Sunday 31 August 2008

Electricity Usage

In my never ending quest to ensure that I limit the impact my family has on the planet (and reduce our household costs), we've recently installed an electricity meter. It gives us instant feedback on how much electricity we are using in 6 second intervals. We can see exactly how much it costs to turn on the lights, run the tumble dryer, boil the kettle for a cuppa or toast a few slices of bread. You can get the feedback in kilowatts, how much CO2 is being released or based on your electricity tariff, how much per hour it is costing.

We have now become obsessed with it. Sebastian has pointed out that it costs about 2p to make toast in the morning. It appears the toaster is the most expensive piece of kit we have in the house. It has also armed me with a pretty good argument back to Marc about why line drying clothes is a much better idea than using the tumble dryer regardless of how much he hates stiff clothing. I am now super careful about how much water I put in the kettle. It's quite handy for using it to tell us when a light has been left on somewhere in the house.

What is astonishing is how much it costs us to sleep. There are certain things in the house, like the refrigerator and the freezer which don't ever get turned off. They cost us about 4.5p/hour all night long.

And it costs us about .5p/hour to read in bed before I go to sleep. Maybe we should get us some candles. Or not take the meter to bed with us.

Saturday 30 August 2008

Eye Sight

The other evening I was trying to thread a needle. (See previous post about Name Tags.)

I realised I couldn't see to thread the needle.

I had a major attack of mortality.

I first noticed this back when I travelled to Toronto and I was trying to read a book in bed and felt like I couldn't see the words exactly. I blamed the book. I bought some of those silly reading glasses but never wore them hoping the problem would just go away.

I think it has gotten worse. I finally put off the inevitable and scheduled an eye test.

It's official. My eye sight is worse than it was a year ago. First time in 17 years. Not exactly worse; my short sightedness is better but my long sightedness is way way worse. The eye doctor kept saying really annoying things like "When you are over 40, these things start to happen....blah blah blah!" Hey, when did that happen? Oh, yeah, like 4 years ago......

I have no wordered myself a pair of bifocals. I hear the technology is much better than it used to be and no one will know I am wearing bifocals unless I tell them (which I just did I guess). I'm horrified.

I am getting older. Dang, I thought I might sneak through to immortality. Must add that to my To Do List.

Name Tags

It's that time of year again. I spend every spare moment in the evening sewing names tags on the various pieces of uniform for the children to start school. I have to sew names tags on everything including each sock and their underpants.

Sebastian has quite a bit of new kit as his uniform changes slightly and his games kit grew enormously so this is no small task. As always, I have to shorten his trousers. Abigail's uniform stays mostly the same so I've just got to do what I replaced due to wear or growth.

I've finished with everything; just have some underpants and socks to finish off.

My fingers hurt.

Friday 29 August 2008

Tying Lessons

Neither of my children can tie their shoes. Mainly because neither of them own or have ever owned a pair of shoes which require tying. They all have velcro. I realise at some point this will require some lessons but for now I am skipping those.

However, last night my husband taught my son how to tie a tie. As Sebastian moves into the middle school this September his uniform includes a tie. And here in England there is no such thing as snap on ties. Believe me if that was an option I would have gone for it.

The first couple of goes were a complete catastrophe and I had visions of him strangling himself. But after a few frustrating attempts he started to get it. Then they even started looking right. then both ends were the same length and voila - my son can now tie a tie.

How strange it is that my son can tie a tie but not his shoes.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

This is pure brain candy. The last couple books I've read have been heavy, thought provoking and intellectual stimulating. My brain needed a rest.

So I picked up the latest John Grisham in the Chicago airport.

This was not the typical run of the mill courtroom thriller we've come to know and predict from most Grisham novels. This is about a third rate professional football (American style) player who after getting cut (again) by his latest team takes off for an "off-off Broadway" league in Italy.

What irks me about this book is that is too is predictable. It seems to me that Grisham is incapable of coming up with anything that surprises his readers. His characters are caricatures and boring.

I'm boared with Grisham. Again.

Tuesday 26 August 2008


I've been looking for this information and was relieved when one of my friends sent it to me via email. give up the margarine. Switch to butter!

Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back. It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow colouring and sold it to people to use in place of butter.

Do you know the difference between margarine and butter?

Both have the same amount of calories.

Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams compared to 5 grams.

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a Harvard Medical Study.

Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.

Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few only because they are added!

Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavours of other foods.

Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years.

And now, for Margarine..

Very high in Trans fatty acids.

Triple risk of coronary heart disease.
Increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol)

Increases the risk of cancers up to five fold.
Lowers quality of breast milk.
Decreases immune response.
Decreases insulin response.

And here's the most disturbing fact
Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC..

Monday 25 August 2008

Blakeney Point Seals

We have now returned from our final leg of our summer holidays. Our camping trip to Burnham Deepdale in Norfolk was a bit rainy but enjoyable nonetheless.

The highlight the week was our boat trip out to Blakeney Point to view the seals. They have both Grey and Common seals, hundreds of them. The Commons have just had their pups and the Greys are just arriving for the winter. We could not walk around the peninsula for fear of disturbing them but we got plenty close. What cute little faces!

Monday 11 August 2008

Sunday 10 August 2008

We Are Family

On the last Sunday of July every year you can find the Carson's in Oakland, Nebraska for our family reunion. This year was no different except that we added a Hot Dog Extravaganza on the Saturday at Janell and Randy's place.

There were horses to ride, water to swim in, people to visit with and as always, food to eat. Lots of food to eat. The best food you've ever tasted.

We had one rodeo but no one was seriously injured. Trevor even got back up and on a horse (not the same horse but, hey, that's ok)!

Horsing Around

Once we got back from St Louis but before we set off for Nebraska we had a few days just horsing around (thank god for that!).

Major Milestone

Whilst we were away Sebastian achieved a major milestone: he lost his first tooth. Apparently the American tooth fairy is impervious to the subprime mortgage crisis, the rising cost of gas at the petrol station, and the spiralling cost of living because she left $5 (greenbacks).

Just for the record, he pulled the tooth out himself without any parental intervention. Somehow I believe he starts as he means to go on. I look at my little boy's awkward toothy grin and know he is quickly becoming not such a little boy. He will lose the rest of his teeth and with them his innocence. I am acutely aware that the time when he crawls up into my lap will end in the not so distant future and pass into a vague memory. I am aware that he will shortly no longer need me as much as he does today. My heart breaks and sings at the same time.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Diet Progress

I went on a diet holiday whilst I was on my USA holiday. I ate for England and enjoyed every minute of it. I said yes to every piece of pie that was offered and then some!

I was dreading putting myself back on the scales but knew that I had to. I've got a race to run in September! And I was still a ways off my goal weight. I am not giving up.

I was very pleased to find that I'd only put on 5 pounds and have already lost 2 of those. I'm only 3 pounds away from where I was before I left. Hurrah!

Soon I might be able to fit into all those clothes I bought when I was there!

Meet Me in St Louis

After spending Sunday enjoying the farm and the various farm implements (ATV, mowers, large bugs the size of small planets) we enjoyed lunch at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception with my Dad and Elaine (where they both work). That evening we had the fear of god instilled in us when the emergency weather warning radio went off. In this neck of the woods sever weather can kill. It looked ok to us outside but we knew it was only a matter of time. Sure enough the thunderstorms and lightning rolled in and we watched in awe.

We set off from my dad's place to head east 300 or so miles to St Louis, Missouri early the next morning. As we drove across Missouri I was struck by how many influential Americans hail from this hot humid hell (which is strange to consider and you'll know what I mean if you've ever been to Missouri).

Walt Disney modelled Main Street America at Disneyland on Main Street in Marcelline, Missouri. Mark Twain is from Hannibal, Missouri and his stories are set in many of the places we drove through. Harry S Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri.

The route we took wasn't exactly direct as my husband was driving and my father was navigating. Neither of them are particularly efficient at either task. I had to put my foot down and insist on lunch for the children at 2 pm.

We walked round Union Station in downtown St Louis. It was amazing to consider the history of this place. St Louis was the Gateway to the West. Lewis and Clark started their expedition of the west from here. All railway lines came together here to take off to their final destination. It was the last bastion of civilization. St Louis went down hill after the Great Depression and has only recently recovered. We witnessed one act of thievery in the mall when a boy stole a pair of sneakers from the local Foot Locker.

We then had to find a motel room (or two). Downtown St Louis was full. We headed across the Mississippi to Illinois. We drove through a rather scary neighbourhood of crack dealers and whores with me in the back seat screaming we were going to be car jacked and Marc cutting across lanes of oncoming traffic no realising he was on a one-way street and therefore nearly getting us all killed. But hey, that's what travels are about.

The next morning we had a quizzical encounter with a young lady who claimed to be Teen Miss Nebraska US United, whoever that is. She requested a photo session with our gorgeous little Abigail for a reason indeterminate. We obliged and then headed for the Arch taking care to avoid the drug district.

It was a beautiful day. The ride up the Arch was a wee bit scary. The view was stunning. The ride down was much quicker than the ride up. The history museum was fascinating. The shop was brilliant.

We then headed to Grant's Farm. This place is owned and operated by the Anheiser Busch family who makes Budweiser. We had a fabulous day with highlights including feeding the baby goats, drinking free beer samples, and getting up close to the famed Clydesdales.

The long drive home was made a wee bit shorter when we stopped at The Pear Tree in Bevier, Missouri. If you are ever in the area (which I sincerely doubt you will be) you must stop in. We had the best steaks ever and a great time (right up to the point I dropped the sour cream and it spread all over the table and very nearly all over my father). Be warned prices are a bit high for the area and whilst the onion rings are good they aren't $8 good.

Photos of all activities follow! Lots of photos!

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

McEwan is one of my favourite authors. He wrote Atonement which is a divine read (and oh so much better than the film) and Saturday is such a surprising criticism of the culture in which we live but it comes out of left field and you are left questioning everything you are and value. these are both some of his recent novels. I've also read The Cement Garden which scared the living daylights out of me and I couldn't bring myself to finish it I was so freaked out. It's the same experience I've had with Philip Roth who has written one of my all time favourite books, Everyman (which if you haven't read you must), but whose novel, The Plot Against America, I have never been able to force myself to finish. It sits next to my bed, half read, haunting me with my failure.

McEwan's style is understated and sublime. His mastery and use of descriptive language is captivating and inspiring. The first 4 pages of this novel will absolutely take your breath away.

Florence and Edward are newlyweds on their honeymoon. They are trapped in the confines of social convention of the 1950s and having never honestly communicated with each other find it difficult to start on this night of high expectations. They are ill prepared for a lifetime together when they have not spent an intimate moment together prior to their marriage.

Little else happens. But that is precisely what takes your breath away. The language is exquisite and McEwan is able to perfectly paint a verbal picture with excruciating detail. Your heart breaks for Edward whilst sympathising for the impossible situation Florence finds herself in. I love the way the book ends.

Read this book.

Sunday 3 August 2008

Down on the Farm

The first few days we spent at my Dad's home in Missouri were packed with farm filled activities. Sebastian was gutted when he heard Popa had gotten rid of the goats but there was no shortage of fun. The funniest was when Sebastian got dumped off when he tried to ride Dilly. He had a nasty bruise for a few days. We had consecutive nights of severe thunderstorm warnings which brought amazing clouds but just a bit of rain. The weather was hot and humid. Best that can be expected in Missouri in July!