It's a good movie.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grocery stores are different here

During my recent sojourn to my local Tesco Metro, I came across a few products that I thought deserved to be photographed. I'm sure this will be the first in a series of similar blog posts. 

Why in the world would a tissue need to be "mansize"? On second thought, do not answer that. 

Note: this is a clear soda, not unlike Sprite. If this doesn't seem strange to you,
then you are perhaps more worldly than I. This is the only color of cream soda I have ever seen. 

Fanta Beach?! It's strawberry-kiwi flavored! This sounds amazing.

Gross.

This picture is awful. The focal point is illegible. I apologize. What you're meant to be seeing is the sign in the back that reads "Pot Snacks." Teehee. Not what they meant, but that would be a brilliant idea. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Olympic Dream Comes True*

As most of you probably know, next year's Summer Olympics are being held in London. I'm working on getting tickets. Apparently it's pretty popular. Who knew? So I'm not sure if I'll actually get to go. I'll keep you posted on that.

BUT the real news is what happened on Monday. As a sponsor of the Olympics, Coke is doing a publicity tour around the UK to get nominations for torch bearers. They're giving away free Coke and LETTING PEOPLE HOLD THE OLYMPIC TORCH!

AND I DID IT!!

That's right, jealous readers, the Olympic Torch was visiting the University of Edinburgh on Monday afternoon, and my friend Kyley and I went to see it. I expected it just to be on display so we could all "ooh" and "ahh." But no. There was a line to hold it and have your picture taken. We even had to wear special torch-bearer gloves. Then they gave us wee Cokes! It was exhilarating. Check out my photo shoot!






As you can see, I took a whirlwind tour around the UK.







*I'm not an athlete. My Olympics dreams do not extend beyond touching the torch. And maybe seeing Nastia Liukin in London.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Love is in the Air

October is 2/3 of the way done, and you know what that means, dear readers. That's right, love is in the air. To celebrate love today, here is a video I just found of Jim Carrey confessing his love for Emma Stone. Heart-warming. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Lion King... in 3D!

For those of you who don't know, Disney has re-released The Lion King in theaters, remastered and in 3D. So of course, I went to see it.

The showing I attended was at 9:20pm. There were no children present. The entire audience seemed to consist of 20-somethings, who were all clearly reliving their childhoods. The excitement in the air was palpable!

Before the film, there were a few indications that the people who designed the previews were, perhaps, not targeting the audience that was, at that moment, occupying the theater. We got commercials for Barbie and Legos. Then there were trailers for Arthur Christmas, Hugo, Puss in Boots, and Happy Feet Two. Ok, maybe they were targeting me, because I am very excited about Happy Feet Two. But that's beside the point. What I'm getting at is that there was a certain air of childishness within the theater that night. And I loved it!

At long last, after all those previews, the screen went black and then the famous Disney logo appeared, complete with castle and that "D" that nobody realized was a "D" for years and that, to this day, makes me think of some kind of distorted backward "G." Aww, nostalgia.

Of course, they've updated it for the younger generation.
These kids and their  CGI film studio logos. Back in my day...
In the moments before the movie started, in the quiet of the theater, the excitement could be contained no longer. Almost everyone began spontaneously to giggle, as if the level of joy they felt at being there was too great to maintain their silence and the only sound appropriate to express such joy was the most innocent and childlike of all sounds: the giggle. Then, as if in a dream, the sun began to rise and that first note sounded loud and bright and thus commenced 89 minutes of me having goosebumps.

It was wonderful. The movie looked great, all remastered and whatnot. And the 3D wasn't bad, neither! It makes you so amazed to remember that it was all hand-drawn. Having not seen the movie in years, I picked up on way more jokes this time. My favorites were the almost-constant animal puns. This scene is a prime example. Hilarious. (Just like this delightful raccoon.)

During every song, you could tell that the whole theater was itching to sing along but resisting out of movie theater courtesy. There was one moment, however, when things almost got ugly. During this scene, some heartless jerks, who clearly did not have any respect for their fellow man, poked their heads in the theater and started yelling nonsense. I'm fairly certain that if they hadn't stopped within another minute, everyone in the theater was prepared to go down there and destroy them. Luckily, it did not come to this.

Other than that momentary hiccup, The Lion King in 3D was a rousing success! It was even worth the 70-minutes roundtrip it took for me to walk there and back. I definitely recommend going. You may not be a big Disney fan, but this is a seriously enjoyable movie, and seeing in the theater, surrounded by people who are totally loving it, might just melt your hard, cold heart and remind you what it was like to be a child again.

I will leave you with this link to the Moviefone blog, where they have created a list of 17 interesting things you may not have known about The Lion King. For example, "originally, the movie was going to be called 'King of the Jungle,' until the filmmakers realized that lions live on the savanna, not in the jungle." Ha! Good catch, filmmakers.

Happy Thursday!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Great Cinema

The other day I popped into the Pound Saver to pick up a few odds and ends. For those of you not living in the UK, the Pound Saver is the equivalent of a Dollar Store. Only it uses pounds. So it's the $1.60 Store, depending on the exchange rate.

While I was there, I stumbled upon this gem of British filmmaking. I present to you... IRON HERO!


I know this picture is pretty difficult to read, so to help you out, the top says "The heart of 'Superman', The mind and body of 'Terminator'." The bottom reads "Part man... Part machine... All hero." 

Now, unless this obvious Iron Man rip-off literally has a human heart (which he might, I don't know), I would argue that to have the heart of Superman but the mind and body of Terminator just makes him Terminator from Terminator 2. If you haven't seen that film, spoiler alert, he's a good guy in it. 

I could go on about how lame this cover is (for example, I could mention that the line at the bottom is practically a quotation of the RoboCop tagline), but I'd like to move on to what I found out about the movie by doing a Google search. First, the IMDb page refers to the movie as Metal Man. I believe that's because it was released as Iron Hero in the UK in 2008 but as Metal Man in Germany in 2010.

Here's the plot summary as provided by "Anonymous" on IMDb:
Kyle Finn has the ultimate combat machine, a metal suit with super-human powers, and he uses it to defend the good and fight evil. That 'evil' comes in the form of Reed, his ninja henchmen and the Mecha Terror robot: has the Metal Man finally met his match?
This just keeps getting better. This raises several questions, like, is this a robot, with the mind and body of Terminator? Or, is this an Iron Man suit with a person inside? I'm pretty sure it has to be one or the other. Unless the suit transforms Kyle Finn into a robot with a human heart. Or maybe Kyle is a robot. Maybe the summary should read "Kyle Finn IS the ultimate combat machine... and he uses HIMSELF to defend the good and fight evil." Also, what kind of a super villain is named Reed? And why does he have both ninja henchman AND an evil robot? Oh, and the same questions I asked regarding Metal Man apply to Mecha Terror: robot, suit, etc.? 

Oh so many questions! Why, oh, why didn't I shell out the £1 to buy this movie?

Well, we're in luck, dear readers, because someone out there did. And then he recorded a series of four YouTube videos, adding up to about 37 minutes, in which he reviews the whole movie. If you really want to see how bad this movie is, I recommend at least watching the first of the four videos. He includes clips and an ongoing plot summary that is, frankly, pretty amazing. Just when you think Iron Hero cannot get any worse... it does. Incredible.

Ah, the things you find in the Scottish Dollar Store. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Castle! Ooh! Aah!

This past Saturday my friend Sabrina and I joined the International Student Centre on a trip to Culzean Castle. That's Culzean, pronounced cuh-LAY-in. Yes, I know there's a z in there. I don't pretend that the pronunciation of Gaelic things makes sense.

Anyhow, we visited this delightful castle, which is on the west coast, about 2 1/2 hours by bus from Edinburgh.


See, there it is. Historically, the castle and its grounds belonged to the Kennedy family, but it is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. We rode there on a charter bus with 70 of our closest friends. And I do mean closest. I have never seen a bus designed to fit so many people into such a small space. Across each row, there were a total of five seats, three on one side of the aisle, two on the other. The seats and the aisle were each about 2/3 the width of a normal bus seat. Needless to say, not the most comfortable of rides. But,seeing as I woke up at 7:30am that Saturday, I spent most of my time in the sardine can sleeping.


Upon our arrival at Culzean Castle, we were given maps and told when to meet for our castle tour. As it turns out, the land upon which Culzean Castle sits is quite expansive. It includes lakes, forests, lush meadows, a beach, some lovely cliffs, and even some enticing caves, where we were unable to explore because the tide was too high.

Our first stop before the castle tour was the beach. At this point, we were still hoping to find the caves. No dice, but we did get to enjoy that crisp autumn sea air. The beach at Culzean is not exactly a place you would go sunbathing, but it was still a beautiful sight.




After our beach adventure, we set out along a road through the forest to find the park's secondhand bookshop. I bet you're wondering why the castle grounds need a secondhand bookshop. I assure you, it has not been there since ancient times. It's quite a nice scheme, actually. All of their books are donated, and all of the proceeds go toward castle upkeep. It's a nice alternative to selling souvenirs and knickknacks, I say. Of course, they have those too.


Around 1:30pm Sabrina and I returned to the castle for our tour. No photos were allowed inside, but trust me when I tell you it is amazing. Every room screams decadence. Marble fireplaces, ornate rugs, sculpted ceilings. Oh and of course, each room is equipped with a bell for summoning servants, who moved through the house using secret passageways so that the masters never had to see the help. The walls boast portraits of the various earls and marquesses of the family, most of whom were named Archibald. Our guide was a delightful man named Mark, who was just full of knowledge about the various lords of the family. He even told us the origin of the phrase "to lose face," which apparently comes from the makeup women used to wear in the olden days. They would put a layer of wax under their makeup to fill in their pox-scars, and when they sat by the fire, their faces would start melting off. De-LIGHT-ful.

Post-tour, we went in search of the swan pond. That's right. SWAN POND! On the way, we found the Walled Garden, which made me feel like I was in the Secret Garden, only it was a little better tended and a little less secret than I would have liked.





The swan pond was about a 10-minute walk from the garden, and about five minutes after we got there we had to head back to the bus. But we did have time for a couple of pictures. As one of my compatriots commented, "I've never been so close to a swan without it trying to bite me." It's always a good day when you can get close to a swan and not get attacked. 



After that, it was a quick walk back to the cramped bus by way of the deer park. Because when you are super-wealthy, you keep your own field full of deer. That's just how it works. 

I hope you enjoyed my trip to Culzean Castle, dear readers. I hope to have many more adventures in old Scottish places. So stayed tuned!

Below you will find more pictures of the castle and grounds. All photo credits for this post go to Miss Sabrina Uswak, who has sweet photo-editing skills and the foresight to bring a digital camera that didn't die within the first 20 minutes of our arrival. 












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