Now that we’ve got cracking with the gift guides, I can fully take stock of just how bloody late I am with them again. The sensible person would compile them in early November and have them ready and waiting for the last weeks of the month. Not I. Here I sit, binge-eating Haribo Starmix at some kind of Godforsaken hour (9.45pm), buying as many things as I write about because of these damn sales!
Anyway: women’s gift guide. Basically stuff I’d be thrilled with, so I should really rename it Ruth’s Fantasy Wishlist, though I already have some of the things and have probably featured them in the past. Creature of habit.
Let’s start with the warm and cosy – I don’t know many who wouldn’t want some soft cashmere to see them through the winter. I just bought this dreamboat of a jumper from Boden here*:
It was £150 but Boden currently have 30% off almost everything (see here*) so I’m off to buy a spare one. That’s how lovely it is!
I’d also highly recommend their cashmere socks, here*, which come in gorgeous colourways and last infinitely longer than some of the socks from other brands. They are £45.
That’s the feet sorted then, and for the hands we have these bright and cheery Johnstons of Elgin Fingerless Gloves*. Currently £36 at Liberty* because Liberty (at time of writing) have a huge Christmas event running with up to 30% off lots of stock. Well worth a check seeing as though they always have such beautiful and interesting gifts!
You can shop at Liberty here* – no code necessary.
You can now buy selected items from the wonderful Coco & Wolf at Liberty – they have 20% off here* – including the gorgeous Liberty Print Scalloped bedspreads. For the full range (their silk pillowcases would make the most indulgent homeware gift!) go to the website here.
Want some Liberty Print but short of cash? I’m inexplicably drawn to this little mouse pin cushion. I don’t even sew. It’s £8.76 here*.
Right, people: we’re moving onto the quickfire round because otherwise I won’t fit in all of the present ideas I’ve got lined up! It’s so tempting to explain all of my ideas, in case you think I’m bonkers, but I’m just going to have to take the risk.
Liberty Tana Lawn Wash Bag, £20 here*
Marc de Champagne Truffles, large box because anything else is just wrong; £23 here*.
Chloe Embellished Sunglasses, £436 here* – pretty special. Try not to sit on them.
Aquazzura Heels, £660 here* – pretty special. Try not to break your neck in them.
I wanted to post those iconic Christian Louboutin bow-back sandals but they’ve sold out – they’d almost be worth breaking your neck for! Instead here’s a totally extra lipstick from the same hallowed shoemaker – £70 here*. You could have someone’s eye out with that!
Whilst we’re on envy-inducing lipsticks; Pat McGrath Matt Trance lipstick, £35 here*. Brilliant, brilliant.
Fornasetti Gold Wall Plate – a piece of modern art and absolutely not for cutting up grapes on! £230 here*.
Seletti Love Edition Mouse Lamp, £68 here*. I have this in the original and it’s so cool – this one looks as though it’s had a Banksy makeover.
Made In India, £13 here* for the keen cook. Meera Sodha writes the most delectable cookbooks, Fresh is one of my most-used.
Palette: The Beauty Bible for Women of Colour, £17.49 here*. Packed full of amazing, insightful beauty knowledge. A book that needed to be written.
Shell Seat Pads, £107 here*. Turn any garden seat into a pre-Raphaelite resting place thanks to brilliant luxury brand Garden Glory.
Ultimate GBBO attire: a Nathalie Lete Helena apron. £30 here*.
Zoeva Rose Gold Brush Set, £70 here* – pretty much all of the brushes you’ll ever need. (Stay tuned for a best brush set post coming up soon!)
Farrow & Ball Colour Consultation, from £195 here. I did this a few weeks ago and it was just great. Very helpful and also a lot of fun. One for the indecisive or just those who love decorating!
If you can’t stretch to that then the F&B books are the next best thing – read my post here.
Chanel La Creme Main, £45 here*. This can’t fail to delight – the packaging alone is an absolute triumph. Although…
Bastide Figue d’Ete hand cream has some serious French Painter Oil Paint Tube vibes going on and the cream smells out of this world – £18 here*.
For the makeup junkie, how about Charlotte Tilbury’s Filmstar Bronze & Glow, Limited Edition with brush, £60 here*? This is the benchmark product when it comes to megawatt glow and contour…
Willowberry Mini Skincare Set, £39 here – I love this tiny, independent British brand. Here’s a chance to give it a try!
If it’s a total body treat you’re after then give the gift of ultimate relaxation – oils don’t really get any more effective than the ones from Aromatherapy Associates. The Deep Relax is a perennial favourite, just a capful into a warm bath is totally transforming. £49 here*.
Quirky but luxurious, something svelte and striking for the hair. The Silken Favours Silk Printed Headband is £70 here. Click onto the website and try not to fall in love with the incredible shirts…
Gucci Bloom fragrance, from £45 here*. A trusty crowd-pleaser, included here because the packaging is so spot on. A gift in itself.
Although if you really want to impress then things don’t get much more decadent than McQueen Pure Perfume, £285 here*. Deep, dark and sexy, it’s a riot of nighttime blooms that you won’t smell on many others. A Vampire’s Wife would wear this, surely?
Talking of Vampire’s Wife: it’s also the hot new(ish) brand that everyone wants to be wearing. So covetable. So darkly sexy. So incredibly expensive. One day, my friends, one day… You can find Vampire’s Wife here*. The dress pictured is $2.45m here*.
And on the subject of incredibly expensive things; if you’re after the ultimate cool leather jacket then Acne’s Velocite has been top pick of the bunch for a few years now. I’m hoping that it’s my birthday2019/Christmas2019/birthday2010/Christmas2020/birthday2012 combined present. Find it here* – it’s just £1.2 million plus postage. Goes with everything though, so that’s good.
Not so flush? See this coat at Hush*. Has all the feels but you won’t need to remortgage.
Yes I’ve featured these lovely Alex Monroe alphabet necklaces before, but I think that they make perfect gifts. They look luxurious but don’t cost quite the earth. £108 here* – also in silver.
And for a teeny bit of special beauty? MOR Soapette in a tin – £5.99 here*. Can’t get enough of these. Strictly speaking they should be in stocking fillers, but I might not get around to writing about those at this rate!
Ooph. Champagne Lurex heels, anyone? I’ve always been a fan of the Fern court shoes from LK Bennett but they’ve excelled themselves this year with these sparkly gems. Get 25% off here* with the code BLACK25.
And one last little naughty treat, in case someone is looking to spoil you completely. I had to include this Gucci Flora wallet, it’s just so lush. Don’t look at the price, just try and be very, very good from now until Christmas. It’s online here*.
I’m going to start with the men’s gift guide, this year, so that it doesn’t come across as an afterthought. Don’t you think that a lot of the time men’s gift guides are just far less exciting and inspirational than the women’s ones? I find them so difficult to put together – but then I find buying things for Mr AMR quite complicated, so I suppose it’s not surprising. What I think he might like is always so far from the truth – in my mind, he wants a swanky new Tom Ford wallet, in reality he is in his element going around the garden with his battery-operated leaf-blower.
So here are some ideas for men’s Christmas presents. I’ve tried to cover all bases and price points but let it be known that it is hard not to be drawn into featuring the usual suspects. A shaving set. Novelty socks. Some funky-looking vodka. A soap that looks like a turd…
OK, the first thing I want to talk about is something called Masterclass. Have you seen this advertised? It’s so good. It’s basically a series of video masterclasses from leaders in their fields – so you can have, for example, a film-making masterclass with Jodie Foster, makeup lessons with Bobbi Brown, beat-making classes with Timbaland and high-powered, motivational business classes with some of the world’s highest achievers. It’s such an excellent gift idea and a full access pass, which gives you access to all of the lessons from violin-playing to haute cuisine-cooking, is £170. And it’s currently buy one get one free. One for them, one for you. What’s not to like?
I think that this is the perfect gift whether you’re happy in your career and just want to broaden your interests or dying for some inspiration to turn your life around. I’ve already joined and I think it’s absolutely genius – I’ll be reviewing soon, so watch this space!
Masterclass, £170 for 12 months here.
Mr AMR wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t talk about his battery-powered leaf-blower, so here it is: the Ego Power Plus blower. Mr AMR would also like it to be known that all of the Ego garden tools are very good, including the lawnmower. You have a rechargeable battery pack that fits into all of them and is interchangeable, so you can go from mowing to blowing at the blink of an eye. He bought all of his many, many, many tools from Ego Power Plus here.
Note that the backpack blower makes whoever’s wearing it look like a character from Ghostbusters. Which is a comedy bonus.
Something else from Mr AMR’s list of favourites; the Samsung Frame TV. In all fairness, this would be on my own favourites list because it has completely changed the look of my living room. I think we have the older model now, but they look pretty much the same; it’s a TV with a wooden bezel (frame) that sits absolutely flush with the wall so that it looks like a gallery-hung picture. The screen displays a picture whenever the TV is off and it looks completely realistic. I can’t recommend this TV enough, especially if you – like me – absolutely detest the look of televisions on walls.
Find the Frame at John Lewis here* – from £999.
One last thing from Mr AMR before we move on to gifting pastures new: the Bed of Nails, which has been featured many times in the past. It’s one of his most prized possessions, this mat-with-spikes and he slides it out from its hiding place beneath the bed whenever he has a headache or can’t sleep properly. I have no idea whether it actually cures headaches or helps you to sleep properly but he swears by it for just about every ailment and sense of discomfort. He says that he enjoys the pain of the spikes – “it’s a nice pain”. Worrying.
Find the Bed of Nails online at Cult Beauty here* – it’s an unusual – but hopefully very useful – present.
Oh, OK, one more idea from Mr AMR because he did spend ages lying in the bath writing his list to help me out… Brace yourselves for this one people… Third on his list? The Bose Frames Audio Sunglasses*. Sunglasses that play your audio through the sunglasses. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? It is totally and utterly weird. But Mr AMR has tried them and can vouch that they do indeed play music via the material of the sunglasses and that it somehow magically ends up inside your ears. Who knows how? Who cares? Surely this is the future! Buy these and he can wear them when he’s riding his hoverboard to work…
Bose Frames are £199 at Amazon here*.
Whilst we’re Back to the Future, let’s take a look at the Apple Air Pods Pro, £249 from Apple here*. Currently with free engraving, which perhaps makes it a bit more of a thoughtful, personalised gift – tech always feels quite sterile to me! Anyway, these noise-cancelling, fully-immersive in-ear pods are the absolute bees knees – even if they do make it look as though you’re talking to yourself when you take a call on them…
If Apple’s enthusiastic pricing is a little too – er – steep, then plump for these noise-cancelling headphones from Sony. They’re comfy, effective and are a comparative snip at £79. Find them at Amazon here*.
And for those who would rather do some downstairs loo learning than look at glossy nudes, there’s I Used To Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School, £5.24 at Amazon here*. He’ll be boring you with academic facts for the entire holiday season…
I ordered a load of stuff with crazy sleeves from Zara. I haven’t completely lost the plot; I wanted some interesting ruffles and puffs to add a bit of pizazz to some makeup videos I want to film. I wanted something sculptural, almost, because one of the videos is about skin-finishing and doesn’t really have much going on in the way of colour. So the architectural sleeves were supposed to do the talking and the skin would be all clean and glowing and simple by comparison…
Anyway, enough of my frustrated art director ramblings: here’s the try-on video. I haven’t done a proper fashion vlog in years, so it was a bit of an eye opener to edit the video and see myself getting changed in between shots, when the camera was still running. I say “eye opener” and mean “absolute shock” because my body was a totally different shape than I expected, especially around the middle! Oh well. I’ll start thinking about my health and general lifestyle choices after Christmas, because it seems fruitless to begin now.
Fruitless is a pretty good choice of word there, too. Sums up my diet! Haha.
FEATHER-EFFECT MINI SKIRT, £25.99: https://go.zara/35w8cyl
MASCULINE SASH BELT TROUSERS, £49.99: https://go.zara/2O9mWNG
VELVET DRESS WITH DOTTED MESH, £25.99: https://go.zara/2pL2fye
ORGANZA SLEEVE SWEATER, £25.99: https://go.zara/2OchqKf
BLAZER WITH CONTRASTING SHOULDERS, £99.99: https://go.zara/33cqXoS
RIBBED TOP WITH RUFFLE TRIMS, £25.99: https://go.zara/2XEewku
Oh this is an excellent buy if you’re after a hard-working cleanser that won’t break the bank. It’s a true all-rounder that can genuinely be used by all skin types, even sensitive and – please sound the bargain klaxon! – it’s one of the most budget-friendly cleansers out there.
The Squalane Cleanser from The Ordinary is exactly what it says it is – a cleanser with squalane. Of course there are other ingredients in the mix, but squalane is the hero here and a mighty and worthy hero it is too. Squalane is a powerful skin moisturiser that also has antioxidant benefits – it boosts suppleness and helps to prevent moisture loss and generally goes about its business in a very efficient and effective way. As a key ingredient in the Squalane Cleanser, it’s light enough for oily skin, provides instant relief for dried-out skin and does a thorough-yet-sensitive job of makeup and grime removal on all types of skin.
The Squalene Cleanser feels like an oily cream-gel when you squeeze it out of the (incredibly handy, very lightweight, perfect for travelling) tube. I realise that “oily cream-gel” covers just about every base when it comes to texture, but it’s an accurate description – it looks like a cream-gel, has the lightness of a cream-gel, but on application you instantly feel the gorgeous oily slip. Perfect for properly massaging in, especially over eye makeup, it quickly turns into a more liquid oil and then rinses off clean.
There’s nothing to dislike about this product, really – I suppose if you were very oily or acne-prone then the texture might be off-putting, but there’s no residue at all after rinsing. There’s also no tightness whatsoever, which is a problem with even some of the oiliest-feeling balms out there! Skin just feels cleansed and balanced. Can’t ask for much more than that…
To use it, apply to dry skin (at least I do, to get maximum oily massage opportunity!) and then rinse after you’ve really worked it in and broken up the dirt and makeup. You can use it twice, of course, or even thrice if you’ve had a day of it or you’ve been on one of those army training simulation courses where you have to crawl through the mud beneath nets and then hide in a cave, or if you’ve been playing Widow Twanky in the panto and caked yourself in greasepaint.
Squalane Cleanser is £5.50 for 50ml (find it at Cult Beauty here* and FeelUnique here*) but you can get a whopping 150ml tube (as photographed above) for £13.90 at LookFantastic here*. Personally I feel as though the 150ml should be the widely-available size – 50ml is great for travel but I get through it too fast!
UPDATE: Deciem have a 23% sale on at the moment which makes the 150ml cleanser £10.70. You can find the Deciem website here*.
Ah, there’s nothing that marks the passing of the seasons quite like one of my makeup bag videos. You could set your clock by them. (I’m being facetious, obviously; I never get these seasonal makeup videos out at the right time.)
This (un)timely makeup offering is for autumn, and I present it to you on a day that began with a thick carpet of frost all over the lawn. AKA, winter. When is winter, actually? I always thought that November, December and January were winter, but that would make February a spring month which would be absurd. So November is surely still in autumn. Surely?
I could have researched all of this before starting to write, but it will have given some of you something to rant about and others something to think about, so it’s all good. Let me just…type…into…Google… I can tell you that winter officially begins on: Sunday 22nd December.
I’m sorry, but surely that cannot be right. Wait. More Googling is obviously required here.
OK, so there are numerous dates and I seem to have gone down a mind-boggling rabbit hole of solstices, meteorological things and hemispheres. The astrological start date for winter is the 22nd of December, but the meteorological date is December 1st. I know which one I’m going with – I can’t bloody well keep saying that it’s autumn until a few days before Christmas! That goes against everything I know! Have these astrologers never heard of the Christmas carol In The Bleak Midwinter?
Anyway, here’s what’s in my makeup bag this autumn. If you’re after all-new autumn beauty launches and russety-toned eyeshadows then prepare to be disappointed; as usual this video has a mix of old favourites and new discoveries, but there’s no real theme. It’s just what I’ve genuinely been using – hence the “what’s in my makeup bag” title.
Products are listed below the video pane, but please do take the time to watch. And if you want to flick back through previous seasons, you can find all of the makeup bag videos here.
Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter 04*: https://bit.ly/2O3AM2V
Pro Glow shade 204*: https://amzn.to/328YvUt
BareMineralsUK Invisible Bronze in Tan*: http://bit.ly/2pUQ0zf
Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette*: https://bit.ly/32EPPFA
Charlotte Tilbury Darling Palette*: http://bit.ly/2QdzqFw
Marc Jacobs HiLiner in RoCocoa*: http://bit.ly/2H4FklS
L’Oreal Unlimited Mascara*: https://amzn.to/34eEzAE
Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Fresh Melon*: http://bit.ly/2N6jO4K
BenefitCosmeticsUK Gimme Brow in shade 1*: http://bit.ly/31e9c8z
Lanolips 101 Ointment*: http://bit.ly/34VWQTI
Beauty Pie Lip Liner Wondergel in Vanilla Nude*: http://bit.ly/31hmvVu
Zoeva Foundation Brush
Zoeva Shadow Brush
Real Techniques XS Point Brush – no longer available in the UK! BOOOOOOO!
A great decorating book to feast upon, if you’re something of an interiors aficionado; Farrow & Ball’s Recipes for Decorating* by Joa Studholme. It’s an absolute visual delight. Whether you’re a serial re-painter who loves to experiment with colour or a confused starter with no idea how to pick a more flattering shade for the living room (me), it has both practical advice (how to work with the type of light you have, how to complement your architecture) and pure, unadulterated pictorial eye candy. Pages and pages of painted walls in modern houses, in creaky manors, in cosy attics and open spaces.
I should actually pop my hand up here and say that if all of that sounds like your idea of heaven then you need to make sure you’ve already done the first book from Farrow & Ball, which is called How To Decorate*. Again, educational elements sit alongside a total visual bombardment of decorating loveliness, so you can either read it cover to cover, absorbing every word (me) or dip in and out over a cup of nighttime cocoa for months afterwards, ruminating over future projects in the same way you might look to recipe books for a casual appetite whetter (also me).
How To Decorate (I bought mine here*) starts at the very, very beginning – looking at the direction your light comes from into a room, the size of a room, what you’re going to be using a room for – and gently suggests reasons for choosing certain paint shades and finishes. Although it’s very obviously the best possible advert for Farrow & Ball’s own paint range, you don’t really notice that – or, in my case, I don’t really care. Anyone who can impart such good advice in such an engaging way can take my money, quite frankly. But the decorating style advice could feasibly apply to any paint or wallpaper brand so long as you’re willing to ignore F&B’s warnings about pigment and quality and depth of colour.
Recipes for Decorating takes things a step further with proper in-depth case studies in real houses, looking at the way the paint shades change in different light, how they work with architectural features and so on. At the end of each case study there’s a recipe card with all of the shades noted down – and you can see really clearly here how different paints can look when used in practice.
There’s also a brief section on how to be your own colour curator – the colour curation is a service F&B offer to all customers, where a curator comes to your house and helps you to pick paints. Basically. I treated myself to this last week and it was excellent – it’s £195, but you get a £50 voucher to spend on paint so I’m calling it £145.
And it was so helpful – my curator, Jill, just knew all of the shades inside out and how they would look in each room so it made the decision-making process so much quicker and easier. I’m going to do a full review on the service, so if you have any specific questions then let me know – I wanted to get this post out first because it has been sitting in my drafts folder for months, waiting for images!
So: wonderfully curated book of house p*rn + practical decorating advice = book worth having. Find it online here*, it’s currently £15.94, which also makes it prime Christmas gift-giving fodder if it’s not too early to mention the C-word…
This post is what it says in the title: a post about my family holiday to the Lake District. We actually went in June and I meant to write it up then, but it takes me half a year to do anything these days. And it would have been completely forgotten had I not gone online to search for winter sun holidays and remembered that it needed editing and publishing!
It’s that time of year again: the time when I feel absolutely desperate to escape the UK and seek out warm weather. I say “that time of year again” but “that time”, when I have an almost sickening urge to find some sort of heat and sunshine, seems to stretch from around the second week of October until – I dunno – May. So in reality it’s over half the year. Maybe I should think about moving to warmer climes! I haven’t actually been on a winter sun holiday in about eight or nine years, so perhaps it needs more drastic measures? I could “home school” the kids from a beach bar for half of the year… Ha.
Anyway, my thoughts on taking holidays with small children are fairly well documented: it’s not a true holiday, in my opinion. Yes, there might be sun, yes there might be a beach, but can you really relax? Can you bury your feet into hot sand whilst sipping rosé and snacking on oversized olives stuffed with chilli? Can you let the wine go to your head and woozily read some trashy book on your Kindle before slipping off into a deep sleep, sun on your back, sound of the waves gently lapping the shore?
Can you rubber duck!
Maybe it gets better with every passing year – we haven’t been abroad as a family since April 2018, so can’t comment – but I wouldn’t say that I found our one trip en famille as restful as I had hoped.
Which was why for this year’s family holiday we went to – wait for it! – the Lake District. At the start of June we had a family birthday to go to and so we worked the trip around that, but I’m always quite nostalgic about Cumbria anyway because my mum is from there and there are loads of relatives to visit.
Practically speaking, it would probably have been much faster to go abroad. You have to spend a few hours on an aeroplane, frantically worried that your kids might scream and piss everyone off, but then at least after that you’re there. The hot walk over scorched tarmac, the tense passing through foreign passport control, the clunking of the luggage carousel as you nervously wait to see whether your suitcase has made it… At least you feel as though you’re on holiday.
Lake District? We drove for what seemed like about nine weeks. It rained the entire way. We got there in the dark – in the rain. When you go on holiday somewhere hot, they say that it’s the “same shit different scenery”. Getting out of the car in the cold and the rain in the arse end of nowhere wasn’t even different scenery; in fact, as the dog did a poo in front of me and the plastic bag of food I was hauling into the holiday cottage split open, it became abundantly clear that it was, one hundred percent, just the same shit.
We woke, however, to a glorious scene. I had rented a house a mile or so outside of Ambleside, at Loughrigg, and the house fronted the River Rothay. We opened the curtains to a beautiful June day and a view from a picture-book. The river rushed past, metres from the doorstep, providing a constant white noise that had the children sleeping so deeply we had to (for the first time ever) wake them up. Sheep and cows bumbled along in the surrounding pastures, a magnificent view towards Wansfell rose up in the distance. It was proper food for the soul.
Don’t get me wrong; a view doesn’t solve everything – I’m well aware that the attractions of the location were short-lived for toddlers – but it was at least a splendid setting to come back to for the short periods between trips to the toy shop (in the rain), trips to get snacks (in the rain) and trips to the ice cream parlour (in the rain). When it wasn’t raining, we were in the perfect position to go on walks straight from the front door – lots of holiday cottages boast “walks straight from the front door!” but few really deliver. There’s usually a walk, but you have to cross the M5 motorway first, or there’s a walk but only if you’re willing to climb over the farmer’s barbed wire fence and risk being shot at as you traverse the killing grounds to join the public footpath.
There were lots of walks.
In fact, we walked partway up Loughrigg, much to our own disbelief. It was quite steep for a two year-old and a four year-old and both ended up being carried for lots of it, but the sun was shining and the air was clear, we picked our way up the rocky slopes like sprightly little mountain goats.
We also walked to Ambleside a few times, on the most beautiful pathway. Very few cars, lots of walkers. I’d go so far to say that the holiday house was on a Walkers’ Highway. During civilised hours, there were probably two walkers that passed by every minute. (Worth noting if your dog’s barking is triggered by people walking close by!) I quite liked people walking past, actually – we’re so out of the way in Somerset that people rarely pass on foot, so it seemed rather convivial and lovely.
You never really know what you’re getting with a holiday home though, do you? Until you get there. The pictures either “don’t do it justice” and you rejoice at the fact you’ve landed a Farrow & Ball-pimped bargain complete with proper coffee machine and working Netflix, or you open the door to a damp-smelling hallway with laminated signs telling you not to flush tampons and to put the bins out on a Wednesday.
I booked the house through Lake Lovers because, after hours of tedious searching, they seemed to have the best selection of nice properties in the Lakes. I love the holiday houses on Unique Homestays but they were prohibitively expensive, the ones that were still available, because they slept about twenty people. The ones left when I was booking also didn’t take dogs. To be quite honest, I was almost about to bite the financial bullet and confirm an amazing one that looked out over a lake, but then reality did a check on me: would I really be spending my days looking out over the still water, book in hand, glass of wine on side table?
No, I would be spending my days trying to stop Ted from pulling plugs out of wall sockets and keeping Angelica supplied with a constant stream of snacks. (She likes “options”. I have to give her three options and she deliberates for a while, finger tucked under chin, eyes to ceiling, deep in thought, before giving me her choice. It was pretty cute when we started it, a year or so ago, and I could make up ridiculous options so that she chose the one thing I actually had in stock, but now she actually requires three solid options and it’s getting more and more difficult. Why do we start these crazy games?)
So the lake house that looked like something from an interiors shoot was out; a smaller, cuter cottage was needed. But nothing with very low ceilings, and it needed to be remote enough to be quiet but near enough to a nice town that we could go to cafes and see real life people, and so on. Being able to walk to a town was going to be the biggest novelty – I was incredibly excited about this. “I’ll take Angelica to shops when Ted is having his nap!” I said, excitedly, as I was searching the holiday websites. “We can just potter! And we won’t need a car!”
As it turned out, it rained pretty much constantly so we did need the car, but the thought was nice. The walk through beautiful scenery to get to Ambleside took about forty-five minutes but possibly would have taken twenty five had we been striding along as adults. Walking with small children is like walking through a giant vat of treacle, or it’s like having massive lead boots on that have been velcroed to the ground. It’s slow progress and you have to stop every ten seconds to look at a leaf that has fallen into a puddle.
It’s great fun, and I will treasure every single one of these slow-paced memories, but good lord it’s impossible to raise your heart rate above anything greater that “sedentary”. You’d get more exercise reading the paper in a rocking chair than walking with toddlers!
So anyway, we booked through Lake Lovers. The house was good – location great, house well-equipped, not much going on in the way of a garden because it was on a slope but no biggy. I didn’t fall over with interiors lust, but neither was I disappointed. The setting was idyllic, but once you were inside it wasn’t as though it enveloped you – there were large windows, but it wasn’t one of those houses where you sit in an Eames chair with a huge panoramic view rolling out in front of you. But as we know, holiday houses of that ilk cost the same as going to the bloody Seychelles!
We paid £1200 for a week – I’ve just looked at the same place and it’s currently £695, woe is the person who books at half term – plus a refundable deposit. I did look into hotels, thinking that if we found somewhere with a family room that took dogs, it’d work out to be around the same price but
There are pros and cons when it comes to holiday homes, but over the years I have come to the conclusion that the pros far outweigh the cons. Yes, I like to be waited on a bit if I’m on holiday – I don’t want to have to stack the dishwasher, pick the squashed peas out of the plughole, etc – but the joyous thing about a rented house is that if you decide you want to eat out every night, and budget allows, then you can. No problemo. You can also, though (and this is especially important when you’re with kids), stock up the fridge with kids’ Fruit Shoots and Innocent Smoothies, adults’ Prosecco and Beer and indulge them/yourself at any time you want without having to pay £3.80 for a small bottle of fizzy water or £16 for a miniature Prosecco. Crisps, nuts, all kinds of snacks can be at your immediate disposal – you can make a doorstep sandwich with local cheese and chutney whenever you want and the supply of tea and coffee can be endless.
I do love the cocooning, luxury feel of a good hotel but they come with a hefty price tag, don’t they? Great for a couple of nights, but once you tip into a week you could almost rent the James Bond lakeside abode for the same cost and invite eighteen friends. More space, the freedom to cook or eat out as you fancy and your own private outdoors areas.
What do you prefer for a longer holiday? The self-catered route or the fully-serviced hotel? Mr AMR prefers his own space and his own kitchen and has always been of this persuasion – I used to be a luxe hotel kind of person but now, with family, I think that I might be rented houses all the way…
Things we did near Ambleside:
Crossed over the Stepping Stones at Loughrigg. Ted refused to be carried and then obviously got his feet wet! Obviously!
Hired a boat and chugged our way around Lake Windermere. My health and safety paranoia was in overdrive, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, but when I had both kids firmly in my arms I loved it!
We used to have a little seventies’ motorboat when we lived on a river, so it brought back nice memories. Even if it was raining for most of the time!
We also went on the steam train that runs from Haverthwaite, but really more to give the kids something interesting to do. They weren’t too fussed by it really, which surprised me – I thought that all kids loved trains! – but they sat and ate their tangerines and looked at the rain whilst I spent half of the journey trying to take a completely symmetrical photo of the inside of the train carriage…
By far my favourite outing was to Hill Top, which was Beatrix Potter’s cottage up in the middle of nowhere in a tiny village with the most incredible views. I have a strange affinity with Beatrix Potter (don’t bloody laugh, I see you!) but I think I need to write a separate post about it. I don’t even like the books that much (sacrilege!) but I like her story and I like her cottage and I think I might have actually been her in a past life. I’ll come back to you on this particular revelation.
Anyway, I really enjoyed poking about the cottage, so much so that I bought the book about it in the gift shop. I’m usually allergic to gift shops! Although now I’m a fully-fledged National Trust member, I like to be supportive and buy the apron/fudge/fridge magnet, etc. It all helps. You can read about Hill Top here – if you’re an NT member then you get in for free.
Right, I’m off to look at winter sun holidays I’ll never book. Tell me, people, where is good to go in December with two small children that won’t be too hot but will also be guaranteed warmth, with a flight time that won’t make me want to eat my own hands with anxiety?
Jumping back to the Lake District; I would definitely go again, when the kids are slightly older. I mean I will definitely go again, because half of my extended family are up there, but I would actively choose there too. It’s so beautiful. So dramatic. I love walking, I love heartstoppingly beautiful scenery (who doesn’t) and I bloody love tea rooms. There are so many tea rooms…
As I write this, I am officially in PMT Skin Week, which is the one week in each and every month that my skin is in danger of going completely haywire. If anything is going to go wrong with my skin then it goes wrong now. Angry, bumpy jawline, weird forehead dryness, little sore patches around my eyes, an oil slick down the centre of my face – you name it, it’s on the list of potential problems.
There are a few different things that I tweak in my skincare routine during PMT week, including upping my cleansing game (a thorough balm cleanse night and morning, if I can bear it) and choosing slightly lighter day creams, but the key change (and arguably the most important one) is the addition of a BHA exfoliant.
A beta hydroxy acid exfoliant (salicylic acid) has the power to unclog, clarify and pore-refine but at the same time it’s calming and soothing and helps to reduce that horrible angry redness that often appears along with your hormonal spots.
So if your skin is angsty, bumpy and sore but also feels highly sensitive (quite literally a representation of your entire physical state when you have PMT, come to think of it!) then a BHA liquid is what you need. Swipe it on and leave, it’s a quick and simple step that’ll make a huge difference, especially if you usually just try and “ride it out” when it comes to your PMT skin.
My most frequent BHA-of-choice is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. I’ve written a full review post on this brilliant skin-clearing liquid here, but to recap, it’s a wipe-on-and-leave BHA exfoliant that will soothe as it effectively cleans out your pores. Blackheads, pustules, acne bumps, all will benefit from a swipe-over with this salicylic acid toner.
You apply the Skin Perfecting Liquid after cleansing and before serum/moisturiser – just pat on with fingertips or wipe with cotton wool and then leave. Here are four great little product combos that I use when I have PMT and my skin is on the spot-prone-but-sensitive side. The product list isn’t exhaustive – I could go on all day with good suggestions! – but they give you a good idea of what I’m looking for in a PMT skincare routine. A thorough cleanse that doesn’t leave skin stripped or tight, a BHA exfoliant and then a light-but-powerful moisturiser.
Sensitive Oily Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluide, £14 here* – to moisturise and soothe without leaving a greasy residue.
Dry, Angsty PMT Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – as before, to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Murad City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser, £70 here* – to effectively brighten and intensely moisturise overnight.
Oily Dehydrated Skin Routine
Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser, £16 here* – a lightweight gel but a thorough cleansing option.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Indeed Labs Hydraluron Intense Moisture Lotion (full review here) – to hydrate without any heaviness or grease.
Spot-Prone SPF Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, you know the drill!
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here*.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, £28 here* – ultra-lightweight hydration to slip on before…
Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF50, £21 here* – barely detectable and feels beautiful on the skin.
As I said before, I could swap in hundreds of different products here – maybe every time I do a skincare product review I should show how it fits into a routine, like the above? Let me know if that would be helpful!
You can find Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid online at Amazon* (£12 for 30ml here), Lookfantastic (from £10 for 30ml here*) and Cult Beauty here*. It’s unbelievably great on teen skin as well as PMT skin and an easy daily add-on to your routine if you suffer with adult acne.
Whilst we’re on the subject of PMT: since having babies I now get pre-menstrual symptoms of absolutely epic proportions. I mean I’m almost dangerous in terms of mood and I feel drastically, genuinely quite ill. No cramps at all, ever, which used to be crippling pre-kids, so it’s a swings and roundabouts kind of situation but boy the moods. Do we need a separate post on this?