Archive | August, 2012

Going on holiday…

21 Aug

Tomorrow I am “going on holiday” and will not have Internet for two whole weeks. That will either be a really good or really bad thing. I wanted to post more this week, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. In an attempt to make up for that and to keep you entertained for the next two weeks, enjoy this panda riding a rocking horse:

(Click on it, it moves!)

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Are you ready for some football?!

13 Aug

So the Olympics are over. All the Team GB paraphernalia was half-price at the grocery store this morning, and it made me feel a little sad inside. Seven plus years in the making, and just like that it’s passed.

On Saturday I went to my first (and only) official ticketed Olympic event — the men’s football final. We got our tickets way over a year ago, which is the inherit problem with the Olympics that I’m not quite sure how to fix. You have to buy your tickets way before you’ll know who’s playing, making it incredibly hard for people to actually root for their own countries. I think they should reserve a block of tickets and only sell them after the participating countries have been announced so superfans can have a chance. Otherwise you get stuck with a stadium 90% full of Team GB fans who don’t really care about Mexico or Brazil. That’s pretty much what happened in the football final. Whereas Team USA didn’t even qualify, Team GB had a chance, but got knocked out in the quarter finals. The Mexico and Brazil fans at Wembley on Saturday were few and far between. Actually I think the majority of them were British people who thought it would be fun to get drunk, put on a sombrero, and run up and down the aisles screaming, “Viva Mehico!” Yes, most of the excitement of the game did not take place on the field.

And now for the photos I took, because when the game gets boring, TAKE PICTURES. Here are the teams coming out onto the field, accompanied by children. I have no idea why.

They played both national anthems.

And then this happened:

This was on my seat when I arrived. I felt special to be one of the lucky 10,000. “I was there!”

And this is what it looked like, which was hard to tell being in the midst of it. It looks like a few spots are missing…

Because people like this Mexico fan thought it would be better to get a giant sausage than to “lift the athletes and fellow spectators.”

Can I just pause quickly to discuss Wembley Stadium food? My parents rarely let us get stadium food because it’s always ridiculously overpriced, but it always looked and smelled good — ice cream, giant pretzels, nachos, peanuts, hot dogs… Do you know what you can eat at Wembley? Giant sausages (not hot dogs) and meat pies. Meat pies. At a sporting event. They also offered crisps (a tiny container of Pringles) and Cadbury chocolate or wine gums, which are jelly candies that pull out your fillings. Naturally we got a bag of those, along with some cheese and onion Pringles, a watered down yet still not really cold fountain Diet Coke and a bottle of water. The cashier took the cap off the water before handing it to me, meaning I had to go the whole game afraid I was going to kick the bottle over. Stephen told me they take the caps so you can’t fill the bottles up and throw them. Good to know…

There was no bottle-throwing, but we did the wave many times. Can you spot it?

The game opened with a Mexican goal right off the bat, which was really exciting. And then nothing happened for the rest of the half. Here is a picture I took of a goalie. I don’t know which team he’s on because goalies don’t match the rest of the players. He’s wearing Brazilian blue but seems to have a Mexican flag on his chest.

Halftime (is it called halftime in soccer?) was a big disappointment. There were no cheerleaders, dancers or band. Just some reporter dude dancing with the ugly mascot, which they broadcast on the jumbotrons. I do enjoy the guy in the upper left of this photo holding up his scarf backwards. They sold souvenir scarves with both teams featured on them. I noticed many British fans folding them in half and holding up the Mexico side when Mexico was doing well, then switched to the Brasil size when Brazil almost made a goal. That’s what happens when Team GB doesn’t play.

There were a buttload of people there! And I bet they all took the Tube. I thought we were crazy for driving, but we had no problems leaving or arriving. I’m sure there are still a few people trying to get on the train out of Wembley.

Here’s another shot of players. I took many more, but I’ll spare you.

Mexico wins! 2 to 1. Brazil scored in the last few minutes of the game and things finally got exciting, but they weren’t able to tie it. You can see Brazil’s disappointment in this photo.

The London 2012 logo on the stadium.

Wembley and its ridiculous arch.

Never mind the gold medal on the line, the most exciting part of the afternoon was watching the antics of the people in front of us. The women two rows ahead was a real live Brazilian fan and would hop out of her seat with joy every time Brazil did something spectacular like get the ball. This would block the view of the guy in front of me. The first time his wife asked politely if the woman would sit down so they could see. She did, but sprang up again a minute later. Each time it happened the guy became less and less polite, until eventually he screamed “SIT DOWN!” and lightly slapped her on the back. Then she got angry because he touched her and shouted. I had my camera out, ready to capture a fight that could earn me some theoretical Internet dollars on Youtube. But alas, they both calmed down and were quiet the rest of the match.

It was a neat experience being part of history like that, but I’m sure it would have been more fun if USA or Team GB were playing. (Side note: I have never referred to England/Britain/the UK as “GB” before the Olympics, but it’s been shoved down my throat for 16 days straight.)

A real live Olympic event in real life

9 Aug

I woke up this morning to sun and blue sky and knew I had to go somewhere. I wasn’t sure where exactly — Oxford Street to shop? Tesco to buy grapes? I just wanted to walk. I checked my email and my handy London 2012 message informed me that Swimming: women’s marathon was “What’s on in London” and I could “watch the event without a ticket.” An Olympic event — for free! I quickly got dressed and left before I had a chance to talk myself out of walking three miles to Hyde Park to encounter all 1 million of London’s extra tourists in one spot.

The minute I got past the Oxford Street shops I could see the crowds gathering. We crossed the street as a giant amoeba and were herded towards BT London Live where we could watch real live Olympic sports on live TV. Except I wanted to watch a real live Olympic sport in real life. So I kept walking in what I thought was the direction of the Serpentine, the lake where the swim was taking place, despite the fact that 90 percent of the people were walking in the opposite direction of me. “They’re going to BT London Live!” I told myself. There was a giant wall around most of the park, which prevented me from figuring out where the heck I was. So I kept walking. And walking. Eventually the signs for BT London Live started pointing in a different direction, meaning I had gone so far it would now be quicker to continue going around the park to get back to the entrance than to turn around. Where were the massive amounts of people? Where was the freaking lake? And then I turned a corner, and bingo. A butt load of people and water.

I politely pushed my way through the crowd to see the lake. My first thought: is it gross to swim in a lake? I know plenty of people do, but lakes always make me feel kind of skeevy, like they are full of bacteria that salt water would kill. These women were swimming 10km in the Serpentine lake. That’s SIX miles! And I was hurting after walking three miles.

I kept standing on my tip toes to try to see swimmers, but all I saw were these giant inflatable barriers and a butt-ton of people.

… a butt-ton of people with cameras. This guy means business, even if he’s pointing his camera in the opposite direction of the action.

Eventually I heard a gradual cheer as the swimmers got closer. And then I had to fight with my camera to get it to focus on the swimmers, not the heads of the people in front of me.

I wonder what all the boats were for? In case somebody crapped out?

Apparently everyone else had the same “OMG must document that I saw some of the Olympics in real life” idea and then I couldn’t see the swimmers in real life anymore.

And then the swimmers were out of view so I decided to leave. You had to have a ticket to see the finish line and I figured someone else might want my wonderful spot behind a bunch of people’s heads. Here is a photo of a bunch of people standing around who also got tired of standing on their tip toes to see swimmers.

And these people just said “Screw it, I’m just going to enjoy the rare London sunshine” and spread out on the grass behind the lake.

Even though the race was still going on, a lot of people also decided to leave once they saw the swimmers go by. Here you see the stupid wall and the massive sign leading you towards London Live.

And here is the massive queue to get into London Live. As far as I know it’s just a place to watch live Olympics on a giant TV. I decided I’d go home and do that.

So that was my first experience at an Olympic event. As sore as my feet are from walking and as much as I hate crowds, I’m glad I went. Even though I had no idea which swimmer was which (everyone around me kept shouting “Look for a red cap!” because British swimmers wear red), it was easy to get caught up in the excitement as everyone erupted into a deafening cheer for the 30 seconds the swimmers were in view. Here’s hoping Saturday’s football final is just as exciting.

 

Favourite BBC horse jumping commentator remark:

5 Aug

“Oh no, it appears the horse has run out of petrol!”

“It’s funny because Americans say ‘Run out of gas!'”

(The horse likely just thought to himself, “What am I doing here? This rain sucks and I couldn’t care less about a medal. Bail!”)

Price check at the 99p Store

2 Aug

I’ve been scouring the Internet for some new healthy recipes lately. You know why more people don’t eat healthily? Because it’s expensive. And requires ingredients that people like me who throw barbecue sauce and chicken into a slow cooker and call it dinner don’t have — things like tahini, couscous and nutritional yeast. Yes, I said nutritional yeast. So yesterday morning I set off in search of yeast, knowing full well I would have to go to the store I’ve managed to avoid since I arrived in London: Whole Foods.

I have a lot of friends who swear by Whole Foods. When I was in college it was the only grocery store within walking distance. I think the store took advantage of that fact and jacked their prices up even more. While I wish I could buy all the natural, organic and exotic delicacies “Wholes” has to offer, there’s a reason my friends used to call it “Whole Paycheck.”

I walked into the store and immediately found the first item on my list — almond butter! Like peanut butter, only almonds, which is supposedly healthier. It was £11. ELEVEN POUNDS. That’s $17, American friends. Granted, it was a rather large jar (for British standards) and organic, but there was no way I was going to pay that. I eventually found a smaller jar for £3, which is still a lot of money when peanut butter costs £1, but I couldn’t suppress my desire to try almond butter, so I grabbed it. I then went in search of nutritional yeast. This tahini salad dressing recipe I found called for it and the vegan Internet raves about it, saying it tastes like cheese and you can put it on popcorn and it’s amazing. I finally broke down and asked an employee. “Brewer’s yeast?” she asked me, and handed me a large bottle. I politely thanked her and pretended to read the label when I was really looking for the price sticker. It was really tiny but it looked like £14. FOURTEEN POUNDS. Almost $22. For some deactivated yeast to put in a salad dressing made with tahini and I don’t even know if I like tahini. But then I was in that awkward position where you ask a sales associate where something is and they find it for you and then you realize you don’t want it but can’t put it back in front of them. So I carried the bottle of gold yeast around for a little bit until I abandoned it on the Japanese shelf when no one was looking. I was about to abandon the dressing recipe too despite already purchasing tahini, but decided to try one more health food store. Their brewer’s yeast was £4 something, which seemed like pennies, so I bought it. And then I got home and discovered that brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast are not the same thing. This is after I opened the box and stuck my finger in. Crap. I’m still determined to use it in my recipe and hopefully it doesn’t taste like £7 down the drain (for the yeast and tahini).

All this healthy cooking requires a lot of steaming vegetables and straining couscous and I don’t have a strainer. So my next stop was the 99p Store, where everything is 99p. I found a lone little mesh strainer sitting amongst the kitchenware section, like it was waiting for me. It was the only one and it didn’t have a tag, but considering this was the 99p Store, where everything is 99p, I didn’t think that’d be a problem. I placed it down at the till and the cashier looked at me with panic. “It was the only one,” I told her. She looked nervously at her colleague and called him over. They whispered for awhile. “There wasn’t any other ones?” she asked again. I couldn’t figure out why this was a problem. I remember in the early days the Dollar Store would count how many items you had and that’s how many dollars you owed — there was no scanning or price checks. Eventually the cashier left and came back with a Pepsi Max. Because obviously a Pepsi Max is the closest thing in shape and utility to a mesh strainer. At this point the people behind me were getting antsy. I just wanted to buy this one item, I even had my £1 coin in my hand, ready. “59p,” the cashier said.

They did a price check at the 99p Store, and the price they came up with was 59p.

That boggles me. As far as I know, the only things at the 99p Store that don’t cost 99p are the candy bars and pop, which are usually 2 or 3 for 99p. Nothing in the kitchenware section costs less than 99p. Was my strainer part of a set? Is that why it was tagless? Do strainers come in sets? I decided not to question it and happily accepted 41p back from my £1 coin instead of the expected penny. I’m sure that strainer would have cost at least £15 at Whole Foods, which makes me feel better about the yeast fiasco.

…And for the record — almond butter tastes like almonds. Ground up almonds that cost £3. I don’t think I’ll be going to Wholes again anytime soon.