Category Archives: shopping

The Irish Experience: Cork and Blarney

Well I guess Ireland lived up to expectations in that it was largely wet. And green.

We visited three towns whilst we were there: Cork; Limerick; and Dublin. Each town being very different in its culture and thus experience.

We actually stayed just outside Cork in a country hotel  set in a golf course with weddings every day – it was certainly wedding season! This meant that we had to drive to get to our experiences which included a wonderful wild-life park: Fota Wildlife Park. http://www.fotawildlife.ie/.  As you can see from the webpage they were great fun to visit. We saw herds of giraffes, flamingos, orang utans, tigers and other large beasties. and generally had great fun.

There was even a wallaby mum who brought her baby onto the general path and just lay there and sun-bathed.20150814_121632-1-1 20150814_120951 20150814_120958 P1030982 P1030949 P1030950

One of the more interesting areas was their newly laid out seal enclosure, where you could go downstairs to an area which was at water level to see the seals and penguins. it looked very weird from the path of course as they appeared to be in the water…

This wildlife park is only about rare and endangered species and breeding. Some animals have become incredibly rare in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching etc.

We also went to Limerick whilst in Ireland as well as Blarney and Dublin.

Blarney Castle is great. They have made a wonderful garden and generally a good experience for all the family especially those people who knit! Now why would that be you wonder?

And to explain you would need to see what the knitters have done – a group of ladies have wrapped the tree trunks in fancy knitted cosies, some embroidered, some crocheted and others just multi-coloured.

And then the kicker – they went into the garden and adorned an arbour with pom poms!

Apart from the pom poms the garden is really nice with a wetland area and other good features including a witch’s cavern and children’s activities and nice planting.

There is even a poison garden which sends you aware paranoid about what you are growing!

And no, none of us kissed the Blarney Stone!

 

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Boston USA: eating and tourist traps

OK so we went to Boston and ate and toured some more. We ate at the:

  • Gourmet Dumpling House
  • La Galeria in Salem Street, which is a traditional Italian;
  • Xingh Xingh which is Vietnamese and we highly recommend the fresh vegetable spring rolls and the tofu caramelised in a pot. the rice ends up stuck to the bottom of the pot and is crispy and crunchy and caramelised!
  • Mare – an  upmarket Oyster and Fish bar.
  • Boston Tea Party cafe – beware – the traditional clam chowder is made with pork fat.

Now we decided to do the traditional tour of the coast and see some villages/small towns. So we hired a car and set off to Plymouth. we ate a hearty breakfast at the Roadhouse which seemed to be cowboy themed with a central bar for alcohol and very large portions of steak for breakfast…. After wandering around for a bit we drove down the road and eventually decided we needed lunch – at the Blue Plate diner. This was in a hamlet really but was full of very friendly people.P1030371 P1030377 P1030379 P1030380 P1030384 P1030385

Off we went to Providence which is very cute town indeed, with lots of very cute doggies and owners… BUT, a warning here, in Season they can have upwards of 80,000 visitors a day.. yes I got the noughts right. However, we were there before they opened up some of the shops and the beach – which isn’t cleared until June 2nd – the Season then continuing until around 1st September. It is quite Disney-like and difficult to access the beach.

As the town wasn’t really open yet when we visited we had to go back to Plymouth for our evening meal which we ate at the Bangkok Thai.

We also visited Concorde where in the Market and Cafe (which didn’t have any type of market) we had the world’s largest iced coffees for $4 and a very delicious mocha raspberry muffin. There were some nice artisan shops there with the jewellery being locally made but often pricey.

Mind Matters and Knitting and Hats

Voltaire says:

Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.

I will respect  that not everybody needs to be perfect. Sometime just knitting is enough.

See Knitting Meditations

_Female_Magician

Also Erma Bombeck says:

I have a hat. It is graceful and feminine and gives me a certain dignity, as if I were attending a funeral or something…

So there are 5 reasons to knit a hat:

  1. They are a small project;
  2. A great deal of body heat is lost through the head;
  3. A great hat makes up for a bad hair day;
  4. They knit up very quickly;
  5. Even timid dressers will wear a hat.

streep.jpg

 

There’s a technicality to designing and wearing hats. A hat is balancing the proportions of your face; it’s like architecture or mathematics.

I have different hats; I’m a mother, I’m a woman, I’m a human being, I’m an artist and hopefully I’m an advocate. All of those plates are things I spin all the time.

Eating in Boston USA: Part 1

On our recent trip to the US we stayed in Boston for five days. Now we had to eat – breakfast too, so where did we go and what did we eat?

We had breakfast several times in The Thinking Cup by the park. This was a great place – used regularly by locals for both eat-in and take-out. It served Stumptown Roasters’ coffee. This is a small (ish) coffee roasterie with ethical values – producing excellent coffee.P1030341

Whilst in Boston we visited Cambridge (yes there’s one of every town in the US it seems) where Harvard is situated. On a lovely day we wandered the streets and shops. The houses are beautifulP1030367 and so are many of the buildings in this area. And as for the jewellery shops with their hand-made silver – well. I did succumb and bought some earrings. We would especially recommend the Brattle Street and Church Street Cambridge Artists’ Co-operative for handicrafts.

So what about food in Cambridge? well we went to Burwicks Chocolatieres  where we were subjected to an Austrian style cake shop! Oh dear – the different types of hot chocolate that were available not to mention the creamy chocolate cakes! you could choose which type of chocolate you wanted from single origin eg Peruvian, to multi mixed.

P1030363We also ate at the Clover Food Lounge. This is a student run vegetarian cafe where you can have a light lunch. For our evening meal we went to the Russel House Tavern which is a bistro pub and very good.

Tummy fulfilled: New York style

We have recently been travelling about in the US: Eating in New York.

As is my wont, when I have been away I try and blog about my experiences. I confess, freely, that I haven’t finished where I went last year, but I am trying to get to this year a bit quicker! So here is something about eating in New York. I have specifically chosen this subject as we found some very interesting and different places to eat.

Ricetoriches

Yes, we can have porridge cafes, they can have rice pudding outlets! they have a website so you can check them out for yourself but we did think they were a trifle expensive for a small bowl of rice pudding. That said, they had some amazing flavours and do seasonal flavours too. Their standard range is 18 flavours with 5 per season and 12 different toppings. Sweet? Very!

Pinkberry

Frozen yoghurt with a difference – the pink berries! They have a yummy taste… they have come to the UK now and can be found in Stratford – Westfield – and Selfridges.

 BubbaGump

We ate in their Times Square outlet and were served excellently despite the loud noises from their celebrating a customer’s birthday!

Everything had calories attached so beware the desserts! We had a variety of shrimps of course, but very large shrimps too – and mahi mahi with a cajun shrimp starter and garlic  bread. spicy and nicy.Bubba Gump interior

PS they are now in London!

Eataly

Amazing – a supermarket with a difference – you can buy your Italian food here or you can eat it fresh from the counter. The longest queues being for the ice-cream of course! there are 2 places where you sit and are served – Fish and Vegetarian; otherwise you can perch at stools and eat what you have bought. We tried the Verdura eating area and ate our veggies. Just beware the risotto is made with wheat berries and is very heavy as a result. Aperitivo-Picnic_homepage-hero_V1

Also now in London I believe.

Hangawi

This is a Korean place in the traditional style – so beware if you have disabilities. You sit on the floor with your feet in a pit. The table is fixed at waist high and thus can’t be removed for you to climb out of easily. I managed to thump down but getting out and getting back on my feet defeated me. In the end, I managed to get my feet up on the floor and then did a very ungainly bum shuffle over to where there were some steps so I could climb back up onto my feet. Good job I was wearing leggings under my skirt! You take your shoes off so make sure your feet don’t smell and you have matching socks on.

They have a very sensible ban on mobile phones. Turn them off completely. The food is all vegan and excellent. Stone rice pots as are especially good as the rice ends up sticky and crisp as it continues to cook in the residual heat. When they ask, do you like it spicy? beware. They add a spice paste to your dish at the table and mix it in for you. hgw_ani_01

Booking essential.

Okay things to mess with on the web when bored

Okay – I’m being lazy? – or just wanting something different  to rest my mind having completed an article about clematis for a journal and lots of posts in preparation for going on holiday and… – so have been looking at the Internet and some recommended sites just to see something of what’s out there.. so much!

So here are some sites I’ve looked at for Ladies and others.

Nailsomething.tumblr.com

For those of you who like the new nail art and I confess I think it’s fun and have started having my nails painted different colours (3 one shade and 2 another for instance) or using the new varnishes – currently they are shellacked as per my birthday present from my daughter. A lovely sparkle over a deep plum. And then I had them painted deep witchy green with a sparkle. So I looked on this site for inspiration and fun. Have you ever thought of having your nails painted as Simpson Characters? Or as  part of a painting – Picasso for instance?  Well, see what other clever people have done. I confess I tried some dots and they weren’t good but practice I guess..

On a more serious note a great book site for women –

Forbookssake.net. ‘For and by independent women’ , is its strap line and lots of good ideas for what to read and conversations with authors and of course you all know ‘GoodReads’ which has some good groups to join with book challenges and so on. I challenged myself to read 125 books last year, and made it!

http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/  like Amazon suggests what you should read next but without the money element. So I put in Nora Roberts the series about the detective and it offered me Catherine Coulter; Heather Graham; Lara Adrian;  Nalini Singh; Shelly Laurenston; Stephanie Laurens; Tami Hoag (who I do also love); Sherrilyn Kenyon; Amanda Quick; and Christine Feehan. None of which apart from Tami Hoag had I heard of, so I shall search these authors out in the future.

Then there’s SoulPancake.com, a site with a mix of art, culture, philosophy and so on; and some conversations that you may or may not think are good or even useful – with some really bad spelling. Why do people think that just because you are commenting on a website, you can spell anyway you want? Don’t they ever check what they say? I confess I do get the odd mistake from time to time – but at least I try…

On a general note – for everyone – probably especially my husband who LOVES QI (I have some great QI facts to share in due course) there is mentalfloss.com. There’s even a magazine you can purchase with them. Lots of lists and so on…

Then there’s  Engrish.com   with Misspelled wording and poorly written grammar,

This is a site that takes photos from all over the world of things like signs or product packaging that are riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, or just convey an entirely different message due to translation errors and extreme unfamiliarity with the English language. There are lots of different categories for the spelling errors and I just had to check out Stationery. The number of stores that just can’t spell this! But it was about stationery and the funny things written on it by – mostly – Japanese manufacturers. I always say just remember the little saying:

E for envelope and a for car and why will you then have a problem? But don’t get me going on the apostrophe!

A nice site is http://webtrends.about.com/. They will even teach you how to make an Internet meme – you can waste a lot of time on that!

I also waste time on Zulily. Now here is a shopping site par excellence. You can get all sorts especially cute stuff for kids from small designers and occasionally well known designer end of lines, at a tremendous discount. Not much for men and some stuff for the household but seriously shopping addictive – warm up that credit card!

http://shutupandtakemymoney.com/ is another shopping site, but this is full of useless but addictive items eg mugs with pictures that come and go with hot or cold water – and something possibly more useful – a car desk that you can use when on the road for business…

And finally, in my list here,  there’s www.theuselessweb.com.  This will take you to a new site every time you click on it, some will be fun, some will be quirky, some will be …..

Flying high above the world

High Altitude by Carol Kelly. A netgalley review.

Another example of what to a UK citizen with the NHS of the horrific consequences of the US health system.

We have a friend with a house in Florida who last year, when on holiday there, caught his finger in his garage door up-and-over. He went to his local hospital but because he had broken the skin and was bleeding as well as having broken his finger, he was not able to be treated there. He was therefore transported for 4 hours across Florida by private ambulance to a hospital where he was anaesthetised and operated on – they felt they could not stitch up this (minor) laceration without putting him to sleep and using an operating theatre. In the UK they would have done all of this in the Accident and Emergency Dept – which can stitch under local anaesthetic! Anyway, this then resulted in our friend staying over-night. Given drugs and a bill of $40,000! Just for a broken and slightly lacerated finger… he is still quivering at the size of the bill.

So cancer treatments become horrendously expensive and members of the family resort to all sorts to pay the bills. Of course. Here it seems they resort to flying with very dodgy characters into very dodgy areas of the world to undertake very dodgy missions.

High Altitude refers to the height of planes – jets – as they fly over mountains of course, but also the risks that are taken when you don’t know quite what you have let yourself into.

Not being an expert on flying I relied on the author for accuracy here and as a  former stewardess or flight attendant I am happy to assume that she was correct.

Salwar-Kameez1

Now as for the style of dress worn, the Salwar Kameez is a traditional Indian outfit, which I love – and actually have a set of – bought in Bangladesh. But technically the Churidar Pyjamies are the leggings – or tight trousers that are worn under the dress part. The name Churidar comes from the fact that these leggings are long, tight and intended to fold into wrinkles at the ankle, thus looking like churis or bracelets – see photo. With a salwar, the leggings are looser at the ankle. In fact, on my first visit to India I wanted to get some white cotton trousers as I thought they would be very cool, and discovered to my surprise, and the amusement of the shop assistants, that white are only worn by men and yes, are called pyjamas or pyjamies. So now we know where our ‘English’ word comes from! And also, if you wanted to buy them off the peg, you couldn’t buy women’s clothing anyway, as in India they were all made to measure. So mens’ white cotton trousers with a string waist pull cord it was – and my own salwar kameez also has a pull cord on the leggings part.

I also agree with the statement about Islamic beliefs – they are not the problem, it is the men who use them for power and control who are – after all, it is the men who insist that women are covered up so that they – the men – are not tempted…!

The Pashtun warriors mentioned are often fairer of skin as they may be descended from Iranian tribes, or some would also argue, from the offspring of Alexander’s men who stayed in India rather travel all the way back to Greece! Some also argue that they originate from the 12th Tribe of Israel, that was one of lost Tribes. They are certainly Caucasian and more Mediterranean in skin colour and feature. The tribes of the Pashtuns or Pathans traditionally originate from the Pakistan/Afghanistan borders – the high mountains. They are well known for their fierce demeanour and warrior/fighting skills. As well as sporting. They are of course, traditionally Muslim in religion, of the Sunni variant being converted around the 8th century, although some also argue that they were always followers of Mohammed and are descended from his original disciples. They are identified through 4 tribal confederacies: Bettani – ‎Ghurghakhti – ‎Karlani – ‎Sarbani; and are largely communal in culture as so many nomadic cultures are. They attach great importance to an unwritten code, called Pashtunwalli. This code defines the way members should behave to keep the tribe together. Hospitality (milmastia) is important, as is the use of the tribal council (jirga) to resolve conflicts and make decisions. Other Pashtun virtues include courage (tureh); taking revenge (badal); and protecting one’s honor (ghayrat). Another part of the Pashtun code of conduct is nanawati, a way of resolving differences through the group’s elders. [http://www.everyculture.com/wc/Afghanistan-to-Bosnia-Herzegovina/Pashtun.html#ixzz3WQqZvsvt]. It also true that Pashtuns are an integral part of the Taliban fighting force.

The interesting story that the characters wove about assessing needs for a school being funded by a private US philanthropist, is clearly a reference back to Greg Mortenson and his mission to create schools in this border area [see his book Three Cups of Tea, reviewed on this blog on 9th July 2013].

As always I am interested to research any flowers or native trees mentioned, so  the Kachnar tree is really Phanera variegate and  is a species of flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, native to South Asia and Southeast Asia, from southern China, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The common names include orchid tree, camel’s foot tree, kachnar and mountain-ebony. Whilst often having white flowers, it can also have variations of pink from light to dark flowers – as in the photos.

Kachnar white kachna1-pink

So back to the overall story. Whilst rather fanciful, it does follow and does make sense logically and has some good suspense aspects. The romance is not played up too much but exists in the background.  Overall I would give it 3.75 stars.