Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mountain View Grand Hotel

We spent the past 4 days vacationing in New Hampshire. We stayed at the Mountain View Grand resort & Spa (, and I must say it is aptly named. The views from the hotel are of the White Mountains and are stupendous. The hotel originally opened in 1865, and is now listed as one of the historic inns of America. In 2002 it reopened after a $20 million renovation, and the results are very grand, and authentic. They have retained the chalm and grandeux of the hotel while introducing all mod cons. The hotel has both an indoor and an outdoor pool, its own movie theater, a games room with pool, ping pong, air hockey and foozball tables, a library, a sauna, a 9 hole golf course, tennis courts, horseback trail riding and mountain biking. At the front of the hotel is a huge covered farmers porch/veranda, and I spent many happy hours sipping a glass of wine and reading, while looking out over the mountains. I will definitely be back there in the near future.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"No talking in the Libwawy"

I love this photo, it never fails to make me smile, so I had to include it in my blog....


Being as it was (another) nice day on Sunday, Tony took the kids off for a few hours to the Ecotarium in Worcester ( The Ecotarium is a strange sort of cross between Science Museum and zoo and advertises itself as an organization dedicated to the study of science and nature. It has a small number of animals in the zoo part, but not just mice and birds as you'd expect; one of the main attractions is a polar bear no less! Outside is a narrow gauge train that gives rides around the property, and a tree canopy walkway 40ft up in the trees. Inside the building are hands-on exhibits such as you'd expect to see in a typical kids science museum.

Winker Jeans

I think my next pair of jeans will be a pair of these...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Edinburgh Fringe - Jokes galore

Comedian Dan Antopolski has won a prize for the funniest joke of this year's Edinburgh Fringe. The Top 10 jokes were judged to be:

• 1) Dan Antopolski - "Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?"

• 2) Paddy Lennox - "I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: 'This could be interesting'."

• 3) Sarah Millican - "I had my boobs measured and bought a new bra. Now I call them Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes because they're up where they belong."

• 4) Zoe Lyons - "I went on a girls' night out recently. The invitation said 'dress to kill'. I went as Rose West."

• 5) Jack Whitehall - "I'm sure wherever my dad is; he's looking down on us. He's not dead, just very condescending."

• 6) Adam Hills - "Going to Starbucks for coffee is like going to prison for sex. You know you're going to get it, but it's going to be rough."

• 7) Marcus Brigstocke - "To the people who've got iPhones: you just bought one, you didn't invent it!"

• 8) Rhod Gilbert - "A spa hotel? It's like a normal hotel, only in reception there's a picture of a pebble."

• 9) Dan Antopolski - "I've been reading the news about there being a civil war in Madagascar. Well, I've seen it six times and there isn't."

• 10) Simon Brodkin (as Lee Nelson) - "I started so many fights at my school - I had that attention-deficit disorder. So I didn't finish a lot of them."

The judges also listed some of the worst jokes at this year's Fringe.

• Carey Marx - "I'm not doing any Michael Jackson jokes, because they always involve puns about his songs. And that's bad."

• Frank Woodley - "I phoned the swine flu hotline and all I got was crackling."

• Alex Maple - "Michael Jackson only invented the moonwalk so he could sneak up on children."

• Phil Nichol - "She's got a face like a rare Chinese vase - minging."

• Alistair McGowan - "I've just split up from my girlfriend, which is a shame, because it was a long-standing arrangement. Perhaps if we'd sat down a bit more..."

The results are in!!

Breaking news...the result of the autopsy on Michael Jackson's body showed a lethal level of drugs.

Wow! You don't say!

Happy 18th Birthday!

Happy 18th Birthday to my nephew Daniel, who is spending the day at Alton Towers. I hope there is a hospitality tent (AKA beer tent) so he can get some legal alcoholic refreshment. Best wishes from all of us across the pond.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Christine!

Happy birthday to my pal Christine, who is currently taking it easy in South Carolina. Not a bad way to spend your birthday. Have fun!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A lazy day

We spent a fairly lazy day today pottering around the stores in Natick Mall. It was just too hot to be outside so the mall was the logical choice. Natick mall (or "Natick Collection" as it now likes to be known), is the largest mall in New England with over 200 stores icluding Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany's, Coach, Apple, the Cheesecake factory (no M&S of course). I enjoyed looking in Williams-Sonoma, an upscale kitchen store, and couldn't resist two gadgets that every home must have, a thing to take the stem out of strawberries and a thing to make your fried eggs perfectly round. How have I manage without them until now?? Emma and I also enjoyed trying on some $900 shoes in Nordstom's shoe departmemt, and some $60 molded rubber bright yellow shoes that you could not pay me to wear.

We finished up with dinner at the British Beer Company (or the BBC as its simetmes known here). This place attempts to be like a typical British pub. The blurb states "In Great Britain, Ireland and across Europe, the pub or “local” is the center of town life: a place to relax, refuel the body and the spirit, share news and be entertained. The pubs and restaurants of the British Beer Company deliver that same atmosphere and service to Americans today". Its a pretty good place, with many beers on tap, and a few typical British meals on the menu such as fish and chips, shepherds pie and bangers and mash. However it cannot be considered a true British pub replica until it includes some staples of British pub life; the scantily-clad group of 16 year olds trying to get picked up, the old drunk abusing the barmaid and the 17-year old throwing up outside. I wonder if they have a suggestion box?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 49th Anniversary to my parents!! One more year until the big one (I'd better start saving now)...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Look what the cat dragged in...

Something disgusting happened yesterday. We were sitting on the deck enjoying the evening sunshine, when the cat started heaving and retching. She threw up something long and flat and yellow and as she backed away from it, more and more emerged until there was about 4 feet of this stuff hanging out of her mouth. OMG! I thought, its a tapeworm, or its a extra long piece of fettuchine. Gross. But then I realized it was a very long piece of yellow ribbon which we had previously been wiggling around for her to chase. Even more gross.

Now what does one do when a cat sits there with 4 feet of ribbon hanging out of its mouth, with the remaining 2 feet or so still embedded somewhere in its stomach. Its a scenario that I have not played out in my head before, and I was a bit stuck for ideas.

Being a tidy sort of a gal, and quite fond of sewing, I decided to cut it off with a pair of scissors to neaten things up. The cat ate the remaining inch or two that stuck out of her mouth, and after one rather subdued evening, she now seems back to normal.

Of course the excitement will really come when nature takes its course and we see the arrival of the remaining 2 feet from her rear end. Lets hope it all comes out at once and I don't have to do a tidy-up job with the scissors at that end as well!!!
Don't you just wish your life was as exciting as mine?

Monday, August 17, 2009

On yer bike!

We bought Robert and Emma new bikes this past weekend. They both have Trek mountain bikes and seem really happy with them. We tested them out Saturday morning with a ride to Dunin Donuts. The new bikes are great, but my (hardly ridden) old bike got stuck in second gear, and my legs were going round faster than a roadrunner with one foot nailed to the floor.
So I spent the afternoon googling bike maintenance and getting oil everywhere and now I can get all three gears, but not necessarily in the right order....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I'm so old they've cancelled my blood type

While waiting for Tony to load a photo for my next blog entry, I will fill the gap with a couple of jokes given to me by Tony's uncle Gwyn (sounds like a character off Gavin and Stacey!). Not sure if he is trying to tell me something....

Three retirees, each with a hearing loss, were playing golf one fine March day. One remarked to the other,"Windy isn't it?", "No" the second man replied, "its Thursday". And the third man chimed in "So am I, Lets have a beer"

80 year old Bessie bursts into the Rec room at the retirement home. She holds her clenched fist in the air and announces "Anyone who can guess what's in my hand can have sex with me tonight". An elderly gentleman in the rear shouts out "An elephant?". Bessie thinks for a minute and says "Close enough".

As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife's voice warning him "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on Interstate 77. Please be careful". "Hell" said Herman, "It's not just one car, its hundreds of them!"

An old couple were lying in bed one night. The husband was falling asleep but the wife was in a romantic mood and wanted to talk. She said "You used to hold my hand when we were courting". Wearily he reached across, held her hand for a second and tried to get back to sleep. A few moments later she said "Then you used to kiss me". Mildly irritated, he reached across, gave her a peck on the cheek and settled down to sleep.
Thirty seconds later she said "Then you used to bite my neck". Angrily he threw back the bed clothes and got out of bed. "Where are you going?" she asked. "To get my teeth!"

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Virgin Atlantic sucks! (as does Heathrow airport)

I would've liked to balance out my previous scathing Virgin Atlantic blog entry by providing a glowing report for the return journey. But alas, that's not to be. I can officially state that, in my humble opinion, Virgin Atlantic sucks and I will not be flying with them again if I can help it. Let me explain.

After a fairly uneventful, smooth drive to Heathrow we arrived at Terminal 3 to be greeted by the huge red WELCOME sign over the VA terminal. Before we'd left home we'd done "Step 1" of the check-in process, i.e. on-line check-in, entered all our passport details, printed out our boarding passes, and weighed and labelled all our luggage. Now according to the VA website, all that remained was "Step 2 - drop the bags off at the 'Drop bags' counter in the terminal". Simple enough I thought, but sadly no. We entered the terminal to be greeted by umpteen long lines of people queuing to "just drop off their bags". We waited while the slowest VA check-in agent in the world attached sticky labels around suitcase handles. We were in line for 40 minutes; What can possibly take them so long? I did half the work for them already for goodness sake!!

Once through this ordeal, we were faced with the joys of Heathrow. We went pretty swiftly through the hand baggage screeners into a chaotic mass of people waiting to pass through a teeny passport checkpoint. Why was it so small? This is Heathrow after all? All became clear as we squeezed ourselves through into the vastness of the duty-free area; obviously it was important to reserve at least 75% of the airport space for the duty free shopping. We snaked our way to our departure gate, on a route that was designed to take us past as many designer stores as possible, and one which could only be surpassed in its length by the Great Wall of China.

Although the plane was large and obviously new, the seats were probably the most uncomfortable I have sat in since I took a charter flight to Yugoslavia in the seventies. There was barely enough legroom even when I set my seat-back bolt upright with my chin resting on my chest. When I attempted to push the seat-back down, the seat cushion slid forward, forcing my knees into the back of the seat in front. My back was, I believe the technical term is, "in half" by the time we landed. As on the outbound journey, the food was minimal and pretty average. The snack before landing was a Brownie ; I'm glad to see that VA are doing their bit to help us all be more health conscious.

So all-in-all, not a great flying experience. It reminded me of how much I hate Heathrow Airport, and I for one will be seeking out airline operators who utilize local airports in the future.

Groes Wen Inn & Newport Wetlands Reserve

Spent a very pleasant Sunday with family. We met up in the Groes Wen Inn at Penhow, Caldicot ( and I had a wonderful Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding lunch. The menu was extensive, the service was faultless and everyone in our party except for baby Ava seemed to enjoy their food (can't say I blame her, the dried bread dunked in runny yellow stuff did not look appetizing at all) . We decided to walk off the excess at the Newport Wetlands Reserve near Goldcliff. This wildlife reserve is situated on part of the tranquil Gwent Levels, at the edge of the city of Newport, and was created to compensate for the loss of the mudflats of Cardiff Bay. The reserve is owned and run by the Countryside Council for Wales, who work in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Newport City Council.

Covering over 438 hectares from Uskmouth to Goldcliff, the reed beds, saline lagoons, wet grassland and scrub, have attracted a wealth of wetland birds. The Reserve is also an excellent place to see orchids, butterflies, dragonflies and otters. Footpaths cross the Reserve and there are 3 way-marked trails varying in length from 2.74km (1.7 miles) to 4.36km (2.7 miles).

A new gift shop and cafe has been erected at the entrance and it was nice to while away the time sipping a latte and watching the ducks and swans swim by. Made for a nice relaxing final day in the home country, and the sun was shining too. Can't fault it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sunday lunch

Had an excellent Sunday Lunch at the Golden Lion in Magor last week ( . Typical Sunday lunch menu, choice of Lamb, Beef or Turkey, and a big selection of starters and desserts. They only have a small dining area so its good that we booked in advance. The lamb was probably the most tender lamb I have had in many years. And the kids raved about the Creme Brulee they had for dessert. Sunday Lunch is definitely one of the best British traditions, I miss it in the US, but cannot be bothered to spend my entire Sunday morning cooking a roast then spend my afternoon cleaning all the saucepans.

Having a Crackin' time

Yesterday we decided to take advantage of the good weather (i.e. it stopped raining momentarily) and take a drive to the coast. We first went to "The Knap", a pebble beach near the more popular 'Barry Island'. Despite the Daily Mail telling me that the BBQ summer was back on in the UK, it was, as the locals say "Bloody freezin". As we had taken the weatherman at his word, we had not packed coats, and by chance had 2 rainjackets in the back of the car, which we took it in turns to wear. We shivered on the pebbles eating our Tescos sandwiches and pork pies, then raced back to the car to get warm.

We followed this with a drive to that mecca of entertainment, Barry Island. People who were obviously made of sturdier stuff than us, were sat on the beach in swimsuits, looking out at the grey clouds and the grey sea through their binoculars. We wandered through the "Pleasure Park" (I'll be the judge of that, thank you)- an amusement park that has definitely seen better days. And we browsed in the giftshop at the "Oh! whats occuring" T-shirts and "I'm not gunna lie to you, Barry Island is crackin" mugs. Gavin and Stacey have a lot to answer for..

Having said that, we had a lovely walk along the coast. A path has been built that runs from Barry Island around the coastline past what used to be Butlins, to the next cove. With the wind whistling past and the waves crashing, it was invigorating and enjoyable. We finished up with an hour browsing through the enormous Marks and Spencer store at Culverhouse Cross - I'm thinking I should be taking out shares in M&S....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A typical Sunday

I can officially declare that I am well and truly back into the swing of Welsh life. Last night I went out for a meal, drunk vodka until 3am, and woke up this morning with a throbbing head and dodgy stomach. But after a walk around the park, a Sunday lunch and multiple cups of tea, I'm feeling better. A typical Sunday I seem to recall...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The 12 days of vacation

"On the 12th day of vacation, Tesco's gave to me:
12 pints of lager
11 Cornish pasties
10 Homestyle Pork pies
9 Clotted cream scones
8 Cherry Bakewells
7 Pickled onions
6 Cadbury's Crunchies
5 Baa-ten-burgs
4 British bangers
3 Buttered crumpets
2 large scotch eggs

and a bag of smoky bacon crisps

Nip Pop

Its amazing what you don't notice about a country's accent or way of speaking until you've been away for some years. I am amazed on this visit at the amount of nipping and popping that goes on in the UK. "I'm just nipping out to Tesco's", "Pop it by there Lovely" must be the two phrases that I have heard the most since I've been here. That and "The forecast is for rain today".....

Virgin on the useless

We arrived safely but not happily in the UK, thanks to Virgin Atlantic. I had always been led to believe that Virgin were a classy airline, all those red suits and smiles looked promising. However the reality, as is so often the case, was somewhat different.

Boarding the plane was interesting and took forever. "Virgin Atlantic is pleased to welcome aboard our upper class passengers, and passengers with children", "Virgin Atlantic is pleased to welcome aboard passengers in rows 65 to 64", "Virgin Atlantic is pleased to welcome aboard passengers wearing red sweaters", "Virgin Atlantic is pleased to welcome aboard passengers with more than 24 hours worth of stubble...." You get the picture.

When we eventually got inside the cabin, the seats were roomy enough (as good as you can expect in cattle class), and there was an immense array of movies available on demand from the entertainment system. The food was average. "What sort of wine do you have?" I asked. Now I'm not dumb enough to think he was going to present me with a wine list, but I did think he may say "Its a Merlot madam", or something similar. "Its a house wine" he replied. OK, I thought, shouldn't it be an airplane wine?..

I had taken the somewhat risky move of wearing white jeans for the flight. I was extremely careful not to spill gravy on them, and even when we experienced some turbulence right after my plastic cup was filled to the brim with "House", they still stayed gleaming white.

After the meal the stewardess in red with hair scraped back into a doughnut, leaned across us both and flipped down our window shades. Didn't ask us if we wanted them down, just did it anyway. We settled down to watch a movie, Tony sipping on his overflowing cup of coffee. All was well until the "House-man" came down the aisle, and bumped his swinging hips into Tonys elbow. The entire contents of the coffee cup went over my jeans. He didn't even stop and apologise. Just continued on his merry/gay little way....

We were woken up to a breakfast that consisted of one sad looking, sticky, over-processed blueberry muffin. I took a bite then left the rest on my tray. As the red stewardess was preparing for landing, she told us to put our trays up. "Can you please take the remainder of 'breakfast' away then?" we asked, only to be told to "Pop it in the seat pocket". Then she leaned over and flipped up our seat backs, nearly sending us into the seat-back pocket along with our half-eaten muffins.

So in summary, lots of red suits and doughnut hair (and that was just the men), but not very friendly or courteous. I think their good reputation is based mostly on their extensive entertainment system rather than their service.