LIPSTICK SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS

“Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not the colour, but to accept God´s final decision on where your lips end.” Jerry Seinfeld.

You would think in these extreme times that life would hold more than a lipstick. But perhaps it is because of this very thing that it does not. Just before Christmas I got a package in the post, so totally unexpected that I did not even realize it was for me. I assumed it was for my husband and left it on the side. Upon opening it he said that it must be meant for me as the lipsticks within were not his colour.

One of the two lipsticks I received was the Burberry Deep Crimson. Well this has actually changed my life. I have always worn red, proper red. But over the last year or two I haven’t felt quite comfortable in the colour. The Burberry is as it says, a deep crimson, but it has like a microdot of fuschia embedded in it. And for the first time in my entire life I have a lipstick with pink in it that looks amazing. Fits like a glove. I am a new person. I ran out and bought a deep pink nail polish to match, because there is nothing like matching toes and lips is there? My first pink polish. A complete makeover.

I bought a bottle of Malle´s Le Parfum de Thérèse. I had used four travels over the last few years, and thought it was time. I wanted to buy the 50 ml and the store only had the 100 ml. I bought it anyway. I did feel guilty for a moment – but the store had a twenty per cent off of everything month so it was a bargain don’tchaknow?

Talking of Malle I am nearly out of my Carnal Flower. I have had it for ten years. It is thick and green, leaves a sheen of oil on your skin, and is an exquisite flower shop in a bottle. I doubt that I will replace it as, if I remember correctly, the current version just does not cut the mustard.

I am continuing to take cold showers every morning, and the water that comes out of the tap in the winter is damn cold. As Wim Hof says “Cold showers are the gateway to flow and energy and peace.”. I know I recommended them last post, but now I double recommend them. Mind over body. It has been said that you no longer need coffee after a cold shower. Whatever.

I had a three hour live radio show on January first. I live about 35km from the studio. As I was just going into the second hour of the show my husband sent me a text, informing me that he was walking towards the studio to meet me. Walking. I went into my default mode, total panic. It was minus temperatures, pitch black, and I was sure he would get run over by a truck. He had it all planned, I could just pick him up from somewhere along the side of the road on my way home from the studio. About 13km into the walk he came to the small town at the end of our lake. There is a small train station there. (Well actually there are two, as Vanessa from Bonkers well knows, but I digress.) As luck or God would have it there was a train due in three minutes later, which he happily hopped onto and it took him to within about 2km of the studio. I was so relieved when he messaged me that he was on a train. Of course there were no trucks out on the first of January during a curfew, and total lockdown but ……..

Next show was 15 January. As I began a couple of people messaged, asking if Chris was walking up to the studio again. Obviously not. It was minus three and snowing. I said as much on the radio and settled into the broadcast. The guy who has the show after me arrived about twenty minutes before the end of my show, and we were talking a little. I went to line up my next track, when I heard him laughing uncontrollably. As I looked up there was a guy standing in the studio, dripping wet, high powered LED lights on top of his head, and a full face mask. All I could see was Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. Seriously, for a few seconds I could not compute what was going on. It was like a trip, no sense of time or of what was happening. I mean it was only my bloody husband. He had biked the whole way up to the studio in the snow including through some gnarly woods. And he was not on an e-bike. When I realized who it was I was completely disorientated. I had to tell the listeners. By then I was laughing, and was getting “I knew he would do that” and “that is no surprise” messages. The thing is the dude thinks he’s totally normal.

As of Monday we have to wear the FFP2 masks. The medical masks and face coverings are not allowed anymore.

I guess most of you have seen that Campomarzio70 have launched a limited edition of the Vero Profumo EdPs. NAJA is also available, and last I looked a couple the extraits. Postage costs in some countries are über-expensive but take a look if you are interested anyway. They are exclusively online at Campomarzio70.

2021. Year of the Pink. Bring it on.

CQ.

I am indebted to Lady Jane Grey.

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December Reading Diary

I have an intense fondness for fairytale-esque books with deep winter settings. For some reason I love reading about snowy landscapes and feeling the chill run through me. Examples include Northern Lights, The Bear and The Nightingale and Spinning Silver. In December I found out that there is a sub genre for these books called ‘polar fantasy’. I was happy about this because it makes them easier to find. The last three books in this list come under this category.

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

“Be careful what you fear, Ivo replied, grave. We draw the attention of the fates when our fear grows too loud. The fates are cruel, and they will reward you with what you fear most.”

From reading fantasy novels over the last few years I’ve discovered that I prefer those that have some grounding in folklore or mythology. The First Girl Child is set on an island in the North Sea with a clan culture following a mix of Norse gods and Christianity

The story begins with Keeper (priest) Dagmar taking in his sister’s son, Bayr, after she dies in childbirth. As she’s dying she curses the islanders to never again produce a girl child and ensures that Bayr will be their only salvation. The relationship between Dagmar and Bayr is an endearing, loving one and Bayr grows up with inhuman strength. He is tasked with protecting the first – and only – girl child who is claimed to be born to the King. However, Alba’s true parentage is hidden and as a decade passes without any more female children, the situation on the island becomes more and more fraught.

The romance in the last quarter was verging on purple prose but I understand Harmon is more known for her romance. Aside from that, I liked the dynamic between the King, the clans and the Keepers and the relationships between the various characters. 4/5

Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

“But there are no secrets in London. Even the houses lean across the narrow alleys towards each other and offer up their scandals in the blink of an open curtain.”

Perhaps my favourite spot in London is Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields. The artist spent years recreating the home of a Huguenot silk weaving family from the 1700s through the 1800s. The fact you have to walk through it in silence allows you to soak up its distinctive atmosphere. My love for the house drew me to this book which is set in a similar household in Spitalfields Square during the 1700s.

Esther is married to a silk weaver and offers to take in a woman from a local brothel as a maid. For the first half of the novel they have an uneasy relationship simmering with resentment. However in the second half, a revolt by the journeymen weavers throws them together during a court case. Back then you could hang for maliciously damaging silk, it was that precious. I stayed up till midnight to find out the outcome of the trial and I haven’t done that in a long while 4.25/5

The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher

“Do you have a name?” asked Gerta. “I do,” said the raven. Gerta waited. The raven fluffed its beard. “I am the Sound of Mouse Bones Crunching Under the Hooves of God.”

This is a very modern retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. Greta sees her childhood love stolen away by the Snow Queen and sets out for the Far North to rescue him. This irked me in as much as he never did anything to deserve her devotion but there is a nice twist to this. Along the way, she is kidnapped by a witch – and then a bandit – and helped by a raven and reindeer. It was a nice pre-Christmas read. 3.75/5

The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol

“What the . . . Look, Panas, the moon’s gone.” “So it is,” Kum agreed phlegmatically. “Right, and you just accept it, like that’s the way it should be?” “Well, what else can I do about it?” “What devil has done this to the moon, I want to know? May he never have a shot of vodka in the morning,”

Apparently this fairytale written in 1831 is still sometimes told to Ukrainian and Russian children on Christmas Eve. I wonder what they make of it. It tells the story of the night before Christmas when the devil steals the moon to wreak havoc on a village’s residents. It only gets more bizarre from there. A local witch hides her lovers in sacks to prevent them discovering each other while a blacksmith is set a seemingly impossible task to win the heart of the incredibly vain and unpleasant village beauty. By the end I was more baffled than anything else. I guess I’m used to fairytales with a moral or neat storyline. I do think I was reading a pretty poor translation though. If you know the story, please let me know your thoughts in the comments. 2.75/5

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

“In my old age, I see that life itself is often more fantastic and terrible than the stories we believed as children, and that perhaps there is no harm in finding magic among the trees.”

This is a reworking of a Russian fairytale about a childless old couple who build a girl from snow which then comes to life.

Set in the 1920s, ageing Mabel and Jack move to the wilds of Alaska to escape the prying eyes of others after a stillbirth. They buy a homestead out by the mountains but their isolation only magnifies their loss as they struggle to survive through the winter. Mabel is suicidal at the start of the book.

On the first day of snowfall they make a snowman that they shape into a child. The next morning they see footprints leading away from the snow child and spot a little girl in the forest wearing its scarf and mittens. This child fills the hole and gives them a new reason to keep going.

The setting and nature writing were beautiful and I truly loved the stoic yet warm-hearted Jack and Mabel. However as much as I love fairytales and fantasy I seem to struggle when books are 95% gritty realism and then 5% magic mixed in, like here.

As a result the magical element felt inexplicable and a little jarring. We find out the child has human parentage but she appears to be able to control the snow. We never really get an explanation, which left me rather unsatisfied. I think this is peculiar to me though, going by other reviews. I like clear answers! 4/5

How was your reading in December? Does polar fantasy appeal to you at all?

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Mood Scent 4: Jewels in the Crown

Hey there A Bottled Rose, It’s a Mood Scent 4 week. WOO HOO! This month the crew are looking at Jewels in the Crown. The five fragrances in my collection I hope to never be without. OOOH! Sam came up with this doozy of a monthly puzzler and I’ve been flummoxed, trying to whittle the number down. Especially because I’d like to keep it interesting for you all and not just the same favourite stuff all the time.

Can’t wait to read about your favourite Jewels in the Crown in the comments too.

So excited to be blogging with these three superstars again: Esperanza L’Esperessence, Megan Megan In Sainte Maxime and Samantha I Scent You A Day. Check theirs out too.

Mood Scent 4: Jewels in the Crown

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2020 – What Helped

Now it’s nearing the end of 2020, I thought I’d sign off by sharing some of the things that have helped me keep body and soul together this year.

Jogging

When both my gym and yoga studio closed in March, I started doing daily HIIT workouts on YouTube. I was exhausted at the end of the 20 minute sessions but once I stopped shielding I felt I should do some exercise outside. So I started Couch to 5K and it was a life saver. I have a tendancy not to go out if I don’t have a purpose and this gave me one. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I had to get out there and make progress on my goal to jog non-stop for 30 minutes.

I find ALL exercise tough and none more so than running. I recently reached my goal (and nearly cried when I did) but I don’t find it any easier than I did at the start. However for the sake of my mental health it has become non-negotiable (unless it pouring with rain!).

A Weighted Blanket

Weighed blankets have been used therapeutically for people with dementia and autism for some time. In the last couple of years however, a whole host of companies have sprung up selling them to the general public for their calming properties and to help with insomnia.

They are essentially, quilted blankets filled with ball bearings or glass beads, providing deep pressure that many people find soothing. They retail for around the £150 mark but I took a chance on one for less than half that on Amazon at the start of lockdown. I wouldn’t say it is magically anxiety reducing but I do find it hugely comforting. I read with it during the day and sleep under it at night. I couldn’t be without it now.

Embracing my Curls

It may seem superficial but as Fleabag quite rightly said ‘Hair is EVERYTHING’. After chemically straightening my hair for the last 10 years it felt good to spend some time healing it during lockdown. It was fun to learn about the Curly Girl Method and a welcome diversion. The online community is also a very uplifting place to hang out.

Curly hair is unpredictable and I don’t always love it but accepting it has been good for me. Transitioning from damaged, straightened hair to healthy, curly hair takes on average about 6 months and by the start of 2021 I should be almost there.

2020: Bare face, curly hair, don’t care

Writing

We all have different ways of dealing with difficult emotions and writing has always been most helpful for me. The blog has been a great creative outlet but Cognitive Behavioural Therapy exercises have enabled me to get perspective and think more rationally when my thoughts and feelings are running riot. Free-flow writing has also helped me get to the bottom of what exactly has been troubling me and release that emotion.

My sister has bought me a lovely (though cringingly named) ‘wellness journal’ for next year. I have always struggled at the start of a new year and so this will form part of my campaign to Make January Great Again.

Books

Reading is my distraction of choice but at the start of lockdown I was too hypervigilant to concentrate on a book. Thank goodness this passed and they once again became the solace they were before.

By the end of the year I should have read around 45 books, though I wasn’t very diligent in recording them on Goodreads. My favourite book was the historical fiction Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Runners up were the atmospheric fantasy novels The Golem and The Djinni by Helene Wecker and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik and the extremely troubling My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.

 

Friends

Last but by no means least; my friendships were a lifeline. I was fortunate to form a bubble with family but I’ve only got to spend time with a friend once since March. There’s nothing like going through a tough time to bring home just how important those people who choose to be there for you, truly are.

I’ve found my friendships have deepened and been more important than ever. Aside from a couple of wonderful care packages, just being able to message someone or pick up the phone and call when I was feeling isolated made all the difference in the world. I won’t forget it.

A surprise gift from my pal in Edinburgh

What helped you during this annus horribilis? How are your Christmas and New Year looking?

I will be with my parents at Christmas but now won’t be able to have an outdoor meet-up with my sister and her family as we hoped.

I’ll definitely be spending New Year’s Day listening to Baking Bad with (Val) the Cookie Queen on the radio.

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November Reading Diary

In honour of Halloween I spent October reading gothic novels. In November I was back to my usual mixed bag which comprised magical realism, fantasy, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and a quirky translated Japanese novel.

 

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

“She was so Southern that she cried tears that came straight from the Mississippi, and she always smelled faintly of cottonwood and peaches.”

After a month of dark books I wanted something light and fluffy. I picked this because it was mentioned in a list of books that feel like my comfort TV show, Gilmore Girls. It does have that cosy vibe but the plot is actually similar to that of the film Practical Magic (I haven’t read the Alice Hoffman book). Reclusive Claire Waverley lives in a big Queen Anne house in a small Southern town. The apple tree in the back garden wants people to eat its fruit so they can see the biggest event in their future and her aunt Evanelle is compelled to give things to people that it then turns out they will need. Claire is a caterer and uses the edible flowers and herbs she grows to create the effects her clients ask for: love, prosperity etc. She has a settled life until a new neighbour moves in next door and her rebellious sister Sydney turns up after 10 years away, fleeing an abusive relationship. It’s a nice, easy read with romance and a touch of magic. I read ii in a day and a half. 3.5/5

 

Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles Book 1) by Patrick Rothffuss

“You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.”

i just don’t get it. This is one of the most loved – and most talked about- series in the fantasy world. A whopping 68% of the ratings on Goodreads are 5 stars. Name of the Wind was released in 2007 and is the first instalment in a trilogy, the last book of which still hasn’t been released. I read the first book to see what all the fuss is about. The tale involves our protagonist, Kvothe, telling the story of his life to The Chronicler. He runs an inn under an assumed name but he was once a famous hero that people still tell tall tales about. Name of the Wind covers his childhood up to the age of around 16. I liked the initial set up: Kvothe grows up in a travelling performing company however his parents and the rest of the troupe are murdered by what were believed to be mythical figures, The Chandrian. From this point, he is determined to track them down and gain revenge. To do this he decides to learn Arcanism at The University. However, we spend many years and many pages following his survival on the city streets. This was readable but I just wanted it to hurry up and get to The University where he’d start learning magic. Even when he got there, it was still slow paced and only mildly interesting. Much is said of the beautiful writing and while it is well written, it wasn’t particularly lyrical and not very atmospheric. I don’t mind a slow paced novel but this just felt meandering. I could have coped better with that if I loved the world but it didn’t grab me either. 3.25/5

 

Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

“She wanted to do things without having to worry what others thought.
She simply lived for her freedom.”

This is a fairly short Japanese novel set entirely in a cafe in Tokyo. If you sit in a certain seat, you can return to a time in the past, and you can come back, as long as you come back before the coffee gets cold. The other catch is that while you can see and speak to people in the past, it doesn’t change anything in the future. We follow four people as they sit in the chair including a woman who goes back to the day her boyfriend broke up with her and another woman who relives the very last time she would get to speak to her sister. It’s a simple, whimsical stale rather than time-travelling sci-fi. It’s an allegory for how changing your perspective on the past can improve things immeasurably in the present. 3.25/5

 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

“She hadn’t realized how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.”

There was a buzz about this novel when it was released earlier in the year. In the 1950s, twins Desiree and Stella are growing up in Mallard, Louisiana, a small town where everyone is classed as ‘black’ but have such light skin they could be mistaken for white. Sick of feeling trapped and cleaning for a rich white family outside town, at the age of 16 the twins run away to New Orleans. After about a year, Stella leaves her sister behind for good to start a new, privileged life ‘passing’ as a white woman. At age 30, Desiree returns to Mallard with her dark skinned daughter Jude, who is bullied by the light skinned children and looked down upon by the adults. Like her mother and the aunt she’s never met, she can’t wait to leave and never come back. Stella also has a daughter, Kennedy, who has no idea of her mother’s secret and her own heritage. We then follow Desiree, Stella, Jude and Kennedy through their lives to the 1990s. It’s a book about racism and colouirsm but it’s also a well written story about two generations of women: trying to fulfill their hopes and dreams. It has an average rating on Goodreads of 4.29 but I struggle with books based around extended family relationships. I admired the prose and I was drawn in by the ‘passing’ plot, but it didn’t grip me in the way it did others. I felt like we skimmed over all four lives in a series of snapshots. I would have liked it to go deeper and concentrate on one or two all the way through, particularly Stella and the passing plot. Do investigate further if you like the sound of it though. It’s much lauded. 3.5/5

 

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

“People don’t like to be corrected about things like that. That was one of things Mr Peterson always told me. He said that correcting people’s grammar in the middle of a conversation made me sound like a Major Prick.”

 

 

 

 

I have a fondness for stories about misfit young men and fell hard for Alex. At age 11 he is hit by a meteorite which leaves him with epilepsy. Aside from this, he is a geeky boy with an eccentric mother who runs a New Age shop in their little village near Glastonbury, Somerset. He’s bullied at school and has no friends until he meets elderly American local resident, Mr Peterson. The ex-Vietnam Vet introduces Alex to Kurt Vonnegut who starts up a book club devoted to the author. All is well until Mr Peterson is diagnosed with a terminal illness. This is not a spoiler because the book opens with Alex, age 17, being arrested returning to England from Switzerland with Mr Peterson’s ashes and a large bag of pot. There are books that makes me smile inwardly but this book made me laugh out loud several times and cry once. It’s also very British in the way it depicts daily life on a micro level, which I enjoyed a lot. 4/5

 

How was your reading in November? 

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Mood Scent 4: Gifting 2020

Hey there A Bottled Rose, It’s a Mood Scent 4 week. WOO HOO! This month the crew are looking at Gifting 2020. The end of the year signals all kinds of gifting. Loads of the major religions have giving events, work places, sporting groups and friend groups all join in and it can become a bloody expensive and time consuming nightmare. This year has been a tough slog for a lot of us (me included, especially financially) and within my friend circle it’s been proposed that we keep the gifting to an absolute minimum. COOL! So I have been scouring the web and stores for some excellent deals, discounted beauties and a couple of lavish, over the top bits and bobs.

Can’t wait to read about your favourite Gifting 2020 in the comments too.

So excited to be blogging with these three superstars again: Esperanza L’Esperessence, Megan Megan In Sainte Maxime and Samantha I Scent You A Day. Check theirs out too.

Mood Scent 4: Gifting 2020

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CQ. 2020.

By Val the Cookie Queen

PNEUMA. Is an Ancient Greek word for “breath”, and in a religious context for “spirit” or “soul”.  

Well the year started off pretty much like any other.  Until it wasn’t. 

We will start with perfumes since this is what unites most of us who read A Bottled Rose.  Scent of the first hard lockdown  was Neela Vermiere´s Mohur EdP and the Extrait.  Perfume of the second, Strangelove’s fallintostars EdP.  (Waiting for the oil to arrive in the post as this goes to press.)

What did I buy this year?  Chanel Le Lion.  IUNX Eau Blanche, and a couple of 20ml refills for IUNX Talc.  Hiram Green Vivacious.  Strangelove’s fallintostars EdP and the oil.  I still plan to get Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese before the end of the year, as there is twenty per cent off here until the 31st of December.  

My tunes of the year.  Tool – Pneuma (2019)  John Grant – GMF (2013)

I have been taking cold showers for years, except they were never really that cold, I just turned them down from hot.  But for the last few months I go the full Wim Hof, and turn them down to freezing.  It has completely changed my morning routine.  It cleanses the mind, as it is impossible to think of anything at all as your body reacts to the cold.  I am up to about 60 seconds.  Cannot recommend it highly enough.  (And please don’t say you can’t do it, I mean starting with 15 seconds?  Puhleeeese.)

It takes me ages to finish a book these days.  Either because I have the attention span of a piece of wallpaper or because I seem to have at least five books at a time on the go.  But Tara recommended Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens so what choice did I have?  I read it through totally captivated, even cancelling a training session to keep reading.  I loved it and really found myself buried in a book for the first time in a long while.  Great stuff.   

I have been doing the live radio show Baking Bad with the Cookie Queen for a couple of years now, and although nervous before each show, am no longer scared spitless of making mistakes.  That is not to say that I won’t, but at least I kind of know my way around the equipment now.  I have a show on New Year’s Day 2021, 18:00 – 20:00 CET.  I cannot imagine that anyone will be too busy, apart from recovering from a hangover maybe, so tune in!!  The livestream link is always in my Instagram. @armadilloscookiequeen. 

Despite the lockdowns two new Indigo stores opened this year, which upped the number of stores I supply to fifteen.  And although it has not killed me yet, it still might.  They are shut at the moment though and apart from deliveries will remain shut until at least the middle of January, so I have no money, but a bit of a break.   Highlight of the year was getting my backside out of Austria and making it into Switzerland for a few days to visit really good friends.  Sure sitting on a train for eight hours with a mask on was not a much fun as other things I have done, but it is what it is.   

I downloaded the Calm App, probably along with several million others!  Lying in bed at night and listening to stories, or practicing breathing techniques is just brilliant. Not that I am highly strung or anything.  LMAO.  

I have mentioned it before but it bears repeating.  I am so thankful for the technology that allows us not just to keep in touch with people, but to build up new friendships.  We live in incredible times, and in a world of great beauty.  Gratitude and optimism. 

What a ride this year has been.  Have a peaceful festive season, and may we all arrive in 2021 safely and ready for The Pandemic Part II.  (Not to be confused with The Omen Part II)

“Pneuma, reach out and beyond, wake up remember, we are born of one breath, one word, we are all one spark, eyes full of wonder.”  PNEUMA. TOOL.   

CQ

 

 

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Premium Skincare Mini Reviews

I dealt with the first lockdown in no small part by indulging my love of skincare. I bought both the Caroline Hirons Spring and Summer Kits with savings on the contents of  55%. I probably purchased enough skincare for several faces and still have plenty to see me into 2021. No regrets though. I got a chance to try some products I’ve wanted for ages and it was an excellent distraction. Here are my brief thoughts on some of them.

 

Peptide K8 Power Cream by Kate Somerville £127

Previously known as Deep Tissue Repair, Caroline Hirons has said she’d like to be buried with a tub of this. At £127, I waited 7 years to give it a go at a hefty discount. It’s supposedly a lot more than a moisturiser; essentially a serum strength ‘power cream’. Now, I’m not good with creams that have a heavy artificial fragrance and this has a strong citrusy scent. It’s not unpleasant but it feels odd to me to be putting perfume on my face. It’s listed as ‘Parfum’ on the ingredients list rather than it being the aroma of the natural materials. It certainly feels nice on the skin and I use it on non-tretinoin nights. However, I don’t think it’s quite what it’s cracked up to be. The ingredients just don’t seem to back it up. Would not repurchase at that price.

Protini Polypeptide Cream by Drunk Elephant £57

Unlike Peptide K8 this moisturiser really does have a stellar ingredients list with 9 signal peptides. The cream is a water-gel but it feels richer than this suggests. A little goes a long way. I would consider repurchasing because I want peptides in my routine for their collagen boosting properties and I like that I can do this in the moisturiser step rather than add another serum. It also has the genius push dispenser in the top so you don’t have to put your finger in it.

The Skin Recovery Blend by de Mamiel £95

Now this really does feel luxurious. I don’t know if it would appeal to everyone but I love the slightly chocolately, aromatic scent which comes largely from Blue Tansy essential oil. This also helps give it its stunning blue colour. This is a pressed serum which turns to oil with the heat from your fingertips. I find it very relaxing to apply and it soothes my sensitised skin which can get irritated from tret use. I like to take my time to apply it on a Sunday when I’m having a self-care spa day. If I had the money to splurge I’d repurchase in a heartbeat but can’t justify buying it largely for the sensorial experience.

Goat Milk Moisturizing Cleanser by Kate Somerville £32

This is a cult cleanser and in no small part because of the fragrance. I imagine for most people it’s love or hate. Those who love it find it positively swoon-inducing while those who dislike it compare it to the smell of baby vomit. I’m somewhere inbetween. I don’t particularly like it but I don’t hate it. It’s a sweet, creamy aroma that’s a little almond-y. I don’t mind fragrance in my cleanser because it’s not the skin for long. It cleanses well, needing only a pea-sized amount for the whole face, neck and chest. I wouldn’t use it to remove make-up though. Not a repeat buy.

DeliKate Recovery Cream by Kate Somerville £69

This soothing cream is intended to ‘put the fire out’. When the skin on my neck became red and scaly in April, this really did calm it down. It’s unscented and pretty solid, more like a balm. I think it’s a good product to have in your stash for when your skin flares up. I would repurchase as it’s not something you need to use regularly. There is also a serum and a cleanser in the DeliKate range.

Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate by NIOD £43

You only a get a small 15ml bottle for your money but I literally only need one drop for each eye. It’s like water so absorbs super fast. I like it a lot but the pipette drives me nuts. I managed to knock the bottle over and lost a fair amount of the contents because they’re so runny. Won’t rebuy because of the packaging.

Super C30 by Medik8 £44

Vitamin C is a must for my morning routine but this 30% Vitamin C serum was too strong for me. It smells like swimming pools and quickly irritated my skin to the point where it stung when applied. Definitely not a repeat purchase.

C-Tetra by Medik8 £35

I got this less intense Vitamin C serum from Medik8 in the Summer Kit and it’s a hit. It smells like oranges, has a lightweight consistency and is non-irritating. It is also a 100% stable formula which means unlike most Vitamin C serums, you don’t have to worry about it degrading over time. Would re-buy, despite the dropper.

Stress Rescue Super Serum by Dr Dennis Gross £75

I found this to be a pleasant calming serum, with a nice milky texture that seemed to melt into the skin. I really liked its natural ginger scent too but I’ll stick to DeliKate for a de-stressor.

Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel by Dr Dennis Gross £89

You get two sachets per application of this product (pack of 30), one contains a ‘wipe’ with a trio of exfoliating acids, while the second is infused with actives which act as your serum step. People love these but I was unimpressed. For one thing, I don’t like having to wait 2 minutes as instructed between the acid step and the serum step. I also prefer specific serums targeted at my individual needs. It may be convenient for people on the go but I think it’s a faff as well as pricey.

Liquid ExfoliKate by Kate Somerville £50

I thought this acid exfoliant might be too powerful but it’s turned out to be the best one I’ve tried. It tingles slightly but doesn’t sting and I can actually see the difference to my skin. It looks noticeably smoother and brighter. It’s a bit too drying for regular use in the winter but I would consider repurchasing in warmer weather, although I do like exfoliating masks.

Have you tried any of these? Do you have any pricier skincare favourites?

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Gothic Reading Diary – October 2020

In which I read all the Gothic historical fiction while drinking lapsang souchong with M&S dark chocolate ginger biscuits beside a flickering Fornasetti candle.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower


“Later she will whisper that she will never want any other man again. Such is the drug which, dewed on the eyelids, makes yesterday inconsequential, and tomorrow certain, and today golden”


This 18th century historical fiction isn’t Gothic but it does have a dark, fantastical element. Mr Hancock, a  middle aged merchant with a good heart, suddenly becomes the owner of a mermaid. This causes a sensation in London society and sees him come into contact with  infamous Madam, Mrs Chappell. One of her ex ‘protégés’, Angelica Neal, makes quite an impression on Hancock and their fates become entwined.

One of the major factors of an engrossing historical novel is the attention to detail and there is so much here it brings the era vividly to life.
The contrast between Hancock’s modest home in Deptford with the debauchery that goes on in Mrs Chappell’s mansion in St. James, is striking.

Angelica Neal is a frivolous and vain young  woman who faces penury after recently losing her protector. Half way through the book I feared she’d made the steady Hancock become as foolish as her but the change she undergoes thanks to him is a quite something and I warmed to her immensely. The mermaid of the title is only really featured at the start and the end of the book but I liked the fact it was malevolent rather than romanticised. 4.5/5

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

“A fast didn’t go fast; it was the slowest thing there was. Fast meant a door shut fast, firmly. A fastness, a fortress. To fast was to hold fast to emptiness, to say no and no and no again.”



Emma Donoghue is the author of the bestseller Room which was adapted for the big screen. This is a Gothic story set in rural Ireland in the 1850s. At the beginning it reminded me of the fabulous Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield. Both centre on a mystery surrounding young girls who villagers believe to be miraculous in some way. In The Wonder young Anna is said to have not eaten for four months. An English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale is hired to watch over to her to prove the veracity or otherwise of the family’s claim.
For about the first two thirds it’s pretty slow paced with Lib, the Nurse, determined to uncover a fraud and expressing to the reader deep prejudices held against the Irish which were prevalent in England at the time. She’s also appalled at what she sees as the superstitious nature of Catholicism, as it is clear devout Anna’s condition is somehow linked to religion. Lib is severe but we learn more of her backstory as time goes on. I thought it might be a gentle, possibly magical, tale but in the latter section of the book it gets very dark indeed as more and more disturbing  revelations are made. The ending had me gripped as I had guessed some of what was going on but had no idea of the final twists and turns. 4/5

 

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

“Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother, but the rest of the time there was none. This story is about one of those other times.”
 
I’ve been saving this to read in October and fully expected it to be a nailed on 5 star read. It is a 2006 bestselling novel inspired by eighteenth century Gothic fiction: Jane Eyre in particular is referenced throughout. An extremely bookish young women (who is carrying her own pain) is invited to write the biography of the reknowned reclusive author Vida Winter. Her history – which spans the late 19th and early 20th centuries – is a tale of twisted familial relationships and dark secrets with a mystery at its heart.

This is a love letter to storytelling and the solace of books. There are unlikely occurrences/situations throughout but I appreciate this is in keeping with the Gothic classics. Still, it was a tad over the top for me at times. 4.25/5

 

More Than A Woman by Caitlin Moran

And besides, when you lose skin elasticity, you also lose the amount of fucks you give. Perhaps that’s why the skin is so loose now – from all my fucks leaving.

 

I had a couple of credits to use up on Audible and thought this would give me a break from all the historical drama. I read Moran’s first memoir How To Be A Woman about ten years ago. This follow- up deals with middle-age. The first half made me think it wasn’t for me as it deals with day-to-day family life. Then the second half hits you with her daughter’s eating disorder. My eyes welled up as I heard about how her 13 year-old girl stopped eating and tried to kill herself. The worry and helplessness of it must have been unbearabe. She also talks about how she uses yoga to deal with her anxiety instead of drink, how she now has botox despite decrying it as anti-feminist in the first book and why the ‘hag life’ of the older woman is a joy. 3.5.5

 

 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“The world might indeed be a cursed circle; the snake swallowed its tail and there could be no end, only an eternal ruination and endless devouring.”

 

I was excited to read a Gothic tale set in the 1950s somewhere other than Europe. Not to mention that cover!
Strong-willed Noemi is sent to rural Mexico to check on her recently married cousin Catalina, after her father receives a worrying letter from her. She arrives to find the Doyles house, High Place, more of a decaying relic than a home and her cousin seems to be losing her mind. Catalina says the family are poisoning her and there are ghosts in the walls.

The house seems to have a life of its own and it’s clear something is behind the strange rules and behaviour of the household. There must be silence at meals, windows are to remain closed and she’s not allowed to leave without a chaperone. Noemi soon starts to have vivid nightmares and begins sleep-walking.

Three quarters of the way in, what’s really happening in the house and family is revealed. At this point it becomes a supernatural horror which really isn’t my thing. The family are all English so I didn’t get the Mexican folklore I was hoping for either. On top of that, the writing is a step down from the other novels. A disappointment overall. (Note: scenes of sexual assault) 2.75/5

 

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hestor Fox

“Yet at the same time I want to untether my heart, toss it up into the sky and let it take wing. There’s a wildness here that, if nothing else, holds promise, possibility. Who needs society? What has it ever done for us?”

I really wanted a less stressful Gothic read and thought this would be one. Happily it started out like a spooky Sense and Sensibility. A family with three daughters move to the New England countryside leaving behind a scandal in Boston. Here they they called upon by two charming and handsome young men who form attachments with the two older girls. Catherine is beautiful but calculating while Lydia is introverted and possesses a sensitivity shared by the youngest daughter, Emmeline. In their new home, Lydia sees a pale woman gliding across the garden at night and words of warning appear on her fogged up mirror. Then something horrible happens and a sickening secret is revealed. So much for Gothic-lite! However, from there enters Lydia’s cad of an ex-fiance and the tension is ratcheted up. It continues to read like a Gothic novel penned by Jane Austen and I really enjoyed this style. While I didn’t care for the romances in the other books, I did become invested in the one here. 4.25/5

 

This was an enlightening reading month. I found that I prefer classic-style Gothic fiction – from Jane Eyre to Rebecca – as opposed to the modern versions which seem to lean more towards horror. I want spooky, atmospheric reads rather than incest and ‘body horror’.

What is your taste in creepy fiction? 

 

 

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strangelove nyc fallintostars edp

 

Strangelove NYC.  Founder: Elizabeth Gaynes.  Creative Director: Helena Christensen.  Perfumer: Christophe Laudamiel.  Result: A stunning collection of perfumes. 

fallintostars is the most recent of the five edps and oils in the Strangelove collection.  Oud, jonquil, rosewood, amber, pink peppercorns.  (labdanum and peru balsam?).  

Aurorean:  Belonging to the dawn, or resembling it in its brilliant hue.

 

The edp opens with warm and honeyed oud/ouds.   Unlike the number of perfumers that claim to have used exquisite raw materials,  Laudamiel and Strangelove actually have.  Despite its quite opulent richness, it never becomes heavy, and as it wears it leaves a trail of golden amber.  Animalic, sensual, elegant, divine.  

Completely and utterly addictive.  As perfumistas we hope for, but rarely receive compliments on what we are wearing. Each time I have worn fallintostars someone has asked what it is.   

Offering an alternative to mass perfume, Strangelove are truly niche.  The eau de perfumes are available in bottles 15ml, 50ml, and 100ml.  Sure they are pricey, but you pay for what you get.  Quality has a price.  There are many expensive so called niche perfumes to choose from.  The challenge is to sift the wheat from the tares.  

“And they know just what we do, that we toss and turn at night, they’re waiting to make their moves on us, the stars are out tonight.”   David Bowie. 

CQ

With the exception of the fallintostars oil, I have all of the Strangelove’s in the small oil pots, and the 5 x 2 ml edp sample set.  I bought the 15ml fallintostars recently.  I wear all of them.  I never write about what I do not own and wear.  Just to clarify.  

 

 

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