Xiaomi MIJIA PM2.5 Smart Detector Air Quality Monitor

So shocking is the air quality in Delhi, where I live, that a Christmas present of a PM2.5 detector was a great hit.

Our son brought us the Xiaomi MIJIA PM2.5 Smart Detector Air Quality Monitor from China, where he lives, and it is the easiest gadget to set up and use.  Literally just charge it – it uses a standard micro USB –  and you’re A for away.

There is a light that is green when the PM2.5. level is within acceptable norms, and a red light which we have seen far more of, sad to report.

On/off button.  All very easy-peasy.

Since it is super light, you can easily carry the detector with you.  We did, taking it to the Andaman Islands, to test the air quality there, and also testing the air on board our Vistara flight.

Pretty pure, I have to say, as you can see from the photo below:Back here in Delhi, we move it from room to balcony to room, watching in horror as the levels shoot skywards whenever we step out onto our plant-filled balcony.

There’s a full technical review online & I took the liberty of quoting from it regarding the monitor’s vital stats:

“The PM2.5 detector is a pocket-friendly device that easily fits into the pockets as the device weighs 100 grams and measures 62 mm x 62 mm x 32 mm in size. There is a built-in 750 mAh battery that can last up to 2-3 hours on single charge.”

In my other blog, christinepemberton.me, I shared a short video of our monitor recording the changing AQI level as I walked out onto our balcony – the video shows you just how super easy it is to use & interpret the data.

A useful addition to your house, especially if, like me, you live in a polluted place.  It gives you real-time, personalised info, and you can plan your course of action accordingly.

Murder on the Orient Express

Dream cast.

Visually sumptuous.

Fab footage for steam train fans (and let’s face it, who isn’t a fan of steam trains?).

But…

Despite all of the above, and without wishing to sound ungrateful and churlish, Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express” never quite lives up to expectations.

Judi Dench.

Johnny Depp.

Michelle Pfeiffer.

Penelope Cruz

Derek Jacobi.

The list of this amazing cast is endless, but, with the exception of Mr. Branagh who produces/directs/stars in the film, they all seem under-utilised, Judi Dench in particular.

The film is a visual treat, undoubtedly, with lots of lovely footage of the Orient Express chugging its slow and stately way across snowy Europe.  Never have the Swiss Alps looked so gorgeous.

Avalanche stops the train.  A murder occurs while the train is stranded.  Whodunit?

And I can’t spoil the plot for you, so let’s leave it there.  I knew, of course, who did it, having seen the 1974 film – which has an even more breathtaking cast than the 2017 version, if that were possible.

I thoroughly enjoyed this remake, loved the lush period detail, loved the train, loved the clothes, loved the elegance.

Very much enjoyed Mr. Branagh’s less caricatural portrayal of Hercule Poirot, though, if I might be so bold – what’s with the moustache/s, Mr. Branagh?  Downright weird.

But.

I don’t really see what this film achieves, other than making M. Poirot a little more thoughtful and a whole lot more theatrical.
Do go see it.

Lovely film.

But not, I fear, a great film.

Eating at Smith’s in Wapping

In London for my birthday, we decided to eat locally, and since we were staying in Shad Thames, the choice was lots of nice but a bit run-of-the-mill-and-not-special-occasion-y places.

Or Smith’s.

Smith’s it was.

We walked across Tower Bridge and strolled along the river to Smith’s, a large, rather green, glass confection with great views.

Sadly, even though we’d called in person the previous day to book, and mentioned it was my birthday, we didn’t get a table with a view of the river as requested, but never mind.  Can’t win ’em all.  That’s what you get for having a birthday on a Saturday in London.

The restaurant was packed, and as an avid people-watcher, it was a fascinating crowd.  (I don’t live in the UK, just for the record, and haven’t for 40 years, just in case I sound weird in my people judgement).  But basically, I felt as though I’d time-travelled back to the days of City FX traders with lashings of money and very blonde girlfriends.  There was lots of champagne-drinking, girls in dizzying high heels & plunging necklines, and the people next to us ordered stonking great lobsters and caviar (but were both glued to their mobiles, which was totally 2017).

All quite fun.

Now, I must mention that we are not an easy combo to feed.

I don’t eat meat, and hubby is allergic to anything fishy or sea-foody…but it was my birthday, remember, so I was indulged and he had a côte de boeuf which he pronounced excellent.  He also drank white with his beef, because it was my birthday.  Nice man.

I had oysters to start.  Divine.

Then scallops.  Equally divine.

All very nice, and I guess it was childish of me to feel a twinge of jealousy when the lady at the table opposite us got the whole “happy-birthday-to-you” routine.  I went over to wish her, as a fellow-birthday-girl, but she smiled and told me it wasn’t actually her birthday till the following week…ah well, you can’t win ’em all Mark II.

We paid our bill, & I didn’t say that I blog or review.

Good.

Recommended.

Eating at Cafe Lota in the Delhi Crafts Museum

Finally.

Finally I got my act together (thanks, Catriona) and not only visited the Crafts Museum after aeons, but also had lunch in the absolutely adorable Cafe Lota, situated just at the entrance to the museum complex.

Been meaning to go there forever, and it was every bit as charming as I’d heard.

Like the whole Crafts Museum complex, there was a distinctly retro feel to the place.  A calm, unhurried, un-pushiness, which was balm to the soul.  Here’s a link to a post I wrote about the Crafts Museum.

It’s also about shopping, too 🙂

I decided that if ever I should be so lucky to live in a home with a large courtyard studded with trees, I think I’d like to make a similar space as Cafe Lota has done.

You sit under trees, but are roofed in.

The food was interesting, and that is meant positively.

Indian, but Indian nouvelle-cuisine-y with interesting things on the menu – like mushy pea rotis which, as a Tyke, I obviously had to have.

I’ve never been a chaat fan, after a horrid experience in what was then Bombay in the lovely early days of getting to know India.

Scarred for life, I swore off chaat for decades.

The occasional try over the years didn’t make me change my mind, and yesterday’s dish was fine, but actually, I’m still not a fan.

Catriona loved it, so it’s clearly me.

We had sole cooked in mustard which was heavenly, so heavenly I forgot to take a photo.

And then this mushy-pea bread, makhana and lotus stem combo:

Nice, different, interesting, but a tad awkward to eat, if I’m being honest.  But yet again, the fault is all mine.

Loved the vibe, loved the feel of the place and will definitely plan a return visit.

Great service – un-pushy, un-hassle-y, smiley.

I paid the bill myself, and did not mention that I blog or review.

Victoria & Abdul

Oh dear.

What a let down.

The story, that of the unlikely friendship between an ageing Queen Victoria and her Indian servant, is not only a delectable one, but the additional fact that Abdul Karim’s diaries were only recently discovered is also thrilling.

Add the incomparable Judi Dench to the mix, and we should have had the blockbuster to beat all costume-historical-sweeping-blockbuster-epic-y thingies.

Except we don’t.

Judi Dench is her usual incomparable self.  Not one word of criticism about her performance.

She is absolutely perfect as Queen Victoria.Perfect.

But for the rest of the cast…yet again, at the risk of repeating myself, what a let-down.

Stellar names delivering flat performances, with Eddie Izzard a notable exception.

I haven’t read the original book, nor do I know enough about that period of British & Indian history to speak with any authority, but I’m pretty sure that an Indian servant like Mohammed would not have slightly cheeked off the British, used words like “bloody” and been so, well, so 21st century in his open disdain for the British and their way of life.

Also, and I may be over-estimating Queen Victoria, but would she really not have known the background to the Koh-i-Noor?  One of her prized pieces of jewelllery?

And now let’s move onto young Ali Faizal, who plays the charming, handsome and likeable Abdul Karim.

Great eye-candy, totally, but what a sadly one-dimensional portrayal.

The actor is utterly charming, and you like Abdul unwaveringly, but other than smiling sweetly and affectionately at HM, what else does he do?

Victoria and Abdul
Judi Dench (left) as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal (right) as Abdul Karim

Lovely visuals, as one would expect, but that was it.

Didn’t care about any of the other characters, they were all so 2 dimensional.

Liked Ali Faizal.

Loved Judi Dench.

But left the cinema feeling slightly cheated.

This movie could’ve been fabulous.

Could’ve been epic.

Instead, it was formulaic, and even a little silly at times.

But, having said that, it is still worth seeing for the wonderful Judi Dench.

Eating at Côte in London

On both our trips to London this year, we have based ourselves fairly & squarely in SE1, probably my favourite part of the city.

We walked miles along the Thames, explored the City and the fabulously renovated Docklands area, including my all-time favourite St. Katharine Dock.

We also ate several times over the weeks at some of the restaurants at St. Katharine Dock, especially Côte.  Once we ate at Côte in Hay’s Galleria, but our “regular” became SKD.  The service was always pleasant and efficient, the views over the little harbour are brilliant, and there are heaters for those who (like us) prefer to sit out and eat, despite the fickle English weather.

At lunchtime (we didn’t go there in the evenings, as it so happens) Côte offers a reasonably priced menu, which you can order as either 2 or 3 courses.

My husband is allergic to seafood, I don’t eat meat, but we always found things we both wanted on their menu.

As a bit of a creature of habit where food is concerned, I tended to have the same thing every time we ate there.

The why-fix-it-if-it’s-not-broke logic.

The dish in question was THE most delicious mackerel terrine, which was always consistently good, and a generous helping, too.

Loved the presentation, on a wooden platter with that cute individual jar.

 

Hubby tried an interesting-looking & interesting-sounding yellow beetroot salad one day.

Nothing wrong with the quality of the beetroot, just that despite its striking looks, it was –  sad to report –  a tad underwhelming, taste-wise.  Nice, but a bit bland.

Doesn’t it look lovely, though?

I never even knew you could get yellow beetroot.

I subsequently Googled it – as one does – and it doesn’t stain.

So now you know.

 

Anyone who knows me that I have long since given up eating puddings and chocolate – both of which used to be the highlight of any meal for me.

Fighting middle-aged flab was simply not compatible with eating pudding and so, sadly, many years ago I gave up the unequal fight.

I share this with you, not to elicit any sympathy, but to highlight the fact that, despite years of not touching pudding, every time we lunched at Côte, I had pudding.

Their frozen berries and hot sauce are to die for.

Trust me.

Too too yum.

Recommended, after several visits.

We paid our own way every time, nor did we tell anyone that I blog and write reviews.

Visiting the exhibition “CHRISTIAN DIOR, COUTURIER DU RÊVE”

Let me be completely upfront with you.

This review is going to be nothing but breathless prose, incoherent, uncritical admiration and lots of photos of THE most fabulous exhibition imaginable.

Yes, indeed, my reviewing colours nailed well & truly to the mast.

If you haven’t already seen the breathtaking retrospective of the work of Christian Dior, then make time.

Go. See. It.

Go to Paris, if you are not lucky enough to live there.

Go.

See this stupendous exhibition of wondrous clothes, exhibited in an absolutely stunning way.

BUT – if you do go, be sure to book in advance, but that will not stop you having to queue, I warn you.  Pre-booked tickers make for a shorter queue, but there is still quite a lot of waiting involved.

And whatever you do, do NOT go on a holiday or over the weekend, if you can avoid it.  We couldn’t, being only briefly “de passage à Paris,” and the crowds and the heat definitely spoiled a lot of the enjoyment.  I was surprised at the lack of crowd control and crowd flow.

There were, quite frankly, w-a-y too many people in each room, and there were several exhibits in the early stages, in the first 2/3 rooms that we could hardly see, so thick was the crowd.  Have to wonder why they don’t have a system of timed tickets, enabling better crowd movement.

Right, having got that off my chest, let me rave about the clothes on display.

From the museum’s website, in their own words:

“The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the creation of the House of Dior. This lavish and comprehensive exhibition invites visitors on a voyage of discovery through the universe of the House of Dior’s founder and the illustrious couturiers who succeeded him: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and, most recently, Maria Grazia Chiuri.”

There are sumptuous gowns and frocks and dresses on display, grouped sometimes by designer, sometimes by theme, sometimes accompanied by a work of art that inspired the designer.

And by “work of art” we are talking Old Masters and Egyptian statues.  Too fabulous.

Like so.

There were dresses that were simply breathtaking in their beauty:

Seriously, how utterly jaw-droppingly gorgeous are these 2 confections (above)?

Sometimes, you need to stop drooling over the outfits, and take a moment and try & separate the clothes themselves from the way of displaying them, to admire the genius of the people who curated the exhibition (below).

There is drama and theatricality in the presentation, but never too much so as to overshadow the clothes.


I loved the groupings by colour:

I loved the groupings by country and influence… will you just look at that flamenco inspired dress!  To die for.  Total perfection.

Now look at these 3 dresses in luscious shades of pink (below).

The reverential atmosphere was lightened at this display by a tiny, wee Australian muppet, who pointed to the dress at the left and said in a loud voice, “That’s my dress, Mummy”.

There was a sigh of agreement from every woman in the vicinity.

I loved every single thing about this exhibition.  Except the crowds.

Totally & utterly recommended.  Even with the crowds.

CHRISTIAN DIOR, COUTURIER DU RÊVE  from 5 July 2017 to 7 January 2018

Musée des Arts décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
France

We paid for our own tickets and no-one knew that I blog and review.

Eating at The Peak Lookout, Hong Kong

Yes, OK, OK, agreed.

The Peak in Hong Kong is super touristy, with coach-loads of tourists selfie-ing away to glory.

The tourist tat gets worse with every visit – & is set to get even more so, once that giant Coca Cola can is up & running for even more selfies…

BUT, the good news is, The Peak Lookout stays as classy and elegant as ever.

We’ve eaten there a few times before – the last time in 2014 – and there is a sense of timelessness about the place, which is welcoming in a place like Hong Kong, where change is the norm.

We trundled up the Peak in a double-decker bus – as one does – made a reservation, and then wandered through the tourist hoards for a while, before succumbing to the heat, the humidity and the noise of a zillion selfies being taken, and headed for our 30th wedding anniversary lunch.

We’d requested a table outside, but the charming girl on duty asked us if we were sure, since it was so hot out.

I had pleasant memories of dining under one of the beautiful shady trees, as I had done on my last visit, but that was dinner, and this was lunch, so we moved indoors.

Lovely food, efficient attentive service, and I do so like the look and feel of the restaurant.

 

The building, a 19th century Grade II listed building, is a piece of Hong Kong’s history.

Quoting Wikipedia here:

“In 1901, the site was handed over to the government and built into a chair shelter and rest place for sedan chair carriers for both public and private sedan chairs.”

Nice.

For lunch I had oysters, which were on a special promotion & they were delish.Followed them up with mussels, which were equally delish:Hubby celebrated our anniversary with a club sandwich, which he declared excellent:We paid for our lunch, didn’t mention that it was our anniversary, nor that I blog and review.

How good is the coffee at The Coffee Academics?

Excellent.

Truly.

As a total coffeeholic, I’d already Googled “best coffee shops in Hong Kong” prior to our trip there last week, and found The Coffee Academics.

Then, on arrival, one of the first things I was told by my equally coffeholic-y hostess, was that The Coffee Academics was just down the road from her flat.

And so after a lovely run along the beach in Repulse Bay, I had a flat white caffeine fix.

[jwplayer mediaid=”27302″]

Great coffee, lovely presentation.

The next day, I had a post-lunch caffeine fix in their Lang Kwai Fung outlet & it was equally good, and equally elegantly presented.

The décor of the coffee shop was uber-cool:


So, yes, a fan.
Totally.

I paid for my coffees, and no-one knew that I blog or review.

Testing the underwater housing for iPhones

On a recent scuba diving holiday in Thailand, we all tested out the housing for my iPhone7, first in the hotel pool and then during a week’s diving trip.
Result?
A resounding success and such fun to use.You simply place the phone inside the housing (above) and snap it tightly shut, using the black catch (below).  It really is that simple.
It is also super-simple to use, with just a couple of things to be done to your phone before use – basically, you need to put the camera icon in the centre of the screen, at the bottom, so you can access it via the housing.

And that’s about it.

You can video, slow-mo, the works, and there’s a fitting so you can put it onto a grip, as I did.

This case was bought in China, and comes with spare O rings.  The box is well-padded, meaning the housing is safe from scratching etc during the time between diving trips!

The photos and videos were way better than I would’ve thought, so, yes, an all-round success story.

There are housings easily available online for different phones, so am only including a couple of links, since these both appear to work on the same principle as mine in the review.