Monday, April 27, 2015

Apple Cider Vinegar vs Hives

You might have arrived because you’ve broken out in hives and you’re searching for a home remedy.
I broke out in hives all over my calves for a reason unknown. I've noticed for weeks now my eczema patches have been getting worse and they're spreading. I tried applying neem oil and that seemed to make things worse. The Jamaican black castor oil was not strong enough to calm my eczema. 

I realised that the itchy bumps which spread around from my shins were hives. The bumps swelled as I scratched like a mad woman. I had to run my calves under cold water, slather on hydrocortisone cream and take a loradatine tablet. 
The next morning I woke up feeling itchy and the hives spread above the knees. I couldn’t figure out why I had this reaction but I had to do something about the itch. The first thing I thought of was calamine lotion. I only had benetonite clay (one of the ingredients for calamine lotion) so I made a runny solution with filtered water and got instant relief as the clay did it's "sucking sensation" thing. Can't explain why but there is a noticeable tightening of the skin and that seemed to calm down the itch. The downside is that it leaves a grey powdery caste over my legs. It was unsightly and I couldn't wear leggings so I had to bare my legs at work. 

The tingly itch came back within minutes so I had to try something else. I was getting itchy on my belly and forearms too. Google guided me to a blog where someone used apple cider vinegar successfully to treat their hives. I had a bottle in the kitchen and dabbed it on. Thank goodness my hives calmed down. So glad it worked!

I made a mix of apple cider vinegar with a little benetonite clay. Later in the day, my hives came back again while I was at the gym. I put the mix on after a cool shower and felt conscious about the smell because I was in a crowded change room. 

At that point I was in a lot of discomfort. The next 20-15 mins still sucked, but trust me, the prickly itchies eventually calmed down. I will always carry this mix around with me while I have this allergic reaction. 

I'm now keeping a food diary and I've ordered soap nuts online to use as laundry detergent. They work great for cleaning my hair so I know they're safe. 

I have also started washing my clothes with Ecozone balls and washing soda crystals. As I hung the laundry to dry, my hands didn't feel as dry and irritated as they are normally. Yay for less chemicals! 


Monday, April 6, 2015

Spring Round Up - What's Been Happening

It's the Easter long weekend and so far I've done my Saturday gym-a-thon. My girlfriend Kim made a batch of revitalising Chinese soup and enticed me over to hers. Exactly what I needed to feel fortified. So much has happened in 2015 and this weekend was the first time I could relax.

Later I went out for cocktails. Except I only drank sparkling water and I feel terrific. Especially after a lie-in, (British speak for sleeping in). I love not feeling the after-affects of booze. Shows how old I'm getting!

Getting back to the unwinding bit. Not long ago I was in St Aton, Buffalo/NYC, and I went skiing again in Bad Gastein. The trips were exhausting. When I got back, I had to pass the Life In The UK test and apply for permanent residence.

I put in hours of studying and preparation. Did you know I've collected 188 passport stamps and had 56 trips outside the UK in the past 5 years? The day came when I brought my docs to the Border Agency. I had no intention of doing this when I first moved to London. But I walked out of there two hours later with a letter to say I have permanent residence. Next year is British citizenship!

Until March next year I have to keep my absences out of the UK within 90 days to qualify. I have a trip back to Sydney later this year after I'm made redundant from my job.

I was told of my redundancy in Bad Gastein. My boss with HR rang me while I was in a gondola. It took an hour for reality to sink in. That I will no longer be employed by my company after July.

That will be five and a half years service and the second longest job I've held in my working life. What was I going to do with myself until I find a new job? Catch up on blogging? Set up a business? Become a Zumba instructor? Do a course?

Job hunting starts after Easter!

Friday, April 3, 2015

5 NYC Foods I'll Never Forget

1) Chicken and Rice - Street Meat
We arrived in NYC from an early morning (4.30am!) train from Buffalo and I was starving by the time I checked into my hotel. When I joined my friends at the Waldorf Astoria, I was introduced to a much loved food in NYC. 

Opposite from the Astoria is a street vendor. My friend assures me that street food is very safe to eat. He recommended a meal simply known as "Chicken and Rice".  It was cheap (USD 6) and the guy cooks it when you order and it smells amazing. I had it drizzled with red and white sauce as my friend suggested. The minute I had the box in my hands, I wanted to eat it straight away. And I did, as I walked along the street. Shameful but deeply satisfying. The combination of tender grilled chicken with rice and spices was the perfect stomach filler in winter.

 2) NY Strip,  Black and Blue
We had dinner at Strip House. It was the first time I had steak done this way and the char really enhanced the flavour of the steak. It was incredible and huge (600grams). So tasty and tender, I could eat it all night.

3) Bagels
My breakfasts in NYC were of course, bagels with "cwarf-fee". Filter coffee is weak but you can drink alot of it. The bagel was huge and served with a heart stopping slab of cream cheese. Almost an inch thick! There was a bagel shop close to my hotel called Ess-a-bagel and this place is a bagel mecca. In the mornings it's so busy you have queue and get yelled at by the servers. 

4) Hot Dogs
They're synonymous with NYC street food. The Londoners tried them for kicks. Loaded with ketchup and sauerkraut tasted like it came out of a plastic jar. It tasted so...wrong. Most of my hot dog fell on the street. They're disgustingly unhealthy which is why I'll never forget them. Curiosity will have you trying them anyway.

5) Oysters
In Grand Central there is a fresh food market and I bought a dozen oysters. Shucked on the spot and  packed in ice. In my tiny hotel room I sat in bed in front of the TV and I ate them. With chicken rice. Before dinner. Yes I admit it. I should be ashamed but no.

Farewell NYC - Jan 2015

I was leaving New York again in an emotional state. I'm on edge right now (on the plane to London). I've been sleep deprived for the past week and have been thrown into a sensory overload. NYC has been a whirlwind of drinking, spending loads on drinking, recovering from drinking, only to drink again when hangovers wears off. 

It was my last day in NYC and I vowed to make the most of it. The others in the group was not leaving until Monday or Tuesday. I think I was leaving at a good time to salvage Sunday afternoon in London before it's back to work. 

I've only slept four hours but dragged myself out of bed to go to a diner. There was one around the corner from the Pod Hotel. I had a pancake and french toast with bacon and scrambled eggs. The food was cold and the coffee wasn't great but no matter. I went back to the room to shower and pack up my suitcase. 

My padlock was broken so I had to get a new one from Duane Reade. After being outside without gloves for ten minutes, I got windburn on my knuckles. The cold air can be so cruel. It looks like I've punched someone.

I meet the others at the Walforf and since they were drinking in the bar, I went to Grand Central to look around for an hour. Went into Strawberry. There was nothing I liked. It was a jungle of cheap clothing. 

I was in no mood to shop. I was a zombie. I could sleep for a hundred years. I could barely see with my eyes. But I went along with the others The Quays, an Irish pub in Astoria Queens. What the heck-if I was going to while away my last hours in NYC, it might as well be amongst friends. Pretty much doing what we had been doing before but now I have a taste for Guinness. As my friends say, NY Irish pubs have better Guinness than London. 

It was good to get out of Manhattan. I've never been to Queens before. The streets had a lot of snow and some cars were buried in it. 

The Quays was on a corner on a Main Street of Queens. I walked down the street for a bit but went back to the pub because it was too cold. 

I was explaining the story about how I got a bit of attitude from the baggage handler at the Pod because he misunderstood that I needed him to hold my suitcase for a moment while I buy a lock and then it goes back in the storeroom. He walked away and after I reminded him he was cross, saying I should have told him not to throw away the ticket. Then I was compelled to say: "You sold me the air shuttle ticket and told me to come back at 6.45pm." Why would I want my suitcase back so early??? I said to Emily. "What a dick."

"Now you sound like a true New Yorker."

And on that note, my time in the US has come to an end. Megan called a car and I was taken back to the Pod. 

I rested in the car and at the boarding gate. NYC had drifted away and I was ready to go home. I couldn't wait to see Grant and get back to my life in London. I miss Zumba and I was getting thick around the waist. I was consumed by NYC and I needed to feel normal again. 

I'm glad I stayed at the Pod instead of the Waldorf. I no longer needed to worry finding my way around or tipping in NY anymore. Life can be simple again. 

As much as I enjoyed it, the gleam of NYC has worn off on this third visit. I have come back with only a few cheap t shirts, one ridiculously expensive shirt from Anthropologie, stove top stuffing and  toiletries. No way a much as I brought back from the previous trips!

My Top 5 Skiing Pet Hates

Let me preface this post by saying I love skiing but here are my top 5 pet hates about the sport.

1) Foot Binding Ski Boots
I usually have to swap hire boots at least once on a trip. I once changed to a full size down when I thought my boots were too big. They felt fine in the store but on the slopes my feet swelled and my toes were jammed. I wasn't bothered going back to the ski shop and put up with the pain until I ended the day early. I switched back to my first pair of boots. Too big is better than too small. 

A week later my toenails turned black. Lesson learned is to go up to the nearest half size and to leave an inch of space above my toes when trying on boots. 

2) Blinding White Outs
If the mountains look like a blank sheet of paper, it's best to stay low where there are trees. And if you get eye floaters like I do, white outs make them worse. All I see is a worm infestation. They scatter away when I look at them and when I focus on something else, they come back. 

In a white out, what's off piste is anyone's guess and with strong winds, I wish I never got on the chairlift. The worst experience was in Nakiska, Canada where the winter Olympics was once held. 

It has the most treacherous runs I've come across. There was a slope of blue ice carved smooth by the wind. Suddenly a mighty gust almost blew me off the mountain. An angry cloud of snow swept towards me and I dug in my poles for dear life. You had to be an Olympian skier to enjoy that day. 

Good skiers are adapted to such conditions and are far less likely to freak out. These are the ones I use as guides down the mountain if I can keep up with them. I also get motion sickness or dizzy. Ever felt like throwing up while flying down an mountain?

3) Innocent Decisions That Backfire
I'm not a brave skier but sometimes I think I am. As a result I've made some bad decisions.

I fractured my arm in New Zealand when I took off my skis on my first black run. Rocks were in the way so I thought could just walk down instead. One slip and I went somersaulting faster than any speed I'd achieved on skis. I crashed into a rock and in a state of denial, I massaged my forearm thinking:"Why is my arm numb?"  After 5 minutes the endorphins wore off. Two kiwis rushed over and said my fall looked like something from Funniest Home Videos. 

Now I never take off my skis on a steep slope. They're the only things that will stop me from free falling. The only exception is when there's no snow to ski on. Like the time we took a ski route even though no one was on it. Chances are if no one is taking that ski route, there's a good reason.

4) Bad Techniques I Can't Shake Off 
I'd like to think that after many ski lessons, I can call myself a competent skier. But there's a difference between someone who can get down any slope and someone who's good at skiing. I envy those who ski with superb technique. I can't ski half the speed without looking like I've been dragged along by a go kart.

My body is rigid, positioned as if I'm on a motorcycle. If things get hairy, I revert back to old habits and resort to dragging my poles to slow down.

I watched a video of myself "bunny hopping" as I turn. I've skied over ten years and still can't do a decent carve turn!

5) Carrying Skis and Poles
Forget apres ski. I'd rather have a hot bath, cup of tea and spend the rest of the night in bed. At my age I need to recuperate for the next day of skiing. 

In Le Tania we stayed in a luxurious chalet that overlooked the valley. The catch was that unless you had a knack for skiing on patchy snow and gravel (a red run and part car park), you couldn't ski into the resort from the chalet. The walk down was 15 minutes and the streets were unforgivingly hilly. Once I thought it would be a good idea to ditch the street and walk up that red run to go home since it was far less distance. I expended far more energy carrying my skis up and  I never did it again.

Now I leave my gear at the ski shop if it's close to the chairlift. It worth paying that bit extra, especially for the joy of slipping into sheepskin boots right after a hard day of skiing.