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9/11 Where Were You?

Posted on 11th September 2012 in 11 September 2001/ New York

As another anniversary of that awful day rolls around, I can’t help thinking back to the moment when I first heard about the attacks on the Twin Towers.

My in-laws were visiting from Scotland, we had two very young children who they’d hardly seen; youngest baby was only 2 months old and this was the first time they’d met him.

It wasn’t going well, I’d never felt they particularly liked me and had been very apprehensive about the visit. To make things worse, relations between myself and my husband, their son, weren’t great either.

As soon as I found an opportunity to nip out I took it. We’d run out of something, tea maybe? milk? biscuits? I can’t remember. I know we were skint and could ill afford whatever it was and I know I was grateful to be able to escape the house even for a few minutes.

It was on the way to the shops that I heard it. Chris Myles was on the radio, making me laugh with his nonsense and I so needed that laugh! Suddenly the music stopped and he made the announcement; his voice was hesitant, you could hear his fear that he would get it wrong, or that it might be a hoax, or even worse – that it was real.

I stopped the car and listened. I felt sick. I felt panic. I’d left my babies behind because of a selfish need to get out of the house – what if something happened while I was gone?

My earlier worries paled into insignificance as the enormity of the situation unfolded.

I raced back to the house and watched it on the news. Those images will be for ever ingrained on my mind.

Such utter evil, pointless brutality. Such a waste of life.

Classic American Family Getaways

Posted on 26th June 2012 in #guestpost/ Travel

This is a guest post with all words and images supplied by Alexandra Jacobs.

The United States boasts many cities that offer excitement, fun and a lifetime of memories for families. In fact, there are so many fabulous U.S. destinations, deciding on one can be difficult. Check out the details of these all-time American favorites to help you chose:

Orlando, Florida

For families with young children who watch Cinderella with stars in their eyes or who dream of swimming with dolphins, Orlando, Florida is legendary. Home to Disneyworld, Sea World, Discovery Cove and Universal Studios, parents can count on a vacation without once hearing the words “I’m bored”.

Perfect accommodations for families can be found at Floridays Resort Orlando, which has earned top honors with travelers. Families love it for its clean, well decorated two and three bedrooms suites, equipped with full kitchens. The resort features a fantastic pool area with children’s playscape, a restaurant and small market for grocery and toiletry needs. A stay at Floridays averages around $170 per night for a two bedroom suite.

After working up an appetite at Orlando’s theme parks, check out Yellow Dog Eats at 1236 Hempel Ave. This café has something for everyone. Kids will love the fun décor of the historic building and the cheeky names of menu items. Parents will be pleased with the gourmet sandwiches (think orange-Cointreau mayo and smoked gouda) and extensive wine list. Yellow Dog is also a wine shop, so take a bottle back to the resort for after the little ones are asleep.

The multitude of theme parks that have put Orlando on the map has encouraged other notable attractions to make the city home. Gatorland, which features over 3,000 alligators and crocodiles as well as many species of birds and snakes is sure to thrill any young adventurer. For mini-golf enthusiasts, Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf is a sure bet; it’s surprisingly well done and slightly scary pirate theme will delight the whole family.

New York, New York

The Big Apple has long been a favorite of jet-setters, celebrities and artists but it’s a great destination for families too. New York City gives parents an opportunity to enjoy their children while giving them a valuable, hands-on learning experience. No city in the Unites States offers more cultural diversity and historical richness.

Stay at Grace, a swanky family-friendly property by Room Mate. Kids will love the pool with DJ and bunk-style beds in some rooms. Parents will appreciate the sophisticated décor, internet access and room service. Grace is a cut above the rest with at a moderate price point (average nightly rate of $250). This New York City rental won’t disappoint.

After settling in to the ultra modern at Grace, go back in time for a bite to eat at Lexington Candy Shop at Lexington and 83rd. The whole family will enjoy this old fashioned diner’s handmade milkshakes, grilled cheese, burgers and jerk-poured specialty sodas.

No visit to New York would be complete without a visit to Liberty Island and Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty and learn about the history American immigration. Also be sure to make time for a walk through central park. Kids will be thrilled at the chance to strap on ice-skates at Wollman or Lasker rinks if visiting during the winter. During more temperate months, head to the Central Park Zoo instead.

San Antonio, Texas

photo by flickr user stuseeger

A jewel of Texas, San Antonio exemplifies Tejano culture – an eclectic blend of Mexican and cowboy lifestyles. A vibrant city that pulses with color and life, San Antonio is certain to bring families back again and again.

Without a doubt, a lodging must in San Antonio is the Westin La Cantera Resort. Around 15 minutes to the city center, La Cantera is close enough to allow visitors to explore the city’s downtown and Riverwalk areas while still taking in the quiet and beauty of the Texas hill country. Westin has a record of excellence and La Cantera is no exception. The resort offers children’s activities daily throughout the summer, a kid’s club, a fabulous pool area with poolside bar and café service, nightly outdoor movies and s’mores at dusk. Average cost is $250 per night.

Go to San Antonio hungry – from street vendors to the hottest gourmet cuisine, this is a city of feasting. One restaurant not to miss is the iconic Mi Tierra at 218 Produce Row. Mi Tierra has been around since 1941 and offers standard Tex-Mex fare in an anything but standard environment. The funky décor and Mariachi singers will be a hit with the kids and parents will love the opportunity to pick up gifts, candy and pastries from the restaurant’s shop.

While in San Antonio, visit the Riverwalk – a destination on its own. The miles-long walkway along the river offers some of the city’s best shopping, dining and nightlife. History buffs won’t want to miss the Alamo and other missions along the San Antonio mission trail. Kids will swoon for the wax museum and Ripley’s Believe it or Not next to Alamo square.

Washington D.C.

photo by flickr user Rob Shenk

Perhaps the best destination in the country for families with older, school aged children, Washington D.C. offers endless opportunity for kids to learn about not only their country, but their world.

A top choice for lodging in Washington D.C. is Hotel George (as in Washington) from the Kimpton portfolio. The George goes a long way to make children comfortable, even including them in the rating process with their own comments cards. Even better than the animal print bath robes, trendy décor and milk with cookies is the hotel’s fabulous location. The George is walking distance from Union Station (consider going by train to add another level of excitement to the trip), the national monuments and museums. Average nightly cost for a room at Hotel George is $200.

While sightseeing on Capitol Hill, be sure to drop by Good Stuff Eatery at 303 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. An inexpensive, classic burger and shake joint, Good Stuff has a few surprises such as thyme French fries. This sure bet will leave everyone satisfied without too much wear on the wallet.

The best part, by far, of Washington D.C. is the opportunity to visit any and all of the local Smithsonian museums for free. That’s right – all museums in the Smithsonian collection are free every day. Sixteen of these in all, including the National Zoo, make Washington D.C. one of the most budget friendly destinations around for families. Also free is access to the National Mall where visitors can view several historic monuments.

Alexandra is a travel enthusiast who loves to write about tourism, beaches, food, and the wonderful things in the world.  She provides her own insights on vacationing to the blogosphere.  If you would like to learn more about her, follow her @alexsjourneys or visit her blog

666 Park Avenue #BookReview

Posted on 6th June 2012 in #bookreview

666 Park Avenue

by Gabriella Pierce

666 Park Avenue showed a lot of promise: New York; Witches; Magic; Intrigue; Romance and ‘an evil, cold-blooded witch’ for a mother-in-law!

This is exactly the sort of book I would have loved as a teenager! However, as an adult, even though I know that my 12 year old niece would love the book but I personally thought the sex scenes were a little too descriptive for me to be able to pass it on to her. So maybe one for older teens upwards? I actually felt the book didn’t need those scenes to be in as much detail – the vague suggestion of passion along with the knowledge of being unignorably drawn to someone would, in my opinion, have sufficed.

Anyway, aside from the one little niggle, I found the book to be really entertaining. A light hearted but engaging read. I love books with a smidge of the paranormal in them and it’s been ages since I read a book about witches so I really enjoyed it.

I loved the New York references and the way the different personalities played off each other.

I thought the evil mother-in-law was brilliant!

Overall a light and easy read that I would recommend but be careful about giving it to early teens as it’s probably a bit too raunchy in places.

Silent Mercy #BookReview

Posted on 11th April 2012 in #bookreview/ LEPRA Health in Action/ leprosy

Silent Mercy by Linda Fairstein

If you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know that I don’t usually reveal anything about the story, I prefer to tell you my opinion of it and leave you to enjoy the story for yourself if you choose to read it. However, as I’m deeply unimpressed with something about this book I’m not sticking to my usual principles!

I loved the synopsis on the back of this book, it hooked me by saying the was based in New York (I love it there) and starts by saying “In the middle of the night, the burnt headless body of a young woman is found on the steps of a Baptist church in Harlem…” my kind of book!

I enjoy the two lead characters, Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper and NYPD Cop Mike Chapman, and how they work together. The story itself isn’t a bad one.

However, that’s where the good stuff ends!

For me, there were so many faults with this book that I’m surprised it got to print, such as:

The relationship between Cooper and her boyfriend Luc is weak and irrelevant.

The story is incredibly slow and hard to get into, it starts very slowly and in a lot of places, although the complexities of the Cooper/Chapman relationship remain, everything else seems an afterthought.

But what really, really lets the book down is the fact that the ‘villain’ is only a villain because he has been diagnosed with Leprosy. What an enlightened and helpful view that is! I’d love to know what @Lepra_HinA think about this? In fact, @Lepra_HinA if you want to see the book let me know and I’ll post you my copy, don’t go out and purchase another one.

The Great Black Squirrel Hunt

Posted on 1st February 2012 in black squirrels/ New York

Welcome to Squirrel-Watch!

When I was a child the parks where I lived were full of red squirrels, with the occasional grey.

Now, sadly I can’t remember the last time I saw a red squirrel. My children have never seen one. I’ve promised them that we will go on holiday near a red squirrel colony soon so that we can all see some.

On the news at the moment there is lots of talk about black squirrels.

I’ve seen some of these but only in New York!

I also saw some there that seemed to be half grey and half red.

According to the map there have been several sightings near where we live, in fact some of the people I work with say they’ve seen them in the grounds of our building!

So, after school today, the boys and I grabbed a flask of hot chocolate and lots of squirreltastic treats and headed off on a squirrel hunt.

Would love to confirm an abundance of sightings but sadly we didn’t even see a grey one! We left some food for them anyway which I’m sure they are tucking into right now!

We will keep looking and I’ll post it here the minute we find one!

MasterChef New York

Posted on 26th April 2011 in taxicab rider bill of rights

Watching Masterchef in New York tonight brought back a memory for me as the lovely and mighty skilled Tim jumped into a taxi.

In the back of a New York yellow cab you stare at a sign which reads:

ALWAYS makes me chuckle to recall it as, without fail, in every cab I took the driver was permanently and loudly on his cell phone whilst simultaneously and permanently hitting the horn!

Oh, ok, masterchef. I’m so glad that my boy Tim is still in. I hope he will win. I did spot and root for @DhruvBaker1 from early on last year so there is a glimmer of hope for Tim that I haven’t just given him the kiss of death!

Good luck all 3 of you x

Matthew Daniels

Posted on 1st January 2011 in Matthew Daniels/ New York

Do you have a favourite modern day artist?

Mine is without doubt Matthew Daniels – particularly his New York work.

Here are some of my favourites:

I love the muted colours on these ones, and having stood in a lot of the vantage points that he uses, I also love the accuracy.

I love that he doesn’t always take the obvious perspective on a subject.

The ones with the brighter colours, I’m not sure I would actually  want on my walls – but I still think they are brilliant!

A City That Sparkles #thegallery

Posted on 15th December 2010 in #thegallery/ Alice In Wonderland/ Central Park/ Empire State Building/ Imagine Memorial/ New York/ NYC/ NYFD/ Patricia Arquette

For the gallery prompt this week, I am going to share with you a city that sparkles. NYC is amazing, there is nowhere else on earth that sounds and smells like New York City. I love it. I hope you do too.

The underground Apple store *dribbles*


Chandelier in the hotel lobby (DH says he bumped into Patricia Arquette in the lift…..)


Ok so I don’t know what these buildings are called and I probably should, but much like the Toronto building in @themoiderer‘s gallery entry, the clouds almost seem to pass through the building because of the expanse of glass.


It don’t get no sparklier than a New York fire truck! *salutes the boys*


The Empire State Building shot through the supports of the Brooklyn Bridge. Apparently (although not shiny or sparkly) the brown buildings in front are some of the only remaining rent controlled apartments in New York – according to the tour guide anyway.


This massive Alice In Wonderland statue was a huge sparkly surprise in the middle of the park.


Central Park is full of gorgeous magnolia trees.


Although this doesn’t physically sparkle (although it might if it were clean….) the atmosphere around it does, there is a tangible sense of emotion in the air surrounding this memorial.

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