Archive | August, 2017

London salon struggles

29 Aug

I went to a new hair salon for my highlights the other day. In the U.S. I’ve had the same stylist for almost 10 years (and before that I went to her colleague for almost 10 years!), but in London I can’t seem to find one I like. I thought I found one, but her salon is in a sketchy neighborhood (the police came in during my appointment once to talk about the break-in the previous night), and she was a bit flaky with last-minute cancellations and double bookings. So I found another salon near our new flat. The trainee did a great job for a good price, but on my second visit I mistakenly booked just parting highlights, which I understood would be just the roots on top that show. But apparently parting just means only the front of your head, so I had awkward dark roots in the back and was too embarrassed to say anything because I got exactly what I asked for and paid for. So my solution was just to never show my face there again.

So it was back to Treatwell (a Groupon-like site just for beauty services). The other day I found a salon with decent reviews offering 50% off a full head of highlights for new customers (making it even cheaper than I pay in Kentucky!). The place seemed nice and my stylist was friendly without being chatty. I sat and read magazines while he did my foils. And then I sat. And sat. My Kentucky stylist and about half the salons I’ve been to in London put me under the dryer while the bleach works its magic. It seems to be a point of contention among stylists, and this guy was not about it — I don’t think his salon even had a dryer you sit under. He made a big deal about how bad it was for your hair, though I’m not sure I’ve noticed a difference. He seemed to know his stuff, though, so I trusted him. And sat some more. For some reason, my natural dark brown hair takes forever to turn blonde without the help of heat. I had flashbacks of a previous salon trip in which I sat for an hour with the foils on, only to walk out with slightly orange hair. I lamented this to the stylist after he checked on me for the sixth time.

“Don’t worry, I am not letting you walk out of here with orange hair!” he said.

“But am I ever going to walk out of here?” I wanted to reply, because I had been there close to 3 hours and was starting to forget what life outside of that salon chair was like.

He finally removed the foils and applied a toner, which is a purple solution that is supposed to tone down any brassiness (which is probably what the other stylist should have done to remove the orangey look.) I asked him how long to leave a toning shampoo on, because I use one once a week and can’t really tell if it’s making a difference and was wondering if it was because I wasn’t leaving it on long enough — the label warns that it can turn your hair purple. He said 5 minutes, which is definitely longer than I’m used to, and he worked the toner into my hair and let it sit. Then we walked over to the styling chair, and he decided the minute he turned the blow dryer on was the perfect time to ask me my thoughts on Trump. Is that the equivalent of a dentist trying to make conversation with his hands in your mouth? Obamacare is hard to explain on its own — I’ll admit I don’t fully understand it, but it’s nearly impossible to discuss over the roaring sound of a dryer.

He noticed my roots were still a little brassy looking, so he decided to wash it with the toner again, leaving it on even longer this time. Then it was back to blow drying and Trump talk while I wondered if I’d ever be able to eat the emergency protein bar I had packed in my bag — I had not planned on spending my entire afternoon at this place!

He complimented how good the highlights had turned out, and it seemed like they really had — they were not orange or only covering half my head, which is more than I can say from past experiences. I thanked him, took his card, and walked home, tucking into the protein bar like I had never eaten before.

Since I always seem to let my dark roots grow out way longer than I should, it’s always a bit of a shock when my hair is back to completely blonde. It takes a few glances in the mirror to get used to. That night I was washing my hands in the bathroom with the better light when my hair caught my eye. It didn’t look different because it was blonder. It looked different because it was purpler.

Yes, the toner turned my hair purple. A very faint purple, like a lilac or silver that is actually all the rage now, but definitely purple.

I rocked it for a day, then washed my hair with the clarifying shampoo I got in my Birchbox, which I read on Google would help. The purple is much less noticeable now, if at all.

My next highlights will definitely be done in the U.S. though, under the dryer and all, then maybe enough time will have passed and I can show my face at that other salon again, because I’m definitely not going back to a place that makes me sit for 3 1/2 hours to turn my hair purple.

mizore shirayuki purple hair

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What’s that smell?

21 Aug

On Friday night Stephen and I decided to drive out to our friends’ house to surprise their son with a birthday cake. But first we had to go to Chinatown to pick up a cake, because everyone knows Chinatown has the best cake (OK, maybe not everyone, but now at least you know). I admittedly don’t go out at night very much in London, partially because I’m slightly afraid of getting mugged or harassed, but mostly because I’m an old soul who’d rather just stay in and watch Netflix. It was interesting seeing Chinatown at night — all the same shops and restaurants were still open and it was as buzzing as ever. In fact, it was so crowded that I wasn’t watching where I was walking and stepped in a puddle, splashing water up on my leg.

The cake shop we intended on visiting was just closing up shop, so we made our way to our second choice. The woman behind the counter was quite curt, refusing to help us until she had rung up everyone in the queue, even those who had come in after us. Finally she boxed up our cake, then made a beeline for the toilet.

“Oh my god I think she crapped herself!” Stephen said. That would explain her grumpy mood and the horrid smell that seemed to be intermingled with the sweet smell of cake and buns in the shop.
“At least she didn’t touch the cake,” I replied, and we walked back to the car.

As we pulled out of the parking spot, I smelled something horrid — could the poo particles really have penetrated the cake? I wondered. I bent down to smell the cake resting between my legs on the floor.

“I think it’s the plastic bag she put the cake box in,” I said, holding it closer to my nose. It was plausible for a plastic bag to just smell like a mix of pee and vomit, right? I removed the cake from the bag and gave the bag a good sniff.

“Wait, I don’t think it’s the bag,” I said. I brought the cake box up to my nose and held it up to Stephen at the stoplight.

“It smells like strawberry cake, it can’t be the cake either,” I said. What could be creating such a vile smell?

And then I remembered. The puddle. My shoes. My leg and jeans. The Chinatown puddle I had stepped in had not been filled with water — it had been filled with “garbage juice,” which was surely tainted with hobo pee and drunk person vomit. It made me want to vomit too.

We pulled into a petrol station to fill up and I ran to the bathroom to try to clean my leg and shoes. The only problem was the petrol station bathroom actually smelled worse than the puddle I stepped in, so I couldn’t really tell if I was making any progress and just wanted to get out of there.

When we arrived at our friends’ house, I quickly removed my shoes by the door, wished their son happy birthday, and made a beeline for the bathroom.

“Renee stepped in vomit!” Stephen proudly declared. Not how I like to make an entrance, but I was not about to correct him with “garbage juice.” I scrubbed the leg of my jeans with hand soap, then sprayed the ever-loving crap out of my leg and foot with the “home fragrance” I found on the shelf. We ended up having a nice night after that and the cake was delicious. I did smell strongly of orange blossom the entire time, but that’s 100 times better than eau du tramp  (or eau de toilette in the most literal sense!).

inbetweeners tramp shoes

My shoes rode in the trunk/boot on the way home, and after a good scrubbing now smell like Tesco Super Concentrated Non Bio Liquid Detergent. I’m just hoping one of these days they’ll fully dry!

Raiding with the people still playing Pokemon Go

11 Aug

Pokemon go raid

When Pokemon Go announced the new “raid” feature a few weeks ago, I was apprehensive. I’m an antisocial introvert who has always played the game alone. Now suddenly I was going to have to work together with other trainers to battle and take down a raid boss. That did not sound appealing. But over the past few weeks, raids have become my favorite part of the game. I went from standing to the side of the group or battling from across the street to actually chatting with other trainers and having some human interaction. And I enjoyed it! The stereotype that Pokemon is for kids or nerds couldn’t be farther from the truth, at least in central London. Every time a group gathers for a raid it looks like an advertiser hand-picked us to hit every demo range — I’ve played with middle-aged white women, Asian grandmas, Muslim university students, men so old I was surprised they could work a smartphone, yet alone Pokemon Go, big-wig businessmen who snuck out during their lunch break, tourists from mainland Europe or America, and parents who were clearly way more into the game than their children who introduced it to them. I joined an online Discord group where players chat and organize raid meetups, but I’ve been too shy to participate. But in central London I’ve learned you can just show up and there will always be at least 6 other people ready to battle with you (or cheaters sitting at home and spoofing their GPS location to the raid gym).

A lot of people credit Pokemon Go for making them get off the couch and walk more. Pokemon Go pretty much killed my desire to run faster and farther, but it has helped me actually interact with people in my city, which I guess is important too.

Free soap samples and my first visit to Asda in Sketchyville, UK

4 Aug

There’s this store on New Bond St that gives out little samples of bar soap when you walk by. Except they don’t tell you it’s soap when they hand it to you, they simply say, “Don’t eat it!” It’s obvious many people have tried to eat it — it looks exactly like Turkish delight or a Jolly Rancher, and when people hand out samples on the street, typically they’re edible. But it seems like the whole misunderstanding could be avoided if they just said, “Would you like to try a sample of our soap?” instead of “Try this, don’t eat it!” I don’t get it.

asda old kent road london

I went to Asda for the first time today. Asda is owned by Walmart, and as it turns out, it’s exactly like an American Walmart, sketchy people and all. I was only 3 miles from central London, but it felt like I was in a different world. There was even a drive-thru McDonald’s next door! I was completely overwhelmed and amazed by the selection — there wasn’t just one variety, scent and flavor of everything like at my usual Tesco Metro. I am always lamenting about how there aren’t enough cheap grocery stores in central London and I can’t always find everything I need at Tesco, yet here I was, surrounded by every food (or household) item I could ever want, and I had no idea what to buy. I also knew everything I got I’d have to schlep home on the bus in my giant DSW tote (the best free bag ever).

So naturally I went for tea. I had to try the new Tetley’s Indulgence line — Cookies and Cream and Gingerbread teas? Yes, please! (Even though my tea cupboard is overflowing and I promised myself I would not buy any more tea until my collection fit in one cupboard. But pretty soon we’ll be remodeling the kitchen and getting bigger cupboards, so perhaps that won’t be a problem anymore :-P) I also bought stevia tablets to go with the tea, and Japanese BBQ sauce because it was on clearance. And instant protein porridge packs to take on our upcoming holiday, even though they probably sell instant oatmeal in Italy. I had planned to walk the whole way home, but I was getting sketchy vibes from the neighborhood and didn’t want to risk my phone (or new legendary Pokemon!) to some moped thief, so I hopped back on the bus, only to get off when I spotted a Lidl. Lidl and Aldi are always located in Dodgy McDodgyville, but the bargains are too good to pass up. They had giant cherries less than half the price of Tesco. And Belgian chocolate! And skyr! And sesame oil, coconut oil spray, corn, nuts… Needless to say, my shoulder is killing me. And I wasn’t even done! I had one more stop on my discount shop bus journey — Iceland. Where, of course, today’s special was cherries — 400g for 50p! That’s practically free. (The normal price is 400g for £3. Tesco sells 200g for £2.) People were going nuts adding them to their baskets. I only bought one pack since I already bought cherries at Lidl, but looking back on it I probably should have bought more and froze them for smoothies. Then again adding just 400g more to my tote bag may have caused my shoulder (or the bag itself) to give out.