Friday 29 July 2011

See you on the flipside

It's 5.42am so it must be time to go on holiday - nothing else could get me up so early this time of year. I'm off to Australia for four weeks. I have scheduled a couple of posts so you won't miss me too much and I intend to do some video blogs, but I'm not sure what internet access I'll have, so they might all appear in one go at the end of August....

Back in a month! Bye!

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Wednesday Beauty: Bristol Pedicure Review #1

I like a good pedicure, but I'm afraid I've been a little bit spoiled by having them done in the States where they truly know how to tackle the foot. I remember once getting a pedicure in Vegas from a teeny Asian woman who spent the entire appointment chatting on her mobile phone as she shaved my feet with an actual blade. Scary, but very effective.

Unfortunately, I have found that pedicures in this country seem to compose of a foot wash, a half-hearted go with some sort of giant emery board, and a coat of polish. I am making it my mission, therefore, to find a decent pedicure in Bristol; and I will review them here, as I try them.

I had the first one on Monday.

Place: The Beauty Box, Clifton Down Shopping Centre
Price: £41 - this was for a three week gel pedicure, which on its own was £31 - I paid an extra £10 for the foot treatment
Time: About 70 minutes

The first thing I have to say about this is - don't wear a skirt. The treatment takes place on a treatment bed and I had to awkwardly angle my feet into a bowl of water, and then sit with my knees up for the entire appointment. This was quite uncomfortable by the end of it.

The therapist (after giving me a towel to go over my knees and protect my dignity) had a good go at my feet with a foot file but then didn't use any kind of moisturiser or anything on them, which I thought was a bit odd. She then sorted out my cuticles and filed my toenails into a decent and even shape. They had a good range of colours for the gel polish and she applied enough coats to get an opaque finish, even managing to sort out my bizarre pointy little toenails so they don't look deformed.

My feet still feel quite smooth but I was off out to dinner afterwards and they were a bit scaly and dry-looking, due to the lack of moisturiser; and I had the sore coccyx thanks to the seating position.

I would, however, have this pedicure again, but I would ask for some foot moisturiser, and if I could begin the appointment seated in the chair for the exfoliation and foot file, and then transfer to the treatment bed for the nails.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Tuesday Ten

Ten Tips for Flying Long-haul

1. Water
My simple rule of thumb is, the longer the flight, the bigger the bottle. Of course they have water on the flight but the cups are always tiny. It hurts a bit because the shops in the airports, at least the British ones, know they have a captive market and charge a scandalous price (I mean you, WHSmith, you embarrassment of a newsagent) but always buy 2 litres for a long-haul flight and make sure you drink it.

2. Avoid coffee/alcohol
I know. When the booze is (ostensibly) free, it's difficult to say no; but don't give in. Coffee and alcohol will both dehydrate you and counteract all that over-priced water you're pumping into your body.

3. Have lots to do
When I fly to Australia this week, I will have my Kindle, a magazine (maybe 2), my DSi, some knitting and my MP3 player. Then there are the in-flight movies. I hate getting bored.

4. Big, fluffy socks
...or slippers. My feet always swell to some extent on the plane and I'm not the best at wearing shoes, but my feet get a bit cold otherwise. And unless you have uncomplicated shoes, take something you can slip on over your socks for those visits to the toilet, like flip flops.

5. Layers
I am always very careful to wear comfortable clothes - not trousers, no seams on the underside of my skirt. I also make sure I dress in thin layers because planes can be all over the place in terms of temperature. I also always take a sarong or shawl to wrap up in, because I've been on a large number of flights where they have run out of blankets. I expect all the first class passengers were using them to wrap up their diamond necklaces and so on.

6. Listen to your body
If I'm flying near a workday, sometimes I try and make myself sleep; sometimes I make myself stay awake. But if I'm flying for a holiday I just do what comes naturally. I take a sleep mask and my MP3 player to block out unwanted noise.

7. Moisturise
I have a whole in-flight beauty routine. I try and keep my skin hydrated from the outside as well as in. This makes me feel more poised and confident when I get off the flight, and curiously seems to leave me slightly less jet-lagged too, for some reason.

8. Toothpaste/gum
Everyone will thank you for it. Don't rely on the airline to provide. The first class people might be using it to clean their diamonds.

9. Don't watch the flight map thing
It will only depress you, particularly in the final hour, during which the plane will not appear to move one iota.

10. Don't overpack your hand luggage
People on long-haul* who refuse to check luggage irritate me with their enormous cases (why do they never get stopped?) and their smug "I'll get through customs first" attitudes. I prefer to use the baggage allowance I paid for and keep my cabin bag on the light side, so I can find things easily without braining the poor unfortunate sitting underneath the locker.

* the same does not apply for Easyjet or any other flight where one has to pay to check luggage.

Monday 25 July 2011

Weekend FOs

After many months in the non-knitting wilderness, I finally have two things to show.

Royal Wedding Shrug

Pattern: Camellia Shrug from Knitscene
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Honor (sic) in Royal Wedding, just over 2 skeins - I had to wind the third skein for the last six rows of ribbing which was annoying!
Needle: 3.75mm
Mods: I knitted the sleeves in the round. The sleeves were just not going to be long enough so I mirrored the first two sections of the lace chartafter the third section, to avoid having a random lace motif somewhere around the elbow.

I actually finished knitting this in time for a FO post last week but I didn't get round to photographing it. It should have been a very quick knit. I started it in April and had the back done in four days. It then took several months to get round to the rest, though the second sleeves and ribbing were done in a weekend.
This is truly a lovely thing: soft, amazing colours, very warm. Maybe a little small. I have talked myself into a habit now, where I never knit anything with positive ease: as a chobber, experience tells me fitted clothes are more flattering. So, I went on the size closest to my actual back size. It doesn't have the slouch of the original but I like it nonetheless.
I also learned that sometimes designers have it right (shock!) - the sleeves were meant to be knitted flat and sewn up but I thought I knew better. However, sleeves in the round made blocking out the back a bit of a pain. I managed it, though.

Fuzzy Slippers

This was sort of a kit - a gigantic ball of yarn with the pattern on the ballband. I bought it at Get Knitted around Christmas time and promptly forgot about it, which was a great shame because it was so quick. I knitted (on 6mm needles) and felted them over the weekend - a true weekend FO if ever there was one. The wool was the catchily named Schachenmayr nomotta Wash+Filz-it! siriuscolor (Ravelry link) which is currently available at one third off in the Get Knitted sale - so if you're looking for Christmas presents, don't delay!

Sunday 17 July 2011

Sunday Baking: Mango cupcakes

I love mango. I'd hesitate to say it's my favourite fruit: I'm far too indecisive for just one. One of the nicest parts about journeying to Malaysia was the opportunity to eat the fruit in a country where it grows; in fact, it was great to experience a variety of different fruits and I also developed a taste for pink guava juice, which is sold pasteurised and thick from the longlife fruit juice aisle in this country but still tastes close enough to keep me happy.

Last summer I had a good nose around a Malaysian supermarket and came away with a bottle of mango essence. I've been looking for a use for it ever since, and when I saw some dried mango in Tesco yesterday I decided to try out some mango cupcakes. I adapted the cupcake recipe from the gooseberry-elderflower cakes I made a couple of weeks ago, because it was a good one.

3 cups self-raising flour (guess who ran out of baking powder...)
2 cups caster sugar
8oz butter
4 eggs
1 cup pink guava juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
Packet of dried mango (mine was 130g)

First, deal with the mango. You can just chop it up and sling it in at the end if you like, but I wanted mine softened up and less sweet, so I cut it into little pieces and then soaked it in water for a couple of hours.

Stir the flour and sugar together and then beat in the softened butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Beat the wet ingredients together and add to the flour mixture in three batches, taking care not to overmix. Then stir in the mango pieces. Scoop into cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes or so.

1lb cream cheese
Caster sugar to taste
1 tsp mango extract

Combine. Taste to make sure the sweetness is right. Smooth over the cakes and decorate with a piece of dried mango.