The winner of 12 share bags of Popchips is …
I will e-mail you shortly
Hello! I hope everyone has had a splendid start to the week. It feels good to be blogging again and I want to keep posting regularly, which probably means once or twice a week. The advantage of taking a break is that I have a lot to write about and get you caught up on my inner-most thoughts. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone wants to hear my inner-most thoughts … I’ll be writing more stuff anyway.
Today I have a review and giveaway for you. I don’t do many product reviews in general, but occasionally I get the opportunity to review something interesting, which is why I said yes to Popchips.
Popchips are different to traditional crisps in that they are neither fried nor baked, but popped instead (hence the name). This makes them lower fat, healthier and tastier (I think so anyway).
I was kindly sent a sample of each of the flavours to try – original, barbeque, salt & pepper, sea salt & vinegar, thai sweet chilli, and sour cream & onion.
I’ve bought Popchips before and been very impressed, but some of these flavours were new to me. I particularly liked the thai sweet chilli and the sour cream & onion, especially teamed with some hummus for dipping into. Besides the taste, the best thing about them is the texture – they give a satisfying crunch and didn’t leave me with a greasy feel in my mouth, which is what I really dislike about traditional crisps.
The only downside is they are really moreish and I managed to eat a big share pack to myself very quickly (although they are quite low in calories, so not too much damage done). Either I need to find myself some willpower or more friends to share with!
Now for a GIVEAWAY!
Popchips will send the winner a mixture of 12 share bags so you can try them out for yourself.
There are two simple ways to enter:
1) Leave me a comment
2) Follow me on Twitter (@picnicsarah) AND tweet about the giveaway:
“@picnicsarah is giving away some wonderful Popchips, check out her blog to find out how to enter http://everydaysapicnic.com”
– and leave a comment telling me you’ve done so
The competition will close at 23:59 GMT on Monday 4th February 2013 and I will pick the winner on Tuesday 5th February 2013.
Sorry, UK residents only.
Disclosure: Popchips sent me some samples to try, but I have received no other payment and my opinions are all my own.
Urm … hello, Happy New Year …
Yes, I know it’s the 26th January and memories of sherry and mince pies have long faded into the distance, but it’s the first time that I’ve checked in during 2013. As usual, I’ve been avidly reading my favourite blogs, but writing a post myself hasn’t been high on my list of priorities. However, whenever I take a break from inhabiting this little piece of cyberspace I eventually feel the pull back towards writing and interacting with the community.
One reason that I’ve avoided posting is that I feel that my life and my focus have changed quite a lot in the past few months, especially in regards to my health and how that’s impacted on my lifestyle. At the end of last year I wrote about discovering that I have a vitamin B12 deficiency and I was hopeful that with regular injections I would start to feel back to normal.
In many respects I do feel better, but not quite firing on all cylinders. I feel exhausted less frequently, which is good news, but I still have days where I feel like gravity is pulling me forcibly into a heap on the ground and everything is fuzzy and doesn’t quite make sense. I also have occasional recurrence of classic B12 deficiency symptoms like tinnitus, heart palpitations and pins and needles.
I’m hopeful that as time goes on these symptoms will become less and less frequent and I’ll feel more like my sparky bright self of a few years ago. Sometime I feel like I’m 28, going on 50, which is not helped by the pesky grey hairs I found over Christmas (another annoying symptom of deficiency)
All of this has made me reassess my priorities, and at the moment that means being healthy enough to cultivate my relationships, make a contribution at work and make the most of my free time. As a result, I’ve dramatically cut down on exercise. I love working out and in many ways I miss the endorphin rush and the sense of satisfaction that comes with a great run or circuits class, but I don’t believe that’s what’s best for me right now. Intense exercise increases B12 requirements and leaves me feeling like I need to vegetate on the sofa for a long time afterwards.
My main forms of exercise have been yoga and walking. Yoga practice has become important to me, both to build strength and to relax and let go of anxiety. I get on my mat most weekday mornings and I hope to develop my practice further over the next year. I’ve always loved walking and have been out for at least half an hour each day. Once the snow and ice have finally melted I want to do even more walking and take the opportunity to enjoy the countryside.
I would like to build up the amount of exercise I do and I would love to run again soon. However, I doubt that I’ll be doing as much as I have been in recent years. I want to exercise for health and enjoyment rather than chasing an ideal of fitness. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy running long distances – I really did, but the overall impact on my life isn’t worth it. I just want to be able to approach every morning with energy and verve.
Finally, it’s the last instalment of my seemingly-epic journey around some of the Eastern half of the United States. We spent the last few days of our holiday in the Boston area. We flew from Atlanta to Boston on Thursday morning and were greeted by what I’m reliably told is called ‘wintery mix’. I’m sure we get it in the UK, but not so much – it was snowing, raining, sleeting and windy all at the same time. It was bitterly, bitterly cold, much colder than I thought it would be at the beginning of November.
Once we figured out how to get from the airport into the city (it was free – yay, but confusing – boo) we walked the half mile or so to the hostel that we had booked. It seemed like such a long way with heavy suitcases and the weather battering us. Accommodation in Boston is notoriously expensive and the hostel was the cheapest we could find. It was friendly, demonstrated by the freshly-made cookies on arrival, but very basic.
In our wisdom we decided to have a look around Boston before finding somewhere to eat. It was dark by this time, still snowing and we had little clue where we were going. Boston is confusing to navigate around especially after spending time in Chicago where the streets are arranged in an orderly grid formation. Long-story short, we ended up walking a long way, not seeing very much and getting extremely cold and wet!
I’m happy to report that from then on things got much better. On Thursday we walked over the bridge to Cambridge to meet up with some of Peter’s friends. Peter’s been a member of an online community of computer programmers for a long time and has always wanted to visit the USA to meet them in person. Many of them live in the Boston area, so this was a perfect opportunity.
We looked around MIT and then went to the MIT museum. I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect and thought that I’d be sitting around bored waiting for the techies to look around. However, I was wrong, the museum was excellent and they were all waiting for me at the end! There was a lot of information about research into glaciers and climate change, as well as robots …
This is Kismet who was designed to be able to show emotion through facial expressions
… kinetic art …
It was so difficult to take a photograph of the kinetic art as the mechanisms were so small, intricate and moved quickly. This one was a chair that walked around a rock. I found it meditative and somehow rather beautiful.
… and holograms. The holograms were fantastic, but you weren’t allowed to take photographs. There was a great one of the Queen, which was produced for her Diamond Jubilee. I thought that the museum was informative, but it also showed the link between technology and art and that wasn’t something that I’d really considered before.
On Saturday we hired another car and drove up to New Hampshire to visit the house of one of the people we met with the day before. I didn’t take any photos because we were mainly hanging around his house and I didn’t think that it would be appropriate. It was interesting talking about how different their life is to ours. They live on a huge plot of land in a house that they built for themselves, with a mountain right outside. They can’t let their cats outside because some nasty critter will get it, and they regularly get snowed in in the winter.
Saturday was our last day. We hadn’t spent a lot of time in Boston itself, so we decided to do the Freedom Trail Tour.
As you can see the weather had changed considerably and it was mild enough to just wear my jumper without a jacket. It was a fun tour and I learned a bit more about American history, an area where my knowledge is lacking.
I was only in the USA for 12 days, but as you can see we packed an awful lot in! I felt that I would have liked a bit more time in each place, but it was also quite exciting to visit lots of different places and meet new people. We both had a fabulous time and would do it again in a flash. I would love to do a similar trip on the West Coast – Peter has a friend from home who lives in California and we would like to visit at some point.
Thanks for reading!
Logan Airport had rocking chairs that you can sit in while you watch the planes – how cool is that?
Yesterday I left off as we were driving from the International Museum of Towing and Recovery in Chattanooga to meet some friends at Hemlockfest in Northern Georgia. Hemlockfest is a small festival to raise money for research into how to save hemlock trees from a spreading infestation of the hemlock woolly adelgid, which is an insect native to Asia. The insect sucks the trees’ sap and kills it in 3-6 years.
We arrived at the festival on Saturday evening, but there was music, entertainment and various activities all weekend. It was something completely different to the big festivals I’ve been to in the UK. It was small, intimate and chilled out, with the campsite only a few minutes’ walk from the stage. We arrived in time for the fire dancers, who were fabulous.
The site itself was truly beautiful, with a pretty lake. This was the view from near our tent.
The music was mainly bluegrass and country and was really evocative of being in the mountains of Georgia.
After the festival ended on Sunday afternoon we went to our friends’ house in the suburbs of Atlanta and stayed with them for a few days. On the Monday we went on a lovely walk in the mountains.
Dan and Carol were really into nature and identifying different plants, which meant that instead of my usual power walk we had a leisurely ramble. It was actually a fantastic change. It gave us a chance to soak in the scenery and learn about the flora and fauna of the area. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it’s amazing the difference between the species we have in Europe and those in America.
Tuesday was Peter’s birthday and we headed into Atlanta with Carol and her toddler son. We didn’t really know what to see, but after consulting my guidebook we settled on the Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site. It was kind of fitting as it was also the day of the presidential election.
The visitor centre was small, but packed full of interesting and thoughtful information. It was heavy going and quite upsetting at times, but well worth visiting. It was a incredibly well done museum with a mixture of written information and videos and I felt that I learned a lot in a couple of hours. To lighten the mood, we met the real Santa. When he’s not in the North Pole preparing for Christmas he volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr visitor centre. True story.
We then took a look around some of the other historic sites, including Ebenezer Baptist Church, which had been restored to look like it would have done in the 1960s.
We then went over to the aquarium, although it was close to closing time, so we didn’t get to see everything. We did see the whale sharks, beluga whales and rays.
Like all of the other places we visited, we were sorry to leave Georgia and felt like there was so much more to see. We were extremely grateful to Dan and Carol for being such fantastic hosts and showing us around.
In the final part I’ll write about our visit to Boston.
Once we’d made it to Chicago Midway airport in one piece we went to collect our rental car. We’d ordered a medium-sized car, but got upgraded to a ‘small SUV’. Driving out of the airport was a scary proposition, luckily Peter had volunteered to do that. We sat in the car for about half an hour getting comfortable and plucking up the courage to leave. Neither of us had driven on the right hand side of the road before and we were very nervous. Peter did a great job and even though it was late we managed about three and a half hours driving before stopping at a hotel for the night.
We drove through Indiana, but I can’t make much comment on what that was like because it was pitch black. We did see quite a few grain stores along the side of the road and I believe that the landscape is made up mainly of large corn fields. We collapsed into bed really tired and decided to set our alarm so that we could make breakfast. Unfortunately we hadn’t realised that we had crossed over into a different time zone and woke up an hour too late! The hotel worker was really nice though and gave us a bowl of cereal, some fruit and a muffin. The whole road trip we were driving frequently between Central and Eastern Time, so we ended up very confused.
We drove through Kentucky to Mammoth Cave National Park as one of Peter’s friends had recommended it as a good place to visit. We took a lantern-lit tour of Onyx Cave, which is one of the caves within the National Park. The tour guide was brilliant and I learned lots about the history of the Park and the geology of the caves. There were some pretty cool features in there, but it was difficult to take good photographs in the dim light. This is one of the gypsum formations that looked like a beautiful flower.
Afterwards we went for a walk around one of the short trails. It was just about going dark, so we were nearly alone and got to enjoy the magnificent autumn colours in all their glory.
I was also excited to see some wildlife. We saw a chipmunk, a woodpecker, some vultures and deer. I was particularly excited about the chipmunk, I’ve never seen one, but apparently they’re quite common in the USA. We could have stayed a few days in the National Park, taking more cave tours and walking. Peter’s done some caving in the past, so he was interested in taking some of the more adventurous tours.
When we finally dragged ourselves away we drove down to Nashville. We stopped at a downtown hotel and then headed into the city to experience some of the atmosphere and music. It was a Friday night and it was buzzing. We stopped at a bar that was serving food with the intention of then moving on to a few other places. We ended up just staying there because the music was so good. There was a rockier country band in the food area and a more traditional country band in the main bar, so we spent a couple of hours listening to each. Neither of us are really into country, but it was so entertaining. I think Peter was particularly fascinated by a young female fiddler who was phenomenal. Again, we were tired so called it quits about 1am, but I have a feeling that the party when on way into the early hours. I would definitely go back to Nashville and spend some time getting to know it better.
On Saturday morning we drove through Tennessee to Northern Georgia where we were meeting friends at a festival. When I was researching places to visit I came across the International Museum of Towing and Recovery. It sounded so quirky that we had to visit. We turned up in the middle of the afternoon and were only the third and forth visitors of the day! It was incredibly quirky, but the curator was very friendly, Peter enjoyed looking at the vehicles and mechanisms, and I liked the stories behind all the trucks. There was also a Hall of Fame and a monument to towing and recovery professionals who had died in the line of duty.
Next time I’ll write about our visit to Georgia …
Hello! First of all, thank you for all your supportive comments about my vitamin B12 deficiency. I’m starting to feel better and more energised, so things are going well so far. It’s actually one month to the day since I returned from the USA, so I’m way behind on posting about our trip, but better late than never. Writing these posts will help me to remember what a great time we had will keep me entertained on these freezing cold evenings.
Although I had a wonderful time in the end, the holiday did get off to a shaky start. I was on a cottage break with some of my friends the weekend before I was due to fly to Chicago. My plan was that I would drive to Heathrow airport on Monday afternoon, stay the night, and then fly early on Tuesday morning. Being in the middle of the countryside enjoying ourselves we were mostly oblivious to the news, but I did get some time to catch up with blog reading. That was when I found out about Hurricane Sandy. Oh dear, I was meant to fly to New York and then on to Chicago. To cut a long story, involving tears and frustrating calls to my airline, short, I managed to re-route through Atlanta and still arrive in Chicago on Tuesday evening.
Peter was already in Chicago working at a trade show, so it was wonderful to see him waiting for me at the airport. I was tired, but managed the 45 minute ride into the city and a sushi dinner before collapsing into bed for an early night.
Thanks to jet lag I was up bright and early on Wednesday morning ready to explore the sights of Chicago. Peter had to go to work, but he doesn’t really enjoy sight-seeing around cities anyway. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but it was cold! The air temperature was about 7 celcius, but the bitter northerly wind made it feel much colder. I wrapped up warm and decided to wear the Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer look with pride.
It was very quiet around most of the sights because it was so early. I love walking around a place before it’s quite woken up. It’s a totally different experience to the normal hustle and bustle of a city. I followed a walk suggested in my guide book and took a look at some of the famous architecture in the financial district first. I then headed to Millennium Park to see the Cloud Gate, which blew my mind. I spent a long time staring at it from different angles.
I then walked over to Lake Michigan, which was sparkling in the sun. All of Peter’s colleagues had laughed at me the night before, saying it was too far to walk, but it wasn’t far at all. I think I have a warped sense of distance.
I walked as far as the river and then walked along the river and crossed over onto Michigan Avenue. The Wrigley Building is perhaps the most impressive building I have ever seen.
I don’t think the photo does it justice, but it was such a crazy shape, it seemed almost two dimensional.
I had soon realised that I had packed a bit too lightly, especially considering the cold weather, so I took the opportunity to do some shopping along the Magnificent Mile. I then crawled back to the hotel room and collapsed on the bed. I don’t know how far I walked, but I estimate that it was at least 6 miles, so I was pretty tired.
On Thursday I had another walk around The Loop (the area in central Chicago where we were staying), before heading to the Art Institute. It was huge and had far too much to see in a couple of hours. I concentrated on the American art sections first before taking a whistle-stop tour of the Impressionist gallery.
I would like this Tiffany lamp for Christmas please, thank you.
On Thursday afternoon I went to the rescue of Peter who had forgotten the charger for his power drill. I hung out at the convention centre until Peter finished work because I was pretty tired at that point and we had already checked out of the hotel. It was about 8pm by the time we got back to the hotel and took a taxi to pick up our hire car.
The taxi drive was definitely an interesting part of the holiday. For a start, we asked to be taken to the “car hire” place, which the driver just didn’t understand. After some frustration I twigged what was the matter and eventually asked to be taken to the “car rental” place instead. The driver wasn’t exactly sure where he was going and managed to annoy another driver in the airport. The other taxi blocked us in and they both got out of the car and faced off at each other. There was some fruity language and Peter and I were sitting in the back wondering what to do next. Thankfully we did make it to the rental place without being witness to a murder.
Well done if you’ve made it to the end! Next time it’s our road trip …