My Picks for The Oscars

Now that the Super Bowl is over, the next big event on our radar is the Oscars.

Peter and I love going to the movies. Every year we try to view as much as we can from many genres. By the way, yesterday afternoon we saw “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and I am happy to report it was actually quite good. Another movie based on a comic book but in this one, no one has special powers, just pure grit. It was also pretty cool to recognize our old neighborhood of Fulham in the movie and some scenes take place around Imperial College, our backyard. And let’s face it, the bonus for me was Colin Firth in a perfectly tailored suit….nothing better to watch than a man in a great suit.

Anyways, back to the Oscars and my pick and what I think will actually win.

Best Motion Picture of the Year: The only movies I have yet to see in this category are “Selma” and “The Theory of Everything”. I feel like both movies have subject matter that have been done to death and I will wait to view them on an upcoming BA flight.

My pick: Birdman. Actual win: Boyhood. I think Boyhood will win it simply because it was filmed over a 12 year period and that in itself is quite a feat. I thought the movie was good and acting was good but I have to admit I got a little bored in the middle. All in all a good movie but “Birdman” and even Whiplash for that matter were also very well acted and entertaining. Still, I think the academy will play it safe and pick Boyhood.

Best Actor:

My pick: Michael Keaton in “Birdman”. Actual win: Eddie Redmayne. I really hope Michael gets it. Great performance from him in “Birdman” but again, academy will play it safe and pick the British actor who overcomes terrible illness while falling in love and figuring out the Big Bang Theory.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

My pick: J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash” Actual win: J.K. Simmons. If he doesn’t win it I will be upset. Great performance.

Best Actress:

My pick and the actual win: Julianne Moore. She won the Golden Globe and this is her 5th Oscar nominations without winning. She is due. The other ladies in the category, Marion Cottillard, already won it, Reese Witherspoon, already won it, Rosemund Pike and Felicity Jones are both young, they will be back, the will have other chances to win it.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

My pick and actual win: Patricia Arquette: This is a tough category. Laura Dern was excellent in “Wild” and so were Kiera Knightley in “The Imitation Game” and Emma Stone in “Birdman” but I think Patricia’s rendition of the mom in Boyhood was the best. Little upset they put Merryl Streep in this category, really? “Into the Woods” wasn’t that good. They could have picked Naomi Watts from “Birdman” instead. I realize she is a great actress but I don’t think that everything she plays deserves a nomination.

Best Animated Feature Film:

My pick and the actual win: “How to Train your Dragon 2”. Little disappointed that “The Lego Movie” is not in this category. What the heck?

The rest of the categories are MY PICKS only. I have no idea what the Academy will pick. These are my picks according to what I have seen, read about and heard of.

Achievement in Cinematography: “Birdman”. (Mr. Turner is a close second).

Achievement in Costume Design: “Into the Woods”. 

Achievement in Directing: Richard Linklater “Boyhood”. If he doesn’t win it, I hope Alejandro G. Inarritu wins it for “Birdman”. The camera work walking around that old theater on Broadway was pretty cool.

Best Documentary Feature: “Citizenfour” by Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky.

Best Documentary Short Subject: “Crisis Hotline:Veterans Press 1”. I have no idea I randomly picked one.

Achievement in Film Editing: “Boyhood”.  Think about it, 12 years of film roll to go through.

Best Foreign Language of the Year: “Leviathan” (Russia). With what is happening in Russia I think the subject matter of the film is very a propos and will win it. Also, it won the Golden Globe…

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling: “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

Original Score: “The Theory of Everything”.

Original Song: Glory from “Selma”.

Achievement in Production Design: “Interstellar”. 

Best Animated Short Film: “Feast”. I have no idea!

Best Live Action Short Film: “The Phone Call”. Again No Clue!

Achievement in Sound Editing: “American Sniper”.

Achievement Visual Effects: “Interstellar”. 

Adapted Screenplay: “The theory of Everything”.

Original Screenplay: “Birdman”.

I Blame the Bounce Balls

During the last year Peter and I have been doing more hiking. When packing for a hike I always look for new snack ideas to take on the trail. Jerky, protein bars, dry fruit etc… Last fall while I was rummaging through Whole Foods I discovered Bounce protein balls. Handy little bars packed with protein, low in calories and almost no carbs. They are small, taste good and are easy to pack. My favorite flavor is cacao mint. Yummy! Peter’s favorite, peanut butter.


My only beef about them is they are expensive. £2 for a little ball. This got me thinking I could find a recipe and make them myself.

Poor Peter

Every new year I seem to get in the “New Year, New You” mode. I am trying to find a new way to cook and eat better for ourselves. Last year I tried to go gluten-free. We lasted till about mid February. We may not have lasted but I will say this, we became more conscious about what we eat, especially in terms of gluten.

After the gluten-free period we purchased a vitamix blender and we often just have kale juice for breakfast or with our steaks at dinner time. We rarely have any starch anymore.

This year it’s protein! We came back from Xmas, I bought myself a protein cookbook and I have been testing out recipes every other day. Banana protein muffins, protein blondies, almond protein bars, protein donuts…you name it, I am trying to put some whey protein powder into it. Problem is, everything taste the same. As soon as you put some whey protein powder or casein powder you get the same results. A bit of a chewy muffin with a banana or vanilla after taste. I have even tried to reproduce the cacao mint bounce ball and I just had to throw everything out. YUCK! Just not the same as the Bounce ball. Maybe it’s because I didn’t put any grape juice, brown rice malt syrup, some kind of gum and sunflower lecithin….all this time and money wasted on reading and thinking about protein. I blame the Bounce ball.

AND, we didn’t even get through the month of January and my ALL PROTEIN cookbook has been stowed safely on the shelf with its cousin the Gluten-Free cookbook.

I will now go back to making the flax-seed/oatmeal raisin cookies and the peanut butter bran cookies that actually taste good and I will look for sales of cacao mint Bounce balls, (I am hooked and I just can’t reproduce the taste).

Side note and a little rant: Why can’t I get ground turkey in this country? By country I mean UK. In trying to make my own turkey chili for dinner I have to buy turkey breast and cut it in tiny pieces myself. Frustrating! I don’t like lamb and pork as much as turkey. I want ground turkey! Peter if you are reading this before coming home, tonight’s dinner is turkey chili with gluten-free corn bread. YUM!

Think Madmen Offices but in the Future

walkie-talkie sign

Every once in a while, such as tonight, Peter works late. I meet him for dinner, we eat a quick chow close to his office and I come back home.

Tonight was the first time I was meeting him at his new office. He was able to get me in the building in order to see the new digs. One word to describe the building, WOW! or should I say Gorgeous?

The offices on the 18th and 19th floor of the brand new Walkie-Talkie building are amazing. For those of you who watch Madmen, envision the open concept of Madmen but with the 360 degree views of the City of London. It is very cool. The other cool thing is the open staircase in the middle of the floor to go back and forth between the 18th and 19th floor. Let me show you some pictures I managed to take.

walkie-talkie elevator panel

First, after getting your authorized entry card from the front desk security you have access to a computerized panel to select your floor. As soon as you select your floor you get this panel in the “lift” indicating what will be your next stop.

Once we arrived on the 19th floor Peter showed me the different areas.

walkie-talkie Bermuda conference room

Each conference rooms is named after a part of the world where Allied World has an office. This is the Bermuda conference room. There’s one for Singapore, Dublin, Farmington, NYC, Toronto etc… I will be working on getting one that says “Montreal!”

All the desks are open concept like in Madmen but you have little areas such as this break room.

walkie-talkie lunch room

And this little area for the brokers to meet. Notice the bar…

walkie-talkie meeting area

And this pretty cool area where underwriters bring clients.

walkie-talkie meeting area underwriters

I am told there’s a full-time barista behind that bar….I would never leave work!

Then you find these little cubes all over the place where you and your friends can go do some office gossip.

walkie-talkie cubby

As you can see, someone was wrapping Xmas gifts before the break.

In the London conference room you will also find the video conference set up. Pretty impressive. Can’t imagine seeing Peter on a 50″ TV. Let’s hope they never see him in his Bruce Banner to Hulk phase…(tearing his shirt, turning green…I only get to see that!)

walkie-talkie video conference room

Most importantly, especially at night, the views you see from this office.

walkie-talkie tower bridge

walkie-talkie views

walkie-talkie view of Shard

I never got to see the inside of the office at the Gherkin. All I ever heard about it was that it was tight, too many people. I can honestly say, in this one, they are not on top of each other and it’s pretty amazing.

Moving to London – UK Sizes – What I Was Up to Last Week

Canary Wharf

View from a Penthouse in Canary Wharf

Peter has a colleague who lives in N.J. and works in London from Monday to Thursday. You read correctly. Ed, that’s his name, flies in every Monday morning goes straight to work, works in London until Thursday night and flies back to N.J. on Thursday night. Then he works out of the N.J. office on Friday, spends the weekend with his family and starts all over again on Sunday night. CRAZY!!!

Ed is tired of the corporate apartment and has decided to look for a place to call home. Ed’s family, his wife and three kids, will also come to visit more often, Spring break, Summer break etc….this way, Ed won’t have to travel as much and his family can get to know London.

Since I just went to this process recently, Ed asked if I minded going around with the relo agent and his wife Rebecca. He was interested in our neighborhood. This is why I spent the last week with Rebecca visiting flats/houses in the Sloane Square/South Ken/Gloucester Rd area. I also gave her some of my experience on dealing with a relo agent here in UK. In short, the relo business is not really big and the agents don’t seem to care. You have to be very proactive. Research online, give the listings you are interested in to the agent and have her/him book the viewings. There are no lock boxes in UK. The agents have to go get the keys from the listing agent or ask the listing agent to be present if you want to see a place. Sometimes it’s really hard to get into a place. Another interesting factor is Foxtons. Foxtons is a realty company. They are big and according to the other realty companies they don’t play nice, they are too arrogant. If you want to see something listed with Foxtons you have to call them directly. Once you are on Foxtons radar guess what, they do something that us North Americans are used to, they give you client service! Remember this little tidbit.

Day 1: Monday I met Rebecca and we walked around South Ken/ Sloane Square to see some of the properties we had seen on-line but just the exterior. We looked at how long from Tube station to house, what shops are around etc…we walked almost 11 miles.

Day 2: We meet an agent at one of the properties on Cornwall Gardens. Nice, furnished but old, dated, and £975 a week. Then we go see a Mews. It was a dump! £975 a week. At that point I asked Rebecca what her budget was again because she had told me £1300 a week. I was wondering why the agent was making us waste time with these dumps. The agent said she had no idea that Rebecca’s budget was £1300, she was told by HR around £1100. Finally, she showed us the third and last property of the day, a nice house 3 minutes from Gloucester Rd tube. It ticked off a lot of the boxes but it was only the third property, we wanted to see more. The agent told us that’s all she had for the day and that now that she knew the real budget, she was going to go back to the office and look at listings. Rebecca was very disappointed that she only had 3 properties to view. She told the agent that she was only here for one week and she needs to see more than 3 a day.

When we left the relo agent I told Rebecca that we were going back to my place to regroup and take matters into our hands. We looked on-line and included Foxtons listings. We sent an email, using my email, to get information on one of them and within the hour we had a call from them. This listing was in Canary Wharf . Nice 3 bedrooms (double bedrooms) penthouse apartment with separate washer and dryer, etc…She could go view the flat and others in that building at 6 pm that night.

Day 3: Wednesday morning, by the time I came back from my morning run around 8:40, I had 3 emails from 3 different Foxtons agents. Almost at the same time, Rebecca called me, Knight Frank had heard she and Ed went to see a listing in Canary Wharf and guess what, they had 4 more listings to show her in my neighborhood. We spent the early afternoon with the relo agent to view these and then the next couple of hours, we cheated on the relo agent with the Foxtons agent. On our way to Foxtons Rebecca asked me, “Can we go to Starbucks and get a coffee?” I told her not to worry, we’ll get to Foxtons 15 minutes early, they will offer us a cappuccino, some water, etc… Of course, that’s exactly what happened, we sat there for 15 minutes while the agent was making last-minute calls about the keys and we enjoyed a really nice cappuccino, and before we left in the Foxtons Mini Cooper we were offered a flat/sparkling water. Now that’s service! I think English people call this arrogant and pushy, I call this pretty cool. We saw 5 different properties, 2 were good contenders.

Day 4: Ed met us on Thursday morning to see two more properties and I asked to see the house that we saw the first day. The house was a good contender but in the end Ed and Rebecca decided to go back to Canary Wharf to see the penthouse apartment again and after dinner I received a text saying they had signed the Canary Wharf and could she take me for lunch on Friday.

Day 5: I met Rebecca for lunch and celebrated her next visit. I can’t wait to be invited for the BBQ!

UK Sizes

The reason I bring up UK sizes is Rebecca was looking for a furnished flat or one with at least some furniture. Most of the ones we saw had beds. At one point Rebecca asked me, if this is a King what is a Queen? I had to set her straight. I replied “If you move to UK they don’t have Queen beds. This is how the sizes for sheets go. The single is a single, the double is a double, the Queen is a King and the King is a Super King and don’t ever think you will see a California King, they don’t exist here!” She just laughed and asked me to go with her buy sheets once she moves here. Ikea here I come.

The Walkie Talkie

Peter’s office has recently moved from the iconic Gherkin building to the new Walkie Talkie building. The new building at 20 Fenchurch street is called the Walkie Talkie because of its shape.


This is also the building that melted a car and some bicycles last summer. The car was left in front of the building on a sunny day and the reflection of the sun on the windows melted a car.


“Now the Walkie Talkie building is melting BICYCLES: Dazzling light reflected from giant London skyscraper scorches bike seats (and you can even fry an egg)”
“Walkie Scorchie’ engineers put scaffolding up covered in sheets along London street to stop sun’s rays reflected off skyscraper from starting fires.”

But the reason why I am writing about it is that lately the building is getting some positive news mostly from its Sky Garden. Aside from being a “scorching” building, the walkie-talkie also has a Sky Garden. Today the doors open to the public garden that sits on the rooftop of the building. It boasts restaurants, bars and a public park. I read review about it yesterday on my flight back from Montreal in the BA Highlife magazine and this morning there’s a small article about it on the front page of the City A.M..

This means one thing, I will soon have to go for lunch with Peter. I will have to go check this park and its views of the city.

sky garden

sky garden1

Christmas at The Royal Albert Hall

RAH Concert2

Waiting for the concert to begin. Peter counted at least 160 members of the choir.

Last night Peter and I went to the Royal Albert Hall to see and sing some Christmas carols with the Royal Choral Society and the Fanfare Trumpeters of the Band of the Coldstream Guards.

Every year at the RAH they have the Christmas Classics series. Sometimes it’s a little formal other times for casual. The first year we spent Christmas in London, we took the kids to Christmas by candlelight on Christmas eve. That was quite nice. The entire orchestra and choir was dressed in 1800s costumes and we all sang Christmas carols by candlelight.

If you attend one of the matinée weekend concerts you get the Christmas jumper crowd who get to sing the Christmas carols you hear at the shopping mall.

Last night was semi-formal. Christmas carols that we all know plus some old ones from the days I attended the Anglican Church in Ottawa. “Joy to the world”, The first Nowell (although I don’t know who Nowell is?), In the Bleak midwinter, Away in a manger etc….There were two readings by Hugh Bonneville (that’s right, Lord Grantham himself). A funny rendition of Joseph writing a review to the Inn Keeper about the accommodations where he stayed and at the very end a more serious about the birth of Jesus Christ. Both we’re very nice.

RAH Concert1

When Hugh came to do his first “funny” reading.

It was a great evening, I caught the Christmas spirit. Today I am flying to Montreal to continue spreading Christmas Cheer!

Joyeux Noël !!!!!

Motorcycling Santas

Christmas Santas3

I was walking in Chelsea, minding my own business (as you do in Chelsea. Everyone is so serious and pompous) when I came upon lots of Santas on motorcycles. They were driving into the Royal Brompton Hospital in front of St Luke’s Parish Church. I arrived in front of the parking lot just as they were all pulling in. Pretty impressive to see approximately 300 Santas on motorcycles. I asked three Santas that were already parked what the heck was going on. They explained they do this every year. There are about 300 of them and they get sponsored by “Ace Café”, collect toys from various charities and deliver them to three different hospitals for sick kids. They also said not every Santa enters each hospitals, they don’t want to scare the children before the holiday season!

It was very cool to see this. It put a huge smile on my face. I thought it was great and I took lots of pictures.

Christmas Santas2

Christmas Santas

Christmas Santas1

This lady was a Christmas tree. She had the treetop on her helmet. Very cool!

Christmas Santas6

Christmas Santas5

Christmas Santas4

Peter, I noticed that some of them had scooters…if only we still had ours…hummm there’s always next year.

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