Wednesday, January 28, 2015

All Change

Well one thing is certain, life keeps rolling on regardless. Things change and we all are along for the ride!! Sometimes things change and take us by surprise. This year has got off to one of those starts!!

Well this week I received one of those 1am calls, Dad, is not well again and is presently in hospital. This time he did call the ambulance first. He is getting better, but I have been surprised at how much losing a nights sleep has affected me!! I don't seem to be able to make up the missing sleep! I think this is a symptom of me getting older!! Fingers crossed that Dad will be out soon.

Carl had his own good news this week. For a while he has been a world traveller, he has been more places in his young life than I have been in mine. He decided to apply for some jobs abroad. I am pleased to say that the first one he applied for offered him a job!! So we are facing a time of huge change. Its really exciting and very scary at the same time. On the positive side we will be able to visit him for our holiday!!

I keep hoping that we might get a spot of snow as the forecasts are promising it. So far we have avoided it. It is a bit chilly and windy but nothing else!!

So nothing much more to report this week, although there are some exciting trips coming up !!
Have a nice week.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Day out in London.

This week winter has put in an appearance, I woke up yesterday to a sprinkling of snow, very cold and chilly, sadly this lot did not last very long, but it was just as well because I was off to London for the day. My friend was celebrating her birthday and very kindly treated the both of us to fabulous tickets to see Cirque Du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall. 

We set off in the morning and had a nice lunch at a pub in Kinds Cross, we then had a wander around and called in at the Mac shop at St Pancras Station, I treated myself to a nice nail varnish!! We completed the last part of our journey on the Piccadilly line to South Kensington, we took a wander up to the venue in glorious sunshine.

The afternoon was not without its hiccoughs, we managed to go in the right door, we found what we thought were our seats and sat down, we were a little early but that was fine there was a little pre show entertainment so we sat back and enjoyed it! about 10 minutes before the show we were approached by a couple who claimed to have the same seats as us, so we checked our tickets and we were still convinced we were in the right place. We spoke to the 'host' who had shown us to our seat and realised we were one row too far back! so we moved forward and took our correct seats !! (still think it was the 'hosts' fault!!)

The show was fantastic, a lot like the Lion King show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, just on a larger and grander scale. The time flew and the first half was over in no time. We popped out for a cider and went back for the second half. By the time we headed back to the station it was dark. When we arrived at Kings Cross we were undecided if we should take the slow train which was leaving soon or the fast train leaving in half an hour. So we had a drink and decided to go for the slow train, only to find once on board it wasn't actually going to where we wanted, luckily we got off in time and had to hot foot it to the other side of the station to get the correct train!!!

We did find five minutes to pop into the Happy Potter Shop on Platform 9 3/4, even Green monki had a quick look around!!

It was a great day out and we walked miles, which isn't a bad thing!!!

The doodle hearts seem to have taken off!! I have been asked to do some for friends and family, its always a bit of a shock when people like something that you make, I really enjoy making them. So this week some friends want to have a go at learning so my friend Jane has set up a 'session' at her house to teach them. If you would be interested in having a go, give me a shout and we'll organise a class of interested folk.

I have also started to receive some commissions so we now have a Folksy page with our wares. We will continue to sell the small painted furniture bits and pieces via our face book page. I really can't believe how quickly this is growing!! 

Please have a look at our Folksy Site HERE.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Mysterious Properties of iCloud......

You have no idea just how frustrating it has been dealing with my new phone. I am an Iphone girl (OK old girl now!!) I have had an Iphone since the Iphone 3 so I consider myself to be fairly iphone literate. Just before Christmas my contract was finished so I upgraded to Iphone 6 and to get the best deal swapped from 02 to Vodafone. That wasn't without its problems but I finally got there.

One of the main things I use my phone for is the photos, the new phone has a much better camera and I love having a camera with me for emergencies!! So I took my new phone to New York, never actually used it for calls or texts but relied on the Wifi. I did however take lots of photos. When I got home I tried to download as I used to download and it refused to play. My photos were trapped on my phone! I read all I could about the problem. In the past it was perfect, I merely had to be on the same wifi as my home PC and previously the photos jumped from my phone to my photo stream. 

The new phone is operating on IOS 8.2 and makes use of the fabulous (not) ICloud system. I had failed to appreciate that instead of my photostream being on my PC it was now in Icloud. I spend a lot of time talking to Bruno from Appleland in Portugal who finally worked out what was going on. He was as confused as me about where the photos were going. Its a huge pain because I really don't want to upload to icloud only to download to my PC it seems a huge step backwards, I suspect that they only want to encourage people to spend more money on storage plans.

So here are a few photos that had until now been trapped on my phone!!

Coming into New York

A selfie at Ground Zero, World Trade Centre Memorial site.

Looking up to the sky, Bryant Park.

View from Bryant Park.

When Tom and I were in Rome a couple of years ago we saw a street artist who painted a picture of the Colosseum using spray paints, newspaper and a paper scraper. I had hoped we would see similar in other cities, New York was finally that city! This man was doing very similar paintings, its amazing to watch. A great souvenir of our break!

Right I am off to see if there is a short cut to photo downloading from iCloud!!  

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Settling back into the new year.

Looking back Christmas was an age ago, in fact it was last year!!  Our holiday is just fading into a pleasant memory, now my head is thinking about holidays to come. This year we have a few weekends away planned, exploring a few cities in Europe that we haven't tried before, I am really looking forward to exploring Krakow and Warsaw. 

Being back at work takes the lions share of the the day and when I get home I feel that I need to do 'something' I really like crafting, one way and another I have had a go of loads of things over the years. I am in the middle of a crochet blanket that I started back in the summer, its one of those things you can pick up at any time, I have been doing it since the start of the summer. Its very nearly finished I will soon be able to start sewing it all together. I have my good old standbys Scrap booking and jewellery making. Sometimes its nice to have something that you can pick up and do where ever. So this week I have been fiddling with something that I haven't done in a good long while - doodling!! Only now someone has tried to corner the market and has called it 'Zentangling' as far as I am concerned its still plain old doodling, something I find myself doing the minute I am on the phone for any length of time! So I decided to be more focused with my doodling and try and actually produce something, I got my Sharpies out and had a go. 

Trouble is doodling is really addictive and before I knew it I had whiled away a few hours playing with my pens!! You can't really go wrong with it because if you make a 'mistake' you just turn it into a design feature!!!

Thing is since I told a few folk about this style of doodling I have been asked to show people how to do it! so I am going to a little get together with the intention of passing on the addiction!!

One of the ladies at work was raving about her new soup maker, she bought it into work yesterday and gave us all a demo. It was quite amazing, 21 minutes from switching on we were eating a lovely thick soup, it was amazing. Well it made me think, Tom loves soup and will often have soup for lunch. Its a great way to use up left over 'stuff' so I looked into it a bit more and found that it was cheapest at Dunelm Mills. So I chatted it over with Tom and made the purchase. Tonight we have had ham and pea soup.

It was a doddle to make, one onion, a couple of potatoes peeled and chopped. peas and some left over boiling bacon. All you do is dump it all in the 'machine ' along with some water and stock cubes. Switch it on and 20 minutes later you have lovely smooth thick soup! Its a great way to use up odds and ends of left overs. I can't wait to try a few concoctions out!!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Day Five and Time to go Home :(

Those few day flew by and day five arrived and we had yo start making our plans to get home. The one thing I haven't talked too much about is the Hotel we stayed in. When we were booking we were trying to find a reasonable priced hotel. We did look at Trip Advisor and the one we chose - Remember this one ....... Hotel PENNSYLVANIA , had very mixed reviews, we weighed it up and watched the reviews for a bit and there was no reviews saying it was average it was either fantastic or really rubbish. That should have rung a few warning bells, but the price was right and the location was fantastic so we took a chance. The closer we got to the holiday the worse the reviews got, by then we were unable to change it without incurring a cost, so we went and took our chances. 
As I have previously said our room was clean but very dated, The shower was like a power washer and the bathroom door could not be closed because it was soaking wet from the shower, it was also rotten on the bottom with manky bits of wood falling off and at least 100 coats of paint trying to deal with the problem.  I felt on balance we had a 'reasonable' room by the standards of the Hotel - I mean we didn't see any cockroaches (doesn't mean there wasn't any!!)

This is a view of the reception area that the Hotel promote, I can tell you that we never saw it like that the whole time we were there!! On checking in on the first day we were subjected to 90 minute wait to get to a receptionist. The hotel has 1700 rooms and although it was now check in time she tried to tell us that they didn't have a non smoking room available. I thought first of all she was trying to get us to pay for an upgrade, but no she simply hadn't got a room. She tried to tell us to come back again and queue again. We refused and stuck to our guns and stayed at the desk until they allocated us a room. The whole time we stayed there the was never a time that there wasn't a queue at reception. 

During the stay we had a notice in our room advising that they would charge us 250 dollars if we smoked in the room, which was a bit rich as it turns out. We were on floor 8 and everyday when we came out of the lift to go to our room we walked into a a very pungent cloud of cannabis fumes !! It was like being back at work, we are subjected to the same smell when they are bagging cannabis up when they have raided houses!!These fumes were coming from the staff rest room on the 8th floor!!! This has also been reported on trip advisor by other disgruntled guests!!

On the morning that we tried to check out we were faced with another queue for reception. there were no notices advising how left luggage was dealt with so everyone went down to the luggage room only to be told to go to reception and buy a left luggage ticket, which cost 5 dollars a bag!!! Hence another huge great big queue. So whiling away the time in the queue I watched what was going on. There was a bloke sitting at desk with the title of 'Bell Captain' I have no idea what one of those do, he had a team of other blokes dressed in black suits, who I guess must be 'Bells' as he was their captain! So while the family were queueing, I went and asked him if anyone could get us luggage tags to prevent such a long time queueing, he assured me we would have to wait. I continued to watch and one of the suits magically produced some tags which he 'sold' to some folk at the back of the queue, so I went and asked to buy four for our bags, he was happy to sell me tags as long as I was prepared to give him a 2 dollar a bag back hander!!!! I was not impressed.   

Eventually we got to the front of the queue some 90 minutes later, having watched a lady come from reception and empty the 'quick check out; box full of keys. A while later she returned with a bunch of labels, I asked her why she didn't bring them out earlier and was told that she hadn't seen any queue, well to say things got a bit heated was an understatement, she was very rude and told us to stop complaining we were at the desk what was our problem. She then went on to tell us she was the manager!!! Quite clearly she hadn't finished her customer service module of her management course.

I was fuming, Simply the staff at the hotel do not give a toss, the reason they don't give a toss is that the don't have to. The hotel is in very poor state of repair BUT it is right opposite Madison Square Garden and people will continue to book it on location alone! We read the reviews and felt that they were 'okish' but clearly people had been telling the truth!! So if you are visiting New York, do not stay at this hotel!!!

Once we finally left the hotel we headed (very late at this stage) to The Rockefeller Centre, to visit the Top of the Rock. We had pre-booked and put the trip off until the last day so that we could go with Tom. Once we got there we were upset to find that they had timed tickets and due to our altercation at the hotel we were too late to get a ticket for the morning, in fact they were offering tickets for 8pm 30 minutes before our flight left Newark! We spoke to a couple of members of staff who said sorry we can't help, its timed tickets . I could have cried with the frustration of it all, when a lady said to ask a particular member of staff call Tom, so I explained out predicament and he arranged for us to go up straight away. He radioed ahead and all the staff knew we were on our our way and we whisked through the crowds and security checks! I could have kissed him, but in the end being British I shook his hand !!

We posed for the 'sitting on the girder' shot!!

We walked around and had a great view of the city (during the day) and Central Park. We were also lucky enough to have a bit of a snow flurry, so we could at least say that it had snowed while we were there!! I am so pleased that Tom took pity on us and let us go up hours and hours early. The are clearly some very nice and efficient Americans to balance the complete idiots who work at the 'Hostel' !!!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Day Four and Man Down!!

We woke on the morning of day four with Tom being poorly, he had started with a cold the day before and during the night was freezing cold and had a horrible cough. He simply was not well enough to brave the freezing air. He decided to stay put, so we bought him a big mug of coffee and some food and left him in bed to try and sleep it off. 
We decided to head for a few places that we fancied visiting, Grand Central Station, Little Italy and China Town for starters. 
We were lucky because we were near a variety of subway stations. We decided to walk to Grand Central Station and managed another Hot Chocolate on the way. Once we arrived it was just like all the pictures I had ever seen!! Thinking about it, we were just visiting the equivalent of Kings Cross in London!! I know what I think when I am battling to get home via Kings Cross and hordes of tourists are having their photos taken at Platform 9 3/4!!

When we came out of the station we spotted a sports shop that was closing down so we called in, Beth and I each got a pair of Sketchers trainers for 19 dollars a pair, Beth also picked up a New York Jets top for ten dollars. Carl also picked  up some bargains. The queue to pay stretched from the back to the front of the shop, but it was worth it, particularly as when I checked later I realised they hadn't charged me the right price for the top, I paid 40 dollars for all three items!

We then got on the subway to Canal Street and China Town. 

We had a good look around the stores and bought some bargain perfume and aftershave!! Beth got a new backpack , then at lunchtime we decided to stop at the best American institution - Dunkin Donuts!!

The donuts were lovely but there was also free wifi!!!

By the time we had had a good look around we realised that we were very close to the Brooklyn Bridge, so we took a walk up there via the City Hall. 

We were surprised to see lots of black squirrels buzzing around the trees and the grounds of City Hall.

There were a few grey ones but I don't remember seeing black ones before. 
In the end as we approached the bridge we realised that it was packed with tourists and I had got to the point where I couldn't do any-more, so we settled for a picture of me in front of the bridge!!

We headed back to check up on Tom, when we got back to the hotel he wasn't a huge amount better but he was hungry so we headed out for some dinner. Our hotel was opposite Madison Square Gardens and there was always something going on there. On this particular afternoon there was a huge passing out ceremony for thousands of New York Police Department officers, the event was covered by local news teams  

There was some ongoing controversy involving NYPD and the Mayor, Bill de Blasio. Two Police officers had been murdered in the previous week and when talking about that the Mayor had said that young black and Asian youths had every right to be distrustful of NYPD. Quite clearly this caused a huge fall out for the Officers who turned their backs on the Mayor at various functions including the funeral of one of the slain officers. 

That night we checked out the online reviews and decided to dine a a place called Brother Jimmy's BBQ Restaurant, next door to Madison Square Garden. It was a great restaurant with lovely food. I had a wrap described as mild, but It was not my kind of mild!! My mouth was still recovering the next day.

They did serve some very lovely 'Hard' Cider!!

It looks like daylight outside, but it wasn't, it was a huge billboard which illuminated the whole of the restaurant!

We got back to the hotel and started to pack a few of our bits and pieces in preparation for checking out the next day, time was flying by.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Day Three in The Big Apple.

We got up on day three with Tom suffering from the start of a cold. That always knocks him for six, he is still suffering now a week later and has kindly shared it with all of us. 
He wrapped up warm and made good use of the 'skiing' underwear I had bought along (for Skiing underwear, read Long Johns!!!)
We looked at the diner in the hotel for breakfast but were shocked at the prices, they wanted 18 dollars for a simple cheese omelet,
 So we decided to go out and see what we could find. We came across a diner in a side street which had a fair few locals in so we gave that a try. The trouble with the Americans is the huge portion sizes, far too much for one person, 

The prices at 'Salt and Pepper' were much better you could have a full breakfast for 7.99 dollars including toast and drink! Bargain.

After breakfast we headed off to find Bryant Park, Carl had been before and said that there was usually something going on there, we were early and arrived before it was too crowded. There was a big skating rink in the middle and it was surrounded by a Christmas market.

I have just noticed we are getting a bit Ant and Dec here, I am always on the right side of Tom!!!
Needless to say we didn't go skating, although if we had got our own skates it would have been free!!

One of the stalls was selling Hot Chocolate and when I say Hot Chocolate it was so thick it was like a melted bar of chocolate. Carl had discovered the make when he had visited New Zealand and loved it so of course we had to give it ago. 

It was so sickly that I could only manage a taste, Beth managed half a cup and Carl finished the rest!! I am not sure if there are any outlets in this country but watch out for it.

Everywhere was beautifully decorated for Christmas with the businesses making huge efforts to out do each other. So every street corner was festooned with decorations.

These giant fairy lights were outside a building on the Avenue of the Americas. We were on our way to central park to take a ride on a horse and carriage. 

This is Charlie, he took us all on a sedate walk around the park, our driver told us about the various landmarks including the spot John Lennon was murdered and all the huge skyscraper pent houses that cost millions and millions of dollars owned by the likes of Madonna, Lady Gaga and Sting.

After Central Park we headed back to Times Square and booked lunch at Bubba Gumps Restaurant. We had tried to get a table the day before but it was a 90 minute wait, on this day it was a mere 15 minute wait, so we took a look around the shop and they called us up to our table.  It was a great fun place to eat, totally dedicated to Forrest Gump. Our waiter gave us a quiz to do and we won some sweets!

Although the majority of the food was shrimp based there was also a selection of chicken and I had the most wonderful southern fried chicken breast with mashed potatoes and gravy. There was a deal on drinks and if you bought a cocktail you got the glass free, so I had two cocktails in these wonderful glasses and bought two home, one for me and one for my friend Madeline!! (we put them to good use on New Years eve!) It was good to have a bit of a sit down for a late lunch because it was a bit if an action packed break, we walked miles and miles!

Late afternoon early evening we headed up to the Rockefeller Plaza to see the world famous Christmas tree and surrounding decorations. 

The tree is HUGE I later found out that there were forty thousand LED lights on it, because of the size of the Rockefeller building behind you don't get a true idea of the massive size.
There was a light show on the outside of Saks in Fifth Avenue which was brilliant as well. I took a few photos but it doesn't really do it justice.

All the lights were accompanied by music!

On the way back to our hotel we walked by Radio City, all lit up.

We were exhausted, we had crammed a load into the day and we really needed a cup of something and to head back to the hotel. 

On the way back we stopped off for a sit down outside Bryant park (there were loads of tables and chairs) I put my phone on the table and accidentally took this photo of the skyline !

When we finally got back to the hotel I checked my phone app and was surprised to see that we had walked 11.37 KM !! Although my flights of stairs was down on the previous day as we walked the final 6 floors up the Empire State Building!