Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell 2010

Only another few hours of 2010 left. We traveled a lot this year. In March we visited New York City for the first time and were impressed by Times Square, Ground Zero, the statue of Liberty and the views from the Rockefeller Center. In April we visited San Antonio TX and enjoyed the River Walk and the colors and music of Fiesta week . We were extremely lucky to experience a week of sunshine when we stayed at Adare Manor in Ireland in June, where we sampled quite a few pints of genuine Guinness. In August we went to the horse races in Saratoga Springs NY, and did a much more leisurely horse ride ourselves afterward. In addition to all this I made business trips to Orlando, Tucson, Washington DC, and Dallas. 

Sadly 2010 saw the death of my grandmother - she is missed by all her family.

In July I was offered a job in Tucson and we came very close to moving to sunny Arizona but decided in the end that it was not the right move for us. For Thanksgiving we saw the first snow of the winter in Loon New Hampshire and enjoyed some brisk, icy walks in the woods. We finished up the year visiting the UK for Christmas and were amazed to see more snow there than we had experienced in Boston this winter.

All in all, its been a busy year. Looking forward to 2011 - Happy New Year to all my friends and family!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

RIP Daddy Cool

I see in the news that Boney M singer Bobby Farrell died today at the age of 61. What a good band Boney M were, not earth-shattering music but their songs were always catchy with a good beat. They actually had a whole string of hits; Daddy Cool, Rivers of Babylon, Sunny, Mary's Boy Child, Ma Baker, One Way Ticket, Brown Girl in the Ring and Rasputin are the ones I particularly remember. Bobby Farrell wasn't really much of a singer in the band, more of a "dancer", and I use that term quite loosely. See some of his more bizarre moves in this video clip of their hit Ma Baker.....

It makes no sense

One of the top news items over the Christmas period in the UK was the disappearance of a 25 year old woman called Joanna Yeates. She disappeared on December 17th and her body was eventually found covered in snow on the side of a road on Christmas Day - she had been strangled. The Times newspaper had a report of the latest events,  and included a quote from the victim's father. It began  "Mr Yeates, speaking from his 600,000 pound home in Hampshire said....".

Why on earth is the value of the family's home a relevant detail in this news report? If it was a suspected kidnapping then maybe there would be some logic to the information, but it wasn't. She'd been found dead. Does it make it any less of, or more horrific a crime because her father lives in an expensive house?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Clearing up during (not after) the storm

A quick example of the way the Northeast of the US deals with snowstorms. There is a big snowstorm across the Boston area as I write. Its been ongoing for the past 3 hours and already there are 3000 ice and snow crews on the roads,  ploughs and grit/chemical spreaders. They will be working all night long, and by tomorrow the roads will almost certainly be slow but serviceable. The UK could learn something here - don't wait until the snow has fallen before trying to clear it, attack it early and often.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cracking jokes - not

Have just finished eating a very nice Christmas dinner, as prepared by my mother. Extremely enjoyable, and accompanied by lots of "christmas cheer" (AKA wine & champagne).

All the usual British Christmas traditions were included; turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, christmas pudding with brandy butter and of course, Christmas Crackers. To those not familiar with the traditional Christmas Crackers, these are a paper covered tube that two people pull, one each end, and it breaks with a bang (crack). Inside the tube is a toy, a paper hat, and a joke. I've often wondered who wrote the awful jokes within the crackers. They certainly are no better nowadays than they were in the past. Here are a few exanples from this years crackers:

Q: Where should a dressmaker build her house?
A: On the outskirts

Q: Why does this bus stop at every lamp-post?
A: Because its a greyhound

Q: Why did the strawberry get a lawyer?
A: Because it was in a jam

Q: What award goes to designers of door knockers?
A: A No Bell peace prize

OK, no further comment necessary. I need more wine!

Merry Christmas all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is this the cutting edge?

I have a question. When I wrap presents, why is it that the scissors will cut through my skin like a butchers knife if I make one small error of judgement, yet trying to use those same scissors on tape and wrapping paper and they may as well be made of  Jello?

When you gotta go

Yesterday we had to drive from Bournemouth to Midsomer Norton, a drive that should take around 1.5hrs.  We took the advice of a trusted family member who shall not be named (lets just call him Gwyn for ease of reference...) who told us to avoid the smaller 'B' roads and go via Salisbury on the A roads to be safer in the snow. We hadn't even reached Salisbury when we hit stationary traffic on Downton Road. We sat in this queue of traffic for an hour. No sign of what was causing it or how far it stretched. The radio station just said that traffic was 'heavier than usual' ....whats it like normally?!

I was amused to see the passenger door of a car in front open up and a women appeared. She then proceeded to open the rear passenger door and you could see a lot of fumbling and wriggling going on behind the screen of the doors. Next thing you know there was a steady stream of liquid running out under the car. Well....I guess when you've got to go, you've got to go! Personally though, I think I would just cross my legs.

Its snow joke

Britain in the snow is not a pretty sight. A dusting of an inch or two (or "2.5cm" as it is commonly known) will close schools and create newspaper headlines of "Britain's Arctic chill". Schools are closed and people wrap up like they are auditioning for 'Scott of the Antarctic'.

But add a few more inches to that (or many more millimeters) and we are talking serious chaos. The entire country comes to a standstill. Major airports are closed, roads are gridlocked, trains are cancelled and the stores are running out of supplies. There is not a pint of milk or a loaf of bread to be found on the supermarket shelves.

The papers and TV analyze and re-analyze why the country can't cope. Every news and talkshow discuss in grinding detail the state of the country and everyone is glued to the TV for the latest opinions. They should save their energy and their furrowed brows. Its pretty simple really. Britain doesn't have enough plows (sic) or grit. In the Northeast of the USA where we live, we have snow in feet not inches. It is a rare snowstorm that will keep us housebound for any significant length of time. We live in a small street/cul-de-sac and even there we hear the snow-plows come down the street every few hours during the night when it snows. So the only thing we have to do in the morning is clear the driveway to get to the road. The main roads have been plowed and gritted continually so they are in an even better shape. Each town has access to many plows; either big ones that they own and use to clear the main roads, or small plows owned by local contractors that are used to do the minor streets. Landscape gardeners attach 'plates' to the front of their pick-up trucks in the winter and clear driveways and minor roads. Its all very organized and efficient.

This is 2 years in a row that the UK has had snowfall and been unable to cope. Obviously they do not get the amount of snow that we get, so they probably would not want to raise their game to the same levels, but they could take a few ideas on board. Its about time they started to act instead of just talking about it.

Blowing hot and cold

I have come to the conclusion that my family has an adverse effect on the weather. Visiting Las Vegas 2 years ago, at a time when the average temperatures are in the 90's, we experienced unusually cold temperatures in the 70's with strong winds. A bit chilly for sitting around the pool. This is just the first example. In San Antonio, Texas earlier this year we had unheard of torrential rain that caused major street flooding, the same in Saratoga Springs in August ("we've never seen weather like it!"). Now we are in the UK for Christmas, and the country is at a standstill due to heavy snow. We just can't win although.....when we visited Ireland in June this year we had glorious sunny, warm weather with not a drop of rain in sight. I suppose it does work out well for us occasionally but in future, if I want a nice sunny, warm vacation, I think I will book a trip to Siberia...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Better to be safe......

My place of work is very conscientious about Health and Safety in the workplace. They take pride in being an injury-free workplace. What this means to the average employee is reminders about not standing on a chair, balanced on one leg reaching for a pile of heavy boxes off a tall cupboard. It also means that, if any liquid is spilled on the tiled floor, a yellow sign is erected over it saying "Caution! Wet floor", to warn us not to slip while someone goes to get something to clean it up. Anyway, I thought it was a bit excessive today when I spotted one of those yellow signs placed on a carpeted stair tread over a slightly damp spot. Not sure what safety risk this could present, damp shoe soles maybe? Or possibly falling down the stairs after tripping over the yellow sign on the stairs?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Come rain or shine.....or snow, or fog, or ice.....

Getting ready for a visit to the home country, and trying to decide what to pack. It used to be so easy. If you visited in the winter you'd pack an umbrella and boots. And if you visited in the summer you'd pack an umbrella and sandals...

 But what has been happening with the British weather? This year they have had sub-zero temperatures and feet of snow, before we've seen so much as one flake of the white stuff! Its given me a dilemma about what to pack. The umbrella is a given, that will be packed without question. But the coat remains a problem. If I pack a a raincoat its probably not going to be warm enough. If I pack a New England style warm coat it may revert to a standard British winter and I will be sweltering. What to do! Why can't it be more like the weather here? There is a saying in New England that goes something like "if you don't like the weather in New England then wait a minute because it will change", implying that the weather here is unpredictable. Frankly that's a lots of old codswallop (in my humble opinion). Its pretty predictable - in summer its too hot and in winter its too cold! Nothing ambiguous about that!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ahhh, those were the days!!

Just been having an hour or so of nostalgia on YouTube. I've been showing my age by listening to all the music of my era, the early 80s. I don't believe you can beat the music then, it was so fresh and raw. I have to admit I am partial to the odd Lady Gaga song (shhh, don't tell anyone) but in general the music I like today is few and far between.

Some of my favorites were The Stranglers (Get a Grip on yourself, Golden Brown, Always the sun), The Skids (Into the Valley), The Buzzcocks (Ever fallen in love with someone), Fine Young Cannibals (She drives me crazy), The Clash (London Calling, Rock the Casbah, Tommy Gun), The Specials (Too much too young), Squeeze (Up the junction), The Beat (Mirror in the Bathroom), Hazel O'Conner (Eighth day) and of course not forgetting Blondie (One way or another, Hanging on the telephone, Sunday Girl, Heart of Glass)... the list goes on

The lyrics were pretty funny "I never thought it would happen, with me and a girl from Clapham" (Squeeze), and "he always beat me at Subuteo, because he'd flick to kick and I didn't know!" (Undertones); remember Subuteo? What an awful game!

Talking of which, heres a clip from that great Irish group, The Undertones - My perfect Cousin!

Tis the Season!

Are Christmas lights deliberately made so that they only last 1 season? Every year I work my way through at least 10 string of lights trying in vain to find one where all the bulbs work. Just one bulb goes and they all go. I have patiently replaced every unlit bulb with a good one from another set, but to no avail. I can sympathize with Chevy Chase in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation ...

Anyway, the Christmas tree is up now and looking quite good - not exactly up to Macy's standard but quite acceptable. All we need now is some wintry weather to feel in the Christmas mood. Unfortunately it is "unseasonably warm" with torrential rain and the snow has all migrated across the Atlantic to the UK....
Ho! Ho! Ho!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The joy is in the giving?

I would like to officially state here and now, to all those who have asked me for ideas for my husbands Christmas present this year, that I have no clue whatsoever. I have no understanding of the various gizmos he wants. If I bought one it would almost certainly be the one which "doesn't interface on the correct bandwidth and has the wrong dongle to play the latest version of Madden foozball". I can't even suggest a pair of socks because he has two drawers full, and only wears a handful (footful?) of them. So I'm afraid I am as clueless as you, and all I can suggest is some sort of multi-purpose tool or some alcohol - he must surely be able to find some use in one or both of those!

The calm before the storm?

Its such a beautiful fall morning I thought I'd post a picture of my back garden with the leaves down, before it gets covered in snow. Its mornings like this that make me glad I live here (but ask me again in a few months time...)

Its what little girls are made of

Did you know that cats dislike sweet food because they have a defect in the taste receptor gene that detects sweet and sugary foods? So they can't actually taste sweet food at all. I wonder what that would be like? Eating a big bar of chocolate and just getting a mushy, cloying feeling in your mouth, munching on a Crunchie and having the sensation of eating packed sand, and chewing on a Starburst and feeling like you are eating a piece of gum where the flavor has run out. I think we'd all be pretty skinny, but possibly a bit less content....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Corrie Nation - I just don't get it

Just been trying out the new game on Facebook called "Corrie Nation". Now being a bit of a Coronation Street fan I thought it may be fun. How mistaken I was! I have to say, I just don't get it. You start with an empty street and you have to buy houses and characters (from the TV show) for the street. You only get a finite amount of money to buy them with, and the only way of getting more appears to be by subscribing to something like Netflix, or take out a magazine subscription. So it seems to me to be just one big marketing ploy.  And lets assume I did subscribe and get enough money to "kit out the street". What then? Do I just sit there and look at it with pride? Invite the neighbors round to oooh and aahh at how full my street is? Maybe I'm just old but give me Space Invaders any day - you know where you are with that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wheres the fun in that?

One of the big problems with Halloween is all that left over candy as well as and the collection of even more candy that the kids bring home from their "trick or treating". Its really hard to walk past the bowl and not grab one of those small bars of chocolate. The thing I want to know is, why is it called "fun-size" candy? Whats so fun about getting just one small nibble of a bar of chocolate? Give me "giant" or "family-size" bars any day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm speechless

When I was about my son's age, I recall that the only after-school class was the one for detention, where you had to color in the little squares on graph paper for an hour. Even now I can't look at mosaic tiles without feeling slightly guilty!.

Nowadays there is a whole range of after-school activities available (for a fee of course), but even so, there are a lot of options; Cross-country, Lego robotics, speech, leaders of tomorrow, skiing, lacrosse, math counts....This year my son has decided to try the Speech class.

I am amazed at what is required of these kids! Not only do they have to give a speech in a competition setting, but they also have to write and memorize their speech. It has to be 8 minutes long and address something other than "10 reasons why I hate school" or "my favorite Wii game" or "How to get a high score on Bejewelled Blitz". Robert's chosen topic is "How technology at work causes stress at home". Surprisingly he has needed very little help from me in writing the speech, but I did find myself doing some research on the causes of stress - actually, I didn't have to research that much, I found I had a whole bunch of real-life examples at my fingertips! The speech is written now so all he has to do is memorize it and learn how to deliver it, all in the next 2 weeks. No small feat to fit in amongst all the homework he has in 8th grade. I hope he doesn't get too stressed about it all...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

SkyMall - "The Litter Kwitter"

Another post in my series of commentaries on the SkyMall magazine. On the flight home yesterday I was intrigued by the SkyMall advert for the "The Litter Kwitter" - this is a series of toilet seat inserts that you can use to potty train your kitty - no more litter boxes...the cat uses the toilet like the rest of us. I have images in my mind of the owner banging on the bathroom door shouting "get a move on Fluffy, I'm bursting out here!"  Next step is to teach Fluffy how to flush....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Slap yo Momma Chilli!

For the final evening of our leadership forum in Tucson we had a "chilli cook-off". Medals were awarded to the team that cooked the best chilli, had the best presentation and had the best "team chant". My team did not win any medals. Now I don't want this to sound like sour grapes or anything, and I promise you I would say the same if my team had won medals, but quite honestly and sincerely, hand on heart and all that, the winners must have bribed the judges.....

How could you not award first prize to the "Slap yo momma Chilli" team? (ok, ok...I don't get it either, it must be a Texas thing - thank you Mark). To be fair, our chilli was the only one that had some kick to it. Everyone's else's chilli was wimpy. In my opinion a chilli needs to have some bite to it. Who the hell needs that extra skin on your tongue anyway.

Our 'Chilli chant' was both moving and profound; I can hardly bring myself to repeat it here, but for the sake of providing you with a full pcture of the evening I will....

"You wanted the best, we've got the best, the hottest chilli in the West, Slap yo momma chilli!"

Brings a tear to your eye right?

Anyway, my team don't need a medal to tell us how awesome we are. Nice job to Scott(head chef), Mark (chant chief), Steinar (server), Larry (....ummm, I'm sure Larry did something) and myself (apron designer).

I'm sure the whole episode taught us a lot of useful stuff. Give me a few days and it will come to me what that was....

Next time don't go on fire

I had to include this YouTube clip - taken from the BBC comedy Big Train.  It was shown at our leadership forum to illustrate that feedback, when given,  should be useful.


Funny video from comedian Brian Regan.

Bug off, you critters!

This week I am in Tucson, Arizona for a conference. The weather is beautiful, as are the views and the hotel. However there is one thing that concerns me;  Arizona is known for its bugs, snakes, and generally scary wildlife. You know you are "not in Kansas anymore Toto", when there are signs dotted around the hotel grounds saying "Beware, wildlife is dangerous". The signs I am more used to in the UK are "Beware, bar closes at 11pm", so this is a bit of a shock to me.

The hotel staff cheerfully told us about the family of bobcats that live around the hotel, and I also heard tales of mountain lions that come visit in the mornings. A collegue here at the conference was running on the treadmill in the hotel gym when he spotted a 'hand-sized spider' run under his treadmill. He had two options: to cut his run short or to finish it with the treadmill cranked up to 20 miles per hour in case the critter decided to surface. Being a true man he chose the latter. That'll teach that spider....

So far I have spent my week bent over scrutinizing the floor for bugs; people think this is how I walk naturally. All I know is, when I go to bed at night in my hotel room, I make sure I close the toilet lid down and make sure the plugs in the sink and shower are fully closed before I turn out the lights...the last thing I want is to wake up eye-to-eye with a furry tarantula or with a scorpion clasped to my nose.....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

33 brave men

I can't let today pass by without a mention for the 33 brave miners who were trapped 2300 ft underground in a collapsed mine in Chile, since August 5th (69 days). The whole rescue effort from start to finish has been amazing and I've been glued to the TV and the internet at every opportunity, following the events in real time.

For 17 days the miners were cut off entirely, with no light, minimal food and little hope of rescue. The shift leader, Luis Urzua established rationing of the food they had. They survived on 2 spoonfuls of tuna, half a biscuit and a cup of milk every 48hrs. And then a vital link was established through a bore hole no wider than a grapefruit. The men attached a note to a microphone probe saying that all 33 men were in the shelter and were well.

That single event initiated a number of extensive drilling efforts, with one of the drills ("Plan B") finally breaking through into the shaft where the men were. The rescue operation to winch the men throough the shaft to safety started yesterday evening and culminated tonight with all 33 men rescued safely.

What an amazing, emotional event to witness, and today's technology meant that we not only had media coverage at the surface, but could also see the scenes below the surface in the mine.  What the miners must've been thinking as this rescue effort progressed is anybody's guess. I was very happy to see the last man emerge safely. It is definitely something that people will be talking about for a long time to come.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Good Movie

Watched a movie for the first time in ages. We've just got Netflix setup (yes I know, most people have been using it for years) so I'm enjoying browsing and selecting things to watch. We watched "The Kite Runner" tonight, based on the book of the same name by Khaled Hosseini. Its been out for 3 years so I expect everyone except me has already seen it, but for the one or two that haven't I can recommend it, especially for those who have read the book. The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, who befriends Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan's monarchy through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.Good acting and very interesting to see how people live in these countries. Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A modern intercom

To add to my previous post on the overuse of technology in my household, I do admit to being a fan of Skype, which I use to communicate with my parents in the UK. However I probably take it a bit too far when I "Skype" my daughter who is upstairs in her bedroom, to tell her to get ready for bed. Lazy or what?!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The art of conversation is dead

In years past people used to comment that TV killed the art of conversation. Nowadays, I believe that computers have taken over this role. I say that based on the fact that its Saturday night and my son,  husband and myself are sitting together in the Family room, no more than 3 feet apart. We each have our laptop on our, well, on our laps (duh!), and we are communicating via Facebook. Is there something wrong with this image?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Easy for you to say!

My daughter brought up an interesting point. If you were traveling around Wales using a GPS/Sat Nav, I wonder if it would allow you to type in "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch"? This is the name of a village on the Welsh island of Anglesey that has the longest place name in Europe and one of the longest place names in the world. The name means: St Mary's Church (Llanfair) in a hollow (pwll) of white hazel (gwyngyll) near (goger) the swirling whirlpool (y chwyrndrobwll) of the church of St Tysilio (llantysilio) with a red cave ([a]gogo goch). The approximate pronunciation in English orthography is given as: Llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A flick of the wrist is all you need

Have you noticed that watching someone manipulating their iPad is like watching someone trying to rub a greasy spot off a window? Whats with all the frantic hand movements and furious flicking of the fingers? Why can't they use a keyboard like everyone else? Show-offs!

Make a splash

How to get rid of a motorcyclist that insists on riding too close behind your car? Drive your car through a big puddle and watch him appreciate the big splash you make....he'll soon backoff. Been there! Done that!

Too much child support

If I ever take to driving a Hyundai Santa Fe with "family car stickers" on the back window,  you can cart me off to the "sanatorium for over enthusiastic soccer mums"....

(This sticker is quite cool though...)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life lessons....

I have learned a few lessons tonight. I received two new yoga DVDs in the mail and was eager to try them out:

Lesson #1 - do not do yoga poses on the floor when the cat is next to you, nose licking and hair chewing is not part of the routine.
Lesson #2 - do not drink a couple of glasses of wine before attempting the tree pose.
Lesson #3 -I don't know what it means to make my eyes "easy" or "soft", but I think I can "find my center".
Lesson #4 - lycra shorts and pony tails are kind of off-putting

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The rubber gloves will be next....

Just back from a short trip to Texas (Richardson to be exact, just north of Dallas). I had the worst experience on the outward journey thanks to the over-zealous Logan airport security. First of all it is now mandatory to walk through a whole body imaging machine, the kind that show a virtually naked image of you. You have to link your hands over your head for this, very uncomfortable in more ways than one. After that a big, female security guard was waiting to "pat me down". That is a strange way of describing what involved her rubbing her hands over all of my body while I had to stand there looking like the Da Vinci Vitruvian man. I felt humiliated. Then to cap it all off, a male security guard emptied my case of its contents, undies and all, and confiscated a bottle of hair styling cream. Not just any old "Walmart" styling cream, but "Bumble and Bumble", $30 a bottle styling cream. I was mortified, and furious at the same time. Enough was enough! I have to admit that I forgot my role as a respectable wife and mother for one minute and directed a number of colorful descriptive phrases in his direction. I didn't calm down until I arrived at my hotel and had downed a couple of large Margaritas. Travel! It was never good, now it is a nightmare. I hate it!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Imagine waking up next to this?

I followed one of those Ad links off a website I was viewing, to arrive at an advertisement with the title "Sleep research leads to a simple snoring solution". Its not that I snore (apparently I don't), but I was fascinated by the picture that accompanied the advert. This "simple" device supposedly prevents snoring. Good grief! Why not just stick some duct tape over your mouth and be done with it?!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A terrible day caught on camera

Just been watching a program on the History channel about the events of 9/11/2001. It was a program made up of snippets of film taken by people on the street at the time. It was very moving, and at the same time shocking to see how bad things were when the towers were on fire. The TV news reports all concentrated on the towers burning, and ultimately falling. But this footage showed the panic of the people on the streets and in nearby apartments, not knowing whether they should run or stay where they were. And when the towers collapsed, the enormous cloud of dust and debris that rolled through the streets at incredible speeds, as the people all tried to outrun it. Very scary stuff. I thank my lucky stars that I was not there at the time. In fact, I was many miles away in Madrid, in the middle of a meeting with a customer. I was meant to fly home the next day but of course, that didn't happen. I remember being worried that I would never get back and see my family, and checking out whether it was possible to get a cruise or ferry from Spain to the US!! Seems silly now but at the time I was deadly serious.

Anyway, an excellent program from the History Channel. God bless all that lost their lives on that terrible day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hopefully not a 7 year itch?

My daughter Emma has come into contact with poison ivy. If you are not from the US, then you will have no idea what this is - I know its not something that grows in the UK anyway. Its an ivy-like plant that grows in wooded areas, and it releases an oil called urushiol that gets absorbed by the skin and causes itchy, oozy rashes. But the really nasty thing about it is that soap and water will not wash away the oil, and the oil will spread to anything it touches, including your clothes or any other part of the body. Therefore it spreads very easily. So far Emma has it in varying amounts on her torso, legs, arms, face and feet. There are various products on the market to help get rid of it, and lots of home remedies too. I am trying the "Tecnu Extreme poison ivy scrub", dishwasher soap and caladryl routine currently. We'll see if it works. Makes a stingy nettle seem irrelevant. Nasty stuff.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Makes me feel homesick

I don't usually copy other's blog posts, but this is a bit of an exception being about my home town of Newport in South Wales. My brother in law Martin posted a YouTube clip of Goldie Looking Chain's "Newport State of Mind (You're not from Newport)" which was pretty good. But I personally like this version better, "cos I luvs the Welsh accent mun". Here it is in all its glory...Newport (Ymerodraeth State of Mind)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cheesy jokes

Jokes from my kids (off the Cheezits commercials)...

What do you call cheese that is not yours?
Nacho Cheese!

Knock, knock
Who's there?
Interrupting Cheese
Interrupting Chee...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

See yah!

First day back at school for the kids today. Parents everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief....

A day at the Races

We could not visit Saratoga Springs without paying a visit to the racecourse and seeing what all the fuss was about. I have never visited a racetrack before, even though my hometown in Wales was only about 15 miles from one.First of all I was amazed at how cheap it was to get in; $3 per person. Of course, they make the money on the food/drink and the betting!

It was a really fun afternoon. We could actually stand right next to the fence and see the horses thundering past us. On the TV its hard to appreciate just how fast they are going or how hard the horses are working. The sweat and the steam that comes off them after the race is amazing!

I was also fascinated by the jockeys. I knew that they were not generally six footers, but I didn't realize just how small they were! For some reason I kept thinking about the "Munchkins" from the Wizard of Oz....

All in all, a great day out with lots of excitement and atmosphere.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Saratoga - restaurant reviews

We went to a few decent restaurants while in Saratoga Springs, and one not so good one. We started off as we usually do looking for an Irish pub, and we found one called the Irish Times. It was nice enough sitting outside, but I can only assume people visit it for its beer, because the food was not up to much. Very average and not recommended.

Next we tried an Italian restaurant called Limoncello's. It had a good atmosphere, very lively. The food was reasonable, nothing to rave about, but the lemon martini's were scrummy! Ingredients were citrus vodka, limoncello liqueur, chambord and sour mix. I know what I shall be mixin' in my kitchen this weekend.

But our favorite place was called The Local Pub and Teahouse. Not sure where the Teahouse bit featured because it was very much like a British pub complete with dartboard. I had Welsh Rarebit on one visit, and Fish n' chips on the next (very adventurous....not). Probably the best Fish n' chips I've had since my last visit to a British chippy! All washed down with cider. You can't beat it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Like Son

How quickly the time flies. One minute Tony is bouncing Robert up and down on his bed, the next its hard to tell them apart :)

Trip to Saratoga Springs

We visited our neighboring state last week. We took a trip to Saratoga Springs in New York state, its about a 2.5hr drive from us. Saratoga Springs is a really neat town/city whose main attraction is a big racecourse. It has a nice center with some interesting shops, pubs and restaurants, but it is also well placed to use as a base from which to visit other parts of New York state and the Adirondack region.

Unfortunately the weather was not great. We have had a summer with virtually no rain, but it decided to make up for it on 2 days while we were away. To say it poured down would be an understatement. We were wetter than a haddock's swimsuit. Still, we were only visiting Lake George so no loss really. What a very average place Lake George is, a real disappointment. Lots of "gift" stores selling cheap tat that you would not give to your mother-in-law, lots of tattoos and beards (and the men looked even worse...). The only good point was the steamboat ride we took on the lake itself, very relaxing and a chance to get in from the rain.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Half a century! OMG!!

Happy anniversary to my parents, celebrating 50 years of married bliss today! Enjoy your vacation!

Monday, August 16, 2010


The schools in our town have been looking for ways to save money this year. I won't go into an obvious narrative about how I could give them ideas for saving money by not sending home so many paper notices, and not photocopying worksheets but making the kids write down the questions in one of their numerous composition books instead...but I won't. I will instead describe the towns latest brainwave.
This year, as well as charging $250 per pupil for the privilege of having a bus pass, the school has decided not to mail home the bus passes to save on postage; they have mandated that parents come collect them at set times from the town hall. So this evening after work, Tony set off to the town hall to collect our 2 kids bus passes, expecting it to be a simple task. How wrong he was. His suspicions should've been roused by the lack of available spaces in the parking lot. However it was the line of people extending out of the door of the town hall that was the giveaway. People were not happy. One woman complained that she had been there for over an hour waiting in line. Another said that the town should've "charged the extra 40 cents for the stamp and mailed the damn pass". They are right. Whose stupid idea was it to allow hundreds of parents to descend on the town hall to pick up passes? How much gas must've been consumed in total within the town by the parents driving there? Was it really so difficult to reserve 40 Cents of the bus pass fee for postage? Or possibly they could've asked for a stamped self-addressed envelope for the passes to be mailed back in? There are lots of options better than the one they selected, and all they have achieved is to piss parents off (pardon mon francais) before the school year has even begun. Nice job!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We're gonna play all day...

Yesterday we went to Southwick Zoo in Mendon. We have been visiting this zoo for 10+ years, since the kids were little and it has certainly changed in that time. 10 years ago it was quite small, with some very sad looking animals in small, dirty cages. Over the years we have seen the zoo expand and (generally) improve, creating new, more natural habitats for the animals utilizing high walls and/or electric fencing rather than cages. The result is much more pleasing, and its now a very nice place to visit. One of the newest and, in my opinion, best things they have introduced is a skyride, a cable car ride that transports you above the park on chairs suspended from cables. It is very relaxing and you get an excellent view of the animals from above their habitats.

A few complaints about this zoo however. Too many fairground rides scattered throughout the zoo detract from the otherwise natural environment. No bubblers throughout the park forces you to buy bottled water rather than refill your own water bottle. And in general its quite an expensive day out, e.g. entrance for family of 4 nearly $70, then extra costs for everything else in the park ($5 per person for the skyride).

Overall a good day out, but you do need to be fairly fit to see everything, its a big zoo and a lot of it is on slopes making the walking quite hard-going on a hot day.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Speedy Gonzales

Yesterday on my way home from work I spotted in my rear-view mirror a sight that brings despair to most Americans - blue flashing lights. I got pulled over by a police officer who had obviously had a personality by-pass, and fined for speeding. I wasn't even doing 40 mph, but it was in a street where a town official must live, because the speed limit was set to a ridiculous 25 mph.

Anyway, as an experiment this morning on my way to work, I decided to use my cruise control to control my speed. At every speed limit sign, I set my cruise control accordingly and let the car do the work. My poor car spluttered and gasped on the verge of stalling along the 25 mph roads, it was positively crying to me to allow it to speed up a bit so that it could go faster than the cyclists. But I stuck to it and did arrive at work eventually. However I had built up what seemed like a 10 mile line of cars behind me, containing lots of red-faced drivers all cursing that little red car at the front of the line. It just goes to show how ridiculous the speed limits are in some areas of town. I don't mind a speed limit, but 30 mph should be reserved for built up areas with pedestrians, not for empty country roads. And 25 mph should be reserved for roads littered with broken glass...