Ducklings, I’m the worst! I’m badly behind and the only excuse I have is the…general state of the world at large…
Actually, that’s a pretty okay reason to lose track of time in my opinion. This cursed year is more than half gone, and let be real about the possibility of the second half being even more bonkers than the first. So much to look forward to.
These past months have just been weird. Occasionally positive – flexible working is a win, saving money on travel has gone a long way, it’s been an opportunity to really ground and focus on what’s important. Occasionally horrible – the general dread and anxiety, watching the slow motion effects start to land on my nearest and dearest and wondering when they are going to hit us, the confinement. It’s truly a roller coaster, and I’m very aware that (thus far at least) my family has been extremely luck, but it does make for an emotionally wobbly time.
Here are the things that helped me cope in the last couple of months. As always, leave your own favorite things and recommendations in the comments so we can all help each other out a bit.
House of Names, by Colm Toibin
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller was one of my favorite novels in perhaps years, and somehow that without plan or even intention, I ended up having a bunch of books become available become available across my library accounts along the same theme of Greek mythology. From a modern retelling of Antigone, to two audiobooks delightfully narrated by author Stephen Fry, on the subject of myths and heroes, I was having a run on the topic. So I figured I should probably add to the number on purpose and picked up this retelling of the House of Atreus myth. Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, Orestes, and the whole gang. Written from three points of view, each of the chosen characters brings a private perspective to a very well-trodden story and makes it feel fresh and new and human.
Khiels Creme du Corps
Basic but good. If you’re spending most of your time in loungwear or athleisure (as many of us are), things like skin and body care take on greater significance. We’re all in uncomfortable circumstances of varying degrees, so things that have a comfort factor have been much more important to me of late. I’ve never been very good at taking care of my whole body – moisture, exfoliation, hands and feet, and all that jazz have long escaped me – so being forced to focus on it has helped me feel better overall. This is a bit of a cult product and for a good reason. I heartily recommend the sensation of sliding your freshly shaved and moisturized legs into clean sheets, especially when you have absolutely nowhere to go the next day.
Attack on Titan
My anime education continues, at the hands of my husband. I really enjoyed this series which combines really creative science fiction, political drama, and the angst of frustrated romance into a pleasing cocktail. By his own admission, Jeff is keeping me focused on the “highbrow” anime properties, but I’m really enjoying learning more about the genre as a total newb. His recommendations thus far are highly engaging so have a scroll through past favorites posts if you’re inclined to dip your toe in.
Thank god for that last minute trip to Paris with X and her boy before all this happened. It’s honestly one of the few things keeping me sane and reminding me of the Before Times. She’s a perfume junkie and we did a lot of haute smelling and testing together while the boys indulged us, and I came home with a gorgeous scent from Parle Moi de Parfum: Chypre Mojo. If you’re desperate for something – ANYTHING – to switch up in your life right now, let me recommend a scent.
True North series, by Sarina Bowen
I’m probably going to do a whole post on this topic but you know what I’ve been reading bucket loads of? Romance novels. The first quarter of the year was all murder mysteries and science non fiction but of late, I want easy and fun reads. And while I’m not prepared to dive fully into a defense of romance novels generally here (again, topic for another post), I will say that almost all of the popular opinions of them are wrong. Fiction written by mostly-women for mostly-women is not a trashy secret, it’s a billion dollar industry and one of the few female-gaze mediums out there. And if you’ve done a bare minimum of reading out there, a lot of writing about bodies and feelings done from the male point of view can be hilarious or tragic. It’s difficult to write personality driven fiction, heavily dependent on dialog and internal monologue, and make interesting and appealing. Romance writers are damn good at their jobs. My most recent find is Sarina Bowen who writes contemporary novels and, lest you think it’s all bodice ripping and swoons, her stories are…topical. Her characters deal with blended families, second marriages, first love, economic challenges, career paths, addiction and recovery, LGBT characters, family dynamics…her plots are believable and personal, not just – um – entertaining. If that’s your cup of tea, give her a shot and leave me your thoughts about romance in the comments. I’m seriously toying with this as a blog topic!
Thank You Farmer SPF
A longtime favorite and recommended product of mine, this also recently got the seal of approval from Sali Hughes if my word isn’t good enough for you. I’ve converted many a pal to these tubes of goodness. Makeup is far from the highest priority right now but you people should be wearing sunscreen every single bloody day. I spend my days working from our living room with the windows open and SPF is a must.
Shouted out before, but the love continues. In fact, as an experiment it’s been so successful that the brand is going to produce online only content and I’m 100% signing up for it.
Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1, by Living Proof
Hair is still my beauty nemesis but even in lockdown there are work meetings that require some camera time and half-assing your look isn’t going to cut it! This keeps a blowout smooth and seems to keep my hair looking tidy longer, even after workouts or days sweltering in the summer sun in a country that doesn’t have air conditioning.
Speaking of – this thing saves lives.
Normal People, BBC adaptation
This TV adaptation of a book which no one I’ve met seems to have ambivalent feelings about – they either love it or hate it – won a lot of praise for doing something very difficult: making the inner life visible. The novel on which is based takes place mostly in the thoughts and emotions of the two main characters. How on earth do you make someone else’s inner monologue interesting? Well, this series nails it. The story is of love across class, but set in current day Ireland and in a world where we have more tools than ever to communicate but still manage to misunderstand each other constantly. It’s about the difference between academic and emotional intelligence, how we all deal with personal pain, and the damage and healing we can do for each other. It’s about intimacy. It’s beautifully shot and the acting is incredible. It rather famously has sex scenes, but even though they are explicit, it feels incorrect to use that or its overused alternative: graphic. Refreshingly, rather than being gratuitous, sex is actually a part of the story in a fundamental way and are both thoughtfully directed and filmed to convey the complexities of the characters’ desires and the intimacy they have and hold for one another. Basically it’s a slow story and won’t be for everyone, but I’m incredibly impressed as an adaptation and am curious to hear from people who have read the book as well and what your feelings on both properties are. Full Goodreads review here. To the comments!
Lisa Eldridge lipsticks
Let’s be real, masks are sort of messing with my presentation identity – which longtime minions know is heavily lipstick dependent! But given the amount of work calls I’m still required to participate in on an almost constant basis, lipstick continues to provide a much needed boost of confidence. I’m still not entirely over the discontinuing of my beloved Bite Beauty formula (I have only two bullets left) but am taking comfort in the arms of famous makeup artist Lisa Eldridge’s velvet matte formula. I own four: a true red, an orange red, a dark burgandy, and a vibrant deep pink. When you need to look good on camera, pigment your pout. It helps hide quarantine insomnia, foundationless skin, and a hose of other aesthetic peccadilloes, which literally no one should care about right now. There’s a pandemic on.
Folklore, by Taylor Swift
Yeah, I’m a Beyonce stan for life and have never really seen it for Taylor…but I’ve been listening to this album on repeat since it came out. It’s really, really good.
Binging with Babish
A cooking YouTube channel is exactly what I wanted to lose myself in over the last few months. Jeff introduced me to this guy and I really love his content.
In Five Years, by Rebecca Searle
Clearly I’m thinking and interested in human emotions a these days – probably has something to do with the fact that my intimate world has shrunk dramatically but my need for it has not. This short book is another “love story” but it’s not at all the one you think it is. To say any more is to ruin the story, but I loved this novel and finished it in a single sitting.
This is finally on Amazon Prime UK, and thank god for it. It’s one of the most films I’ve seen in years. If you’re having a particularly murderous day yourself, channel your feelings in a more wholesome direction and snuggle up with Chris Evan’s now iconic sweater with some popcorn.