Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Skin shallow

I'm not a great believer in the cosmetics industry. This is not a sentiment shared by a majority of the ladies. Googling found me the small (not) fact that " Though slowing, year-on-year growth rates in the global cosmetics and toiletries industry have been positive to date. Last year the world market for cosmetics and toiletries (C&T) was valued at US$201 billion, up 4.8% from 2002 (in fixed exchange rate terms)." Even if you give Toilteries half that share that's still a lot of makeup by any standards!

In theory the youthful twenties are when your skin is recovering from the angst and teenage bouts of acne -- your skin is clear, pores almost invisible, complexion positively rosy, even & taut. A light moisturizer and gentle exfoliating are all the 20 something skin needs to look good.

My twenties were skin-heaven time; I never had pimples, zits, acne, blemishes or poor self-esteem due to a darker that pale colouring. More importantly I could never bring myself to part with my cash on the latest lipstick/ blush/ foundation etc...My make-up kit consisted of kajal and lip gloss for the odd day, eyeliner and the palest blush for an occasion special. I convinced myself that I liked the natural look and accepted that I was too damn lazy to make any effort whatsoever.

The truth is that I have always had an oblique standard for "beautiful" and I never got caught in the race in which many (most) women I knew, regardless of their looks, felt they were failing to meet model standards of perfection. I always wondered how perfectly lovely women found time to layer on the make-up and if they were ever at all disappointed when all the layers were washed off and their face was nothing but a wrinkled up prune (from all those constant chemicals) underneath. Sorry, I'm trying not to be judgemental (but somehow that's not how this reads!). It's just that to my minds eye sometimes the vulnerability of a clear (I don't mean blemish clear; I mean concience clear) face and the innocence of a natural smile on a young woman is a far more attractive proposition.

The 'wise' thirties are quite another story. I'm told that although acne will no longer be an "issue" the first signs of aging will appear. Beside the grey hair springing up all over the head (yes, there's that delight to look forward to!) there is discoloration and premature wrinkles to look forward to (eeks!). It's awful, simply awful.

Here's what happens in the 30's: "The skin under the eyes begins to thin and puffy dark circles become commonplace, the skin's natural process of exfoliation slows down and collagen and elastin fibers decrease."

The suggestion is that I consider boosting my skin care regimen and upgrading my makeup routine. Looking good in my thirties will take more time and effort than in my twenties and I should prepare to be both out of pocket and time where my looks are concerned. I can no longer afford to be judgemental of women who makeup as soon I shall have to take this with some seriousness.

Apparently time stops for no one and no amount of bl**dy expensive Olay Regenerist regime creams and serums is going to help.

I would like to think that inner beauty is everything and that how I look sans makeup is statement-making cool. Yet I can't escape from the fact that in my thirties my skin is taking on a paler shade of grey.

So I shall continue to dabble in makeup to maintain 'natural' as a look. When it all clashes violently and I look terribly grey or way too bright will someone please please give me a heads-up?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Oriental outings

Busy busy weeks with lots of meals eaten out, with friends, with relatives, with each other. I am biased towards oriental food - Japanese, Chinese, Thai, fusion - all yumm in my books. V is not so. I mean he'll eat it with a smile on his face but Italian tops his favourite food bias without a doubt. Say 'Pizza' and the guy who agrees quickest and smiles broadest is V!

The first of our oriental outings was with our friend M to a Korean restuarant in far away Raynes Park, south west London. We combined the plan with a visit to Wimbledon to see friends with a newborn baby girl. On a cold Sunday evening the Korean place was warm and full of Koreans eating dinner (to me the surest sign of authentic and tasty cuisine is that people from the country of origin will slurp it down smiling - although I would say beware of snake and insect eating cultures). We'd never eaten Korean before and had no clue what to expect. Ga-Chi is on a lonely lane close to Raynes Park station. It's sign well lit and welcoming we went into the warmth and carefully read the menu. We made no decisions before M arrived (he's been before) except on Korean beer and a fried Calamari starter. We finally ordered 3 main dishes: the first was a traditional barbeque; the second a chicken in chill garlic sauce and the third a hot pot. The chicken arrived first. Fried chicken in a very light and tasty sauce, eaten with no accompaniment was excellant - it needed no rice or noodles to complete it at all. Then the kind Korean waitress brought the ingredients for the barbeque to our table and cooked them on the hot plate in the centre - marinated sirloin steak and pork with a few mushrooms. The Korean barbeque is eaten in a particular manner. A lettuce leaf forms the base on which you put a few springs of spring onion, some soyabean paste, spicy chilli kimchi. Then whip up a piece of cooked meat from the central hot plate, fold the lettuce leaf much like a dumpling and pop into the mouth. Simply sterling! The final dish was the hot pot. Rice, egg, korean hot sauce, meat and some quick mixing by the waitress at the table and this hot stone pot produced a fine small bowl of steaning food for each of us. It was the prefect ending to a sumptuous meal. It's all fresh ingredients, cooked at the very last minute possible to keep in the nutrients and taste, very neat and tidy and tasty - I am taken with Korean food and Ga-chi is highly recommended! Oh, I think you need a booking as they are very full usually.

Our next oriental eating opportunity was disasterous. V and I were roaming around Oxford Street in search of an elusive red jacket that I want to buy and as the sun went down and the cold fingers of the evening gripped us tighter we decided to nip into the relatively new (a couple of months I think) 'Yo Sushi!' behind the new Boots. What a disappointment! V and I both love Sushi and regularly frequent the other famous sushi bar chain Itsu. We'd never been to Yo! before and decided that some green tea and a plate each of sushi would be our evening warmer. The decor was neat and clean but the couches were mighty uncomfortable to get into. The passing conveyor belt was full of neat little plates of sushi making their way to every diner. Unfortunately not a single palte was marked. All they gave us was this menu. The problem is this: identify sushi that looks good, then flip through all the pages to find out what it is, like the description and decide that that's what you'll have, look up and its long gone, hovering three tables away, where another bewildered guest is doing the same dance. Why couldn't they just put a little holder on each one identifying what it is - like every other sushi bar in the world?! Next problem: two spouts coming up through the centre of the table marked fizzy water and still water, surrounded by numerous glasses. You'd think that it was a kind reaction to every tired Oxford street shopper asking for a glass of water. Or that the person who seated you would mention that it cost some money to use them. I finally gave up on the conveyor belt and chose a mackrel kedgeree from the menu (it was cold and disappointing - in sync with the theme of the place) - and V chose something from the escaping conveyor and pronounced it 'average'. Bill paying time and we've been charged £1 each for the water we drank - "per glass you use madam". Never again. I am on a boycott Yo Sushi stance now......

V's brother and my brother were here at the weekend and we went to Hamley's in Regent Street in search of toys to keep our young niece happy when her father got back to Mumbai. After an hour in overcrowded toyland, with our hands full of toys and goodies we made our way to the Japan Travel Centre in Picaddilly. The Toku restaurant has been revamped from a squashed few tables next to the travel desk to a bright red walled, many tabled and utterly buzzing restaurant. The last time I had been there with a friend the service and food had been delightful if hurried. The seating is still a bit constrained but the service was friendly and the food every bit as tasty as before. There is a large menu and its not cheap as chips but its good sized portions of fresh food. We had a selection of sushi (and even Nik - my bro - tried some - this is amazing but why is another post) and then all three boys had rice bowls with chilli pork (accompanied by 'can-able bottles' of Sapporo beer) while I devoured a chicken teriyaki set. Our meals were hot, delicious and so beautifully presented that even that quick meal felt wholesome and relaxed. I'm not sure where the travel desk has moved but the basement is a supermarket of Japanese groceries and the first floor a japanese bookshop. If ever in the area and looking for a quick, healthy fast food option the Japan Travel Centre is highly recommended.

There you are - 3 completely different oriental meals with 3 very different outcomes. I still love Oriental food!

34 Durham Road, Raynes Park, London, SW20 0TW; Tel: 020 8947 1081
Yo Sushi! : All over the city like a rash - avoid any and all unless you are a glutton for punishment - don't say you weren't warned!!!
Japan Travel Centre/ Toku restaurant: 212 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HG; Tel: 020 7255 8255

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cold Snap 101

Frozen person = unloved blog

It's taken 5 days to defrost my fingers and drag myself out from under the world's warmest duvet to get to this post. UK is under the spell of a rather cold snap and I, the original Sun-catcher, is suffering for it. And it's only November.

Cuddlefest with simply adorable nephews aged 5 and 20 months helped warm the heart on Friday. Houseguests from afar (one whose tale is fodder for another post) since Saturday has kept me on toes - all the jogging around the house trying to keep some semblence of tidiness has got the blood flowing.

Not deviating anymore. To battle the fog that envelopes your house and the cold that permeates those thick walls here are my top tips:

1. Hot home-made bubbling chai (not lukewarm latte from Starbucks)

2. Steaming bowls of soup (M&S or Covent Garden heated on the stove will do for the mixie-challenged)

3. Boiling hot baths with lavender oil in them (so what if you look a bit like a lobster by the time you come out, atleast you will be warm)

4. Hot water bottles (24 hour rotation - get your other half to go make them while you preserve the warmth left behind)

5. Knee high woollen socks (one pair or two)

6. Tights (under the socks please, a bit superwoman like?!)

7. Fluffy bedroom slippers (without the pompoms please)

8. Big old (therefore softest) himachali shawl you can find (don't be fashion conscious, this goes over anything, really)

9. Lots of candles - differest sizes, shapes, smells and colours (even when you don't have guests, it makes the place seem cosier and burns that cold smell out)

10. Hugs (endless supply from certain warm human being - I've got mine to take the week off and acclimatise me to this harsh tundra)

It's cold and I'm a bit like an ice cream container - sweet but cold! As you can see I'm suffering with the -5 temperatures that only promise to go lower when the isobars become closer and the wind is from the Arctic. Brrrr....

Any wise suggestions to keep warm O wise bloggers?!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

'Christmas' by any other name

Political correctness is for wimps. People who can't or won't call an apple an apple. And people who couldn't find any other job but have remenant childhood desires to star in their own secret society.

A while ago V was pointing out someone to someone and was strictly reprimanded for saying 'blonde girl'. Apparently he should have said 'girl with golden hair' or some such thing because blondes no longer want to be called that. They are offended by the stereotype of 'blondes' being dumb. I simply have to shake my so-far-so-black head of hair and wonder what next? Should I be offended when someone points to me and says 'Asian looking' or 'brown girl'. Of course I would like to be pointed to as that 'gorgeous woman' but let's face it that ain't going to happen; 'Asian looking' or 'brown girl' is far closer the target and much closer the point. Blonde girl is accurate, its a description when a name is not known, not derogatory and whoever stuffed their heads with trash about stereotypes, well, they should have none of it -be proud to be blonde, black, brown or blue!

This is the latest row in the battle of the political correctness:

Apparently, someone fairly junior and overzealous to protect the 'diversity' of the London borough of Lambeth decided to rename its Christmas lights “winter” or “celebrity” lights, effectively banning the word 'Christmas'. Someone at the Daily Mail decided it was front page news enough and although Lambeth Council responded by quickly taking out a strong press release denying this and applauding the festival of christmas. But not before 'furore' among the christian public and discussion on every talk show on day time telly.

So I had to listen to lisping (and very irritating) Lowri Turner (Brit TV celebrity) tell us on the 'Wright Stuff' (Channel Five) and then the evening news about how she thinks that Christmas is archaic and that no matter how many Brits actually put 'C of E' on applications none of them is a real Christian. Her boyfriend is apparently Asian and she is trying to teach her children about other festivities (ie. 'diversity') and she fully supports this change of 'Christmas' to 'Winter'. Doesn't want her children to feel pressured into celebrating Christmas just because it's a tradition. How is it possible to get such dumb guests on such a great programme - Mathew Wright, get someone half decent to be an 'expert' (This is a rant for another post I think).

Anyway, needless to say I don't agree and I'm not even Christian. I think Christmas lights should be called just that. Changing someone's name doesn't change what it is. Re-branding for the sake of it should not be allowed. Little Christian children wait all year for Christmas and Santa Claus to bring them presents. Should we take away all innocence and just tell them Christmas got cancelled? Next they'll be saying that 'Winter' is cancelled and henceforth being called 'cold season'.

Indian's all over the UK celebrate Diwali with zeal, dressing up for parties, playing taash, eating mithaiyan and bursting pataka's. Wouldn't we hate it if Dwali was cancelled by the political correctness brigade? Whatever happened to tolerance? This is a Christian country for heaven's sake and if they can accept our festivals I think the 'diverse' population should learn to accept theirs. I'm all for political correctness when someone is being hurt or when the remarks are deregatory but not when it will remove a tradition that is revered or when the stereotype is half-baked and all in the mind.

I'm jobless but not desperate enough to join the political correctness secret society!

taash: Cards
mithaiyan: Sweets
pataka's: fireworks

Friday, November 04, 2005

A cricket bit

Guffawing a la ha ha interupted my nightly telly addiction last night. Turned around to see V trying desperately not to fall off his swiss ball while simultaneously shaking with laughter.

This is the reason. Indian cricketing fans (of whom V would like to be crowned King) will enjoy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My poor brave Dilli

Sarojini nagar market is a teenage schoolgirls designer outlet on a budget. All through school thats where I went to shop for what I thought were cool clothes and were infact export rejects and seconds. Now it's a bomb site and all the gruesome pictures are playing havoc with the happy memories I have of it. It's where we'd go for Diwali gifts, to eat chaat, to buy our woolies, to buy myriad household items - from bedspreads to plastic containers of every size, colour and shape - to stock up on fresh fruit & veggies.

It's taking me more time than most (probably because of the distance) to get my head around what has happened - 3 near simultaneous bomb blasts in 3 crowded areas. Fleeting news pictures and sketchy accounts of the scale of things show my poor city bleeding and hurt. Even at a non-festive time these markets are always overcrowded and I can only imagine the terror innocent shoppers have gone through in those minutes and hours after the bombings.

I'm thinking of my city this diwali and praying that all dilliwalas use the proverbial and very real lights to find their way ahead.

Diwali ki shubh kamnaye