Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Meeting Tom Cruise and a review of his new movie Oblivion

Grandma got extremely excited recently when a 'congratulations' e-mail arrived from Universal films.

Universal had been running a competition to coincide with the European launch of the new Tom Cruise movie - Oblivion. The premier was taking place in Dublin and the competition prize was amazing - collection from home in a private car, transported to Farnborough airport for a private plane to Dublin, a meal at Chapter One Restaurant, an overnight stay at the Westbury Hotel on Grafton Street, spending money and best of all the opportunity to meet the star of the movie - Tom Cruise.
The Red Carpet and crowds waiting for the arrival of Tom Cruise

Each individual part of this prize would have been stunning but the complete package was incredible. Check out Grandma & Grumps below posing in front of the plane. Quite a departure from the usual rush to get a seat on Ryanair! Apparently this was the plane used by George Michael on his most recent tour of the UK.

When the plane 'parked' in Dublin it was alongside Tom Cruise's own plane. No early glimpse of the star at the airport though.
Grandma and Grumps decide what they will spend their lottery winnings on (if they ever win!)
Then it was limo's all the way in Dublin - how to make people feel like stars!

An upmarket alternative to the usual airport transfer
All of these amazing experiences were of course leading up to the main event. Meeting Tom Cruise and then watching the new movie at the premiere. There were lots of nerves on show as the lucky winners assembled at Tom's hotel but when the man himself arrived in the 'meet and greet' room he was a delight - happy to chat to everyone, talking about what he had been doing during the day (visiting the Guiness factory) and generally being charming and friendly.

Ignore all the rubbish you've read about him being small - he's perfect. Grandma is pleased to report that he wasn't too 'Hollywood glossy'. He looked well groomed but natural with a lovely glow but not the fakeness that might be expected of a Hollywood star.

Here's the amazing photo of Grumps, Grandma and Tom Cruise. Grandma refuses to admit what her right hand was doing ;-)

Grumps, Tom Cruise and Grandma - look at those smiles!
So, enough about the build up - what was the movie actually like?

Well, we have conflicting views. Grandma liked it and Grumps didn't understand it! Although Grandma thought it was a clever movie with plenty of twists and turns right up to the last few minutes, Grumps and the rest of the winners were more cautious. Grandma spent the Limo ride back to the aiport explaining the movie to everyone, so unless you are a sci-fi fan the plot of this film could leave you wondering what was going on.

Oblivion is set in the future when Earth has been destroyed and Tom Cruise plays a character who resides on a space platform and returns to the Earth's surface to clean up debris. On one of his trips to Earth he discovers that his understanding of how Earth was destroyed is completely false and he begins to learn the meaning of flashbacks he is having from before his memory was wiped to maintain security.

I'm obviously not going to give away the plot here, other than to say that when the movie appears to be ending there is still another twist to come.

Oblivion is in cinemas from April 10th. If you are a sci fi fan, go and enjoy it. If you're not a sci fi fan - be prepared to be confused!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Ask a question for a Chance to Win a Bike!

picture taken from Jenny Craig website

To celebrate the launch of the new Jenny Craig website and blog, those lovely folk at are giving people the chance to win a £400 contribution towards a new bike and other amazing prizes.

How? How? I hear you shout. 

It’s so easy. All they want are your diet and nutrition questions for their blog! If you’d like to have a go you can find out more on their blog here:

Jenny Craig are an online site with weight management experts who can tailor a diet to suit your own needs. 

In the coming months they will be answering all questions on their blog, so if you’ve always wondered if a certain food myth was true or what you should be ordering off a restaurant menu when on a diet, now is your chance to find out!

I’ve mentioned before on my blog that I’m vegetarian by choice and gluten free by necessity. This means that I’m incredibly restricted in the foods I can eat. I’m not actually a huge fan of food. Probably because of the restrictions on my diet! 

I remember once when my best friend and I were driving home from a long day at work and she was drooling over the thought of what she would have for dinner. She asked what I would have and I replied that I didn’t really care.

She then asked, if I could have anything at all for my ‘last meal' what would it be? I thought for a while and then said – ‘Actually I can’t think of anything in particular. I’m not that bothered about food.’ My friend nearly drove into a ditch! She was horrified at the thought that anyone could be so disinterested in food.

Because of this disinterest in food, I genuinely don’t eat much. I know everyone who is overweight probably says that but I honestly don’t! 

I know for a fact that I don’t over-eat because I have to keep a diet diary for the dietician at my hospital and she agrees that I eat healthily.

So I’m actually quite keen on finding a diet and nutrition plan that sends the right foods to my door to help me lose weight. Jenny Craig sounds ideal! 

So, here is my question for their blog (and I really, really hope their experts have the answer!) 

Considering my already restricted diet (i.e. vegetarian and gluten free), do you have a diet plan I could follow to help me lose weight? 

I'll be eagerly checking the blog for their answer! 

Friday, 31 August 2012

Blog to Japan

Japan is such a mysterious country, somewhere I have never had the opportunity to visit, but I'm intrigued by the mystique and would absolutely love to go.

So it's no surprise that I'm attracted to this fantastic competition from InsideJapan Tours & Virgin Atlantic where the prize is the chance to blog around Japan. The concept of the competition is "to capture a first-time traveller’s reactions in real-time, via digital media, and use the material to inspire others to go to Japan."

Wow! what an amazing opportunity, so here goes with my reasons for wanted to visit!

Reason 1: The People
This summer I've been lucky enough to meet lots of Japanese visitors who arrived in my home city to support their country's football team at the Olympic Games. I was one of the ambassadors on duty when Japan played in Coventry and I must have posed with hundreds of tourists - so my photo is now stored in so many Japanese camera's and mobile phones!

I took a few picture myself. Including these shots of fans, dressed up to support their team and more than willing to stop for a chat on their way to the games.

 One brilliant encounter I had with a Japanese fan left me smiling for the rest of the day. A Japanese guy was wheeling a huge suitcase past the stadium and I approached and told him that unfortunately the case wouldn't be admitted as it was too large. After much gesticulating (from both me and him) I understood that he had just arrived in the city and was actually looking for his hotel.
I was able to direct him to the hotel and before he left he indicated that he wanted to buy a gift for someone at home and showed me a photo on his phone of the item he wanted to buy. I thought it was brilliant that he had come all the way to the UK and wanted to take home some Happy Hippo biscuits! He was thrilled when I assured him that he could buy some from the supermarket next to the stadium!

So my number 1 reason for wanting to visit Japan is the people! I absolutely loved the opportunity to chat to them and found they were so friendly and excited to be part of such an amazing sporting event.
If I was blogging my way around Japan I'd be chatting to anyone and everyone!

Reason number 2: Technology

Although it’s a stereotype, Grumps always teases me that I’m like a Japanese tourist whenever we visit anywhere new, because my camera is always in hand and I’m usually snapping photos of anything and everything.  As a former Technology Change Manager I love gadgets and new inventions. So one of the things I adore about the Japanese is their love affair with cameras. I can remember the old style camera that needed to be loaded with 'film' and Fuji was always a favourite brand in our house.

Now, I've obviously moved on to digital and although my little Olympus digital is at the inexpensive end of the camera scale, I still believe that the best camera equipment in the world comes from Japan.

When I've saved enough money I intend to buy the best Canon camera that money can buy. After all, if I'm going to be taking so many photos, it's only right to take them with my prefered technology brand. 

So reason number 2 for loving Japan (and wanting to visit) is because they have provided me with the technology to partake in my two favourite pastimes - taking photo's and sharing them with everyone via my laptop!

Reason number 3: The Environment
I have a confused mental image of Japan.  Part of me dreams of glorious Pagoda's set in acres of greenery, while another part of me imagines high rise buildings in bustling cities. I still shudder at the images of last year's earthquake in Fukushima and of people sheltering in doorways as windows smashed around them.

A friend (and former work colleague) was working in Fukushima at the time of the quake and I was so relieved to hear from him that he had escaped unharmed.
So reason number 3 for wanting to visit Japan is to see which of my mental images is correct. Would I see gorgeous temples and shrines such as the one above (picture borrowed from Google Images from a website called or would I be stunned by cityscapes?

Reason number 4: The Written Word
While I was volunteering as an olympic ambassador this summer I thought I'd be really clever and learn some Japanese so I could converse with fans. I soon gave up on that idea!
I wanted to know the Japanses word for umbrella (well, we were in the middle of the wettest British summer ever!) and I thought it would be brilliant to be able to explain that umbrella's were not allowed in the stadium.
I typed 'umbrella' into a translation tool and laughed out loud when the following was returned: 

 Needless to say, my attempt to speak Japanese ended there! But what an amazing written language! So reason number 4 for wanting to visit is because I would love to learn what some of these amazing symbols mean. (I did actually ask one fan how to say 'Hello' and they told me 'Moshi Moshi'. I thought they were joking until I got home and googled it and it really does mean 'Hi' so for the remaining matches I 'Moshi, moshi'd' to everyone - it generated lots of smiles!)

Reason number 5: Culture
When I was young, I often visited an aunt who had lived in Japan for a while and I was always fascinated by the pictures and ornaments she had from her time there. Two of the words I always remember from my visits to her house were 'Bonsai' - the minature trees that most people have heard of, and 'Ikebana' - the Japanese term for very stylised flower arranging.

My Aunt loved to talk to me about the silk pictures she had and the tiny trees and flower arrangements. So reason number 5 for wanting to visit would be to recapture some of those memories and view Bonsai and Ikebana in their home country.

Reason number 6: Anime

OK, I admit it, I'm still addicted to 'cartoons'. Most people will know of Pokemon which obviously uses the basic concepts of anime, the styles of drawing, the big eyes and the very bright colours. I'm a huge fan of Manga art and anime series such as Fullmetal Alchemist.
I have spent many happy hours lying on the floor with Piper as she tried to copy or trace characters from Japanese Anime, so reason number 6 for wanting to visit Japan is to be in my spiritual cartoon home! I really want to be a Pokeman! (Although the picture above obviously isn't a Pokemon)

Reason number 7: My car & the Japanese motor industry
When I gave up work I also had to give back my company car, which was a convertible mini cooper. So I went looking for another 'sporty' car. Somehow I ended up with the least sporty car you can imagine - a Nissan Note! 

When I look back at my choice of car I realise that something was guiding me to buy a practical car. Obviously now, when I'm trying to fit Piper and Daisy's car seats and buggy in the boot along with a load of shopping, or when I'm taking my Dad out and need to also take his wheelchair or mobility scooter, I'm so grateful to have a car with plenty of passenger and boot space!
Living in the middle of the UK, I'm also very aware of the dwindling UK motor industry. So Reason number 7 for visiting Japan is to see what percentage of cars on their roads are 'home made' i.e. Japanese!

 Reason Number 8: Cuisine
When I think of Japanese food I think immediately of Sushi. As a vegetarian I obviously wouldn't eat fish, but I have seen some amazing vegetarian sushi creations on the web. For example there are some amazing instructions for rolling vegetarian sushi here at the 'instructables' website 

There are few countries in the world where a vegetarian diet is accepted as widely as in Japan. Clearly having rice as a staple food makes eating in this country much easier than in some places where meat is seen as a necessity. 
So my 8th reason for visiting Japan would be to experience the cuisine and find out more ideas for rolling veggie sushi!

Reason number 9: Life expectancy
Ok, so I can't really post a photo for this reason but I'm really intrigued by the fact that Japan has the second highest life expectancy of any country in the world. Why? That's what I want to know!
Could it be the cuisine? Or possibly that they just have an overall healthier way of life? I really have no idea - hence reason number 9 for wanting to visit - to find out what they are doing right - so I can do it myself!

Reason number 10: Geography
 For many years I thought Japan was a single island nation. To be honest, as a child I remember seeing the place name 'Kyoto' and thinking that someone had just mixed up the letters of Tokyo! Gradually I realised that there was more than one island - but it was a long, long time before I learned that the country was actually made up of 6,852 islands!

What an amazing thought! When I consider that people in the UK from various counties are so different, I wonder whether residents of the populated islands of Japan think of themselves as having a unique identity.
So reason number 10 would be to visit as many of the islands as possible and meet as many of the people to see what similarities and differences they have.

Reason number 11: Technology part 2

I know I've already commented on cameras but technology is so close to my heart that I really do have to return to it! Since the very first time I saw it I've been in love with ASIMO, the amazing robot from Honda.

I am so amazed by the technology involved in creating a humanoid robot that has better balance and spacial awareness than I have! I love, love, love it!
So reason number 11 for wanting to visit Japan is to sneek a peek at what other humanoid robots they have. If I could bring one home with me I'd leave everything else behind in order to smuggl it into my luggage!

Reason number 12: Grumps
Like me, Grumps is a complete travel junkie! Like me, Grumps has never visited Asia. Like me, Grumps would love to visit Japan.
It really is no wonder that we call this poor chap 'Grumps'. He works his socks off then comes home and plays happily with Piper and Daisy before frequently dropping off to sleep at the most inopportune times - for example here when he was 'playing with Daisy'!

I've listed my first 11 reasons why I'd love to visit Japan, but my 12th reason is because Grumps would be the perfect partner for all of those reasons. 
1. People; He picks up on personality traits that I completely miss and often spots things happening that I would be totally oblivious to!
2. Technology; he ALWAYS presses the wrong button! As per the picture below when he tried to take a self portrait with his passport - typical blurred shot because he doesn't read the instructions!
3. Environment; I genuinely have never known anyone happier to look at flora and fauna when we go away on holiday. He loves to find new plants and then learn all the details about how he could grow them at home.
4. The written word; Grumps has such a knack for retaining squiggles and symbols. When we went to Greece he could look at a Greek word once and remember it for the rest of the holiday. I'd love to try him with Japanese!
5. Culture; Grumps is possibly the least cultured person you could imagine, but his only crafty aptitude is an ability to do origami! I can imagine he would return from Japan as an expert paper folder!
6. Anime; Grumps' idea of a good cartoon is Bugs bunny! He just doesn't 'get' anime. I hope that by taking him to the home of Anime I might convert him!
7. Cars; The biggest car fan ever! Grumps can identify a car manufacturer from 100 metres! Every new car he sees is like a new toy! He would be absolutely in his element in Japan.
8. Cuisine; Grumps is also a vegetarian but he is much more open to trying new foods than I am. He would adore trying new foods in Japan.
9. Life Expectancy; this is the biggy for me. I want Grumps to live forever! So anything we could do to increase his life expectancy would be a fantastic bonus.
10. Geography; My map reading skills are none existant, and my sense of direction is definitely missing. Grumps on the other hand can look at the sky and know which way is North, or which direction we need to move in. I'd truly be lost without Grumps alongside me in Japan!
11. Technology part 2; Grumps refuses to believe that ASIMO is real. He is convinced that there is soneone inside a robot suit. I'd love to prove him wrong.

Well, that's it, my reasons for wanting to visit Japan. I hope the guys at  InsideJapan Tours and Virgin Atlantic enjoy reading it.  My fingers are well and truly crossed!

Inspired by Tuscany

What do I love about Tuscany? The food, the people, the places, the atmosphere, the history….shall I go on?

 Every year as we are planning our holiday Grumps asks where I’d like to go, and I always ask ‘Can we go back to Florence?’ So far my pleas have been in vain, but one of these times I will be prepared with accommodation ideas from villas in Tuscany.

On our last visit we arrived in Florence by train as we were on a cruise around the Med. We docked in Livorno and took a train to Florence. Unfortunately because Livorno is a couple of hours from Florence, this cut down our browsing time considerably. 

Sadly on that visit we didn’t have time to visit the Uffizi Gallery, which was a real shame because the gallery hosts some amazing art, including Michaelangelo’s ‘David’.

I took these pictures outside while I was trying to work out whether to join the queue for entry or spend more time wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. The streets won!

I love the shops, particularly those positioned along the  Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence across the Arno River near the Uffizi Gallery.I left a few sticky finger and nose marks on the windows of the jewellery shops, lusting over the gorgeous gold and dazzling diamonds.

Another inspirational building in Florence is the facade of Santa Maria Novella. I absolutely love the intricacy of the patterns and how symmetrical the building is.

The architecture in Florence is stunning. If I was just starting out on a career path now I’d love to be an engineer or an architect because I love to know how things are planned and built. I’m always fascinated by Brunelleschi's dome (the Duomo of Florencebecause at the time, his technique of building an unsupported dome was completely ground breaking.I'd love ot understand the techniques he used, but as I don't have any architectural expertise I just look at it and wonder.....

Anyway, enough dreaming of our last visit!

I’ve been checking out the accommodation available from villas in Tuscany and I’m armed and ready with details of a fabulous converted barn, within walking distance of the centre of Florence. Check it out here:

Sadly, my holiday for this year is already booked (and it's not back to Florence, or even to Tuscany), instead we are soon off to Lanzarote. I'm sure it will be great, but equally sure it won't provide half as much inspiration as Tuscany does! 

I wrote this post as an entry to a competition hosted on a fabulous website called Tuscany Now. Check out details of the competition here.  Fingers crossed!