Archive for April, 2010

Good old fashioned girl guide commercialism

I remember when I was little, one of the best things at school fairs and the like was the cake stall where you could buy all sorts of scrummy cakes that legions of little old ladies and girl guides had baked to raise money. There’s just nothing to match a home made Victoria sponge…Yum.  Well, things have moved on, at least in the good old US of A. The sale of girl scout cookies, which I am sure had similar humble beginnings to those school fairs I attended, has become and seriously commercial, soulless and frankly, nutritionally dubious activity.


Rather than the charmingly misshapen scones and biscuits of one upon a time, you can now buy boxes of blandly identical shapes. There are however many different flavours to choose from – all with nauseatingly saccharine names such as: Do-si-dos, Thank you berry munch and Tagalongs. You can even buy online.

The good thing is that the intention of the sale of the cookies is still good – helping children to gain ‘hands-on entrepreneurial’ experience and to raise money for local good causes.  It’s just a shame that they don’t take the opportunity to add a lesson on cooking from actual ingredients.

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Neoprene, Jim, but not as we know it

In my last post I didn’t really explain much about Discovery Cove – it’s a man made oasis of a park with various different beaches and saltwater lakes – one with dolphins, another with Rays, and others for just relaxing. It is beautifully done. They also have a massive aviary you can swim through to see many hundred exotic birds including peacocks and brightly coloured parrots.  The aviary could be seen as part of a meandering river that you float through on squashy inflatables, through waterfalls and past lush tropical undergrowth.

It really was stunning and relaxing but after the dolphin interaction, the most impressive element to me was the wetsuits. Now I’ve always been a bit of a water baby and have considerable experience with these things, not least of all as I’m a MAJOR blouse when it comes to cold water. I have worn my fingers out pulling them on and even spent a whole day in Swanage in my suit as it took so long to get on the first time. I’ve tried on many, many suits in my time so I thought that qualified me as pretty knowledgeable. Thanks to this not inconsiderable neoprene-based experience I also believed that, if you are any larger than *ahem* sturdily athletic, you have to get a custom suit made. Or so I thought until Orlando.

Our weekend in Orlando coincided with an unusual cold snap for Florida. That wasn’t too much of a problem once you are in many of the pools as they are heated to bath temperature, but the Dolphin pool was approx 20 degrees and of course the air temperature was pretty nippy to say the least. So on arrival my heart sank to see the wetsuits. After I’d trudged off pessimistically to the changing rooms I was surprised that the one I had slipped right on. OK it was a tiny but big but nothing too bad. Good start.

But the really amazing thing was that they had wesuits that were sized from “stick insect” through “sturdily athletic” right up to “OMG he’s beached, let’s push him back in”.  Actually there were a few of the latter being used while we were there. Now I’m not REALLY surprised because this sort of resort has to cater for the clientele they are likely to get. What I can’t understand is HOW ON EARTH do you design an all in one for these sorts of extreme body shape? I have absolutely no idea but kudos to whoever does.

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Like aubergines actually

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to join the chap in Orlando, Florida for a couple of days. Now I must admit that this wouldn’t be my first choice of destination but we had his work to thank for a conference he was attending there. In any case, determined to get into the spirit of things, we went to one of the parks there – Discovery Cove . I have to admit that despite myself I really enjoyed it (no we didn’t meet Mickey). A particular highlight was swimming with dolphins – of course it was a carefully stage-managed interaction but none the less moving for all that. I’ve seen dolphins quite close several times while diving but I just loved the opportunity to stroke and swim with them. I loved that they are so curious and independent minded (the dolphin we were interacting with swam off for a bit to go and investigate some other people before coming back to us). They have big brains so really are amazingly intelligent – well, they lark around and play all day so they are definitely more intelligent than we are…

The real surprise is how they feel to the touch. They feel exactly like aubergines – smooth but firm to the touch.

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Tiling away the hours

I’m so ashamed. I’ve just realised that it has been AAAGES since I last posted. The last few weeks have been great but pretty crazy between a visit to the UK, some US travel, visitors from the UK,  interviews and of course, the house. It’s been time consuming but I’m insanely excited about how it is coming together. It has been only 3 months since the building first started and it is really taking shape. I absolutely can’t wait to move back in.

I can’t believe how naive I was at the outset. I had no idea how many decisions need to be made every day. For example I have achieved my current ripe old age without giving door hinges a moment’s thought but all of a sudden I have to choose some. Ok so that wasn’t exactly the hardest decision – just where do you start?

The most time consuming decision so far has been the tiling (or as the locals strangely say for both singular and plural – ’tile’). I’ve schlepped around tile shops for hours – and have brought various samples back for consideration. Here’s what the apartment living room floor looked like for quite a while. I’m also ashamed to say I was dreaming about tiling for a while (I know, I know I need to get out more).

Which to choose?

Which to choose?

I did finally come up with a plan for the bathrooms (pictures will be shared asap) and I’m really excited by how the whole house is coming together – I absolutely can’t wait to move back in. Have a look here to see what the place is looking like now. I’ve uploaded some new pics.

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