Category: Favorites

Five Things I Loved in March

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

It’s been another work filled month and I’ve not been able to do the kinds of writing and blogging that I wanted to, but it’s also been a very nice month. Jeff closed down busy season (also known as Accountancy Widow Season in our household) and is therefore back in the land of the living, the weather is inching its way towards spring, and things are generally in a good place at the moment. We do need a holiday, however!

Here’s a few of the nice things I discovered in March; share your monthly faves in the comments below!

Hamilton
I bought these tickets almost a calendar year ago and it was absolutely worth the wait to see this show live at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It’s been too long since we made theatre and music a priority and it was a joy to be back in the cheap seats of a packed London theatre enjoying the hell out of a good show!

 

The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
My favorite book this month was a nonfiction read about the cycles of natural extinction over planetary history…and how an upstart ape species out of Africa has impacted those cycles. Some catastrophes bubble up from beneath the earth’s crust, some fall from the stars, both of those are down to geological and cosmic chance–but an increasing pace of extinction right now has one common theme: us.

 

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette
An old favorite but a good one and I’m getting a lot of use out of it this month. It’s my my almost exclusive go to make up product in my ongoing effort to use up items I already own this year. This is an old shot because I’ve fully panned two eyeshadows now, am milimeters away from finishing a third, and am gunning for two more shades entirely. For those as obsessed with makeup pans as me, Reddit is here for you.

 

Queer Eye
I have thought a lot about this show this month and decided it is an active force for good and light in the world that needs it terribly. This Netflix reboot is a joy. Much like the original show, the idea is that a team of experts work to help individuals raise their style, confidence, and lifestyle game. Each episode features a totally different man with a different story trying to embrace a bit of a positive lifestyle change: some are dads needing some help organizing themselves, others are single men looking to date, others are businessmen who don’t know how to look professional. The twist this time, something acknowledged in the first episode, is that society has come a long way since the first Queer Eye series and gayness is far more open and less stigmatized now. In the words of Tan France, the first show was about “tolerance,” this take is about “acceptance.” That goes for the subjects of the episode who are encouraged to think about their lives and style in terms of what feels personally good, right and helpful, rather than what’s expected by society of men. The new Fab Five deliver everything from grooming advice to pep talks with an aura of confidence and positivity that’s just plain fun and nice to watch in a really uncomplicated way. Silliness, personal bravery, camaraderie, self acceptance, style, humor, vulnerability, and confidence all rolled into one. I gulped it down. More examples of this kind of (varied) masculinity in society, please!

Bookstores
I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d been in an actual, physical bookstore until I headed to Daunt’s Cheapside location for an after work indulgence. No coffee shop, no hipster lighting, just tons and tons of books. I indulged in a Penguin Classic paperback of Oscar Wilde for the sheer pleasure of it, plus a gift for a friend.

Five Things I Loved in February

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” 
― Carl Reiner

Kittens, I have failed you! This post is late, but as mentioned before, it’s because this month has really taken it out of me. We are currently dealing with the #beastfromtheeast storm battering the UK, which has iced over the city and actually stirring out of doors is dangerous, uncomfortable, and difficult. Meanwhile my stress levels are up again, alas, and my routines are still all over the place. Send help, chocolate, or podcast recommendations to get me through!

Here are the things that got me through the shortest and yet most irritating month of the year.

Lush Sleepy Body Lotion
This product actually caused something of a social media commotion when everyone and their dog began writing about how it helped them fall and stay asleep better. “What they hell,” thought I, “at this point I’ll give most anything a go,” and I purchased a tub when buying Christmas presents for my coworkers. Well, color me converted. I don’t know if it’s all voodoo or self-delusion, but I really feel this goop has actually helped me fall asleep and on nights I don’t use it it’s become harder to switch my brain off. Whether it’s just become a mental signal that it’s time to wind down, or because it’s become part of my evening routine after a hot bath (absolutely necessary given the state of the thermostat!), this stuff helps me relax.

 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Podcasts and audiobooks are necessary components of my commute. I try to read “smart” during the week and save my trashy novels or quick reads for the weekend, but this month was not a month for serious nonfiction–I’ve had to renew my library checkouts for my latest political and scientific reads because I could not get through them! But this audiobook, narrated by the author and astrophysicist himself, was the exception. It’s a delightful short book that discusses the wonders of the cosmos in a nicely accessible way.

 

Wowder, by Glossier
Yeah, yeah, another Glossier product. I didn’t start using powder until my late 20s but like so many things beauty, it was a gamechanger. No wonder people have been wearing this stuff for centuries (exclaimed the noob)! I’d been trying to use up another pressed powder with a sheen to it…until I caught sight of myself in a mirror recently and recoiled. Apparently in the depths of winter, that “sheen” actually looked more like a “disco ball,” and I hadn’t realized because like all of the rest of us poor suckers at this time of year, I’m doing my makeup in the dark. Oops. Luckily this was a Thanksgiving present from X when she visited and I finally gave it some love this month, only to have it seriously love me back. Until the sun returns, only matte powders shall be allowed near my face.

 

It’s Been a Minute Podcast (Black Panther Interview), by NPR

Go listen to this thing, already! This is a great podcast by the same guy who helped create and launch NPR’s politics podcast, but which takes a look at news and pop culture through the lens of interviews with artists, or friendly discussions between journalists or creators. It’s also riddled with humor and is a nice alternative to the more angsty news digests out there. The episode about Black Panther in particular, featuring one of the most recent writers of a comic book run of the eponymous character, is excellent.

 

Best mates
Shout out this month to my girl squad, one of whom is rocking a new job in NYC and back to pitching writing, and the other who is working on her next novel. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I am the least impressive member of my friend group! But in spite of that, our text chains, calls, and general shenanigans have helped make February a bit less awful.

Five Things I Loved in January

You’d be so lean, that blasts of January
Would blow you through and through.
-William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

I swear that time is speeding up, but we’re already at the end of the first month of 2018 so it’s time to check in with a few of the things that made me happy this month. Don’t forget to share your favorite things this month in the comments!

Shearling Slippers
My journey towards being a style granny before 40 continues apace! One of downsides of our apartment is that the window’s aren’t double glazed, meaning that we have subpar insulation. We make the frugal call to keep our apartment cooler in the winter than most other people as well, and choose to layer up clothing and use throws and blankets to keep warm when lounging rather than turning up the temperature. Meaning that my feet freeze! Also, after a day in work heels, I’ve found hardwood floors and cold tiles are not easy on my feet. Like I said, granny. My remedy has been a pair of thick shearling slippers that I pop into almost the moment I walk in the door. There are all kinds of designer or branded choices out there…skip them all. Find something sensibly priced on Amazon.co.uk the way I did and remember that the only person who’s going to see you in them are the partners or flatmates who are contractually obliged to like or tolerate you!

The Good Place
After consuming a lot of heavy media over the past few months (and that’s apart from the news!) I was desperate for something bright, funny, and light on the brain. The Good Place is a great series about four people not quite getting what they expected out of the afterlife. To say anything more than that gives way too much away, but if you’re looking for charming entertainment, I can highly recommend this comedy.

We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Annnnndddd on the other end of the spectrum… I’m finishing up this audiobook as I put this post together and it’s been a sucker punch. Coates documents the Obama years from the perspective of a black man witnessing the culmination (in his perspective) of a history of racial animus in thwarted hope and a swift swing towards backlash. Presented as a series of essays some of which were first published in The Atlantic and some unique to the book, he looks at the history of black America, his own rise as a prominent writer, and the conflicts between patriotism and contempt communities feel for their country based on their experiences. This is not a book that will make you feel comfortable, especially if you are a white American of any political persuasion at all, which is probably why a lot of people should read it.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eyshadow Palette
I’ve owned this palette for months, but have been using it almost exclusively this January and have actually used up an entire shadow recently, something I’ve not managed to accomplish in a while. This is a beautiful palette if you like warm toned shades and a lot of the individual colors may look shocking in the pan, but can be very wearable day-to-day if you use them right. The beauty market is currently oversaturated with warm toned palettes and shades, but this baby was the one that really got the trend started, and for a good reason. I’ve got a goal to use up makeup this year rather than buy more, and it’s nice to start out with an empty pan!

The Indicator, by NPR
From the same people who created Planet Money (the podcast that really helped explain to a young millennial what exactly had happened to the economy around me), this is a short, daily podcast that takes one item from the day’s news–usually a number and somewhat obscure–and dives into why that fact or figure is important or significant. It’s a nice little burst of facts!

Five Things I Loved in December

“What should we speak of
When we are old as you? when we shall hear
The rain and wind beat dark December? how,
In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
The freezing hours away?…”
~William Shakespeare, Cymbeline 

There are two great themes to this month’s favorites and they are diametrically opposed: comfort and glam. So be it. It’s December when we vacillate between parties and hibernation, effort and laziness, being extra and being tired. So here is the list of things that got me through all the slings and arrows of the holiday season!

Flannel Pajama Bottoms
It’s the time of year that requires comfy and warm loungewear. A couple of years ago I wore out and ripped a trusty pair of flannel pajama bottoms and I simply never got around to replacing them. More fool me. I finally got another pair this winter and I believe that last winter I suffered unnecessarily without them. Joules has some excellent options for those inclined to traditional and British styles.

 

Estee Lauder x Victoria Beckham Cheek Cream in Blonde Mink
Ok, ok so I technically said I wasn’t going to buy anything from this collection. I caved, I was weak, sue me. And I actually regret nothing because I’ve been wearing this stuff every day for over a month now and I absolutely adore it. Late to the game as always, I am discovering only in my 30s why so many women wear brown or nude blushes rather than more vivid colors. It’s a great idea. I may not have Posh’s cut glass features, but this stuff allows me to pretend like I do and that’s quite enough!

 

& Other Stories Wrap Dress
I haven’t needed much less bought a party dress in ages, but this year it turned out that I had quite a few December bashes to attend. It was an excellent excuse for a new frock! This dress from & Other Stories is an absolute beauty and made this short girl look like she has legs for days. As a bonus, it also feels like a decent substitute for this completely gorgeous and completely out of all mere mortalss price range Ganni dress which I also feel in love with earlier this year. Perfect! I expect this dress to live in my closet for several years to come, goodness knows it’s already earning its keep.

 

Abel & Cole
2017 was the year I discovered grocery delivery services and I will never, ever look back. I don’t regret our loss of car one whit since moving to London, but it would be a lie to say that it wouldn’t make some things simpler. Like grocery shopping. If we were better organised, more disciplined, or frankly didn’t work some ridiculous hours, we might try to do more frequent smaller shopping trips…but as none of those things are the case, we tend to still do big shops and end up with a bit more to carry home than we’d often like. Meaning that the ability to order my groceries online and have a helpful and friendly delivery person cart them straight to my door has been downright revolutionary, if occasionally pricey. This month, though, I feel like I found the healthy medium. I signed up for weekly delivery of a box of seasonal produce and a box of fish/meat. With the big things auto scheduled for me the occasional store run is now a much smaller and less heavy proposition.

 

Patch
This year I was determined to have an actual, proper Christmas tree for the first time in nearly a decade of married life. We’ve been the lucky recipients of family members’ generosity for almost every holiday season but one, and for that I got a tiny little fir in a pot to make due. Not this year, I wanted a British style Christmas tree and nothing was going to dissuade me. Like unto groceries, I wanted easy so I used Patch to order our Christmas tree, including a stand, and also schedule a handy collection after the holiday so we don’t have to drag a full sized tree down the road to the rubbish bins. Patch is a online garden shop specializing in plants for the urban dweller and were I not poor, they would take a lot more of my money. I have grand ambitions for them in the new year, however, as our front room continues to come together!

2017 in Review: Best of Books

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” 
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

I’m on track to meet my goal of reading 100 books in a year again! I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood, but the truth is that my reading habits came tinged with both a little bit of snobbery and shame–both the product of a religious upbringing and a genuine desire to be an intelligent, well-read human. I didn’t like to admit how many romances, murder mysteries, chick lit, and easy reads I took in, even though I’ve always read “serious” novels and nonfiction in large quantities.

A couple of years ago I said to hell with it and have tried to document every book I’ve devoured on Goodreads just for the pleasure of keeping a list. I read everything. And more lately I’ve given myself permission to stop reading things I genuinely dislike (or actively hate; to this day I still grudge the hours I spent forcing myself to finish a novel in 2014). The result is unadulterated pleasure in books, and lot’s of ’em.

Favorite Young Adult: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
A stunning debut novel about race and the fractured personal experiences that make up our collective cultural psyche.

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: The Crazy Rich Asian Trilogy, by Kevin Kwan
This series tells an over the top romp of a story of intertwined families, wealth, and outrageous privilege. The first books is apparently being turned into an upcoming film and I cannot wait!

Favorite New Author: Bill Bryson
He’s been around for yonks but I hadn’t read him until this year and swallowed four of his books in quick succession. His tone is delightful!

Favorite Memoir: The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher
In the words of Lin Manuel Miranda, “Here comes the general, rise up!”

Favorite Romance: The Duchess Deal, by Tessa Dare
She’s one of my favorite romance authors and in her deft hands, the old Beauty and the Beast tropes are re-rendered in a fun and interesting way.

Favorite Nonfiction: After the Prophet, by Leslie Hazelton
A historical telling of the early tensions and schisms of Islam which have continued through to today.

Favorite Novel: The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters
I’m ranking this category by most “successful” on me personally. This book is a slow paced, English country house mystery/horror novel in which there are no monsters or gore, and as far as I recall no murders. Jeff still came home late one night to find me wrapped in blankets, on the sofa, with every light in the house on because the ending was so unnerving and scary. This book, alongside Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft are my highest reviewed reads of the year.

What were your favorite, or indeed most loathed, tomes of this year?

2017 In Review: Best of Beauty

“When I arrived in America, I had these very dark red nails which some people objected to, but then some people object to absolutely everything.”
– Diana Vreeland 

It’s that time again, when we recap the year that was. I’ve been re-reading my weekly links round ups, my monthly favorites posts, and some of the posts I’ve enjoyed writing the most this past year. Like unto 2016 before it, 2017 has been a bit of a doozy with a lot of ups and downs to document, but the truth is in many ways, it’s been a banner year for me personally. I’m very grateful for this and I don’t take it for granted.

So I though, why not document a few of my favorite things from this past year!

My style and consumerism month-long blog project was a favorite project in 2017, so from a girl who has played with a lot of makeup and skincare this year, here’s my list of current favorite products on the market.

Best Foundation: Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

Best Blush: Nars

Best Powder: Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder (I use the shade Dim)

Best Highlighter: Estee Lauder x Victoria Beckham Modern Mercury

Best Concealer: Glossier Stretch Concealer

Best Eyeshadow Palette: Anastasia Beverly Hill Modern Renaissance

Best Eyeliner: Tom Ford Eye Pen

Best Mascara: Maybelline Full ‘N Soft

Best Brow Product: Glossier Boy Brow

Best Lipstick: Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche for bullet lipsticks, Kat von D for liquid lipstick, Nars Velvet Matte for pencil/crayon formula

Best Lip Balm: Kiehl’s Facial Fuel No Shine Moisturizing Lip Balm

Best Cleanser: Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel for balm formula, Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser for an easy clean

Best Oil: Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Best Serum: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%  B5

Best Skin Treatment: Sunday Riley Good Genes

Best Sunscreen: Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream

Five Things I Loved In November

“LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather.”
– Charles Dickens, Bleak House

November was kind of an awful month in a pretty awful year, news-wise and the first couple of days of December don’t make me feel much better or safer. But there were still good things to celebrate which should be celebrated so here is my monthly round of up what I loved last month both petty and profound. Share what you loved in November in the comments, with links if you can! Let’s spread some of the good things around.

 

Glossier You
My fangirling for this brand is a matter of public record, but their new perfume is truly gorgeous. It’s by no means the longest lasting fragrance I’ve ever tried or owned, but I have gotten compliments every single time I’ve worn it. The concept is that it’s based on traditional basenotes so that all the scents adhere to the wearer’s skin; there are topnotes but they are a nice break from all the floral and sweet stuff out there.

 

Alias Grace, on Netflix
This show is aggressively female and doesn’t flinch away from the fact. Unreliable narrator or no (and boy is the main character unreliable), it is fascinating to watch men in the story interact with her. They dismiss her, analyse her, abuse her, sexualize her, medicalize her, mistrust her, believe her…but are they really listening to her, or do they all just hear what they want to? The narrative is shown through her conversations with a doctor in the early days of psychology trying to figure out if the main character is guilty of the murder for which she’s been convicted or just a very good liar. No one in this story comes off a hero and you’re never sure who you are supposed to being rooting for.

 

Pat McGrath Lust 004 Lip Kit in Venom
This is old hat and was a limited edition purchase from a year ago, but I’ve been using the darker Venom matte lipstick from Pat McGrath almost daily this past month. There’s something about the weather turning cold that calls for gold eyeshadow and devil-dark lips to me. PmG has launched a permanent makeup line since that I enjoy looking at from afar (the Sublime palette in particular) but genuinely cringe at when I consider the prices. I’ll stick with a dangerous looking lipstick for now!

 

Best Friends
I have two BFFs, both of whom I’ve known for nearly 20 years. They are very different woman, but both entirely necessary to my happiness and I’m privileged to have them in my life. One of them is basically my adopted older sister and we have been watching out for one another for two decades now with no signs of stopping. She was able to come visit for Thanksgiving this year with her boyfriend and it was one of the highlights of my year. A lot of bad news went down while she was visiting but, much as it was when we were 13 years old, just being around each other made it a bit easier to bear and it was good knowing someone was in our respective corners.

 

Thanksgiving
I love this holiday. I love the food, I love the spirit of gratitude it’s meant to engender and celebrate, I love the notion of gathering with friends and family…and again, I love the food. It was wonderful to have friends in town to celebrate it with this year. We did our usual thing of heading to The Mayflower pub for dinner before a night out on the town and stay up until the wee hours talking about life, the universe, and everything.