Archive | June, 2012

Shortcutting… Blisters

30 Jun

I have very, very big feet. I’m too embarrassed to give you an exact size, but suffice it to say that they’re pretty enormous. Anyway, unable to accept that I’m basically a freak of nature, I still shop in normal shops, and just buy the biggest size on offer, which is rarely large enough. (In my defence, they so pwetty!) Anyhow, it is rare for me to go through a day without crunched-up toes, aching soles, and a massive pair of blisters to boot. Here’s how I’ve learnt to deal with them:

1) Avoid walking whenever possible. The more you move, the more friction in your shoes, so try and stay as still as possible for minimum pain.

2) Find opportunities to take off shoes. I’m not saying you should keep taking your shoes off – what’s the point of getting them if you ain’t going to flaunt them – but do let your feet breathe every now and then.

3) Wear Compede. These blister plasters are massively over-priced, but if my advice has come too late and you’ve already fallen victim to the dreaded blister, give these gel-y-ish patches of healing a shot. Regular plasters also ease the pain.

4) Get trainers. I have a pair of Converse that I wear whenever I’m not in public (and often when I am) which are almost (is it even possible?) TOO big, so my feet get chill time.

5) Break shoes in. Before you wear them to a public place, it’s often a good idea to wear them around a bit to break them in/ prepare yourself for the pain to come.

Heal those heels and give it some sole!

Keep shortcutting,
Zoe

Shortcutting… Train Tickets

28 Jun

Another day, another train journey. Since I started this blog, I seem to have had more train journeys than… other things one does frequently. Anyway, one area I (should) have become well-practiced in is buying tickets. Today’s journey was relatively short distance – only about an hour – so my friend and I were foolish enough to leave booking until the day of the journey. Even more foolishly, we decided to meet only twenty-five minutes before the train we wanted to catch was due to leave. This yielded interesting results. We spent ten minutes queuing in the wrong queue. Five minutes queuing for a self-service ticket machine that did not take cash – for my friend this was fine but I did not have enough money on my card for the ticket which was rather more than I was expecting, probably because we hadn’t booked in advance. We then spent just under ten minutes queuing for a different self-service machine, where there happened to be  a little old man at the front who wasn’t quite sure how the thing worked. With much ripping of hair out from us, and some help from the second person in line, he finally found his tickets and got out of the way. Those of you who are mathematically gifted will have calculated that we now had only about three minutes until our train left. After much clicking of wrong buttons and dropping my money all over the floor (more haste less speed), we ran at full tilt to the train, which at this point only had one door left open. To make a long story short, we made it (I realise I actually just made a short story long, but oh well), although it took about three carriages before we found a seat. There are several lessons to be learnt from this experience:

1) Book tickets in advance. Even for the shortest journey, you’re bound to save a bit of dough by booking earlier. Something I haven’t quite got a grasp of yet is the whole ‘off peak’ shebang – I think basically if you travel at weird times you can get cheaper tickets, but I don’t know quite where you find out what times are weird, although when booking online it does say sometimes.

2) Reserve seats. This probably isn’t necessary for such a short journey as the one I had today, but anything longer than two hours and I’d definitely recommend it: if you haven’t, everyone else will have.

3) Get there early. This isn’t directly related to tickets, but get there early to avoid close shaves: they are exhilarating but it isn’t worth the risk.

And some tips I have learnt from past train ticket experiences:

4) Try and get discounts. Things like student and family railcards will sufficiently lower your fee, so research which ones you qualify for and get your mitts on them.

5) Book a return, not two singles. This is a rookie mistake that I myself have fallen prey to: do not be fooled, one single is almost the same as a return ticket, so with a single you’re effectively getting half as far for the same price. Oh but if you do book a single, don’t forget to book one for the way back too – I wouldn’t want you getting stranded!

Song for this post: Day Tripper, The Beatles – ‘One way ticket, yeah!’

Keep shortcutting,

Zoe

Shortcutting… Choosing Presents

27 Jun

This week I have been involved in a group effort to buy someone a leaving present, and it has been far from plain sailing. Basically, it’s all getting rather heated, with no one able to agree on what would make a suitable present – great entertainment but slightly worrying when said leaving is getting sooner and sooner. Being the absolute wimp that I am, I’m far too scared to get involved in the debate myself, but I do have some opinions to share with an audience who (hopefully) won’t shoot me down ruthlessly.

My real area of expertise lies in birthday presents: I am very much a fan of the quirky, humorous little present that has a (tenuous) link with our friendship – in recent months I have given friends a set of test-tube shot glasses (complete with rack of course), a fire extinguisher water bottle (for extinguishing that thirst!), and a ring with a bottle-opener on it. Weirdly these are all related to drinking. I must stress that this is a coincidence and says nothing about them or me… My primary advice would be to make a little spider diagram of private jokes and things you have in common, and then try to think of things that are at least loosely related to one of these in some way. Also, don’t worry about the value or usefulness of the present too much – let’s face it: whatever you get them, they’ll put it at the bottom of a cupboard somewhere and it’ll never cross their mind again, so you may as well at least make them laugh a bit.

For leaving presents, I’d suggest something small and portable that will remind the person in some small way of home. A little cushion or piece of jewellery might be nice, although it might be worth thinking of the environment and getting something that’ll biodegrade quickly, so as not to fill up any landfill sites.

In both of these cases, I would say that the card is far more important than the present. I quite often hand-make my cards, and I always try to fill them with as many hilarious memories as possible (although these days one must be careful not to have too much overlap between card jokes and wall post jokes). I am not generally one for cheese and sentimentality, but I do think that cards are something that can be treasured (sickly word) for a long time, and re-read again and again to make you smile. Okay that was very cheesy, I do apologise!

Don’t forget to ask for the gift-wrap!

Keep shortcutting,
Zoe

Shortcutting… Waitressing

26 Jun

I had to do some waitressing today at a party of sorts (long story), and I have to say it was rather enlightening being on the other side of the greedy hands grabbing at canapés (okay, that’s a bit unfair: there were no greedy hands among the guests today, in fact the only greedy hands somehow ended up being me again, attacking the leftovers).  Anyway it was, as I said, an enlightening experience, and I thought I’d share with you a little about what I learnt.

1) When you are waitressing, you become hyper-sensitive to those around you. I remember my granny once telling me that she had been a waitress, and she knew for a fact that in restaurants, waiters/ waitresses always know when you’re trying to get their attention, they just sometimes choose to ignore you. I now see what she meant. I could somehow feel it in the air if people were craving an avocado mousse canapé; I barely had to look into their eyes and I could see that longing, that avocado-based desire, that caused their eyes to keep flicking towards the tray in my hands. One good source of amusement was pretending not to notice and watching them trying to resist tapping me on the shoulder or yelling ‘Stop!’ as I flitted in and out between the groups of people, or better still allowing them to follow me around at a distance, hoping I would turn around so that they could innocently take a little piece of that avocado heaven.

2) Use a wooden tray wherever possible. Some of the canapés I had were on wooden trays, but the majority were on these slabs of slate which were incredibly heavy. I had the misfortune of being halfway through a round of canapés when the speeches started, which took about twenty minutes overall (well it felt like it anyway), and by the end my hands were shaking so much that I was seconds away from showering the person in front of me with the very avocado mousse they had been chasing me for just moments (or twenty minutes) earlier. It was a close shave.

3) Try and crack a little joke about the food. One of the canapés I was serving was a little burger-type deal, only the meat in question was steak tartare (i.e. raw) with an egg on top. Not, some might say, the most convenient canapé choice de nos jours. Some people refused them flat out but there were others who seemed to be toying with the idea of trying what I came to think of as the ‘risk’ canapé: for these people, I tried a friendly sort of dare, and in the momentary lapse in sanity that a dare inevitably brings, where they picked up the risk canapé and pondered its existence, I whisked the tray away, said ‘Good luck!’, and darted off before they could change their minds. As an aside, it was interesting, if a little stereotypical, to note that the men were much more game, and most tended to bravely scoop up the risk canapé before I’d had a chance to tell them what it was. I also realised it was a good idea to say what was in the canapé only after they had picked it up (I did get a few ‘I wish you hadn’t told me’s), but this wasn’t always possible. I should mention at this point that as a waitress it is your mission to empty that tray, whatever it takes, hence my underhanded tactics for making people take a canapé they might not have wanted.

4) Leave the tray there for a few seconds after someone has taken a canapé. There is nothing more awkward than whisking the tray away as they reach for another one and grasp thin air, making it abundantly clear to all in sight that they were greedily trying to get two canapés in one go.

I hope this advice comes in handy to you if you ever wish/ need to do some waiting around…

Keep shortcutting,

Zoe

Shortcutting… Stress

25 Jun

I’m not going to lie: I am super stressed at the moment (those italics meant emphasis not sarcasm). I won’t go into detail about all the little things I have to do at the moment at risk of boring you to death but I can say it’s a helluva lot. There are lots of metaphors I could use about drowning or climbing mountains but I’m sure you’ve all been here so let’s just get down to the dealing with it part.

1) Write a to-do list. It’s good to see that the list is finite, even if it’s pretty bloody long. Also, there’s nothing better than ticking things off. I sometimes write things down that I’ve done already just to tick them off. Yes. It’s that much of a rush.

2) Have breaks. I know it’s tempting to just keep on trucking but in my experience, the longer you plough on for, the less snow you clear at a time. It’s as though your plough keeps shrinking until it’s teeny tiny and you can barely shift the snow of your front step. Okay, that was a weird metaphor but you get my drift.

3) Have a bath with lavender bath salts. I know I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but you haven’t done it yet have you? Naughty. Go do it now. You will feel more relaxed than Father Christmas on Boxing Day. (I do apologise for all these wintry metaphors in summer, I’m sure I have some deep-set psychological issues or something to explain it.)

4) Get rid of distractions. You know my post on procrastination? Ignore that. That was a joke. You don’t actually want to procrastinate do you? Do you? Sorry, I’m a bit highly strung. But yeah, try not to put off important stuff with less important stuff, like eating, doodling, checking your blog stats…

5) When you do finish a big task, celebrate in some way: do a little dance, treat yourself to an oat and raisin cookie (a personal fave), or just do a little YouTube surfing. Or should I say snowboarding…

Hillary to base camp: we have reached the summit!

Keep shortcutting,
Zoe

Shortcutting… Greek Food

24 Jun

I mentioned the other day that I’m Greek, and because of this, law dictates that I should have at least a vague grasp of Greek cooking. I am no chef, but I do know a couple of simple little dishes that’ll add a little Greek to your day (they’re not at all complicated and can’t really be classed as ‘cooking’ per se, but this is shortcutting after all!).

First up is the classic that is the Greek salad: cut up some tomatoes and cucumbers, and make sure the pieces aren’t too neat: we’re going for a rustic vibe here. In fact, don’t think ‘pieces’ at all, think ‘chunks’: all rough and ready and fresh from the earth. Now add to the mix some cubes of feta cheese: I’d recommend going for the small but many approach – everyone wants a bit of feta in their portion! (A warning to feta virgins – feta may be widely known as a cheese, but it’s actually not so much cheesy as salty, veeery salty.) Next up, put in some (rustic-ly cut) red onion, and finally dress in liberal amounts of olive oil. Yum!

Fresh from mama’s kitchen…

Another super-easy dish is tzatziki: a yoghurty kind of dip thing which goes really well with bread, greek salad, meatballs, or anything really. This one consists of Greek yoghurt, grated cucumber, crushed garlic, a splash of lemon juice, and a dash of olive oil, all mixed together thoroughly so that the cucumber is evenly distributed. As a finishing touch (but not essential), add a little sprinkling of paprika.

Here’s one I made earlier 😀

 If you can’t get enough of the Greek stuff, then there are some other great recipes out there, but I am not the right person to give them to you. I can however give you the rights terms to search for:

  • Pastitsio – kinda like lasagne but with penne rather than pasta sheets
  • Keftedes – meatballs
  • Moussaka – aubergine, lamb, and a cheesy topping
  • Saganaki – fried cheese
  • Fasolakia ladera – basically oily green beans but sooo good!

Okay, those are my favourites: you should definitely give them a try.

Why did the Roman Empire fall? Because it slipped on Greece! Hehehe…

Keep shortcutting,

Zoe

Shortcutting… Weather Songs

23 Jun

Okay, so I didn’t blog again yesterday. That’s two Fridays in a row (or whatever day yesterday was for you – check me out, catering for my international readership :D). So I’ve decided I’m going to make Friday my official day of rest because, as you may have noticed, I don’t have enough ideas for seven days a week. And you know what they say: quality not quantity! (I feel really self-conscious about phrases like that since my Shortcutting… Cliché post but it did seem necessary there.) So yes, there’s my breaking news for the day. Onto the main post…

The other day, my Mum looked out of the window, said ‘here comes the rain again’, and then, ‘how does that song go again’? I scoffed, gave her a disdainful look, and said ‘uh, it’s here comes the sun, duh!’ Apparently, and I know this is shocking and hard to believe, I was wrong. Actually, if my sources are reliable, it probably isn’t so shocking. My sources tell me that it’s a pretty famous song, so it’s likely you know it. In my defense, it was released in 1984 (yes, I’ve done my homework!), which is before my time. Well anyway, the point of this post it not to ponder over my limited musical knowledge, but rather to find weather-related songs. Basically, I have this thing where whenever I can, I burst into song when people say things (‘hello’ = ‘hello, is it me you’re looking for?’/ ‘I just came to say hello’. ) Anyway, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of weather-related songs, which are really fun to keep pissing people off with every time they try the whole ‘commenting on the weather’ small talk thing, and I thought I’d share them with you so that we can start a little flash mob type thing every time someone mentions the weather. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • Here Comes The Sun
  • The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow
  • Chasing The Sun
  • Let The Sun Shine
  • Ain’t No Sunshine
  • It’s Raining Men
  • Here Comes The Rain Again (apparently)
  • Umbrella
  • Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
  • Set Fire To The Rain
  • Purple Rain
  • Blowing In The Wind
  • Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Let me know if you can think of some more…

The sun’ll come out tomorrow :).

Keep shortcutting,

Zoe