Monday, 31 March 2008

Things Tourists Do

Can you believe I've never ever seen Niagara Falls? How can you travel as much as I have and not have seen one of the Wonders of the World when it is in your own country? OK, so it is a big country but I consider this to be a major oversight.

One would assume that given I was coming to Toronto, I would think gee, maybe I oughta pop over and see Niagara. But no. It takes some cleaver colleague to come up with the bright idea. At which point I slap my forehead and think doh, why didn't I think of that.

So yesterday at the crack of dawn, (which isn't really a problem since when consumed with jet lag in this direction I'm up before the crack of dawn) we head off in one rental car, a map (and I use that term loosely), and a rough idea which direction we might find the falls. I just didn't think we would miss it. I mean, it's gonna be sign posted right?

So a little over an hour and 1/2 later (after a couple wee breaks given my water consumption) we know we are close. We are following the signs looking for parking (like obedient tourists). I'm wondering how far of a walk from the parking we will need to take since it is freezing cold. I'm thinking a couple miles and I'm really glad I brought my scarf and glove but I'm thinking the last minute decision to leave behind my hat was a bad one.

We can hear the water but can't see the water. We round a bend in the road and I nearly drive the car off the road as I let go of the steering wheel and turn my body 45 degrees. My mouth drops open wide enough to drive a bus into.

There in front of us is the biggest, most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen in my life. The trees and walkway railings are covered in ice which has frozen from the mist.

It is early on a Sunday morning and there are very few tourists around. We've got the place to ourselves nearly.

We got soaked from the mist as we walk from the Horseshoe Falls and down past the falls that are on the USA side. It is cold but I have to say, you get a much better view from the Canadian side. When I return home I'll get those photos loaded up pronto!

After spending a few hours gawking at the beauty we took a scenic route back to Toronto and I stopped off at a food court so my colleagues could grab a bite to eat. As they sat devouring their Wendy's burgers and fried, I drank water and lusted after a Taco Bell bean burrito. Yeah, I know, if you're going to break the diet do it big but don't do it with Taco Bell! But my willpower kept me going and I resisted the temptation. Today is Day 30. Only 70 more to go. that sounded good in my head but it now seems a long way off! I don't have a scale in my room so I can't weigh myself every day religiously like I had been doing which some say might be a good thing.

After getting freshened up after we returned to the hotel, a couple colleagues went to the basketball game but I am sure I made a better decision. We checked out The Second City Comedy Club last night. I've always wanted to go there. It is the famous haunt of John Candy, John Belushi and Gilda Radner (to name just a few comedic greats). We saw an amazing troupe put on an hilarious show. I laughed so hard tears were running down my cheeks and my sides ached from laughing for about 2.5 hours solid. I won't even attempt to describe it here. Somehow I feel the humour will have all gone out of it.

TOP TIP: If you ever come to Toronto make the comedy club a must see!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Airport Aerobics

I swear someone (or group of someones) are sitting in a small room somewhere laughing their asses off each time they watch travellers go trough the crazy stuff they keep thinking up for us to do at airports. We are like circus animals.

We used to be able to carry on two bags. Then it became 1 bag which was nothing short of disaster for women who have to carry a handbag and a laptop. Now we are back to two bags. Thank goodness that nonsense is over.

It has also been decided by these buggy eyed someones that we no longer need to unpack our laptops to send them through the xray machines. Not sure what that was all about.

We still have to put all of our liquids into little tiny bottles and then into a separate plastic bag.

And today a new exercise has been introduced. After sending your carry ons through xray and going through the metal detector yourself we went through yet ANOTHER blommin' passport control and then we had to take off our shoes (whilst walking) and put them on yet another xray machine. Then put our shoes back on whilst continuing to walk. Just in case we didn't keep walking there was a woman behind a rope yelling at us to keep walking. Some poor older lady nearly fell over.

I am, however, very impressed with the advance of technology. I sit here in the airport terminal with my fancy spancy new wee ditty laptop using the airport WiFi bringing all the latest news to you as it happens. How cool it that? OK, I know I am a techy geek by some standards but not according to others.

If you have heard the recent news of the debacle that is the Grand Opening of Heathrow's Terminal 5, you will be relieved to know that I am not flying on British Airways. If you haven't heard, read the latest here.

I flying out Air Canada which I've never ever flown before so look for a review tomorrow. Won't be able to tell you much about the food since I'm not eating but I hope that since I'm in the Executive First Class it should be good. Those seats go flat and you get a duvet and pillow so whilst I can't eat, I can sleep!

Airports are the best people watching place. Well, Heathrow airport is anyway. The diversity of the travellers is always shocking. Every size, shape, age, class, colour, hue can be found struggling with their luggage and searching out their departure gate. Someone people read, someone people visit, some people drink, other people just watch other people watching other people.

Gotta run or the plane might leave without me.....ha, not a chance! Speak to you from the other side.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Travel Advisory

With my recent irregular posting, you would be forgiven if you didn't notice but just in case you wonder where I am over the next few days I thought I would let you know.

I'll be in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, that large frozen mass of land to the north of the USA. I've been to Canada on a couple of previous occasions, eg Vancouver, Quebec, Banff. I've even been to Toronto before. Can't say I found it all that interesting. In fact, it would be safe to say I found it downright dull.

Am hoping to be impressed this time round. It's all in the name of work and I suspect I'll be a bit too busy to do anything which offers up much opportunity for changing my views but I go into this with an open mind.

I fly out Saturday afternoon and back late Wednesday night arriving mid morning on Thursday. Give Marc your moral support. He's gonna need it.

Thursday, 27 March 2008


We are not a prepared, processed food household. Very nearly every night I prepare our family meals from whole foods using in season vegetables although I do keep a stash of frozen veg in the freezer. And I must confess to using tinned (aka canned) sweet corn and green beans.

We do not have dessert (pudding) unless we have guests round for dinner.

We are not a fast food household. We may once/month indulge in McDonald's or pop into Pizza Hut for a treat after a trip to the cinema every six months or so.

My diet has upset the normal rhythm of the house though. Marc, like many men I know, is wholly incapable of preparing a meal consisting of more than one dish in under 1 hour and will never ever get it all on the table at the same time piping hot. He has tried on numerous occasions and failed just as many.

Marc doesn't really get the whole 5/day rule. It is not unusual for him to prepare a meal with absolutely not a single vegetable on offer.

Marc wholeheartedly believes that a quart of ice cream is dessert. Every night.

Because my loving, supportive (albeit culinary challenged) husband has agreed to prepare every meal for our children during my weight loss challenge, I have decided to let it go and just put it up to the universe. If I can eat nothing for 100 days then my children will certainly survive the gastro adventure that is their father's meal preparation philosophy.

I have taken it upon myself to prepare weekly menus for the next 10 weeks. I have taken extra care to ensure that nothing is especially challenging. All meals are fairly well balanced and should take under 40 minutes to prepare - start to finish. He can choose to use these menus or feel free to veer off course.

I have also prepared corresponding grocery lists. They contain all the items he will need to purchase before the week begins in order to prepare the food for that week's menu. It takes into consideration the contents of the cupboards, freezer, etc. This works unless he veers off course.

Which has led me to my white knuckle moment. Tonight Marc decide to veer off course and get the children and himself dinner from McDonald's. Have you ever smelled a hamburger and french fries right under your own roof and not been able to partake in the debauchery?

My knees buckled and I was salivating. I wanted to rip my children's greasy messes right out of their hands and gobble the calorific mountains in 2 second flat. Heck, I reckon I could eaten it all in under a second.

Sheer torture. I am now contemplating enforcing the meal plan. Not sure how I would manage that but I am plotting my revenge.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Sir Ranulph Fiennes

In October 1999, I saw Sir Ranulph Fiennes speak at a Project Management conference I attended in Paris, France. He was interesting although I did question his suitability as a speak at a Project Manger conference. I mean this man hadn't completed more than just 1 of his expeditions and he notoriously took more than 6 years planning his first expedition when he originally had thought it would only take 6 months. Maybe he was an example of what not to do.

He was inspiring nonetheless for his sheer stubbornness. And he had an uncanny dry wit about his presentation style. I laughed although i was never quite sure I was laughing at the appropriate time since the presenter never cracked a smile.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was born in 1943 making him 65 (or so) years old. Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is his autobiography originally published in 1987 and was chosen as the book group selection for March.

One of our original aims for the book group was to get us to read books which were outside of our comfort zone and we wouldn't normally pick out for ourselves to read. This book certainly falls into that category.

About a year ago I read a whole series of books written about the 1996 Mt Everest climbing season when a whole bunch of people died including 2 very accomplished and world famous climbing guides. There were differing stories about what happened up on the mountain and the alleged selfish and irresponsible behaviour of the climbing community during that fateful ascent. I found the books fascinating but by the 3rd perspective I was bored out of my skull.

I'm not a big fan of expedition for expedition sake. I understand why Sir Edmund Hillary did it. No one else had. I understand why Lewis and Clark did it. No one else had. But I think the explorer community these days are just in it for the fun of it. There doesn't seem to be much point to it anymore. OH sure, now they pretend to do it for charity but I reckon that is just a ploy to get someone else to pay for it all.

So I was more than a little nervous about reading this book but buoyed by my previous encounter with Sir Ranulph I hoped that the wit I saw at the conference would be woven into the book making it an entertaining yarn.

The books starts out with his extraordinary upbringing which is truly extraordinary. The family tree in the appendix is hilarious and fascinating going back to King Charles the Great. Seriously, I am not making this up. I wish the book had been about the family tree.

Because most of the book is a tedious play by play of each and every expedition. I must admit to skimming some chapters for fear of falling into a catatonic trance.

Which might by ok if he was a successful explorer. But it doesn't appear he was. The Transglobe appears to be his first and only successful expedition. I put that down to some amazing luck. Every subsequent attempt is thwarted by weather, health, weather, injury, weather or loss of supplies or weather.

Besides the Transglobe was truly a first time achievement. Prince Charles called it "monumental". And Fiennes succeeded. the first couple chapters dedicated to the story of how is astonishing and mesmerising.

But, like the remainder of Fiennes exploration career, it all goes a bit pear shaped after that.

Sir Ranulph reveals very little of his inner and private self which if you are going to write an autobiography I thought was the whole point. He insists, perhaps a bit too forcefully, how much his late wife, Ginny, meant to him. Near as I can figure he was forced into marrying her and once they were married they certainly didn't spend much time together. The only motivation for doing the expeditions is his woeful lack of any other skills. I reckon he was a wee bit lazy and never wanted a proper job. He only found something new to conquer when he needed to freshen up his lecture circuit demand or increase his book sales. Even this book is a repackage and republication of a previously published book.

I'm glad I read it. I won't read it again. And I won't be recommending it to my friends unless they are big fans of Arctic adventures.

pages 384 (excluding index but including appendices)

Book Group Thoughts: Pretty much agree with everything I said. For Once!

Next Month's Selection: The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

Sunday, 23 March 2008

No Real Food

I haven't had a bite of food for 22 days. Yikes!

Lighterlife is a program for weight loss where you eat 4 packs of soup/shake for the first week and 3 packs of soup/shake + 1 bar for the remaining 13 weeks of the program totalling 100 days. In that time you should lose a bare minimum of at least 42 pounds, approximately 3 pounds each and every week.

I am just finishing off week 3 and I've lost 15.4 so this is looking good for my target of losing 64 pounds by June 8.

I've got no small challenges in front of me. I am off to Toronto for a week at the end of March and another week in India at the end of April (both for work). I'll be packing my food packs in my suitcase and hope security doesn't think this is a problem. I'm disappointed about India because I've never been there before and would love to chow down on some lovely Indian food but I've got my priorities straight! Not so much bothered by Toronto.

My biggest challenge though is coming home every night and knowing that I have to feed my children. Luckily, my gorgeous husband is backing my efforts 100% and has made the children every meal they have eaten for the last 21 days bar 1, which was pure torture for me and he promised me he wouldn't put me through that again.

This is a good time of year to do this diet I have found. We are past the Christmas food extravaganza and the Valentine chocolate overdose. Easter is the only thing in my way and my children are happy if I just throw a few chocolate eggs their way. I will miss the deviled eggs but just for this year.

By the time I have hit my goal weight I will be well prepared for the onslaught of summer BBQs and holidays including our trip back to the USA!

Today is Day 22. Only 78 more to go!

Friday, 21 March 2008


I used to love a powerful wind. The sensation of the wind blowing my hair was exhilarating. Being a sailor I loved the wind even more. Sticks and stones could break my bones but a Gale Force 8 excited me.

And then I moved to England. Wind is as common here as sunshine is in Colorado. The wind and rain don't seem to bother the natives but it is wearing me down. I dont' like the wind so much anymore.

Today an arctic gale is blowing. The temperature is 6.7 C (44 F). Taking into account the wind chill factor I feel like I am living in the antarctic. I reckon it is well below freezing.

We are supposed to be enjoying our Easter Weekend. Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays here in the UK so we've got a 4 day weekend looming. This is typically a time to get the garden in order and enjoy some walks, maybe even entertain thoughts of a BBQ.

There ain't no way I am going outside to enjoy any fresh air. My children would certainly get blown away unless I tethered them to me. The only thing keeping me from being picked up off my feet is all this excess weight I am carrying around.

The forecast for the weekend was rain, sleet, and hail. Right now the sun is shining and there is blue sky but that don't mean it isn't bone chilling.

We are digging into the DVD collection as we speak.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Fed Up

I finally reached my tipping point. I received another fabulous invitation to another fabulous party and faced the wretched prospect of being the fattest girl at the party. Now I know how this goes: I'd wear a fabulous dress that would pull and pinch and stretch in all the wrong places and I would feel uncomfortable all night not feeling fabulous at all.

I wasn't going to do that anymore.

I gained my weight with my babies and just never quite got my groove back. I'm in my 40s which makes it all that much more difficult. Time to work out is precious and just never seems to bubble to the top.

I started my diet on February 27 and started Lighterlife on March 2. More about that later.

I've got a long way to go and it will be challenging!

Today I'm disheartened but tomorrow will be better. Even if it's not I don't know that today!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

World Book Day

March 6 was World Book Day. The children dressed as their favourite book characters for school. Abigail went as Cinderella. Sebastian went as Horrid Henry. Sounds about right.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

A Quiet Belief in Angels by RJ Ellory

I kept having the strangest nightmares whilst I was reading this book. I would wake up petrified that someone was wondering the outside of our house looking for a way in. It was disturbing.

Which is pretty much how I felt about the book. Set over 5 decades starting in 1939 in rural Georgia young girls are being killed at the rate of 1 every year. the killing starts in Augusta Falls and Joseph Vaughn knows all of the first 4 victims. He becomes obsessed with the killings and it haunts him and follows him throughout his life.

OK, so not a happy, joyful choice. But the book draws you in. You keep thinking throughout that Joseph will be vindicated and that all the suffering of his life will pay off in the end. You know he didn't kill the girls but there are no clues as to who does.

And when you do find out who does there is absolutely no explanation as to why they did.

The book just ends. It ends in such way that makes me think the writer just ran out of paper and couldn't be bothered to go get some more.

Not recommended.

396 pages

Sunday, 9 March 2008


Seb had his first football match a few weeks ago. He played the goalie and enjoyed himself almost as much as we did watching him (even if they did lose)!

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Helpful Hints

Y'all gonna think I done lost my mind. First the post about my inappropriate relationship with my LeCrueset casserole and now this.

Well, I've changed. Live with it. I yam what I yam.

And besides this post is more for me than all of you anyway. You see, I always read these things and then save them off somewhere and then can't find it when I need it. Well, this whole blog thingy is one darn good filing system because I can just search for anything I am looking for. And voila!

1. Peel a banana from the bottom and you won't have to pick the little "stringy things" off of it. That's how the primates do it.

2. Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

3. Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

4. Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

5. Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

6. To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.

7. For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints or After Eights (depending on country of origin) in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.

8. Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if you want a stronger taste of garlic.

9. Leftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert. Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes!!! Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.

10. Reheat Pizza: Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza.

11. Easy Deviled Eggs: Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into eggs. Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

12. Expanding Frosting: When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

13. Reheating refrigerated bread: To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

14. Newspaper weeds away: Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers put layers around the plants overlapping as you go cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.

15. Broken Glass: Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.

16. No More Mosquitoes: Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.

17. Squirrel Away: To keep squirrels from eating your plants sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it.

18. Flexible vacuum: To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

19. Reducing Static Cling: Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and -- ta da! -- static is gone.

20. Measuring Cups: Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

21. Foggy Windshield? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car. When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

22. Reopening envelope: If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside , just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.

23. Hair Conditioner: Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's a lot cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.

24. Goodbye Fruit Flies: Take a small glass fill it 1/2" with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid, mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

25. Get Rid of Ants: Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it "home," can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works & you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

Now wasn't that helpful?

PS Thanks Pam!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Home Schooling

I am a big fan of home schooling. Well, not for me and my children but for other extraordinarily brave souls. I am horrified at this article I just read. What do you think?

Reader Poll

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Commuter Karma

On my drive to work I like to imagine that every good deed I do comes back to me 10 fold.

At the end of one of the roads near our home is a very busy road that I must cross during rush hour traffic and make a right hand turn. Remember I live in England and we drive on the left side of the road so this is equivalent to making a left turn in America or on the continent.

I usually manage to get out into the middle without much trouble but then I have to rely on the generous nature of other drivers to get into the flow of traffic. There are immediately 3 intersecting road which must also merge into the road I just merged into. I always let at least one car go in front of me from each intersection.

What always amazes me are the number of drivers who I have let in who don't let a car go at the next intersection. I believe this is bad commuter karma.

I reckon if you are nice and considerate to everyone you share the road with, eg drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, mums with pushchairs, then everyone will be nice to me. If I am rude and in too big of a hurry to be nice to anyone then someone will hit me.

Practice Commuter Karma everyday!