Wednesday, 29 April 2009


For the first time yesterday, I heard of the colour greige, and I love it! It is, predictably, a mix between grey and beige. Sounds yucky, but the pictures below show it used really effectively in a home. By the way, I love this apartment in Brooklyn and how it manages to look effortlessly stylish, but without abusing design cliches like white everything or overtly 'designy' furniture.

Courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Sudanese ruins

View of Amon's temple from Jebel Barkal

Soleb temple

Naga Kiosk

Meroe Necrepolis

Church ruins from Old Dongola

Frescoes from old Dongola church.

For the first time in a long time, I miss Sudan (not the ruins above which I've never even seen, but just the place itself and its essence - excuse the nostalgia).

It occured to me the other day that I hadn't been to Sudan in 8 years. The last time I was there was for Eman's wedding, where my sister Sayda and I were bridesmaid's (I spent the month before beavering away making the dresses - I always did love a project). We busied ourselves the days prior to the 'main event' in the Al Magboul house helping with the preparations; the house had that special atmosphere you get in Sudan before a wedding, hundreds of people coming in and out, the smell of insence, henna, gold, cooking for the multitudes on a 'kanoon' (a type of charcoal stove made from recycled tins) in the yard. We also went on some great trips down the Nile, where Auntie Celia prepared some amazing barbequed seafood dishes on the boat. Happy days.

Apart from practical reasons and the fact that I frequently get to see my Sudanese relatives in Cairo, one of the main reasons I haven't been back is because I feel it might have gone from bad to worse. When I was living there 10 years ago, I could already see an enormous change with respect to when I had lived there as a child; the country (or at least the government) was now verging on scarily religious, the summers were even hotter (global warming?), the country seemed somehow poorer - the streets were teeming with refugees (I can only imagine that these people who wandered the streets like lost souls came from somewhere even worse than Sudan - poor things), some foods and traditions from my childhood already seemed to be dieing out; traditional drinks like Karkadeh (hibiscus juice) and Abre (I can only desribe this as juice with delicious paper floating in it - yes really) were being replaced by imported tins of Tang. And I worry that if I go back now I will be even more different from how I remember. One of the saddest things is that my grandmother (and her house - which was an extension of her) are no longer there. For me, that big depressing house was in some ways the essence of everything I remember fondly about Sudan; maybe I'm exagerrating, but it sometimes seemed like the epicentre of Omdurman life with it's constant traffic of people, a staff of 7 who seemed to do very little most of the time, the non-stop stream of amazing food coming out for the kitchen made by my grandmother who loved to cook, but not to chop, so she'd get the maids to do all the prepping, peeling and chopping of the food, whilst she got to do the fun bit - the stirring and the tasting, and of course the credit :-) (this is just what I'd do if I had staff) My grandma died a year ago, and with her I feel many traditions and customs that I associate so much with Sudan.

One place I'd like to see the next time I'm in Sudan is Dongola, the town where my dad's 'Danagla' family came to Khartoum from 2 generations ago. What I wasn't aware of until recently is that there is an old Dongola and a new Dongola. New Dongola (around 80km downstream from its old namesake) appears to be a relatively new town (1811) built to replace the original Dongola. Old Dongola was apparently an important city in medieval Christian Nubia (the capital of Makuria - I just love the way that name sounds - Makuria!) which was destroyed by the muslim Mameluks (Slave soldiers - possibly Egyptian in this case - 'owned' by the Ottomans). Sorry, I'm starting to sound like a history book...

I think that Old Dongola is now little more than a pile of rubble - and like anywhere in Sudan, very hard to get to. But from the images above, Old Dongola, along with other ruins of cities along the Nile are definitely on my 'to-do' list.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Be careful what you wish for

A couple of days ago I mentioned on the blog that I'd always wanted to have a themed 70's party - then last night some good friends suggested having a joint birthday party in August, and all of us being born in the 70s, why not theme it as such? Next time I might blog about my desire to be given 1.000,000 euros and see if that comes true :-)

Friday, 24 April 2009

Retro recipe cards

Back in the 80's did everyone's mothers have recipe cards with some of the weirdest recipes and photos that ever existed? I know mine did, though god knows what happened to them. I have found a set of the funniest Weight Watchers recipe cards from the 70s online, and I have included the link - look at the comments the girl has made about them - absolutely hilarious.

Meanwhile, I've posted a few of them below - pay particular attention to the titles of the recipes and the 'props' arranged in the background. What were they thinking?!

A ramble about old-school food

I’ve always had a bit of a thing for themed parties, even though I haven’t actually been to one in years. At university there were the ubiquitous 70’s, James Bond parties and Halloween parties – but these are truly best forgotten! I wonder if students today behave as badly today as we did back then? In fact the last themed party I went to was one I organised for our clients at the advertising agency I worked at years ago. The theme was films, I had carte blanche to do what I wanted – so I decorated the venue as if it was an Oscar’s ceremony, came up with film-themed cocktails, got hold of film soundtracks, organised a movie quiz and entertainment... it really was good fun – considering it was a work event. Alas, since then my parties have been strictly non-themed, partly because most people hate dressing up! For some odd reason, one of my party fantasies has always been to do a 70’s themed party with a focus on ‘retro food’ – the main problem with this is that retro food wasn’t particularly good! I think at that time in the UK, we had just discovered so-called ‘exotic’ ingredients such as garlic (!), pineapples, prawns and avocadoes; so these featured prominently in dinner party menus from the era... And it was never enough just to serve these ingredients simply on a plate, they always had to be dressed up – either with gloopy sauces (think Thousand Island dressing on your prawn cocktail – to cover up the taste of the defrosted prawns I would imagine!) or served in some outlandish vessel – such as a scooped out watermelon used as a serving bowl for fruit salad, or half an orange used to make a ‘hedgehog’s body’, with cubes of pineapple and cheese on cocktail sticks stuck into it to make the ‘spines’ ... These dishes didn’t always taste amazing, but funnily enough they never tasted bad, and they had a sort of faux glamour that just makes me smile :-) Of course it wasn’t all about party food – there are plenty of everyday dishes from the era that spring to mind – and for some reason most of them were tinned, jarred or frozen. Some of my favourites were Heinz Macaroni cheese in a tin (!), Findus Crispy Pancakes (the filling was totally inedible) and Heinz tinned baked beans with sausages. I guess at the time, processed or ‘convenience’ foods were a novelty, and all our mums were keen to feed them to us, thus freeing up a couple of hours a day to attend Tupperware parties, Avon parties, use their ‘Clairol heated rollers’ or do some other retro activity! (luckily for my health, I didn’t eat this rubbish every day – my mother also made plenty of home-made goodies :-))

Prawn cocktail – where are the prawns?

These 'hedgehogs' were at every childhood party I attended

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The grass is always greener...

I just phoned my ex-hospital in the UK to ask how I would get hold of my medical history from 8 years ago. I thought this would be a tall order considering the amount of hassle one has to sometimes go to to get a simple blood test in Madrid. Their response turned out to be incredibly helpful; 'Oh, we'll just pop them in the post to you', 'Or we can fax them if you like? 'Or shall we fax them straight to your doctor in Madrid?' How refreshing it was to speak to 'Avril'; I didn't have to go to the hospital in person, queue, shout, beg, feign tears or fill in any forms. On days like this, I realise that not everything in the UK is bad :-) I wonder if it would have been as easy if I had a foreign accent?

Sunday, 19 April 2009

This weekend

My plans to have fun and 'get things done' this weekend have fallen by the wayside... I've had a cold since Friday (which I'm sure I caught from the man sneezing on the bus who didn't cover his mouth/nose when spewing germs into the air) and have been in a Frenadol-fever induced haze ever since... I managed to have an 'aperitiv' with ex-colleagues yesterday morning, but spent the rest of the day feeling blaaa, today I'm feeling similarly yucky, but in a few minutes I'm going to force myself to get up, wash a load of clothes, move all the furniture in the living room around (I am able to single-handedly move furniture double my bodyweight as I've been doing it since I was about 11 - I must have been a odd child ;)), throw out old clothes and if I feel up to it, meet friends for something low-key later... 1, 2, 3 and up......!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Some useful sites

Let's face it, the web is full of some utter rubbish, but some sites and blogs do stand the test of time and I find myself returning to them again and again for information, inspiration and ideas.

Fora TV - Stimulating the grey matter :-)

Swiss-miss - design in general.

Apartment Therapy - Interior design, but for real homes not showhomes - their smallcool contest was a great source of inspiration and advice when faced with decorating my own small space.

Real simple - simplify your life - idiot-proof advice and tips on a range of topics.

Epicurious - all the recipes you could ever want, along with reviews.

Made me smile

LCD display customizable greetings card :-)

Casa Angelina hotel on the Amalfi coast, Italy. I still love all-white interiors despite the backlask against minimalism.

'Enter' button doormat.

'Delete' button rubber

I am easily pleased.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


Just back from Istanbul. I don't have time to write a full post on it right now, but I just wanted to take a couple of moments to say what an amazing city it turned out to be. The architecture, the food, the bazaars, the warm people, the east-west contrast - I can see why it has captured and inspired so many people. It really does live up to its hype in a way that I'm sure many other emblematic cities don't. I also have to say, how lucky I was to be travelling with Tore, who was the perfect host and showed me facets of the city I could never have hoped to see if I was travelling alone or as part of some package deal... He is also the cause of my blistered feet and limp, no - he didn't push me in front of a moving tram on Taksim - but he did insist that I see every site the city had to offer ;-) It was totally worth it.

As usual I didn't have a proper camera, but hopefully my 'guide and photographer' will email me the ones he took soon and I'll upload them.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Old bag

A couple of posts ago I may have laughed at my local 'health shop' La Druida de Lavapies and its silly name and hobbit-like customers, but I have to confess: I have been back. That, I must stress, does not make me a hobbit; if I was a character from Lord of the Rings I think I'd be one of those tall (and pretty) elf-princess type people with completely hair-free feet. Anyway, back to the matter at hand, I have returned to the druid shop on several occasions to stock up on soya milk and organic bread, and I have to say it certainly beats the queues in Carrefour (which has its own special breed of fragrant, inebriated customer)... Well the other day I popped in for a bit of organic olive pate (yes, really), and when I went to pay, the shop assistant asked me whether or not I wanted a bag. This is the first time this has happened to me in Spain, with the execption of in the Chinese corner shop where they try not to give you a bag because they're stingy, and in 'junkie supermaket' Dia, where everything is so cheap that they have to sell the bags to make it worthwhile continuing in business. I didn't have my eco-canvas shopping bag that day at the druid shop (truth is, I never have it) so I forked out 10 cents for the bag and mumbled some excuse about having come straight from work and not having my 'green' bag on me (why do I feel the need to make excuses to complete strangers?).

I believe that in the UK and the States these reusable shoppers have become something of a trend (see pics below), and I guess Spain will be following suit - in about 5 years. Sorry Spain, I love you, but trends do take 5 years to filter through to you. In a recent trip to Oxford, even chav-haven, TK Maxx were selling canvas bags for environmentally-conscious customers - and I actually felt like some sort of environmental criminal when I bought a few groceries in M&S and had to ask them for a plastic bag as I didn't have my own shopper (it seems that these bags are now a must, no matter if you've driven to the shops in some gas-guzzling landrover. Still every little counts and I am being totally hypocritical here).

Well, as I said, these bags are becoming a must-have, and are popping up everywhere, which makes me think someone must be making a bit of money from them. Here's where I have one of my typical idealistic-late-in-the day-lightbulb moments - 'why didn't I start making and selling beautiful canvas bags?' Answer: probably because you would have spent all night up sewing till your fingers fell off and sold about 3 bags and made a net loss. I was one of those teenagers that wanted to make and sell their own hair scrunchies - remember scrunchies? In velvet? In chiffon? In gingham? eeeewww.

Anyway, next time I'm in the druid shop I'll be able to hold my head high with one of the reusable shoppers below (The Druid shop do actually sell their own canvas bag, with a hairy druid printed on the front).

The Chico Bag is made from 7 plastic bottles.

This bag is sooo cute. Yes, after use, the whole bag folds up for storage inside the 2 peas on the front!

Envirosax come in hundreds of shapes and styles and include organic models, but my favourites have to be the kids' ones, like with the piggies below :-)

Mi Bag from IDA design is also sort of cute.

I like these bags from Flip and Tumble as they look like you can use them like an ordinary plastic bas as they're not too bulky.

Bit of an update

The past couple of weeks haven't been that great, mainly due to work-related stuff (and a minor existential crisis - well, sort of). But one thing does seem to be going quite well -the BP. I know I'm at a stage where you don't see big overnight improvements, but I have definitely noticed some minor improvements over the past couple of weeks. Not sure exactly what to attrbute this to - I'd like to think it has something to the hour of massage and exercise I've been doing every day for the past 6 weeks - the massage has definitely helped loosen things up, I was dubious about the exercises, as they just seemed either too effortless or absolutely impossible to do, depending on the muscles that I was supposed to use - but perhaps they are helping, I've also added several movements to the ones that I was prescribed. One thing that is probably giving me a false sense of improvement is the botox, it's got to the stage where the initial 'shocked rabbit effect' of the botox has worn off, but the muscles are still sufficiently paralysed to inhibit abnormal movement. So, as the botox wears off, I know that I mightn't look as good as I do now, but I'm sure that the exercises and massage will have provided some lasting improvement in some areas. All I know, is that my face feels so much better than it did 6 weeks ago. I still feel stiffness in the left cheek, but it's loosened up to the point that I can have a conversation without thinking about it constantly. One thing I've learnt from this rehabilitation experience is that I have a lot more self-discipline than I thought - a year ago, I couldn't have imagined myself knuckling down to do ANYTHING for an hour a day, but surprisingly it hasn't been all that hard - apart from nights when I've got in from night out at 2am and sat down to do the exercises, usually with the help of the Radio 4 food programme (On those occasions I did cheat and do just half an hour). Anyway, I hope to be able to apply this new found motivation to other ares of my life. I'mincredibly pleased and grateful for the treatment I'm receiving in Barcelona, but somehow feel that I could be receiving even better treatment - I've heard of centres in the UK and the States that use bio-feedback treatment and photograph and video your progress - so depending on how things go, I may be exploring these options. I am a woman on a mission.

Well enough about boring facial exercises. Tomorrow I'm off to Turkey and v excited at the prospect as it's somewhere I've always wanted to go, and I am lucky enough to be going with a charming and handsome 'local' guide ;-)
Related Posts with Thumbnails