Put on a pound a day

If you wanted to gain weight and someone promised you that you would put on a pound a day you would be delighted. However the thought of gaining a pound a day on vacation is horrifying to many of us. Christmas is bad enough! But it is that time of year and all thoughts turn to New Years Resolutions and many out there will be vowing to lose weight and get healthy.

But let’s get back to this thought of putting on a pound on day on vacation and where does this come from? I know, I can hear all you cruising people out there yelling – THE BUFFET !!! Yes. That was the mantra in the old days when you went cruising. Go for 10 days – come back 10 lbs heavier. Don’t even talk about a world cruise. Would you even be able to walk off the cruise at the end weighing an extra 120 pounds?

It’s no surprise when you think of it – back in the “good old days” of cruising there was always the midnight buffet. Who the heck needs to eat at midnight. And of course the centrepiece was always that ridiculous chocolate fountain. Chips, dip, sliders and slurpings of chocolate …. at 1 am … and then off to bed because you know you don’t want to miss the breakfast buffet. Oooo I don’t feel well.

The good news is that things have changed in the cruising world – even on the more budget ships (to put it kindly!). Cruise menus are now starting to list low calorie, low salt items and are highlighting healthy options. Even the buffet is really healthy now – lots of salads, grilled options and even low sugar ice-cream.

There’s more exercise too – more than deck quoits but you can really have a good workout with modern gym equipment, very often with a great view of the sea. (Mmm I am wondering now why I don’t make it to the gym very much when I cruise – there’s my New Year’s Resolution).

C’mon Lesley – back on the stair master…. NOW!!!

But sometimes all that “free” food can be irresistable as stories from crew will show ….

“The craziest thing I ever saw while working on a cruise ship was a passenger putting sandwiches in her bra to try to sneak them off the ship at a port (since there is a restriction that you can’t take cruise ship food into the port),” says Kerrie Mendoza, who spent two years sailing the Mediterranean, Alaska, and the Caribbean and now blogs at FamilyFoodandTravel.com. “She got stopped but just the thought of it was pretty gross!”

I am still trying to figure out how she managed to put sandwiches (plural) in her bra????

Birthdays in strange places

We very often get calls from people wanting to spend that “milestone” birthday in somewhere exotic – somewhere away from home – perhaps where you are not reminded about this new (scary) number that is now attached to you. Don’t you know we are all 21 in our own mind’s eye!

It got me thinking about some of the strange birthdays my kids have celebrated growing up in Africa. As a mom you always want to plan something different for your child’s birthday – like an evening out at a show or maybe the Science Centre or Calaway Park. We didn’t have the luxury of these places in the little kingdom of Swaziland where we lived so one year we booked the camp at Mlilwane Game Sanctuary – we took two huts, one for the boys and one for the girls. It was very rustic so sleeping bags and pots and pans were required to be packed. The plan was to get out there in the afternoon in time for a walk with the game ranger and then cook dinner on the fire under the stars and bed down for the night.

The best laid plans of mice and men!!

We set out for the game walk. There were no lions on Mlilwane – mostly buck, zebra a couple of rhino so we weren’t really too worried. But we had forgotten about Twinkle Toes – the ostrich. She was a bit irritable and well known to the rangers. Sure enough half way through our walk Twinkle Toes turned up. Now ostriches might look harmless but they are described as one of the world’s most dangerous birds by Britannica. They have incredibly strong legs – wikihow describes them best in this extract –

” Ostriches can be found in the wild, on safaris, or on ostrich farms. But regardless of where you find them, treat them with the utmost caution. Although they do not prey on humans, they have been known to injure and kill when provoked. Extremely fast on foot, they can deliver mortal blows by the sheer force of their legs, never mind the lethally sharp talons at their toes. The best thing you can do is steer clear of them, keep your distance, if you don’t bother them. It is unlikely they will bother you. Failing that, ducking for cover and hiding works best. As a last resort, you may even have to fight them. “

So we were understandably wary of Twinkle Toes and you can bet your bottom dollar she turned up on cue. The game ranger immediately shouted to everyone “down- on the ground now!”. The kids had already been briefed and dropped to the ground huddled up like little tortoises. Twinkle Toes strutted around poking her head here and there and our little team stayed as still as little rocks. After what seemed like eternity she clucked off, obviously disappointed.

Big adventures and lot to talk about on the way back to the camp where the birthday cake was cut and the song was sung and everyone pretty well staggered to their sleeping bags all very tired from a day in the sun. Except for one little lad who decided to water the bushes before he retired for the night. He didn’t realise that his little rainstorm had woken up a sleeping hippo just behind the bush. It was only when he heard the grumpy snuffling that he realised just who he had disturbed. Like a true African he zipped up and made his way quietly back to his sleeping bag.

Now those were good birthday parties!

Do you really know your name?

Honestly? No tricks here – do you really know your name? I have to ask because as you probably know getting your name right on an airline ticket is pretty important. So important that if it is not correct then you might not get on the flight.

Airlines require that your air ticket matches your name as per your passport or if you are travelling within Canada it should at least match your Government issued ID which for most people is a drivers licence.

And this is where the whole thing starts to get ugly because there are so many definitions of what you should or should not have on your airline ticket. First of all let’s talk about hyphens. Many people have a double-barrelled surname like Andrew Lloyd Webber or Helena Bonham Carter. However airline tickets don’t recognise the hyphen so the name gets all stuck together and comes out as ANDREW LLOYDWEBBER. Sometimes this will alarm the novice traveller but what can you do? The airlines make the rules and if you split up the names on a ticket reservation then it ends up looking like Lloyd is his middle name – which is wrong.

But wait a minute I hear you yell….. there are no hyphens there. Yes that is true. Some people with multiple surnames choose not to display the hyphen so it really gets confusing …. as per Wiki

” Many double-barrelled names are written without a hyphen, which can cause confusion as to whether the surname is double-barrelled or not. Notable persons with unhyphenated double-barrelled names include prime minister David Lloyd George, the composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and Andrew Lloyd Webber, historian Basil Liddell Hart, astronomer Robert Hanbury Brown, actresses Kristin Scott Thomas and Helena Bonham Carter (although she has said the hyphen is optional),[2] comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (however, his cousin, the clinical psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, opted for the hyphen) and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. “

Did you know that some people even have triple barrelled names! Oh my goodness. Wikipedia tells us that these people often revert to just a double barrelled name for convenience – no kidding –  

“For example, actress Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe goes by Isabella Calthorpe and her half-sister Gabriella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe is known by her stage name Gabriella Wilde. “

And I am not even going to talk about the people with more than that. All we want to do is make sure that we don’t get denied boarding on a flight because our name on our passport does not match the name on the airline ticket.

Now airlines have to do their due diligence but they are somewhat flexible if there is a typo say of one letter or maybe two – but one never likes to leave things to chance because you really don’t know who you might get at the check in desk. Best to follow the rules all the way.

I have seen some strange passports – a couple a few years back each had 2 initials at the beginning of their names in their passports and then a middle name which they used and their last name. So if a person’s name was John James Richard Smith it would be shown as J. J. Richard Smth on the passport. I really don’t understand how that happens as you have to produce your birth certificate at the passport office so why???? No wonder the check in agents can get antsy about names and passports.

Maybe it all goes back to the parents when they name a child. Does this child really need as many names as British royalty? First middle and last should be sufficient. Just thinking ahead to when that small baby turns into a long haired backpacker heading off to Thailand you just don’t want him having any trouble along the way.

As Juliet put it so succintly (or Shakespear should I say) –

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Leave your baggage behind!

Picture this – you are quietly enjoying your flight home after a long vacation. The flight starts its descent and you think that’s great – finished my book just in time. Now I will start to get myself organised, put the kobo back in my bag and then

WHAM

Aircraft emergency. The pilot comes on and says that he is going to have to do an emergency landing due to ….. I don’t know …. I am making this up as I go along. The point is that this is an emergency landing and although you have always diligently listened to the pre-flight speech from the flight attendant you are now totally on edge and listening very hard to any instruction coming your way.

Finally the flight lands bumpy but safe … the lights go off in the aircraft and those little indicator lights along the passage light up. Oh my god – so they were right – they do have a purpose. Great. The flight attendant is shouting to everyone to evacuate as the emergency slides have been deployed. You struggle out of your seat kicking aside your high heels because that’s the drill and you listened. Everyone is struggling to get into the aisle to get off the plane out of the nearest exit.

AND THEN

The whole line up of people is held up because some idiot is struggling to get his bag out of the overhead bin.

Can you imagine? This is not made up but is exactly what has happened a couple of times in emergency landings – most recently with an Aeroflot flight that landed on fire. Many people were trapped on board the burning aircraft while some doofus (I am going to call him Mr Doofus) decided he had to get his bag from the overhead bin.

Have I put you off flying altogether? Sorry – but it is something that the FAA is looking at in detail and they are running tests with real people to see how long it takes to evacuate a plane. The ideal is 90 seconds. The problem is that critics of the testing say that the volunteers they used are all young, skinny and fit which really does not represent the typical traveller these days. The test was run because some people are saying that the smaller seats on aircraft make it more difficult for emergency evacuation. Maybe it is the smaller brains in some people who insist on grabbing their hand luggage when they evacuate.

There is no doubt that seats on planes have become smaller over the years shrinking from a pitch of 34 inches down to even 28 or 29 on some aircraft. The width has also shrunk from 18.5 inches to 17 inches. Just ask any woman if she would like to lose 1.5 inches off her hips and I will bet she will say Yes Please!

People are getting bigger and seats are getting smaller – but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Spirit Airlines has designed a new seat that although only offering a 30 inch pitch it will feel like more due to its design. So that is a good thing. So maybe with technology the airlines can still offer smaller seats but new designs will give us more leg room. Sadly technology won’t be able to help Mr Doofus or his friends understand an emergency.

Just like riding a bike!

This sounds like the sort of thing you should do when in Amsterdam. After all the place is full of bike riders – full of bikes too. Everyone rides a bike in all sorts of outfits. Female execs on the way to work in stylish suits with high heels and an infant in the basket on the handlebars.

And no helmets – that’s just ridiculous so the locals say. You are just peddling round the city – not bike racing for goodness sake.

So us tourists come along and jump on a bike – luckily for me at least it was a guided tour so all I had to do was wobble and follow. And yes we were all kitted up with proper helmets – Good Lord – you wouldn’t want to risk an American suffering from concussion after a fall.

I had noticed the slightly irritated looks on the faces of biking commuters in Amsterdam as our raggedy line of wobbly tourists passed by so it was funny when I came across an article on CNN written from the perspective of a local in Amsterdam. What really made me laugh was the quote from one of the local bike rental companies –

“Tourists think they’re in Disneyworld,” says Geert Gelissen, who runs FietsConsult, a side-street cycle hire and repair shop in the Dutch capital. “And Dutch people think they’re God on a bicycle.”It’s a problem. As soon as summer starts, I sell more of these things than anything else,” he adds, brandishing an enormous brass bike bell the size of a clenched fist.”Customers come into my shop and scream ‘arrrrgghh!'”

I totally understand where the locals are coming from. We tourists can sometimes be very arrogant about visiting foreign spots and maybe we do treat it like a Disneyworld theme park when it is in fact someone’s home. Still we bring important revenue to these places – So There!

I do have to laugh though as it reminds me what it was like to be a local in a popular tourist spot growing up in the lovely village of Mullion in Cornwall, England. Every year we had this little spot of heaven basically to ourselves except for the hellish months of July and August when the “holidaymakers” would descend on us from “up North” complete with sunburnt arms, loud “foreign” accents and crying kids with snotty noses.

Hmm – we were complete snobs and went to beaches that only the locals could ge to, avoided the corner fish and chip shop like the plague and signed with relief on the first week of September when the hordes receded and we had our village back.

So I can really understand where the people of Amsterdam are coming from. Trying to get to work, drop the kids off at nursery school or run errands and all the time having to weave their way through long snaking lines of tourists who haven’t ridden a bike in 30 years. Yep – I get it!

Would you eat this?

Travel is exciting – exploring new destinations, new cultures and…. new and sometimes, strange cuisine. Many people are understandably cautious about trying foods that they don’t know or recognise and also there is always the fear of getting sick while on holiday. Nobody wants that.

However a recent article in hostelworld.com got me thinking about strange food around the world. I think that particularly backpackers are brave when it comes to trying out new and weird things. Usually they are young and don’t have much money so eating local makes sense. Also bear in mind that what makes a delicious meal in some cultures might not be so appealing to others. So let’s take a look at some of the strange foods they looked at –

One of the dishes they feature in this article are chicken’s feet. It made me chuckle because this was something often sold in the local markets in the rural areas around Swaziland and was regarded as a cheap and fairly nutrious meal. It would be served with another part of the chicken that people typically do not eat – the head. Sold together they were locally known as “walky talkies”. You would find these on sale at many of the townships sold with “pap” (cornmeal porridge) and a tasty sauce.

Did I? Nope ….

Tuna eyeballs! I am not kidding. This is a delicacy in Japan. On my recent trip there one of our group said this would be the only holiday where she returned home having lost weight. But they never did serve us tuna eyeballs (thank goodness) …. so….

Did I? Nope ….

Snails! The typical dish that makes you think of France. Served in the shell – just in case you forget that it was once a snail. Look, having grown up in Cornwall where the fields are enclosed with stone walls I saw plenty of snails in my life. Big fat snails leaving long slimy trails behind them. Our Cornish snails were so good that we had people coming over from France to come and pick them and take them back there. I guess they were sold off as the genuine French Mademoisell le Snail!

Parlez-vous francais?

Did I – nope!

Guinea pig? Very popular in South America. You can even get guinea pig pizza. The website roysfarm.com extolls the virtues of guinea pig farming saying that it has a lower impact on the environment …. “Guinea pig farming business is a more profitable source of food and income than many traditional stock animals such as pigs and cattle, because these animals require much less room than traditional livestock and they reproduce extremely quickly. The guinea pigs can be raised in both urban and rural families for supplementary income. Meat of these animals is high in protein and low in cholesterol and fat. The meat is described as being similar to rabbit and the dark meat of chicken.”

I don’t know ….I keep thinking of those little guinea pigs that they used to keep in school running around in their little exercise wheels ….

Did I … nope!

Marmite? Very popular in England and Australia – it is a yeast based product, quite salty with a “love it or hate it” following.

Did I …. You bet! LOVE it….

Oh no – snow – everywhere

Well it really is here – the snow – piled up high on cars, branches of trees. Can’t really complain because it is part of living in Canada. Before we immigrated here people in our Southern African home were a bit in awe of why we were going to the cold North. “Oh my goodness” they said, “Isn’t it really cold there?” We assured them that we would be fine. Hadn’t we been to Austria to go skiing in January. We could handle a bit of snow and cold. Ha … what did we know? We arrived in Calgary in 1995 just in time for a really cold winter – December 1995 a temp of -32 celsius. Ouch! That was a harsh introduction.

It was then that I really understood the meaning of snowbirds and why retired people in Calgary fled south to Arizona, Mexico and other sunny places to escape the worst of the winter.

But Mother Nature is sneaky and maybe she has the last laugh as there are some places where snow has visited that will really surprise you. She has sprinkled the white stuff in Arizona! What a cheek! And even Maui. That’s just rude! The Grand Canyon earlier this year looked like it had been transplanted to somewhere north of Banff.

And then just to shake things up a bit Mother Nature really messes with us and instead of snow sends us perfectly shaped ice that looks just like eggs. This was the scene in Finland a few days ago

But did you know that snow can be quite helpful? It works as a thermal blanket …the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (yes there really is a place called that) reports as follows –

The thermal properties of snow have important consequences for climate, as well. Snow acts like an insulating blanket. Beneath just 30 centimeters (1 foot) of snow, the soil and the organisms within it are protected from changes in the air temperature above the snow surface. Snow’s cold, moist surface influences how much heat and moisture circulate between the ground and the atmosphere. Snow helps insulate the ground below, holding in heat and preventing moisture from evaporating into the atmosphere. Even on top of other frozen material, such as permafrost and river ice or sea ice, snow cover prevents ice from forming as quickly.

You can read the whole article here https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/snow/climate.html

Plus I am sure there are a whole bunch of skiiers and snowboarders out there just waiting for that first snow report. So the choice is out there for you. Strap on the skis, the snow shoes or the snowboard ….

or just get the hell outta here!

Yes please!