Saturday, December 29, 2018

My Christmas Card Excuse

So it’s almost Christmas and over the last few months, my side business has really gone crazy and I’ve been rushed off my feet and working two full time jobs, or at least it feels that way.
[*Yes, my side gig got in the way again and I started this post before Christmas and got side tracked*]

Obviously when you have paying customers (which has been quite rare in the past, to be honest), you can’t let them down at the last minute, so my own home life has been put on the back burner.  Needless to say, I have not yet got around to sending Christmas cards.  Ooopsie, and sorry to all my family if you are reading this – doesn’t look like you will be getting anything in the mail from me this year!

Except… well hello

I was recently introduced to this website and asked if I would give it a try.   Do you remember back in the early 90’s there was a website that was all the rage where you could send invitations and funny cards to your email list?  It was free, but the recipients basically got a GIF in an email… very un-classy [is that a word?]

Paperless Post is so much more.  You can send cards, invitations, save the dates and flyers, to name a few things.  There is something on there for pretty much any occasion and the best bit?  They are so upscale looking and can be personalized!!  (Who doesn’t want a picture of you and your dog in matching jumpers?)

You choose your card, add pictures and/or text, choose your font for your envelope address and even get to choose a fancy stamp.  You add your email addresses and then send it off.  When it’s delivered the recipient has an opportunity to write a note back to you.  Probably something like “Thank you, I forgot to send cards too – Happy Christmas!!” 

To get started, you buy ‘coins’ which come in different sized packages and depending on what type of card you pick and what options, you pay by using your coins.  There are actually quite a lot of free cards too.  Here's a couple of examples of different styles.
Clearly me on New Years Eve!
Did you spot the smoking reindeer?

You're probably thinking it's a bit late to send cards now, but you know what, I could send a New Year's Eve card instead.  Who wouldn't like that?

And that's me covered for the year.... cards for everyone!
Oh, and if you were wondering what my side business is - you can find it right here....:


Friday, May 25, 2018

Diamonds - Always a Girl's Best Friend

If you’ve ever read any of this blog, you will know that I actually quite like a tipple every now and then.  Not that I’m always drinking, mind you.  But when I do…..well....  [that sounds a bit bad really, doesn’t it?]

Aside from that, I also have a bit of a problem with glasses.  No, not eye glasses, but any funky, cute or original kind of drink glass.  I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but if you serve me a drink in a lovely glass, you will most likely not get it back.  It will be in my bag and end up in my kitchen cupboard.  I love those tiny little sake glasses and any kind of beer glass that has the name of the beer on it – if it’s an English beer, then it truly is destined to go home with me.

Talking of unique glasses, I was recently asked to review the Thumbs Up Diamond Glasses and oh my goodness, these are exactly the kind of thing I cannot resist.  A glass - shaped like a diamond!

First of all, let me say, the box they come in is lovely.  It looks so classy and is definitely something you could give as a gift and have the recipient think you spent a bundle.  It’s decorated nicely and is really good quality.  I got mine in the mail and there would have been no problem had my postman drop-kicked it to my front door from the street.  I’m actually hoping he didn’t, or I will need a word with him, to be honest. 
Their tagline is:

Be the diamond in the rough with this set of diamond style glasses.
Fashioned to look like a diamond; these glasses stand at an angle which allows you to rotate the glass to enjoy the full bodied flavor of your favorite whiskey!
relax, top-up and drink a diamond!.

I’m not really a whiskey drinker, but why should these be limited to whiskey?  I’ve tried them with vodka, gin and rum – and they all work [*smile*]

The first time you use them, you notice that they feel really light and there’s a fear that they might break with the tiniest knock.  But the fact is, they are made of borosilicate glass which, according to “is far more durable than traditional glass so they can withstand accidents that would break other glassware.”  Think Pyrex dishes.

The only problem I found, is that you have to remember when pouring a drink, you shouldn’t pour all the way to the top because as the glass sits at an angle, you will spill half the contents when you put the glass down.  (No, I am not talking from experience here, really, I'm not.)  They are actually designed for sipping from i.e. whiskey or some other after dinner drink and hold approximately 2 oz of liquid.  All very classy.

What's also nice is that they fit in your hand perfectly.  I managed to take a pretty good representation picture, which is quite hard to do with one hand, but it will give you an idea of the side and shape.

The glasses are available on Amazon for only $25 for a pair and would make a fantastic wedding or wedding shower gift – because all brides want diamonds, don't they?  So be that person and be the diamond in the rough (and also very thoughtful).

As they say, diamonds are a girl's best friend, and these are definitely my go-to drink glasses at the moment.  So cheers!!

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

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Joshua Tree

It was 1994, it was August and it was one million degrees (which may be a slight exaggeration, but not much).  I don’t think you could get more of a difference in landscapes between south London and the southern California high desert.  Summer in London - probably either miserably hot and humid (low 70’s) or raining.  Summer in southern California - dry, extremely hot (low 100’s) and very dusty.

But it wasn’t only the weather that was different.  It was the whole lifestyle.  There wasn’t (and still isn’t) any public transportation whatsoever so we had to drive everywhere.  The biggest problem we found, apart from not knowing where anything was or where we were going, was the music.  The only stations we could get on the radio were country music (ugh!).  Can you imagine?  You’re driving around unfamiliar roads in the desert, the sun is blazing down and you’re listening to country music?  I half expected Clint Eastwood to come riding by on his flippin’ horse!

It turned out that we had a couple of tapes with us (yes, actual cassette tapes!) so we spent our drives playing them.  The problem was, we only had the two and they were both U2, the Joshua Tree being the one we played most – over and over and over…because, you know, California’s a big place.  That album became sort of our anthem.  Words in “Where the Streets Have No Name” had a relevance to our lives at that time

          “I want to run, I want to hide…..
          We're beaten and blown by the wind, trampled in dust,
          I'll show you a place high on a desert plain,
          Where the streets have no name”

It basically summed up how I was feeling then, sad, lonely and lost (literally).

Fast forward twenty odd years and I recently had the opportunity to see U2 live at the Rose Bowl (because let’s face it, seeing them dead at the Rose Bowl wouldn’t have been as exciting). Ironically, it was the Joshua Tree tour, so how could I not go and listen to that album …. Again? 

It didn’t take long for me to be transported back to 1994.  The images they were projecting were exactly those images that I remember so well.  Bleak desert roads with Joshua trees along each side.  Apart from the fact that Bono is way too political and ruined a great concert, it was a good night.
Bleak roads
But those videos, oh my goodness… they brought a tear to my eye.  Those days should have been exciting and the beginning of a new adventure and I suppose, in a way they were.  But I hadn’t wanted to come to America and those first few months were torturous.  I missed everybody and everything about home and not even having  familiar songs on the radio made it seem worse.  Two young children were with us on those drives, wondering what had happened and how their lives had changed and where their friends were.  I often wonder what went through their minds at that time.  
Joshua Trees

It all came flooding back to me as I listened to those songs and I cried.  I didn’t just sniffle a bit, I literally cried like a baby.  Trying to explain what was going on to my hubby didn’t help, it just made me cry more.  Of course, I tried to laugh it off, but who ever believes that??  Memories are like that, they have a knack of sneaking up on you and getting you all emotional, don’t they?


And on a different note altogether, I was once told that Joshua trees only grow in southern California and apparently there's a law that if you are going to build a house and there is a Joshua tree in the way you are not, under any circumstances, allowed to cut it down.  You either have to build around the tree, which is a bit inconvenient, or dig it up and move it.  I’m not sure how true this is, but I do know those things are everywhere!  [although there doesn't seem to be many in this photo I took]

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Military Diet Experiment

In a couple of months, we're going on a cruise and as you do, I looked in the mirror the other day and thought “Blimey, I need to go on a diet!”  I’m not sure I actually do, but I feel and look heavier than I feel comfortable with.  Probably because of married bliss and eating a lot of chocolate, to be honest.

Anyway, I decided I needed to do something that wasn’t Weight Watchers because quite honestly, I don’t want to pay to diet.  It’s bad enough starving yourself, let alone paying for the privilege.

After doing my research (i.e. scrolling through Facebook) one diet in particular caught my eye – The Three Day Military Diet.  Sounds a bit strict, although the gossip was that you could would lose 10 pounds in three days!  Sign me up….. Okay, I actually didn’t have to sign up because its something you do on your own, although there is a menu you have to stick to religiously, or militarily if you prefer. Three days?  How easy is that, I thought.  No problem, I can do three days….

You don't have to wear the uniform, by the way
You’re not supposed to substitute anything unless it’s on their list, but I only decided to do this after I'd eaten breakfast and I'd already had a glass of orange juice and some toast, so I skipped the grapefruit and had a cup of tea and a spoonful of hummus instead.  Let me just say right here, hummus on its own is bloody awful.  I had substituted it for peanut butter because, well, eww..  

This wasn’t bad.  A nice cuppa and some tuna on toast.  Although, the tuna would have been better with a dollop of dressing because it was as dry as the Serengeti in a heatwave.  Thank goodness for the tea.

I could get used to this as it seems like a lot of food.  I had chicken with the green beans and then enjoyed the ice cream with the fruit.  I was a bit stuffed actually.

Uh oh, the portions are getting smaller.  But when I’m at work I don’t usually eat breakfast so having a boiled egg on toast was a bit of a luxury really.  It kept me full until lunch anyway.

Bloody hell, another hard boiled egg.  I’m sure my co-workers loved me that day.  [I never did admit it was my stinky eggs smelling up the kitchen] I substituted Greek yoghurt instead of cottage cheese. [what, even, the hell is that stuff??]  The five tiny saltine crackers went well with the egg though.  I actually couldn’t eat all of the yoghurt, maybe because it was sitting in my stomach like, well I don’t know what it was like, I’ve never eaten that much Greek yoghurt in my life and a cup is a LOT.

This one looks small, but it wasn’t actually bad.  I cut everything up into slices and had as much broccoli and carrots as I could fit into a cup (not much, by the way).  The hotdogs gave some flavour. And then there was at least ice cream for pudding.

Yes, actually, that is a wine stain on my menu
Again, this was a bit of a treat having breakfast.  But then again, maybe I was just starving by then.

Yes, another hard boiled egg, but this time only with a dry slice of toast.  Yummy (sarcasm added)

A quick aside here:
I had been weighing myself daily – yes for all of two days – and the weight was falling off.  Okay, I lied, after starving myself for two day I had lost 2 pounds.  Yes, you did read that right, TWO WHOLE BLOODY POUNDS!!  
Soooo, I may have cheated a little bit because, well, who can live on half a tin of dry tuna, half a banana and a bit of ice cream.  So I made myself some Thai curry with rice and papadums and a huge glass of wine.  (I know papadums  don’t go with Thai food, don’t judge me I was starving, okay). I may also have had a packet of crisps, a hotdog bun and possibly some chocolate, not necessarily in that order.

I went to bed that night fuller than I had in three days and when I woke up the next morning, I was really surprised not to find 8 pounds of fat in the bed next to me because according to this diet plan you will lose 10 pounds.  I jumped onto the scale and yes I had still only lost 2 pounds.  Actually, I hadn’t lost anything because I put it all back on in that one meal the night before. [*sigh*]

So the moral of this story is that unless you constantly eat and gain weight every day, don’t do the Military Diet, it does not flamin’ work.  I followed it to a “T” and all I got was starving hungry.

I just suffered for three two and a half days and lost about the same amount as if I’d just had a big pooh!!

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Awkwardness of Meeting People from Home

There’s always that moment and awkward conversation when I meet someone from England.  This is how it usually goes:

Hello, how are you?
Fine thanks, and you?


So, how long have you been here?
…… 2, 4, 10, 15, 20… etc years …..

          What part of England are you from?
  ….Doncaster… Rugby… Milton Keynes… Brighton…. [Pretty much anywhere in the country that I’ve either never been or is no where near anywhere I’ve ever lived.]

Oh, okay
….. [More awkwardness]  ….

What brought you here then?
[Insert any number of reasons…]

.. crickets...

  Sooo, um, how do you like the weather here????”

And there it is - the great British small talk 'go to' - the weather!!!

What makes it slightly worse is when a friend wants to introduce you to someone and says “Oh, you both sound exactly the same - you must come from the same town.”  You know, like we all live together in a big commune and everyone knows everyone, including the Queen.

This happened the other day.  I was given the "you sound exactly the same" speech and told I would meet 'her' later.

Fast forward about an hour and over he trots to my desk, all excited, and says 

          “Meet (so and so)  She sounds JUST like you!”  

Well,  I liked her immediately because when he said that, she rolled her eyes!  Oh, true English attitude.

Then, the moment she spoke, I knew straight away that we was, in fact, from “near me” and she did “speak exactly the same.”  So with baited breath, I asked where she was from and bloody hell, if she didn’t say Croydon!!  Or South Croydon to be exact.  

And to my never ending embarrassment, I actually squealed and shouted "Oh my God, I lived in Caterham!"[Which will probably mean absolutely nothing to anyone]

That broke the ice and we did actually have quite a nice chat - no tea though.  It’s just a shame I don’t remember her name, but I do know she lives in Denver. 

But getting back to that other bit…. Yes, I squealed, I FLIPPIN' SQUEALED.  Could I be more America… ugh!  

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Holiday Camp

The school summer holidays, six whole weeks of doing nothing and going back to school seemed ages away.  What a great feeling that was and what made it even better was when your mum and dad said you would actually be going on holiday, and not any old holiday, but to a Holiday Camp. Butlin's or Pontins, how bloody fantastic! (Little did we know)  A totally British institution, the holiday camp.  I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world that has anything like it.

The first Butlin’s was opened in 1936 in the glamorously named Skegness by Billy Butlin who’d had a terrible holiday on Barry Island in his youth, (and who hasn’t?) and wanted something better.  He grew up traveling around the country with his uncle’s Fun Fair and branched out into having his own Fair which became so successful he was able to develop a static fair in Skegness in 1927 which, in turn, morphed into a holiday camp when he built “chalets’ which allowed people to stay for a week or two.  Food was included (three meals a day) and there was live entertainment every night.  The weekly rate in 1936 was between 35 shillings and £3, approximately £173 today.  Cheap at half the price!  
The very first and original chalet is now a listed building
Picture Courtesy of Mr. M. Evison .

I’m not sure how fancy the inside of the chalets were back then, but having been to a Butlin’s in the 1980’s I can truthfully say, they are crap.  It always seems that no matter what time of the year you plan on going, it rains.  I can clearly remember a couple of occasions when I spent a wet and soggy week in Bognor Regis (another glamorous sounding place).  

Most of the camps seem to be built in the most unsunny (is that a word?)  places, with names that do not conjure up daydreams of palm trees, beautiful beaches or even nice weather.  [Bognor, Skegness, Pwllheli, Clacton, Minehead, Barry Island] It’s usually so cold you can’t use the swimming pool for fear of losing your toes to frostbite, the arcade is full of whiny children and the playground is a flooded mess.  Mum and dad trying to make you play board games and wishing they hadn’t bothered to book the holiday at all.  Looking out the window onto the desolate landscape is what British holidays are made of.  
More like an Army barracks
I think the main reason we were taken to Butlin's or Pontins was because of adverts like this, which made it look like your parents would have the best time and wouldn't have to put up with you all day. A holiday club is all very well, unless you are that extremely shy child that doesn't make friends easily, then it was a week in hell.

But on the plus side, without Butlin’s we wouldn’t have such jewels as the Glamorous Granny Contest, Miss Lovely Legs, Holiday Princess (aka, Bathing Beauties) or Red Coats (Blue Coats if you were at Pontins).  

Ironically though, the best sentence I've found in the history of Butlin's is this beauty:
"The first day of the camps opening saw snow and during the next three days of the season Bill (Butlin) was aware that although the holiday makers had settled in very well they seemed to lack enthusiasm." (emphasis added) 
That pretty much sums up how everyone feels about a holiday camp nowadays - Lack of enthusiasm.

But what about in America.  There is no such thing as a holiday camp… there are, however “Summer Camps.” It couldn’t be called a holiday camp, as a “holiday” includes a celebration, i.e. Christmas and July 4th. But I digress.  An American “Camp” is something that children do, on their own, in the mountains, or the middle of nowhere.  Parents just pack up their kids and ship them off.  You know, you see them all the time in films.  Little wooden cabins in the forest near a lake, which apparently you are required to swim in.  Sounds absolutely horrible.  Not to mention, there's usually a mad man running around said forest with a massive knife.

These camps are usually called something weird like “Camp Waziyatah.” “Camp Moosilauke,” “Camp Wicosuta,” or Camp Weequahic.”  I kid you not, these are names of real camps in Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania respectively.  [Although it may look like I had my fingers on the wrong keys for a moment].  I’m sure they are also designed for parents to have a child free summer.  
It's a bit more fancy looking
I don't plan on going to a holiday camp any time soon, unless, of course, it's something like this one, because, hello, wine, no children and no contests.  Also probably no swimming.
Then again, I wouldn't mind this one too much either.

What are your memories of holiday camps?  Were you ever a glamorous granny?  Do tell.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Harry Potter and the Very Expensive Beer

Last week I had a bit of a skive off work and we went to Universal Studios for the day.   We had gone there back in the summer and the lines were horrendous - including spending 1.5 hours in line for the Harry Potter ride, only to be told it had broken down [Grr…].  While we were there, we had decided to pay the extra $14 for our tickets to last a year.   It turns out their version of a ‘year’ is actually seven months (which included many, many black out dates), but whatever, we had great plans to use our tickets loads of times, so it would be a great deal.  As usual, that didn’t happen and we only had a couple of weeks left to use them, so off we went.

It was a Thursday, in the middle of a week of hellacious rain storms and we managed to get a day with no rain whatsoever.  The place was almost empty…. Brilliant!  I’m not going to do a post about how great the day was with the longest queue being only 10-15 minutes, although that was lovely. Nope, this one’s about Harry Potter. 

I’m not a big Harry Potter fan, by any means, I think I’ve seen all the films, but couldn’t tell you for sure.  But he’s English for goodness sake, so what’s not to like.    First up, is the obligatory picture of entering Harry Potter Land.  I will call it that because I have no idea what it’s actually called (see, I know nothing).

With all the hype and uproar over the place, you would think there would be more than two rides. Yup, only two and we went on both of them.  One of them, though, was so short I hadn’t even begun to scream before it was over.  I cannot imagine queuing up for over an hour for a 30 second ride.  I would have been so bloody fuming.  As it was, I hardly had time to catch my breath, it was that fast.

Then there’s Butterbeer.  What in the heck is this abomination?  Good grief, it was awful.  “It’s quite sweet,” they said.  “Try it frozen,” they said, “you will probably like it better.”  Ugh… it’s the sweetest drink I believe I’ve ever had in my entire life.  Pretty much a cup of sugar with a tiny tad of water and butterscotch flavouring.  Basically, its diabetes in a glass.  We shared one and couldn’t finish it.  Trust me, it’s the furthest thing from beer that you could ever imagine.  My recommendation would be to steer well clear and don’t waste your money.
Don't do it!!
But then we found the restaurant – the English restaurant no less.  The menu was tempting, although why it would be called a “Traditional English Breakfast” when it has breakfast potatoes, scrambled eggs and a flippin’ croissant, I don’t know.   It didn’t tempt me as I was sure the bacon was American streaky bacon.  As it was, I couldn’t decide between the Beef Sunday Roast (even though it was Thursday) and the Bangers & Mash.  It took me a minute and then I noticed the ‘roast potatoes’ were actually sliced and baked (possibly) with herbs, so definitely not your mother’s Sunday roast! Bangers & Mash it was, and to tell you the truth, it was pretty nice.  My only request would have been to have lashings of gravy on the mash when in fact, there was none.  (oh and that tomato was a bit dodgy and the peas were hard - but overall a good B)
Sausages - no gravy

The price was quite reasonable too…. That is, until we wanted drinks.  They didn't do a nice cup of tea, obviously so I went with the next best thing - beer!!  The other half had a water (lightweight), but we both needed a seat when they told us the prices.  $4.00 for a water, which is a bit steep, but I've probably paid more, to be honest.  As for the beer well…. I think they like it a bit much…. $11 for an IPA in a plastic cup, no less, not even a glass.  Maybe they’re charging English prices?

I don’t know, but it seemed a bit expensive to me, but I suppose that's what you expect at a tourist attraction, isn't it?  Then again, the more they charge, the less likely there will be drunken hooligans running around the park, unless they are really rich hooligans, that is!

That's a really tiny water
All in all though, it was a fantastic day and the bonus of a couple of bangers, which I wasn't expecting, was nice.  I may have sounded a bit negative about Harry Potter world earlier, but they've done a great job and it looks lovely with the sun shining.

Oh Blighty, how I miss you!  (Even pretend Blighty)