On the Rocks - Tom Collins & Gin Fizz

A good Gin and Tonic is almost a summer essential, a long thirst quencher. There are bars with entire menu's dedicated to not only Gin, but tonic waters to go with them. I don't know about you but when I get confronted with one of these I do the swirly finger trick or ask a barman - I have no clue about "botanicals". 

I also am terrible with tonic, going through phases of liking it or not, and invariably fancy a G&T right at the time I'm really not interested in quinine, or I've run out of tonic. Luckily for these occassions I have sparkling water. I can't do without it so being aware of plastic bottles I have a sodastream. Add in some lemons and you have yourself a Gin Fizz. Or a Tom Collins, honestly there doesn't seem to be much difference in the recipes except the exact type of gin used. A Tom Collins has to use Old Tom Gin, a gin fizz doesn't care. I don't care about that so I tend to call this a Tom Collins at home - I like the sound of that name a bit more. Gin Fizz makes me think it needs Fizz, it begs for sparking wine not water.. but then that is a French 75

Whatever the name, this is a nice alternative to a G&T on a hot summer afternoon. Long and refreshing, its neither too sweet or too tart. 

You Will Need

2 parts gin
1 part lemon juice
10ml/2tsp Sugar Syrup
Sparkling or Soda Water
Lemon to garnish

Construction Technique

Pop the ice, sugar, lemon and gin into a glass and stir together until mixed. Or put it in your shaker and go to town, before popping into a glass.

Top up your glass with the sparking/soda water, add the garnish and drink. Blissful

Make it Yourself - Travel Wallet

This is an oldie but still a good little DIY Project. I made this before we set off to Canada as I needed somewhere to stow all our tickets and other assorted travel paperwork as we traveled around. Given that I'm unprepared for today as we have relatives from the Great White North staying, it seemed the time to refresh this old post and give it some fresh love. It really is still useful and I still dig it out when we fly, as it keeps my stuff together when I pop it all in my tote bag for flying.

A travel wallet is a useful little thing, and I sewed this up originally as I wanted something that could carry everything that isn't a big enough to be noticed if it falls out of my bag onto the floor, or in my clear plastic liquids bag. Having a bulky bag at my feet all flight isn't great, and you don't want to put all your papers in the overhead. Like I said, great to just be able to pop in a bag and keep it all together. It's also, not being stiffened too much, really easy to squish into any space you do have in your suitcase when you don't need it during the trip itself. Some of those big ones you can buy are great, but honestly for me they take up too much room once you have no need for all your printed confirmations!

Supplies wise, this is also great project for using up bits and bobs you might have. I used 2 fat quarters I had that were nicely contrasting, but you can use any suitable scraps for this really, and I can imagine it would look FAB in proper patchwork greatness.

What you will need

Two pieces 13in x 10.5in (A)
Two pieces 10.5in x 5.5in (B)
One piece 10.5in x 5in (C)
One piece 5.5in x 6in (D)
A zip
scraps for tabs
Interfacing to strengthen - I used iron on
scrap of 1cm elastic, 
keychain ring or lobster clasp (optional)
A button and string elastic, or other way to hold closed

Constructing the Travel Wallet

Prep all your pieces. I interfaced everything to stiffen the fabric. Double fold and press, as if hemming, one of the 10.5in sides of B. Stitch in place. I used a double line of stitches and really bright thread for all my stitching to make it a feature. Mark a stitch line along the middle of the piece B to create two pockets from the one. I used pins to mark a channel for the sewing machine foot to travel along, but you could just as easily use chalk or dressmaker's pen

Cut an angle to the top edge of D, double fold, press, and stitch the two sides marked, then sew the short side to the hemmed edge of one of the B pieces as shown (B1). Line up the unhemmed long sides of of the constructed piece to the the similar edge of piece A1. Stitch the long edge only. This is the start of your inner wallet.

To make your zip pocket, first sew small tabs of fabric over the edges of your zip, making the length of the zip up to 10.5in if needed. Double fold and press one long side of piece C, then sew this to one side of the zip as shown.

Pin the pocket piece and B2 together as shown, and sew along the other side of the zip to create the pocket.

Line up the unhemmed long sides of of this piece to the other edge of piece A1, and stitch as you did before. When done it should look like this

Lastly, make a small tab to hold your lobster clasp/ring if you are making one. Tack into place above piece D. Your inside should now be mostly constructed. The only thing now is to sew in an elastic loop for pens. Make a large loop, big enough for two pens, and pin. Sew down the middle to secure, then sew to the middle of your inner piece. It really is that simple to make one. I actually forgot to put it in before the next step (whoops!!) so hand sewed in later. I'm AWFUL at hand sewing and it still looks good.

Pin the right sides of both A's together and stitch around 3 sides. Leave open the one you want to attach the the elastic for closing to. Trim the seams on those 3 sides, snip the corners and turn right side out. Press.

I like using a two stands of elastic string so the strain in shares (it can be a bitch to replace). However you like to do it, fold in and press the open side ready to stitch, then pin the elastic in place.

Start top-stitching over the elastic and go all the way around until you finish over the elastic. If you need to, stop part way (leaving the needle in to keep your seamless line) and trim any excess elastic that might be "inside". Don' t forget to go back and forth for a few stitches at the beginning and end to secure your stitches - I did this over the elastic to secure it a bit better. Hand sew your button in place. Done.

One after the fact tweek was to put in a couple of small stitches just to keep the passports from wiggling - only a few as I wanted to keep the option of taking them out of I decide to put a cover on my wallet, or but two in one slot - there's enough room for that if you are making one for your family trip. Theres only us two at the moment - but I can easily unpick that stitch when I need to. Its not essential, just one thing I've added. Also, adding the small purple button to cover some dodgy stitching and look pretty.

On the Rocks - Dark and Stormy

I was reminded the other day, while looking for some recipe ideas, of the utterly fab Domestic Sluttery. I loved that site, the baking and most importantly the weekly cocktail. So I decided to revive the tradition.

Yeah OK, it is basically just an excuse for me to have cocktail hour every week. This week, Dark and Stormy. It's a rum based cocktail and fairly easy - no paraphernalia required. An umbrella is a nice touch thou (and so cute!!). I thought I'd start with a favourite of mine and one that isn't difficult, just really tasty. Plus I kinda have the stuff in the house already! 

Although this one might seem very summery, fear not. Should the sun vanish, the ginger beer gives a lovely warmth, making this good in any weather. 

You will need 

Dark Rum - I use Appletons or Red Leg as I like a Jamaican rum, but just dark is good. No Bacardi here please
Ginger Beer
Tall Glass

Construction technique

Ice in glass, add a 50ml shot of rum (you don't have to be that specific, guestimate if you like) and top up with ginger beer. Add lime wedges after giving them a squeeze into the glass first. Done. Could not be simpler in the slightest.

Any cocktails you think I should try? What are your favourites??

From "little mermaid" to "sea witch" thoughts on going Blue Haired

If you follow me on instagram you will have seen that last week I went for a big hair change. After years of DIY reds and pinks at home, I decided to not only get a professional colour job, but also go blue. I made the decision to change my hair colour before we went to NYC, but decided to wait until the summer to make the change, which had the added advantage of not cutting into holiday funds. Even knowing it was coming it was still really exciting/nervous going into the salon last week and getting it done.

I went to Lipstick and Gunpowder, which is round the corner from where I work (and my usual place) and it was the fab George who did my colour - I'd seen some of his work on his instagram when looking for inspiration and that pretty much sold me. Plus he's always been good for banter when I've been in for cuts before and I figured if I'm going to be in the chair for hours well, why not. Of course before I went in there was the obligatory "bye bye red hair" selfie.

the remains of my flame red hair
Going from warm tones to cool tones is a long process, all in all it took six and a half hours from the moment I walked in until I walked out with my lovely new hair. I helped all I could by using the most colour stripping shampoos I could find, and knowing it would be bleached I also used as many strengthening masks and so on that I could get. That worked really well as despite the lifting solution being on for 50 minutes (not including the time to put it on) I had no breakage, a huge bonus with hair as fine as mine, I need all I can get

Most of the time I was in the salon was down to getting me to blonde, so the blue would actually show. No red tones allowed, this had to be a cool light blonde, although my roots were left my natural colour so it will blend better as it fades and my roots grow out. Still it was creepy being blonde again, as I haven't had hair this light since I was about 8! It was four and a half hours to get to this.

The colour itself is a mix of blue and purple, the purple is now showing more as the blues have mellowed. One thing that I didn't realise about the blue is that it bleeds a lot more than the reds. I've had the bluest hands for the last week, its finally starting to stop now that I've washed it twice, but it still looks like I've been dismembering smurfs when I shower, and transporting the parts in my pillow cases. Those blue hands below? Those are after I tied up my hair, so much blue coming off in my hands and on my face!

The fact that for the last week EVERYTHING has been blue aside, I'm actually really loving blue hair. The blue makes my skin seem a less red colour, in fact I ended up putting on bronzer the other day because I started feeling I looked too pale. I'm loving that it makes my skin more pale and interesting. I've always had a problem with a bit of rosacea and being self-concious about it. Its nice to now have a hair colour as bright and manic as I like, that doesn't make me feel like someone has given me the cheeks of bobo the clown,

I'm also really chuffed with what George did with the colour. Honestly I'm now a convert to getting my colour done at the salon. Yes, it is more, but for colour like this I couldn't do it on my own. Also, the way the blue has gone EVERYWHERE washing it out, I really wouldn't want to clean that bathroom mess up after dyeing it. George kept me topped up on libations and it was really nice to just sit there and chill while someone pampered me. The colour is all melted together so it doesn't look harsh and like a lot more than just four shades, definitely not something I could do myself. Sometimes you get the purple, other times it just looks blue. I get really giggly thinking about it because I love it so much.

So yeah, the little mermaid grew up into a sea witch, and I don't think she'll be back. Blue is definitely more her colour!

Long Haul Travel Survival

Going to China last year was without a doubt the longest I've ever been on a plane, the Shanghai to London leg with the delays was double the length of any trip before. I thought 9 hours was bad, but its nothing on nearly 19, this human body is not designed to be comfortable after that long in a small chair. Especially not in what is notoriously the worst seat in the plane - the very last row by the toilets! Add into that the abuse your entire body takes by going through that many time zones and its not the best experience in the world, well not in economy anyway.

I survived it, and actually came out with a list of things I thought would help me the next time I was flying long haul. I tried these on my recent NYC trip and yup, still worked. Some of these are the same old ones that you read anywhere (but that I have tried and tested) but others are ones that work for me, that I'm hoping will work for you too.

Think about what you wear

An oldie, but still true. I have a standard flying outfit - jersey dress and leggings. Simple, but add in a cinching belt at the other end I get my hourglass back and feel a million bucks. A scarf/wrap is a good thing to take as well (extra blanket) and a cardigan, and your jacket if heading somewhere you'll need it. Always a cardigan so it doesn't need to be a complete layer.

Also if you have long hair think about how its tied - I'll always loosely pigtail plait my hair once I sit down so its out of the way, doesn't get knotted and doesn't pull or dent my head against the seat rest.

Adjust to your timezone before hand

I adore Jet Lag Rooster. I've used the app twice now and both times it enabled me to pretty much have my normal sleep pattern when on holiday. Starting a few days before the holiday, I avoided light when it told me, stayed up with ALL the lights on when it told me to stay up and not a problem at all with jetlag or insomnia. I didn't bother with any of the fancy gadgets or melatonin tablets like they advise, I didn't need to.

You can work out a schedule that helps you adjust before you go, on the plane or after you arrive, and there is an app as well as the website so you can get notifications on your phone with what to do and when. It also reminds you to set the new timezone on your watch when you set off.

Prep for comfort before you board

You get to the gate early, you might find a chair or you might stand and wait for boarding. Don't. I always use this time to sort out my carry on so I have everything I need for the flight in the bag I'll keep by my feet, I try to fly carry on only, but I don't need it all with me. Nothing is more annoying than a huge bag taking up your foot room except maybe having to get into the overheads during the flight.

I'll also wash my face (and maybe more of me), take off my bra because I don't need that digging in, change my socks to a nice clean comfy pair, get all my snuggly layers on and generally go as far as I can without putting on PJ's to make myself as relaxed as possible. I'll even loosen laces etc so I can slip my shoes off and do anything else its easier to do when you can wiggle around without hitting the seat in front.

Check out your airline

On our way out to Beijing my brother and I loaded up our iPhones & Tablets with books, movies and silly old me, who can't sleep on planes, felt confident I could keep myself entertained for 14 hours. Except the Airline didn't allow any electronics that transmitted signals even when in airplane mode. That would have been OK, except their own entertainment system only had two English movies on. I must have seen Mockingjay 8 times, on a screen that made it look like a bad pirate version (the Chinese subs didn't help). Had I known, I would have picked up a brick of a paperback in the airport to abandon at the other end, instead I was carrying my heavy tablet which I couldn't use. On my way to NYC, knowing what the airline was offering, I had my phone on my out of habit, but barely looked at it.

Checking out what the airline has to offer works in other ways too - some airlines will give you a free bottle of water, saving you from buying several to keep you going, others might have a great amenity kit so don't worry about taking your own eye mask. You might also be able to check in and pick your seat way before you get to the airport and get a prime spot.

Don't dread it, fix what you hate

I really do love flying, the anticipation of a holiday, the view from the windows, but not all of it. Honestly, I have found one of the worst things about long haul travel is the dread of it. Friends say the same - flying with the kids wasn't as bad as they thought, or they didn't feel it was as long as it was. 

Wiggle your feet, get up if and when you feel stiff. If you hate the food, take your own. Whatever it is about flying that you personally hate try and think of a way to fix it. For me, its boredom - so I will have my e-books and I'll read those or play Scrabble while I listen to the movie, or do something else to keep my mind firing on all cylinders. If its tiredness, find a way you'll be able to sleep. If it is discomfort, consider an upgrade or try an airline with better economy seats. Whatever it is there is bound to be something that makes it a little bit better. The less you think about dreading it the less dreadful it tends to be.

A new hang out (or why there are more movie reviews these days)

So you might have noticed a few more movie reviews lately, because I've been at the movies more. When we moved into our new place one of the things I liked most about it was the proximity to everything. The nearest shop is not only well stocked but also now affectionately called "the other fridge". It's maybe a 15 minute walk to a really nice pub, which is incidentally not only on the edge of town, but itself only a few doors from the cinema.

The Dome Cinema was one first cinemas in the country and the first public one in West Sussex. The building is listed and actually has a really interesting history which I guess is why they were able to get the heritage funding to do up the building. Whatever the reason it has a lovely warm feeling to the building, a small bar contains the old film projector - left with the reels of the last film shown on the projector in place. A small concession stand sits behind the original box office and in front of the main theatre. Its a big one, with nice roomy seats and an absolute ton on legroom. The smaller screen upstairs actually has old Odeon premiere seats in it, again with the big leg room, which feels like more than you get in the Odeon. I've long been a fan of the premiere seating, its comfy and I can stretch out. Sadly Premiere tickets top out at just over £10 so for two of us it was usually just pocket change left from £30 once we factored getting to the cinema in the first place.

These days, with the dome that can get us dinner and drinks too. As well as Meerkat Movies 2 for 1, they do £3 movies on a Monday. This is fab, so its become a date night now, sharing a pizza and then off to the cinema for drinks and a movie. All for what we would have normally spent on a ticket. Even without a Monday night deal, two tickets and two beers to take in with us while we watch the film and there is still change from a £20. Some lazy weekdays I'll head down on my own and watch, or even rewatch, something. Gets me out of the house.

So it is safe to say that my love of the movies has been reignited, and I'm very much loving the Dome. Going to the movies has always been one of the little luxuries in my life, now its something I can do more often. Part one of looking after myself more & not dwelling on stuff that isn't, is to enjoy more of life's luxuries. A cheeky trip to the flicks is one I'm definitely loving.

Are there any little luxuries that you like to gift yourself? Give me some ideas guys...

How to plan a city break when you want to see everything...

I'm a wee bit of an obsessive planner when it comes to holidays. Pretty much the first thing I do when we decide to go somewhere is get my grubby paws on a rough guide. Seriously, I'm that obsessive I have a favourite guidebook, I used to obsessively go through them all but now I just stick with the, they just work for me. But that isn't the point.

When I visit somewhere far off I want to make the most of it and not waste time trying to figure out what to do and where to see. I'm a planner, and sadly that can lead to not having any time to enjoy things. These are my top planning tips

  • If you want to see lots, start your day early. I'm not talking insanely early but if you aren't the clubbing type, and aren't up until 3am dancing the night away, there is no reason to lay in. That'll give you a decent amount of time to do stuff before lunch.
  • Think about things that are close together. If you end up not spending as much time somewhere as you figured, hit up somewhere close by. There have been a few times I've had enough but I'm not quite hungry enough to eat yet, and knowing that there is a shop or film location or something else I fancied seeing close has made me able to do that, and not have to trek back to the same area the next day. Look into transit and walking, sometimes transit might be quicker, but the walk will be worth it.
  • Split what you want to see into an A and B List. You can never get everything done, even with the best will in the world and planning. For a start people will give you ideas on places once you are there, places will be more interesting that they appear on paper, the weather might be terrible or, as happened when we went to NYC, you might end up with a blister the size of a £2 coin so that picturesque walk is just not going to happen. You can always go back.
  • Think about opening hours and hours of daylight. If the attraction shuts at 6pm, and you aren't going to eat until late, find a park, or a bar to people watch if its your thing, or go look at some fab architecture. If you're away in the summer its usually still bright, if not some places look even better lit up.
  • Leave the guide book at home! Do all the research you want, check with mates who've been and all that jazz, but make notes of the things you want to see. I kept addresses, phone numbers and opening times jotted in the back of my notebook, if you carry one thats a good shout. But if you leave the book at home, theres a bit more opportunity to explore and find your own thing rather than just relying on "oh the guidebook said...", If you are worried about maps we all have smartphones, and before you cry roaming data, they have OFFLINE MAPS! Less to carry and more chances for spontaneity!

What are your tips for a good city break.