Archive for December, 2010

December 27, 2010

American Carwash

London even has an American Carwash.

Admittedly, this is the only carwash I’ve ever noticed in central London in the past three years.

December 23, 2010

Christmas Cupcakes

Getting festive, cupcakes were made. Yay Christmas!

What did I learn from this experience:

1. Edible Glitter fixes everything. It makes everything a bit more pretty. I also learned that just because edible glitter is edible, doesn’t mean it’s digestible.

2. Using liquid fondant is much easier then I expected, but you have to work quite quickly as it hardens within minutes. I think the hardest part is not overcooking it and making it into a rock.

3. Piping icing is much easier if you aim at 90 degrees. Doing it on a slant results in offroad icing.

4. When filling the cupcake wrappers/ tins,  less is more, as if you overfill, whatever you put on top won’t have the wrapper to help it along.

5. If you want the cupcakes to come out flattish on top, use margarine. Butter will yield a dome-shaped top, which you’d have to then level.

6. I can eat two of these before feeling vile.

December 22, 2010

Blackberry Snood

All Done!

Blackberry Snood sounds like something to eat, not something to wear.

Me in Snood

Anyway, I made this based on this pattern from The Guardian, and it is the first thing I’ve ever made from a pattern. It’s garter stitch (which is alternating knit and purl rows) and I had to decrease the number of rows as I went, so lots of new things. (Admittedly, I messed up a bit and forgot one of the decreases and just fudged it later.)

If you know me and you ask me to make you one, I’d probably say yes. It only took me two days. You’ll need to pick your color, though. (Mine is blackberry.)

December 21, 2010

American-Style Nails

Little did I know, the Americans are famed for their manicure design talents in England!

I wonder if, “American Nail Designs” equates to what I like to call, “DMV Talons”…

American Nails in Putney


*American Nail Designs* in Islington



December 20, 2010

More Fun with Town Names

I caught this weather report back in November, when it was especially rainy.

Naturally, I could not resist the hilarity that is the town names of  Mumbles and Dunkeswell.

This posted the question of where these places are, and much to our surprise, Mumbles looks gorgeous- at least according to this website.

I think it may be our first car trip, once I get my license!

December 19, 2010

Pityriasis Rosea

Day 29: Almost gone!

I’ve waffled about writing about this, as it seems like an overshare; thus my new category. What changed my mind was my husband’s pointing out how much other people’s accounts helped me out when I ended up with bout of Pityriasis Rosea.

It all really started mid-November when I noticed a splotch of dry skin (later I learned this is called a, “herald patch”) on the side of my torso. I thought little of it, as I tend to have dry skin in winter.  During our York trip, two weeks or so later, I found my torso covered in smaller red welt-like splotches. At first I thought it might be a reaction to laundry detergent, but the spots were isolated to my torso only.

I did what any reasonable person does in this age: I asked Google. (She seemingly knows everything. )

My quick search for red spots on torso quickly pointed me to a number of sites on Pityriasis Rosea. Among the best were these:

The first three offer helpful reference, but it was the fourth I really found helpful, as it was a personal account. It also led me to write this because this condition generally lasts eight weeks, and I seem to have mostly beaten it in four. The frustrating part about this condition is that there’s no conclusive evidence as to what actually causes it, and there’s no immediate cure; you just have to let it run its course for the most part.

My own experience after figuring out that I had Pityriasis Rosea focused on trying to get rid of it as soon as I possibly could. As the many references indicated that sweating and hot showers would prolong the condition, I abandoned the gym, and took lukewarm showers, only as needed. (See, oversharing!!)

I found this Aveeno Beth and Shower Oil worked very well as a cleanser, and I frequently applied E45 Lotion to manage the itching.

What I really think progressed this along, though, was use of a sunbed, which is something I would NEVER have done, had I not been desperate and had I not read of Jim’s successes with it. I’m quite pale, you see. The closest I come to a tan is when freckles merge. My makeup color is usually the lightest one in the palate.

What I did was spend two minutes (the bed itself recommended no more than three for a fair-skinned person) under the lamps at a time.

Timingwise, if I consider the date of the first spot Day 1, and the day I broke out in lots of spots Day 14, then I went for my few minutes of UV sun time on the 17th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, and 25th days. I learned quickly that two days in a row was too much that first time I tried it, so after that, I spread out the sessions more. Each time I sunned, the spots would initially worsen, feeling itchy and sunburned, even though my normal skin was not burned. This discomfort would last about 12 hours, after which, the spots would significantly improve.  In Jim’s account, he spent much more time under the lamps and makes no mention of feeling like the spots were burned, but his account also gave me the the impression that he wasn’t the sort of person who gets sunburned, period.

On day 22nd, the rash did worsen, spreading down my legs and arms, but this cleared up completely on day 24. I read that often, sufferers will have a brief case where the spots spread and mysteriously recede a few days later. I was relieved to see them go.

By day 28, the spots had mostly cleared, and while I was still a bit spotted, my skin felt mostly normal. I went to the doctor due to the cold I picked up, and he confirmed my diagnosis. The picture above was taken day 29, and the first (herald) spot from Day 1 is still visible but very faded. I realize it doesn’t show much, but I guess I’m not that good at oversharing. Google images can dazzle you with plenty of awful pictures, if you really want.

December 17, 2010

A Belgian American Bar?

Perhaps I’m noticing this sort of  misuse of the American flag and term, “American-style” now that I’ve added a category to document it.

Anyway, this pole dancing bar in Brussels caught my eye. The only reference to the States is the flag, but still, it’s a big sign!

December 16, 2010

Brussels, Belgium

View Towards Le Grand Place

In the spirit of spending my hoarde of Hilton points and enjoying cheap train fares, we headed to Brussels for a quick visit of about 36 hours.  Unfortunately, when big day arrived, Darren was suffering with a cold, and I was well on my way to doing so. Even so, we did our best!

Day I

After checking in at The Conrad, we headed towards the Le Grand Place, a UNESCO Hertitage site and most famous square in Brussels, in search of lunch. We stopped off at nearby Chez Leon for some moules frites. Chez Leon is large, with a capacity of 900. On my last visit to Brussels in August 2008, it proved a

Us with Strings at MIM

far better culinary offering than many of the restaurants around it, and the very efficient service didn’t hurt either.

Full of lunch, a hat purchase,  and a bit of a wander later, we headed up the hill to the Museum of Musical Instruments. I particularly liked this museum because one is given a wireless headset through which you can hear the instruments in the cases in front of you being played. I thought this was a really nice complement to seeing the instruments themselves. It’s a good sized collection of 7,000 pieces.


After seeing all those instruments, we were ready for anap and more Lemsip, but a bit of pleading allowed for a stop at the Musee Magritte, part of the Royal Museums of Fine Art. This is more of an art collection, with supporting biography, where as the more biographical Rene Magritte Museum remains at Magritte’s home in Laeken.

As we were both suffering from colds, we headed back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before dinner around the corner at Bosquet 58, which we found in our guidebook. Bosquet 58 (58 Rue Bosquet)  is a tiny, family-run restaurant, which serves simple dishes done well.  Darren had steak frites while I had chicken and couscous before headng home to rest up.

Day II:

Moules @ la Roue d'Or

The next morning, we partook in hotel brunch and had a  late start , checking out at one, full of cold medicine. We headed back to Le Grand Place in search of the behemoth Christmas fair mentioned in our guidebook, but had somehow managed to miss the prior day. This time, we found it, only it was much smaller than expected, just a

Darren enjoys Au Bon Vieux Temps

set of stalls around the Bourse; however, there may have been more near the skating rink at Ste. Catherine. We also stumbled into J. Dandoy, famed for its cookies, of which we bought many plus a ginger cake that was very reminiscent of a ontbijtkoek.

Having acquired the all important Christmas decoration from the fair and gingerbread from , we enjoyed an excellent lunch at the lovely Le Brasserie de la Roue d’Or (Rue des Chapeliers 26 Ilôt). We really enjoyed our food here, and it’s just a pretty place to eat; the ceiling is painted with a sky,

Le Grand Place at Night

clouds, and birds of paradise.  I had more moules frites (right)

After lunch we found ourselves with a few hours until our 2030 Eurostar, and no desire to visit the museums of beer or chocolate. Thus, I took Darren to what ended up being one of my brother’s and my favorite places on my last visit here, Au Bon Vieux Temps. This tavern feels like a local spot, despite being smack in the middle of a touristy area, possibly because it is down a small corridor from the street. The panelled interior and the stained glass windows make this a very cozy bar, and the patrons are a mix of old and young. The beer list is short but good.

A few rounds later, we wrapped up, collected our bag from the hotel, and headed back to London.

You can view all of these places on our Brussels Google Map.

December 13, 2010

The Driving Theory Exam

The Test Centre

This morning, I sat the Driving Theory exam. Having passed, I can now schedule my practical (road test).

The Driving Theory Test is much harder than what I recall taking in New York State in 1994. There are 50 multiple choice questions and fourteen clips in which one identify developing road hazards. The road hazards section is particularly difficult because you have a five second window within which to identify the hazard, and the earlier within the window the hazard is identified, the higher the score.  You can see exactly what I mean here, If still unconvinced, try it for  yourself here.

My test included a clip where the hazards were sheep!

December 12, 2010

American Ginger Ale?

American Style?

No one can tell me what constitutes, “American Ginger Ale”.

I do find it suspicious that only the diet version is American.