Category Archives: Thoughts

Amplifying Black Voices

I had a post about perfume lined-up but it’s not what’s been occupying my mind for the last two weeks and it didn’t feel right to post about anything else.

While it shouldn’t have taken the murder of George Floyd for the world to wake up to what Black people have been suffering, it has lead to a mass realisation that it is not enough to be un-racist, White people (and me) need to educate themselves and become actively anti-racist. I have justified avoiding difficult material featuring racism with the excuse that I need to protect my mental health from anything anxiety-inducing. This is a luxury Black people don’t have. It is a privilege to learn about racism through education rather than through experience.

This may be a tiny platform but it is a platform nonetheless and so I’m using it to share a few resources I’ve found over the past fortnight.

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By Kris Straub

An easy place to start is with diversifying your social media feed. I’ve been following Black female (mostly UK based) activists on Instagram. The first stage is just to listen. Some accounts I’d recommend are @laylafsaad, @rachel.cargle, @candicebrathwaite and @emmadabiri.

These women have also written books, many of which are climbing the Amazon non-fiction charts. Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite and Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri.

Another two books to look at if you want to do the work of unlearning racial biases are How To Be An AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi and Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”  – Reni Eddo-Lodge

it’s pretty normal for White people to feel defensive about the idea that they may be harbouring racist beliefs. I recommend this excellent interview with the author of White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo. This isn’t about guilt, it’s about greater awareness and doing better.

Of course there are Black women covering every area you can think of. If you love beauty, check out the fabulous UK journalist @ateh_jewel, for skincare follow London esthetician/facialist @dija_ayodele and for fashion @karenbritchick is one of a multitude.

Obviously, these are just jumping-off points from which you can discover the many melanated voices on social media.

I’m currently reading the much-nomiated novel Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams and will no longer shy away from potentially upsetting books by Black writers (which will be reflected in my Reading Diary). It’s hard enough for these authors to get published, without people like me being too soft to read them. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments.

Sadly we can’t rely on the schools in this country to provide anything more than a watered down version of Black history. I’ve ordered this book for my eleven year-old niece:

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In the same way homophobia isn’t a gay problem, racism isn’t a Black problem. Having these discussions isn’t easy: we’re afraid of getting things wrong. But giving-in to that fear isn’t going to get us anywhere. That’s why I’m pressing ‘Publish’ on this post despite still having a lot more to do.

I’m hopeful that we have at least reached a tipping point where having these uncomfortable conversations en masse and doing the work will lead to real, lasting change.

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Lost Days – Lockdown Lethargy

I was chatting with friends in our WhatsApp group when I said how we are all having lost days now and again. We agreed it’s not something a lot of people are acknowledging in social media but is happening to many of us. While some are publically posting about their various projects, others are quietly having whole days either under the duvet or doing precisely nothing.

Sometimes I wake up and just feel down and/or lethargic and it stays with me all day. I don’t feel like working out, turning on the laptop or even getting dressed. This used to make me feel guilty which made me feel more depressed than I already was. Now I just put it down as a lost day and write it off, knowing that tomorrow is likely to be better (and it always is).

If you have empathy, it’s very hard to carry on in your own little bubble and not let what is happening around the world affect you. Sometimes it’s just too much, even though I’ve cut down on the news coverage. As for using this time to learn a new skill, that’s great if you feel up to it but this is not a sabbatical, it’s a global pandemic. Most of us are just in survival mode, living from day to day, coping the best way we can.

I experienced my first migraine preceded by an aura during my sixth week indoors. I suddenly found my vision was obscured with bright zig-zag patterns. A terrible headache followed around 20 minutes later. I concluded it was a combination of not sleeping well, anxiety and cabin fever. I’m immunosuppressed so am having to ‘shield’ myself inside for 12 weeks. I was bound to hit a wall. It’s nothing compared to actually having the virus or being on the frontline, but we are all affected in some way.

These lost days aren’t the norm though. Most are manageable and I do feel gratitude for the positive aspects of lockdown. I’m connecting even more with family than usual and I like working from home. It’s a chance to reflect on how I want things to be after this strange period comes to an end. As much as I miss my old life, it’s worth thinking about what I want to go back to and what I want to change. It’s rare that you get the opportunity to step back and assess the way you live for this long.

So, one day I’m over the moon that I can lay in the garden and enjoy the sunshine on a weekday, the next I’m down in the dumps even though nothing has changed. Life is a series of ups and downs and as we ride the ‘coronacoaster of uncertainty’ these emotional highs and lows are more pronounced than ever.

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Are you experiencing highs and lows? Do you think about how you’re going to alter your life when we come out of this?

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Staying Sane When Staying Home

If you’re not used to staying indoors day after day, how do you protect your sanity? I haven’t seen anyone face-to-face or stepped outside my front door for over a week now. What I have found that helps the most is forming some kind of routine. I can’t work remotely (properly) for another week so I don’t have that structure as yet. What I’ve done in the meantime is come up with a list of things to do each day that help to protect my mental health:

  • I subscribe to the Calm app and do their daily meditation, which isn’t easy to focus on when you’re anxious but it helps. I also listen to one of the excellent Sleep Stories at night. A free meditation app is Insight Timer.
  • Everyone and their granny seems to be doing Yoga With Adriene on YouTube and for good reason. She’s very down to earth and has a nice chilled, slightly quirky way with her. I’m currently doing her 30 Day of Yoga which is suitable for anyone of any level but particularly beginners and those who have slipped since the gyms/yoga studios shut.
  • It’s tempting to treat every day like a pajama day (what day is it again?) but acting like this is one long weekend only adds to the sense of this being never-ending. Getting up on weekdays, making my bed and getting dressed makes me feel like I’m in the land of the living.
  • Linked to the above is carrying on with my skincare routine. Staying inside with central heating, stress and comfort food has played havoc with my skin and it’s part of self-care. I may do a separate post on what I’m using.
  • Regular Housepartys!!! This video chat app has taken off during the pandemic – it seems everyone I have ever known is now on it. Phone calls are great but video chat makes a real difference. I have been doing this every day with my sister and it’s the highlight of my day. (We mostly talk about what we’re going to have for dinner and watch on Netflix).
  • Lastly, I do something productive. This could be cleaning out a cupboard, finally washing that throw or even putting a treatment on my hair. I use the word ‘productive’ loosely. Feeling like you should be using this time to learn a new language or how to play an instrument will only add to your anxiety if you don’t feel up to it. If we just get through this with our bodies and minds intact, that is more than enough.

 

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If you have anything that’s helping you get through this strange and difficult time please let us know in the comments.

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Merry Christmas

A Bottled Rose will be eating lots of chocolate and putting its feet up for the next couple of weeks so we’ll see you again in 2020.

Thanks to Val the Cookie Queen and Portia for their wonderful contributions this year. If you have the time over the holidays you might want to do yourself a favour and make Val’s Classic Fudgy Brownies.

This time last year I was shell-shocked from going through the home selling and buying process. It’s been a year of recovery but some wonderful highlights too, including getting to see Undina again in London and a trip to Grasse. My favourite fragrance of the year was Frederic Malle’s Rose et Cuir (I know that it’s hit or miss for many).

Huge thanks to you for reading.  Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. The end of another decade. Wow.

May the 2020s treat us all kindly.

Tara xxx

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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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Merry Christmas!

 

Another year is drawing to a close and so is my second year blogging here at A Bottled Rose. To celebrate the blog’s second birthday, I’ll be holding a giveaway for large samples of my two favourite releases of last year. Be sure to come back on the 3rd January for all the details.

Until then I’ll be kicking back over the holidays and taking a break from posting. I’d just like to wish you all a peaceful, happy time over the Christmas break (whether you celebrate or not) and all good things for the coming year ahead.

 

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Image: Vintage Art Deco Christmas card

 

 

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Italy and Instagram

Hello All,

There won’t be a blog post next week as I’m off to Italy for a few days. Tangentially, it’s a perfume-related trip, as I’ll be meeting up with three friends I’ve found through blogging.

These are, Natalie of Another Perfume Blog (which is sadly no longer extant), Ines of All I am – a redhead and Asali of The Sounds of Scent. I’ve never met Asali or Ines in real life so I’m super excited to see them for the first time and it will be beyond wonderful to spend time with Natalie again after she’s been such a great support to me over the last few months.

Add this to finally meeting Undina  a couple of weeks ago and I feel really lucky to be meeting so many women I’ve known online since the beginning of my adventure down the fragrant rabbit-hole, some six or seven years ago  As Vanessa says, we come for the perfume but stay for the friendships.

We will be travelling to Bologna from four different countries which is pretty cool. Bologna looks like a fabulous medieval city and a good base for seeing other parts of the country. It also helps that the region is known as ‘The Stomach of Italy’ because I plan on eating all the food.

I intend to post some pics on Instagram which I’ve joined recently (@abottledrose). I never thought Instagram was the place for someone with a sight impairment but I was encouraged to try it by Val the Cookie Queen and she never steers me wrong.

I’m giving it a go and enjoying it so far. The photos on Facebook have long been my favourite part and the Insta Stories are a lot of fun. I post the odd Scent of the Day pic and other bits and pieces. As I have recently become skincare obsessed there’s some of that too.

Although I did wonder at first if I should be cutting down on my social media, not adding to it, Instagram feels more carefree than other virtual hangouts.

 

 

Have you been to Bologna? Are you on Instagram? What are you thoughts about social media?

 

 

 

 

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The Fear

Fear has been with me for even longer than I can remember. My mother tells me that as a young child I used to complain about butterflies in my tummy so much that eventually I was checked over at the hospital. It turned out I was just nervous about going to school.

In my early twenties I read the self-help classic Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. The book isn’t without value and I agree with the sentiment, but it’s only half the story. How exactly do you feel the fear and do it anyway when it’s paralysing you? I’d say it’s completely human to feel the fear and hide under the duvet, as was my way for many years.

For me, anxiety manifests in a number of ways. I feel frightened and tense, I fidget as a result of agitation, have vivid bad dreams and am plagued with incessant worry over the slightest thing. I believe people think badly of me, including friends and family. I’m all wrong; from what I say and do, to the way I look. I also feel an intense vulnerability, as if my skin has been peeled off and I have no protection. I lose all perspective, with reality distorted to a scary degree. As a wise friend said to me last night “Your mind lying to you”.

There’s a lot of stigma around anti-depressants but if you feel constant, irrational fear – or to give it its medical name – generalised anxiety disorder – then SSRIs (or a variant there of) can be life-changing.  There are other things like talking, mindfulness and exercise that work, but if anxiety is out of control, it’s likely you’re going to need to combine these with meds. I have no intention of ever coming off them.

Like most people, I sought help over a decade later than I could have. It may seem strange but until then, it never occurred to me to go to my GP about my mental health. The message seems to be getting through now though.

I tried about 4 different tablets before I found the one that worked for me. The lesson being, don’t give up if at first they don’t make a difference. It’s agony waiting that month to see if they’ll help, but it’s better than not having any hope of things changing at all.

Finding the right medication dialed down The Fear enough for me to start stepping out of my debilitatingly small comfort zone and subsequently “get a life”. Without them it was just too strong to overcome alone.

My anxiety became manageable on a day-to-day basis and I could do normal things without fear, like walking down the road without having to give myself a constant pep talk or going to bed without my thoughts tormenting me. It does spike when I have to do something out of the ordinary but that’s understandable.

Now, extreme anxiety only surfaces on an infrequent basis, but I thought I’d write about it while it’s here. At times like these, I’m lucky to have people I can turn to who remind me to breathe deeply, not to get caught up in what my mind is telling me and to wait for it to pass – because it will pass.

Posting about it feels uncomfortable in the extreme but the more we talk about it, the better it is for everyone out there who struggles. Realising we are not alone makes all the difference.

 

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Merry Christmas!

I finish work tomorrow for the holidays so I’m officially on countdown to Christmas. I’d like to wish you all a wonderful time over the festive season. I hope you’re able to be with the people you love and do the things you enjoy most.

The next post will be on New Year’s Day when I will return with a giveaway to celebrate the first anniversary of A Bottled Rose. I hope to see you again then.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few pics of the Kew Gardens Illuminated Walk which I took my niece to last weekend.

 

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Tara xxx

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In Rotation

After enduring bad news across the world for the best part of a year, I’ve been feeling the need to retreat. I’ve always been a homebody but I’m craving time indoors even more than usual. After reading a lot of “improving” books this year, I’ve now escaped into the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman. On these cold, dark evenings, it’s wonderful to get lost in this multi-universe adventure populated by witches, armoured bears and fearless 12 year-olds .

 

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A small thing that I’ve found to be very soothing on trying days, is painting my nails. The colours I’m alternating at the moment are the sophisticated berry of Butter London’s Queen Vic and the glossy dark navy of Chanel’s Marinière.

Happily, I’m still getting a kick out of my new found love of bold lipstick. I’ve even graduated from red to purple. MAC’s Rebel feels perfect for autumn and easy to wear because it isn’t as intense or blue toned as most in that shade range. The satin formula is also kinder to the lips in this chilly weather than my usual matt lipsticks.

 

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Chanel Mariniere, MAC Rebel and Butter London Queen Vic

 

One comfort food that is also healthy is homemade soup. Last weekend I made spicy cauliflower soup based on the recipe by Alice Waters (who incidentally is a friend and neighbour of Mandy Aftel). I found out about it from former perfume blogger Lavanya, who now runs the brilliant subscription box service Boxwalla.

Again, taking pleasure in the little things, I’ve been enjoying the aromas of autumn; bonfires, dry leaves, damp earth, misty mornings. It might also be my favourite time of year for perfume. Here’s what I’ve been wearing a lot lately:

Passage d’Enfer, L’Artisan Parfumeur

I recently got a back-up bottle of this one because it’s my favourite incense. Passage d’Enfer is woody, lightly resinous and has a hint of waxy white lilies which it gives it luminosity. It smells fantastic on a scarf and mingles well with the autumnal wisps of smoke in the air. Passage d’Enfer helps me feel calm and centred in this crazy world but it also has that touch of wanton florals. I adore this stuff.

Coromandel EdT, Chanel

This is one classy patchouli with lots of warmth and depth. It’s not super earthy but it’s not a dull, super clean patch either. It’s beautifully sophisticated and I enjoy it most at a bit of distance, so I tend to spray it on my wrists rather than around my neck. I particularly enjoy the touch of incense that comes out most in the base.

Tobacco Rose, Papillon Perfumes

Of course I love roses and this one is perfect for autumn thanks to its earthiness. Tobacco Rose is a rose bush firmly planted in the soil, not a sterile, disembodied bloom. There’s a reason patchouli is paired so often with rose and it’s exemplified here in the way it grounds the beautiful, rich red flower. I can’t wait for the next release from Papillon Perfumes which is coming in the New Year.

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What’s bringing you comfort this season?

 

 

 

 

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