Chasing The Eclipse

Solar eclispes happen more frequently than you might imagine – there’s usually one per year.  However, they tend to only be visible in often very inaccessible places, such as the middle of the Pacific ocean, or over the polar ice-caps.

In 1999 I travelled to France, and managed to get into the zone of totality just south of Paris.  We met up with my cousin and his family, who are also dedicated space and astronomy nuts.  Sadly, we were clouded out right at totality, though I can still remember my amazement at this great dark shadow rushing towards me at over 1,000 miles an hour.

eclipse watching agust 99

In 2003, I took my gang to Iceland, where the promise of an annular eclipse, a ring of fire rising over a glacier at sunrise was too tempting to refuse.  Well, I say “promise”: the good weather prospects were less than 30%, and indeed I ended up seeing only murky grey cloud becoming slightly paler.  But still we had a fabulous week in Rejkjavik.

lhj iceland

In 2009 my husband and I went to China, and joy of joys were in the right place at the right time to experience 6 magical minutes of totality.

getting ready

And of course had an unforgettable trip seeing other fabulous sights such as the Great Wall, the terracotta warriors, and the brash skyscrapers of Shanghai.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eclipses go in sequences called saros: from Wikipedia

a period of approximately 223 synodic months (approximately 6585.3211 days, or 18 years, 11 days, 8 hours), that can be used to predict eclipses of the Sun and Moon. One saros period after an eclipse, the Sun, Earth, and Moon return to approximately the same relative geometry, a near straight line, and a nearly identical eclipse will occur, in what is referred to as an eclipse cycle. A sar is one half of a saros.[1]   

When my cousin and I were researching the France ’99 event, we discovered that the next one in that saros would occur on the day of their 25th wedding anniversary, and it would be in the USA.
So I’m currently well into my planning and anticipating this year’s holiday. We will fly from Dublin to Chicago, spend a few days there, before catching the  California Zephyr train, which crosses the States terminating in San Francisco. Along the way we will stop off in Lincoln, Nebraska, and drive to the little town of Beatrice which is in the centre of the zone of totality. Beatrice is one of my online usernames, so it seems fitting to go to a town with my name on it.

So what should I pack? Chicago is the windy city, even in August, there might be rain, there will be fog in San Fran, and of course we have planes, trains and automobiles to catch.

One of the most valuable pieces that a traveller can carry is a versatile wrap, pashmina, shawl. It serves as a blanket when trying to get some sleep, is a stylish cover up for evening strolls, and can be folded into a cushion. I love this Ichi reversible wrap in dove grey and mustard, which I found on sale for £10 in a little boutique in Carrickfergus called Lisa’s Attic.  It looks good, though the mustard side is a bit fluffy and sheds hairs over the clothes beneath.

Some companies specialise in being comfortable and stylish. I swear by my Craghoppers trousers and tops, which have features like security pockets, quick dry, and mosquito repellent. And I’ve just discovered Like Mary, an online company which makes gorgeous wraps and shawls, as well as other travel friendly clothing.

I treated myself to some cropped harem pants. I’d bought a pair of cheapie harems in Majorca and I love them for relaxing and travelling, as they take up very little room and are easy to dress up or down.

I alao bought some wrap dresses and tunics.  I was very pleased at the quick delivery service.  And when I had to return the wrap dress as it just didn’t suit me, the refund was also very prompt.  I packed the grey patterned tunic on a recent day trip to Dublin.  The sun was shining and I teamed it with leggings and a cardi for a stylish and practical outfit.  The tunic is lovely and roomy, with great pockets for thrusting your hands into when the breeze picks up.  It takes up little space in my bag, and washes like a ribbon, so it is destined to become a firm travel favourite.  My only quibble is with the itchy scratchy label which was annoying my neck, but I was able to remove it without too much trouble.

And they are a bit marmite, but I adore my Crocs!  They are lightweight and comfortable, especially when doing a lot of walking around a city.  And they are waterproof – I even hooked them over my wrists while swimming in Orlando.  So I’m not taking them out of my travel staples just yet.

Now, I wonder can I find a set of eclipse viewers among my souvenirs…….

Capsule wardrobe for Autumn

I spend far too much time faffing about in the mornings trying to decide what to wear. I’m working on compiling a few capsule wardrobe sodukos (they’re not really, they’re Latin Squares).

Here’s a sample for Autumn 2015:

4 each of tops, bottoms, shoes and accesory

4 each of tops, bottoms, shoes and accesory

Skirt 1 – black suede wraparound
Skirt 2 – gold LK Bennett
Skirt 3 – black/ white tweed LK Bennett
Crop trousers – graphite, M&S

Top 1 – Biscuit drapey sleeveless LK Bennett
Top 2 – Purple satin shirt
Top 3 – White 3/4 sleeve V neck jumper
Top 4 – Black scoop-neck tee

Footwear 1 – Black boots
Footwear 2 – Gold flats
Footwear 3 – Beige heels
Footwear 4 – Black flats

Accessories – Belt in putty, black perspex cuff, bronze/ purple flower pendant, pewter chunky. They are all laid out on a large khaki soft square scarf.

Mixing these up in the Latin square gives an outfit across each row, up and down each column, all 4 corners,and the 2 diagonals.

20150819_093436

I think I need a pair of pewter/ bronze Skechers to wear for the walk to and from train station!

The trick to doing a Latin square is
ABCD
CDAB
DCBA
BADC

24 hours in London

I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to w rite this blog at all – I’d taken some photos on my phone, and then lost the phone while in London. But miraculously, some of them survived on my iPad!

I was paying a flying visit to London – my son was working on his first ever West End show, and I was taking my best friend and daughter to see it on the Saturday night. Plans were to meet son and his girlfriend for lunch on the Sunday. I reckoned I could manage all this with one large handbag. I was staying with said best friend so I didn’t need to cart any cosmetics or toiletries with me.
With the hlep of Mumsnet’s Style and Beauty section, I put together a capsule wardrobe of 3 different outfits.

 

photo 1 photo 2 (2) photo 3 (1) photo 4

The basis was a pair of dark skinny jeans (Not Your Daughters jeans)
my brown Dubarry boots, and a beige trench coat (M&S).

For travelling, I wore a floral wrap top (Boden) with a coin and ribbon necklace (Fat Face). I carried a lavendar pashmina with beaded trim (won in a fundraising raffle in Luxembourg, about 10 years ago)

boden

A quick change in the loos during pre-show drinks into a purple and blace lace tunic (Florence & Fred), with a choker made from a purple silk ribbon and a cameo brooch (eBay)

after london

On Sunday, I wore a cream crochet top (Fat Face), with a chunky stone necklace bought form a native craft shop on Route 66.

The lot fitted into my owl-design satchel bag.

DLP – non park days

Tickets for Disneyland Paris (DLP) are expensive, and it’s possible you may have one or two days when you want something else to do. If you’re lucky, your hotel might have a pool, but if you fancy going a bit further afield, the 2 best options are a trip into Paris itself, and a visit to the Val d’Europe shopping centre.

A Day in Paris

Travelling into the capital is fairly easy – the train station beside the park is on the RER A4 (red)  line which goes straight there.  Queues for the manned ticket desks can be quite long, but the automatic ticket machines are pretty straightforward and can be used in English.  You’ll need an RER ticket (about 9 euros each way), and it can be worth getting a carnet of 10 metro tickets to use when you’re in town (13.30 for 10).

64QXlNhTlD2HyfwmNQtqs4Ai8oft6DvsgFa66rOjC6M,xaFx7USxzhlGr-HEnypugAzTWU84QqhDBNN1G3-ltag,zq9P1neIF8UuYI3o8stBPXCzmqfNbxm-Y8j8KTPB3ss,bp3fqyPrWgKaYOMjs_dtDr1wIxcjLSicfAlXcimHHUk  Prepare yourself as you would for any big city notorious for pickpockets – keep your bags and valuables close to you, and watch out for strangers approaching you. Get off at Charles de Gaulle l’Etoile, and follow the brown signs to surface right in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

nPdTKfT7ZwQ3X4bofJSobmPt_5GzQ5ZEes5iSosi12M,Xz2e6BIqaQGvB0Rabn6_qsFvHemvrc6t_NeJaGh7wA4,aHygXRfJLiwfwNmC-JrNDbpHZclrFx2AGGpkuP_47MI,RkZlOT9L8a1GIeVbm7qyjrkUzXDFTJmqbjncsq-g0HQMarvel at the traffic whizzing about the world’s most famous roundabout, with some animal-like herding instincts telling them when to stop and go.  From there, take the metro line 6 down to Bir-Hakeim, for a great view of the Eiffel Tower as you cross the river.  Find a street side table for an al fresco  sit down over a beer or coffee, and admire the passing Parisians.

PRwEB-v39xBNnAPiTaky6KDYyXCl_naD01wJvJroBic,PG-GkF9PXvZErwvIvLKcrw4R1L8E9yZea4w_ODndgjc  Stroll along the river bank, unless you want to actually go up the tower.  I normally like hop-on-hop-off buses in new cities, but they’re very expensive in Paris (31 for one day).  A nicer alternative is the http://www.batobus.com, which for 15 euros allows you to hop on and off at 8 of the most popular stopping points, while giving you the classic views from the Seine. (Insert in-seine joke here).  Lm1YwaY9dxHmXo_17D8OIYJXW2BP51kCDddl1vUVaTU,_lmTTejFfO36GigAa_gX47y_50oxFv91p8E99HRbE0k

Get off at Notre-Dame, and walk around the detailed gothic magnificence.  At the back of the cathedral, cross the bridge to the Ile St Louis, and seek out Berthillon, one of the finest ice cream vendors on the planet.  Enjoy your glace while strolling the quieter streets in this district.QXXeNjsgCRf5GtW0bzRGdxN54x4H7nRr39OysO0cI3Y

crez6_3jc1DyVw5LmjZXusv4XU1woi5LPpfesGlLgr8,8OZPAmNUmHw35fzZNprAEz5qmYx6n9BG9pgWjEh1Ams  Free toilets are available beside the Hotel de Ville.  Warning: the Metro isn’t great for people with mobility issues, and the train doors don’t give you much time to get on and off.

Val d’Europe

This enormous shopping centre http://www.valdeurope.fr/ was constructed at the same time as DLP, in order to cater for the people who’d be working in and around the parks and hotels.  It is HUGE.  Nicely done out with glass coverings and a spacious feel to it.  There are all the usual shops you’d expect, including a massive Auchan supermarket, and Apple store, Sephora, and Gap.VztaIb_E75bNRjJ-Len5Y5_JplNba8O_1WGxn1P7gzQ,CHwLx0WB6pfE6TNLtVHAAYsKdGDXlR8Vne9rh_O7Pfs

There is also a designer village next door, with many high end shops like Jimmy Choo and Armani.  Your hotel might give you a discount card for 10% off, as will a Disney Shareholder card, but the shops might not accept these if the goods are already reduced.  But on our trip we managed to get a free coffee and bun from Starbucks.  My favourite shop here was the Parisian fragrance experts Annick Goutal, which has some intriguing and unusual scents , many of which are gender-neutral.

dlp wardrobe 001A bottle costs about 60.  The shopping centre also has a terasse of eateries, ranging from McDonalds (with an automatic computer ordering system), to a Lebanese place.  The Pasta Pizza restaurant does a good Menu Presto for 10 euro, comprising a plate of pasta and a drink.  They’ll also serve olives and bread at no extra charge.  And on top of all that, or rather underneath, there’s an aquarium in below the ground.

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Most hotels offer a shuttle service to the centre (5 euros return each), or you could go by train (one stop from the DLP station).

DisneylandParis – what to wear

It’s the same problem every year – I need a capsule wardrobe to take on holiday that will allow for a number of eventualities, unpredictable weather, be comfortable enough and also smart enough, and that will fit in my suitcase without pushing the weight over allowed limits.

For holidays involving theme parks, I always start with footwear.  Fashionistas will recoil in horror, but experience has taught me that Crocs are the best option.  They are comfortable enough to be on your feet all day without causing blisters, they will survive splashy log flume rides, they are light and squishy enough to fit in your suitcase – I’ve even swum at Discovery Cove with mine hooked over my wrists.

Blue crocs, checked short-sleevd shirt (Craghoppers), denim cropped trousers, lightweight green jumper (Warehouse)

Blue crocs, checked short-sleeved shirt (Craghoppers), denim cropped trousers, lightweight green jumper (Warehouse)

A good alternative are FitFlops.  I’m not convinced that wearing these will give me legs like Cameron Diaz, but they are certainly a practical comfortable option.  They come in a wide variety of styles and colours, and the chunkier sole gives more support than the standard flip-flop.  I always wear Craghoppers trousers to travel in – their zippy security pockets are very well designed, the lightweight ones are easy to wash and dry quickly, and the ones with zip-off bottoms convert to shorts or crops.

Blue crocs, checked short-sleevd shirt (Craghoppers), black cotton cropped trousers, lightweight green jumper (Warehouse)

Black FitFlops with coral toe-post, black cotton vest, stone lightweight trousers with security pockets and zip-off bottoms (Craghoppers), Mickey sweatshirt, floppy sun-hat.

A pair of wedge sliders in a metallic shade is a good choice for smarter evening wear, and works well with more casual outfits as well.

Bronze wedges, cream top with beaded neckline, black sleeveless shirt, grey crops.

Bronze wedges, cream top with beaded neckline, black sleeveless shirt, grey crops.

I love my Timberland thongs – the dark brown leather is lovely and soft, but there’s not much protection against inclement weather.  I wasn’t sure about a white linen jacket, but it was very useful indeed – light and summery, didn’t crease too badly, and smartened up any outfit.

Brown leather thongs (Timberland), cream linen crops, green striped short sleeved shirt, white linen jacket

Brown leather thongs (Timberland), cream linen crops, green striped short sleeved shirt, white linen jacket

The weather in Paris is unpredictable – it’s best to prepare for all conditions, so that’s a light waterproof jacket, sun cream, and a floppy sunhat to protect against the rays when stuck in a long queue.  I loved my lightweight cardigan in truffle, with shimmery apricot inserts.  A basic colour scheme is useful if outfits are going to mix-and-match, and a light scarf containing the main colours in the capsule wardrobe pulls everything together.

Flat black sandals, tribal print tank, watermelon vest, truffle/ apricot cardi, scarf in apricot with blue/ brown/ cream pattern.

Flat black sandals, tribal print tank, watermelon vest, truffle/ apricot cardi, scarf in apricot with blue/ brown/ cream pattern.

 

And finally, remember to pack any medication you will need.  Pharmacies are few and far between, and won’t sell many of the items you can buy in a UK chemist, so pack plenty of painkillers, Diocalm and rehydration salts, plasters and tea-bags (well, they’re a medical necessity for me!)

5and2 the perils of online shopping

I decided to treat myself to a colour in my hair this time. At husband’s suggestion, I was keen to go blonde, but my hairdresser felt that it would be too harsh for my colouring, so I’m a fiery redhead instead.

hair 001

I’m finding more and more of my clothes are just too baggy on me, so I thought I’d replace the sackfuls I’d given away with some key pieces for a stylish new wardrobe.  I consulted the wise style counsellors of Mumsnet, and ordered a lightweight jumper from Warehouse.  I placed the order from the comfort of my sofa last Saturday night.  They tried to deliver on Tuesday, but no-one was in, so they left a card.  I rang the number and asked them to redeliver on Wednesday.  This meant asking my husband to stay near the house, despite the glorious weather that he was dying to get out on a motorbike in. On Wednesday at 10 to 6, I got a call on my mobile to say that they couldn’t find my house.  (I don’t believe this).  I asked them to redeliver the next day.  On Thursday I rang to see what time they’d be delivering, but a guy in the depot said no, it would be Friday afternoon.  Friday came and went with neither communication nor delivery.  I rang on Saturday morning, only to be told that the package hadn’t left there since it was returned on Tuesday – none of the 3 people I’d spoken to during the week had written the message down!  I find all of this very hard to believe.  But seriously, how does a courier company like this (DPD) keep going?  That is customer service at its very worst.  Still no parcel, by the way.

Tuesday’s fast food was unremarkable – miso soup for lunch, homemade vegetable soup for dinner, and a ginger beer after dog-training.

Thursday’s fast lunch was broccoli and chilli soup.  I’d made this a while ago, but husband wasn’t too keen on it, so I froze what was leftover.  I had it with half a bag of alfresco salad from Tesco (25 cals for the half bag – very good crunchy snack food!).  The weather was so warm I just ate it cold.  It wasn’t too bad, tasted just a little oily, but later in the afternoon my stomach started to really complain.  I was due to go out for a run, but didn’t think it wise to be too far away from a loo, so I came home from work and just dozed on the sofa.  Not ideal, but at least it stopped me snacking.

hair 002

Friday weigh-in, still at 133 pounds.  I’m Ok with that, I know those last 3 pounds will come off slowly, and I have a half-marathon coming up so I want to make sure I’m properly fuelled for that, and then Disneyland Paris at the end of June!  If I can ever get my holiday wardrobe delivered….

5and2: M&S ready meals

I had Monday and Wednesday as my fast days this week, as it was full on busy every day!

On Monday I was struggling to go completely without food, so I had Ryvita with low-low cheese during the day, and some Bovril and miso soup. For dinner I had some leftover boiled ham, along with a salad of cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls and a pesto dressing.  I’d bought some of the new Nakd bars with added soya chunks for protein (they’re much tastier than that sounds!) and had one of those as a very satisfying 100 calories sweet tooth calmer.

I was taking Thursday off to go to the Balmoral Show with my sister, so I didn’t really want to have that as a fast day.  Which left Wednesday.  But I was going straight to a governors meeting after work, and didn’t want to be too rumbly in the tumbly.  So I decided to try out the highly recommended Marks and Spencers delicious and nutritious mooli ribbon meal.

m&s food 003

This comes in duck, beef, or tuna varieties – I chose the latter as it had the lowest sugar content.  It also came with  edamame beans, which I love.  It was pretty tasty, filled its purpose for a mere 150 calories, but at £3.50 I balked at the price.  Luckily I’ve since picked up a £1 off voucher, so I may try another selection from the  range next week.

Another find was the little souvlaki chicken kebabs, at only 70 calories per skewer – very tasty indeed!

m&s food 012

It feels good to be fasting 2 days a week – I can tell that my body likes this approach.  My weight is still creeping down slowly – the afternoon girly shopping trip with my sister netted a lovely size 8 jacket (also from M&S, I really should buy shares in the place), and I’m currently wearing a pair of size 12 jeans which are decidedly baggy and which will be going in the charity shop bag after they’re washed.

Oh, and lovely surprise of the week – I received a phone call from my old University that I’d won an iPad in a draw, so I had to go over there and get my photograph taken being presented with it.  So I took the opportunity to wear an outfit I’d bought recently on the half-price rail at – yes, you’ve guessed it – from their Per Una range: indigo linen trousers, and ice-blue Tshirt with draped neckline, and a blue grey Chanel style edge to edge jacket.  I was pretty pleased with the published photo, the shininess of the jacket looks great.  And my son is delighted that he’s inheriting my old iPad.

iPad win