Thursday, November 26

Biathlon - A Beginner's Guide

biathlon, female biathlete from italy shooting with rifle. Wintersports shown on biathlonwworld and eurosport.

Biathlon; cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. It's an exciting sport; it can all change on one missed shot, racers dance past each other up hills steeper than stair cases. There are mountains, snow and beautiful forests of firs. Although I've never actually skied on real snow, I'm addicted to it - this is the exciting world of Biathlon.

The season runs from November to around March with world championships as the highlight. It's the perfect Christmas sport! Little Christmas trees are sprinkled around the courses, the crowds are bundled up in woolly hats and scarves, the huge fir trees are weighed down by heavy snowfall and each venue is surrounded by dramatic mountain ranges. Sometimes the snow is falling during the race - a great sport to watch with a cup of hot chocolate!

Biathlon at ostersund, Sweden in 2014. A fur tree or pine tree with christmas baubles and tinsel in the snow. Wintersport shown on eurosport and
The biathlon tour moves weekly to venues especially created and prepared months in advance for the races. Whilst there, 4 types of races selected from a possible 6 will be held. Skiers complete one loop of the course then enter the shooting range to fire their way into the lead. They shoot the 5 targets either standing or lying down (prone position). Sometimes it alternates prone-stand-prone-stand other times its prone-prone-stand-stand. The standing shoots are where everything usually changes as a more unstable body position + pressure mean mistakes up front!

Female biathlestes shooting in the prone position on the shooting range in Ostersund, Sweden 2014 season. Winter sport of Biathlon shown on eurosport and

Individual race - a full field (around 100 Biathletes). A biathlete sets off every 30 seconds. For every shot missed, a biathlete incurs a 1 minute time penalty added on immediately! A race when the most reliable shooters can grab the lead away from the faster skiers.
Sprint-race - a popular one! Just like the individual but with only 2 visits to the range; prone - stand. It's a much quicker and shorter race than the individual making it faster paced and more popular with crowds. For every shot missed, racers ski around a penalty loop usually around 150 meters and taking around 22 - 28 seconds to complete. Faster skiers can still win with a couple of missed shots.
Male biathletes Birkeland, Fourcade and Schemp racing for the finish at Ostersund, Sweden during the mixed relay in 2014. A wintersport with lots of snow, picture from
3 of the biggest teams in Biathlon racing for the gold in the mixed relay race at Ostersund; L-R, Norway (Birkeland), Germany (Schemp), France (M. Fourcade)
 Pursuit race - my favourite!! Based on the results of the sprint race, biathletes have a head start. So for example if the winner of the race finished 5 seconds ahead of the next racer, he has a 5 second head start and so on all the way down the order. It is then up to the other biathletes to chase him/her down! Sometimes the top ten may all start within 20 seconds and the lead changes regularly. Other times there may be larger gaps and the winner seems decided up until the last shot when the pressure of leading can mean 2 or 3 missed shots and all of sudden a wave of lower placed biathletes have stormed through to grab 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
                 We look for big moves up the order - a biathlete who started number 45 can ski and shoot his way all the way up the rankings to the top 15 or even the top 10.

Start list for the Biathlon pursuit race in Hochfilzen, Austria during the 2014 season. Winter sport, skiing and shooting.

Mass start - pretty simple, all the biathletes start at the same time; a fast and furious race of the top 30 in the world where biathletes have to be careful not to bring each other down! 4 shoots, penalty loops for misses.

Relay - 4 biathletes, 4 legs. Each biathlete skis three laps of the course and completes 2 rounds of shooting; prone then stand. In all the relays the teams usually save their best/fastest biathlete for the last leg although we have seen faster skiers go earlier in recent years to build a head start for those team members who are less experienced and so take the pressure off, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but it's always exciting to watch!

Mixed relay - In the mixed relay the 2 female biathletes ski legs 1 and 2 and the 2 male biathletes finish the race. Mixed relay allows some of the smaller nations who don't have the numbers to make up a full men or women's team to combine their biathletes and take the win. It also means that the teams who only have 1 or 2 stars and a few average biathletes can choose their top competitors. Mixed relays are made up of the best in the world and are a display of the very best biathlon.

German biathlete, Schemp, at the end of Biathlon race during 2014 season. Endurance winter sport.
Biathlon is an endurance sport and racers often collapse in a heap when they cross the finish line, sometimes they're lying flat on their stomachs for a good 5 minutes panting for breath!
If you're lucky enough to have Eurosport you can enjoy Pat and Mike's (Patrick Winterton and Mike Dixon) very knowledgeable and cheerful commentary -as well as get a guide to how to pronounce some very long and tricky Scandinavian names.

Mike Dixon used to be a Biathlete for the UK - YES! We have a biathlon team!! And unlike many of the more established teams our guys and gals have full time jobs and virtually no monetary support. In Germany where the sport is much bigger the racers have a whole entourage of coaches, technicians and wax specialists and biathlon is their full-time gig - for years their women dominated the sport and were big crowd favourites.

If you don't have Eurosport load up and watch replays and live streams of the races (although without the commentary).

Beautiful winter landscape during the biathlon 2014 season, german stadium, rupholding (I think!). Winter sport with lots of snow and christmas decorations.
At the end of each race, biathletes are given points based on their finishing position. Throughout the season the current leader wears a yellow bib as opposed to the white of the other competitors. There are also relay and sprint points. The current leader on sprint points wears a red bib. At the end of the season various trophies and 'crystal globes' are presented to the winners.

The season is about to start on 30th November I think, if you're new to the sport, start with a mass start or relay - the most accessible. You'll soon be picking out your favourites and cheering on your country!

Ciao for now

Saturday, November 21

10 ways to Cheat your Winter Beauty Routine

Something about the dark nights and cold weather makes our Winter beauty regime seem more like a chore. I don't know about you but I'm much lazier in the colder seasons - I just can't be bothered!

If that sounds like you or you just want the whole thing to be a lot easier, here are some short cuts and cheats for your Autumn/Winter Beauty routine.

1. Hand Cream
I'm always buying it and never using it!

Cheat: Make it much more convenient by keeping a tube in your handbag, in your car, and/or by your bed. Whip it out at any boring moments during your day and pass 20-30 seconds massaging it in.

Bonus tip: only use a very small amount so it sinks in twice as quick!

2. Facemasks
Moisturising/hydrating/brightening facemasks are particularly important at this time of year check out the perfect times to apply your facemask to get the most out of them.

Superdrug natural radiance glycolic overnight mask. Chemical exfoliant aka AHA for acne and anti aging skincare.

Cheat: Use an overnight mask - no waiting, no mess, no shockingly cold sheet masks (brr!). Choose a specially formulated overnight mask like this Superdrug overnight glycolic peel or simply apply a generous amount of coconut oil, (oily/combination/acne prone) rosehip oil (dry/ageing/sensitive) or sweet almond oil (all skin types) to give your skin a nourishing treat.

Paula's choice skincare, chemical exfoliants for anti ageing and acne. Resist aha and skin perfector salicylic acid and glycolic acid.3. Exfoliation
Always important, but particularly in winter when we tend to wear more make up and our skin cells are drier.

Cheat 1 - FACE: Use a daily chemical exfoliator to take away the need for a weekly scrub or grab the Superdrug buffing sponge and give your face a quick polish every day when you cleanse. No mess, no hassle.

Cheat 2 - BODY: Keep a bag of sugar in the bathroom. Mix a handful with shower gel a la "the world's easiest DIY body scrub" or simply apply it neat on the areas that most need it when you're in the bath, for a quick scrub.

4. Lips
There's really no great shortcut for this one; keep a tube of lip balm with you at all times

Cheat: Don't spend too much and use a tube rather than a pot for quick application - Palmer's Cocoa Butter is the best of the best in my opinion and is only £1.69. Buy 5 and keep them everywhere.

5. Eye cream
Cheat: Again, keep it small and keep it with you, apply it whenever you think about it.

6. Hair Treatment
Like our skin, you may find that your hair gets drier during the Autumn/Winter and there are lots of hair masks and hot oil treatments which do a great job, however...

Cheat: Find a leave-in conditioner or a bottle of leave-in argan oil. Apply it before styling, leave it in. No need to wait and rinse - just apply and do. Bonus, this will also detangle your hair pretty effctively cutting out another job.

7. Body Moisturising
Ok, I confess, I barely ever remember, but my skin is 100% improved when I do.

Cheat 1: Apply the tiniest amount, rub it between your palms, quickly dab your hands along your arms or legs etc, then, give a quick smooth all over.

Vaseline intensive care body lotion, moisturiser for sensitive skin with a fluddy background.
Cheat 2: Rather than applying little and often, apply a thick amount all in one go, about once a week - beware though, this will take ages to sink in.

Cheat 3: after your bath or shower, before you dry yourself, apply baby oil all over then simply wipe away with your towel as normal, you may spend an extra few seconds in the cold, but you won't need to rub in lots of heavy cream afterwards.

8. Nails
Cuticles, filing and nail painting take much longer than anyone would guess, especially if your nails grow quickly and are tough to cut through like my own!

Cheat - Cuticles: Take off your cuticles while in the bath or shower, push back and scrape away what you can and follow up with a cuticle clipper afterwards - this part can be done dry, just be careful.

Autumn and winter nail varnish with Barry m gold glitter. Sparkly christmas manicure

Cheat - Colour: Use a dark colour - you'll only need 2 coats, apply a good topcoat over the top to make it last longer. Even if you're using the cheapest nail polish you can find (and I totes do!), a good topcoat will make it last. I myself favour the Barry M topcoat - nothing shifts the colour that Barry M seals in!

9. Make-up Brushes
It's so important to keep them clean, especially for us acne-prone girls! In winter we often use a lot more foundation and base so your brushes will need to be washed more often.

Cheat: Try to re-use the same brushes throughout application; wipe the brush across some tissue or paper towel after application of each item (powder, bronzer, blusher, highlighter) and you'll only have 1 or 2 brushes to wash - easy!

10. General Cheats
When it comes to hand cream, lip balm and eye cream; keep them in your handbag and any time during the day just whip them out and apply - on the train, stuck in a traffic jam, waiting for an appointment, in a long supermarket queue, drinking coffee in Costa, riding the escalator! Any little pocket of time, it only takes a couple of seconds to apply lip balm or squeeze out a small dollop of hand cream - especially if you keep them accessible.

Take off your make-up long before bedtime, as soon as you get home when you're still awake and fizzy from your day, take yourself upstairs and clean off the day - one less job to do at bedtime when you're tired and lazy!

I hope this gives you some ideas - they are all borne out of my own laziness, but like they say, necessity is the mother of invention!!

Do you have any beauty cheats or hacks to make our Winter Beauty Routine that much easier? Please leave them below...

Ciao for now

Friday, November 20

Snapshots of Autumn on Instagram #7

Autumn is here and brings the prettiest photo opportunities - here are my favourite recent Instagram shots frommy Instagram account; @PromisingYellow

fiery autumn leaves in the fall. Bronze and copper leaves on a big birch tree (i think it's birch...). Spotted in staffordshire, england during dog walking.

Autumn Beautiful Autumn! Fall, Fiery Fall - no matter what you call it, our transitional seasons always bring a riot of colour and at this time of year, when the low afternoon sun casts a golden glow on already warmed, bronze leaves it's just too good to ignore! This huge tree is on our doggie walking route so one of us got the camera out while the other had a good sniff...

Red berries on a magical rowan tree in the british countryside during the late summer or early autumn with lovely green leaves.

Up until a couple of weeks ago all the trees were leaden with big fat bunches of berries like these - 'Season of mists and mellow fruifulness...etc etc'

Crunchy, golden cumble topping for apple and blackberry crumble. Autumn desserts, pudding with custard.
Speaking of fruit, our crab apple tree in the garden was particularly generous this year meaning we've been eating apple crumble solidly for over a month now and my freezer is chocked full of more. Don't be fooled by the spots - crab apples have a delicious flavour to bake with when cooked.

Autumn fall craft with berries and autumn flora and fauna in a mason jar with yellow water gems.

If you haven't already seen my post "A jar full of Autumn; bring the autumn indoors" then head on over there now for the easiest crafty project. Adaptable and totally free!

Cream coloured spherical rose patterned candle with a glowing cosy flame.

Of course, candles are everywhere right now and add such a cosy feel to the room.

Sparrows in an apple tree during autumn winter in the british countryside on a crisp, cold morning.

This is one of my favourite shots! We have loads of sparrows which visit our garden daily and these greedy little chaps were settled in my neighbours' apple tree waiting for breakfast. It was a perfect Autumn morning - cold, grey, misty crisp - gorgeous!

Evergreen conifer tree with the sun shining through the leaves in autumn or fall.

Despite the dropping temperatures there are still some evergreens around and every now and then you might even see the sunshine in little old Blighty...

movie collage of easy virtue, an english period comedy drama with fantastic period costume and amazing cast including colin firth and jessica biel. by Noel Coward.
Movie collage of 90s teen movie the cutting edge, autumn fall movie about winter olympics, figure skating, ice skating.

These 2 collages were created for 'Fall into Film:11 Autumn movies for Cosy Nights' and these are my 2 favourite collages from 2 very different films! The top one is Easy Virtue, a Noel Coward comedy from 2013 I think with Jessica Biel, the bottom one is a 90s teen movie - The Cutting Edge, a perfect winter movie and much better than just a teen movie!

Autum fall crafts. Decorative plants in the back garden.

And I'm ending with one last shot from the 'jar full of Autumn' post because it's just so pretty!

Hope you're enjoying this season - I'm absolutely freezing!!! I'm living on hot cocoa and tea.

Have a look at my other handpicked Instagram faves here:

Ciao for now

Saturday, November 14

DIY Decorative Frames for Irregular Shaped Pictures

Easily make your own faux frame in whatever colours you choose; the colour+border make it a design feature in itself, especially if you go big! 

This is perfect if you have a picture with irregular measurements, it's fully customisable to your own decor and not in the least bit tricky - I promise! 

You can modify the colours, play with the frame size and, best of all, it's super cheap and easy- these frames add real flair to the room.

 About a year ago I ordered 5 posters from Truprint and they were such an odd dimension that they didn't fit any standard size frames! So they sat in the corner just gathering dust - until I got into problem-solving mode.

What you'll need:
- A large canvas, big enough for your picture; look in the pound shops and bargain shops, I buy mine for £1.99 from Home Bargains
- (Optional) Paint colour of your choice for the background - tester pots are perfect
- PVA glue
- Glitter
- Masking tape
- Something to fix your photo to the canvas - sticky velcro, double sided sticky tape or just regular sellotape)

1. Paint your canvas, 2 coats - (If you want to leave it white, you can of course skip this step!)

I picked up a couple of tester paint pots from Wilkos in the exact colours to match our bedroom (teal and blackcurrant). Tester pots are brilliant for this - the perfect size, good quality paint and usually under £2 each!

Use a paintbrush, sponge applicator or mini roller. Be aware that if using a paintbrush, it will leave brush strokes in the finish.

2. Measure out your border and lay your masking tape

Make sure it's even all the way around; I used the width of the masking tape to measure with. Be aware that if you have very sticky masking tape it make take the paint off when you remove it, in this case remove some of the stickiness by laying it across your table or worktop first and peeling it off.

3. Mix your PVA and glitter together - the fun part!

Don't skimp on the glitter, buy a big tub, mine was just £1.99 from B&M bargains. There's no exact science to this, you want it thick enough that the glue will cover the paint but thin enough that it's still runny.

4. Paint on your glitter glue

Paint your glitter glue onto the edges of your canvas quite thickly, don't worry if there are some holes, you can easily apply another coat later.

IMPORTANT - peel off the masking tape now while the glue is still wet, if you let it dry first...well let's just say you'll have an ugly mess on your hands (yes, I learned from experience on this one.)

In my case I didn't get a crisp edge and that's probably because I used super cheap masking tape which wrinkled up with the wetness of the glue. As it's a border made of glitter, this doesn't bother me, but if it's important to you, of course you can use a better quality masking tape or try using two layers.

5. Let the glue dry - it'll take all night

This is the frustrating part for those who are as impatient as I - it takes aaaages to dry. If you're lucky enough to live in a warm, sunny clime then by all means, place it in a patch of hot sunshine to speed up the process, for the rest of us, it's the whole day or night.

6. Touch up your glittery border

If you have any holes where the paint is peeping through the glitter, simply mix up a little more glitter glue and paint it on. Of course, the masking tape is gone now, so you'll need to be extra careful along the edges!

7. Seal your glitter

After your glitter glue is dry simply paint over it with some plain PVA glue to seal all those sparkly little flecks into place.

8. Attach your photo

If you plan to change your picture you won't want a permanent fixing - try sticky backed velcro to chop and change the photos easily.

Alternatively, attach masking tape to the four corners of the picture (to make a little square in each corner) and the same on the canvas. Then use double sided sticky tape on top of the masking tape to stick the picture in place. This way, you can just peel off the masking tape without the double sided sticky tape damaging the paint or picture.

If this isn't a concern for you, you could always use push pins, sticky magnets or just good old fashioned sellotape looped around.

9. Enjoy!

I've now made 4 of these and they look gorgeous! They're so big and chunky that they add real interest to the room. The painted canvas mean they're a design feature all by themselves which perfectly match my decor and the glittery border is just so sparkly and festive - it looks great by candlelight!

You could get really creative with a double border; imagine a thick gold glitter border with a thinner pink glitter border half an inch in - perfect.

A £1.99 canvas, some tester paint posts and a bit of school glue mixed with glitter - not bad, hey?

If you give this a go, you must link me to your post or tweet me a picture, I'd love to see some different examples.

Don't forget to share!
Ciao for now

Tuesday, November 10

A Jar Full of Fall - Bring the Autumn Indoors!

Before Autumn finishes, I wanted to shoehorn in this quick and easy DIY project to help cosy-up your home for FREEEEEEEE!

A great, creative little project for couples, families and dog walkers! Go walking together through the countryside at sunset and collect any interesting finds, then compare what you create over some mulled wine or hot chocolate! Sort of a grown up art project - no glitter or sequins or crepe paper - and you have a beautiful instagram-worthy Autumnal decoration for your home!

Autumn's nearly over and the hills are alive with the sounds of rustling leaves! The landscape changes at this time of year, everything becomes red and gold, berries are fat and the flowers of summertime have changed. I wanted to bring some of that texture and autumnal warmth into my home.
The fields behind our home are full of all these strange fluffy plants (no idea what they are/were in summer?) and they were my centre piece. Anything that looked autumnal or had an interesting texture I just grabbed a handful. This was my little haul!!

When I got home I foraged in my garden for any other interesting colours and textures to to add into the mix and found a wonderful burgundy coloured bush full of these perfectly shaped, fanned out leaves - I took them too!

With my limited crafting skills I arranged them in my hands until they looked like something you'd find on Walton's mountain; pulling the grass up higher, putting the berries at the front etc. When I was happy with my little bundle I grabbed some long blades of grass and used them to tie the stems together (then I grabbed some sticky tape - there was no way the grass would hold!). 

I popped my little display into an empty Yankee Candle jar with some water gems and after 2 weeks the only thing that's withered are the burgundy leaves. Everything else looks the same as the day I picked them! 

I can't believe how easy this was- no materials, no money required, it gets you outside, together and gives your creativity freedom to roam. It would also be great with pine cones, conkers, chestnuts, little wispy branches holly -- all kinds of delightful little ornaments!

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and forage!!

Ciao for now

Tuesday, November 3

A Winter Love Story - Cosy up with an Annual 'Ski-Holiday'

It's about this time of year when I kindle my cosy Autumnal spirit into full blown Winter Spirit (and dare I even utter the festive C word?) with Autumn/Winter Movies, (see my favourite 11 cosy movies here) Bailey's hot chocolate and my annual Ski Holiday with Cee Cee, Tonya, Jessica and Lauren in Jane Claypool Miner's 'A Winter Love Story'.

Do you remember Point Romance books? I still have quite the collection including this, my first and favourite: A Winter Love Story. As you can see it's well-read!! And that's because I've read it nearly every Winter since I was 13. 

Every year I return to Paradise Lodge, go skiing with Tonya and Lauren, hate Angel and fall in love with Davey and Jon all over again. It's a wonderful, warm story about 4 girls trying to have the ski trip of their lives while dealing with their own drama.

Green tights, yellow and purple sweater, orange and purple earrings --- aah yes, the 90s were interesting!
Cee Cee is probably the loudest and most colourful character but I just love Tonya. She's confident, assertive and self-assured yet completely falls apart when she meets Jon. All of a sudden she's acting like a brat, she makes silly decisions and basically doesn't know how to handle her first crush on this guy who draws her in but makes her angry at the same time! -- We've been there right?

I picked this out from the book fair as my year 7 prize for 'achievement'. On the inside page is this tantalising glimpse into the romance to come and I still remember standing in the school hall re-reading this page.

The blurb on the back cover and the opening extract to hook you in
I swear I've always wanted to be kissed on a bridge, in a forest, in the moonlight, in the snow. Because of this book (I can now tick off all 4 of those - just not at the same time!). It's also single-handedly responsible for my obsession with all things ski and ski holidays -- I have never been on a ski holiday but I fully expect it to be exactly like this!!

Winter/Christmas traditions and movies are all very well but a Wintery, cosy book is the best by far.

Anybody else out there remember and love their Point Romance stories?
Do you have any books that get you into that cosy wintery mood? 

I don't care if I'm 'all grown up now' I intend to visit paradise lodge every year for some years to come! 

Ciao for now