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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Travel via chocolate bars

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post takes a look at the joys of eating chocolate, with a shout out to the cocoa beans from the Dominican Republic and Belize....  Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).


Most chocolate eaters know chocolate is good for them (and here's the evidence!)

Researchers recently claimed that drinking two cups of cocoa a day makes older people cleverer -by slowing down memory decline, see here. I don't think I'm the right age for their target group, but I've recently finished off my stash of chocolate - and on a money saving drive decided not to replace my big bars because they usually get more than one modest piece removed from them during the working day.

Result: I don't feel half as clever or half as happy. Dare I add that I forget why...

So here's a post in praise of chocolate - wherever the cocoa beans are grown but especially the Dominican Republic and Belize. Extra special praise for the lovely Green & Blacks brand that suggests it's good to eat Madelines and croissant jazzed up with chocolate. And even better to give James Bond's favourite drink - a martini - given an extra zing with a bit of chocolate..... (see photo above with recipe cards included in a taster box of chocolates that a lovely person gave me last Christmas).

Fancy a bit of chocolate now? Now excuse me while I report back to the Ompa Lompas.

Over to you?
Can you cope without chocolate? Are you an afficanado when it comes to beans, flavour and brand? Is chocolate a luxury or a necessity in your carbon-fuelled life?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Finding Persian rugs at auction

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post takes a look at how an auction can let you carpet bag, possibly via  a trip to Uzbekistan, or maybe Pakistan....  Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Nell, Lola and our friend Marie pose at the auction.
It's been a mini-ambition of mine to introduce the kids to an auction. I love auctions - livestock or antiques. But I rarely go despite it being such a great way to learn, find bargains, understand money, lose money, make money etc. The research has been lengthy and included complex planning to take them to Criterion Auction Rooms in Islington. First I interviewed an auctioneer, see this link to islingtonfacesblog.com, Peter Ball: auctioneer. Then they had to save up pocket money to bid (this will take them years!). Then I took my daughters to look around the items on view, twice.  They instantly began to like finding chairs to sit on and make attempts to spot bargains.

At last the Monday 3pm sale coincided with us all being around - and my increasing desire for a Persian carpet to stop my office chair sliding across the floor.  The rugs go on sale as early lot numbers, though a few are much later. This sale had: "A hand knotted Bokhara rug the red field with bold repeated geometric decoration" with an estimate of £80-£150.

So I bid - actually I failed to bid for two earlier lot numbers through not really understanding how to make myself known or wave a paddle. Eventual result: carpet under the hammer to the scruffy mother on the sofa with three children (they didn't say this) for £70. Of course you spend more than this as there is an auction house mark up but for £84 I'm the happy owner of a fabulously worn out garnet-red coloured rug. What I don't know yet is if it is a central Asian rug from Uzbekistan, see Bokhara, or a Pakistani Bukhara rug. Either way it's fabulous.

The info at this website (which stocks Persian, Bokhara, Tribal and Kilim styles) reckons a 9x12 foot Bokhara rug - which is the size of mine - could take 9-10 months to make by a small group, because the knots are hand tied. What an astonishing craftsmanship made my rug. I just hope a fair wage was paid by somebody, somewhere for it. I'm certainly not it's first owner!

The dog and I are very happy with the new surface.

Over to you
Are there items in your home, that you use all the time, but actually have a strong link to somewhere else in the world? I guess "made in china' counts too.