Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sunday Night is Bath Night

Daisy Steiner: "I can't just pluck another winter skincare dos and don'ts out of the air!"
Tim Bisley: "Why not?"*
Yes, because this blog is nowhere near enough geeky.
I promised myself a night of pampering after managing to fit in so much exercise the other week. No need to splash the cash though as I had everything I needed at home already. 
First,  a luxurious hair conditioning treatment.  Argan oil is touted as the wonder treatment de jour. Used in Morocco for centuries,  it's just catching on in the UK big time. 
I got a little 30ml sample from a friend whose family all live in Morrocco. If you went to a salon this treatment could set you back about £15 or possibly more.  Home treatments can be dear too. £5 for 50ml. I've seen Home Bargains online do 66 x 100ml for £17.99 so you could go in shares with a friend or stockpile, but I suggest checking your nearby HB shop out, or, if you have a specialist ethnic supermarket near you try there, as they will be a lot cheaper. These shops are also great for other natural beauty treatments like rose water and coconut oil at cheap prices. 
All you need to do is apply to your dry hair and scalp. 
It's great for multi-tasking this one... you really don't need much to really penetrate your hair so just wear an old tee-shirt, or clip on a towel, it's not going to really drip everywhere once it's on your head. Just don't go leaning back against your sofa or anything.
You need to leave the oil on for a minimum of 20mins, but I got on with an hour's worth of editing work.
...and yes, you can apply argan oil to your scalp if you have a dry scalp. It's pretty effective at combatting dandruff.
If you can't get hold of argan oil though, you can try olive oil, just on the ends, or even apply your usual conditioner, wrap your wet hair in a towel and stick a bag over the top to gently heat your hair and get more of the conditioner into it.
With 20 minutes to go, I applied my Home Bargains 25p chocolate mask. You don't need to use shop-bought masks though. Porridge oats in water can make a good exfoliating mask, or mashed banana or avocado for softness. As a teen, I used to use a paste made of caster sugar and water, but you have to be careful not to scrub off while it's still very grainy as it can be too harsh if you're not careful.

Mask, applied, pull a duck face. I mean muck face.
Then, you've got to get rid of it. Remove the mask with damp cotton wool or just splash it off with warm water. Then wash the gunk off your hair. Really wash it well. Use a second dollop of shampoo if needed. I chose to run a bath to do this - some purists will argue this is bad and wrong and a bit mucky, but all that argan oil goes in the water to soften your skin after it has been rinsed off your hair. Just remember to use clean water to rinse your hair in, or the oil will just stick back on and it will look like you haven't washed it at all.
I finished my pamper-evening with a hand and nail treatment of slightly warmed olive oil (just the cheap stuff), rubbing it into the cuticles. When rinsed off and dried, I used some Home Bargains emery board (79p) to shape and Aldi Lacura clear nail varnish (£1.99) - this is an attempt to save my nails ahead of my wedding, because they are flakier than the cast of TOWIE.
Sadly, I haven't earned my stripes too do this kind of thing again for a while... despite a park run of 31.11 on Saturday and a 4 mile walk on Sunday. But I have my gym induction tonight, so let's see how things go.
Oh, and there are no 'after' pictures. I am still ugly. But softer.
*I love Spaced.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Do You a Favour? Lovely Handmade Chocolates

I really do know the right people,  and if there's ever anything I need to know about food, then Annie Ko is the woman to ask. She is a brilliant cook and food writer, specialising in Chinese treats and baking and not only runs these workshops but also does specialist catering too.

Last night she ran a chocolate workshop,  and I went along to pick up some tips on making chocolate. Bonus - I made a cool Valentine gift for my OH.

Here are the results:

Don't they look pretty in their box?

These yummy lovelies are Baileys dark chocolate and fig and cassis milk chocolate ones. Figs are ideal for Valentine's day, because of course they are an alleged aphrodisiac. And who doesn't love getting chocolates? Just a few unloved, sad individuals...

Recipes and details of where to book workshops are on Annieko.com.

Of course, this is all inspiration for my wedding, and I will be making some favours that guests can take home if they wish, or just chomp on between swigs of bubbly, om nom nom. Who needs to 'buy in', when you can make something much lovelier for much cheapness?

I have to tell you, I sampled a couple, and they are delicious! Did put me a point over my WW for the day, but it was worth it.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


This morning my alarm went off at 5.15. I cringed inwardly. I’d made a date with Davina, and had already half-planned to ditch her for Rosemary - a helmet-haired, no-nonsense woman, I knew I’d get a lot less grief from her. After all, she’s never made an extremely simple quiz drag on for two hours or yelled, “Tune!” at dance music while fake-skipping and pulling a Muppet-face. She’s also never told me I couldn’t eat carbs after 6pm like I’m some gullible fad-diet-believing idiot. You know where you are with Rosemary.
From her website - a lovely smiley pic of Rosemary

But even as the cat jumped on my head as if to say, “Yay – you’re awake! Breakfast time!” I knew I couldn’t be doing with either of them. Or the cat.

The thing is, I know how much exercise I am supposed to be getting just to maintain health – never mind burn extra calories in a weight-reducing effort. You need 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, plus muscle-strengthening activities on two days, or you can swap the 150 minutes for 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or find a balance somewhere in between. Getting up at 5am to squeeze in some aerobics – yeah, easy. Just not at the expense of sleep!

The snooze button went on. If I’m going to earn these activity points, I’ve got to get creative. So today I had a leisurely lie-in until 5.58 am, got ready for work, caught my bus, then went for a stroll before work. There's not much to see round central Milton Keynes. I got as far as Lidl. Ah well, 2 easy points in the bag.
But I've had enough - I'm not going to try to get the last point in. I've earned my pamper session, dammit!

As you can gather, I'm pretty busy. I'm living the dream as I do the work I love. Books are my life and I've got big things happening this year - besides all the wedding stuff. Watch this space is all I can say for now. But, know I spend my days grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Something has had to give, though, and I'm doing less of other things for now. Many strings to my bow; no time to fiddle about.

So happy to say OH is being extremely supportive. Today he went and did the shopping. I'm so proud - look at this haul for £11!

He's the hunter of us, as you can tell. Don't worry, I'm gathering the fruit and veg in later in the week.He makes Doctor Who stew with the hearts as there's two per pack.

But tomorrow and Friday, more wedding stuff as I learn to make chocolates, and talk about cake, baby! I'm designing invitations in my spare scraps of time, too. I love it when a plan comes together!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Frugal Fitness

This weekend, I've kicked back with friends and it's been great. Lots of wedding planning has been done  - and a fair amount of booze consumed, too.

Change 4 Life  - Choose less Booze!

And so this month, OH and I are looking to get back on the health and fitness plan with renewed vigour.

I've been doing well on my Weight Watchers plan, but it's all gone a bit Pete Tong this weekend, and not even the 2 hour swimming stint I managed yesterday would have made a dent against all the mead and Merlot that went down my gob. But battle on we must. Not only do we want to look our best on the big day, but we both want to get and stay fit and healthy, because our future selves will thank us.

Now, frugality and exercise are nary bedfellows you might be thinking. Well, it depends!

Because he's very goal-driven, OH thrives on challenges and targets, so he has picked on triathlon training as the thing he is going for. We have agreed  to budget for this, because it can prove quite expensive, but it's important to him, and will help keep him alive for longer, so it's important to me too.

Club fees, competition registration, specialist publications, cross-country training shoes, wetsuits, trisuits, competition bike, crossover bag... my life, the list goes on, but thank goodness we got most of what we needed last year. Doesn't mean my fella doesn't still try to sneak in extras, like golf clubs. I don't care how much a new wood would improve his game - it's off-list. Sodding cheek...

Depeche Mode Sings! "Your Own Personal Jesus Trainer"

As for me,  I am watching the pennies as well as my weight. I am following the Weight Watchers plan, but I'm no longer a member, so am missing out on the encouragement and support that brings, as well as the financial incentive to stick to the plan. I can tell you, its much better to attend a lovely, supportive meeting as I did a couple of years ago, but I still have all the books and can benefit from their freely available online advice too. I like picking up tips from the community, best, and read Cookie Lou's blog. You can also see menu and recipe examples and there are even exercise demos.

There are lots of other useful places to find information for free. I love the Change 4 Life website and have used their recipes before, which are very simple. I think it's a site most suited to 2.4 children-type families, though, and there are only 2 of us. It's an NHS site, but there are also lots of tips on the NHS's main site too. Check out the fitness guidelines.
I'm a member of Parkrun, and do a 5km run (when not hungover) with those, and that's free. I've also got a Leisure card which I use to go swimming, and that gets me discounted rates.
Also, already owned so might as well use 'em - DVDs! I can pick and mix my routines from 6 aerobic, 2 pilates and on tai chi DVD.
And let's not forget walking, gardening, vigorous housework, dancing to Spotify and stair-climbing all count as calorie-burning activities. I am proud to say I've climbed the stairs at work instead of taking the lift all year so far.
So I'm in a great position to become my own personal trainer! But I'm gonna need a star chart...
2 hours of low intensity swimming on Sunday earns me 6 WW activity points. I hereby challenge myself to double this number by Wednesday night:
Success will earn me a pampering session - bubble bath, face mask, hair conditioning oil. All stuff I have in the house but haven't got round to using. I'll let you know how I do.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Bling's the Thing

My wedding dress arrived yesterday. I'd ordered it not knowing if it was going to be right. Would it look awful? Would it stand a chance of fitting?

As it turns out, it is a shade too small - which is perfect! I need to diet off a couple of bits of poundage to be the best on my big day. The dress zips up from hips to waist, and then laces up across the back, so should also be quite forgiving.

What does it look like? Sneak a peek at a tiny corner of it here:

It wasn't a thousand pound dress, it has sequins on the bodice, not diamante or crystal, but it looks floaty and amazing!
Thanks to my friend Sam, I think I have located something fantastic to go on my head, too. I hope you don't mind me keeping it all as a bit of a surprise.
But my search for wedding bling is not yet finished...
I'm on a bit of a quest.
You may have seen jewellery bouquets before. I saw one displayed at Most Marvellous Place in Northampton and fell in love with it. It would be perfect for my Steampunk-style day.
I saw an example of one over at Vintage Magpie. They can be pretty expensive in some quarters, but I have found a lovely lady called Ann at MMP who will make one up from my own and donated jewellery. Just simple costume jewellery, some beads and a few buttons can make a wonderful bouquet. I would link to one of hers, but she doesn't have one on her site just yet. So, I'm looking for pieces featuring red, purple and ivory. I'm not fussy about the neutrals, base colours and metals, a mix will do. If you spot any that are cheap as chips, or have anything you don't mind donating, please let me know. I'm looking for brooches, beads, earrings, anything - broken is fine - priced at about £1 per piece. I'm looking for around 40 items, and aiming to source most things myself to keep costs low. All help will be greatly appreciated!
Tonight I'm breaking my social curfew and heading to the pub. I promise there's a good reason: I'm meeting a friend to help make the buttonholes for OH, his best man and brother. Can't be too boozy because I need to watch pennies, of course, do a good job on the buttonholes, and save my WW points for the rest of the weekend. Also I need to get up for Parkrun in the morning. The last two were snowed off, and I've really missed it.