Monday, 23 November 2009

A wonderful wedding (and a random issue)

I’ve just come back from my little sister’s lovely winter wedding – the event which has been the inspiration for many a post about purple dresses and the difficulty of finding a suitable one. Well, it all went very well; my sister looked gorgeous and was just so happy and charming throughout the day (as one should be one one’s wedding!) and it was lovely to see friends and family that I hadn’t seen in a while. It was a cold British wintery day, but that didn't really spoil proceedings, in a way it added to the cosiness of the event and despite being a typical English wedding, the Sudanese side of our heritage was given dues with a dervish act, baklava and an aunt ululating! (that's that weird yodelling type noise made by women from some Arab and African countries during celebrations). There were of course a couple of mishaps (thankfully, none of them related to the bride) including a moment of sheer panic when I saw that the hairdresser in charge of my tresses decided that harshly hair-sprayed ringlets were the way to go (more on the crappiness of hairdressing in Britain in another post – they sooo need to come to Spain and see what a proper blow-dry with volume is) and when my boyfriend’s flight from Turkey – with classy airline Pegasus – was delayed by dangerously thick fog... Anyway all was well in the end – he made it in time for the main course (and I think he secretly enjoyed everyone's awe at his James Bond like appearance mid-wedding) and I got used to my juvenile ringlets as they made one guest comment that I looked about 24, which could have been a polite lie (or trick of the soft lighting) but I was quite happy to believe it ;-) En fin, congratulations Sayda and Jack and enjoy your honeymoon on the Red Sea!!

On a more sober note, there’s a kind of nagging problem that I’ve had for a couple of years now but have chosen to ignore as I’ve always seen it as a trivial and common sort of malady. And as it's hardly life threatening I feel like a bit of a wimp complaining about it. Basically, I wake up at 3am about 3 nights a week, start thinking, then can’t get back to sleep again (even if I go to bed super-late). I try and fit my life around this annoying habit and occasionally manage to nod off again using basic meditation techniques (hot milk, counting sheep or watching TV don’t work). But this weekend at my sisters wedding the same thing happened two nights in a row meaning that for the day (and combined with the travel) I was a total zombie. This is the first time that my sleep issues have affected a ‘big’ event in my life and it has made me realise that I need to do something about it as it makes me irritable and below par in many ways. Over the next weeks I’ll be trying different things (all of them natural I hope) to see how I can resolve this problem. As ever any tips are appreciated.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Barrio Sesamo

So Sesame Street has just celebrated its 40th annivesary... I can completely appreciate the cognitive and social value of SS to young kids, but have to admit that as a child I was always more of a fan of their flamobouyant cousins, the muppets. Somehow, Sesame Street always felt a bit 'young' to me, and as my mum and dad were doing that whole first-time-parent in the 70s thing of teaching your kid how to read, write and count as soon as they were born, it was no wonder I found Count Dracula's number work just a bit simple... (if only my early mathematical prowess had endured as now I can't even do long division). Still, I do have fond memories of the programme and of my favourite characters, the super-bitchy Miss Piggy and her long-suffering husband Kermit - but as for the rest of the street I always found them super-annoying, especially Big Bird who was so good natured that he/she(?) was simply slappable! (Yes, I was an odd child). The funny thing is that when you share Sesame Street memories with Spanish friends you find out they had a whole other star character that did not exist in the UK - Espinete - the giant pink hedgehog. This creature looks quite terrifying from the photos, though I have been assured that despite his prickly appearance, he was was a cuddly bundle of joy in real life :-)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Giving hygeine the finger

A couple of posts ago I raved on about the lovely re-opened mercado de San Miguel in the centre of Madrid - a fabulous old covered market-cum-trendy-deli that had recently opened its doors to the public after being shut for years. It's excellent place to try local wine, jamon and seafood but today I also found out it was an abyssmal, and unhygeinic, place to go for juice... I went to San Miguel's juice bar, Jugosa, with a couple of friends for a healthy mid-morning juice kick only to find that they were charging 5euros for a medium sized orange juice and 12euros for smoothies! Truly ridiculous prices, especially bearing in mind this is a take away joint, so they can't try to justify their tariffs by claiming you get to sit on antique chairs or listen to live jazz as you sup their mediocre offerings. Anyways, after balking at such extraordinary prices for such average juice I dedided to plump for a bowl of 'courgette curry and orange soup' - sounded tasty I thought. Yes, tasty, that is, if you like the flavour of human fingers. The girl working there heated up the soup in front of me in a large tureen and shamelessly dipped her bare fingers into it to the test the temperature not one, not two, but three times. Truly gross. She then ladelled it into a bowl and lo and behold, despite practically bathing in it for me to make sure it was hot enough, it was barely tepid (and completely devoid of taste). Needless to say I returned it and got a 3.50euro thimble of orange juice instead. Not returning to Jugosa, ever. As usual, customer is caca (and so are fingers!)

And as if one unfortunate finger-related incident weren't enough for the week, there was another! I visited the doctor on Wednesday about some lady-related issues and I can only thank the Lord that I just needed to pick up a prescription and nothing more involved - as instead of the very sweet gynaecologist I saw last time there was a lady with perhaps the filthiest hands and fingernails I have ever seen on a woman, and especially a doctor of that kind. People please, get some soap.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Beauty comes from within...

...from within a bottle, tube, tub, or sometimes an operating theatre (what amazes me is how some of these ladies look 100% better now than they did 5, 10, 20 years ago?!)

Saturday, 7 November 2009

A day in Madrid

Yesterday night I got back from a week in Barcelona and as usual my home was the post-trip bomb site of baskets of washing and a fortnight of dust - today I really ought to have spent the day at home organising and working but instead I decided to just have a nice day (taking S's 95 year old neighbour's advice to 'enjoy life while you can'). Well I hardly painted the town red but I did start the day off with a load of pampering (face masks, scrubs, manicures etc), which were much needed after a week away, then I wrapped up warm in boots and woolly tights to spend a wintry day in Madrid. Pre-Christmas really is one of the most pleasant times in this city, it's chilly (10 degress) but not too cold, the sun shines and the streets of the city take on a sort of festive happy vibe that I can't imagine you get in that many places in winter. I went for a curry with my old friend C in Mughul, a great Indian near Plaza de España where they do what is possibly the best Tandoori chicken in the capital (the place is mid priced, much better than the dodgy dives in Lavapies, but not as unnecessarily posh for a curry house as the fabulous Annpurna). We then went for a walk by the palace (the grandeur of some of the buildings in the centre really stands out in winter) and stopped off for tea and cake in nearby cosy cafe, Rayuela - the chocolate-orange tea was good, but as ever here, the carrot cake just doesn't hit the spot! (For good carrot cake and other amazing baked goods, the only place worth the trouble in my opinion is Delic in La Latina, and even if you don't order the cake you can always stare in amazement at the eclectic mix of macarras (chavs), pijos (posh, but not in the aristocratic sense, in other words Burberry and big fringes), guiris (johnny foreigners) and minor celebrities that hang out there. No worries though, because the mediocre carrot cake was made up for by the fabulous caipirinha made by the charming Brazilian waitress. All this was very pleasant, but perhaps the highlight of the day was stopping by the newly renovated Mercado de San Miguel, which is an old glass and iron covered market near Plaza Mayor that has been shut for years but has recently been re-opened as a down-to-earth but high-end delicatessen and eaterie offering the finest Spanish food and wine from Jamon and red wine to Oysters which you can purchase and eat on the spot. Best of all it has that great buzzing atmosphere that Madrid la nuit is famous for - see photo above. Open all day until the early hours I think. And to finish the day off I'm devouring a 3-pack of the ambassador's tackiest chocolates, Ferrero-only-sold-in winter-because we're-so-'delicate'-not-a-marketing-scam-at-all-Rocher. Sorry for that ridiculous sentence.

Friday, 6 November 2009

I rate... Make up Alley

Who doesn't hate to waste money? And I have to admit, that as a woman, some of that wasted cash goes on pots and tubes of cream or make up that claim to do a job (get rid of eye bags, make your eyelashes grow or whatever) but simply don't work. I always like to try before I buy, but in Spain that often isn't a possibility so the next best thing is to hear what others who have bought the product thought of it. Websites like Ciao do offer some limited review material of beauty products, but recently I came across makeupalley, a fantastic website offering thousands of customer reviews on everything from mascara to mousturiser - the product review part of the site is really easy to use and offers such thorough feedback on different cosmetics and toiletries that I will never again be parting with my pennies at the beauty counter without checking out the 'miracle product' in question out on this site first.

On the subject of health and beauty, I wanted to give a quick mention to Farmácia Arenal on C/Arenal (Metro Sol) which for me is the most pristine and wonderous pharmacy in the whole of Madrid. I have already extolled the virtues of Spanish pharmacies in a previous post, but felt the need to update as they now sell Skincueticals (previously only available from dermatologists in Spain) which I'm dying to try, but will have to wait for bonus day ;P The only downside is along with the Skincueticals they seem to have hired an awful, pushy and slightly obnoxious French Skinceuticals sales guy whose basic mission is to aggressively snatch any other brand of product out of your hands and get you to spend 00's on his line. Grrrr

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