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,


Thursday, 14 July 2016

Notes from the end of Term-High School Teacher

What a day!  First off, I own up.  I was supposed to do Slimming World speed starting today-forget it, I am just having something to eat now-at 10.30 pm-and it is not speed!   You know how some days just zoom by and you wonder how on earth you are finally sitting down and still have loads to do?!  Hello-I get it.  I am munching on a malted bread BLT from Sainsbury's, I suppose better than the Big Mac I was craving earlier.  I am a teacher in a secondary school and things are very far from winding down.   I know there is a lot of controversy about the last week of school.  I am not a 'put a video in' kind of teacher-I generally have a final review and plan for the next year with a lot of summer holiday homework.  I  don't remember my own teachers being this tough-but, then again, in the USA you didn't carry on with a course over a few years only to have a final exam at the end of it all.   Not even in University.
So, tonight is another short one I am afraid.  I have tons to write about-but, tonight was our summer concert and a big meeting in the morning meant suit shopping right after-I bought, a huge risk, a cream suit from H & M with a nice black sleeveless blouse.  I have the perfect shoes from Next to wear with it, a slingback in black.  Tomorrow night I will have a lot of time to put all of the photos together and review away.  I also received a mini shipment of Elf products to chat about and an interesting difference between two high end brands when asking for samples.
I did buy the RapidBrow serum.  I tried to get a wax and tint with Benefit tonight, but short staffed.  I made an appointment for tomorrow-so, I'll have them done, take pics and come back after six months to review the results.
So, until tomorrow,

Love on Day 11,


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

#SlimmingWorld #Weightloss of 9 Stone or 131 Pounds So Far Despite #chronicillnesses

I rise from the Atlantic ocean in all my glory, like Venus without the shell and cherubs. It was a wonderful vacation in 2008 when I tipped the scales at my highest at almost 21 stone and a half-about 301 pounds.   We flew on my birthday to Boston and it was sublime to gain an extra five hours all dedicated to me! Within an hour of landing, we were sitting with cocktails in hand at the top of the Prudential Center. But, the flight was not so great.  If you have ever been fat (by the way, I see no shame in being called fat-I never have) you know the drill-praying that the seat belt will fit, the back tray won't get stuck in your gut and that the person in front will NOT put their seat back at all, ever.  On the flight I had to ask for a seat belt extension; I did so in a hushed tone, to which the air hostess called to the back, 'Can I have an extension for 21J please.' You know, I could have cringed-but, I just smiled and  vowed to go on the internet to purchase my own personal extension- but at that time they were astronomical.  My weight never kept me from feeling beautiful and my husband did-does make sure I believe it.  Never once has he ever breathed an unkind word.  There were days when I would slump in sadness-I would feel overwhelmed by the weight of it all.  Once, on our first trip to Brussels,  I had a vision of sitting in the Grand Place outside on a lovely summer's day, sipping a cold fruit beer and watch the world for hours, moving only to catch more sun.  Problem-I could not fit into any of the wicker seats.  At one point, frustrated, I forced myself  into a chair, my heart beat moved to my thighs and hips.  I could not bear it, I stood up and the chair would not come off!  I cried, 'I hate myself!' My husband said, 'I will love you during the times you find it hard to love yourself.'   You know those moments were rare-but the underlying truth was I worried about my health.  Between what I now know was Fibromyalgia and Lupus sheer fatigue, brain fog and my thyroid out of wack-I was anxious and battled with OCD (that's another post on another day!)
At first I relied on going to weight loss groups and this did help me for a time; but, then the diet stopped working and I explored any new trend that was on the market. Soon, I felt like a failure trying to be a card carrying member for so many diets:  Oh no-I ran out of points, I had meat on potato day-or, was that potato on a meat day…wait, I calculated the net carbs wrong-you mean that had gluten in it?  That WAS raw right?   Can you milk this nut for me?  By the summer of my 50th birthday in July 2015 I was fried.  I was 50 and fat. But, I was no longer 21 stone and a half-I had managed through the maze of diets and a lot of positive mental attitude to get to 15 stone 11 pounds.  I had a talk with myself, 'Self, you have got to make your 50's the best decade so far-you got that self?'
I knew that intermittent fasting made me feel good-I liked how clear headed I could be on days when I reduced my calorie intake.  But, I needed the structure and support of others to begin the journey to finally getting to goal.   I joined Slimming World in September of 2015 and decided to biohack the diet with a day of fasting (600-800 calories) a week.  I didn't want to weigh my food and I wanted to try the new Food Optimizing plan.  I love the ethos of Slimming World, their empowering message of going at your pace and not giving up when things get tough.
I went to group faithfully for over twenty weeks and lost 3 stone 3.  My FMS flared and I was struggling getting to group-and lets face it, I am so competitive too-and taster sessions would keep me up hours planning and preparing a Lebanese SW friendly feast!  I moved my membership to online a month ago and I have lost another four pounds. I have also had several holidays since September and the key for me is to enjoy myself and get back on it when I return.  The great thing is that I only gain a few pounds instead of a stone-my eating patterns have changed dramatically.  I have a little of what I want-not a lot.  I don't deprive myself and I don't beat myself up-'Oh, I ate that cookie-that ruins the day, the week, the month...'  Every so often I have an intermittent fast day-sometimes it is just for a block of hours, sometimes from 6 pm to 6 pm the next day. This is just what I have found works for me.  A Biohacking Glamazon.
So the pictures to the right are the most recent-I'll be You Tubing this weekend as well with a catch up on where I am with the rest of my journey.  My plan is to stay right where I am at 12 Stone 2 until I come back from my summer away in America.  
Ah, I have now brought you to today.  I am taking it easy with a week of Speed starting tomorrow until next Friday when we jet off-more to come!

Love on Day 10,


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Figuring Out #Menopause with #Fibromyalgia NOT Yet #Postmenopausal Hallelujah?

Okay-so, I get it now.  Please stop reading now if you are a bit, well...not into talking menopause reality!  So, I didn't think on day 9 of my re-launch, I would be getting this personal.  But, hey, it isn't really personal, just life.  I am an educated woman, but I have been perplexed. In my post yesterday, I think I was just overcome with worry and a bit of fog, as I freaked out over if we ever get out of menopause.   I just visualized myself as a tiny woman banging my fists up against a huge womb-sorry, if that image is too graphic, but that is exactly what I feared.   I completely blanked on the three stages: perimenopause (this word is not known in my dictionary), menopause and postmenopause. So, I thought I was postmenopausal, but after today's ultrasound (where I was absolutely normal, thank God), I learned that in actuality I am not post, but still going through it-the specialist informed me that for some women this might mean two years after the last menses.  So what are all of these pelvic pains?
Interestingly enough, I read a few articles on line about how Fibromyalgia makes it difficult to diagnose pelvic issues because of our lower pain thresholds and chronic myalgia.  As I do approach postmenopause I am going to have to listen more to my body-I don't want to dismiss anything by just saying it is my FMS or Lupus.  But, now that my head is clear of worry-I can start planning my dance into the next chapter of my beautiful life.  Corny, huh?  In all seriousness, I feel blessed today.  I am especially grateful to the NHS.  Their swift response with the ultrasound-I was seen in seven days and it would have been sooner but I was away.  The lovely woman who took care of me was both kind and professional.
I know it might sound strange-but, I was worried something might be wrong and that was the reason I have been able to lose weight.  I discounted my hard work straight away...just noticing that thought process in myself.  I have some work to do internally as well as externally-I'll begin by doing the post about where I was at over 300 lbs to where I am today.  I'll be sure to start early tomorrow-it will be a long one!
So, on that note-I will close with a grateful heart.

Love on Day 9,


Monday, 11 July 2016

#Menopause I Thought I Knew All About It ?! #fabulousfifties

Well, I was hoping to write a post tonight about my weight loss so far.  But, as I said in my re-launch post, there will be variations in the length over the next 100 days.  Tonight, this will be a short and to the point paragraph or two.  I will be 51 in 10 days, can't believe this first year has just flown by.  So far, just like my mom told me, the fifties is just the beginning.  But, it also can be the end of some things.  I entered menopause officially in April of this year.  Wait, how long does menopause last? The rest of your life are you in menopause-or, do you go through it?  I thought I knew more than I do. I felt pretty blessed-I didn't suffer for too long with hot flashes or discomfort, well at least not out of the ordinary for my own norm.  I managed to lose weight despite the weeks of maintaining or gaining for no good reason really, and since September, have managed to lose 3 and a half stone.  I was surprised when I began to have menstrual symptoms several weeks ago and of course did what I shouldn't have done and searched on Google.
Every website I went onto made it clear that seeing your GP was a must and so I did-tomorrow I have an ultra sound to check that all is OK.  What is so weird is that after putting the phone down for the appointment confirmation, I panicked. I know the panic makes sense, but I honestly have been postponing my anxiety through deflection and mindfulness-but, tonight, I feel like I swallowed a jagged rock and it is just sitting in the pit of my stomach.  I am not focusing well at all and I am swapping between shivering and sweating-now the menopause symptoms start?!   I did the best thing I could after getting off of the phone, I went and got my finger and toe nails done in a bright pink-cheerful.  Nails Inc toes in Chiltern Park and CND Shellac in Tropix-absolutely perfect against the wet, dull skies in Manchester today.  Maybe I have just done the impossible and have changed the way nature works?  I'll know soon enough!

Love on Day 8,


Sunday, 10 July 2016

#Fibromyalgia #FMS #Beauty Routine on a Day with Two Spoons #spoontheory

Today is a Fibromyalgia recharge day.  I woke up very late with only a spoonful of energy.  I don't regret at all using most of my allocation on the past four days training to teach Mindfulness as I have blogged about earlier. I have already used many of the practices when following the eight week course to fall asleep. I was formally diagnosed in 2011 after years of investigation-by 2008 I was over 300 lbs and stressed to the max with trying to pinpoint why I was feeling so unwell.  Thankfully one specialist really helped me by aggressively evaluating my thyroid dose to find the optimum level for me.  I was also prescribed Amitriptyline at night to help me sleep and thus began the transformation of my health.  In 2015 I was sent to a dermatologist about my severe psoriasis and under their care a referral to the Rheumatologist  confirmed that I had Lupus.  Lupus and Fibromyalgia are co-morbid in about one third of people with Lupus. Fibromyalgia does not turn into Lupus, but those with Lupus may develop Fibromyalgia.  So, the fact that I was formally diagnosed with Lupus after my FMS diagnosis, is most likely due to error.   I am happy to say that I am now on the right medication for both conditions.  I take methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine for the Lupus-and since I started the effects are wonderful-so, I do feel that when I have crash days, it is the Fibromyalgia rearing its head!
Fibromyalgia is hard to explain-I have borrowed the image from to give you a visual of the symptoms that one with FMS can have.  They can occur at anytime in any combination.  For me, fatigue, morning stiffness, insomnia and sleep disrupted by myofascial pain syndrome-is pretty much constant.   I am blessed with an amazing husband who gets that I need to go slow every now and again to bank those spoons!  Today I  have settled down in our bedroom with the laptop and some lovely candles from Bath and Body Works (sorry UK readers-a gift from my sister in the USA).  Although I have just heard about this company called, Go Send-I'll be testing them in the autumn.  They give UK residents an American postal address and ship to us at a lower cost?!  We will sDisplaying IMG_20160710_182714.jpgee.  Today I Displaying IMG_20160710_185021.jpgread, surfed, slept and intermittently had a spa day.  I have the Lupus Wolf mask-awooo, as you can see in my picture after a cleansing mask by Nip+Fab (the photo is at an odd angel-but, hey, it's all good).  Displaying IMG_20160710_185021.jpgI love this stuff and use it once a week for a deep clean.  I followed this by Clarins HydraQuench cream mask for dehydrated skin and after ten minutes took it off with Clarins Extra Comfort Toner.  Displaying IMG_20160710_185021.jpgMy face feels so hydrated and I follow this with Estee Lauder night repair and eye cream; because by the time I finish my routine, it is time for bed.   So, I am off to sleep soon and am feeling recharged to a degree.  I had Slimming World soup with potatoes for dinner-trying to claw back a bit from some over indulgence the last few days.  Tomorrow I will do a post on my weight loss to date and how I hope to maintain over the summer holidays-wow, in two weeks from today I shall be in Hawaii-totally looking forward to posting from our rented house by the water!  Sweet dreams all.

Love on Day 7,


Saturday, 9 July 2016

#Mindfulness #teachersrock #Jon Kabat-Zinn

Home, safe and sound.  The train journey from Repton to Stockport was pretty pleasant-a call out to Virgin Trains, you managed to impress me with trains that were on time, pleasant staff, very clean coaches and departures from platforms that made sense-no running across the bridge to catch a train going in the same direction as you came; plus enough room to store heavy luggage and bags.  I'll be sure to tweet!  On the journey home I thought about blogging-and think the idea of staying in real time makes sense and will be a bit of a challenge as well.  So, I want to start with a little praise for teachers.  I know I said this yesterday-but once more I must!


As you know, the training I just finished was for secondary school teachers.  I do hope one or two of them will be reading these words!  I can't tell you how proud I was to be in this profession after meeting the truly inspiring and dedicated teachers on this certification course.  I have to admit when I first became a teacher it was more out of necessity then a calling.  In the early years, I often said that if I became identifiable by sight as a teacher, I would quit.  I am not sure what I actually thought would happen to me once I started to teach.  My parents were both linguists at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey-they taught soldiers in the military from all branches to speak Arabic.  My mother was very chic and my father wore his Navy uniform-they weren't identifiable as teachers.  Even now, I wonder how I ever came up with that condition on myself.  I think the quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn says it all.  The last few days with twenty of us from all subject areas only made me more curious about the origins of my initial fear.  I took my glasses off and saw more accurately; and the beauty in each person was astounding, the course demands a personal practice in Mindfulness and part of this is to be kind to yourself and view life's challenges with curiosity taking a step back and exploring possibilities with a grateful heart.  For every teacher there it was for the benefit of the children they teach, to pass onto them this precious gift so they might have a life more blessed.   I arrived home with this sense of glow better than The Balm, Mary-Lou Manizer!  Although I must admit, Mary-Lou rocks and next week I will be purchasing a SLEEK highlighter palette to do some swatches and reviews, so watch this space!   I am up for an early night and ready to get back on the wagon diet wise before we jet off for the summer to Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, California and Massachusetts. So expect much on dieting and travelling.  Just a side-note, I will be looking into my personal use of Mindfulness on my psoriasis and chronic pain from FMS and Lupus-I have only learned that Kabat-Zinn has done research in this area with a healthy success rate.  Any input you might have is greatly appreciated-though I know at this moment my blog is young-so basically talking to myself!  So no matter when you may come across this post years from now-please do let me know!  Peace out. 
Love on Day 6, Leila