Monday, 19 September 2016

Weight Loss Plateau? Can A Month of Working Out Be The Cause?

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and confused.  I have read about and had anecdotal conversations with others about the last ten pounds-in my case fourteen.  They are supposed to be the toughest and right now, I totally agree.  I can't get over how that number on the scale tries to and has often ruled my emotions.  You know, when it goes down you feel awesome, when it goes up you feel dreadful.  I have come to grips with this slowly, aiming to remind myself that it is only a number and does not define ME.  But, darn it, sometimes it is so hard to keep this positive mantra only in your thoughts-and today is one of those days.
I just crept off of the scale and for the third week running, I have maintained.  I even went to the bathroom and came back-maintained.  Pushed the scale around, maintained.  Screamed at it to be honest-maintained.  I know, I know-obsession, much?  But the thing is, I gave myself a goal to lose the fourteen pounds by Christmas and I factored in a few weekend city breaks and half term vacation. I should have dropped two pounds by now, at least.  I know, I know as well that the body doesn't know it's duty sometimes, like it has a mind of its own.  But even Slimming World on line keeps asking me if I want to start over?!  I don't that is for sure, 132 pounds to go back, but even though I know I should pat myself on the back-and I am.  They seemed much easier to lose (not in reality it was tough) but, boy do I feel for us who are nearly there-a place I have never been to might be why I am so frustrated?
I want to blame working out-is this right though?  I started a month ago and have been keeping it up each week attending two Pilates sessions-one is fat burning and uses HIT techniques-I never thought I would love burpies!  Well, my current version anyway.  A kettlercise class-which I am hooked on.  I even purchased two for at home.  Plus gym sessions on my own.  I do look a little leaner, but that might be the exercise tights?  I have researched a lot on line, one Denis Faye-Science Director for Beach Body makes sense when stating that muscle is being built faster than fat is burning.  But in only a month?  One key theme everyone seems to write is to be patient.  I get that, I just haven't got it yet!
So what to do?  I am going to really stay in step with my combination of intermittent fasting and the Slimming World eating plan.  I have to admit, I am in my 50's now so recovering from a few days of indulgence will take longer.  I also have to admit that I have not been drinking enough water-so I'll step that up.  I know that I have lost all of my weight so far without any real form of exercise-apart from trying to do 10,000 steps a day, and even then, I was never consistent.  I need to develop muscle to sustain my weight loss, feel better and be healthier.
I am not sure the plateau is due to exercising, but I do now I am not about to stop.  I just love the way I feel after a session-I love that I, in my maturity, realize that I am only in competition with myself.   So 'self' keep it up and revisit your progress in another month.  In the mean time-relax and know that this plateau will pass-just don't give up.

Volup Vavoom,


Sunday, 18 September 2016

36 Hours in #Geneva #WeekendCityBreaks Rock!

Last year we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with an Elvis renewal ceremony in Las Vegas among our family and friends; so, how could we top such an outlandish and garishly glamorous event?  By doing just the opposite with a weekend break in the city of peace.     Geneva was just the ticket.  One criteria was finding late evening flights; so, we flew direct with Easy Jet, opting to splurge a bit extra for seat allocation with extra leg room.  What the heck, we went all out and for a fee of £4.00 per person bought access to the Fast Track at Manchester Airport-this saved some time because Friday nights can get pretty crowded.  Once air side, we had more than enough time to visit the lounge using our Priority Passes which we get as part of American Express Platinum Card.  We travel a great deal, and this card is fabulous for travel insurance, car rental insurance and other travelers perks.  Well worth the annual fee (I know it is extortionate, but we have definitely found it invaluable on many occasions!). I intermittently fasted on Friday to keep the weekend damage to a minimum, so a few after a few delightful glasses of wine and cheese with crackers, we were off.   With carry on luggage only, our exit after arrival was seamless.  The weather was set to be glorious at 28 degrees so I just packed jeans, a short and a long sleeved shirt, two dresses (one long and one short), comfortable Gizah Birkenstocks and a pair of flat gold sandals.  My plane outfit of trousers, light knit top, short boots and a blazer kept me warm during the flights there and back. 

Geneva is geared up to make things easy for visitors.  We grabbed free bus tickets just before we left the baggage area-be sure to get them prior to exiting through customs.  Bus number 5 was easy to find with signs leading you to all bus stops.   It was 9.30 pm when we arrived and were at the front desk of our hotel before 10.00 pm.  The bus stopped right outside of the Intercontinental Hotel. Upon check in, all hotels in Geneva issue their guests with a 'Geneva Transport Card' for the duration of your stay and it is brilliant.    Another top tip if you travel a great deal is to join your favourite hotel brand's reward scheme. We had booked the two nights using points because hotels in Geneva are expensive-no two ways around that.  We also are Ambassadors and another definite purchase if you are loyal to IHG hotels.  With a purchase of rooms you are guaranteed an upgrade, with points it is at the hotels discretion.  Remarkably, we were upgraded to a fantastic room with a view of the lake.   OK fantastic is a bit overkill, it was small-especially the bathroom, but the bed was big and comfortable.    We stayed in the hotel after we settled in wanting an early night to be ready for a full day of adventure. To be honest, because we had such a wonderful view of the Jet d'eau, we sat with home made cocktails (purchased at the airport after security) gazing happily at the twinkling lights of the city. 
After a great nights sleep on that bed, we rose early, enjoyed a cup of hotel coffee-committed to that intermittent fasting until fondue and beer in the afternoon!  Despite having free transport,  Geneva is pretty compact as a city and so we opted to walk from our hotel on the hill.  There are a plethora websites about what to do in Geneva, and some offer a selection of City Guide Aps.  We just headed towards the lake via several landmarks and breweries!   Our first stop not far from the hotel was the United Nations  and the 'Broken Chair'.   It was quite emotional and it felt right to begin here as the sense of peace stayed with us as we walked throughout the day.  We headed down towards the lake with the Jet d'eau as our point of reference. We ended up near the main station which was surrounded by pedestrian only streets lined with cafes full of people enjoying the warm weather.   I enjoyed the many sculptures pretty much everywhere we walked-the female sphinx made me happy-she had a partner with a broken nose.   Well, we found Les Brasseurs a bit earlier than the afternoon and I caved.  Ah well, what is a city break without enjoying the cultural eats on offer?!  
We ordered beer brewed on site.  I had a wheat beer with lime, my husband a darker ale.  And, yes, they were expensive; but, once we calculated the exchange rate-not that far off of London prices.  The fondue was presented warm and soon bubbled with the heat of the flame.  It was sinfully delicious.  We tried to follow the etiquette of scrapping the bread with cheese off onto a plate and not eating it from the dipping fork-that lasted a few seconds.  It was interesting to be served and then promptly forgotten.  Tips are not required because they automatically include about 8% as a gratuity.    But, in most of the places we went to, we found it the same.  I waited tables in the states for ten years, and I did wonder why there wasn't an 'up sale' to increase the amount of service-but, it just wasn't important.  But, when we were ready to go, getting the bill was promptly handled by any server. Once full of fuel, we headed down to the lake and took a water taxi with our free transport card across to the Vieille Ville-Old Town.  What an experience-firstly it was free and secondly, the views were awesome.  The captain of the taxi was handsomely suited with a kind smile and eyes.  Once across the lake we walked along the promenade towards the Flower Clock and wandered through the gardens and park area before making our way to the concrete jetty that leads to the Jet d'eau fountain pump.  I can't really express how peaceful and nice it was.  I just felt like I was miles away from any cares or concerns.  It was so relaxing just walking and taking in the beauty of the landscape and the people.  When we walked down the jetty to the fountain I felt like a kid and I tried to capture a picture of the water shooting upwards, but I failed terribly-the picture above does not really express the feeling, but maybe you can get the feel of it?  Part of me was hoping the wind would dramatically change and we would get drenched-and, I was secretly bummed when it didn't!  After this we headed up the hill to the old town.  We made our way through a maze of cobbled streets and were surprised to figure out we went right through it!  It is a small area with beautiful buildings and a few cafes; sadly we couldn't stop to have a drink because we didn't have any cash.   We did try to find a bank, and funnily enough-in Switzerland, couldn't find one!  We continued to walk through the main shopping area, the vibrant and fashionable parallel streets of Rue du Rhone and Rue du Marche.  Off of Rue to Rhone we stopped at Place du Molard and went into Brasserie du Molard.   The sound of languages from all over the world struck me as did the peaceful and yet lively atmosphere of people enjoying time off with friends and family. Unfortunately we were really ignored in the Brasserie which was a shame as the beer was good and we wanted to try several of their in house brew.  Ah well, nothing would break the over all feeling of calm.  We found a bus station not far from the shopping area, grabbed number 5 and headed back up the hill to our hotel for a short nap before dinner.  As you know if you read my blog posts I have lupus and fibromyalgia, so resting a little in between activities is a must!  For dinner we walked five minutes to Cafe du Soleil and what a spectacular meal it was-you can read my Trip Advisor Review.  It was perfect, the walk, the setting, the garden, the food and drinks, the staff...completely recommend if you are in Geneva.  We were lucky to find a table, reservations are a better bet.   Like another reviewer states, 'Must have fondue and steak with fries.'  We did and they were totally accurate!We had a late checkout for 4 pm- another benefit of Ambassador status!  I tell you it is worth it!  We spent the morning and early afternoon by the pool reading and drinking cappuccinos.  It was warm, sunny and felt totally decadent. The staff were warm, polite and did everything to ensure we were comfortable.  Feeling totally recharged we made our way to our room and prepared to make our journey home to rainy Manchester.  Within minutes of getting to the bus stop we were on our way to the airport.  We were only away for 36 hours and yet it felt like a lot longer.  I love being able to fly from Manchester to European destinations within hours.  Geneva was welcoming, peaceful, beautiful and a perfect place to celebrate 21 years of marriage.  I highly recommend this compact city of culture.  I know we didn't see all that Geneva has to offer-but we had to save some things for the next time!
Volup Vavoom,

PS.  I used my French while in Geneva.  Many will speak in English, but it is best to try and speak in French first-even just a few words will make a difference!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

How I Lost Over 130 Pounds and How I Plan to Get to Goal #WeightLossJourney

I remember when returning from most vacations meant bringing back wonderful memories, magnets for the fridge, an odd statue, museum prints to frame and at least seven pounds for every two weeks away.  Not this time!  After a month travelling the USA I brought back most of the items-but not the fourteen pounds, in fact I only put on one and a half pounds.  I also brought back a bag loaded with Victoria Secret sports bras and makeup from Sephora ready to workout and look glam as I tackle the small gain and finally get to my new revised goal of 155 pounds.  While away, many beautiful women I met (including my sisters) wanted to know, 'How did you do it?'
At over 300 pounds (see right) I was pretty miserable and have blogged about the pain of trying to accept that this might be how I am for life coupled with society and their double standards for beauty.  At any weight I always felt beautiful and much of that is because I am blessed with a husband who as my best friend, never once remarked with negativity and only viewed me with eyes filtered by love.  I know this sounds corny, but...well it is true.  I hurt for women who express how their partners put them down even as far as giving them ultimatums, 'Lose the weight or lose me.'  It is only too easy to advise them to lose the partner-but, in reality this is not easy.  I know all too well the vulnerable moments when fear of never attracting anyone else will keep you in unhealthy relationships.  I seem to have digressed-the emotional aspects of weight continue to loom, to strike up conversation even in our moments of triumph.  I feel that more than anything else my weight loss journey had to be my own and entirely for my benefit.  Because of this belief, I wrapped myself in my own arms and said, 'It is time.'   I stopped trying to fit into a 'diet' and learned to 'biohack'.
Biohacking for me was a long process-it didn't just happen the day I spoke the words.  I did a lot of research listening to pod casts, reviewing studies, reading books, watching YouTube clips, keeping a diary of moods and foods, practising 'mindful eating', applying CBT (The Beck Diet Solution is great) and managing my ups and downs.  At first I went to Weight Watchers and lost fifty pounds.  I gained them back but returned to lose them again-you know how we sometimes do that!  After the second time, I started to implement strategies.  I learned my body and mind were drawn naturally to good food.  What a relief!  I also learned that keeping goodies in the house made me weak during times when I was bored.  Solution, no goodies-if I wanted the Ben and Jerry's, I would have to go and get it.  I began to talk to myself more-inside my head.  Okay, I have always talked to myself out loud-but I started to coach myself internally.  Especially reminding myself that: one bite might just be enough, it was okay not to finish the whole plate, saying no was not mean, it is fine if I go ahead and splurge as long as I get back on it the next day.  I also loved the 5:2 diet and the medical research behind it.  The only issue was I maintained my weight-which is a great issue after yo, yo dieting.  So, for about two years I kept off 75 pounds.  I felt pretty secure in my biohacking methods but needed to move to a better level of weight loss so I joined Slimming World in September of 2015.
Since I began the food optimising coupled with intermittent fasting and CBT, I have lost another 52 pounds.  My size has gone from a US 26 (size 28/30 in the UK) to a US 10 (size 12/14 in the UK) and I am feeling fabulous!  My time in the US after Hawaii and Arizona was spent in different states visiting my siblings, my dad and step mother.  They all were pleasantly surprised and so happy for me-they also totally supported my biohacking style and food optimising choices.  That is not to say I didn't indulge-I did!  I just made sure to stop when I had had enough and on days that I wanted to intermittent fast, I did.  I also made adjustments-the main one was to ask for a small when having any treats.  
The last leg of my time away was spent near Boston with my sister who is a fitness instructor and has developed her own brand Raqisafitness-Belly Barre and she has inspired me to start exercising as I move towards my final goal.  Up until this point I have not exercised apart from trying to keep to 10,000 steps a day with my FitBit.  I attended classes that she taught including deep water muscle toning which was brilliant for my trick knee.  I was most impressed with her Belly Barre class that helped me isolate muscles rarely used and prepare for Belly Dancing straight afterwards.  I am in love with her technique and will be blogging more about it in the future.  I was furthermore impressed by the gorgeous women in her classes of all ages, shapes and sizes!  Women just rock don't they?!  Especially when united in supporting each other to meet our fitness goals...well, life goals really.  In fact this post was inspired by one of her clients who just wanted to know 'How did you do it?'  I hope I have answered and I am more than happy to connect more!
My original goal with Slimming World was 12 stone, or 168 pounds.  Prior to my trip I had hit that target.  I have re-contracted with myself to aim for 155 and allow myself wiggle room from there up to 160.  I haven't weighed 155 for nearly 25 years, so I want to see how I feel at that weight and renegotiate along the way.  My new aim is to develop my muscles and cardio stamina.  After my return home last week armed with fitness technique, motivation and a few new fitness helpers (loop bands and a small ball for home usage) I joined my local gym.  A good tip from my sister was that any gym further than ten minutes away will not support developing a gym habit.  This one is ten minutes away with a second location offering more classes a further ten minutes-that one will allow me to do Pilates every Saturday morning.  After I am done blogging today I will create a schedule for the next few weeks and organize my 'office' room so I can relaunch my YouTube channel this weekend.   I go back to teaching for the new school year tomorrow and I am excited about bringing all aspects of my life together for the next year.  I'll be blogging and Vlogging along the way.  I hope this post helped in any way and I am always ready to connect to support-we need each other at times and if you are on the same journey, let us be inspiration to one another.

'Where weight, age and size are just a number.'

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

#HalawaValley #Molokai Fierce Beauty and Scary Roads!

This morning we woke at 5 am and watched the sunrise as best we could from our cottage along the 18th mile marker on Highway 450.  There is just a bit of volcanic land that juts out-but from behind you can see the magnificent rays of dawn.  We thought it unusual that the sunrise looks more like sunset-but still beautiful.  I have been struggling with swollen glands and seem to be at the apex of whatever has caused it.  I know that Methotrexate can cause you to be more susceptible to illness and since we have crossed a few time zones on four different air carriers, I am not surprised.  Today we decided an early morning drive to the Halawa valley would be a perfect start for the day and then we will just settle at the cottage for the remainder-hang loose, take it easy.
The drive was as described in a brochure, 'worth the adventure!'  But, they forgot to mention that if you have a deep set fear of heights and driving along cliffs that dramatically drop down to the rugged shoreline, you might want to reconsider.   Early along the route from mile 20, the road essentially becomes one lane with many areas to pull over so that oncoming cars can pass.  My husband, for my sanity drove slowly; but, despite this I begged us to pull over so I could ground myself.  The view was breath taking and you can see in the photo the Halawa Valley and one of the two majestic Mo'oula falls in the distance.  It is possible to hike to the waterfall with a tour run by private residents of the valley.  We made a grave error this trip and forgot to pack hiking gear-so please, if you plan a visit to Moloka'i be sure to bring along closed toed hiking footwear-you will need them for several activities on offer.  Once we made it down the winding road at 10 mph, I was in awe of the beauty.  One thing about this island is the fact that it is so peaceful and remarkably empty.  We only passed a handful of cars in either direction and whilst there were some people in the valley-again, a small number-perhaps four other families.  The water was warm and inviting, but since the tropical storm was only a few days ago, the water remains rugged and not clear-so, we chose not to go in fully and just paddle in the water-delightful. 

The church was just set away from the beach area and all kinds of fruit trees covered the lush landscape.    We could have easily spent the day there had we taken a cool box with drinks and lunch.  The breeze made the heat very bearable and a few surfers meant some cool entertainment.    One young lady came out with her dog-he wanted to join her in the water, but she told him to stay.  Once she was well into the waves, he just howled and howled the most lonely song-then finally gave up and sat wagging his tail and watching her.  We made our way back and I was still terrified, but we were in the inside of the mountain, so slightly less harrowing.  I don't think I am worried about the falling-it is more the landing!  Tomorrow will be our last full day on the island and we will go early to the coffee house, then hit the macadamia nut farm, the sugar mill museum and finally eat out at the smoke house-so will see you all tomorrow-I can't even remember what post this is?  The time zone has been messed up-I think it is day 22?

Mahalo and Aloha!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Compassion Learning it's Power on #Moloka'i

If you only watch 3 minutes-watch 12.05 to 15.05  more commentary coming as I edit-my Fibromyalgia is rearing it's head the past two days-but, no matter-I have done much and will be talking soon.  Mahola and Aloha 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Full Day-Not Well :(

Wonderful day readers in Molokai-sore throat caught up from all of the flights-you know how that goes!  Will post tomorrow about our amazing day-

Aloha, and good night

Love on Day 21


Sunday, 24 July 2016

#Molokai Adventure Begins

We arrived at the airport at 10.30 am.  The taxi this morning and last night were both $40.00 to and from down town Waikiki.  Last time we came we took the Honolulu Airport Shuttle at $18 per person, so we figured a few bucks more would mean going straight to the hotel.  Tipping is always 15% in either case.  The plane to Molokai was so small-it only had 9 seats and we were asked for our weight prior to flying in order to be given a seat to keep the plane balanced.  No problem-no other intimate details asked!  The total was a$125.00 for each of round trip, not a bad fare at all.  The plane is maned by two pilots and the lovely lady next to the plane was the co-pilot for our trip.  I have to admit that the flight was scary!  I am not that great with heights at all-even standing on a chair freaks me out.  So, flying at a pretty high altitude in the clouds was tough going-I gripped my hand bag as if that would save me-it is Long Champs?!   The flight was thankfully short and once up for a few minutes, we were on our way down.  Mokulele Airlines has my deepest respect-it was easy transition through security, everyone was super friendly and the baggage was ready just a few minutes after we landed-brilliant.    We had rented a car with one of the only two agencies on the island-we went with the 'home grown' agency and had a little bit of a worry after we landed.  The island is very safe and we were told to collect the car from the parking lot just outside of the airport-the keys would be under the drivers side mat. We trekked the lot, and another one pretty close.  No car.  Of course, 3 mobile carrier meant no signal either.  I scrounged a few quarters and four phone booths later we still had no luck getting  through.  Thankfully we went to a stand at the tiny airport that sells seats on planes for $50.  They knew the woman who rented to us and gave us a ,'Good Luck' sad smile.  But, we managed to get through and find the car a long distance from the airport-a really nice man gave Chris a ride to find it.  The car was booked for someone else, but we took it and made our way to our house for the next five days.  The owner of the car agency emailed to apologize and all is well.  We hit the very lonely down town Molokai for some coffee-$18.99 for a small 8oz bag!  And some other groceries to set ourselves up for the week ahead. One of my favourite treats when travelling in America is Coffee Mate Vanilla Creamer that is in liquid form.  I love it!  Because everything has to be flown in-I'm not sure if there is also a shipping industry, the sizes of products are all Costco sized-large.  We noticed a lot of 'Kirkland' products sold as single items-but, it is to be expected when it takes a great amount of effort to bring anything to any of the islands.  But the frozen food was well worth grabbing a lot of tasty, though unhealthy, food not available in the UK.  Like a 24 box of egg and sausage muffins-had to have that!  We purchased a mini Hawaiian Plate meal to go-rice, meatloaf and chicken.  Delicious-we shared it for lunch and had a frozen pizza for dinner.  All washed down with beer and margaritas.  Perfect. I intermittently fast when I am on holiday, I don't see the point of depriving myself and the last several holidays I did the same; for both, I came back with a 2 pound gain.  My norm before would be anything between 7-14 pounds.  So, I feel I have finally found a system that works for me when on vacation.   Right now there is a weather warning for the islands and it is fiercely windy and very gloomy.  We are settling in with all the windows open to catch some breeze and get a good nights rest before planning on how we will explore the island tomorrow.  

Aloha and Maholo until tomorrow on day 20, Leila

Saturday, 23 July 2016

24 Hours to Waikiki

From balcony this morning Waikiki Hoiday Inn Express

From our balcony Holiday Inn Express
After three flights from Dublin to New York, New York to LA, and LA to Honolulu-we are one night and one flight away from Molokai tomorrow morning.  I'll get a chance to write all about the island and all it's quirks over the coming days-for now, I am fatigued!  The range of staff commitment to costumer comfort and care across the American Airlines crew this trip was shocking.  I have to say Dublin was the worst.  The priority line was longer and slower than all of the other lines. We didn't complain like many others as we were grateful to bag a Business Seat for a great price.  While in the line, an employee was interrogating each family/individual waiting to check in.  When in was our turn, we were asked all kinds of personal questions.  This is not unusual when you reach the ticket desk-normally questions about who packed the bag, have you kept it in your sights all the time, has anyone asked you to take something for them etc. This man asked what was the name of my boss and how long I had worked with him.  Where we lived and what was the purpose of our trip.  Where will we stay...I answered mostly with family in the five states we will visit and he was doubtful.   He also kept everyone at a distance from the individuals he was talking with and acted very mysterious. I am not sure if there was an immediate concern so he was vetting the passengers .  I was a little unnerved, but he did give us each our security stickers.  Once on the plane, I fell asleep for the near 7 hour flight to New York. From New York to LA we had the lie flat seats and after a lovely meal of 'meatloaf' and a chocolate Sunday.  I  slept to LA.  Despite my excitement, the Fibro Fatigue hit me, just when the most attentive and genuine crew with American was with us from LA to Honolulu.  We took a taxi for our one night in Waikiki-right on the main drag with a view of the ocean.   Too bad we are both knackered!  Short one hereoff to bed and will post photos tomorrow for this post.

Day 19


Friday, 22 July 2016

On Route to Hawaii via Dublin #AmericanExpress #Travelperks

Hello from Dublin airport!  Many of my posts will be travel focused and some retrospectively.  But, this will be the first one I hope to blog about every day.  One benefit of teaching is having time to travel and as a couple, my husband and I make great travel companions and after 20 years, the last 10 where we have traveled somewhere at least six times a year, we have accumulated a bit of insight into how NOT to do things-and how best to do things.   As mentioned before, when I was very heavy, my husband became an expert on how to accrue miles, so much so he is our family and friends travel adviser-he is humble though and says there are many blogs that he refers to and many experts that he defers too.  I still think he knows his stuff and will ask him for details as much as possible when I write.  Many years ago we relied on Seat Guru and would pay the airline for the privilege of choosing the best economy seat using the info from the site.  It is still a brilliant website for that information and every cm counts!  After choosing the best seat possible, we always wore a blazer and looked as smart and glam as we could (a repeated piece of advice was to look like you belong in business!)  I am not sure this really worked.  Of course the best way is to plan well in advance and show loyalty to a group of airlines like Star Alliance, Sky Team or One World.  Which is now what we do-once I become more schooled in the details, I will pass them on.
For this trip, we are doing a multi-city tour and flew on a separate ticket from Manchester to Dublin with Ryan Air.   Ryan Air now offers a Business Plus ticket and we got it for just an additional £20 for the both of us-though this was a deal-they do offers on a regular basis.   It made a huge difference on a Friday night during the first week of the summer break.  We bypassed the long line to a dedicated check in and the ticket included 'fast track' through security. We use American Express as credit cards, and though their annual fee is hefty, the benefits soon outweigh the fee, especially if you are an avid traveler as we.  They include travel insurance a huge bonus and over the years we have had need of it and I feel so secure knowing that if anything happens we are covered.  
So, we left Manchester this evening at just after 6 pm and touched down at 7 pm. Of course, with Priority Pass, another perk from American Express, we used the lounge-a saving grace in an over crowded airport!  Just in case you are keen-the links below will take you to American Express-and if you go through my links you will get another 2,000 points on your Gold Card and another 5,000 on the Platinum Card-what are you waiting for!
Gold Card
Apply for the Preferred Rewards Gold Card and receive benefits, protections, and services. Plus you can earn 22,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend £2,000 in the first three months to redeem for flights, hotel stays or car hire.

PLatinum card
Apply for The Platinum Card and receive benefits, protections, and services. Plus you can earn 35,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend £2,000 in the first three months to redeem for flights, hotel stays or car hire.
We are using hotel points to stay the night at the Crown Plaza and will fly to Hawaii, Honolulu early in the morning. Just flying from Dublin, instead of London to the USA reduces the cost of the ticket by £700 pounds and there isn't high air tax on top either.  Even including flying here and hotel (if we paid) the savings would be enough for another ticket at a later date. 

Chris, my husband, and I tend to forgo nights out when we are home and really enjoy travelling the world in comfort.  Our general rule is if a flight 5 hours or longer, we want to try and upgrade.  Our holiday begins the moment our feet step into the airport!  

Everything went very smoothly today, I even managed to pack in a record 30 minutes-I have bought  some make up and had it shipped to my house in Monterey, California so it was nice to just pack a few essentials. While in Hawaii I just plan on using a lot of sunscreen, a bit of mascara, blush and lip gloss.  I'll blog about how to manage four weeks away with one suitcase!  

Off to relax a bit and sleep-early wake up call tomorrow and will blog somewhere between Dublin and Hawaii-or, at least once in Hawaii-isn't travelling so cool?!

Love on Day 19,


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me!  I have arrived and at 51 feel no different then 50-but definitely better than any age in my 40's.  I looked at a lot of quotes about aging and nothing appealed to me-it seemed most of them are too old for me-I guess in another decade, I might be interested in posting positive, inspirational age memes, but for today, I am just content feeling like I still have a few more chapters to write. I had a lovely day.  I slept until late, had a few lazy coffees WITH creamer, surfed instagram and tried to figure out how to add subscribing to my blog-check-so do subscribe or G+.  It means I too can find out about you!
I went into Buxton to do a few final errands before flying out tomorrow to Dublin for the night-Easy Jetting it and staying over to fly the next morning to Hawaii.  I had a bit of a spring in my step and once again, the warm weather was a treat.
The funniest incident was in Marks and Spencer.  I was at the till purchasing a size 12-yes, applause!  That is a 8/10 in USA pair of cropped denim jeans, a few salads and a much needed white bra.  M & S corner the market for undergarments.   I started to pay by card and remembered I had a gift card-I told the woman at the till it was my birthday-it took a bit longer to search for the gift card.  The woman behind me was very grumpy indeed-when I found it and said sorry, she huffed-'Well I forgive you ONLY because it is your birthday, it wasn't nice to make me wait!'  I just smiled and off I went.  She had no idea the swelling of joy at trying on those size 12 jeans I was filled with-but, hey-we all walk around with stories, don't we.
I am not writing  much today-I have a to do list for packing, and though I had hoped to finish it all tonight-it didn't happen-I am off to bed for some needed ZZZ's.

Love on Day 18,


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

#ManchesterEngland, England Across the Atlantic Sea #BeautyRecommendations

I KNOW!  The Atlantic is an ocean-but for the longest time I thought it was a sea-not only because, dare I say it, MOST American High Schools don't have great Geography classes; but, also, I was in love with all things musical theatre in my teens-and 'Hair' the musical was an album I listened to a lot.  The lyrics in 'Manchester England', call the Atlantic a 'sea'-so, naturally, I thought that must be true!  I could write an entire thesis on 'Hair' as a musical-maybe another time.  The irony is that I never imagined during the hours I sang along to the soundtrack, that one day I would actually live in England-across, what we know lovingly refer to as 'the pond.'

When I moved to the UK in 1995 we lived in the south east in the town where Pocahontas is buried, Gravesend.  I lived there in the year that Wayne Newton was determined to find her bones and repatriate her to the USA.  For me it was wonderful to have her statue and grave site (though no one really knows where in the church yard she is) so close to me when I first made the move to a new life in England.   I used to walk to the beautiful church and just sit for hours contemplating pretty much everything, and feeling grateful to have a sense of her near me.    I do have several 'print' photos of her statue but I borrowed this one.  I used to imagine how alone and frightened she must have been and felt a comradeship with her in those first lonely six months.  While in Gravesend, my husband and I would take weekend trips around the UK.  One cold and wet October in 1998 we went to Manchester and I fell in love with the city.  It reminded me of San Francisco, definitely NOT because of the cityscape, but more because of the intimate feel and the warmth of the locals-and by 2001 we were living in the city center.
The change over the past 15 years has been remarkable-there is a vibrancy and quirkiness in the city as a whole.  I love the alternative culture that integrates well with high end established businesses-it is a nice rich mix.  I spent the day today with my cousin from Ohio walking from one end of the city to the other-another similarity to San Francisco is that it is much smaller than London and more accessible by walking and public transport than Los Angeles.  Maybe I try to hard to find the similarities, but I suppose that is human nature to ground ourselves somehow by bringing our worlds together.
Caffe NeroMy first stop in the morning was in Didsbury, a leafy and vibrant area three miles south of the city centre.  Urban Angels has been my favourite hair salon for the last eight years and if you are in the area and in need of some affordable expert colour and style, be sure to visit and ask for Fiona-really all of the stylists are excellent-Fiona's philosophy is basically 'love your clients' and the salon is charming and friendly where babes sit on their mums laps next to singing artists and business men and women.  Once my roots were done, I picked up my gorgeous cousin and off we went to the city.
On Peter's street is The Waxing Studio-Manchester Waxing Salon, which we hit, after a frozen coffee from Caffe Nero-the weather was perfect t-shirt and shorts day.  Only I don't wear shorts-I mean really, after a 130 something pound loss, the legs are not yet ready for the world!  But, that doesn't mean I need to be hairy.  The Waxing Studio has been my go-to place this year for quick, almost pain free (cough, cough) thorough Rio and half leg waxing.  The staff know their stuff and the website is user friendly.  You just book online where you will find clear descriptions of the many waxing options for both women and men-then show up.  It couldn't be easier.  Charlotte is someone I can personally recommend, but I do think they have a high standard among all of their employees-and a help yourself bowl full of candy will keep anyone waiting for you satisfied!
The buzz was brilliant as we walked through Albert Square to the high street, a main shopping area with Boots, Zara, Mango, Primark, etc. and The Manchester Arndale.  On a beautiful day, the collage of people really does sparkle.  I know that sounds a bit trite, but I can't think of a better way to describe how vibrant Manchester really is.  Between conversation about which phone size from Apple would be the best fit and a pop into Wilko to try to hunt down that eyeliner from Essence (no luck), we managed to find ourselves in Boots trying out all of the new Benefit Eyebrow options. My cousin is in her late 20's and we have decided to work together on comparing beauty products to mean show that though age does mean there are differences in our bodies, it does not mean we are both bound to certain brands-so, watch this space for up coming collaborative reviews!
Just as we were leaving Boots, I stopped in my tracks to see the huge NYX Cosmetics counter-I'd link their website, but it is still under construction. I grabbed the Taupe Blush that I thought I bought in the Trafford Centre-it was Beach Babe instead-which is going to be perfect for our vacation coming up-a bronzed blush with a hint of sparkle.
It was a fabulous day-I didn't go into the Northern Quarter-that deserves it's own post-but my cousin headed that way for the evening.  I walked back to the NCP near the Bridgewater Hall and headed home feeling a bit of Fibro Fatigue-but totally worth it!

Love on Day 17,

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

#Wilko #BeautyProducts! How I have I Missed Out on This Store for 20 Years?!

Good evening Glamazons!  Especially those of you who are secondary teachers in the UK-or High School in the world!  Today was the last day of the year for those of us who teach in England-or, at least it will be this week for some, and possibly some have already started their six week break at the end of last week.   Can we talk about how important it is to spend the next several weeks recharging our batteries and taking care of that which we vow to do during term time!  I have decided enough is enough!  Two weeks ago I brushed off my small notebook and started blogging away.  I know realistically I am talking to myself-but, hey, I am a great listener!  I do feel really energized by this blogging stuff and love to talk about beauty, health and living life to its fullest potential.  I know a lot of my friends in the USA that are teachers-especially on the West Coast will be in their final weeks of vacation.  But, the party is just beginning here!  Now, we generally have six weeks off, whilst our US sisters have nearly three months-it depends on the state.  For us, though six weeks is pretty standard.  This week is one of my favorites of the year.  My birthday is on July 21st and we normally head out somewhere in the world for the first few weeks.  My husband and I will be flying to Hawaii on Friday-I'll enjoy doing my first travel blogs while away-though I aim to do a retrospective on Kiev in the next few days-so keep your eyes peeled.  Today after we broke early, I went to the Wilko nearest to where I work to check out the Essence Make up line.  I have heard about a few great products and believe it or not, Wilko is the store that carries this brand.
When I first moved to the UK in 1995, there was a Wilkinson not far from our house in Gravesend, Kent.  I thought it reminded my a lot of our Woolworth or Kmart in California-I would shop there for name brands at half the price-especially body and mouth care.  From about 2000, I just didn't frequent them anymore-until today.    Essence is a European brand, tough it is sold in the USA at Ulta and Target, that I keep hearing about on YouTube by 'Beauty Gurus'  I was looking in particular for a liner with three prongs from their 'Good Girl Bad Girl'-a multi-style liner.   They didn't have it in the store.  Not to worry, I will be in the US for 5 weeks and I will hunt for it while there.
I decided to look around while I was there and grabbed a few bargains!  I have been looking for a turban towel.  I bought one at Marks and Spencer for £6.00.  I found it at Wilko for .95 pence!  It is actually softer and wears just as well.  I was also looking for a toweling head band.   Boots does a great one for £3.00-but, again the Wilko one was .95 Pence.
My other luxury that I have mentioned in an earlier post is the use of a wash cloth every day.  I generally use it to dry my face after a shower in the morning and then use it to wash my face in the evenings.  Wilko had some (see picture) darling pink-a lovely shade, for .30 pence each!  I grabbed five and will certainly go and purchase more.  They did have white for the same price-which is great for a hot wash, but I loved the girly pink!
I also just put in a picture of a card from one of my students at the end of term-she knows me well!
So, that will be the end of this little post about your local Wilko-I will be sure to go again with a few pounds and check out the bargains.  Who doesn't love a great find?
After I left Wilko I headed out to Boots and Estee Lauder for a 'Power Facial'-I'll tell you more about that experience tomorrow-I never actually knew that this was a free service offered by them and I loved how it made my skin feel.  I also popped into our stand alone store for Kiko Milano Cosmetics-see my Instagram for my lipsticks of the day and today's will be from Kiko-will bring you a review of a few bits I got from there and from Elf Cosmetics.
Until then...
Love on Day 16, Leila

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Cleaning and Spa Day with #Fibromyalgia and #Lupus #spoonies Day!

Do you have to dedicate an entire day to clean the house?  Let me remind you before you answer, that my house is in England-not New England where house are over 500 sq. ft., but UK, England where most of them are not. Our house is small, a two up two down cottage.  Several years ago my husband and father in law made it three up-but that was just to split the largest room in two.  Our single bathroom is cramped toilet, sink bath/shower about the size of a small kid's closet.  We do have a second toilet crammed under the stairs.  I was supposed to clean yesterday and wake up early this morning to go to church.  It didn't happen.  But that is okay! So, I settle to enjoy cleaning-next to Godliness and have a pamper spa day in the mix.  *Just a note, I am not affiliated and don't earn on any of the clicking-just there for your convenience!*
I woke up at 3.48 am, 4 am, then 5 am, then uncomfortable, lathered my throbbing lower legs with 'Aspercreme' gel (I got this on my last trip to the USA) and slept until 9.39 am.   My legs were stuck, so I lifted them carefully and shuffled to brush my teeth.  I normally use a manual brush, but my wrists have been hurting and my husband bought me an electric one; today I broke it in!  Wow, what a difference, highly recommend.  I washed my face with Estee Lauder Take it Away and a warm wash cloth.  I use a fresh washcloth every day, one of my little luxuries.  I put a mask on using a sample pack of Omorovicza Gold Hydralifting Mask and settle with a cup of coffee after taking all of my medication. On the weekends I go slow-conserving energy.  I don't know if you can get this, but I have to mentally cheer myself on and break the day into small do able tasks.  The mask says to leave on for 10-15 minutes and wipe off the excess-but with my dry skin, there is no excess!  I just enjoy the fragrance and let it all soak in.
So, it is now 4.50 pm.  I have managed to do most of the house and tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday will tackle the organisation of my office and pack for our holiday.  I just am too plum tuckered to finish it all.  Throughout the cleaning, I took little breaks.  I am obsessed with finding new lipsticks to try and a Kiko Milano has opened in the mall near to where I work-I have a power facial and testing of foundation with Estee Lauder on Tuesday so I have spent some time looking through #kikotrendsetters, uploaded their App onto on my phone and made a wishlist  of some different colour combinations to try in store. Throughout the day I have sprayed my face with Vitamin E mist from The Body Shop, exfoliated my lips with Elf lip exfoliator and followed this with Fresh Sugar Lip Balm-which I don't really recommend as they go soft too easily-I just have some left over and scrapped it out of the tube.  I had a light wash and covered my feet and hands with Soap and Glory Hand Food  and Heel Genious.  I also toned my face and put on some medication for psoriasis-will wash that off before bed and try something new to me, a sample of Pixi Overnight Glow Serum.  I tried their Glow pads at Marks and Spencer and the next day I got so many compliments about my skin-might just be coincidence-but I sure will try it.  
The best part about Cleaning and Spa days are that I feel accomplished by the end of them.  I have taken care of my environment and my body; while allowing myself to go at my own pace.  I tend to use it as a time to intermittently fast too-I have a sluggish tummy, so by not eating and drinking copious amounts of water-and some fizzy drinks too (you gotta live!) Plus the fizzy and fast helps on the day after my Methotrexate dose, I tend to get really super nauseous.  Tonight I look forward to a salad and steak-all Slimming World friendly.  My husband makes the steak to perfection and I just sort the salad-so, I have charged my batteries a bit too-
As a side note-I did come across an interesting article on a news site today about the new Pokemon game that has everyone up and running to hatch eggs and find virtual characters.  This past week at school one of my students was telling me about how concerned she was that students were being unsafe, going into deserted areas-I have to admit I passed it on straight away and all the kids in our school watched a video on safety with the game.  What interested me was the argument that 'gamers' were getting exercise and some thought it would be an antidote for obesity while others argued that walking was not exercise at all.  I was surprised to hear that many people have dropped a size and some claim they realized how unfit they were.  I am not sure what I think at this point.  I'll have to do some more research.  
Well, that was a bit of a jump in topic-but hey, this is live streaming :)  I am off to listen to a sermon,  research a few more lipstick colours, have dinner and call it an early night!  

Love on Day 14,


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Met my Initial #Weightloss Goal Tattooed on my Left Hip, You Ask, What Now?

In 2014 I went to the Northern Quarter in Manchester.  I lay on a table with my left hip raised and my left arm fell over the flesh of my stomach.  This left arm was prepared to aid in any way, ready to pull tight my skin.  But, it wasn't needed-the artist was sympathetic.  My right arm was an angled pillow under my head-sometimes rising to cover my eyes when the etching became a bit much to bear.   My pulse was strong and steady in my heart and my hip.  I lay there emotional, the pain was barely bearable, the feeling was empowering and every fibre in me was quaking a 'Thank You'. 
The tattoo design has more than the number 168 in the simple script you see in the picture.  A flight of five  birds cross over the hip, ascending from the one.  It's hard to fully express in words how I reached this decision.  Like me, many of you will have battled nearly a life time with weight and no one can ever understand the complexity of this relationship-each of ours is unique.  Mine is wrapped up with a body that rejects parts of itself-how is that for comfort.  It makes no difference.  It is mine and I own it, and thank God everyday for it.  Which is funny that I would want to mark it-so, some may say.
Tattoos were never really a topic of interest in our house growing up.  Oh there were sailor stories-many of my dad's Navy buddies had them.  But, my dad never did.  He wasn't allowed to, he was in intelligence during the cold war and after-too easy to track him down.  My Lebanese great grand father had a cross on his wrist-he had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and had it done there at the foot of the rock. 
I made it to my 40's not really inclined towards ink, but always interested in others.  When my mother died in 2008 everything changed.  My body became a vessel-I had not fully internalized this metaphor before.  I got my first tattoo on my right ankle that year-an ichthus <>< this was followed by my mother's name above my father's in Arabic script on my left forearm.  My husband has many tattoos each telling a story.  The one I love best, of course, is my name in Arabic across his heart.    There is a sense of permanency with a tattoo; I know they can be altered, cover, lasered-but the mark is indelible.   Permanence is also odd, because this vessel will not last.  But why my goal weight?  What if I never reached it?  What if I do? It was always more than the number, it was the meaning of the number for me.  Something inside me clicked when I trusted that I had it in me to find a way to journey towards the goal.  
Prior to laying on the tattoo artists table, I seemed to be going in loops with stops in valleys and a few peak experiences; but, more often than not, I was wiped out.  Many of you know that I live with FMS/Lupus and even with weeks of careful eating with light exercise, my water weight went up and down over night-so did my bra size!  I was feeling pathetic, out of control, covered in psoriasis and tired all the time. My efforts needed to be focused on my psychological well being.  I grasped the opportunity to mark the beginning of this acceptance of who I was and that my travel to my goal was mine alone-and it was beautiful in it's uniqueness to me.  It worked.  I embraced my body and loved it-forgave it, clung to it in pain and celebrated in rare pain free moments.  I have taken care of it by listening carefully and giving myself permission to fully acknowledge that it is OK to go to bed early, to tactfully bough out of the late night invite, to limit how much exercise I can do, to take breaks, to rest when I need it, to nourish it with good foods, and not berate myself when I indulge. I could go on, and I know you too who run this same race will know and feel what I mean.  
Today, I stood on the scale for my weekly (not daily!) weigh in.  167.  I shuddered-I bowed my head to thank God, lifted my head to my mom and then hugged myself.  I then ran down stairs (clothes back on!) and danced a jig in front of my husband.  He gave me a high five and I ran to do a Snap Chat to send to my Dad and sisters-had to find a funny face of course! 
Now, I have no problem leaving my tattoo as is-it is a testament.  Of course when I got the tattoo I was about 280 pounds and 168 seemed a far way to go.  When I reached 180, I decided that 160 would be my new goal.  At this weight I would no longer be 'overweight' according to the BMI charts (not that I put a huge amount of accuracy in them).  I'll see how I feel in time.  
I would love ideas and suggestions about what I could do with my tattoo-possibly put the final goal number at the top of the flight of birds...maybe have a circular tattoo designed around my hips...I am not opposed to having a tummy tuck and half body lift.  I will investigate the possibilities after I maintain my weight for 6 months to a year.  If I did go this route, the tattoo will go or at least a part of it.  You have to remember I have been overweight for 35 years and that does effect your skin.  I just need to research more and would love any advice about your own experience with surgery after weight loss.
For now, I am just so dang happy!  I feel inspired to make more positive changes starting with organizing my office/spare room!!  I did it though-I wanted to be 168 by my 51st birthday-it's next Thursday.  Happy Birthday to me. :) I'll probably brag a bit on my birthday post, I hope that is okay!

Much Love on Day 13,

Friday, 15 July 2016

Vive La France

Dear Readers,

I take pause tonight in my daily blog posts.  As a child I was surrounded by English, Arabic and French.    In high school, I dreamed of visiting Paris and at 30, was able to finally visit.  My husband and I walked the city streets feeling safe and at home, as if we had been there together before.  On many occasions we would take a late Friday night flight from the UK to arrive after 11.00 pm and always found a restaurant open to enjoy wine and a meal with beautiful music and lively people.  One of our dearest memories is walking for hours on a crisp autumn day in the Père Lachaise Cemetery; we joined the many sitting and eating fresh baguettes with cheese under the canopy of trees, considering the national value of living life to the fullest.
How sad the news of yet again another atrocity on French soil-when will this inhumanity end.  

Je suis triste, vive la France,