Monthly Archives: December 2018

2018 From the Cookie Kitchen

 

“House is haunted, I just wanna go for a ride, Out and on, before I set this room alight, Left alone, Forever, and for crimes unclear, With my patience gone, Someone take me far from here.”  Gasoline by Audioslave

April, 2018.  Tara invited me to guest post for the time that APJ was out-of-action.  Little did I imagine that I would still be writing here at the end of the year.  I returned to APJ in the summer and after talking with Tara, remained here to start my monthly Strange Tales From the Cookie Kitchen.

Today I’m sharing some of my 2018 highlights from the spheres of film, literature and music.

MOVIES

 

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BLACKKKLANSMAN Spike Lee’s true story of the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, early 19070’s.  And how he sets out to infiltrate and expose the KKK.

The Dawn Wall  The story of free climber Tommy Caldwell, and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson and their climbing of The Dawn Wall, a 3,000 foot rock face in Yosemite. Six years of meticulously plotting and practicing their route.  It had never been done.

 

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Widows  Anyone remember the ITV series?  It is based upon that.  The basic plot follows four women, whose criminal husbands are killed on a botch job, planning a heist to pay back a crime boss.  Directed by Steve McQueen, (12 Years A Slave) who has the ability to allow you to see into a character with just a single frame.  Superb.  Go see it.

 

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Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson’s stop-motion-animated science-fiction comedy-drama film.  It is set in a dystopian Japan, and it is the story of  young boy looking for his dog.   All dogs have been banished to Trash Island, to prevent a flu virus they have crossing over to humans.  It is a wonderful as every other Wes Anderson film.

 

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Taken Yes, the movie with Liam Neeson.  I knoooow is is from 2009 and not 2018, but I only just watched it.  No, I have no idea what took me so long.  Cult.

 

BOOKS

 

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections by Johann Hari 

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah – The Autobiography

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

 

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GYM TUNES

Gasoline x 1000, Audioslave.  Top Tune.

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Lose Yourself and Venom, Eminem


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 Wake Up, Brass Against

 London Calling, The Clash – the whole album.  Not one bad track.

 

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I can’t finish 2018 without thanking my amazing, kind, patient, seriously batshit crazy trainer, Eric.  He has changed my life.  And the incredible Crikey/Slowlight who has cyber-motivated me to push myself to the limits, as she pushes beyond hers.  Big love to both of you gorgeous things.

And eternal thanks for the enduring friendship with Tara and Vanessa;  who keep me sane.

CQ of APJ

Hop over to APJ if my top perfumes of the year are of any interest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas – Dealing With Overwhelm

I love Christmas but I’m looking forward to the break more than ever this year. I’m coming to the end of the long process of moving home which started at the beginning of September. I will finally get the keys today and move in this Wednesday.

The whole thing has been stress-inducing but for about 3 weeks in November/December the anxiety was so extreme it was unbearable. Being unable to sleep for more than a few hours a night, waking up with a racing heartbeat and a never ceasing feeling of panic, was horrendous. This was no doubt exacerbated – or more likely caused – by my negative thoughts spiralling out of control. I kept thinking I’d done everything wrong and couldn’t stop going over and over the poor decisions I thought I’d made.

I had support from the GP but she said that the anxiety was too acute for medication make a difference unless I was all but knocked out, which I didn’t want.

What did help:

  1. Talking. Sharing how I felt with friends and family was really important. I needed the reassurance they gave me that I was doing the right thing. On a couple of days when I felt beside myself, I called two amazing friends on the phone and they talked me down.
  2. Anchors. Having a few points during the day that gave me some comfort/distraction made a difference. In the mornings I would listen to podcast focusing on tackling anxiety, at lunchtime I’d connect with nature by taking a walk in the park near my office and when I got home I’d make a cup of lapsang suchong with extra sugar and watch YouTube videos for a while.
  3. Reconnecting with my ‘why’. I was in such a cycle of self-doubt that I had completely forgotten why on earth I was putting myself through all this. Running through all the benefits of moving away from my current home and into the new one was something I did at night when I couldn’t sleep.
  4. Writing. This one was huge. I’ve learnt that when all these fears and worries are at fever pitch, it’s hopeless trying to sort them out in my head. I have to rationalise my thoughts on paper. I wrote to that terrified part of me, telling her I understood exactly how she felt and told her that although what we were doing was tough there were many reasons that it was for our ultimate benefit. I felt radically different afterwards for the rest of that day.
  5. Self-help books. I binged on self-help books. I couldn’t concentrate on novels anyway and knowing that other people had gone through the same thing (and worse) made me feel less crazy and isolated.
  6. Extreme self-care. Like a lot of people, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself. Considering acute anxiety puts a lot of strain on your nervous system (mine felt as if it was on fire) it can have a knock-on effect on your body. High levels of cortisol take a toll as well as all that muscle tension. I was desperately looking round for an alternative therapy that might give me some relief but in the end, settled on a good old-fashioned massage. It was physically and emotionally restorative. I spent evenings just lying in bed listening to audio books. I didn’t stress over what I ate, watched escapist boxsets and yes, that old self-care cliché, took long, hot baths.  True self-care is deeper than that though. It’s about self-compassion: telling yourself it’s okay to feel the way you do, you’re not the only one who feels like this and giving yourself permission to do whatever it takes to get through it.
  7. Yoga. I’ve been doing yoga once a week for several years now but this has been the first time I’ve noticed the dramatic effect it can have on my mental health. It felt like an hour-long therapy session where I released all that built-up anguish. I’d come out feeling like I’d hit the re-set button on my troubled mind.
  8. This too shall pass. Knowing that these feelings wouldn’t last forever and I just had to get through them, one day at a time.

After all this, I will be spending the next couple of weeks unpacking, recuperating from the past few months and acclimatising to my new home. Hopefully I’ll get the sense of excitement I’ve been missing and know with certainty that I’ve done the right thing.

Val the Cookie Queen will be back with another Strange Tale tomorrow and we will then see you again on the other side of the New Year. The 1st January marks 3 years of A Bottled Rose. I can’t quite believe it’s been that long already and am incredibly grateful to all of you who consistently read and comment. It means a lot.

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas and all good things for 2019.

 

dove

 

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Reading Diary – Autumn/Winter 2018

2018 is the first year I’ve set a reading goal to be achieved by 31st December. I’ve done it on Goodreads and it’s currently telling me that at 30 books read so far, I’m two books behind schedule. I’m aiming for a total of 35 but at this rate I’m not going to make it.

I like having the incentive to read and I’m trying to catch up. I know a lot of people switch to short books if they’re falling behind at the end of year. I might resort to that.

 

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A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The BBC’s modern day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite TV programmes. I felt I should therefore get round to reading the stories and started at the beginning with A Study in Scarlet. I enjoyed seeing Watson and Holmes meet for the first time and the latter’s deductions were as brilliant as I’d expect. Reading about Victorian London was also a joy. However, when we went back in time to America, I felt a bit thrown and the characterisation of the Morman community was nothing short of horrific. On top of this, the way the name of the culprit was discovered was less than thrilling so it finished on a flat note for me. I don’t feel compelled to read the next in the series but if you think I should, please let me know in the comments. 3/5

 

12 Rules for Life by Dr Jordan Peterson

Dr Peterson must be the most controversial intellectual in the world today. His views relating to women frequently make me absolutely livid. However his knowledge and research in the field of clinical psychology is formidable. This book does largely stick to the personal development theme and once I got past the long section about lobsters (yes, really) I found much of value. Its message of the importance of personal responsibility and meaning are both concepts that resonated with me and what I’m going through right now. I even found myself in the pages at one point and it was a stark reminder of why I continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone despite the anxiety it causes. 4/5

 

The Mistborn Trilogy – Books 1 & 2 by Brandon Sanderson

This epic fantasy series has been majorly hyped so it was always going to struggle to live up to expectations. It’s set in a world where some people can consume one of a number of metals which will give them a corresponding power. Then there are the Mistborns who can consume all the metals and therefore have all of the powers. It’s the most well thought out magic system I’ve come across and the plotting is great. I could have really done without YET ANOTHER female assassin, but that’s just me. I have to say though, I preferred the world created in the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab and liked the characters more. All the same, this is top quality high fantasy. I will finish the trilogy and probably continue with series at some point now more books have been released. 4/5

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I’ve never read this classic and decided to rectify that for Halloween. I had no idea about the personal anguish the protagonist, Viktor Frankenstein, goes through. Or for that matter, his monster. It’s a highly emotionally charged book as well as a horror story. The depiction of despair and torment experienced by both the man characters was intense to the point of melodrama. I had a tough time suspending my disbelief at times even though it’s a fantastical story. How did the monster manage to follow Victor from Switzerland to the Orkney Islands unaided and unobserved?!  I was hooked all the same. 3.5/5

 

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Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

I’ve been putting off reading this classic in the field of psychology for over 20 years. I’ve  always avoided anything connected to The Holocaust, however it’s time to ditch this naïvety and read what people had to endure in the Nazi death camps. The first half of this slim book details Frankl’s experience in Auschwitz in relation to the way he and others reacted and coped psychologically with the terror and daily deprivations of life in the camps. The second half is a meditation on how his experiences informed his professional practice of “logotherapy”. He was a remarkable individual and it’s hard to feel you can’t find meaning in your own suffering when Frankl and (a few) others managed to achieve this in the harshest of circumstances imaginable. 4/5

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

I loved Miller’s Song of Achilles and I ate up Circe with a spoon. What a treat. I love the Greek Myths and Circe interacts with many of the well known gods and heroes. It was particularly enjoyable to observe her relationship with the ever-fascinating Odysseus. She starts out a timid youth, craving the attention of her father (Helios) but her character transforms once she’s exiled. It’s an archetypal hero’s journey but with a woman as the protagonist. The exquisite writing is a beautiful bonus. 5/5

 

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Have you read any of these? Do you set an annual reading goal? How are you getting on?

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Hyde by Hiram Green

Notes: Lemon, Bergamot, Birch, Cassie, Labdanum, Vanilla and Oakmoss

 

I only drift off easily at night these days when listening to recordings of turbulent weather, such as squally winds, heavy rain or a rumbling thunderstorm. It may seem odd that these restless sounds soothe me to sleep, but I find something calming about the wildness of nature when I’m safe inside.  Wearing Hyde, the new EdP release by indie perfumer Hiram Green, gives me the same feeling.

 

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The fragrance opens a little medicinal and those citrus top notes don’t hang around as we leap headlong into the warming arms of leather.

Most fragrances in this category smell like molten tar but this is much more of a bonfire on the breeze. It has that quality of smoke in the air that regularly occurs here in autumn/winter, which I love and look forward to at the end of every summer.

Hyde is not as heavy as many leathers. It possesses all of the atmosphere with only half of the weight. It doesn’t have that same level of dense meatiness you often find in similarly themed scents either.  It has real presence but exhibits a lightness of touch, and it’s that sinuousness in a normally rugged style, that really captivates me.

There is a savoury and moreish aspect to Hyde, although it’s not in the least bit edible.  It’s also considerably more parched than a lot of birch leather fragrances, with the feel of charred wood rather than sticky tar. I picture it as deepest brown rather than inky black.

I find myself breathing it in deeply. I like the burnt facet that hits the back of my throat at the end of the inhale. Bois d’Ascese by Naomi Goodsir is a conflagration but Hyde is a smouldering slow burn.  Where Cuir de Lancôme is plush, Hyde is unworldly. The fragrance wraps itself like smoke rings around the body and the sense of intimacy is alluring. The lasting power – particularly for a natural perfume – is superb.

The soft malt vanilla in the drydown can only be enjoyed through the lingering wisps of woodsmoke and I like it all the more for that. In common with a lot of base-heavy fragrances, Hyde is best experienced at one remove.

I’ve been thinking about how, when the shadows lengthen or the internal darkness falls, it makes sense to step down a couple of gears to ease the pressure.  It’s time to take some respite from the rat-race, either with your loved ones or alone. Hyde is the perfect perfume to hibernate with. It is as reassuring as it is addictive and would make a wonderful shared scent.

It is a must-try if you like burning/smoky scents. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but the best fragrances often don’t. Hyde isn’t trying to please the crowd. It walks its own path, leaving a trail of smoking footprints scorched into the moss-covered earth.

 

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How do you feel about smoky perfumes? Will you be seeking out Hyde?

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