Sharmed Out!

People ask me why I go diving in Sharm el Sheikh twice a year.  Here are three good reasons to go diving in Sharm:

  1. It is a relatively short flight (5 hours) to get to an area that is warm all year around and the closest place to the UK with coral reefs.
  2. Most of the dive sites are healthy with beautiful corals and a wide variety of colourful fish.
  3. It is relatively cheap.

I just came back from my 10th or 11th trip to Sharm.  I normally go for two weeks twice a year, but this time I went for three weeks.  My partner was going to finish his Dive Master the first two weeks with one week of fun diving with me.  Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan.

I was feeling slightly under the weather the day we left the UK and I ended up with a bout of sinusitis.  I managed to complete my first (and 200th) dive on the first day with no problems.  However, when attempting my second dive of the day, I felt stabbing pains around my eyes at three meters and had to come back to the surface.  Not good!  I attempted to dive on the second day, but couldn’t get past a meter, so the rest of that day was spent sleeping on the boat and the next couple of days were spent by the pool.  A hard life you may think, but if you have purchased a 15 day dive package over three weeks, it kills you to think of losing any diving days.  I spent my days by the pool (in the shade), reading a book, and napping, while my partner and friends were out on the boat diving and enjoying themselves.  By the time I was feeling better, my partner was feeling worse and got what I had.  He had to put off his Dive Master course and fun diving as he wasn’t able to clear his sinuses.  The poor soul is sitting here next to me still all blocked up!  At least he managed to get a week of diving in before it all went pear-shaped.

So, what is a soul to do in a diver’s paradise when they can’t do any diving?  Fuck all really.  How much time can you spend surfing the net, sunbathing, going to the gym, sleeping, reading, drinking, eating, etc?  I can manage two days tops.  My partner had to endure about two weeks.  We are action people, which is why we go diving.  We get up early to go diving.  You can sleep on the boat in between dives.  There is not a lot to do in Sharm.  There is no culture.  It is a resort, not a town.  There was nothing there when people first started diving in that part of The Red Sea.  Development for tourism really didn’t take off until the early 80’s.  The place is full of hotels, some of which will never be completed.

When you have paid for and organised your holiday around diving, it can go against the grain to spend any more money on excursions that don’t live up to the hype.  Shopping  for cheap tat is also not an option.  There is nothing that we want to buy as we really don’t need anything.  All that was left to do was to suck it up and accept the situation as best as we could.  I had a day off after my first full week of diving in order to keep my buddy company.  I took the opportunity to have my legs sugared!  It killed an hour.  The rest of the time we hung out by the pool and took advantage of the all-inclusive.  Meaning:  we started drinking at 11am.

There is nothing to see and nothing to do.  How people who live there can say they are living the dream is beyond my comprehension.  The last few years, most of what I have heard is negativity and a lot of complaining.  If living in the sun and diving every day is your dream, great!  However, I can think of better places to do it, where you can actually do things and get a bit of culture to boot.  A few people I know that have left to go back to the UK say that the only things they miss about Sharm is the diving, the weather, and their friends.  Nothing else.  I think that sums things up.

I realise that my frustration about Sharm probably has more to do with the fact that I have been going to the same place for too long and twice a year.  If I only went for a week once a year, I might not feel the same way.  I personally like more variety in my life as I feel that there are so many places to visit and things to do.  I have dived most of the dive sites at Sharm, and although you can do the same dive site twice and it will be different each time, it can get monotonous.  If anything, this trip has taught me that I need to try something else and go somewhere different.  I doubt that diving in Marsa Alam or El Ghouna is going to offer anything on the culture front, but at least the dive sites won’t be so familiar to me.  I might even consider doing a Live-aboard in the future.

Being ill on this trip has showed me that I need to re-think my holidays in order to get more out of them in case things don’t go according to plan.  Diving will still be on the agenda, but it will be a long time before I go back to Sharm again.  I can’t say the same for my partner as he will now have to go out again in May to complete his Dive Master course and then go straight in to do the Instructor’s course.  It can be a tough life for some, eh?

What I Want For Christmas…

Christmas has become too commercialized.  Since when did it become bigger than birthdays?  Not everyone enjoys it either.  So much guilt is generated around this holiday.  Not everyone gets along with their family or wants to spend time with them.  I really don’t want my kids to feel obliged to visit me for Christmas.  As much as I love my kids, if they want to be somewhere else, then fine.  I would rather not guilt trip them about it and see them when they are happy to come around of their own accord.

I haven’t spent Christmas with my parents for years.  I don’t even live in the same country as they do!  Are they alone?  No!  Granted, the holiday isn’t the same without me…hehe!   Sure, I like decorating the house and giving gifts.  But when did the gift giving be the all important aspect of Christmas as it seems to be today?   What pressure there is in these austere times for parents to ‘give’ to their kids when many are struggling to pay the bills.  It would be really interesting if the kids told their parents not to worry about a present this year because they know it hasn’t been easy since mom or dad got laid off from work ( or any other scenario where a family is struggling).  I somehow don’t see that happening.

When my children asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I honestly couldn’t think of anything.  I have all the ‘stuff’ that I really need, as well as stuff that I don’t really need.  When I asked my sweetheart what he wanted, he couldn’t think of anything he wanted either.  When he asked me what I wanted, well, I couldn’t think of anything. I don’t need anymore diving equipment, or art supplies right now.  I don’t need clothes or shoes or handbags.  I don’t need furniture or accessories.  I haven’t seen anything that jumps out at me and screams, ‘buy me!’  There isn’t anything that I really want.  I would rather save the money for a great night out or a holiday.

In this run up to Christmas, I have had some free time on my hands to get ready for the big event.  Actually, it is in two parts as my daughter will be away for Christmas and so she came to visit me this past weekend.  I spent the week before running around like a mad woman getting all the shopping and decorating done before she arrived.  It was exhausting.  The upside to that is I don’t have to run around like a mad woman this week before my son comes down for Christmas Part 2.

What I enjoyed most about spending Christmas Part 1 with my daughter was the fact that she was here and I got to spend some time with her.  Sitting with my family at the dinner table is more important to me than presents.  Sharing time and making memories can’t take the place of a new sweater or any other item.

I am really looking forward to Christmas Part 2.  I haven’t seen my son since August as he has been away at University.  I could care less about a present.  All I really want is to spend time with my family and loved ones.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Holiday!

Cranberry Sauce – Make Your Own!

Cranberry Sauce is one of the easiest things to make.  It is also fun and it makes the house smell nice!

In the UK, cranberry sauce is readily available in small jars all year-long.  That wasn’t always the case, so when I would find fresh cranberries in the supermarket, I would always make my own.  The best thing about making your own – you can make it just the way you like it, and there are so many different ways to make it.

I recently bought a couple of punnets to make cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, with enough left over for Christmas and a few other meals.  This is how I make it:


2 punnets of fresh cranberries

1 cup of sugar

Zest of one orange

The juice of your zested orange

1 small cinnamon stick

Mulled wine

Wash the cranberries and get rid of any mushy ones.  Pop them in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add 1 cup of sugar to the cranberries (you can use less or more according to taste, but you need the sugar to help set the cranberries and make it last in the fridge, like jam).  Zest your orange and then cut the orange in half and squeeze all the juice in.  Make sure to remove any pips.  Add 1 small stick of cinnamon.  Top up with enough mulled wine so the cranberries can float a bit.

Put the heat on medium high.  When it starts to boil, turn down the heat so that it is on a gentle simmer!  It should look like this!

Don’t worry about any foam around your cranberries.  That will be from the zest and will disappear.  Look how pretty they are, like little rubies!   Now for the fun part, the kids will like this!  Stir your cranberries now and then and listen to them pop.  You should see little splits in the berries with the white insides popping out.  It is sort of like watching popcorn.  All the berries need to cook and pop.  If after about 5-10 minutes there are still some that haven’t popped, just get a wooden spoon and pop them on the side of the pan.  The berries need to pop so that they can sweeten up and help make the jelly.  I like to get the wooden spoon and give them all just a little extra squeeze.  You will start to see that the juice will go translucent.  This means that the sauce is ready to put into containers.  By the way, I like cranberry bits.  If you want more of a jelly, then strain the fruit mixture through a sieve and dispose of the skin.  Don’t forget to remove the cinnamon stick!

I try to re-use jam or condiment jars just for making cranberry sauce.  Make sure they are very clean.  When you are ready, fill up the jar with the cranberry sauce and put the lid on while still hot.  The lid should seal itself once the sauce starts to cool down.  If you don’t have any glass jars, plastic containers will work too.  I haven’t had a problem with the sauce going off before Christmas, but you might want to check it before you eat it.  If there is too much air in the container, it might not last as long.  I only had one jar which I am taking up to my daughter and the rest were put into small plastic containers with rubber seals.

Cranberry sauce is a great accompaniment for red meat, any fowl, and even vegetarian meals.  I particularly like it with leftover turkey and stuffing sandwiches!

Have fun!  I wouldn’t mind hearing other ways of making cranberry sauce.  What is your favourite?