Thursday, June 24, 2021

Snack of the Month - Jonuts

Cathy bought me these because of my love of jaffa cakes and because they have "Jon" in the name.

They are pretty much what you would expect from a long-life cake. Although the cakey bit is softer (more frangible, to use the right term) than I was expecting.

They keep the jaffa cake theme with a chocolate topping.

Flip them over and they look more doughnut-like.

The first one I had broke into pieces as I took it out of the packet. 

The sponge is orange flavoured. I think it has some orange goop injected into the sponge to try and form a ring. This doesn't particularly work as it soaked into the sponge but it did give it a nice orangey taste.

It's always a risk buying two of a new snack but I had no qualms about eating both of them!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Quilt of memories

I'm married to a creative person and one thing she is very good at is creating ways to hold on to memories. We had accumulated quite a stack of t-shirts. I did whatever the opposite of outgrowing clothes is when I lost weight a few years ago and went into diabetes recovery and some of my favourite t-shirts no longer fit me. Other t-shirts got worn out, frayed and a bit tatty around the edges. I hung on to several long past their useful life for sentimental reasons.

So Cathy turned them into a quilt.

It's a patchwork of memories. Our first American road trip. Our trip through Utah. The shirt Cathy was wearing that caused a guy to holler in respect across The Strip in Las Vegas. Our pilgrimage to Canada. Presents and gifts over the years. Star Wars t-shirts that I've worn in so many photos of fun times with family. Repurposed to keep us warn at night.

It's a nice feeling sunggling up under your memories.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

In the Heights marks our return to cinema-going

Cathy scored us some preview tickets for a film called In The Heights last week, which marked our first trip to the cinema since the beginning of March 2020. That 15 months gap has probably been the longest stretch between going to a movie theatre in absolutely ages. 

We got into the cinema and Cathy suddenly asked me if I knew how long the film lasted for. I looked it up, and said "Well, it says here it's two hours and twenty three minutes long... and it's a musical!" We looked at each other in mild, apprehensive horror. Neither of us particularly like musicals. Oh, well, it was a free preview, and how bad could it be?

It turned out it wasn't bad at all. It was excellent. Mild spoilers follow.

The film is set in Washington Heights in New York City, a predominantly Hispanic immigrant neighbourhood. It's written by Lin Manuel Miranda, who wrote Hamilton, which everyone raves about but I have yet to watch.

The story really pulls at some big themes, especially the tension between loving your community and simultaneously wanting to escape it to something better, with associated feelings of disloyalty and guilt for daring to dream of somewhere better. 

The character have a mix of dreams. Characters dream of setting up their own businesses, returning to Peurto Rico to open a bar on a beach, or even just gaining American citizenship because they are 'undocumented'. A father is willing to sell his business, built up over years, to pay for his daughter's tuition at university. His dream is that she will eclipse him, and there is a powerful moment when he tells her that she is better than him because of her hope for the future. 

Mixed in with this, are themes around gentrification and the changes being made to poor neighbourhoods in the name of progress. That really resonated with me as my neighbourhood changes and big plans are put through by the council that will displace people and nibble away at parkland. But the story makes the point that areas always change as people flow through them and this is part of the life-cycle of any community.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the music. There are some fantastic song and dance sequences and the mainly young cast all carry it off with depth and feeling. A few recognised Hispanic actors appear, including Jimmy Smits. The only one that jarred was seeing Stephanie Beatriz as a nail stylist with big hair, because I'm used to seeing her as the scary Roza in Brooklyn NineNine. After the initial shock though, she was very good and it's nice to see actors playing completely different roles. 

Overall then, I not only survived a two hour and twenty three minute musical, but I would happily watch it again. Because of covid restrictions the auditorium was only about a quarter full. We had to leave gaps between rows which meant nobody kicking the back of our seats, and nobody with big hair sitting directly ahead of us. I could get used to that kind of cinema experience! 

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

21 photos from the 2021 Grangetown Zoo

Last weekend it was the second community creative event called the Grangetown Zoo organised by the Grangetown Art Trail. The 2020 lockdown version was a lot of fun, and so we decided to take part again. Cathy made these amazing rhinos to sit in our window, and added an explanatory panel about rhinos as well. 

There were a lot of art activities happening in Grange Gardens and particularly in the new Pavilion. Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch those. However, we saw some very colourful snails in the Pavilion windows.

We also didn't make it to the craft activities in St. Paul's Church Hall, but we did take a picture of their giraffe, peeking over the churchyard railings.

Walking around Grangetown, some of the schools had really embraced the Grangetown Zoo concept. These murals at St Paul's Primary School were great. Giraffes were clearly a bit of a theme for places named after St Paul. 

Meanwhile Ninian Park Primary School filled their windows with a dazzling array of wildlife. I particularly liked the aquatic themed windows.

The school really went for broke on their giraffe though. I had to cross the road to take a photo! (Cathy for scale!)

A number of local businesses unleashed their creative side. (It hepled that they were open this year!) The lovely Honeycomb toy shop was transformed into a dragon's cave.

I especially liked the purple dragon. 

(We braved the dragons and went inside. We may have bought some things. Cough, cough.)

Opposite Honeycomb was this classy tiger in the window of Lufkin Coffee.

And local artist Anna Palamar had been asked to create a mural on the side of Bruton's Bakery on Clare Road. We have been big fans of Anna's for ages and it was serendipitous to find her adding a few finishing touches to the mural. She was persuaded to pose for a photo with me.

The attention to detail in the mural is superb. Good service etiquette too, with the badger using tongs to pick up pastries for their customer.

Meanwhile down near The Marl, the Channel View Leisure Centre was entertaining a giant whale and assorted fishy friends.

The real fun, like last year, was wandering around and finding animals in unexpected places, like behind gates on one of the lanes.

And the bit I enjoyed most was just seeing people's windows full of animals. Although, I struggled to take pictures of the aviary in Earl Street because the windows were too clean and reflected everything! Here's a parrot though.

And here's some more windows. From an aviary to an apiary saying Save Bees, another parrot and some penguins!

Even though we weren't able to take part in any of the activities due to other commitments, it was really enjoyable taking part by going out and finding animals. The creativity of our community really brightened up our weekend and for me, that's what the Grangetown Zoo should be all about!

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Unboxing Blood Bowl - the Second Season

A few years after it got rebooted, Blood Bowl has had a revamp. I didn't know that had happened, until I took advantages of the pandemic restrictions slowly lifting, to have a nose around one of my favourite shops, Firestorm Games. There on a display were the new Blood Bowl items. I asked how much the Starter Set would cost, and discovered it was discounted. 

So, um, yeah...

I appreciate you might have questions. I have the starter set released in 2016. Did I really need this new one? Well, it came with the new Second Season rulebook, which costs over £25 on its own. It also came with two new teams, a Star Player for each team, a "Big Guy" for each team, and two referees. Plus all the dice and kit you need to play the game. It felt like good value, if I was going to get the rulebook anyway.

The first thing I saw when I opened the box was a pile of plastic sprues. Lovely, lovely plastic sprues, pregnant with possibilities. The clipping, the building, the glueing, the painting!

They are colour coded - the red sprues are the players for the Imperial Nobility team. They are all humans. Their backstory is that they are rich noblemen who want to play Blood Bowl, so they are kitted up ready to play, along with their retainers and bodyguards. Also on their side is an ogre, to give them a bit of muscle and protection. 

The dark green sprues are the Black Orc team, which is a mix of large orcs and goblins. They also have a troll on their side. The models are all new for this edition of Blood Bowl, apart from the ogre and the troll, which were released shortly after the previous edition of the game.

There's a blue sprue too, with referees; one elf, one dwarf.

The referees are biased and you can buy them off before the start of the game to help your team win!

Underneath the sprues is a sheet that prevents the pointy bits of the models from scratching the rest of the contents of the box. Underneath the sheet is the rulebook and the other bits needed for the game, including the bases for the players.

In with the rulebook are two "cheat sheets". These aren't actually about cheating, they are just reference guides to keep handy to remind you about the phases of the game and the rules that matter the most.

There is a set of dice for each team. The symbols mean different outcomes for when players try and tackle each other.

There are dug-outs to go next to the pitch, where spare players sit waiting for their chance to play and injured players are placed when removed from play.

Severely injured players go in the bit with a handy coffin ready, just in case they don't make it...

The game is backwards compatible to an extent. The teams from the previous edition can be used in the Second Season, which was a relief to my team of Skaven (who also have an ogre in their line up). Here's a picture of them from when I painted them last year.

With the two teams that came in the previous starter set, the two that came in this one, and the two extra ones I have acquired along the way, I now have enough teams to run my own league. I am looking forward to being actually able to meet up with my Blood Bowl buddy, Bryan, and play a few games. It could be a very bloody winter!

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

May 2021 End of Month review

Yes, it's my monthly review of the month just gone, which serves as a both an online journal and an announcement that I'm still alive. The pandemic seems to have abated somewhat and places are opening up. However, attending a football match is still off-limits in Wales (unless your team plays in the English system) so I wasn't able to go to Barry Town's final game of the season - the post-season play-off for a Europa League qualifying place.

This actually marked the first time where I really disagreed with the restrictions. 150 people were allowed in the Barry Town clubhouse to watch the game live on TV, but none of them were allowed to go outside and stand on the terraces to watch the game. I have been supportive of the rules restricting movement throughout the pandemic, but this just felt arbitrary and stupid. 

But anyway, that's enough about what I didn't do in May. What about the things I did do? Well, the month kicked off with an election. Here we are outside our local gorsaf bleidleisio, having voted. 

The election returned more than expected Labour Senedd Members, with enough to form a workable government. I blogged about the result here. There was a shift away from the more reactionary right wing parties, which either indicates a decline in popularity for that sort of politics, or that the Conservative Party has regained the support from that wing of society. (I think it's more the latter.) 

One additional aspect to the new Government is that there was a reshuffle in the cabinet and we have a new health minister. It's not yet apparent whether that will mean any changes in health policy, or knock-on effects for the NHS, but at least it means that things that have been on hiatus for ages can progress now. 

We also made the most of easing travel restrictions to visit family, including timing a visit to Shrewsbury to see my sister and family for the first time since Christmas 2019. My twin niece and nephew were 6 on the day we saw them - we hadn't seen them the entirety of the year they were 5!

Due to the changeable weather we had to shelter under some gazebos, but at least that meant we got a pic!

I also showed off some of me back garden football skillz in true 'cool uncle' style. 

No children were harmed in the displaying
of these skillz

The second time we went up, we actually stayed the night. It was the weekend when it would have been my dad's birthday on the Sunday. It was nice to be with mum and the rest of the family for most of that day. We also had a little walk out to a nearby pool, where we saw a gazillion tadpoles.

I have almost stopped reading anything during the pandemic, but I did finish one book in May. It's a very short collection of op-ed pieces by George Orwell.

As ever with Orwell's take on contemporary issues, there are several pithy comments, many of which resonated with me. I'm planning to get around to blogging some of them soon.

I'm still writing, though. This month marked the one year anniversary of my blogging project about baseball cards

In an exciting development I sampled McVitie's latest foray into different flavoured jaffa cakes. Personally I didn't like these as much as some of the flavours I tried earlier in the year. But I did like the purple-hued packaging.

And that wasn't the only exciting purchase I made. Right at the end of the month, Cathy and I called into the newly reopened Firestorm Games and I bought something I'm very excited about. But that's going to wait for a post all to itself!