Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I Am An Uncommonly Brilliant Gift Giver

When I worked in England and I don’t know if this is still the case now, but when it was your birthday, it was your responsibility to bring cream cakes to the office for everyone.  While this seems to be a bit backwards, at least you were guaranteed to get a cake you actually like.  This doesn’t seem to happen in America.  Sometimes there is a monthly “birthday celebration" with a cake for the entire office, but nothing like those delicious real cream cakes of my memories.

Why am I going on about this?  Well, I work in a big office and there are birthdays almost every week. I don’t buy presents for most people, but the couple I do like buy for usually end up with alcohol.  We’ve morphed into regular beverage connoisseurs.  The problem is, you can get a little bored with the same old bottles of wine or gin.  [No, really you can….]  

This last Christmas, I was surfing the interweb looking for something alcoholy - but cool - as you do, and I came across the best website.  Uncommongoods is a website selling handmade, recycled and organic products which contain no leather, feathers or fur.  It may sound a bit like a hippier version of Etsy, but don’t be fooled.  They actually have really great stuff and you can pretty much find something for everyone.  For example, and going back to my alcohol obsession, I got these glasses for my lady boss.  Yes, she likes a tipple too and her poison is gin.  These were absolutely perfect, except maybe there's not enough gin. (*smile*)
Great Gifts for Women 
Each item has information on where it’s made, how it’s made and who made it.  Some items are made to order and have longer ship times, so you might want to check that out if you are ordering for a birthday and have a deadline.

Everyone  who knows me knows I’m a sucker for anything, anything, England-related and the more obscure the better.  Not for me silly plastic items with a Union Jack sticker on it, no I want something with a bit of class!!   My poor husband has to live with my obsession and England is slowly but surely taking over the house.  I even buy him British things now and again and I found these beauties which will be great for our upcoming wedding anniversary, because I’m sure he can’t wait to get a few more London-themed items. [*sigh*]
But who wouldn't want these coasters of London?
You really should take a look if you want to be that "cool" person who gives the best gifts that everyone will want to use and not just put in the cupboard to re-gift later.  Oh, and another nice touch...every shipment comes with information to obtain a free shipping label so you can re-fill the box with donations and send it off to a charity.   See, the more you buy, the more you can donate! Can't ask for a better excuse than that, can you?

This post was sponsored by uncommongoods.com.  The opinions are completely based on my own experience.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It's Raining, It's Pouring....

It’s been raining in California for the past two weeks.  By rain, I don’t mean a little drizzle, I mean full on pouring; raining cats and dogs; pelting down; bucketing down, whatever you want to call it, there’s been a lot of rain.

Now this is California, the state that has been under drought conditions for as long as I can remember. Every year we are told “save water” and “don’t wash your car or use your hose.”  The lack of any rain whatsoever just creates terrible summer fire conditions and without fail, every summer there is a glut of fires sweeping through mountains and towns.  

Fast forward to 2017 and we have the wettest winter in 20 years.  Northern California is on track to have its wettest winter ever and southern California is expected to tie it’s wettest year ever, which was in 1968-69.

It’s the end of the world, and I mean that quite literally.  California people do not know how to cope with rain and it might as well be acid coming from those clouds (which it possibly might be, but that’s another story entirely).  

Freeway driving is horrendous and quite frankly a little bit scary.  People seem have two speeds, 30 mph and overly cautious (think “Sunday drivers”) or 80 mph while weaving in and out of traffic (passing those 30 mph-ers).  Invariably, they don’t have their headlights on either.  I’m not saying I’m a perfect driver and I’m usually somewhere towards the high middle of those two speeds, but I grew up in England for goodness sake, I should know what I'm doing in the rain.  But last week, even I was driving more carefully.  This is what is looked like…
Notice cars with no lights?
There’s a vicious cycle in California.  The summers are so very hot and bone dry which results in wildfires leaving big open areas of scorched earth with no vegetation.  Then it will rain, usually only a little bit, but always enough create flooding and to turn all the burn areas into mudslides. [I’m beginning to wonder why I still live here].  This year, though has been incredibly bad.  So much so that the famous drive through tree “up north” has fallen down.  

When I heard the news reports that the “Pioneer Cabin” tree was gone, I was a little upset, but only because it was on my bucket list to drive through it, or at least to get a photo.  You know the one I mean, it’s the one you see all the time in adverts for camping holidays in National Forests.  It was also in the opening credits of National Lampoon's Vacation.

The Pioneer Cabin Tree
It now looks like this:

Apparently the storm was just too much for the 3000+ year old tree and it toppled.  [You don’t think it had anything to do with having hardly any roots do you?]  I was gutted that I’d never get a chance to see it, but you know what, even though everyone’s so upset it fell, while doing a bit of research, I realized there’s actually flippin’ loads of them in California.  There’s an area of the Redwoods called “Avenue of the Giants” where you can drive through them all.  I also found this little info flyer-thingy which shows a few of them.  So maybe my bucket list is still intact after all.

What I have realized in the last few weeks though is that I actually miss English weather.  I've really been enjoying the rain as I've had the chance to wear my English raincoat and wellies and use my brolly.  It might have something to do with not having to put up with it every day though.  So I will just enjoy it while I can.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bikers and Barbies

My other half is in a motorcycle club and around Christmas, there’s always a lot of charity going on. A few of weekends ago was their annual Toy Run which, this year, was to benefit Hillsides, a non-profit children’s foster care and family resource program in the Los Angeles and Pasadena areas of California.  Apparently they help 13,000 children (yes, that many)

I will admit that the day did not start brilliantly for me – we had to leave our house at 6:00 a.m. and the temperature was only 37f (17c).  On a motorbike that feels like -10, just so you know.  This year, I gave the bike a miss as I was designated as the 'toy truck driver.'  Thank goodness because by the time we were at our destination last year, I was absolutely bloody freezing and could hardly move.  Although it was nothing a nice warm Starbucks Crème Brulee Latte couldn’t fix, to be honest.  You might not think that’s particularly cold, but this is California, for goodness sake! 

The ride began at their clubhouse in Santa Clarita where scores and scores of bikers turned up with toys strapped to their bikes.  Some had small decorations on their bikes, some went a little further, like this man.  
A bit much?
I was left in charge of loading the truck.  Okay, let me re-phrase that.  My organizational skills were drafted to load the truck.  After watching people just throw the toys over the side and into a messy heap, which in no way would stay in the truck until we got to where we were delivering them, I began moving them around and packing nicely.  You don't want to be leaving a trail of toys down the freeway, do you?  Now I’ve had a lot of experience getting loads of stuff into a little space… obviously because every single time I come back from England my case is almost splitting at the seams with food, chocolate and Ribena, so if anyone could get all those toys in that truck it was me!!

And of course, no Christmas event would be complete without a Father Christmas.  Step up that man.... 
Green and white
Everything has to be just that little bit different, hence the green and white Father Christmas, which just so happen to be the colours of the motorcycle club.

So after a couple of hours collecting, we took the truck to the orphanage.  We get a great reception and the kiddies love it, especially when the truck turns up like this...

Of course, no charity event would be complete without a few celebrities thrown in, and this was no exception.  Riding with us were Robert Patrick [Terminator 2, Scorpion], Mike Beach and Emilio Rivera  [Sons of Anarchy].

After posing for all the obligatory photo opportunities, the toys were taken into the home.  This is what it looked like ...

Not a bad turn out.  It just goes to show all those big bad bikers are actually cuddly teddy bears deep down, but don't ever let them hear you say that!!