Thursday, 22 November 2012

Tips for staying warm this winter

Last winter I lived in a poorly maintained flat.  Hubby and I were miserable. It was actually warmer when it snowed as the snow provided insulation.  But as a result we've got used to dealing with the cold.

The temperature hasn't nose-dived yet, but around the country boilers are being switched on. So here are my top money saving tips for keeping warm without costing a bundle.

Take care of your extremities
I remember being told as a nipper that if you got too cold your toes would fall off... although whilst hypothermia isn't too much of an issue with modern central heating, there is an interesting point to this.  If your hands and feet are cold then you feel even colder.  Slip on a pair of slippers when your padding around the house, pull on an extra pair of socks, or if it's practical wear gloves - you'll soon be feeling toastier.

Eat yourself warm
Try swapping your lunchtime sandwich or salad for something warm.  Soup can be cheap, healthy and keeps you warm from the inside!  Some people find they crave carbs in the winter and when your body burns them they are great for keeping you warm

Make the most of your soft furnishings
Snuggle up under a throw or blanket when the evenings get chilly.  Keeps you cosy and can brighten up an unloved sofa during the day.  Open the curtains when the sun is up to let the wintry sunshine do its best to heat the room, but remember to close them again when it gets dark to help keep that heat in.

Layer up
Wear several thin layers instead of one monster thick one. This means you don't have to banish all your summer clothes to the loft when the temperature changes.

Curl up
Snuggling up with someone else on the sofa is not only comforting, it's warm. Who doesn't love a cuddle?! But if you're happy putting your feet on your sofa too you might also find that you stay warmer.  Cold air is likely to be nearer the floor, so tuck those feet up higher to keep your toes toasty.

Do you have any frugal tips for staying warm?  Why not share them in the comments!

Stay warm everyone!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

How I made a Moogle Poncho

I've always been jealous of people who can craft. I can get creative in the kitchen, but give me a needle and thread or a pot of glue, and I'm completely at a loss...

So a few weeks ago I set myself the challenge to make myself a poncho (who doesn't like a warm snuggly thing)... And then my inner crafter and inner geek collided. My plan for a simple poncho morphed...
May a present: The Moogle Poncho.

Armed only with my wallet I plunged headfirst into the haberdashery.  I ferreted in corners, searched through carefully stacked bolts of cloth and even fought a little old lady for the last piece of purple felt, but finally I came out with my arms full, and my wallet empty.

I settled down that evening with my purchases scattered around me.  Part of me was chuffed, the other already defeated... the things is, I'd gone into the shop on a whim.  I hadn't prepared.  I had no pattern.  No plan.  And now I had lots of white fleece and some scraps of felt that I had to somehow transform into an item of clothing.  

I cast my mind around.  Willing it to land on something I could work with.  My eyes came to rest on our DVD and video game's cabinet... I took a deep breath and set to work.

Moogles are little benevolent characters from the Final Fantasy video game series.  They look like this:

Adorable huh?

Well, my Moogle looks like this:

I was dead chuffed.  

To make your very own Moogle poncho you will need:

  • 2 metres of white/cream fleece
  • White thread
  • Red thread
  • Purple thread
  • Red material
  • Purple material (I used felt, in two shades)
  • Needles
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Fabric pens
  • Wrapping paper, or dressmaking sheets

For the pom-pom
  • Red wool
  • Cardboard

1. I vaguely remembered my textiles lessons at school where we had cut our designs out of newspaper before cutting into cloth, so I pulled out an old roll of wrapping paper and used it to create a template.  With Hubby's help I drew a 1.5m diameter circle on the paper, which I then carefully cut out and then pinned to the fleece.

2. I was amazed how much space this took up as I sat in the middle of our living room kneeling under our dining room table, but I carefully laid out the pinned template and cloth on the floor to ensure that both pieces were flat before I went to the part of no return - the cutting.  Make sure when you position your template that you position it to one side of the material as this will leave larger off-cuts on the other side for making the hood.This bit will form the body of your poncho, so take care with your cutting.  The fleece doesn't need hemming, so be as neat as you can. 

3. Once cut out, remove the template from the fleece and put the material circle to one side.  I then grabbed an old hooded top and some more wrapping paper.  Place the hoodie shoulder down on paper and draw around the hood. I wanted a larger hood that on my hoodie, so I was generous in my tracing of the hood giving it an extra 2cm on each side.  Use this template to cut out two pieces of fleece.  Place together and sew up two sides to make your hood.

4.  I then settled down in front of the TV to make a pompom.  Cut two doughnuts out of cardboard, place together and wrap red wool around them until you can't fit any more through the little hole.  Depending on the size of your pompom this can take a little while.  Carefully cut around the edge of the circles, slipping another piece of wool in between the two card disks to secure the pompom together.  Make sure you leave a long tail of wool.
5. Using a needle, take the long wool tail of the pom pom and push it through the top seam of the hood.  Tie a large knot inside the hood to prevent it coming out... Your Moogle is starting to take shape!

6. Return to your large circle, and cut a slit no larger that the width of your hood for the neck in the centre of the material.  Carefully sew the hood onto the body of the poncho.

7. Pop on your hooded, pompom-ed poncho and run around squealing about how clever you are (or that may just be me).

8.  Next is the fun part when you position your Moogle's features.  It's not quite so easy to do this when the hood is attached, but by adding them at this stage it means you can adjust them depending on how the hood falls.  Cut out a Moogle nose shape from your red material and stitch this at the front of the hood with red thread so that when worn it falls in the middle of the wearer's forehead.

9. Cut out some ears from any white fleece you have left over and sew into position

10. Using a black fabric pen (I used DYLON Fine Fabric Pens) draw some Moogle eyes (very thin crescents) onto some of the fleece off-cuts and, once dry, sew into place.

11. Finally cut some wings out of the purple material and sew onto the back of the poncho where the hood meets the neck.

(Okay, so I managed to stitch mine one wonky... but I think it adds character!)

My Moogle likes nothing more than curling up in front of the TV with a cup of tea.  Good Moogle.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Bath Thermae Spa: Review

On Friday I popped my cherry.  My massage cherry.

My Mum was never one of those girly mums who would spend hours on hair and makeup.  She'd never feel dressed without her perfume, but makeup was something that just didn't really feature in our house.  It wasn't until I went to university that I ever really wore mascara, I remember one of the girls in my hall leaning over me with the brush in hand, with me clutching the duvet underneath me willing myself not to blink at the wrong time...  So certainly massages were out.

My Mum had a big birthday earlier this year, and as she's had a bit of a year, I decided that it would be nice to treat her to a day of pampering.  Not for the preening, but for the relaxation.  

So off we trundled to Bath Thermae Spa.

Part of the package that I'd bought was a treatment.  I'd had a list of three to pick from, and not knowing what any of them where I closed my eyes and stabbed my finger at one (yes, really!).  That was three months ago, and even when we'd changed into our robes and slippers I simply could not remember what I'd booked.

Luckily the lady at the treatment desk did. After half an hour bobbing around in one of the warm thermal pools, I wandered up to the desk to book in for my treatment.  "Hot Stones Vichy Hydro Massage" - even the name didn't really reveal much about what was going to happen to me.  I'd heard of a hot stone massage, and so the extra words in between just sort of passed me by.

I filled in the brief health questionnaire and was met by a very friendly therapist who led me into the treatment room, where I was left to strip, don a pair of hugely unsexy paper pants, lie on the bed and cover myself in a towel.  Laying there in the buff, I couldn't fail to notice the large metal contraption with what looked like shower heads pointed directly at my naked body.  I started to wonder whether I should have paid more those extra words...

Looking up at those shower heads I felt like I was staring down the barrel of a gun.  I certainly couldn't imagine the experience being relaxing.


I mentally prepared myself for jets of cold water, "just like an ice bath' my brain kept chanting over and over.  To aid recovery.  I was already a ball of goose pimples and the water wasn't even on....

When the therapist returned she calmly explained what I could expect.  And I was relieved to find out that the showers weren't going to blast me we cold water.

It turns out that "Hot Stones Vichy Hydro Massage" is a top-to-toe treatment using the latest techniques where you're massaged under a warm shower.  The shower heads were carefully directed to different areas of the body to stimulate blood flow.

My body was exfoliated with rock salt, cleansed with a nourishing aromatherapy bath oil and water ritual and then finally massaged with hot stones.  To be honest I was a bit sceptical, but once I found myself in a position on the bed where I wasn't inhaling the cascading water I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I left the massage room in a very Zen state, feeling deeply relaxed and strangely light.

I won't even pretend to understand the technicalities of what the massage did, or how it worked.  All I know was that I'd recommend it.

A day at the spa wasn't cheap, but for a special treat it certainly did the trick.  My Mum loved it.  However what they don't tell you is just how exhausted all that relaxing makes you... Zzzz

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A plea to grown women: Grow up.

Name calling. Teasing. Picking on.

Never nice.

At school doing any of those things would land you on the naughty step, at work it could land you in trouble with HR. In a social situation it's just embarrassing.

I've not blogged for a little while as I've been really busy with a musical. Show week was amazing, the cast, crew and band all got on really well. We were a big family. But then the mud slinging started.

I don't pretend to know the whole story. Or even part of it. All I know is that two grown women have fallen out, and they are posting bard-filled remarks on Facebook... And that they really should know better.

It's simply embarrassing.

Why it is so important for each of them to have the final word I just don't know. I'd like to think that if I was in that situation I'd let things lie... But the pair of them seem detirmined to poke the other. Let sleeping lions alone I say...