Thursday, April 30, 2009

Getting ticked off....

April through November is tick season in New England. What disgusting little parasites ticks are! I have just had the unpleasant task of removing one from my cat. I was tickling him (no pun intended) around the neck when I felt a small lump. On close inspection I realized it was an engorged tick. Gross or what! After reading up on what to do on t'internet, I removed it using tweezers and dropped it into a cup of Absolut Vodka to kill it (not a bad way to go really). Then I flushed it down the toilet.

Cat didn't seem to be bothered at all. But I can't stop scratching now imagining ticks all over me. I was going to post a picture of an engorged tick with this article, but decided it was just too gross and I didn't want to see it whenever I visited my blog. Yuk!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An instrument of torture!

Today Robert has had the first part of his orthodontic treatment fitted; a thing called a Herbst appliance. Although he said it does not hurt, it looks like some form of torture device. It is a piece of metal cemented to his molars, top and bottom, with a hinge connecting the top to the bottom, and a bar across the roof of his mouth. What its intended to do is encourage the lower jaw to grow forwards more, so the top and bottom teeth line up correctly. This will also prevent that "chinless wonder" appearance later in life caused by the lower jaw settling into a position further back than nature intended.

He's finding it a bit difficult to eat right now, and has had mainly soft, liquidy stuff today. I think he will soon get fed up of soup! He is also finding some words a bit difficult to say as he gets used to the bar across the top of his mouth. (That's ok by me, he always has too much to say, a bit of peace won't hurt :-)

The device stays in place for at least 6 months. I have read that soon he won't even notice its there.

I wonder if he will set off the metal detectors in the airport....

Swine flu

Now I know the media have probably gone a bit overboard on this swine flu "pandemic", but who knows, there may be reason for caution so I'm just making sure I take the usual sensible precautions, frequent hand washing etc. This morning, while waiting in the orthodontist's office for an appointment, a women was sitting next to us talking to a friend. She told her friend how she and her children had just got back from Mexico, where they were on vacation. Because of this she had been advised by her workplace to stay home for a few days to be sure that she had not caught anything. So I guess she thought that, to save possibly infecting everyone in her workplace, she would go to the Orthodontist office instead, and infect all the kids in the waiting room. Nice....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There's something missing on the Street

How come they've stopped putting tea in the cups on Coronation Street? Its obvious that the cups are empty, either that or Manchester has the lightest water in the world. You'd think the actors could at least try to make it look as though there's something in them. The way they wave those cups about, if there was liquid in them everyone would be soaking wet! Talk about cutting corners.

Going, Going,.....Back

An update on my weight loss campaign. After a week on vacation, despite being fairly careful about what I ate, I put back on 3 of the 4 pounds that I'd lost. I'm going to have a beer and some chips to console myself :-(

Best friends, worst enemies

Oh my God! (or I believe the expression is OMG!). It's all coming flooding back in a horrible rush. The stress, the tears, the disappointment, the elation!

I'm talking about what its like to be a 9 year old girl. Every day I hear from my daughter about the latest argument between her group of friends. Taking sides. Being mean. Not talking....its endless.

When girls are younger in preschool and first grade, they make friends easily. They don't worry about their appearance, or whether their clothes match, or if they are wearing the latest style of sneakers. They become friends because they both like the same color, or sit at the same table or like the same dolls. But by third or fourth grade, girls can start to get clique-y. This is what I am seeing in Emma now.

"I'm not your friend anymore", "she didn't take my side", "she won't talk to me anymore", "she was being mean"...followed by.... "she's my best friend in the whole world".

Its difficult looking on from the sidelines. It's hard to watch your daughter lose friends, get hurt by friends, and even hurt friends herself, and impossible to know what to do when she comes home in tears, then the next minute is best friends again. Apparently its all part of the process of growing up (her, not me!). And parents are advised to separate their own emotions from their daughters' social lives. Don't get involved. Just listen and support her and guide her to do and say the right things, but don't influence who she decides she is going to be friends with. Some advice I read seems sensible so I'll repeat it here:

Parents should help elementary-school girls to do their own thinking and help them brainstorm solutions, even if they are different from the parent solutions. Guiding her to solve it independently (with a little help from you) will help her far more than you rushing to call the other girls' parents. Here are some questions that might help her solve the problem:
"What did you try?"
"How did it work?"
"What else can you try?"

I guess I'll give it a go. I just know its all very complicated and its definetely a part of my life that I'm happy never to have to go through again! See, age does have its benefits :-)

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 2nd Anniversary to Martin and Cath, seen here at their wedding in 2007.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Oooo, errr Missus!!

In a garden full of cactus, there was bound to be one like this :-)

Desert Botanical Gardens

We visited the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. What an amazing place. Who would've thought there was so much diversity in the desert plantlife?

We arrived at around 4:30pm in the 100+degree heat, and there weren't many people there (surprisingly!). I thought it was because they must be getting close to closing for the day. But no, it was just that most people were smarter than us and waited until around 6pm when the heat lessened to start their trip! The gardens were enhanced by many weird and sometimes wacky glass sculptures, that in some cases enhanced the displays but in others distracted from the cactus.

We learned a lot about the different types of cactus; the barrel cactus, the organ pipes cactus, the teddy bear cactus, the prickly pear etc. And we even saw a real live snake slithering through the gardens! My only complaint was that the gift store closed 1 hr before the gardens did. Who wants to stop their tour to go to the gift shop, then have to carry their purchases round for an hour? Ridiculous in my opinion. But all in all, an excellent trip and some amazing, unusual gardens.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sedona, Arizona

We spent one day in Sedona, Arizona on our vacation. The scenery was amazing (see photos). Sedona is a beautiful town surounded by distinctive red rock mountains. We were advised to take a jeep tour that takes you to the top and gives the best views. We used the pink jeep tour company and they were excellent. Our guide was knowledgeable and extremely friendly. The tour was pretty bumpy, especially when we went off road. Great fun but not recomended for those who don't travel well, or after a big meal!

Friday, April 24, 2009


Don't you just love that "Sky Mall" catalog you get on aircraft? Where else can you find those essential items that no family should be without? Here are some of my favorites:

- The Pet Doorbell : teach your pet to push the pet paw to tell you when he wants to go in or out $69.95
- The Hidden Litter box : looks like a pot plant. $249.95. Hopefully your pet will be able to tell this pot plant apart from all your other pot plants...
- The Solar powered mole repeller $39.99
- The Million Germ Eliminating travel Toothbrush Sanitizer $29.95
- The Indoor Dog restroom : a mat that your dog can pee on. $149.95. Hopefully your dog will be able to tell this mat apart from all your other mats...

And my particular favorite...
- The Marshmallow Shooter :shoots mini marshmallows over 30 feet!! A bargain at $24.95!

An American tradition

Here's a clue for an activity we did one evening on our vacation in Phoenix....

"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game."

No prizes for guessing. We went to see the Arizona Diamondbacks (local baseball team) play against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field in Phoenix. Now I am not a big baseball fan by any means, but I must say I was impressed with the stadium. New, clean and huge with a view so good I could easily see the ball, I could actually follow the game and even learnt the basic rules - believe me that is really quite an achievement for me!

It's the traditions that fascinate me. Whether you are a fan of the game or not, with the seventh innings stretch, the hotdogs and cries of "Hey! Beer here! Cotton Candy here! Lemonade, lemonade, just like your grandma made!", The wave, and the Chicken dance, you just gotta love the atmosphere.

Even though the home team lost 9-6, we thoroughly enjoyed our taste of the great American tradition.

All aboard!

Having just arrived back from vacation, I felt compelled to blog about the airlines. We flew with American Airlines, who have put in place a charge of $15 for the first checked-in bag per person, $25 for subsequent bags. Now apart from being annoying from a hidden-charge perspective, this has also encouraged people to pack even more into their "carry-on sized" bags/suitcases to avoid having to checkin a bag! The whole activity of boarding a plane has become even worse than before, with the aisles at a standstill while some businessman tries to cram his huge bag and laptop case into the overhead compartments. Then some poor traveller with one small carry-on item can't find space in the overhead compartment because its full to the hilt with suitcases.

And while I'm on the subject of boarding, why do the airlines insist on boarding the aircraft from front to back? It makes no sense! Wouldn't back to front be more logical so that less people are blocking the aisle, or is that just me not getting it?

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Off to Phoenix!!! More when I return...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yesterday Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was found dead at his home in Northborough, MA. Mark Fidrych, was an eccentric All-Star pitcher nicknamed "The Bird" whose career was shortened by injuries .He was found dead in an apparent accident at his farm. He was 54.

A family friend found Fidrych about 2:30 p.m. beneath a dump truck at his Northborough, Mass., farm. He appeared to be working on the truck.

The curly-haired right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. But injuries cut short his career, and he ended up spending only five seasons in the major leagues, all with the Detroit Tigers. He was 29-19 with a 3.10 ERA

Fidrych attempted a comeback in 1982 and 1983 in the Boston Red Sox organization. He pitched for their Triple A team in Pawtucket, R.I. But he never pitched in the majors after 1980 and retired in July 1983.

I am not a baseball fan but the reason this caught my interest is because he lived literally around the corner from our house. On my way home from work yesterday, as I passed his house I saw a Fox News Boston TV van outside, and there were many police cars in the entranceway. Now I know why. What a shame. It makes you realize that life is precious and can so easily be taken away from you. Make sure you embrace it to the full.

Wales here we come (eventually)!

Well, after much trial and error, I finally managed to book flights to the UK last night. It was particularly tricky because I needed tickets for the kids 'on their own' first, followed by tickets for us a couple of weeks later, and didn't want to take the chance that I would book one set, only to then find that there were no seats left for the other set. Bit of a stretch for the website but I did get it to work by using 2 laptops simultaneously. Rick Wakeman, eat your heart out.

The plan is for the kids to go back to the UK with my parents, when they fly back after visiting us in July. Then Tony and I get two and a half whole weeks of kid-free living! What will we do with all that time? All that peace! No clothes to pickup off the floor, no arguments to intercept, no lunch boxes to make, no chaotic routine at bedtime getting PJs on and cleaning teeth....the list is endless! And what about the weekends! We could go somewhere nice where only adults are allowed! Woo-hoo!

Having said all that, I don't think I've ever been away from them for that long before. It may be too quiet without them, I will only have Tony to talk to (oh no!). Maybe I should go with the kids on the early flight ....

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How much?

I will never understand the logic behind airline flight pricing. On Thursday when I searched for flights for 4 of us from Boston to London, Virgin Atlantic quoted $3328. On Saturday when I looked again it had been reduced to $2500. Excellent I thought. I will check that the dates are OK with my parents and if so, make the booking. So I did that and this morning sat down to book, only to find that the cost of the flights had increased to $3100!
Why so much variation over such a short time period? Why can't the flights just cost what they cost at each time of the year? At least you know where you stand. So I haven't booked the flights because I can't decide whether to wait until tomorrow to see if they drop again. They probably won't and I will end up not booking at all because I hate paying more for something when I know that it had once been cheaper.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Going, going...

This past week I have been trying to lose a bit of weight in preparation for my vacation next week in Arizona. I originally planned to start this about 2 months ago, but as normal, when I tell myself I want to lose some weight I start to eat like crazy and end up putting it on. Last week I got on the scales and decided enough was enough, I had to get a grip of my eating.
So for a week I have been eating only low carb stuff, eg. eggs, low fat cheese, tuna, salads, fruit, fruit and more fruit, yogurts, chicken, etc. This is the only diet that works for me, and it does seem to work fast. I don't limit how much I eat, only the types of food I eat. After the first couple of days my appetite decreases substantially, I no longer crave chocolate and sweet things, and I can go for a long time between meals without feeling hungry at all. So the amount of food tends to take care of itself.

I lost 4 pounds this week. So far so good, but its early days and with Easter tomorrow and vacation next week the chances of me keeping this up are small to zero. Still, its nice to know I can do it if I put my mind to it.

Miley Cyrus - Hannah Montana: The Movie review

Last night was the opening night of "Hannah Montana - The Movie", starring Miley Cyrus. My daughter Emma was invited by her best friend Caralyn to go watch it at the local movie theater, to celebrate Caralyn's 9th birthday. Armed with a present which consisted of 2 CDs (Mammia Mia soundtrack and High School Musical 3), she joined the party of 6 excited children (5 girls and 1 perplexed boy) watched over by our friends Nikki and Brian, who looked a bit frazzled (probably the excitement of seeing the movie I expect :-)

The movie was followed by pizza. Emma's review of this movie was "really good", "awesome", "fabulous", "double-awesome" and "really, really, really, really good". Oh, to be 9 years old again!

Hello in 26 different languages

If you are observant you will see that I have a gadget in the left-hand panel of my blog called Neocounter, and it shows the number of visitors my blog has had from each country. Obviously it has the most from the US and the UK; no surprises there. But I have had just one visitor from each of 9 countries for EONS!!! I don't get it! My son, who started his blog later than I did and who has a fraction of the posts has twice the number of visitors from 45+ countries. What is the secret? I obviously do not have global appeal :-(

So in an effort to get more foreign visitors, here's how to say Hello in different languages, courtesy of, with a few additions of my own.

Arabic - subbah-el-kheir (good morning), masaa-el-khair (good evening): note that Kh is pronounced from the back of the throat. mArHAbAn (Hello) pronounced Mar-ha-ban

Bengali — aas salamu alaay kum (In Botswana Dumeleng [formal]), wareng (Bangladesh [informal]), namaskar (In West Bengal, India)

Chinese - 你好, Cantonese nei ho or lei ho (pronounced nay ho or lay ho) Mandarin 你好 (pronounced ni hao), 早上好(pronounced zao shang hao; good morning!)

Dutch - hoi (very informal), hallo (informal), goedendag (formal)

English - hello (formal), hi (informal), hey (informal,)

French - salut (informal; silent 't'), bonjour (formal, for daytime use; 'n' as a nasal vowel), bonsoir (good evening; 'n' is a nasal vowel), bonne nuit (good night). There is also "ça va", but this is more often used to mean "how are you?"

German - hallo (informal), Guten Tag (formal; pronounced gootan taag), Tag (very informal; pronounced taack).

Hawaiian - aloha

Italian - ciào (pronounced chow; informal; also means "goodbye"), buon giorno (pronounced bwohn geeornoh; good morning; formal), buon pomeriggio (pronounced bwohn pohmehreejeeoh; good afternoon; formal), buona sera (pronounced bbwoonah sehrah; good evening; formal)

Japanese - おはよう ございます ohayoou gozaimasu (pronounced o-ha-yo (go-zai-mass); good morning), こんにちは konnichi wa (pronounced kong-nee-chee-wa; daytime or afternoon), こんばんは konbanwa (pronounced kong-ban-wa; evening); もし もし moshi moshi (pronounced moh-shee moh-shee; when calling/answering the phone); どうもう doumo (pronounced doh-moh; informal way of thanking/greeting, but means countless other things as well so only use when context makes sense)

Korean - ahn nyeong ha se yo (formal; pronouned ahn-yan-ha-say-yo), ahn nyeong (informal; can also be used to mean "goodbye")

Lithuanian - laba diena (formal), labas, sveikas (informal; when speaking to a male), sveika (informal; when speaking to a female), sveiki (informal; when speaking to more than one person).

Maltese - merħba (meaning "welcome"), bonġu (morning), bonswa or il-lejl it-tajjeb (evening)

Norwegian - hei ("hi"), hallo ("hello"), heisann ("hi there"), god morgen ("good morning"), god dag ("good day"), god kveld ("good evening").

Oshikwanyama - wa uhala po, meme? (to a female; response is ee), wa uhala po, tate? (to a male; response is ee) nawa tuu? (response is ee; formal), ongaipi? (meaning "how is it?"; informal) ; No, I don't know where this is either

Portuguese - oi, boas, olá or alô (informal); bom dia or bons dias (good morning, used before noon or before the noon meal); boa tarde or boas tardes (good afternoon, used after noon or after the noon meal, until twilight); boa noite or boas noites (good evening and good night, used after twilight).

Russian - Privet! pronounced as pree-vyet (informal), zdravstvuyte (formal; pronounced ZDRA-stvooy-tyeh)

Scottish- hi (informal) hello the noo (hello) :-)
Authentic Sco'ish,- Alrai', Whatcha dein, yer ijak!

Spanish - hola (pronounced with a silent 'h': o-la), alo, qué onda (South America;very informal, like "what's up"; pronounced keh ondah), qué hay, (South America; very informal), qué pasa (Spain, informal), buenos días ("good morning"), buenas tardes (afternoon and early evening), buenas noches (late evening and night). These three forms can be made informal by saying "buenas". Also Qué Transa (Mexico;very informal, like "what's up" pronounced keh trahansa). Qué tál, meaning "what's up", pronounced "kay tal".

Thai - sawa dee-ka (said by a female), sawa dee-krap (said by a male)

Urdu - adaab ir salam (waley-kum)

Vietnamese - xin chào

Welsh - shwmae (North Wales; pronounced shoe-my)OR Helo, Iya (Newport); OK, I added that bit myself

Yiddish - sholem aleikhem (literally "may peace be unto you"), borokhim aboyem or gut morgn (morning), gutn ovnt (evening), gutn tog (day), gut shabbos (only used on the Sabbath)

Zulu - sawubona

Friday, April 10, 2009

Review : China Furniture Online

Bought an unusual piece of furniture recently from China Furniture and Arts ( Decided I wanted something eye-catching in the hallway. Its one of those black laquered cabinets with Mother of Pearl Asian figures attached. Looks unusual, and I can definitely recommend the company in terms of thier service. They kept me up to date with progress of the shipment, and everything was very well packed and padded so it arrived in perfect condition. Will definitely use them again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Brace yourself!

Like a true American youth, my son has been going through the process of getting braces. Who would've thought there was so much to it? First he had an extensive series of X-rays and teeth impressions. They also took regular photos of his face. We had a consultation with the orthodontist who described exactly where he was in his growth cycle, how he knew from his hand X-rays that he was about to enter puberty and how his current teeth were shaping his jawline and face.

Apparently he has a Class II Congenital skeletal deformity, which means that his lower jaw does not protrude forward enough and his teeth don't line up, potentially causing problems in the future, as well as giving him that "weak chin" appearance. So they will use a special device that fits on his back teeth and forces his jaw to grow more forwards. He is getting this fitted in a few weeks time. Apparently it sounds a lot more painful than it actually is. Hmmm...

The final step , which will occur in a few months time, is when the braces will be attached. He wants blue braces (actually the elastics not the braces themselves) and he will have to wear them for about 18 months. Apparently its easy to change the color of the elastics and he plans to have red and green ones at Christmas time :-)

So, according to the orthodontist, my son has an overbite, a class II congenital skeletal deformity causing jaw misalignment, which can lead to tongue protrusion and lip droop. And there was me thinking his front teeth just stuck out...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Scratch that itch!

Scientists have shown scratching helps relieve an itch as it blocks activity in some spinal cord nerve cells that transmit the sensation to the brain.
Previous research has suggested that a specific part of the spinal cord - the spinothalamic tract - plays a key role.
The latest work, in primates, found that scratching the skin blocks activity of nerve cells in the spinothalamic tract during itchiness - preventing the spinal cord from transmitting signals from the scratched area of skin to the brain

To all you guys out there, you should note that the effect only seems to occur during itchiness itself - scratching at other times makes no difference.

Especially first thing in the morning in the groin area….

Monday, April 6, 2009

Details, details...

I read this article in the BBC news today.

A girl has seriously injured her arm after falling through a skylight while jumping over roof tops in St Andrews. The 16-year-old was taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, where her condition was described as stable. It is believed the girl, from Newport-on-Tay, was imitating the extreme sport of Parkour with two boys when she fell in South Street at 2140 BST on Sunday. The girl injured in the latest incident had been staying with her grandmother. Her parents are now travelling back from holidaying down south.

I probably should be ashamed of myself, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Images of someone hopping from roof to roof, and then falling through a skylight could’ve come straight out of a Scooby Doo cartoon. What an idiot!!

But the other thing that caught my eye was that her parents were holidaying ‘down south’. Why was that important to the story? As far as I’m concerned it just begs the question “Where down South”? Are we talking Birmingham, Barcelona or Mumbai?

You can’t just leave the story hanging like that!! Stuff like that matters!!

A bunch of wimps

I have always hated professional soccer. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that my dad and brother loved it, and the memories of my childhood are clouded by the Saturday routine of Grandstand all day followed by "Match of the Day" at night. I can even hear that terrible theme tune in my head “duh, duh, duh, duuuuuur, duruh duh dud duh”.

Another reason is, I always thought that soccer players were wimps ; the way they roll around on the pitch with tears in their eyes at the slightest knock is pretty pathetic (IMHO).

My opinion of them being a bunch of schoolboys was solidified today when I read in the BBC news that a referee ordered a penalty to be retaken in a Sunday league football game when an opposition player broke wind as the ball was kicked. The Chorlton Villa player got a yellow card for the noise which was classed as "ungentlemanly conduct". Good Grief, they’ll be chewing up little bits of paper and firing them at the opposition with a home-made sling-shot next!
Give me a rugby player any day…..

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What a pain....

My local gym has a free seminar today at 10am called "Eliminate Back pain". Now I'm a long time sufferer with back pain so I signed up as soon as I saw it advertised. Yesterday I decided to paint the hallway. Even though I took it very slow and carefully, this morning my back is, I believe the technical term is "in half", and is now too painful to attend the Eliminate Back Pain seminar. Damn.....

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Martin!

Please wish my brother-in-law Martin a very Happy Birthday! The photo shows him (on the left) with my husband Tony. Check out his excellent blog at

Friday, April 3, 2009

This village has lost its idiot

From the BBC News today:

Angry residents in Milton Keynes (England) blocked the driver of a Google Street View car when he started taking photographs of their homes. Police were called to Broughton after residents staged the protest, accusing Google of invading their privacy and "facilitating crime".

Some people are not happy unless they are complaining and protesting about something. We have had Google Street View for a couple of years in the US and it’s invaluable when you are trying to understand directions.

Resident Paul Jacobs was one of the first residents in the village, which is part of Milton Keynes, to challenge the Google car. Mr Jacobs said he saw the vehicle driving past his home on Wednesday and his first reaction was one of anger. "I don't have a problem with Google wanting to promote villages. What I have a problem with is the invasion of privacy, taking pictures directly into the home," he said.

Does this guy even know what Google Street View is? What is he talking about? Google promoting villages? He must think it’s a documentary about village life! If he took a break from peeking around his net curtains to actually look at Google Street View, he may realize that it is not possible to see into people’s homes – the image just will not zoom in that much (believe me, I have tried ;-). I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Besides, it has created a whole new kind of game, Streetspotting, as described on the below link. Can't complain about that...

Tony's Birthday

Happy Birthday to my darling husband Tony. Hope you enjoy your day. Put your feet up, kick back and have a beer ; no need to do anything different just because its your birthday!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chris is a party-pooper

I tried to arrange a lunchtime drink with a couple of work pals this week. One of them, Chris, said he couldn't go because he had to go check his septic tank. Well, I've been given some lines in my time but that's a new one.....

Are you sewer you won't change your mind? I asked. He's taking the piss I thought. I was really pee'd off, tanks a lot...

A favorite quote from that master of one liners, Tommy Cooper:
My wife and I were married in a toilet - it was a marriage of convenience!

And a more recent comedian....

If you stay in a house and you go to the bathroom and there is no toilet paper, you can always slide down the banisters. Don't tell me you haven't done it. -- Paul Merton

OK enough sewer humor, I must lav you and leave you (I'm feeling a bit flushed).