Glittery wedding, beauty bits, and furniture

I know that in my last post I said my next post would be about my solo trip to New York, but I am still working on that one so I thought I’d do a bit of a round-up post in the meantime.

In no particular order here are some of the things I’ve been doing/seeing/buying/loving recently:

  1. Going to a beautiful wedding

My lovely friend Bec got married last Saturday and the wedding was incredibly gorgeous, relaxed and different. It was described as a mini festival and the whole thing took place on the very pretty Cotesbach estate in Lutterworth. There were bell tents, hay bale seats, a bar in a vintage caravan, delicious foods and a face painter. Despite bouts of torrential rain, the atmosphere was full of love and laughter and the ceremony itself took place in a wooded glade and was really quite magical.

The face painter was kept quite busy and I kept seeing pepole with butterflies, flowers and other nice designs on their cheeks. When I finally got around to getting my face painted, I really just wanted copious amounts of glitter applied in a slightly haphazard fashion. I was very pleased with the result (though I look a bit pensive here, probably just trying to decided if it was about to bucket down again):

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Glitter and bindi to match outfit. Would like to do this every day

Also pictured – I am currently loving those H&M tassel earrings that every beauty/fashion blogger is currently sporting. Although they look like not insubstantial curtain tie-backs, they weigh practically nothing (my only hard rule for ‘statement’ earrings).

Sartorially speaking I felt I had pitched it correctly with an old yet unworn Boden tunic and biker boot-style wellies – comfort, style and practicality. Even I, most definitely NOT a festival type, didn’t mind using posh portaloos when I had wellies and the loos came with a view like this:

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It was a really beautiful day in every respect.

2) Beauty bits

My life’s mission to find the world’s greatest mascara (which will never be over) stepped up a gear this week. After a few months of high-end mascaras – all lovely but just not worth the £20+ price tags when mascara has a 3 month lifespan – I decided to do some high-street testing. I tried L’Oreal Volume Million Lashes Fatale, Volume Million Lashes Feline and L’Oreal False Lash Superstar X Fiber mascaras. They were all OK but nothing really wowed me. Then I finally got my hands on the new L’Oreal Paradise Extatic mascara which had been sold out everywhere. I LOVE THIS MASCARA. Just one coat gives me length, volume and holds a curl. I am not that person who wants a mascara to give me ‘natural, defined lashes’, I want oomph, more oomph and then a final dollop of oomph. I want to go through three cotton pads soaked with Bi-Facil in order to properly remove all that black gold. This mascara delivered on all those levels. This is JUST ONE COAT on my naturally flimsy lashes:

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Yep, the extreme closeups are back. Now with added eyeball.

I will be buying in bulk before it’s discontinued, as it surely will be due to the fact that it’s halfway decent. If it were crap, it would exist forever and be praised for decades by glossy magazines whilst the everyday consumer is underwhelmed by its ineptitude (Maybelline Great Lash, I am looking at you).

I am also having a bit of a ‘quirky nail varnish colours’ moment after a year or so of classic red, classic nude or Rouge Noir. I saw a photo of Nails Inc’s Sparkle Like a Unicorn duo and knew I had to have it for Rainbow Wishes, this blue/pink/purple bottle of magic:

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You can’t hear it but there are angels singing in the background of this photo. Or maybe it’s the cat snoring.

There is also a pink 3D glitter in the set but I haven’t tried it yet.

3). The La Redoute furniture bonanza

I have lived in my house for two years but it’s taken me this long to decide on a table and chairs for my conservatory. Before that, the conservatory mainly housed cardboard boxes, gardening tools (rarely used) and cat toys. I had seen quite a few rugs and furniture items on interiors blogs from La Redoute and had been impressed with the design standard. When they had (and still have) a 25% off deal I decided to order a rug, a table and four chairs and now my conservatory looks like this (the chairs at either end of the table are from Made.com):

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A lovely spot to sit and watch the relentless summer downpours

I may now invite people around to my house for proper food, rather than four different varieties of posh crisps in bowls.

5) Cinema

Film-wise, I went to see The Big Sick and Dunkirk and loved both for very different reasons. The Big Sick is sweet and funny and emotional and also based on a real story. I really recommend it if you want a bit of light relief from the current threat of Armageddon that seems to be modern life. Dunkirk is, of course, also based on a real story and I think it is an amazing film. The story takes the sweeping horror of war on a grand scale and drills down to an almost granular level, focusing on individuals swept up in the horror of a desperate situation. It is beautifully shot and acted and I didn’t even realise Harry Styles was Harry Styles until the last 5 minutes. The Hans Zimmer soundtrack also deserves special mention for what it adds to the film. Go and see it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Solo YOLO travel

Like quite a lot of other people, I enjoy going on holiday. I’m not really one for a beach holiday (though I wouldn’t turn down, say, a week in the Maldives). I prefer city breaks where there is a bit of hustle and bustle.

My favourite thing to do is visit a city and pretend I live there, mainly by doing a lot of fairly mundane stuff. Although I like to see the sights I’m far more likely to spend 10 minutes looking at, for example, the Eiffel Tower or Acropolis, before spending the next couple of hours marvelling over different shampoo varieties in the local chemists or studying six different new and exciting crisp brands in a supermarket. I have always been this way and once had a blazing row with my husband in a Cologne Apotheke because I wanted to buy a boxed set of 15 miniature bath oils, a Woodruff-scented lip balm and an unusual packet of blister plasters to haul back home in our rucksacks. He just didn’t understand that no, I couldn’t get those things at home. Not those EXACT same things.

Anyway, although I’ve had some lovely holidays with friends who love me and therefore have indulged me in my obsession – I dragged some of them around several Parisian Pharmacies a few years ago trying to track down the last bottles of La Roche Posay Serozinc in the capital – I decided last year that it was time to try a bit of solo travel.

As I’ve mentioned approximately 52 times already on this blog, I enjoy spending a lot of time alone. Before last year though, I had felt nervous about holidaying alone though. This is not because I was worried about being abducted/losing all my travel documents/people thinking I’m a weirdo but because after my husband died I panicked that I might have a full on grief breakdown in the middle of a foreign city and feel like I was all alone in the world then spend the rest of the holiday holed up in my hotel watching TV I don’t understand. This seemed like a potentially quite expensive episode when I could just stay at home and cry in my pajamas for free.

Last year I decided the time had come and I was ready to give solo travel a go. It all started with me tagging onto a holiday to Las Vegas with some friends (that’s me in the top photo on the High Roller ferris wheel in Vegas). I flew solo from Heathrow and the ten hours zoomed by as I ended up sitting next to the boyfriend of one of the First Class flight attendants. He made sure we were kept in gin, tonic and chocolate for the whole flight. This was after we’d been in the air for 2 hours:

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I landed at night, surprisingly still sober, and was treated to the full assault to the senses that is the Las Vegas strip as my cab driver took me to Caesar’s Palace. He later returned to Caesar’s Palace to bring me my hand luggage as I’d manage to leave it in the boot of the cab without noticing. Thank goodness for nice cab drivers! (He got a hefty tip for pretty much saving my whole holiday).

Vegas is amazing and bonkers and you can quickly lose your grip on reality as you have a foot-long cocktail at 10am in a crystal chandeliered bar, surrounded by the relentless chirping, chiming and cash-chugging noises of the hundreds of gambling machines in every hotel. Then, when you’re a bit tipsy and you’ve lost a wad of cash, you can ‘shoot a real machine gun’. Fun for all the family:

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After 5 days together, drinking margaritas and visiting the Hoover Dam in a stars and stripes-painted Hummer, my friends and I all went our separate ways, bidding farewell at McCarran airport over the biggest breakfasts I’ve ever seen:

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That omelette contained about half a pig’s worth of ham.

I flew to San Francisco, managing to upgrade to first class for about $70. This meant I got a massive leather seat and free ginger ale from a nice air steward named Chad. I’d never been to the West Coast of America before, only the East, and was really looking forward to experiencing the hippie vibes of ‘Frisco’ (all the guide books tell you to NEVER call it that).

I stayed at a hotel called The Warwick, with compact yet stylish rooms. It had a swanky air to it but was also only yards from the Tenderloin, which all the guide books tell you to avoid. As you can tell, I did an awful lot of guidebook preparation for my solo jaunts.

This was the view from my hotel room:

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What you can’t see is the giant branch of Walgreens at the foot of that building on the corner of the block. This was heaven for me as I could easily stock my room with yoghurt and drinks for breakfast and the odd salad for dinners in my room. Although I love to get out and about to explore during the day, I’m not really one for solo adventures at night. It also meant I could pop in each day to see if they’d had any more shades of Wet ‘n’ Wild 1 step wonder gel nail varnish come into stock (I am obsessed).

On day one I was up early and on the first tour bus to do a full circuit of the main sights. I really recommend this if you are a solo traveller as you can get your bearings easily with this overview tour and then decide which bits you want to go back to.

Here is a terrible photo of me with the Golden Gate Bridge. (It was very cold and windy but I stuck out the top deck for the views).

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About an hour after this, I decided to disembark at the Embarcadero and explore Fisherman’s Wharf and the Saturday food market. True to the San Franciscan weather’s reputation, it had changed a bit from the morning cold and fog and was now beautifully sunny.

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I looked at delicious foodstuffs, ate some amazing savoury Zeppole (donuts with parmesan and herbs) and spent about an hour in conversation with a nice lady who happened to sit next to me as I was drinking lavender lemonade and taking in the view.

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Zeppole

My next couple of days in San Francisco were filled with shopping and sightseeing and a cinema pitstop when I realised I had burned my scalp in the sunshine and I wanted to hide somewhere dark for a bit.

Then it was time for my next port of call – Seattle. I had managed to shop quite a lot in SF, thanks to a city branch of Target (two pairs of sandals, Sonia Kashuk makeup, EOS shaving cream and two bags of mint Milanos) and the flagship branch of Old Navy (practically a whole new summer wardrobe) so I had to apply a bit of pressure to the old suitcase lid, then I was off to the airport in a swanky town car.

No first class upgrade this time, but it was still a pleasant flight of around an hour. Then the pilot announced we were close to Sea-Tac airport and I was incredibly happy with my window seat as the views were amazing:

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I had never been to Seattle either, but I fell in love with it almost instantly. It felt very different to San Francisco – fresher, greener and friendlier. Also, you can get Poutine and really good beer:

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I stayed at Inn at the Market (which pops into shot in Sleepless in Seattle, film fans). My room was the size of a small apartment and came with amazing robes, slippers, a coffee machine with – of course – Starbucks pods, and a small handful of chocolates left on my pillow each night. The bed was epically proportioned:

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My few days in Seattle were great – I visited Pike Place Market (breakfast at Lowell’s two-days running), the Seattle Museum of Art, Pioneer Square, The Space Needle, The EMP Museum and, of course, the shops. Here are some pictures of varying quality:

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Lowell’s at Pike Place market (before the crowds)

 

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Crab Eggs Benedict at Lowell’s. A joyous experience.

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Pike Place Market

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Fancy seafood

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Guitar sculpture at EMP. Wouldn’t want to dust it.

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Apparently this chowder is world-famous. It just tasted like hot cream to me.

Then it was time to fly home, hauling my by now bulging-at-the-seams suitcase (I may have HAD to buy a Rebecca Minkoff bag at Nordstrom because the sales assistant was sooooooo lovely …) back to Sea-Tac and stocking up on InStyle magazine and See’s Candies for the return voyage.

I really enjoyed my first proper solo travelling and it left me hungry for more. That’s why when I got home, emboldened by my transatalantic adventures, I booked to go to New York for the week a few months later. I will tell you all about that trip, and about what I’ve learned about solo travel, in my next post …

Busy making other plans

 

I tried to write a blogpost last week, but I managed not to. On the one hand, it felt like the hottest week ever in England and my brain and body were struggling to manage anything more than A) sitting in front of a fan with a Calippo or B) taking a nap. On the other hand, it was also the anniversary of my husband’s death and so I tend to go to ground a bit anyway.

Beyond that, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I am currently on a professional sabbatical, with a few bits of freelance work here and there, because I want to write a book. I’m not lying when I say that, but I’ve realised that what I really meant each time I said that to people over the last six months is ‘I want to write a book eventually‘. For six months I have enjoyed being able to do what I want, when I want and, as an introvert, that really means leading a small and quiet life for a while. My creativity has been flickering on and off like a strand of dodgily-wired fairy lights and there has not been very much concerted effort or joined up activity on the writing front from me for a while. Lately I have been feeling a bit anxious about this. I have been feeling like maybe I am a fraud and there are no words, there is no writing in me.

Things are starting to change, though. As much as I’ve loved reading books, watching films, box sets, YouTube make-up tutorials, internet dabbling, time with family, cinema-going, home decor-dabbling and the like, I have started to feel quite tetchy with myself. This is a classic sign that I am ready to move onto the ‘next phase’ of something. It was a conversation with my brother that helped me see this as we talked about hiding in what makes you feel happy and how that can ultimately become a hindrance. The fear of going in a new direction is often what stops you from going for it, or what allows you to self-sabotage by not committing enough to your new goals. So I have been looking at my plan of action and made some promises to myself that will put me back on the writing track and let me feel happier with my own head. The main one is to not worry about perfection, I just need to write. I need to do it everyday and not edit my words out of existence before they’ve even hit the page. Even if they are complete bilge, they are my words and they are what make me a writer. If I don’t write anything how can I ever write something?

There are a few other plans I have, like fresh scoops of ice cream in my head. I am going to act on them before they melt. There will be updates when I’ve done that but, for now, they remain my secret sundae.

In the meantime, here are some of the small joys of my simple life at the moment:

I read Exquisite by Sarah Stovell and found it dark and delicious and frighteningly adept at weaving borderline insanity into the tapestry of a ‘respectable’ life.

I have developed an obsession with listening to a few chapters of a  Nora Roberts Audiobook in bed each night. Here I am dawdling about writing a first novel and Ms Roberts has written more than 215! They are comfortably formulaic, and I mean no disrespect by that. I have enjoyed several of her romantic thrillers but she also writes Sci-fi romance/police procedurals (less my thing) and family saga romances. It’s also amazing how much the narrator can really make or break each novel as an audiobook.

I went to see My Cousin Rachel last week and, despite the muggy cinema and the impinging sounds of an action film in the next screen, I really enjoyed it. It has received a mixed bag of reviews but I thought Rachel Weisz was excellent and it is beautifully shot. A daytime cinema visit really is one of my favourite solo activities.

I got some new leopard-print, platform Birkenstocks. Enough said.

Finally, no link but Morrisons’ Portuguese custard tarts are so good I could eat at least three at once (but I haven’t. Yet). Custard tarts always bring joy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty Pie – first impressions

When I was about six or seven my mum used to get monthly parcels from some sort of cosmetics club. She didn’t always keep the items, but I remember excitedly waiting for her to make her decision each month so I knew what I could play with. I treated her make-up with great respect and loved to investigate the contents of the black vanity case that housed her collection, sliding it out from its home under her bed. My favourites were the shimmery green eye shadow and the roller-ball lipglosses that smelled of mint or cola.

Back to the present day and the cosmetics club has had a bit of a revival thanks to Beauty Pie the newish venture set up by Marcia Kilgore. Marcia is the founder of Bliss Spa, Soap & Glory and FitFlop so I think it’s fair to say she has a great track record when it comes to launching successful businesses and building massive brands in the beauty and wellbeing worlds.

I had seen a lot of blogger/vlogger hype when Beauty Pie launched in the UK, which tends to turn me off these days – or at least makes me wait until I feel some more ‘honest’ reviews are around rather than the endorsements bought from the big beauty vloggers.

Beauty Pie’s USP is that it offers ‘unbranded luxury skincare and make-up’ for which members only pay the ‘straight-off-the-production-line’ price. You can read in more detail on the website, but they say Beauty Pie members can save up to 85% on the prices they would pay at full retail value – ‘All your makeup without the markup’, to quote Beauty Pie.

I’m sure that when I first read about Beauty Pie it was advertised as being a monthly subscription type club, which I didn’t feel I wanted to commit to. My curiosity stayed piqued though, particularly as I saw skincare items being added to the cosmetic offerings, so I had another look at the website and was pleased to see I could pay a one off £30 to join and then buy up to £200 full retail value’s worth of products in a year. For example, four lipsticks would be worth £80 but I’d only spend £8.96 for them. It intrigued me enough to want my own piece of the pie (awful pun intended).

I bought a selection of skincare and cosmetics and I will be talking about the latter in this post. I also took pictures of my first use of each product, so you can see how they apply. This means we are back to photos of my face and lots of them. Let’s start where we left off in my last post about magic foundation.

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Who is this idiot?

I am just wearing my base of wonder, Guerlain Parure Gold Radiance Fluid Foundation, applied with my fingers.

The first product I applied from my Beauty Pie Stash was the Super Luminous Concealer in the Shade Fair/Peach, though my receipt says it is Fair 100.

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Here is a terrible photo of the Super Luminous Concealer

As you can just about see in the blurry pic, the concealer comes in a tube and has a spongy ball tip, intended for application use I suppose. I ignored this and just squeezed a small amount of product onto the back of my hand so I could tap it onto my under eye area with my ring finger. The product is quite liquid in consistency, but no so runny that any coverage is immediately lost. It is nicely hydrating and a little goes a long way. There are no before/after photos as I don’t really have a problem with under eye circles and I tend to be very light handed with concealer as I don’t like a heavy look under the eyes. All the following pics are with the concealer applied though.

I then set my base and the under eye concealer with the One Powder Wonder in Uberlucent Universal.

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One Powder Wonder

This powder promises to suit all complexions, blur, even out shine, boost luminosity, never cake, protect against dehydration and much more. Quite frankly, it sounds marvellous.

I applied all over my face with a brush, pressing it lightly into the skin.

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Just noticed the errant brush hair on my nose. Curses.

I found the powder to be very light and finely milled, as promised. It mattified nicely and didn’t leave a strange ghostly cast (as I have found with some of these white, optical blurring powders).

Next up, I turned to eyebrows. I bought the Superbrow Colour Mousse in Ash Brown. It comes in a small compact with a mirror and although it looks like a pressed powder on first viewing, it really is a mousse. You can see from the impressions left by my brush:

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I applied using a slanted brush, first on my right eyebrow (on the left in the photo)

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It applied really easily but, straight away, you can probably see the problem. Although the product looked cool-toned on the website, it is much warmer in real life and looks more like I’d imagined the Baked Brown colour would apply. Once applied to my eyebrows, there is definite redness, which I try to avoid like the plague in brow products. I am always amazed at how many companies offer red-based brow products, as it looks bizarre on almost everyone. Filling in  my other brow really amps up the weirdness.

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I’ve gone super close so you can see the ginger brow mess

It’s a shame, as I like the texture and ease of use with the brow mousse.

Next up is the Flash False Lash Mascara in Cosmic Black. Mascara is one of my three make-up must haves – if I fill in my brows, curl and mascara my lashes, and apply a tinted lip balm I can feel ‘done’ enough to leave the house and talk to other human beings.

I want my lashes to look thick, long, voluminous, glossy and to hold a curl all day with no flaking or drooping. I want the impossible, really. My lashes look quite short and straight but there is a fair bit of length that has barely any natural colour, so the right mascara can make a real difference. I wasn’t sure which mascara to go for as Beauty Pie offers four and they all promise great things. I went with this one as the small brush appealed for precision of application. The product description says it’s a great one if your natural lashes are ‘lacking’, so I was expecting to be wowed. I was!

Here’s one coat on one eye. I’m pretty sure you can tell which one:

 

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I love the small brush with its little plastic bristles; post curling I could get to the base of my lashes to wiggle for volume and then pull out to coat the length easily. For one coat of mascara, I found this really impressive.

I then coated the lashes on both eyes a couple of times:

DSC00164I love to load up my lashes and am fine with slight clumping, so I am really happy with this mascara. It cheered me up after the Ronald McDonald eyebrows.

Next is a product that I wasn’t sure about, but I chucked it in with my order in the spirit of experimentation. I am just *that* crazy.

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The Moonlighting Balm Radiance Powder is described as giving subtle, second-skin radiance without any visible shimmer, which sounded great to someone like me who hates glitterball highlighters. I picked the shade Soft Soul because it looked like a soft peachy brown. Again, the reality didn’t match up to my computer monitor (always a problem when buying cosmetics online with no samples offered). As you can see, it looks like an orangey bronzer. I was a bit scared to try it.

I applied to my right cheek (left in pic) with a soft blusher brush:

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Phew. Not orange.

Thankfully, it did not match my eyebrows. This product imparts an incredibly subtle glow and I found it had quite a unifying effect on my cheeks, tonally speaking. It helped to knock back my redness even more. For someone like me, who loves a natural base, I really like this product. If you are a fan of contouring, shading and full-on bronzing it might not be for you (though Beauty Pie does bronzers and highlighters).

We’re on to the final two products now and they are both for the lips. Firstly the Superglazy Lip Gloss in the shade Sugar Bun. It’s a very natural-looking shade and I was looking forward to trying this gloss as it is described as a ‘gel-oil balm’. I am a gloss and balm lover, rarely choosing to wear lipstick as I find it feels heavy and claggy on my lips and I always forget to reapply. I really like this gloss – it’s not sticky and it feels lovely on, has a great applicator – a curvy doe foot that fits around your lip – and it smells like Cadburys Mini Eggs! (to me anyway). Here I am wearing it:

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Resting Bitch Face again.

Finally, I picked up one of the Fantasticolour Sculpting Lipsticks as I am trying to challenge my lipstick-phobia.  This product has a ‘sheer shine finish’ and a ‘Ceramide moisture matrix’ so it seemed it might be a good step towards full-on lipstick for a gloss-loving gal. I picked the shade Apple Bottom which looked like a raspberry pink on my computer screen but I suspected, due to the name, that it might be a bit more red in real life. ‘A bit’ turned out to be an understatement.

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Red. Red. Emphatically RED.

I LOVE THIS LIPSTICK. I love the long slim packaging, the chiselled tip, the incredibly smooth and light application, the weightlessness on the lips, the moisturising texture and, most of all, the colour saturation. I want to get all the other colours now.

So, there you have it, my first impressions and application of some Beauty Pie colour products. I’ll get round to the skincare soon.

Overall, I think Beauty Pie is worth checking out if you are a make-up lover. As you can see it’s a bit hit and miss in terms of the colour selection and I don’t think I would try any of the foundations for that reason. It would be brilliant if they did tiny samples of products for colour matching as I think more people would be happy to buy if they knew what they were getting. However, I really liked the quality of the items I bought and I will definitely be buying more mascara and lip products – they are the stand outs for me and do feel like very good quality for the low prices.

I am not sure about the luxury/high end product angle as I don’t think they can say ‘this is comparable with Chanel/YSL/ByTerry/Le Metier de Beaute etc’ and so it’s all subjective. By removing luxury packaging, marketing etc it takes away a lot of the experience that goes towards convincing you that a high end product is ‘worth it’. Whilst this, perhaps, shows how much we can be wooed by marketing smoke and mirrors and heavy, golden compacts rather than the quality of the product within, I think it almost diminishes the Beauty Pie products before you try them. This is a shame, as I think they stand on their own as good products.

I will be really interested to see what new products are made available as the brand grows, particularly the skincare products. With the rise of The Ordinary and the idea that consumers can buy ‘serious’ skincare with active ingredients at a lower budget, I think this is an area where Beauty Pie could also be leading edge, particularly given Marcia Kilgore’s success with Bliss Spa and products.

Anyway, let me know if you’ve tried any Beauty Pie products and what you think of them or what I should try next.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE – Beauty Pie got in touch with me to let me know that a shade sampler will soon be available to customers who want to buy the right colour foundation. In the meantime, if you call customer service they will be happy to advise you based on the shades you currently wear in other foundations.

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Magic foundation

 

*WARNING* This post contains a number of not-very-good photos of my face.

So, in my last post about my 40th birthday party, I alluded to the fact that I have found my dream foundation. I bought it specifically to wear at my party, having read some amazing reviews. I have naturally high colouring in my cheeks, I get hot very easily and I often flare bright red when I drink alcohol. These factors all led me to believe I could spend my party looking like a sunburnt strawberry, so I was willing to try out this foundation, despite it costing more than any other I’ve ever tried. In my opinion, it was worth every penny.

So, without further ado, here is the liquid (make-up) of the Gods of which I speak:

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Rubbish picture but with added flamingos

Guerlain Parure Gold Radiance Fluid Foundation is my new love and we are very happy together. I got mine from John Lewis because I had some cashback vouchers from buying my new washing machine from JL. This made spending FIFTY SEVEN POUNDS! on foundation less excruciating as it was not ‘real’ money. That’s what I told myself anyway.

The foundation is, as the name suggests, quite fluid and runny. It has a scent which I enjoy, but it is quite strong. I apply it with my fingers as I find it looks at its best once it’s warmed up with your skin – it sort of melds with it and disappears, yet the coverage is fantastic and very buildable. I hate a heavy foundation so that is perfect for me.

Now, for the love of effective beauty demonstration, I am going to show you the difference this foundation makes to my skin. On the night of my birthday party, I primed my skin with this. However, today, I’m just showing you what the Parure Gold looks like when I slap it on bare skin, quickly, with my fingers.

*Deep Breath* Here is my make-up free face:

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I did not tidy up, in the hopes the background would detract from my face.

As you can see there is quite a lot of redness in my skin. Despite this, my base tone is actually pretty neutral. This can make it quite difficult to successfully colour match me – I often leave beauty counters looking slightly too orange or far too pink. As a result, I tend to only wear a BB cream or a light tinted moisturiser as my skin is pretty good and I don’t mind about the high colour on a day-to-day basis. I want more coverage yet a natural look for a special occasion though.

Based on reviews and swatches I googled, I ordered my Parure Gold in the shade ‘Beige Pale’. It worked out to be a pretty good match. It is slightly more yellow than I’d normally go for, but as it warms to my skin it seems to look more natural. The yellow tone is what’s so effective at combating my redness.

I first applied the Parure Gold to one side of my face, so you can see the immediate impact:

 

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I suffer from Resting Bitch Face. Soz.

I’ve quickly blended half a pump across the left side of my face (the right side of this picture) and you can see straight away how much it neutralises the redness – there’s practically a vertical line on my forehead, nose and chin.

Here is the whole face with the Parure Gold blended with fingers all over – this is one pump of product in total:

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One layer across the whole face (not on eyelids)

And here, for a closer comparison, is a like-for-like with my right cheek (apologies for unkempt eyebrows and stray moustache hairs!):

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Bare skin

 

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One layer of Parure Gold

I have never got such good, natural, glowing coverage from one layer of foundation before. Usually the red shows through – often even more due to the stimulation of the rubbing, sponging or brush application – or it’s too high coverage to look natural.

On the night of my party I also set my whole face with Hourglass Ambient Light Powder in Ethereal. Like most make-up fans, I really rate those powders and Ethereal sets everything yet gives you the most beautiful, soft glow. I know the primer and powder will have helped with staying power, but I’ve since worn the Parure Gold all day long, with neither of the other products, and found the coverage results as effective and the staying power only marginally less so.

The foundation is quite moisturising and felt very lightweight and natural all night. I wore it for around 8 hours at my party and it did not sweat off at all. It sat really well on my skin all night and even when I felt I had a beetroot face, I was assured I just looked ‘glowy’. The picture at the top of the post shows me at about 4 hours, and 5 drinks, into the evening. I remember feeling boiling hot at the time.

 

If you have oily skin, I don’t think you would get such good results as it’s such a moisturising foundation; it might work better for you with the right primer but it would be quite an expensive gamble.

In conclusion I can say that I am extremely impressed by Guerlain Parure Gold Radiance Fluid Foundation. It delivered exactly as I’d hoped and, despite its high price tag, I would not hesitate to repurchase (which won’t be for a while as you need so little product for a full face).

I hope this was useful. I will be back soon with my first impressions of Beauty Pie make-up and more close-ups of my face. I can only apologise.

Bodywork and birthday

I have been very neglectful on the blogging front over the last few weeks, mainly due to birthday activities but also due to a few other things. I hadn’t felt like writing much due to a mishap I had with my car – no one was hurt but I felt very grumpy with myself for it. Then the Manchester bombing happened, and I really didn’t think anyone would be at all interested in my witterings.

However, I have decided to do a little round up of the last couple of weeks, not least because I have some nice photos. It’s going to be a long one …

Firstly I will tackle the car incident. I drive a Mini Cooper Sport and I love it; I liken it to a small Batmobile. I bought it for my birthday last year and had managed to keep it in near pristine condition. A couple of weeks ago, I needed to go into Birmingham to get my mum’s birthday present. I would normally get the bus so I don’t have to deal with astronomical car parking prices or the many lunatic city centre drivers. However, it was raining torrentially and so I decided at the last minute to drive in – how I lived to regret that decision.

I nipped in, did my shopping and all was well until I managed to reverse out of my parking space and pin the side of my car up against a pillar. I then had to decide if I wanted to damage the front or the side of the car in order to manoeuvre out of my predicament. This was the end result:

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OUCH

I was gutted and now my car has been in the Mini body shop for a week, hopefully being restored to her former glory. It did amuse me to find that everyone at the bodyshop, plus most people I know and even the man I spoke to at my insurance company have all had similar altercations with pillars in car parks.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Following my Mini ‘adventure’ I had a lovely week as it was my 40th birthday. It’s also my mum’s birthday two days before mine, so we always have a lot of festivities. From a nice family lunch to an afternoon matinee of ‘The Wedding Singer’ at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre on my Mum’s birthday (though, in all honesty, we didn’t think it was very good) we had a great few days.

On my actual birthday I had chosen to have a really quiet day at home. It was boiling hot so I spent the day in shorts and a t-shirt, opening beautiful gifts, eating lovely food – cake for breakfast, seafood antipasti and Champagne for lunch! –  and doing loads of sorting and beauty preparation for the following day when I was having a party.

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If you can’t have Champagne with your lunch on your birthday, when can you?!

Halfway through the afternoon I took delivery of a surprise present from a friend; it turned out to be a life-size cardboard cutout of my idol, Joan Collins. She now lives in the lounge and we are getting on very well.

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Me and my new housemate

Then on Saturday it was time to party. I’d thought long and hard about what I wanted to do to celebrate my 40th. I had a big party with a ‘disco’ (really showing my age there) for my 35th and I felt like I wanted something more intimate to mark my entry into a new decade. As I’ve mentioned before, my thirties were full of loss, grief, pain and the towers of admin that seem to follow in the wake of the loss of a loved one. It’s taken time but I have rebuilt myself and created a life I love, I feel very lucky to have that privilege. One of the things that has been key in that stage of moving on has been friendships, both old and new, with an amazing group of women. I decided I wanted to hold a beautiful dinner party for all of those friends in a private dining room, with great music, gorgeous food, classy decorations, Champagne and lots of laughter.

I picked The Highfield Gastropub in Edgbaston for the party venue, and opted to stay overnight next door at the stunning Highfield Townhouse boutique hotel – both owned and run by the same people. I was delighted with both venues and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others.

I arrived at the hotel after dropping off decorations at the pub. There was definitely a bit of a wow moment as I opened the door to my room:

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WOW, right?

I then spent a few lovely hours getting ready, starting with what really did feel like a swim in the roll top bath in the bedroom. I watched Mission Impossible on the swivelable TV from my lagoon of Chanel No5 scented bubbles, whilst sipping on a can of Pimm’s. I think that paints quite a classy picture of me, n’est-ce pas?

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Tom Cruise and can of Pimm’s just out of shot

A few of my friends were also staying overnight, so I was looking forward to getting over to The Highfield with them and the free welcome drink voucher that had been left in my room.

I then inflated some balloons to decorate the dining room (see pic at top of post). I’d bought a disposable cannister of Helium and, once I’d work out how to manipulate the nozzle to inflate, I spent a joyous 20 mins on that task. I am now going to be finding any excuse I can to inflate helium balloons, as I’d forgotten just how happy a large, metallic, floating balloon can make a person.

I will do a separate post on my party make-up, because I was really, really impressed with a new foundation I’d bought for the occasion and this post is already epic. I forgot to take any selfies early on but, obviously, once I’d had a couple of drinks I was going for it like a Kardashian. This is me in a drunken and dishevelled state, but my foundation is magic. I would normally look like a tomato with heatstroke at this stage of the game, but I merely look ‘glowing’:

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Yes, that is a leopard print tiara

Anyway, once I’d primped and preened and faffed about with false eyelashes, it was suddenly time to make the short walk over to The Highfield in time to greet everyone. The pub has two private dining rooms which can be hired separately or as one giant space. I had hired the larger of the two rooms and the staff had done a great job of putting out the decorations and making it look lovely.

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Animal print tiaras and lip-shaped place cards for everyone!

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Not a single Champagne cork mishap occurred. *Drink Responsibly*

Once people started to arrive there was much drinking and chatting and laughing and general merriment, it was wonderful. The food was amazing, the Highfield staff couldn’t do enough for us and everything went smoothly. I had the most wonderful time with almost all of my favourite people in one room together. I feel incredibly lucky to have these people in my life. We even managed a small disco up the corner after the food and present opening. My 80s, 90s and Motown-heavy Spotify playlist is here.

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Just the best, most gorgeous, most amazing bunch of women

Five hours later I was amazed I was still standing as I managed to put away an array of cocktails, gin, Champagne and an Espresso Martini to top it all off. I am normally a three drink maximum person, so it must have been some sort of birthday superpower.

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That gin required two hands for full support

After all the food came the birthday cake. My lovely friend Bec had arranged it all as a surprise and she couldn’t have got it more right:

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80s fanatic and proud

As the night drew to an end, those of us staying overnight tipsily made our way back to the hotel and spent another hour chatting and availing ourselves of the very welcome Honesty Bar for the Highfield Townhouse guests. At 1am I staggered off to bed, only to have to call the pub as the keycode to my room wouldn’t work. This was swiftly and smilingly sorted out and I happily dove into the ginormous bed, replaying the night in my head and smiling to myself before zonking out.

Breakfast, back over at the pub, is included in your room price and so we reconvened the next morning to refuel with coffee and full Englishes all round. We sat outside and it was a very gentle way to ease any hangovers (not least mine).

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Much prettier than my face at this point

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They think of everything at The Highfield

Then it was all over and I drove home in my tiny hire car, crammed to the roof with helium balloons, sequins, presents and hair styling tools. The whole birthday weekend had been exactly what I’d wanted and even more wonderful than I’d hoped. Nothing beats spending time with great friends (though that Mission Impossible bubble bath was outstanding).

Sorry it’s such a long post. Thank you if you’ve read to the end!

I’ll be back soon to tell you about the party make-up and the foundation of dreams. I think I will also do a post on finding nice party decorations, as I put many hours into the search and it might be helpful to share my reserach.

My toolbox

I’m taking a whole new approach to my life this year by making some changes I’ve been considering for a while. Some of these changes include becoming self-employed, taking creative writing classes, undertaking some training that will help me take my career in a new direction and – the big one – writing a novel.

I’ve been spending quite a lot of time reading books or websites and listening to podcasts that are proving to be very useful and interesting in my new approach; I think of them as adding to my ‘life toolbox’ of things that I am finding helpful, so I thought I might share them here.

Podcast

I listen to podcasts or audio books most evenings when I go to bed, or when I go for a nice long walk in the woods.  One of the podcasts I’ve been enjoying recently is The Lively Show by Jess Lively.  The podcast is described as being designed to ‘uplift, inspire and add a little extra intention to your everyday’. Episodes focus on a range of topics such as relationships, career, personal habits, travel and life choices. Jess sometimes interviews guests but over the last year, she has focused more on talking about her own personal ‘journey’ as she travels around the globe and follows life according to ‘flow’, which basically means listening to your instincts and what the universe is telling you. Some of it can be a bit ‘woo woo’ (that’s the term she herself uses to describe it) but I really enjoy Jess’s honesty, upbeat delivery and pragmatic approach.

Reading

Although I love the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ it’s mainly because I am a Julia Roberts fan. I tried reading the book, by Elizabeth Gilbert, but I just couldn’t get on with it. However, I had seen lots of recommendations for her most recent book, ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’ and picked up a copy on a whim. I have really been enjoying it and have also downloaded the audio version on Audible to listen to at night or when I’m on a walk.

I trying to develop my own writing practice at the moment. I’ve been going to creative writing classes, writing short stories and am trying to develop my ideas for a novel. This book is helping me to enjoy my creativity and not be too hard on myself when I find the muse isn’t showing up.

I also enjoy dipping into ‘The Pier Falls’ by Mark Haddon. I bought this book after we looked at a couple of excerpts in my writing class; I was blown away by the writing. This is a collection of short stories and I can’t recommend it highly enough. The title story had my attention from the first sentence and kept a taut hold on it until the end. The longest of the stories is 60 pages long and is called ‘Wodwo’. It is based on the 14th century poem  ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ but is written in a modern setting. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is an astounding piece of work and it stayed with me for days after I read it. The whole book of stories has really made me think about what makes a good story and what constitutes the kind of writing I find challenging and inspiring.

Speaking of writing I admire, I have also finished ‘The Nest’ by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney and ‘He Said/She Said’ by Erin Kelly and I really enjoyed both books. ‘The Nest’ is my favourite kind of dysfunctional family story and is set in New York (my favourite place). It follows the Plumb family and the behaviours that are exhibited by them all around an inheritance (the ‘nest’ of the title). The characterisation is excellent and I enjoyed living in the Plumbs’ world for a while.

‘He Said/She Said’ is a psychological thriller by one of my favourite writers, Erin Kelly. As the title suggests, the story has at least two different points of view and it unfolds around a central couple who are living in the present day but is interwoven with flashbacks from the solar eclipse in 1999. It is very ‘twisty/turny’ and I really enjoyed being drawn in to the story and changing my mind about which characters I believed or even liked.

So, that’s it for now but I have just taken delivery of loads more books to plough through, so I’m sure I’ll have more recommendations to share soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Occasional beauty

A few years ago, when I was at home almost 24/7 caring for my husband, I started a blog on make-up and skincare. I’ve always loved make-up – in fact I trained and worked as a make-up artist for a bit – and my addiction to buying and trying new skincare products has been rife for a long time.

I really enjoyed having that blog. It was very much a hobby and it was nice to be part of a fairly small community of people writing about their make-up and skincare loves. It was a way for me to let off steam from a very stressful situation and feel like I had an outside life when I was at home all the time. I stopped after my husband died; I stopped doing most things for a while.

Fast forward to 2017 and the internet is awash with beauty bloggers and vloggers. It’s become very big and polished business but I don’t really follow many of them anymore. I got bored of all the sponsored reviews, regurgitation of press releases with no personality and having 24-year-olds recommend £100 plus anti aging products. I missed the personal touch and variety of a lot of the bloggers I used to follow, many of whom have now stopped. I miss discovering products based on honest reviews, rather than marketing budgets. I hate seeing the same two or three products being recommended by all the same people at the same time, or vloggers shoehorning, as an essential, a brand they’ve previous claimed no allegiance to into their ‘Morning Routine #AD’ or ‘Evening Routine #AD’. I feel the same suspicion towards these bloggers and vloggers that I once felt towards the women’s magazines I soon stopped buying altogether.

That’s progress though and who can blame people for getting paid for something they enjoy doing. I might stop reading/watching, but a lot of people obviously don’t and I firmly believe in each to their own. I tend to follow a lot more beauty instagrammers these days, I like the brevity of the format (she said, waffling on and on …)

In the spirit of the bloggers of yore, however, I humbly present a few of my favourite beauty products and recommendations. I think I will do these sorts of posts from time to time, mainly to have an outlet for my addiction.

Favourite overall skincare brand

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As much as I love a shuffle around the Selfridges beauty hall or perusing the shelves of Space NK, my favourite brand can be bought at Boots and occupies a much lower price range than the products I tend to pick up in the first two emporia. Avene is a French skincare brand targeted specifically at sensitive skin and it is fantastic.

I have pretty good skin, mainly thanks to genetics as my mum and nan were similarly blessed. My areas for concern are dehydration and occasional redness with itchiness and I have found the Avene range really works well to combat that.

This morning I used the Soothing Hydrating Serum followed by the Hydrance Optimale UV Light and this combination leaves my skin feeling hydrated, soothed and protected without feeling overloaded. In the winter I often get dry patches on my forehead, cheeks and eyelids. I will then use Tolerance Extreme during the day and then baste myself in Rich Compensating Cream at night to amp up the treatment. There is also a very good Soothing Moisture Mask which I highly recommend and the cleansing lotions are beautifully gentle yet effective.

Some of the products also have the most gorgeous fragrance (though many are fragrance free). I’d describe it as slightly powdery and floral and very much what I expect French skincare to smell like. My absolute favourite is the Body Lotion with Cold Cream. It comes in a giant bottle with pump, does and excellent job of moisturising my shins in winter yet absorbs pretty quickly. I love it.

I really recommend the Avene brand, particularly as you can often take advantage of a money-saving deal at Boots.

 

Favourite new discovery

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At £54 a bottle, it’s a bit pricier than Avene but the Bobbi Brown Extra Repair Nourishing Milk has quickly become one of my skincare must-haves.

Although it’s called a milk, the product also includes lots of nourishing oils – olive, sesame, sweet almond and jojoba – and packs quite a punch for a product with such a runny consistency. I bought my first bottle at the end of 2016 and my face drank this stuff up over winter. It really helped to battle the parched feeling left behind by central heating and cold weather and felt wonderfully soothing on just-cleansed skin if I’d been out all day at work/Christmas shopping/battling the British climate.

It comes in a glass bottle with a pipette dropper and I used it in place of a serum most days, though you can sandwich it between your usual serum and moisturiser for some extra oomph. Now the weather is getting milder I sometimes use it by itself as a moisturising serum. Unlike most oil-based products I find it works very well under my make-up.

Although I’ve tried several other products from the Bobbi Brown Extra range, this is the only one I’ve used up and repurchased, which is almost unheard of for me (I get bored and abandon products half-way through for something new and shiny. I am not proud of this).

 

The bargain that leaves high-end products in the dust

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I have spent £34 on one bottle of shower gel before now. This is clearly ridiculous but I was wowed by the scent and wooed by Liberty’s Beauty Hall (it was a Byredo shower gel). Ultimately, I found the scent very pleasing but was underwhelmed by all other properties of the product. The thing is, you’re always going to be underwhelmed by a £34 shower gel, aren’t you? Unless it foams up gold-plated bubbles or takes 10-years off your skin’s age.

So, I decided to create a new rule for my shower gel; it will cost me no more than a fiver. I decided to give the Sanex brand a go as its blurb about caring for your skin piqued my interest, the bottles are huge and are often on offer (yes, Boots again). I bought these three to try and was so impressed that I went on to buy a bubble bath, a hand cream, a body lotion, and a bath/shower oil. I think they were all part of various offers and each individual item worked out at around £2 each.

The shower gels are incredibly moisturising, smell pleasant and foam brilliantly. The body lotion is quite thin but my skin feels mosturised for at least 10 hours after application. The bubble bath produces lots of small, soft bubbles and really helps to combat the drying effects of immersing your whole body in water. The hand cream is the only item that has not wowed me. It’s ok but my hands need something a bit richer; I might try the other one they do.

I really love the shower gels and take great pleasure in using giant squirts to create millions of bubbles, knowing that this luxurious-feeling experience is costing me pennnies. With the £34 shower gel, every tiny blob felt like I was literally sending money down the drain, which made the whole experience feel bizarrely puritanical as I allowed myself to use the bare minimum for body cleansing.

That’s all for now, but I will be back with more of my favourites soon. I have a 25-year obsession with beauty products to work my way through …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light as a feather, stiff as a board

There are many things I look back on fondly from my childhood. Grange Hill on TV, those plastic high-heeled princess shoes, and the acceptability of Findus Crispy Pancakes followed by butterscoth Angel Delight as a ‘proper tea’.

One of the other things I really loved was the high volume of sleepover parties I attended between the ages of about 11-15. Sharing a living room or loft conversion floor with all of my friends, our best pajamas, snacks, gossip, sleeping bags and a couple of choice films was one of the greatest ways to have fun. At my friend Stephanie’s house we had the whole top floor of the house to ourselves and were supplied with an amazing buffet that always included her mum’s addictive potato salad. At Emma’s house, her mum would make us giant bowls of popcorn and we’d lie on the luxurious cream shag pile carpet of the living room, watching episodes of Dynasty and talking about which character we would be (I wanted to be Fallon, but I also had an obsession with Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington)

My only issue was that we watched the same films all the time; Dirty Dancing and Grease. Dirty Dancing I didn’t mind as I enjoyed both Jennifer Grey as Baby and the bizarre soundtrack of 60s tunes and modern day pop (including Patrick Swayze’s very own classic, ‘She’s like the Wind’). Grease, on the other hand, was/is total bobbins.

I hated the songs, hated the characters (except for Rizzo) and really hated the whole storyline. I thought Danny was a moron and Sandy was a wet rag and the idea that you need to change to find love was abhorrent to me. Plus, when you have to watch it approximately 15 times in one year, it really gets on your wick.

However, there were occasions (including the sleepovers hosted at my house) when the film selection was much better. These are some of my favourites:

  1. Pretty in Pink

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That there is an original, 1986 Pretty in Pink movie poster and it lives on the wall of my living room. I love most John Hughes films (though he didn’t direct this one, he ‘only’ wrote and exec produced it) but Pretty in Pink is one of my favourites and I could watch it repeatedly without getting bored. The characters of Andie, Duckie and Iona are fantastic and, as ever, James Spader gives excellent creepy bad guy. My only niggles with it are Iona’s ‘repectable’ makeover, and Andie ending up with Blaine but as you’ll know if you’re a mega fan like me, that wasn’t the original ending .

Molly Ringwald’s Andie was the sort of female character that then seemed to disappear from films in the 90s; an outsider who was happy to be so, who knew who she was and would not change just to get a boy. I loved her independence, her intelligence, her maturity in caring for her father and her obvious disdain for the over-privileged and spite-filled insecure girls she went to school with. I loved how her obsession with pink contrasted with the stereotypical notions of pink and girliness being weak and flimsy and airy fairy. That’s why I just didn’t understand her obsession with the insipid Blaine, man as blancmange.

The costumes and make-up are fantastic (let’s gloss over the whole prom dress thing) and, to this day, I still have dreams about owning a Karmann Ghia Coupe like Andie. It also has a fantastic new wave soundtrack, one of the first I ever bought, featuring Suzanne Vega, New Order, OMD, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, and The Psychedelic Furs.

Also recommended: The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles.

2. The Lost Boys

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Teenage vampires before they became vegetarian and began sparkling in sunlight (though I’ll happily watch the Twilight films too).

This film had everything I could possibly want; the drama and excitement of the murderous gang of vampires, the comedic relief of Coreys Haim and Feldman and the hint of sexy romance between Michael and Star. Plus, one of the greatest lines of dialogue ever: ‘They’re only noodles, Michael’.

A great cast featuring the aforementioned Coreys, Kiefer Sutherland, Edward Herrmann, Dianne Wiest and, my own personal favourite, Alex Winter. The soundtrack is also really good. The film also has a special place in my heart because I once watched it at a birthday party and then stood up to find the boy I secretly fancied had tied my shoelaces together. This is a sign of real love, as any fule kno.

Also recommended: Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (the Alex Winter love was strong in my early teens).

3. Empire Records

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OK, this one came out in the mid 90s so, technically, past my sleepover years. However, I have had several film nights with friends in which it has featured and I really think it still holds up as a great sleepover choice.

It’s the sort of film where parents are absent and teens are making their own life decisions about college, career, relationships etc. On top of this they all have great jobs in a record/CD shop (remember those?) and a pretty cool boss in the shape of Anthony La Paglia’s Joe. The storyline follows a day in the life of the record shop and its employees and it includes a lot of entertainingly weird stuff (though I doubt working in a record shop was ever like this). The film also stars a pre-Bridget Jones Renee Zellweger and Liv Tyler in the ubiquitous, Clueless-esque 90s girl uniform of a mini kilt and cropped mohair sweater.

One of the best parts in the film is the appearance of Maxwell Caulfield as cheesy and sleazy pop fop Rex Manning, ushered into the shop for a meet and greet with customers for ‘Rex Manning Day’. The fake video for his single, ‘Say no more, mon amour’ is brilliant. Oh Rexy, you’re so sexy!

Also recommended: Pump up the Volume, Clueless, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Those are my top choices and now I’m really tempted to hold a 40th birthday sleepover to watch them all!

WIP

When I was 30, I got married. When I was 33, my husband died. Almost seven years later, I have learned a lot about myself, about grief, and about how to start again.

I have a print of the above C.S. Lewis quotation on the wall above my fireplace. It’s a daily reminder to look for the light in the darkness, to trust in myself and to keep going when I feel like giving up.

I have always enjoyed spending a lot of time by myself. I am an introvert – I recharge my batteries through time alone – but I’ve found the solitude that comes with the loss of a spouse can feel like you are floating in a deep, dark pool of nothing, miles away from anything you once felt close to. After the initial shock and pain of loss, an enveloping lake of numbness can take you away from being in touch with real life on a day-to-day basis. I have spent a lot of time since my husband’s death feeling as though nothing much really matters. I have spent a lot of time feeling bone-achingly tired and weary, having no enthusiasm or excitement for ‘real life’. This is grief, and you have to let yourself feel it.

In the past two or three years, I’ve felt the green shoots of new interests and energies pushing upwards in my soul. I feel gratitude on a daily basis for the new life I have created, the wonderful friends I have, the love and support which surrounds me. I feel strong and proud and, most of all, content. A life-changing loss has given me the opportunity to see how lucky I am to still be here. My husband was 39 when he died, the same age I am now. Turning 40 feels like a real privilege as it’s an option he never had.

Everyone experiences losses in different ways and one of the most important things I’ve learned is that there is no right or wrong way to deal with it. However, these are the things that have stuck with me:

  • Be kind to yourself. You will not know how you will feel on a daily basis and, most days, just getting out of bed can be a real achievement. You will feel like holding on to buildings and hedges and bus shelters as you walk, bambi-legged, down the street, a street that will seem tauntingly ‘normal’ to you whilst your whole world is in bits. You have to go through this bit, so don’t be scared and don’t shut your feelings away. Feel however you want to feel.
  • Give people practical things to do. No one will know what to say to you but they will most likely want to say or do something. It can be hard emotional labour as you find yourself consoling others or reassuring them that it’s ok that they don’t know what to say. Tell them there’s nothing they can say, that you appreciate their support and that if they want to help they can mow the lawn/do your ironing/get some groceries/cook you a lasagne/walk the dog or myriad other things that you will not have the capacity to deal with.
  • Talk to someone. You will struggle to talk to loved ones as you will feel you are burdening them. You will also want to shout at them when they, in their eagerness to ‘make things better’, stop listening to you and start telling you about when their grandma/parent/dog died. You need space to talk about your grief as you try to sift through the wreckage in your head and work out how on earth to find a way forwards. Grief counselling is a brilliant thing in this respect.
  • When people say it gets easier, they mean you incorporate it into your life. The loss of a loved one feels like a hostile stranger in your head at first. Uninvited, unknown, unpredictable and unwelcome. As you live with the grief, it becomes part of you. You get to know each other, give each other space and learn to take it in turns to exert your influence, so that eventually the ‘old’ you and the bereaved you combine to become a new you. Grief is a tribute to love and, over time, I have found space and respect for it by seeing it as such.
  • Work out who your best people are. The biggest learning point for me was that people you thought you could rely on will let you down, but that love and amazing support will emerge from the most unlikely places. This is just the way it is in testing situations of any kind. Accept the good stuff and  build yourself a wall of support.
  • Grief is not linear. You can feel like you are on an even keel years after you lose someone, then suddenly a song or a smell or the ghost of how someone walks will ping you back to an intense feeling of pain and sadness. This is ‘normal’. In time, it will also happen with happy memories and you will find yourself smiling and even sharing them with others.  The loss is always with you, but so is the magic and happiness that person brought to your life. It will all come flooding back in time.
  • Loss changes you. I feel completely different to the way I felt at 30. I know this is true of most people but I also know that spending ten years dealing with terminal illness, death, grief and all the legal paperwork that comes with it has shaped who I am now. I really like who I’ve become and I try to see that as a silver lining. I have made other big changes in my life as a result, but they were my choices and they were all the right things to do.

It’s an oft- quoted phrase but I love its pragmatic simplicity: the only way to get through something is to go through it. Keep going.

Courage, dear heart.