Monthly Archives: October 2009

Work is great!

Day 3 and everything is still hunky dory in the workplace. Someone stopped by to check how I was getting on and I said fine. It’s rumoured that I will be sticking around ’til Christmas and might progress to some copy and web work plus a rise in hourly rate, woo hoo! Don’t know why I didn’t join this agency sooner, it’s been a real confidence boost. I know I can do the work but it gets really disheartening when you never get any feedback from online jobs. Still waiting to hear what is happening about my cancelled interview, the poor woman is in hospital and her boss is in another country. Pleased I feel no pressure knowing my temping is a security blanket at the mo. Am feeding my Starbucks addiction everyday as they are at the summit of the hill I climb at lunchtime to get into town. Is it bad to have coffee and sweet stuff as your vices?

grande 1 shot skinny latte x £2.35 x 5 days = £11.75 per week

Hmm, I don’t go out drinking at the weekend and don’t smoke so surely this is practically a money-saving exercise?!? Help me justify the expense, please!

First day work fun…

First day at my new temping post has been great. The American sales
manager is full of jokes and my mouth is starting to ache from all this grinning! My other colleague obviously keeps him grounded when it comes to doing some actual work. You know you have a great workplace when they nip off to wish someone happy birthday and bring you back a piece of cake by 10am, lovely mid-morning snacking!

Spent the day doing data input which was made all the more challenging due to the fact it was copying business cards written in Italian, German and Turkish to name but a few. I’m of the generation where at school, I could drop languages in my options and French was duly deleted from my curriculum. Even guessing if some of these people are male or female has been quite a challenge and don’t even get me started on the addresses!

The morning flew over and I popped into my agency to drop off my P45 (I’m doing it for the love and the money) but I managed to bring the bit I’m supposed to keep, doh! However, my agency lady did pop over to tell me that she had had a phone call this morning saying they really like me and there may be something else bubbling under the surface there. Blimey, no job success for weeks and then suddenly, I am loved. Now I think of it, I was told I would be introduced to the boss tomorrow as my interview lady  wanted him to meet me. And how’s this for a great agent? She told them I was only likely to stick around long-term for much better wages which they agreed, go temping agency go!

Starbucks just happens to be at the top of the hill I have to climb into town so it would be rude not to pay them a visit before lunchtime is over…!

Preparing for interview 1…

I was up early this morning to be ready for my interview with the company I could be temping for. I arrived with loads of time to spare as the traffic was kind to me on the way and, was prepared to face intense questioning about the organisation, having pored over their website last night. I was greeted by a lovely lady (who I assumed would be my interrogator) and she asked about my last job. As I proceeded to explain a bit about the company and my role there, it turns out my old boss used to work at this company and so they already knew everything about me!

I had never made the connection when my old boss talked about working near to where I live, but it’s a small world! Turns out my website cramming was to be untested as she explains what the role would involve and then asks me if I want to accept. I say yes and wonder if I can send a basket of ‘thank you’ muffins to my last boss, who has obviously given me a great reference (I saw it in an episode of ‘Friends’ once!)

Time off for another interview tomorrow is no problem either and I am wondering if a job quandary is about to appear in the next couple of weeks…

Jobs are like buses…

Turns out job interviews are like buses, you apply for hundreds of online jobs (I am starting to suspect some don’t even exist) without a sniff and then multiple opportunities come hurtling your way. While wondering if I should have turned down five days work at my old company, I get a phone call from the temping agency I joined last week to say a locally based events company want to see  me on Monday. At last, a breakthrough in the jobs market! Am feeling very pleased with myself and buy a one shot skinny latte at Starbucks to celebrate (any excuse, I know!) Then, this afternoon, I get another call from another agency to say I have an interview for an online job next Tuesday. I can’t believe it, I’ve had the employment cold shoulder for the last three months and now two people can see some I’m not totally rubbish!

Confidence is a funny thing, I know I am good at what I do but you do start to doubt yourself as time goes by, with no positive feedback from people with the power to employ you. Three months out of work has had its fun times but I understand why people can feel ground down over time and lose the energy or enthusiasm to keep trying. Time for a cheesey magnet quote, me thinks:

Risk more than others think is safe,

Care more than others think is wise,

Dream more than others think is practical,

Expect more than others think are possible.

I bought this in America because essentially, it’s actually quite inspiring once you get past the ‘eeeeeuuuuuwwwww’ factor. Sometimes you just need a little reminder to keep things in perspective and your goals intact (here ends this pep talk.)

Do you have a saying or a little reminder that perks you up when you are feeling down? Sometimes we just need to think about how lucky we are and something short and sweet can lift can lift your spirits, please share!

Should I be a monkey for their peanuts?

Being a lady of leisure (i.e. unemployed) is a double-edged sword. On the upside, you can sleep in ’til 9am on a weekday, have breakfast in bed while watching ‘The Wright Stuff’, visit the gym during the day when it’s less crowded and sit and write posts for your blog when the mood takes you. The downside involves living on your savings, feeling forced to be accountable for every minute of your day so that people know you actually get out of bed, fruitless job hunting and boredom. Oh and the admittedly fair assumption that you have to do all the cleaning / tidying / washing because you have so much time on your hands – yes I do have time and yes, I do hate cleaning (good job I wasn’t born in the 1950’s I tell you!)

My last job at an events company was an initial six month temporary contract which turned into 10 months with the offer of a permanent contract. Although it was a scary thought being out of work, I turned it down because they were moving offices to Central London. As a Northern girl who has only ever driven to work over the last 18 years, there is no way I am joining in with all that crowded commuter palaver and consciously adding extra hours to my work day! So, 10 weeks after leaving, I receive an email asking if I can help out at one of their events this week as they are so short-staffed. “Of course I would” I think to myself, I’ll get the chance to see old friends and colleagues as well as earn five days cash. I re-read the email and notice that the offer of covering my food and travel expenses are no problem along with a little something extra if the budget can stretch to it… Hmm, so they expect me to work for peanuts because they once paid my salary?

I ring the lovely girl who emailed and say I will consider it once I find out the daily rate – I remember from my own show that outsiders were paid £100 a day and I am willing to get over my train phobia for that. She tells me she will ring back once she knows. 20 minutes later, she tells me its £30 a day plus expenses and I say I will get back to her. A quick bit of mental totting up:

Leave house in car: 8.30am     Catch 3 tubes: arrive 10.30-11am      

Catch 3 tubes and a car ride home: arrive 10pm


£30 a day

Not too difficult to work out that minimum wage is a luxury compared to this. It’s an insult, not an offer and just confirms my decision to leave the company was the best one I could have made. Before the management buyout, money was spent like water (especially on alcohol) because nobody cared who footed the bill. Everything has changed now the MD has his own and other investors money at stake, all the pennies have to be accounted for even if it means there are not enough people to run the events efficiently! I emailed the lovely girl back, the budget isn’t her decision and I could tell she felt bad for having to offer such an embarrassing sum. I decline in a polite way and wondered if any future references would be affected from this moment onwards…

Its been 12 weeks since I finished work with no money coming in. I don’t want to claim benefits because I’m sure my next job is just waiting for me round the corner. Do you think I should have taken this job to start off my Christmas fund or, do you think I was right to refuse?

The dreaded first post-holiday gym session…

To ease myself back into some sort of fitness routine, I went to water aerobics last Monday and ached enough the next day not to visit the gym for the rest of the week! I got another aqua session under my belt yesterday and today, decided to brave the gym for the first time in five weeks… oh man, it was hard. The gym has recently installed a fancy signing in system that sets up all your programmes automatically on the new machines and I was greeted with a message from my trainer. He gave me a big wow for all the visits I had put in (pre-holiday) and told me to keep going. I felt really proud of myself and wondered if maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as I expected (note to self: always go with your gut instinct!)

After 12 minutes on the bike, I felt dizzy and wondered how on earth you can lose your fitness level so quickly, I was a gymming, swimming machine a month ago and now I can barely do 20 second bike sprints! I wandered over to the converging chest press machine and did a couple of sets, determinedly ignoring the flashing message that told me I wasn’t lifting my pre-holiday weight – I know I have turned into a post holiday weakling, I don’t need machines to keep reminding me! 15 minutes on the elliptical trainer at a paltry level 5 instead of 10, a couple of sets on the lat pulldown and my workout was finished. I logged out and was about to leave when I spotted the scales, was now the right moment to find out how much of a great time I had had on holiday?

Hmm, as I took a step towards them, two weeks of waffle / pancake / pastry breakfasts came flooding back. Another step and the healthy side of me jumped in with “Don’t forget you also had fruit with breakfast everyday!” “Maybe so,” argues holiday side “but you also ate out every night and enjoyed cheesecake that possibly contains your whole days calories in one slice!” Despite not being a big fan of scales, (I’m more about how your clothes feel), curiosity got the better of me and I jumped on. The pointer raced round to the top to reveal I was 12 st, my pre-holiday weight. Joy and relief wash over me because it has taken time for Other Half and I to adapt back to this healthy eating lark. We are back on the cereal and salad but are still celebrating the joys of weekend pizza, Starbucks, fast food and eating out. I know from previous experience that I can only fool my body in the short-term that these extra yummy calories are absolutely vital for my health and wellbeing…!

So, don’t let me sit here all alone feeling like a post holiday lemon, please tell me some of you out there also struggle to get back on track with healthy eating after sampling the joys of an I’ll-eat-whatever-I-fancy holiday. Don’t tell me I should exercise while on holiday or we will fall out big style, just because I think you’re right, doesn’t mean I want to agree!

The Cheescake Factory is the door to heaven

The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory is another miracle of American cuisine. We went for dessert last year, only to discover it was a full-blown restaurant that served the full monty of courses and so we intended to make the most of it this visit. We walked through enormous doors into a large, high ceilinged room and were led past a glass cabinet full of mouth-watering cheesecakes and into our booth. The waiter asked the usual question about where we were from but instead of the usual “your accent is so cute” reply, he told us he was from Surrey himself. We exchanged a bit of chatter as he gave us the menus and horror of horrors, a

The Cheesecake Factory Calorie Menu

The Cheesecake Factory Calorie Menu!

booklet dedicated to the calorie content of the food we were about to eat – total madness! Apparently, the government is so worried about the obesity problem in America, any restaurant chain of 10 or more must provide nutritional information about the food it serves. “Very sensible” I say as a gym going, healthy eating pre-holiday person in the UK. “Yeah, whatever, I’m not ruining my appetite by discovering my recommended calories for the day are sitting in this piece of cheesecake!” is what I actually say as a sunbathing, eating out everyday on holiday person.

Orange Chicken and Burger with Fries

Orange Chicken and Burger with Fries

The menu is huge and included starters that can feed a family, running alongside burgers, fish, chicken, mexican and pasta main dishes that would suit even the fussiest of eaters (yes, that means me!) I plump for orange chicken with rice and vegetables, Other Half goes with the burger and fries. The waiter brings back a diet coke and a freshly squeezed glass of real orange juice (you never have to say “fresh orange juice” to them as they don’t consider there is any other kind) and some of the worlds most amazing tasting bread.

Heavenly Bread

Heavenly Bread

 If you were to look at it in all innocence, you could mistakenly presume it is made from chocolate looking at its gorgeous dark brown crusty exterior and matching soft innards. However, it tastes like a sweet, spongy piece of heaven that could make you cancel your mains so you could just feast on its loveliness. I asked the waiter what kind of bread it was and he simply shrugged and told me it was some kind of rye bread – he has obviously lived here too long and become blind to the amazing bread! Back at the hotel, Judy thought it sounded like pumpernickel so I will have my eyes open once I get back home!

Most Delicious Vanilla Bean Cheesecake on Earth

Most Delicious Vanilla Bean Cheesecake on Earth

The chicken and burger were delicious although we only managed part of the huge plateful given to us. We gazed at the list of cheesecakes available and decided to go simple and order the vanilla bean – it was a heavenly layer of crunchy biscuit base, vanilla cheese, vanilla mousse, vanilla cream plus extra fresh cream added for good measure. Every bite was a party in my mouth, so rich and creamy and delicious and well worth all those hours in the gym. By the time I got to the last four forkfuls, I had slipped into slow motion and wondered if I would ever be hungry again. At home, I wouldn’t think twice about leaving food on my plate when I felt full but here, my stomach refused to give into my brain and I ate the cheesecake but left the cream. Other Half was more sensible, leaving a little bit of both so that he didn’t explode. All in all, it was a fabulous meal which we repeated a week later only this time, we ordered cheesecake to takeaway with us which meant we tried a few… I can also recommend carrot cake cheesecake, chocolate cheesecake and banana cream cheesecake! 😮

A Mesmorising Choice of Cheesecakes

A Mesmorising Choice of Cheesecakes

Have you tasted these Cheesecake Factory delights yourself or, do you think you have tasted better at home or on holiday? (I don’t know if I believe that you have!) Let me know as I am open to cheesecake recommendations throughout the world!

Food never tasted so good…!

Eating is one of our favourite things about being in America and this year was no exception: Ruby’s, a traditional old-fashioned American diner in town, El Mirasol the authentic Mexican a couple of blocks walk from the hotel and Manhattan in the Desert with its amazing bakery and 50% off all prices for the whole of September, all ranked in our ‘must visit’ list.

Davey's Hideaway

Davey's Hideaway

We also tried a few new places including Davey’s Hideaway, a 10 minute walk from our room. From the outside it never held much kerb appeal for us, the conservatory always looked like it was a bit lacking in atmosphere and was often empty early evening as we went out for dinner. We had heard rumours of fabulous steaks so decided to give it a try and we were in for a shock! We walked through the doors into a warm, candlelit and snug interior with a real pianist playing softly in the background, providing wonderful ambience. It was not at all what we had expected and I could see Other Half was immediately worried about the dress code in his smart yet casual polo top and shorts. The fact they didn’t turn us away at the door obviously meant a jacket and tie was not required to eat here, so we relaxed into our booths and perused the menu in search of the fabled steaks.

Whilst reading, I heard a little squeak from an unknown source and looked up but nothing caught my eye. Moments later another squeak and this time I realised it was Other Half specific. I looked at him and then my menu before the squeak was revealed… I had simply started reading about each dish on the menu – Other Half, as wallet holder had checked out the prices first! As my eyes fell onto the $32.95 filet steak I fancied, I understood the squeak! In my most reassuring tone, I reasoned we don’t eat out much (at those prices anyway) and so could afford a one off although I nervously checked he had brought enough funds (note to self: always carry some emergency money myself!) He had about $100 so didn’t need to wash up or do a runner at the end of the night.

The waitress came over to ask if we were ready to order and if we had read the special menu. We hadn’t and suddenly discovered that Monday to Thursday you could get a three course meal including the filet steak for only $23.95! What a turnaround! We both took advantage and I went especially wild ordering a glass of non-alcoholic wine. For once in my 34 year old life, I felt like a proper grown up at the dinner table and certainly must have looked like one without my ever-present orange juice or diet coke. The beef broth and Caesar salad starters arrived and my salad was huge. I had totally forgotten that entre means starter, not side dish, as I never like to waste valuable tummy space or calories on two savoury meals when a dessert is in the offing. The trouble is in America, wait staff look at you like you are a nutcase if you ask to miss out a course, the chef ends up getting confused and upset at our funny foreign ways so I to prevent this, I ordered Caesar salad without ever dreaming I would have to eat it. For a start, I don’t like parmesan and those leaves are covered in the stuff. My dinner plate sized pile of greens was put in front of me and so I ate the crutons and some leaves from underneath the main pile that had not be tainted by the smelly cheese. It was a token effort to get onto the steak.

Once our filets had arrived (medium rare for Other Half and well done for

Superb Filet Steak

Superb Filet Steak

me, yes, I’m sure the chef was weeping into his hat when he heard that), I sneaked a quick photo before tucking in. Although I don’t eat much meat, it was deliciously cooked along with the vegetable accompaniments. The dessert menu was short and sweet and I jumped in and ordered my first piece of Keylime Pie. Other Half, ever the gentleman, ordered Mud Pie so we could swap if I didn’t like mine, he knows the importance of good dessert in my life! A teeny, tiny square of pie arrived which was very limey and perhaps slightly disappointing after the lovely main course but when the bill only came to $69 including tip (originally the cost of just two filet steaks), it was a great end to a lovely night.

Welcome to Trip Advisors top hotel in America

The Desert Riviera Hotel

The Desert Riviera Hotel

After we collected our luggage (first off the aircraft – what are the chances?!?) and picked up our hire car, it was a 10 minute journey that took us to the Desert Riviera Hotel. By this time, we had been up and about for a whole 24 hours and so must have looked pretty rough. We were hugged and greeted like family by owners Larry and Patty who escorted us

Larry and Patty

Larry and Patty

straight to our room, accompanied by a beer, diet coke and two huge slices of pizza in case we were hungry and just left to collapse. A huge bottle of champagne in a cold ice bucket greeted us along with a handwritten note to let us know how pleased they were to see us. I’m sure you can see already why we love this place so much, there are so many personal touches dotted throughout your stay that it really feels like a second home in a parallel sun-shining-no-work-worry-free kind of world!

Hotel Pool and Sun Loungers

The gorgeous poolside

With 10 sun soaked days ahead of us, we alternated between lazy days by the pool and trips out to sights we didn’t see during last years holiday. Being outside in weather over 100 degrees most days, my hours spent sunbathing were in and out of the shade in order to last the whole day. I punctuated the day with a light smattering of chick lit reading as well as random thoughts that popped into my head. I wondered if all those people who live in the houses we flew over, used their pool everyday? Do they get time in the real working world to take advantage of it or, is it like that old exercise bike or multi-gym back home – we used it a couple of times and then lost interest?

Scenic Mountain Roads

Scenic mountain roads

Driving round Palm Springs is so easy. No traffic jams, no Boy Racers, just people going about their business in a steady fashion, ready to gently toot you if you don’t turn right on a red light when the coast is clear. This is one of the weird driving differences between our countries that means at present, Other Half is the only one with confidence to drive us around on the wrong side of the road…!

Judy and Stephen

Judy and Stephen

After a couple of days, Desert Riviera Manager Judy and her husband Stephan were back on duty and it was time for another round of hugs and handshakes. Judy is a complete Weight Watchers inspiration, She has lost over 10 stone in weight in the last year. She not only looked amazing on the outside but the lovely, bubbly (urgh, such a fat persons word cliche I know but she is just sooooo bubbly!) woman we met last year has found an inner glow that can blind you if you stare at her in amazement for too long. She radiates happiness and oozes with new found joy of water aerobics and gym sessions. Having been a very unhappy size 18 myself in the past, I could identify with the pleasures her changing body is bringing her. I broadened my book reading to some inspiring non-fiction Judy was keen to lend me and gobbled up ‘The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl‘, ‘Ruby’s Diary‘ and ‘Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir‘. Each of these women’s stories detailed their real life struggles to lose weight and, whilst pound for pound I lost a lot less than them six years ago, essentially, we all share the same feelings of depression and elation along the way. Judy has created her own website called ‘TooMuchGirls‘ to which she constantly adds loads of yummy healthy recipes and keeps you up-to-date with her new fun fitness finds, why not take a peek?

Anyone who has lost weight knows how difficult it is to keep it off, what’s your secret? The only way I have managed to stay a size 12 for the past six years has been to eat right 80% of the time, not feel guilty about treating myself 20% of the time and finding different kinds of exercise I enjoy. What helps you stay on track?

People, please turn off your phones!

Having landed in Dallas after a very long flight, we rechecked our luggage and went through security. I wonder if all British people look as comedic as us in the process – we smiled inanely at everyone in uniform (with or without a gun), in the hope of persuading them that we are a normal couple from Hertfordshire, there for a holiday while posing absolutely no threat to Homeland Security (every time I see that on a sign I think of Jack Bauer in 24!) As the guard (with a gun) at security asked us the purpose of our visit, I said “holiday” then immediately think I should have said “vacation” so as to appear as Americanized as possible. We have our fingerprints scanned and photos taken, Other Half is first and I can see him twitching at the camera wondering whether a smile is appropriate or not – he decided to plump for his serious-in-a-non-threatening-way face. My turn and I opted for the half-smile-no-teeth pose that I managed to get away with on my passport photo – the woman at the Post Office said it might not get accepted but someone must have been in a good mood that day and approved me. Coincidentally, I had also spent 2 hours and £75 getting my hair cut and coloured for that picture, as I was determined to look half decent on my passport for the next 10 years and, my efforts were rewarded!

It was 8.20 pm and we still had four hours to kill before we left for Palm Springs, so we roamed like nomads through shops in our terminal before discovering there was a skylink train which led to a whole world of other terminals. We headed for Terminal A, which was our departure point, and to our delight, discovered a huge array of shops and eating places that were previously unavailable in the last building. After walking miles we settled for a quick meal in Taco Bell followed by a cinnamon / sugar Auntie Anne’s warm, soft pretzel… this is always my favourite first real taste of America. I have a loyalty card from last year’s holiday that I got stamped, and great news, I only need to buy four more pretzels before I get one free! My heart screams “what a bargain” whilst my head reminds me that the scales would rather I pick up my reward within the next two years. Oh well, despite my love for forward planning, I will leave this one to fate!


Waiting to board in Dallas...

At 12.20 am we get on our second flight and I am tired and potentially cranky. Although we have been asked to buckle up and turn off all electronic devices, the woman opposite me is merrily playing away on her phone. This is not some rebellious teenager messing about, but a lady who looks to be in her 70’s and is flaunting the rules without a second thought. Now I don’t know if the pilot tells us to do these things simply as a precautionary measure or if it’s to stop the plane falling out of the sky, but I don’t want to find out by becoming a tragic news story! I am getting more and more agitated as we sit on the runway, and although I sit and stare at her in a disapproving manner, she never looks up to notice. I promise myself that as soon as we move an inch, I am going to lean over for a quiet yet firm word but hallelujah, she finally sees sense and turns it off. Relieved, I settle back and look out at the night’s sky only to notice sheet lightening in the distance and emergency vehicles, lights blazing, hurrying to the other end of the runway. The pilot announces that there will be a short delay with take off but just to sit tight and keep all electronic devices turned off. The woman then leans over to me and says, “should I sneak my phone on to tell people I will be late?” Is she kidding me? “NO YOU CRAZY OLD BAT, WE DON’T WANT TO DIE!” I shriek inside my head, but outwardly, I quietly tell her there is no need as it seems to be only a short delay. A minute later the Captain announces that adverse weather conditions in the East have caused planes to be diverted to this airfield and we are now in a very long queue for a take off time slot. BING! Woman’s phone is turned straight back on…

Palm Springs Concourse

Palm Springs Sonny Bono open air concourse

One hour late, we finally take off for the 3-hour journey to Palm Springs. We are both really tired at this point, but Other Half is always the gentleman – as my head keeps tipping forward off his shoulder, he sticks his finger in the middle of my forehead to keep me upright – now that’s love! Due to the crazy nature of time differences, it is 4.30 am our time yet somehow only 8.30 pm local time. As we step off the plane into the part open air Sonny Bono concourse, Palm Springs welcomes us with its warm open arms…

So, have you ever been on a plane with someone really annoying you? Have you ever witnessed any strange behaviour? (I once saw a man brushing his eyebrows and hair with a plastic knife!) Let me know what winds you up when you are on your travels! 😮