The RTW Roundup Ed. 10:  Conspicuous Consumption

The RTW Roundup Ed. 10: Conspicuous Consumption

Come be an armchair traveller and see what’s happening around the blog world.  With Christmas merely a couple of weeks away, everyone seems to be in a gift buying, wrapping and giving mood.  This week’s theme, therefore, is conspicuous consumption (and ways to ameliorate holiday excess).

Conspicuous Consumption

Just in time for the holidays, everyone seems to write gift guides – big ticket items, stocking stuffer suggestions, gifts for men, women, children, dogs etc.  I have seen so many blogging posts with gift guides that I vowed this post will not be one of them.

The Queen of the Gift Guide

After all, Gwyneth Paltrow on Goop has a whole series of gift guides of which my favourite is the Ridiculous (But Awesome) Gift Guide.  Once you suggest gifts including a designer condom dispenser ($42), a vintage ball and chain ($1500) or 18K gold-plated dumbbells ($125,000), I feel there is nothing further to say.  You win, Gwyneth, you win.

Home Made gifts for Christmas

Assuming you don’t have that kind of spare cash lying around, I created this handy quiz which will help you sort out which gift guide you should use as your beacon into that darkness that is holiday shopping.

Please help me, Obi-Wan, you’re the only one [who can help me choose].

On the road again

Many of us will be on the road visiting family and friends this time of the year. In fact, you may have already did one of these road trips for Thanksgiving. I thought these Tips for road trips during the holidays was really useful.

tips for road trips

Unfortunately with long travel times, my children tend to go overboard on screen time.  Once we are at our destination, I can go back to our normal routine of limited screen time.  These ideas for managing screen time for kids looked handy.

managing screen time for kids

Gift-Giving Alternatives

I’ve been told that I’m a bit of a Scrooge at Christmas.  I don’t really see the point of gift-giving for the holidays except for children and for adults you would like to thank.  One person who springs to mind immediately is my son’s recorder teacher who has persevered through the odds even though he shows more enthusiasm than skill.

I really liked this idea of how to wean your family off the gift-giving tradition.  I feel I don’t need more ‘stuff’ in my life but I’m not sure I can convince my family to try these ideas.  Maybe you will have better luck.

For adults I’m a big fan of homemade gifts, especially cookies, baked goods or preserves.  I’m a terrible knitter or I’d love to knit gifts too.  Not only does this show some effort and thought on your part but who doesn’t like to eat?  Those non-eaters should not be counted as your friends anyway.

Here are 8 ways to turn citrus peels into holiday gifts.  Home made and recycled – your Earth mother credentials will leave your friends secretly gnashing their teeth

consider home made gifts for christmas

Here is a collection of wonderful recipes for 46 types of cookies from all around the world.  Your family and friends may have been inundated with lots of sugar cookies. What are the chances though that they would have tried Spanish butter wafers or Nigerian coconut cookie crisps?  After all, the holidays are nothing without a little subtle one-upmanship.

Christmas Food and Drink

I love Williams-Sonoma’s peppermint bark at Christmas. Stuck out here in the hinterland that is London without a Williams-Sonoma at a mall nearby, I’ve had to improvise with this easy peppermint bark recipe.

peppermint bark

Now onto the educational segment of this post… To be a truly sophisticated gourmand this holiday season you will  need to know which wine pairs with which type of Christmas cookie.  You do not want the neighbours to judge you if you eat chocolate chip cookies with Zinfandel.  Well, no doubt they will judge you if you drink Zinfandel anyway.

Post-Holiday R&R Time

After all the holiday travel, I am always ready for a rest in January. It’s time to get started on those New Year’s resolutions (well, at least for the first couple of days).

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks RTW blog round up.  This post is linked up with Weekend Wanderlust and The Weekly Postcard.


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Weekly Roundup #9: Food Glorious Food!

Weekly Roundup #9: Food Glorious Food!

This week with all the preparing for Thanksgiving, food has been heavily on my mind.  You won’t be surprised then by the theme which is one of my all time favourite songs from Oliver!

Magical food,
Wonderful food
marvelous food,
Beautiful food,
Food, Glorious food glorious fooooooood

Oliver – Food Glorious Food Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Some non-holiday recipe ideas

My kids wold love these mini pizzas! Deep dish cupcake pan pizzas are perfect finger food for a party or if you are on the run and just need to feed your children quickly in-between activities.

When you are under the weather, there’s nothing like soup to make you feel better. I found this great recipe for one of my favourite soups, French Onion Soup, that you can make in a slow cooker.

 A recipe for French Onion soup that you can make in a slow cooker

Some new recipes for the holiday season

I know Thanksgiving is today and so this may come a little late for some of you.  On the other hand, the British have turkey and sides for Christmas so these recipes will come in handy for many of my readers.

I was going to do my usual candied sweet potato dish this year which has been a firm favourite with my family for many years.  When I decided to be healthy and go with this healthier roast butternut squash and sweet potatoes dish.

So what do I do with all the jumbo marshmallows that I bought in anticipation of the yearly Thanksgiving dish?  Why, toasted marshmallow shot glasses, of course. Not entirely sure if these marshmallow shot glasses will hold but I’ll have lots of fun trying!

Thanksgiving will be a distant memory tomorrow as Black Friday sets upon us. Christmas, however, will officially have started.  I know many people, including my husband, love brussels sprouts with their turkey at Christmas.  I found this great recipe for Au gratin Brussels Sprouts because I am a firm believer that everything tastes better with cheese.

Gratin brussels sprouts

photo credit: @CorkForkPassport

Alternatively, you could just roast brussels sprouts together with the squash and onions.  This option is healthier and easier but is it as tasty??  I will always choose cheese. Always.

If you have gluten-free participants at your meal, why not try this delicious gluten-free sausage stuffing?  I, for one, absolutely love the stuffing and the sides.  It’s a fairly open secret in my family that the turkey will be the smallest portion on my plate.

gluten free sausage stuffing

photo credit: @KarinSheets via Gluten-Free Mom

What would a Thanksgiving dinner plate look like if it was done by one of the great modern artists like Picasso, Magritte or Dali?  This artist has a creative answer. Now you can rest easy knowing the answer and focus on eating.

TGS for Slate-Mondrian copy

A holiday feast wouldn’t be the same without wine would it?  After all, how much small talk can you make with your relatives before someone says something really annoying. I’m a firm believer that alcohol makes the extended family tolerable.

holiday workout with wine

I love me some chardonae-nae and I love this video.

And, onwards past Thanksgiving

If you feel like being gluttonous on our travels, check out this article which lists some the world’s most over the top meals.  No surprise, it lists Las Vegas hotels and their buffets.  Other options include a 40-course Dutch meal inspired by its colonial past (a Rijstaffel) or a smorgasbord in Sweden.  I’m so glad that not all of these meals are American!

Finally, something that we should remember which is highlighted at Thanksgiving but should be part of our attitudes all year round.  Feeling grateful and happy will make you feel positive about your life.  Maybe it’s tricking the brain into thinking all is well and good, but why not?

I wish you and your family all a blessed Thanksgiving.  See you next week!

This post is linked up with Travel Photo Thursday.

RTW Roundup #8:  Seven Deadly Sins

RTW Roundup #8: Seven Deadly Sins

Come be an arm-chair traveller and see what’s happening around the blog world. With this week’s RTW blog round up, the seven deadly sins came to mind.  For those of you who were too traumatised by the scene with Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box to remember the movie, Se7en, the seven deadly sins are:  envy, avarice, wrath, sloth, gluttony, lust and pride.

I have to admit that I have been inundated with a lot of Thanksgiving recipes this week in preparation for the holiday next week. I love Thanksgiving and I always overeat.  It was a small step from anticipating gluttony to the other deadly sins.

The Seven Deadly Sins Roundup

I’m envious of Dutch parenting.

The Netherlands shows that when the fathers get involved in parenting, everyone benefits.  Dutch kids have been called the happiest in the world and perhaps one reason is that they have a good relationship with both parents.

Dutch family biking

For example, Dutch fathers are entitled to one weekday at home with their kids, the so called ‘Daddy Day” or papadag.  I absolutely love this concept.  When my husband comes home early from work, he gets a hero’s reception from my children.  Surely, it would be better if they are so accustomed to spending time with their father that it doesn’t merit such excitement.

Pride could literally kill you in Victorian times.

Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum has an exhibit showing who clothing could be deadly in the 19th century.  For example, beaver-fur hats tainted with mercury lead to the term ‘mad as a hatter.’  In a world where most clothes were blue or yellow, everyone wanted emerald green clothes when a colourfast dye was created for this colour.  Unfortunately, the green dye contained the very toxic arsenic.  Oops.

A lusty mermaid logo

I’ve seen the Starbucks logo of the smiling twin-tailed mermaid on countless cups but have only recently found out where that Starbucks logo originated.  Although the logo has been streamlined through the years, the basics are the same – a bosomy, smiling twin-tailed mermaid.

starbucks cup

Starbucks and its sexy siren

Howard Schultz wanted it to represent Seattle’s sea-faring tradition and the seductiveness of coffee.  The original mermaid from medieval times though was more of a  siren and a warning against carnal pleasures.  I bet you can imagine what the symbolism behind the split twin tails was supposed to be.

Sorry Ireland you’ve got avarice

It’s simply unfair to other countries how many beautiful places there are in Ireland.  Check out these posts for aerial photos of the Wild Atlantic Way in Western Ireland and 15 things to see on a road trip in Ireland.  I’m thinking Ireland went back for seconds (and thirds) when beautiful places were being divvied out among the world.

castle in West Ireland

Remembering the wrath of a nation

I thought this post was a great explanation of Bonfire Night in England.  In 1605, an Italian Catholic tries to blow up Parliament, gets caught, tortured and killed.  Bonfires were lit to celebrate the foiling of this dastardly plot. Hundreds of years later, England is still celebrating with bonfires.

Fireworks over the Palace of Westminster

Much to my dog’s dismay, there are always fireworks on Bonfire Night.  I find this post on why you shouldn’t inflict your fireworks photos on other people amusing.  It’s true, unless you are a professional photographer with the right equipment, fireworks photos are generally rubbish.

Giving thanks with gluttony

I can’t wait for Thanksgiving next week. It’s my favourite holiday of the year.  None of the stress of buying presents at Christmas but all of the food.  My family is not in London and so it will be more a ‘friendsgiving’ with good friends.  Last year, my friend made this amazing pumpkin pie which looked fabulous because she put edible gold flecks in it.

pumpkin pie with flecks

I’m going to be trying out on perfecting my dessert offerings this year with this cool tip for amping up the pumpkin flavour for a pumpkin pie.  I also want to try out this recipe for pumpkin cheesecake as an alternative (or addition?) to pie.

I couldn’t believe these tips from a competitive eater on how to prepare for full-fledged gluttony at Thanksgiving.  Now that’s taking gluttony seriously!

You say sloth, I say R&R

I’d like to clock up some sloth at a quiet little bit of paradise like the beaches of Rio.  Wouldn’t it be the best place to sleep off a post-turkey triptophane coma?

Hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s round up!

The Weekly RTW Roundup Ed. 7: All Change

The Weekly RTW Roundup Ed. 7: All Change

Come be an arm-chair traveller and see what’s happening around the blog world. This week’s RTW blog round up looks at separating fact from fiction.  In the post about the Inca Trail Hike, I learned that Machu Picchu is now overrun with hordes of visitors but it is still a magical place.  I was saddened to learn about the mistreatment of animals for circuses and the impact on the local economy when a country falls out of favour with tourists.  On the plus side, I found a fantastic recipe for cheesy meatballs. If cheesy gooey meatballs don’t bring you comfort in times when it seems it’s all change, then I don’t know what will.

Onwards then…

An item on almost everyone’s bucket list

I’d love to do the Inca Trail Hike. On the other hand, I’ve suffered from altitude sickness in the past when I went skiing in Breckenridge.  This post separates fact from fiction on the Inca Trail Hike and is chock full of information. Yes, you can get delicious local food cooked for you on the trek but apparently people will be selling you cans of Pringles too.

Inca Trail Hike

Did anyone say comfort food?

Cheesy meatballs for pasta or sandwiches – Yum! I love meatballs and I love cheese so this is a win/win as far as I can tell.  If you are going with a carbfest, then you might as well go big.

Animal cruelty in the name of entertainment

Despite the cutefest that are the animals in the Madagascar movies, I absolutely hate traditional circuses. Here are some startling facts about how those poor animals are treated.  For example, baby elephants are separated from their mothers when they are less than 2 years old.  Then the baby elephants legs are tied together and they are forced to stand for 23 hours a day to break their spirit.  By the end of the 6 month breaking period, these elephants will do anything they are asked to do.  What kind of enjoyment can someone at a circus get from seeing these performing elephants knowing how they have been treated?

elephant and baby elephant

A festival to honour man’s best friend

I love dogs. My own dog is 13 years old next week.  As I have watched him grow older and the blindness and arthritis has set in, my heart is filled with sadness.  He has been my loyal companion through the years when disease and death visited our family several times.  I love this idea of a festival honouring dogs in Nepal – the Kukur Tihar. A Hindu festival that spreads out over 5 days, the dogs are garlanded and honoured with a tika on their foreheads.

Kukur dog festival Nepal

Consumerism as the new religion

The Bowery Boys tell the history of a New York City institution which started off as the an Episcopalian church in 1848.  Then it became Limelight, one of the hottest clubs in the city in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  I went to the Limelight after my senior prom in high school.  Back then having a club in a church was subversive and edgy.  Now the building is a retail space called the Limelight Shops.  The stores include a pizzeria, a gelateria and a Nike store.  It couldn’t get more mainstream and high end.  I feel so old.  But then again I have become mainstream and high end, too.

Limelight shops

photo credit: Limielight Shops

When tourism slows to a trickle

A thought provoking post on when tourism dies from Exploramum.  The money from tourism has a trickle down effect in the community.  I’m not talking about the type of tourism where you go to a fancy resort and stay put for a week or two.  All the money that resort makes tends to go into the business and the staff get a living wage (hopefully).

If you leave your resort, the guides, the drivers, the stores etc in the community get some of your tourism dollars straight into their pockets.  When a place falls out of favour with tourists for whatever reason, the community that relies on tourism money is left bereft as well.  The hotels and resorts may be able to soldier on but it’s the locals who are deprived of income that suffer the most.

I am reminded of my trip to Sharm el Sheikh in April with last week’s bombing of a Russian airplane from that resort.  In April, tourism was noticeably down with all the unrest in the Middle East. Now after the most recent disaster, locals who rely on tourism will be even more strapped for income.  An Egyptian blogger friend has written an article on why you should still visit Sharm el Sheikh.

Kenyan warrior sitting on the beach

Thanks for joining me again on this week’s edition of the weekly RTW blog round up. Sometimes things change but not all change is bad.


This post is linked up with Travel Photo Thursday and The Weekly Postcard.

The Weekly RTW Round Up Ed. 6:  Be Afraid

The Weekly RTW Round Up Ed. 6: Be Afraid

Come be an arm-chair traveller and see what’s happening around the blog world. This week’s RTW blog round up looks at spooky happenings all in honour of Halloween on October 31st and the Day of the Dead on November 1st and 2nd.  I’ll just refer to this as the Halloween Round Up because fitting in both festivals is way too much of a mouthful.

We started our Halloween festivities in Tokyo a whole week ago so let’s get onto the Halloween Round Up!

The Weekly RTW Roundup Be Afraid

A road trip to visit Annabelle, the horror doll.

Visiting the home of the doll that inspired Annabelle, that a 2014 film about a creepy homicidal old doll.  The movie based on a real doll that is currently on exhibit at an occult museum in Connecticut.

I know my daughter will not be visiting Annabelle doll.  When we were in Japan, we went to Joypolis, an indoor amusement park which had a spectacle based on creepy dolls coming to life.  Even though we did not understand a word of what was going on (it was in Japanese), my daughter screamed her head off. She has since admitted that she finds dolls scary, even her American Girl doll.  I’m going to have to chalk this up as a Big Parenting Fail.scary doll

Bread of the Dead to Send You Into a Carb Coma

The special bread made for Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico looks fairly scrumptious even though it is supposed to have bread-shaped ‘bones’ laid across the top.  Did you know the two day celebration of people who have lived is split into two parts (the first day for remembering children who died and the second day commemorating deceased adults).  Here is a recipe if you are interested in make Bread of the Dead.  This bread is often eaten with hot chocolate – yum!!

Day of the Dead Bread

Why You Need Lyft for Halloween

You can get a (pretend) Zombie to drive you around the city courtesy of Lyft, another taxicab alternative and pretender to Uber’s throne.  Unfortunately, you need to be in New York or San Francisco.  I’m hoping other cabs will take this idea forward and make it global!

zombie driver

Please, Spare Us These Costumes

I couldn’t do a Halloween Roundup without mentioning costumes.  I assume all of you have way too much taste to wear these costumes.  Some questionable costumes being offered this year including Sexy Donald Trump (yes! really!) and Sexy Cecil the Lion.  Is it me or does this look like Jennifer Aniston with Trump crossover?  Save the $70 and your dignity.

Donna T. Rumpshaker


Great Last Minute Costumes

Are you a last minute costume person?  I usually am because I dither so much.  I love this round-up of witty costumes that you can create with stuff found in the kitchen.  I’m not sure these ideas will get you far with the kids.  They are just the ticket though if you need to have a costume yet want to appear nonchalantly cool.  Even the most recalcitrant man should be able to pull of Chip on the Shoulder with panache.  Bonus:  The chips are a handy treat for post-alcohol induced munchies.

Scary Times in the Sea

You should go cage-diving with sharks because apparently seeing sharks up close and personal is a fascinating experience.  My son wanted to go shark cage-diving in South Africa.  He nominated my husband who was less than enthusiastic to go with him.  Thank goodness, it wasnt me.  We convinced a tour guide to tell him though that they didn’t take kids less than 12 years old.  (Apparently there was no minimum age requirement).  My husband is spared the cage-diving experience for a few more years.

great white shark

Drinking Fake Blood Just Because

When I first read this post, I assumed it was a good way to make fake blood as a prop (to scare some kids!).  No, this recipe is for drinking blood for when you want to be a vampire but prefer to drink from a cup.  Go figure.

blood sample in a test tube


I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of The Weekly RTW Round up! See you next week.

This post is linked up with The Weekly Postcard and the Weekend Travel Inspiration.


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The Weekly RTW Roundup Ed. 5: Celebrating Differences

The Weekly RTW Roundup Ed. 5: Celebrating Differences

Come be an arm-chair traveller and see what’s happening around the blog world. This week’s RTW blog round up features shopping in Singapore, street food in Kuala Lumpur and celebrating your ancestor’s in Latin America with Day of the Dead festivals which are coming up in November.

In the US, the national holiday of Columbus Day was this Monday past.  I learned some shocking facts about Columbus.  Finally, we look at parenting in Sweden and a bittersweet memory of a mother who has a child with Down’s Syndrome while she is attending the wedding of another one of her children.

weekly RTW blog roundup

Shopaholics in Singapore

I love discovering off-beat places where the local shops. I had no idea that fashion bloggers in Singapore opened up their own blogshops to sell clothes that they market.  And, no these aren’t dodgy at all! For example, Love Bonito started as a blogshop and is now a multinational company.  What am I doing wrong??

shopping in Singapore

 Munching Malaysian Food

I think possibly I like food too much and clothes not enough.  I loved this post from Dish Our Town looking at all the different food options in multi-cultural Kuala Lumpur.  You get Arab food on Arab street, Danish beer, dim-sum and Indian roti all in one city.  Or, you can just have one dish, Nasi Malek, which captures the influences of Arab, Malay, Indian and Chinese food.

Columbus Day Without Rose-Tinted Spectacles

I must be really naive because I kind of thought Christopher Columbus was this adventurous hero that my grade-school textbooks told me he was.  Of course, I heard rumblings over the years that a lot of his history was whitewashed. This article from The Oatmeal about Christopher Columbus spells it all out for you.

a statue of Christopher Columbus

Columbus was all about carting as much gold as he could back to Spain.  He was brutal with the natives in the never-satisfied gold lust.  He brutalised the natives, feeding warriors to dogs and giving young girls to his lieutenants as sex slaves.  Columbus exported so much gold that the gold trade from Africa was stunted. So the Africans moved onto selling slaves to make money.  Columbus Day itself only hails from the 1930’s when an influential pressure group lobbied for it to happen.

Celebrating Your Ancestors

Onto a holiday that is more positive.  Want to talk to your kids about Day of the Dead celebrations?  They are coming up on November 1st and 2nd.  It’s got nothing to do with Halloween but more about celebrating your ancestors.  This post has information in both Spanish and English and also colouring pages if your kids want to decorate.

day of the dead skulls

I think this idea is very touching.  Without our great+ grandfathers and grandmothers we’d not be here now.  And, of course, they are losts to the mists of time. Of course, if we all had zillions of dollars we’d build memorials like Rockefeller Center where our great-grandfather’s name would be on the lips of thousands of tourists and never be forgotten.  On the other hand, Day of the Dead honours the simple lives of important people in a person’s own life.

All About Swedish Parenting

I learned some surprising things about parenting in Sweden from this post by Angelina de Mello, a ballet dancer from the USA who lives in Sweden.  For example, most people have heard of the family-friendly approach to maternity leave.   Did you know  though that not only does it come to about 16 months off but you can spread that over the first 12 years of a child’s life??  How very progressive.

Swedish family

Parenting in Sweden does have down-sides too as Angelina mentions. For example, the Law of Jante means that no one is better than anyone else.  So, it’s very hard to encourage individuality or people to step out from the herd.  I’m pretty sure that would drive me crazy. What do you think?

The Future of Special Children

As a mother, I know I worry about what will happen to my children in the future.  I’m pretty sure most mothers do.  I thought this post from Tammy was especially touching.  Tammy was at the wedding of one of her children when someone asked her about her youngest child, Parker.

baby with Down's Syndrome

Parker has Down’s Syndrome and may never marry or have his own family.  It’s a reality that Tammy has to accept but she chooses to focus on the positive aspects of life for her son.  He is a happy, kind child who will live his life surrounded by people who care about him even if he never sets up his own nuclear family.

The Dreaded Jet Lag

On a different type of health issue, this article has some healthy tips on how to cope with jet lag.  Jet lag is caused by a flight’s direction and not its length.  Going east is hell for me so returning to London after a summer in the USA sends my body into a tailspin.  On the other hand, when we went to South Africa from London we went due South.  There was no time difference – we spent 12 hours in the plane and landed 12 hours later.  We all felt surprisingly fine.

The Weekly RTW Round up Ep 5

The Weekly RTW Roundup Takes A Bow

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s edition of The Weekly RTW Round-up!  See you next week.


This post is linked up with Travel Tales.