Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Winter Pampering

I have had an underlying feeling of general GROT for the last week or so, not surprising with the weather we've had and the fact that all my colleagues have been ill recently, it was only a matter of time really. I felt super yucky on the bus home yesterday, and woke up this morning feeling naff, so decided to allow myself to get better and call in sick. Naturally by the afternoon I felt much better and got that hideous guilty feeling that perhaps I should have gone to work after all. That always happens, but I knew this morning that if I went in, I wouldn't have lasted the day.

This afternoon I had a little pamper to try and feel a bit more human. I got some Soap and Glory goodies for Christmas, including The Daily Smooth body butter and Scrub, Actually body scrub and Girligo body mist, which I slathered and sprayed, in the appropriate order. I really like Soap and Glory products, they smell delightful, work really well and are really good value. They are nearly always on offer in Boots, they're 3for2 at the moment (GO!).

I've also been trying to be better at moisturising. I received some gorgeous Elemis day and night creams for Christmas so I've been using them as religiously as I can remember to. Elemis products are pricier at around £40, but even after using for a short time, I can see why, my skin is silky baby soft at a time of year when it should by rights be feeling much crustier!

Pampering wouldn't be pampering without a big fluffy robe to do it in. Another Christmas gift for me, I was well and truly spoilt this year! My last robe was a fleece one, a Christmas gift about 12 years ago so I was long overdue a new one, and I found this one in Debenhams and directly my mum promptly to it. It's so soft, and makes me feel relaxed and cosy within seconds of putting it on.

Lovely Fluffy goodness
I've had a fairly busy old time recently, work has been manic with various team members being off and the weekend passed in a blur as usual. Here's what I've been doing:

Watching: Green Wing (old school hilarity), Breaking Bad (stunningly gripping, or grippingly stunning, I haven't decided), Movie 43 (odd. Very odd).

Listening: More Les Mis and showtunes courtesy of Elaine Paige - yesterday I had EPOS to thank for the fact that I had Hakuna Matata in my head ALL day.

Eating: An indulgent day on Saturday, I ate in Food for Thought which is an amazing vegetarian cafe/restaurant in Covent Garden, I've been going there for over 10 years, fantastically filling and healthy food. I also ate an amazing pork and chorizo burger at The Calf in Clapham on Saturday night. There might have even been a naughty cake in Le Pain Quotidien in between, but who can resist a chocolate fondant slice? Sunday, even naughtier, I popped to my good friend Laurel's who treated me to some amazing cake which she's entering into a competition. I'd post a picture but I don't want to compromise her chances of winning (and to my mind, she's got a blimmin' good chance)!
Food for Thought
Buying: Payday this month could not have come quickly enough. I treated myself to a case for my tablet which is on it's way from Hong Kong, as below, in my favourite shade of blue. Once it comes I might even be brave enough to leave the house with my tablet. 
Super kitsch tablet case
Laughing: This Tumblr is hilarious and combines two of my favourite things, Les Mis and Mean Girls

Losing: My efforts in walking, WeightWatching (apart from this weekend, ahem) and abstaining from booze have culminated in me losing 11lb as at last Wednesday. I'm weighing in this Friday to get the final end of Dryathlon result so I can pester my colleagues to sponsor me pound for pound!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Les Miserables and other epic tales...

I went to the cinema yesterday to see Les Miserables. It was AMAZING. I saw the stage show a couple of years ago with my family for my mum's 60th birthday, and at the time I didn't know much about it, so found it fairly tricky to follow the story. The film was incredible. Lengthy, but incredible. I went with a good friend who is a lover of musicals, she wept all the way through, and I shed a good few tears too, it's an epic and beautiful story. Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks were stunning, Eddie Redmayne delicious, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter hilarious, and Hugh Jackman fantastic. A real tear-jerker.

 Loved every second and have been listening to the songs since, as well as looking at everything Les Mis I can find online. This Clothbound Classics edition of the book has gone straight on my wishlist. I've been listening to Elaine Paige on Sunday this afternoon and looking up cheap theatre tickets online. I've even found this tumblr, with musical inspired outfits!

Whilst obsessing about the film, I came across the news that The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is being made into a movie. This is a book I got for Christmas the year before last and still haven't got round to reading. Why? It's completely gorgeous and feels like a special treat, which I haven't got round to allowing myself to enjoy yet. But this snowy Sunday feels like the right time to start.

Now Elaine's finished, I am off to start my fiction feast and listen to more showtunes....Bugsy Malone, Annie and Chicago perhaps....

Monday, 14 January 2013

Information is Beautiful

On a Christmas shopping trip in Stanfords I spotted this book and gasped with delight, and my boyfriend, being incredibly perceptive, bought it for me for Christmas. I love infographics, what's not to love about data presented in a visually appealing way? Or as David McCandless says in the intro, "miscellaneous facts and ideas, interconntected visually. A visual miscellaneum. A series of experiments in making information approachabe and beautiful."

Information is Beautiful is an incredible website, where the images printed in the book are hosted, and is funded by the sale of posters, prints and books. This is one of my favourites so far, taken from the site (click on the caption link to view it large-scale  on it's own site). The book I am devouring slowly. It's too special to gobble up in one go.
I have a Pinterest board for infographics here, though it doesn't look like I've updated it for a while.

Going beyond getting me this incredible book, my boyfriend then went one better. He made me my very own infographic-inspired print, which made for a very emotional Boxing Day when we swapped gifts! He designed the whole thing then had it printed A2 size and framed, very thoughtful and touching. This image of it barely does it justice, it's stunning.

I hope to use the top section, with the places we've been, for our wedding invitations. I am imagining the same reproduced in whatever colour scheme we go for, with an extra place marked, for the venue we decide on (hopefully in a few weeks time when we've done some more visiting).

Monday, 7 January 2013

Silky smooth hair

On Saturday I had my hair cut at Denbury Hair Lounge on Holloway Road. I'd had it done there before in October, when I had a Wowcher for a cut, treatment and blowdry for just £19. At the time I had just a trim, which met my needs, as I am trying to keep my hair long for my upcoming (ahem...Summer 2014) wedding. At the time they told me that if I came back within 3 months, they'd give me the same price again for a cut and blowdry, so I just had to make the most of this price and go back this weekend.

This time Maela cut my hair, she is a very sweet Spanish girl. Her English isn't great but she understood what I wanted and I really liked the way she cut my hair. I just asked for a trim but for her to thin it out a bit as it does get a bit heavy at the bottom. We didn't have much conversation, but I noticed that while Maela cut my hair, she was smiling the whole time, she obviously really likes her job! I was really pleased with the results, my hair felt so light and healthy afterwards, which I always have after going to the hairdresser but I find so very hard to recreate at home.

Glam location shot: in front of my fridge after the cut
In an attempt to keep the condition up, I've just changed to John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Multi-Tone Revealing shampoo and conditioner too, which felt delightfully luxurious when I lathered up at 6:55 this morning, much more than my usual shampoo (i.e. the cheapest thing going!). After washing, I used a small amount of Rusk Str8 Anti-Frizz and Anti-Curl Lotion and then roughly blowdried my hair (I rarely have the time to do it properly) and then added a little John Frieda Liquid Shine. My hair remained straight and sleek all day. Even though I walked 4 1/2 and then worked all day, I actually feel like I've just walked out the salon all over again. I am terrible at keeping up a haircare routine beyond shampooing and conditioning, and terrible at using products, I always end up using too much and making my hair feel greasy, but this one seems manageable with petit pois sized amounts!

I have always been super cheap when it comes to toiletries, buying own brand, low cost items, and while I still don't think it's bad to be frugal in some areas, I am starting to recognise the areas that I should splash out more in. My top tip for finding the products you like at the best prices is to use My Supermarket's Health and Beauty shop, where you can compare prices of toiletries and cosmetics in Boots, Superdrug, Ocado and the main supermarkets. Immediately I can see that the shampoo and conditioner are available on a 3 for £10 deal at Asda, from my sofa! I love this tool, as it gives me the choice between shopping online, or making a beeline for the store rather than traipsing around in the rain looking for the best price.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


I've joined Bloglovin', and they dictate I must post this code into my blog...seems like a bit of a waste of a post, but here we are!

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Friday, 4 January 2013

Tokyo 2012

In September 2012, I went to Tokyo with my Fiance. It was his 30th birthday and we wanted to celebrate with a trip to remember, and with him being an avid video gamer and me being obsessed with the kitsch and cute, where better to go than the Metropolis that is Tokyo?!

Tokyo Tower
View of stormy Tokyo from Metropolitan Government Building
We flew via Hong Kong, and spent the first week staying at Hotel Montery Hanzomon which was a great place in a quiet location not far from the western side of the Imperial Palace. The hotel was 3* and worked out about £75-£80 a night. It was quiet and peaceful in the hotel, but we didn't do much there apart from sleep as we wanted to see as much as possible. We didn't opt for breakfast as it was about £15 additional quid a day, so mostly we ate on the go or took early lunches. Food in Tokyo is pretty reasonable, and we were on a bit of a budget so opted for their fast food options a lot of the time - though I mean Japanese fast food, not American! You could get a decent portion of Katsu curry or Ramen for around £3-4 each so that was most of our lunches sorted, then we spent a little more in the evenings. Some places even have vending machines outside with pictures of the food so you could press a button and pay, then take your ticket to the counter, which is great for non-Japanese speakers like us! The sheer volume of restaurants was astounding. You could walk past a building that looked much like an office block with 6-8 stories but then find it had a restaurant or two on every floor. One warning though is that sometimes the lifts would open right into a tiny restaurant so by the time you'd walked out you'd already be greeted and seated, with no time to decide if you actually want to eat there or not! Booze was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be, in China we paid about 20p for a large bottle of beer, but in most bars they were at least £4-5 for a tankard. We often took some canned sours drinks back the hotel with us for a low-key drink in our rooms.

If this is fast food....

The second week we stayed at the Andon Ryokan, where the rooms were more traditional, with futons that you rolled out yourselves and straw mats on the floor. The lobby area was modern, with WiFi and a fridge of beer and facilities to cook for yourselves although we never took that option. The place is located further north, close to the Asakusa area where there are more traditional temples than fancy modern architecture. The staff were really helpful, great at offering advice and directions and the cost was more modest at around £55 a night. In hindsight, we could have stayed there for the whole time, as it was a much more intimate atmosphere than the hotel which was more faceless, but before travelling we didn't know what to expect, and worried about comfort in the guesthouse so opted for a hotel with a "real" bed so we knew we'd get some proper sleep.

Rainbow in Ginza
I'm not going into a day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of everything we did in Tokyo, here are just some of my highlights.

See? Ridiculous
Tokyo Disney! I spent all day smiling! It was quieter when we arrived and got much busier, with enormous queues even though we went midweek, but I loved taking the Boyf on "It's a Small World" which I remembered from Disneyland Paris and really enjoyed the Pirates! ride and the incredible Captain EO 3D film with Michael Jackson! The shops were great too, loads of great Disney merchandise, I got a ridiculous Marie hat/scarf/glove combo which I haven't dared to even wear yet! The light parade at the end was really special. The tickets cost about £50 each so it wasn't cheap and I think the Boyf was a little apprehensive about going but we both had an amazing day, our faces hurt from grinning ear to ear for the entire duration!

Kiddyland / Hanuhinken  - both amazing toyshops in Harajuku/Ginza respectively. We had so much fun in there, me with the Hello Kitty and Rilakuma goodies and Boy with the Transformers and Lego! I found so many gorgeous bento boxes and wanted to buy them all but they were quite expensive. I ended up settling on this adorable Rilakkuma set (Rilakkuma is a very cute, but grumpy bear by Sanrio).
Golden Kitty!

My friend had asked me to get her as much bento stuff as I could but I knew there must be some better value bits out there, so I kept on hunting and eventually I found a great 100yen (80p) shop in Shibuya, where I got her (and myself) some really sweet bento items, and now she's looking forward to competitive mumming when her little boys starts nursery! He will be the only one with flags in his food and little rice balls! I also got myself and my parents a little Japanese ceramic cat from Daiso, another chain of 100yen shops in Harajuku. I didn't want to spend too much on my parents as I spent a lot on some gorgeous carved wooden chopsticks for them in China which they admired and then promptly gave back because they don't use chopsticks, ungrateful sods! Here we also stocked up on sweets to take back to work with us.

Rilakkuma Bento!
Kiddyland also has a sponsored street underneath Tokyo station where there is a shop for each of the popular characters, Hello Kitty, Rilakkuma and many more we hadn't heard of before. A lot of time was spent here buying souvenirs for relatives. I had been told about it by a Twitter friend, and I am glad she told me as it was quite hard to find, we probably wouldn't have found it off our own bats.It was next door to Ramen Street, an underground street full of....noodles! We found a great shop down here which sold a lot of Japanese confectionery where we found KitKats in amazing flavours like Wasabi and Cayenne Pepper - both delicious!
Tokyo Station by night

On the subject of food, when in Tokyo, one must visit the big department stores' food halls, they are like museums! So much beautifully presented confectionery and bento! Mitsukoshi in the heart of Ginza was a favourite .
Books from Tokyo
I also really enjoyed Kinokuniya bookshop in Shinjuku. I love books, and they have an amazing floor where they keep their English books and art and craft books. We walked away with some stunning graphic art books and a Hello Kitty guide to learning Japanese, sooo kitsch! We also went to the antique books area near Akihabara where I got a vintage Japanese quilt magazine for my flatmate and I picked up some really sweet craft books and a guidebook for London in Japanese, which was possibly a purchase even more ridiculous than my Aristocats hat, but completely necessary!

At this point it sounds like all I do is shop, how dreadful! Here's some culture bits:
Dolls representing stillborn babies, Zojo-ji Temple
Saki barrels at Meiji Temple, Harajuku
Sensoji Harajuku
Asakusa is the traditional district which seemed to be stuffed with temples and pagodas (and a market, but I managed to avoid spending at all there!), and despite being stuffed with tourists like us, I found it was surprisingly peaceful. Another haven of peace was the nearby Sumida Park, next to the river. The Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka was also exceptional. You have to buy tickets in your country of origin prior to going, and they only have a set number of visitors each day. The first room was the most impressive with some amazing models showing scenes from the films. There is also a room upstairs covered with artwork from the films, which are stunning, and your ticket will include a screening of a short film which nobody outside the museum has seen.
Hibiya Park Garden Installations
View of Skyscrapers from Imperial Palace Gardens right before a  storm

Imperial Palace

Hibiya Park was also a highlight, it's a beautiful park right in the centre of Tokyo, but is so peaceful and tranquil. While we were there they had a competition for garden design, and there were loads of miniature gardens for the public to admire. We also found the nearby Godzilla statue, which was a lot smaller than I thought it would be! We spent a lot of time walking around the Imperial Palace Gardens and got caught in a  hailstorm, huddling together under our umbrella in the middle of this historic sight was memorable! There is a section of the gardens which you can enter but we went on the last day of our trip, a Friday, and unfortunately it is closed on Fridays. Ueno Park is also enormous and beautiful, and home to many of Tokyo's museums and a small zoo.
Ueno Park
My culture section seems a lot shorter than my shopping section, oh dear! When I go somewhere new, I want to be able to bring back with me as many reminders of my stay as possible, and I certainly feel we did that! There was so much more that I wanted to bring back but was running out of money and was getting paranoid about my baggage allowance (as it happens, I ended up with 3kg to spare, and was full of regret that I hadn't utilised it)!

That was lengthy! Everything about Tokyo was amazing, I loved every inch of it, even the crazy-busy bits. I want to go back the first chance I get. From now on I will just have to get my cute dosage from Super Cute Kawaii instead.

This year brings a trip to Paris for my birthday in March which we booked last night via Eurostar. We are going early on a Wednesday, staying one night and heading back on the Thursday which is my birthday. I can't wait, I am so excited! I am also hoping to go to Melbourne with mum around May but this depends on whether dad needs a back operation and when it will be. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

My new groove...

Like many, I have got on the scales this morning and had a shock. My weight gain has not just been over Christmas, I would say it's been steadily piling on for a few months now, at least since my trip to Tokyo in September. I need to lose a whopping 17lbs to get to where I want to be, and I really want to be there, and stay there. And so it starts NOW. My new groove is HEALTHY.

1. Exercise: I started reading Run, Fat Bitch Run last night, which I got for Christmas from my sister (I'd be offended had I not asked for it!). It's a no-nonsense guide to stopping making excusing and starting running, and then carrying on running. It starts off with a couple of days walking a simple 3-4 mile route, gradually building more and more running in until you are running the whole way. This morning I walked to work (Holloway to Covent Garden, 4.5 miles), and I intend to as many days as I can. It's tricky fitting in running on this route, as there are no showers at my office and I don't really want to stink all day - that would really go against the whole "making-more-effort" thing! I will try running back from work as the plan goes on, and I will definitely fit some training in at the weekends.

2. Watching what I eat: I am counting my ProPoints with WeightWatchers. I have done this before and it worked while I stuck with it. My mum has lost 4.5 stone since last October on the plan and it seems like it's changed her attitudes long term too. It works by giving you a certain number of ProPoints you can use each day for food (average is 29 for a woman), then you eat according to the Points value. What's good is you also get 49 extra points per week, which you can save up for the weekend, or use up throughout the week additional to your daily allowance. You can also earn extra points through exercise. I will see how I get on, but I think I am going to try and ignore my exercise points. Working out the points seems fairly labour intensive to start with but it gets easier as you repeat certain meals. Today I have had 2 small apples for breakfast (fruit is free), I have 3 oatcakes, half a pot of cottage cheese and half an avocado for lunch (11 points), an Activia yoghurt for lunch (3 points) which leaves me 15 points to play with for dinner and snacks tonight. I am having a chicken stirfry and I will work out the points when I get home.

Cheekily, I haven't signed up for WeightWatchers as I don't want to pay for a membership. I have downloaded a free points app and will track my points using that. I find this works fine for me, but my mum goes to the weekly meetings to weigh in, which works very well for her. I thoroughly recommend the plan, but it's up to you to work out whether you need the support or not.

3. Dryathlon: Completing Dryathlon (i.e. not drinking during January) will definitely help me shed a couple of pounds and it's such a good cause, everyone is a winner (except the pubs).

My motivations are:

1. Being fit, healthy and happy. My Grandmother at 96 struggles, not only because she's 96, but because she's been unfit and lazy for most of her life and has also been quite depressive, and I do believe that the two can't be completely seperate issues. I don't want that to be me. If I am going to live to a ripe old age, I want to be as comfortable and happy as possible, which means getting up and moving more, and eating better.

2. Looking hot on our wedding day! I don't want to look back at the wedding photos and wish I had been fitter and know that I could have done something about it but was too lazy. I have had ideas about what I want my  dress to look like and my good friend is going to make it for me, but recently I've thought about using my mum's instead which is simple, and gorgeous. It is tiny though, my mum thinks she lent it to a relative in Poland who took it in, or else mum was tinier than she remembers 37 years ago! I think even when I lose the weight it will still need alterations but it's time to find out.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Dryathlete 2013

After seeing the New Year in at home with a bottle of Moet (following red wine and spiced cider), I am now dry for a full month in order to try and fundraise for Cancer Research UK. I am hoping to do a couple of bits of additional fundraising too, maybe selling baked goods at work or having a jumble sale - I'll probably be a lot more productive with my evenings and weekends than I usually am.

The sister of a friend of mine passed away recently from Cancer. She was diagnosed with liver cancer in October. It quickly spread to her bones and she had left us by the time November was out. She was a beautiful, kind, out-going girl. She was a paediatric nurse. She was 25.

Also my good friend's husband is currently battling leukaemia. He had chemo a few months ago but found out that it had returned in December. They have a one year old son, and daddy is only 30 and due for a bone marrow transplant in March.

I'm doing it for these people. I am doing it because more than 1 in 3 of us will develop cancer up some stage in our lives. I'm doing it because we should never give up the fight.

I understand that Christmas has crippled many of us financially, but if you wish to sponsor me, you can here.

Edit: Since I posted this, the sister of another girl I went to school with has been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia. Another reason to keep fighting.