Five reasons American low cost airlines* are better than ours…

Apparently the garish colours are universal
Apparently the garish colours are universal

1 – They don’t charge you for having the audacity to take a change of clothes. In fact, each passenger can check two pieces of luggage for free.

2. The boarding is civilised, unlike the cross between a rugby scrum and the Boxing Day sales we get in the UK. When you check in (online, up to 24 hours before the flight time) you’re allocated a number. Everyone then lines up and boards the plane in that order. Most importantly, this is actually enforced. (I’d love to see those rude people who charge forward at the first call regardless of their loyalty card status / row number etc get sent back.)

Bonus reason - their logo is a heart
Bonus reason – their logo is a heart

3. The drinks (non-alcoholic) are free.

4. The crew smile, are kind to children and have a sense of humour: “Sit back and relax….or lean forward and be tense. Either way we’re about to take off. “

5. They land at the place you want to visit, rather some previously deserted airport that’s  a 50 mile bus journey away from anywhere.

However, one thing is no better – luggage reclaim is still marred by the idiots who insist on standing (and parking their trolley) right next to the carousel, because that will somehow ensure their bag comes out first. Perhaps there should be very basic written instructions for those who find it too difficult:

Stand BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE so that everyone can see the bags.

When you see your bag, walk forward, lift it off the carousel then carry it back to your trolley / spouse / family.

Wait BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE for the next bag.

When you have all your bags, leave the luggage reclaim area.

If anyone still insists on standing immediately adjacent to the carousel, there could be some kind of cattle-prod enforcement device…. (I admit that my irritation with these people is disproportionate to their offence, but after twelve hours – or one hour – in a metal box with them I just can’t help it.)

* I’ve only flown with Southwest, but I’m told our experience was typical.

Destashing my Bookshelves

As anyone who has spent more than five minutes on this blog will have noticed, it’s quite eclectic. I blog about motherhood, knitting, congenital heart disease, books and quite a lot of cake; sometimes I even blog about blogging. The blogs I follow and read regularly are a diverse collection, but most would fit into at least one of those categories. A few of the knitting bloggers have been writing about destashing (translation for non-knitters: reducing their yarn collection) and I’ve been particularly impressed with the efforts of a fantastic knitter called Rachelle, as summarised here.

I can’t quite bring myself to start reducing my yarn stash – especially now I’ve acquired a space for it all – but I thought my bookshelves might benefit from a similar crackdown so I decided to make a list of twenty books (that I already have) which I’d like to read this year. (I’m cheating slightly because I’ve just finished one of them, but I didn’t want to make the list public before that and risk getting to December without having read any of them!)

  1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  2. The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber
  3. Arthur & George by Julian Barnes
  4. Any Human Heart by William Boyd
  5. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
  6. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  8. Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
  9. The Carrier by Sophie Hannah
  10. Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
  11. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
  12. Heft by Liz Moore
  13. Passion by Jude Morgan
  14. The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
  15. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  16. Umbrella by Will Self
  17. An Unequal Music by Vikram Seth
  18. The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman
  19. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  20. The Blackheath Seance Parlour by Alan Williams

bookstashThe only rule I made for myself was not to have more than one book by any author, though weirdly I came out with a perfect gender balance. The colour-coding is simply to remind me which are borrowed or on my Kindle. All too often I find myself staring at the shelves, unable to make a choice and then buy something new instead. This list should give me more focus and although I can’t promise to stop buying new books, I’m going to try to at least limit myself to ‘one in, one out’.

Click here…

London (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Just a quick post to let you know I’ve added a new page to keep track of our adventures in London. (Pages don’t seem to notify followers – or anyone else – in the same ways posts do.) I intend to update it regularly so as well as the link here, you can check back through ‘The London List’ link at the top of the homepage.

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London List

One of the less obvious rubbish things about CHD (or any serious medical condition) is that it makes you realise the importance of living life to the full but simultaneously prevents you from doing so. The Jam’s long-term prognosis is rather gloomy, and though we are confident that by the time we get there, medical science will have developed in ways we can’t yet imagine, we’re still keen to make the most of now. We want to show him all the amazing things in the world, but he can’t fly – at least, not until after the next big operation – so many places are out of reach.

However, I’ve recently realised that complaining that we can’t see the world is just self-pity if we don’t make the most of what’s on our doorstep. There are so many brilliant things to do in (and around) London, some famous (and expensive) and some hidden gems too. Recently we had a sight-seeing trip with Dad, and a few months ago the Jam was delighted by a simple walk down the South Bank and the chance to sing ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ while jumping up and down on London Bridge. Last summer we went to the Science Museum with SiL and we’ve built sandcastles on the beach in various locations. We’ve visited the Sea Life Aquarium and watched ‘In the Night Garden Live’ at the Millennium Dome O2 Arena.

Earlier this week had a great day at London Zoo with DH, though I only managed a few photos:

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I already have a few more places in mind for future days out:

  1. The London Eye – Dad (who’s terrified of heights) has repeatedly promised to take the Jam on it!
  2. The Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs.
  3. A boat ride on the Thames, maybe the Duck Tour.
  4. Hamleys – technically free, but obviously won’t be!
  5. The Cutty Sark – we’ve seen the outside but not done the tour yet.

What do you think? There’s so much more to do and I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Cake Quest

Like most people, I have favourite recipes that I use again and again. There are millions of variations for simple things such as cupcakes and cookies, some brilliant and some disappointing, so it’s good to have a few that have been tried and tested (and tasted and treasured). Here’s my essential selection:

  1. Carrot Cake – one of the first recipes I tried from Cupcakes from The Primrose Bakery (it’s actually a recipe for carrot cupcakes, but that’s even better because you can ice them as you need them which avoids the ‘fridge to keep the icing fresh or tin to keep the cake fresh’ dilemma).
  2. Chocolate Chip Cookies – Lorraine Pascale (either the white choc chip ones in Home Cooking Made Easy or the double chocolate version in Baking Made Easy).
  3. Fruitcake – Mary Berry’s marmalade traybake in her Baking Bible.
  4. Vanilla Cupcakes – after much testing, this one goes to The Hummingbird Bakery (the one in Cake Days is the best).
  5. Victoria Sponge – Nigella (the one in How To Be A Domestic Goddess, which has a fantastic lemon and mascarpone variation).
Mine probably won't look like this. (Image from Wikipedia.)
Mine probably won’t look like this. (Image from Wikipedia.)

Shockingly, while writing this I realised that I don’t have a ‘go to’ recipe for chocolate cake (probably because I’m the only one in the family who really likes it). This must be rectified asap…but how can I can I choose just one favourite chocolate cake? It clearly needs its own top 5! Let the search begin….

The Litmus Test: BtVS edition

You watched this scene through your tears...
You watched this scene through your tears…

You know you’re a true Buffy fan when:

  1. You’re a Spike girl, or an Angel girl (or even a Riley girl – the point is you’ve picked a side).
  2. You can’t work out why Buffy didn’t just slay that thing in The Grudge.
  3. You own the Tru Calling and Dollhouse box sets, just because Faith is in them.
  4. You use Angel to exemplify the Byronic hero. (Bonus points if you sulk when a student suggests that Batman is a better example.)
  5. You then set an essay on feminist rewritings of mythology, comparing Joss Whedon to Angela Carter.
  6. You know the words to all the songs in ‘Once More With Feeling’, even the parking ticket one.
  7. You’re still scared of the Gentlemen.
  8. You need to know the plural of apocolypse.
  9. You laugh at sparkly vampires and their submissive girlfriends.
  10. You almost wish Shakespeare had written “We band of buggered” in the St Crispin’s Day speech.

However, the real litmus test is whether or not you’re “bored now…”

No doubt this has been done before, but it’s my list and as it fits both the Daily Prompt from WordPress and Rarasaur’s prompt for this week, I couldn’t resist.

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100th Post – Time for a Top Ten

Woo-hoo – one hundred posts! When I started this blog (because Dad had been nagging me to try it) I never thought I’d get this far, enjoy it so much or ‘meet’ so many lovely fellow-bloggers. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d blow my own trumpet and promote a few of my favourite posts. (Okay so three Top Fives is not exactly a Top Ten, but the first five are not my favourites.)

And the Oscar goes to...
And the Oscar goes to…

According to WordPress, these are my most popular posts:

  1. Wabi Sabi – Scar
  2. Fire Engine Cake – 5 lessons
  3. The Lighthouse
  4. Daily Prompt – from the heart
  5. For my husband, on his birthday

However, these are my favourite posts (excluding those listed above):

  1. Merry Christmas Mum
  2. Note to Self – Moving is Seoul-destroying
  3. And they all lived happily ever after…
  4. Fireworks and negotiations with a two year old
  5. “Nah, you can still see your face.”

And for luck, these are the posts with my favourite images:

  1. Happy birthday baby!
  2. Fireman Jam!
  3. Brancaster Beach
  4. Spine Poetry
  5. Gingerbread or ginger biscuits?