Category: Favorites

Five Things I Loved in September

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.”
― Heny Rollins

September was a productive but exhausting month for Small Dog Headquarters and the news is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Here is a short list of the things that kept me sane, healthy, and laughing uproariously this month.

 

Schitt’s Creek

This month, in pop culture that C. is late to! Schitt’s’Creek had been on my list to catch up on for a long time and now I’m kicking myself for how long it took me to get around to it. This is a laugh-out-loud gem of a show! The premise is that a wealthy family loses everything and has to start over in the last asset they own, the eponymous rural Canadian town. Hijinks ensue.  Every single character is perfectly formed and standalone, and the inside jokes and interrelationships layer wonderfully throughout its so-far five seasons. There is apparently going to be a final, sixth season and I hope it wins every comedy award possible. Wacky, earnest, and fundamentally kind while still being extremely funny, it walks a very precise line for entertainment that’s hard to accomplish but very satisfying when pulled off.

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

I devoured this retelling of the Trojan War myth in about two sittings and I cannot recommend it enough. The prose is wonderful. Madeline Miller crafts the world of ancient and mythological Greece in such a way that the Homeric legends are presented as present reality to the characters–gods and heroes fully included. It’s not over-glamorized in the way of TV or cinema when they try to depict the “swords and sandals” dramas; the ancient parts feel authentic and gritty. And yet, you aren’t at all surprised when a meddlesome goddess shows up to twist the mortals about, or one of Zeus’ many offspring are referenced. Told from the point of view of Patroclus, a romance grows, set against the backdrop of the west’s most famous war. I’m still to get my hands on Circe, the latest novel by the same author, but I’m more eager than ever to do so.

 

Grocery Delivery Services

Once again, I have to sing the praises of the very kind gentleman who drops of a box of fruit and veg to my door once a week. When I skipped the service the week before and of our move, I noticed an immediate change in my cooking and snacking habits–for much the worse. Now that it’s back up and running, I’m back to cooking and eating more fresh fruit and veg again and feeling tons better overall. Many urban environments have a lot of these services to choose from, but mine is Able & Cole.

 

Independent Movie Theatres

In Bermondsey there is a small theatre set behind a cafe and drinks bar off a historic square. It’s got about thirty red leather seats and the general closeness of the space makes it feel more like an over the top home theatre. It’s fantastic! Apparently it’s one of three similar theatres within bars or events spaces, and I cannot tell you how delighted I am to have such a joint in walking distance. We tried for the first time on a date night, but I’m already booking future tickets because not only does the theatre show new releases, it also is a venue for National Theatre broadcasts which show live or filmed viewings of West End productions. It’s a great way to see a show you may not have been able to catch in person.

 

Burberry Lipstick

An old favorite, but let me endorse the Burberry Lip Velvet in bullet and liquid lipstick form. I’ve started wearing the deep, deep burgundy color Oxblood in both formulas in celebration of the arrival of fall, and it’s the perfect option for anyone looking to feel just a bit witchy as the season changes!

Five Things I Loved in August – Summer Beauty Edition

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.”
―E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Ducklings, it’s been a hectic August, but there is always time to celebrate the things that bring us joy. I thought I’d mix things up and bring you a bit of a themed batch this month as beauty products and content are things that I use to regularly sooth myself, enhance my life, and add a top of of non-guilty pleasure. All notions perfectly aligned with a summertime salute!

Here is a roundup of my favorite products that have helped me lean into that Hot Girl Summer aesthetic, and all of which get a hearty recommendation from me. Lest you think this is the mad ravings of an ignoramus, don’t worry, I’ve also called in the experts!

The Beauty Podcast with Sali Hughes

I’m kicking off with this latest podcast offering by the great and good Sali Hughes firstly because she’s brilliant, and second because she’s single handedly responsible for two other items on this. With three books under her belt and a solid career in beauty journalism, she is is a professional in a world of mere influencers and my love for her knows no bounds. Her book Pretty Honest is a solid read for anyone looking to navigate the world of grooming and beauty care and in need of a Virgil to lead you through the trickier depths of knowledge. Her In The Bathroom series is a wonderful interview anthology from some of the best writers, personalities, and professionals out there. All that was missing is a podcast and low and behold, Sali delivers! Go forth and shove it into your ears, it’s really good.

 

Smashbox Look Less Tired Color Corrector – Light

Between months of poor sleep and unfortunate genetics, my dark circles have grown more prominent this year. Unfortunately I also think this is somewhat tied to aging and other factors utterly beyond my control; deep tear grooves and darker under eye coloring has been my lot in life. I’ve never been a heavy foundation or concealer user, preferring thin and fluid coverage that I can build to more coverage where I require it, but as I’ve moved into my 30s I’ve noticed my subconscious layering more and more under eye concealer in an attempt to fight a losing battle. It doesn’t look as natural as I would wish and it took a Sali Hughes column to smack me upside the head with the realization why: I didn’t need a concealer. I needed a color correcter! This super cream pencil in a peachy, salmon-y shade for lighter skintones did the trick nicely and the difference it has made when worn WITH a concealer has been night and day.

Paula’s Choice Vitamin C Booster

Religious as I am about sunscreen (more on that presently), I still have acquired a few freckles and damage patches thanks to our favorite glowing death ball in the sky and my rare but hormonally-driven pimples. Vitamin C is considered one of the best ingredients to help with this hyperpigmentation, though the type and quality is important. As per my vitamin A mention below, there is a lot of bullshit out there so do your reading about what’s effective and what won’t make a difference no matter how much you spend (Into the Gloss has a decent primer) and then read the packing of your products very carefully when looking to pick one out. Paula’s Choice came almost universally recommended from the experts, journalists, and talented amateurs I either follow or know personally. It was a good recommendation, and is helping out with some post spot…er, spots. A very slightly viscose, watery consistency, it’s easily layered with other products for day or night. Especially SPF during the day!

Estee Lauder Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment

Yes, ANOTHER Sali Hughes recommendation. I’ve wanted to add a Vitamin A (retinol or retinoid, depending on strength and need for a prescription) to my skincare for a while to help combat some dullness and other issues related to skin cell turnover. There’s a lot of non-scientific bullshit out there when it comes to skincare, so I did quite a bit of reading on retinol options. Lower concentration, gradual results, and available over the counter were all fine by me, but it’s a famously tricky ingredient which can lead sensitive skins to get irritated or even flake/peel. I was looking for an option that came in an oil or cream formula with other ingredients that would help calm any flare ups. Between the ingredient list and the Hughes recommendation, I decided to try it out. I’ve been using it twice a week for over a month–it should take several weeks for most ingredients to have a permanent effect, anything else is just marketing bull–and the results have been slow but noticeable. It’s a pricier tube of goo than most, but it works. Just make sure you wear your sunscreen for the love of chocolate! Which leads me finally to…

 

Thank You Farmer SPF

Yes, another shout out for my longstanding favorite sunscreen. I’ve converted multiple friends to its use and have no regrets about any of my actions. Japanese and Korean sunscreen is where it’s at, people. I will die on this hill.

Five Things I Loved in July

“If the first of July be rainy weather,
It will rain, more of less, for four weeks together.”
–  John Ray,  English Proverbs 

Well hello there, ducklings. Another month has passed and with another month in 2019 comes another list of things that made good things better and bad things a bit more bearable. Once again I’ve cobbled together a nice batch of things for you to read, listen to, do, and wear on your face–I do it out of love! Tell me your favorite things from the month in the comments, and please don’t stint on book recommendations!

 

Mint App

I’ve had a Mint account for years, with which I dabbled and used to half heartedly attempt a couple of budget ideas. But it’s only been in the last few months that I’ve really started using budgeting apps and tools to track our money in new ways. I’ve always been pretty good at tracking my spending in isolation, but getting a birds eye view of all of your financial instruments, credit/debit cards, and debt is something I’d recommend to anyone. This is not sponsored in any way (lol, can you imagine?) but Mint’s dashboard is incredibly intuitive and easy to navigate–I recommend it to anyone looking to track their financial movements in a regular way. It has its glitches and can sometimes take some time to show specific transactions, but it seems pretty secure overall and the privacy mechanisms seem sound.

 

How To Fail, With Elizabeth Day

This podcast first came on my radar thanks to a coworker and I’ve inhaled most of the back catalog in greedy gulps. The premise is simple, author and journalist Day interviews guests on the failures of their lives, how they coped with it, and what they learned from it. The “failures” detailed truly span the spectrum and include simple misunderstandings, unforced errors, poor choices, significant misjudgements, honest mistakes, or youthful ignorance. It’s a wonderfully personal and well conducted interview podcast with conversations with people that manage to be incredible self aware and insightful, without coming across as self-indulgent or egotistical. I’m very eager to read the host’s book of the same title now! If you’re looking for something new to listen to, 10 out of 10 C.s recommend!

 

Museums Mixed with Web Comics: The British Museum and Lore Olympus 

Possibly inspired by taking in the (brilliant) exhibition on manga at the British Museum, I’ve been dipping my toes into the wild world of graphic novels and longer serial cartoons of late. The wonderful things about well constructed educational and cultural heritage exhibitions is that you come away not just with new information but hopefully new skills. The best parts of that exhibit were the elements that taught a newbie like me how to read manga, how the narratives were constructed, and what the wide variety of coded gestures or expressions or ways of rendering characters was meant to convey. My sister (who lives in Japan) is aflutter with recommendations for me! In the meantime, if you’re thinking about trying out a more serialized form of animated story telling, I’ve been enjoying this web cartoon which is a re-imagining and deconstruction of the mythological Kidnapping of Persephone. Updated for the modern era in some ways, but paying hilarious homage to the source materials (especially Hesiod), there’s a lot of the storytelling style and visual cues that I understand better for having gone to that exhibit.

 

This month we dealt with a record-breaking heatwave, plus the normal fluctuations of the Great British Summer and my skin responded by Freaking. Out. Even typing this I’m still trying to clear up an outbreak of eczema on my face which is making me feel super attractive… The worst of this was that the skin around my mouth has been affected and rather than my normal lipsticks I’ve been reaching for balms and other soothing items to try and keep the irritation to a minimum. But once I got things back to normal, I still kept the lip products fairly light and my most worn item this month has been the Bite Beauty French Press lip gloss in the shade Dirty Chai. I’m not much of a gloss girl but this is the perfect “your lips but better” shade on me, and lends the perfect amount of tint and shine without becoming sticky and unmanageable. Bite continues to make my favorite lip products on the market, whilst also continuing to not ship to the UK. Probably a good thing for my wallet, but devastating for my heart. Thank goodness for friends like X. who are willing to act as my dealer!

 

John Mulaney Comedy Specials

I’m woefully behind on my reading this month, but I’ve been enjoying a lot of Netflix in general and comedy specials specifically. I watched John Mulaney’s two most recent specials, The Comeback Kid and Kid Gorgeous, back to back and laughed myself silly. Both he and Iliza Shlesinger have been comedians that have resonated lately, not least of all because we’re in the same age bracket. This worries me a bit. I’ve noticed that there are eras to comedy and once you identify with one you tend to get locked in for a while and those comedians are the “voice of your generation,” or whatever. This has led to some troubles of late–see also, the entirety of the Me Too movement. That being said, self-aware and self-deprecating millennials honestly do speak for me so I should probably just go with the flow. If you haven’t watched them yet, do take in Mulaney’s shows. He’s wry and charming, and if you cant enjoy a good laugh in the height of summer–especially when it comes to extended metaphors of hippos and horses, look it up–then I can’t help you.

Five Things I Loved in June

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.” 
― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

Happy summer, my treasures. June was another work-heavy month with distressingly little time for merriment, but the tide is turning. Evening sun and good weather is slowly resulting in more after work get togethers, weekend pleasure jaunts in the city, and all around seasonal mood elevation. I’ve not had as much time for pop culture and literature as I would wish, so most of what’s made me happy this month is in the realm of the frivolous. So here’s to June, the month of Aperol Spritz and bronzer.

Share your monthly favorites in the comments and let me know what I should be watching or reading in July. I badly need to catch up on the state of society through something besides the lens of the news.

 

Pure and Applied Framing

I did a whole post on my love for this wonderful place but it deserves a special shout out again for being such a fun place to shop from. While we’re still not sure if we’ll be in our current apartment in a few months, at least some of my precious prints are protected for hanging or a potential move.

 

New Glasses

After nearly a decade with the same cheap pair I got for the lowest possible price when living in Utah, I finally got around to replacing my glasses. Heavens, what a difference! I knew I wanted chunky, tortoiseshell frames in the highest nerd-chic style and found several options, but a great trade off between cost and style was Cubbitts. This is British brand very much in the style of Warby Parker in the states, or other artisan brands that have sprung up in recent years. The selection is limited to a few styles in a range of colors, but within that spectrum are some very good options for several kinds of aesthetics. You bring your prescription (or they also offer vision tests if needed), pick your model and color and less than a week later, voila! Highly recommended.

 

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in 1975 Red

I am on a serious Charlotte Tilbury kick of late, last month I was fixed on one of her nudes, this past month I’ve switched in one of her reds. 1975 Red is another limited edition shade of a few years ago that was actually a birthday present from some lovely former coworkers once upon a time. Lipstick being perishable, it’s the next shade I’m trying to use up rather than allow it to go bad over time and what better season to wear a particularly vibrant orange-red than the high days of summer! I continue to highly recommend the Matte Revolution formula for full coverage pigmentation and comfort. If you’re in the market for a present to yourself, she has some fabulous shades.

 

Laura Mercier Sun Kissed Veil

This was a birthday present to myself early in the month and has gotten wonderful wear already. A balm style product, it leaves a golden glow with a shimmer that’s frankly a bit too light to be called a bronzer, but produces a beautiful effect. I’ll be the first to stay this is not an ideal product, I think a powder version would be preferable for color and a shimmery balm is a bit difficult to use…but I love it. Every single time I’ve worn it I’ve been asked if I’ve been away on holiday for the weekend or got a bit of sun. In other words, mission accomplished! I will probably not buy something similar again in the future, but I’ve decided to lean into a more glam than usual aesthetic for the summer and so am enjoying this golden glow.

 

Thank You Farmer SPF

The perennial summer favorite! While we have had a few weird weather days this month (what would the Great British Summer be without the threat of a mini-winter storm?), we’re also in the midst of a heat wave as I type up the final notes on this list. We are in the season when we should be at our most fanatical about suncare, though we should be fanatical about it constantly, and for those who want an elegant solution to SPF that moisturizes and doesn’t leave your face looking or feeling chalky, I once again offer up this brilliant tube for your delectation. I’m on my third so far this year and have no intention of straying, though I also recommend the cult favorite Anthelios line which I also use regularly.

Five Things I Loved in May

“It’s May, the lusty month of May
That darling month when everyone throws self-control away
It’s time to do a wretched thing or two
And try to make each precious day one you’ll always rue.”
– Camelot

Piglets, another month has flown by and what a month…

Look, the world continues to be a wild ride but we all of us get by with a little help from our friends, small luxuries, cosmic vocations, or funny memes on the internet. You do you, beloveds. Here’s a short list of the things that made the lusty month of May a bit less angst-ridden than it otherwise could have been. Share your own sanity savers and favorite things in the comments and let’s chat about them!

Pompeii

I know, I know, I need to do a proper blog post about it and I’m long overdue but this month I finally got to see Pompeii and my little nerd heart could barely contain itself. The child of a classicist and one of a clan of history buffs, this has been on the To Do list since I was about five years old, but it’s still difficult to express how blown away I was by the completeness of the site. Many archaeological sites are fractured or so eroded that piecing together its mysteries is the work of a life time. Pompeii really is a time capsule tucked under the pseudo-benign shadow of its resident volcano. Please enjoy X’s snap of my general mood above.

 

Chernobyl, by HBO and Sky Atlantic

This miniseries is only five episodes long but is probably the most compelling “horror” piece I have ever watched. Twenty minutes into episode one and my whole body was clenched tight, the dread and slow-dawning fear was that palpable. It recounts the famous nuclear disaster, with an emphasis not so much on the science as the psychology of what it meant for those in the literal blast zone of an unprecedented catastrophic event with millions of lives at stake. The way the series is structured (the first episode recounts mere hours and each chapter encompasses more and more time as the long term consequences become more apparent) is masterful and not a single shot is wasted. It’s beautifully constructed and absolutely gripping. What I found so compelling was the portrayal of so many powerful people in the wake of the immediate aftermath being not just unwilling but in some cases literally unable to comprehend the facts on the ground when it didn’t correspond to their preferred narrative. The use of narrative–what nation states and individuals tell themselves and each other–is the key theme of the series, specifically why and how people lie, and especially when we do it collectively. Even though it’s telling a story over thirty years old, it feels horribly relevant. (A secondary recommendation is the accompanying podcast by the showrunner and NPR’s Peter Sagal about the background and making of the show. It’s excellent.)

 

Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

What a gorgeous, generous book this collection was. Taken verbatim from Strayed’s now famous turn as an advice columnist (she’s still doing the gig but now in podcast form), what struck me most in reading her thoughtful and intensely personal responses to the questions her readers placed in her keeping was a deep sense of kindness. Whether dealing with toxic relationships, existential crisis, tragedy and loss, or perseverance, each of her essays are masterclasses in conveying care for her correspondent. I realized in reading the book how few expressions of generosity and kindness I see in most of my culture intake. It’s a vastly underrated thing and while she makes it look easy, I have come to believe that genuine kindness is actually very hard to do. Which is probably why all major religions advocate for it on some level. I’m behind on my reading goals for the year, but I swallowed this book in two sittings over a weekend.

 

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick, in English Beauty

Who am I? What am I? What have I become?! Yes kittens, this month I’ve traded in my customary red lipstick for a limited edition nude lipstick by Charlotte Tilbury. A much beloved makeup artist, she launched her eponymous line a few years ago here in the UK and more recently it made its way to the US and elsewhere. The aesthetic of her brand is distinctly glam, and while that’s not really my preferred style, her lip products are to die for. I can recommend her matte formula as one that produces a velvety, opaque color on the lips but does not dry them out or flake as other mattes tend to do. This particular shade is limited edition, but I’m not a person who hoards her rare or expensive products, waiting for the “perfect opportunity” to wear them. Life is short, makeup is perishable. Wear the damn nice stuff!

Girlfriends

This month I dashed off to Italy with X before she started an amazing new job and celebrated Hannah’s upcoming novel with her from afar. A good friend from work announced her pregnancy. Long phone calls, hilarious text chains, great coffee dates, and many a meme were shared. Girl gangs really are the best thing ever created.

Five Things I Loved in February

Today is the first of February, snowy, brilliant, but dripping with the sound of spring wherever the sun lies warm, and calling with the heart of spring yonder where the crows are assembling. There is spring in the talk of the chickadees outside my window, and in the cheerful bluster of a red squirrel in the hickory.
– Dallas Lore Sharp, The Atlantic Monthly, February 1908

This has been another packed month with lots of ups and downs, more so than you would think possible for the shortest month of the year! Here is a list of the things that made the highs lovely and the lows a bit more bearable, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Share your monthly favorites in the comments and help put more good things on my radar for March.

Russian Doll, Netflix

This month I have been boring/frightening anyone within earshot who will listen with my evangelization for this show. Something between Groundhog Day and Sliding Doors, this perfectly formed standalone series follows a woman who gets stuck in a loop, repeating the same day for reasons unknown. Each reboot we learn more and more about her past, her dark and twisty mind, and why this delightfully difficult and selfish person is the way that she is. And then, quite suddenly, it turns out she might not be the only one experiencing this phenomenon. The series rests of the strength of each character, even the peripheral ones (who are all blissfully weird), and how they interplay with one another. Add to this the fact that this show is so well-crafted with dark humor and plot beats that are almost suspiciously perfect in their delivery–chef’s kiss.. It’s difficult to talk about the show without giving too much away so all I can say is that if you haven’t watched it yet, you truly are missing out.

Venom lipstick, by Pat McGrath

Having finally finished my previous red lipstick (and there is nothing more self-satisfying that the holding aloft a lipstick, worn down to the very bottom of the bullet), I immediately picked up a fresh shade to work on this month. It was part of a limited edition set purchased a couple of years ago and I wanted to use it up before it goes off, but I’ve fallen in love with it in its own right. I lean towards bright, orange-ish reds by preference, but this shade by Pat McGrath is a cool-toned one that’s normally a bit out of my wheelhouse. However, I may have to rethink my position on true reds or blue-toned ones, because I feel absolutely fabulous wearing it and have been enjoying a steady stream of compliments every time I do. The formula is intensely pigmented and feels lovely on the lips. Pat McGrath is definitely a luxury brand and I have never been able to justify purchasing anything else from her line due to the shocking pricepoint, but I fully intend to use this elegant product to the very last swipe,

 

Fascism: A Warning, by Madeleine Albright

Former Secretary of State and Woman Who Knows What the Hell She’s Talking About Madeleine Albright’s book gripped me last month and I read it in two sittings. First and foremost, this book is a history lesson about the 20th century and the movements that led its most horrible conflicts. Looking back on my own high school experience, I know I learned more about certain wars or tensions from this than I can remember from any class or module–but I think that is in part due to the fact that we are two decades into the 21st century now and hindsight is a lot more clear. Age and experience make Secretary Albright a formidable narrator as she has the benefit of an almost unique personal and professional vantage point. For anyone looking to draw exact parallels to the current state of Western politics, she has a few lessons from history as to how hyperbole and moral panic are unhelpful. And for those who dismiss any parallels between now and the past, she also has the titular warning: fascism is endlessly adaptable and always a threat. It make wear new clothing from time to time, but its intentions and destinations do not change and anyone who says, “This time will be different,” is a fool or a liar.

 

 

Art

We have so many prints and art pieces and all of them have been lovingly hoarded for far too long. Well no more! This month I picked up our first custom framed piece, a limited print by Charlotte Gerrard, and am already plotting which piece will get treatment next. At some point I’ll write a whole post about the shop I’m using because it’s a London gem in its own right. In the meantime, I’m absurdly pleased with my cow!

 

Style

My accountability post is short and sweet this month because this shirt was my only desire-based purchase. I have no regrets, I love it. A very bold print made wearable due to the muted tones that go with every neutral under the sun: a perfect way to marry loud and exuberant dressing with practical and sedate functionality. My sweet spot! I was happy to add this item to my rolling list of purchased items for the year.

Five Things I Loved in January

“Lots of people go mad in January. Not as many as in May, of course. Nor June. But January is your third most common month for madness.” 
― Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Canary

What an absurd month January has been. Once again, I feel as though the sheer amount of news it has contained (most of it bad) has been enough for six months in normal times, and we are the dead of winter which means it’s hard to feel particularly motivated or enthusiastic about anything. This coming from a woman who actually likes winter. And yet! There are good things out there which deserve to be shouted from the rooftops!

Here is a short list of things that made me happy this month. Share your favorite things with me in the comments and let’s beat the cold weather together.

Kate Spade Quincy Bag

This was my Christmas present from Jeff and I love it. It was a pricier purchase and gift, but I had been researching black leather bags for several months and had a very specific set of requirements. It needed to be big enough to carry all the stuff I schlep around with me on a daily basis, but still not overly large or a tote. It needed to be nice enough for work and running around the city, but “plain” enough for every day. It had to be made of nice materials but of a design and style that would wear well and I could use for literal years. I hunted for months and dismissed several subpar candidates until I found this one and even then I didn’t buy it because I was being responsible. However, as Jeff himself put it, “You’ve been talking about needing a basic black bag for months,” so we agreed it was an acceptable Christmas present. We don’t tend to buy birthday presents or anniversary gifts so Christmas is the one holiday we are okay getting nice presents for one another (he got a fancy fitness tracker). We picked it up in the States where the currency exchange is in our favor and I’m justifying it by using it every day that I’ve owned it so I am definitely already getting some good Cost Per Wear numbers.

 

Library cards

On the OTHER side of the spending spectrum, I renewed my British library card this month. I have a library card for the county in the States where I’m registered to vote and pay taxes and I use if constantly for ebooks and audio books. At any given point I have at least three books going in various formats and have usually maxed my borrowing limit. But one of my Year of Discipline goals was to catch up on some very basic life admin, which included updating the British account that I had let slide, which was registered under the wrong address, and to which I owed a late fee of £3. A very nice librarian helped me reactivate my account and kindly waved the fee, after which I immediately checked out four actual books. I’ve been consuming my digital book content for so long that I’d genuinely forgotten the pleasure of physical library books. They smell great, feel great in my hands, and the process of remembering how gosh darn nice it is wandering through shelves looking for interesting finds has been lovely. I may not have a bedside table (due to camping in our front room), but by golly my book stack is back!

 

Baths

Also free, or very nearly: baths. I made the mistake of remarking how mild a winter we have been having and Mother Nature immediately cackled and sent us several weeks of freezing weather this month to show me who was in charge. It’s been the kind of London-y, Dickensian cold that seeps into your bones and makes you feel like you will never be warm again. Enter hot water and accoutrements! Because we’ve been exercising so much more, we’ve stocked up on large bags of epsom salts to soak in. I’ve also taken advantage of various deals at Boots to buy 2 For 1 bath oils or gels. Expensive stuff may look great on your tub rim but at the end of the evening, when all you want to be is cozy when you finally slide into bed, cheap bubbles are just as nice as anything you could possibly fork money out on. Beat the winter! Wear layers, break out the nice cashmere for nights in, take baths!

 

Sunday Riley Good Genes

I used up yet another both of this extremely expensive and (alas for me) extremely effective skincare product. Good Genes is a bit of a cult product, and for good reason. It doesn’t work for everyone but those who see results from it tend to swear by it. I am a devotee. The excesses of the holiday season, plus travel, plus biting cold and winter air generally have all conspired to do an absolute number on my face. This lactic acid treatment helps exfoliate and break down gunk and debris, which helps my skin absorb other ingredients better and makes makeup look better on. However, due to EU regulations, the UK version of the product is made up of different materials in very different quantities and I’m loathe to slather something on my face that I’m not familiar with–especially at this price point! Ergo, I shall not be replacing this product for a long while (probably until I’m back in the States again on our next visit, and goodness knows when that will be) and am instead making due with similar products at much lower pricepoints in the meantime. But I must salute a product that has done good service in the wars!

 

The Dead Queens Club, by Hannah Capin

You’ve heard a lot about this lately, but one of my two best friends in all the world published her debut novel this month and I’m so damned proud of her I could cry. Not only that, but the origin story of the idea dates to one of our many long correspondence and phone gossip sessions on the subject of Tudor history. I have probably never had a prouder friend moment in my life. And while I’m obviously biased…this book is GOOD, guys. A hilarious, sly, girl-power-y retelling of Henry VIII and more importantly the women who surrounded him–and without whom he would be nothing but a failed late medieval monarch. If you love YA, or just brilliant debuts, pick it up. I promise you will not be disappointed. And I promise you that what she’s going to do next will blow your socks off. Get it here, or even better at your local bookstore!