Earlier this year I wrote about the fact that Christmas isn’t actually a holiday, not really, and especially not if you have young kids. Or any kind of dependents. Kids don’t stop being kids just because it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Toddlers don’t give a shit if your usual pre-kids Christmas routine was waking up at 10am, opening the “main” present, having Buck’s Fizz in bed and then watching Home Alone three times before maybe drinking more Buck’s Fizz in the bath and then merrily doing all the wrong things to the turkey.
(Do I brine it? Bernard! Which method are we doing? BERNARD! Stop messing with that bloody thermostat and read me the instructions – are we doing Nigella or Jamie? Brine or bacon?)
Even if you don’t have dependents Christmas isn’t much of a rest; you spend the few days between finishing work and Christmas Day trying to buy all of the tat for people that you haven’t bought throughout December (though it’s all on sale by then so that’s good – it’s to make up for the stratospheric stress levels that last-minute shopping bring on) and then you have to read up about which turkey-prep method you need to plump for. That’s if you’re staying at home – chances are you’ve got to do the “Grand Tour” and sleep on five different couches as you travel around the country visiting all of the friends and family members who won’t travel because they have dependents.
Anyway, it is a wonderful time of year, if you’re lucky enough (sadly, for many people it’s abysmal) and for me, having kids has brought Christmas back to life somewhat. I feel as though I see the magic in it again – the lights, the excitement, the cold walks, the jazzy music, the films – and I want to fully appreciate it and not see it as a stress.
So this year I am going to try and at least have one type of rest – a work rest! I’m deleting all of my social media apps from my iPhone so that I can’t look at them, post on them or otherwise engage with them. I’m not deleting the accounts – that would be stupid, given my job – I’m just pressing pause until January.
And (boo hoo) this will be my last post for a couple of weeks here, too, though please be filled with joy at the fact that I have loads of brilliant things lined up for you in January. I’m itching to edit them but mustn’t – if I do start editing, I won’t be able to tie up my last bits of admin and then I’ll be doing that on Monday 23rd and my whole “no work” plan will be made a mockery of. No plan likes to be mocked.
So, farewell for now my festive friends: wishing you an absolute blinder of a Christmas with minimal familial fallout and lots of brined/bacon’d turkey. (Which method do you do? I didn’t brine or bacon last year and it tasted just the same as any other year. I’m sure it’s all a nonsense. Thoughts below.)
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and – as always – a heartfelt thanks to all of you for reading, commenting and messaging. I appreciate each and every one!
Stand down, Outraged of Welwyn Garden City, I said How To Do A Glow Job not blow job! To be honest, I’m almost forty and still couldn’t tell you how to do the latter that well, so the chances of me writing a post about it (or – urgh – making a video) are slim.
I mean I’m not saying I’m particularly bad at it (must ask) just that it’s a pretty obscure thing to do a step-by-step on and I can’t imagine a video tutorial would get past the censors on Youtube. Although pretty much everything else seems to get past them so maybe it would be worth a punt…
Anyway, it’s a Glow Job how-to not a Blow Job how-to and for this totally non-explicit filming session I was joined by the wonderful Lisa Caldognetto, who is a busy working London makeup artist. She has a signature skin prep routine that she calls The Glow Job and she kindly offered to demonstrate it. It’s 50% skincare and 50% makeup, really, when you break it down – a refreshing change from the usual heavy-on-the-base add-a-load-of-shimmery-highlight routine that you see so much of.
The Glow Job technique relies on adding the glow at the bottom of the pile – so creating a really glossy, plumped-out and dewy base layer and then adding minimal coverage so that the natural juiciness of the skin really shows through. The startling thing about this look is that there’s no foundation used – it relies on having relatively good skin to start with, admittedly, but it’s a nice reminder that you can go easy on the coverage and still look perfected and polished.
I’ve listed the products that Lisa used below the video pane, but please do watch the tutorial to see how Lisa applies each step – she has a lovely way of using Weleda’s Skin Food, for example, and a very light touch with her makeup brushes. It’s always so interesting to see session makeup artists at work, they’re a total mine of information.
You can find Lisa on Instagram @lisacaldognettomakeup
Caudalie Eixir*: http://bit.ly/2YLfNa7
Hada Labo Serum*: https://amzn.to/2sjCAgV
Weleda Skin Food*: http://bit.ly/2EcfmMf
Hollywood Flawless Filter Shade 3*: http://bit.ly/33jRMZd
My Kitco Flawless Face Small Brush 0.21 Charlotte Tilbury Magic Away Concealer 3*: http://bit.ly/2srPvgE
My Kitco Soft Concealing Brush 0.17 Chanel Soliel Tan de Chanel*: http://bit.ly/35v66yM
My Kitco Flawless Face Medium 0.22
Charlotte Tilbury Peachgasm Wand*: http://bit.ly/2rwzOFb
Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Finish powder*: http://bit.ly/35kDmZw
Good grief I put Elnett’s Extra Strength Hairspray through its paces for these photos! Short of sitting in a sauna for an hour, I can’t think of anything that would test the limits of a hairspray more. Gale force winds, driving rain, what felt like sleet at one point, a broken car heater that wouldn’t stop blasting out boiling hot air, two kids riding on my back using my hair as reins (“be a horsey Mummy”)… By the end of the day I should have looked like Worzel Gummidge, instead I looked pretty presentable, all things considered.
I wasn’t even set the task of testing the Elnett Extra Strength Hairspray’s powers – all of that was purely incidental. My intention was to take some nice pictures and tell you about the limited edition Electric Nights can, which is a very festive red instead of the usual gold, but I got sidetracked by the performance.
It’s no secret that I have a very long-term love affair with Elnett – just read this post to find out why it gets me all sentimental – but the Extra Strength version is new to me. I have to admit to the fact that I was slightly apprehensive about the first application, because stronger hairsprays usually leave my hair as crispy as a Ryvita. Stiff as a board. And I hate that feeling. I love the hold and I love what a strong hairspray can do, in terms of keeping things sleek or adding volume or what have you, but I can’t stand not being able to run my hands through my hair.
Not a problem with the Elnett Extra Strength – just like the original, there’s no stickiness or crispiness to the finish and you can simply brush it out when you want to restyle. I have no idea how this miracle is achieved, but I’m glad that this particular level of low-commitment hair styling exists. Because I like to brush out my high-glam before I go to bed, in the same way that I like to take all of my makeup off.
Anyway, the hold is excellent. I didn’t quite test the “up to 24 hours” claim but I think that my extreme conditions more than made up for the shortened timeframe. The weather was truly frightful and my broken car heater basically replicated what it would be like if you stood in front of an industrial space-heater for ten minutes. One half of my face was actually cooked, like a boiled ham and the metal buckles on my coat were glowing red, like iron on a blacksmith’s anvil. It’s amazing I’m still alive, quite frankly, and even more amazing that my hair still looked almost perfect.
In case you’re wondering, my choice of festive hairstyle was a three-step catalogue of near-disasters. “Do something festive”, they said, and so I was going to do this amazing, towering, backcombed up-do with sleeked sides and a messy chignon. And then I woke up and realised that I wasn’t Guido Palau and went with some low-key waves.
I’d like it recorded, however, that I did spend quite a while prepping and fussing with my hair to achieve this particular look: first I blow-dried it smooth, then I put in rollers through the top and front to give it a bit of bounce and lift (surprisingly this made quite a lot of difference!) and then I went in with the waving tongs and gave it all a once-over.
Fixed it all in place with liberal amounts of Elnett Electric Nights Limited Edition Extra Strength Hairspray, including one dizzying upside-down session where I sprayed the roots and underneath sections to give a bit more texture and body.
My usual (almost daily) use for Elnett is to fix down the flyaways around my hairline when I have my hair in a neat bun or ponytail, but it’s equally as good for setting styles that are looser or longer – because you can brush it out the styles feel flexible and natural.
Right, that’s enough of this year’s Elnett love-in – you can find the limited edition Electric Nights version at Superdrug here – it’s £4.19.
What’s your usual party style for hair? Do we all have one? And which kind of style is the one that you always dream of doing but never quite achieve? That “ooh, I’m going out-out so I must do something with my hair that is potentially going to make me late but only after I’ve burnt myself twice with something heated and then cried and then realised that my whole head looks like a haystack and that it looked better before I started”?
The post How Much Hold Can A Hairspray Have If A Hairspray Can Brush Out? | AD appeared first on A Model Recommends.
I’ve always fancied being the sort of person that could throw one of those dinner parties that seemingly only exist in Ferrero Rocher commercials and magazine shoots; French farmhouse tables overflowing with flowers and flickering candles, fine linen napkins placed upon artfully stacked place settings… A proper lavish dinner party thrown by the sort of grownup that I thought I would become. One day. The organised and stylish sort, possibly wearing a one-shouldered fuchsia organza ballgown and sporting an elfin crop.
In reality my table is covered in crayon and if I even get the food served onto it it’s a bloody miracle, especially at Christmas – who has time to arse about with flowers and linen when the turkey’s still defrosting in the sink and the cranberry sauce has bubbled over onto the hob and you’ve accidentally blocked the kitchen sink with goose fat?
But this year, this year, my reader friends, I am stepping up my table game. Partly because I met an actual real-life Tablescaper (it’s a thing) at a luncheon and became transfixed with her Instagram feed but mostly because for the past few years I have had an urge to make everything in my life a bit more domesticated and adult and this Christmas is the proverbial climax. I’ve bought a food processor so that I can make grown-up shredded vegetable ‘slaws’ like Jamie Oliver, I’ve bought a welly rack so that I can stop slugs from taking up residence inside my wellies. I use the phrase “willy nilly” and also “goodness gracious” (mainly to stop me from saying for f*ck’s sake all the time) and I bought some pot pourri.
See? Completely domesticated and adult.
But the grown-up dinner table thing is a bit more difficult. Firstly, I don’t happen to have a Tablescaper to hand (seriously, it’s actually a thing – check out event designer Fiona Leahy on Instagram) or a food stylist, like in the magazines. No washing up liquid in the beer to make it more frothy, no varnish on the turkey skin to make it gleam – no insulation foam squirted atop the pies to make them look as though they’ve been adorned with the most perfect swirls of cream…
It’s just me and the table. And the five thousand torn-out magazine pages that I’ve been studying obsessively to work out what these stylist people actually do to make everything look so fancy. Here are my thoughts and they’re all pretty straightforward – just little bits and bobs you can change or add to make things a bit fancier looking. Like. And none of these tweaks and upgrades need to be particularly expensive, either, apart from the posh plates bit, if you want posh plates, but even those are saving money in a roundabout way if you follow my advice…
So read on to find out how to make simple upgrades for a showstopping dinner table. (You know it was at the top of your list of priorities.)
I usually avoid candles like the plague because I am (since having kids) a health and safety fanatic. Although my cat is the same colour as the stair carpet and we’re all at risk of breaking our necks about eighty times a day, so I’m not sure why I even bother worrying.
Anyway, this is an obvious one but candles really do make a dinner table look amazing. And I’m not talking about IKEA tealights, though those serve a purpose, I’m talking about candles of height and distinction. Unapologetic candles. Long, elegant tapered ones that are raised upon ornate holders, so that their flames softly illuminate the chattering guests’ faces and don’t just lie there at tabletop level, heating up the hummus and scorching people’s sleeves.
Get those candles up high and all of a sudden you have drama and theatrical shadows and the thrilling prospect of at least one person knocking them over and setting fire to the tablecloth.
I’ve recently discovered pillar candles, too – the best I’ve tried are the Charles Farris altar candles (you can find them at John Lewis here*, from £6) but I’d welcome your own recommendations. I love how solid and chunky the pillar candles are and how brilliant they look grouped together – I buy different heights and plonk them on a large plate or tray or wooden board.
Leopard candlesticks were bought from OKA here* – £45 for two. Pillar candles bought en masse from John Lewis (see above), pottery is Burleigh x Soho Home here. Table is vintage Ercol, bought from eBay two years ago as a set with six chairs. Napkins are Zara (see below) and the bee napkin rings were from House of Fraser two years ago.
Posh Useful Plates
Choosing nice dinner plates (and bowls, and side plates and whatever else you end up getting once you dip your toe into the world of dinnerware) is an absolute minefield because you always end up doing one of two things (at least I do):
1 Buying amazing plates that are far too fancy to eat on every day; they are so fine that they break if you cut your potatoes too vigorously, or they shatter if you sneeze too hard in their direction.
2 Buying plain, solid plates that weigh the same as manhole covers but that spark no joy whatsoever and feel too dowdy for nice dinners, which means that you then also end up buying option one anyway and keeping them in the “special” cupboard for three hundred and sixty days of the year.
What you really want (I now know from vast-ish experience – I have many plates, both living and departed) is a plate that’s practical, reasonably hardy and that sparks utter, utter joy every time you lay the table. Dinnerware that you will use every single day, that isn’t so absurdly dear that you’ll have palpitations about it but that is beautiful enough to serve every situation.
Enter from stage left: Burleigh pottery. My Burleigh jugs (hoho) are some of my most prized home possessions. Sounds silly, I know, but they really bring a smile to my face. The design on them just looks good everywhere. Rustic old table? Put a Burleigh jug in the centre and suddenly it’s a scene from Country Homes and Interiors. Mid Century glass-fronted sideboard? Fill that with Calico tableware and the contrast between traditional and modern is a pleasing one of intense and magnificent beauty.
(Do I spend too much time thinking about how stuff looks? Absolutely. We all have our hobbies!)
The Burleigh pieces in these pictures are a combination of the stately Black Regal Peacock range (on Burleigh’s website here) and the glorious Hibiscus, which is exclusive to Soho Home (Burleigh x Soho Home here). You can find all of the classic designs on Burleigh’s website here. The brilliant thing about Burleigh is that almost everything looks great thrown together, even from different ranges – a mix and match set-up looks cool and purposeful rather than weird and accidental. The feeling should be a general one of “ooh, look at me, I’m too cool to have everything matching – I’m so eclectic!” rather than “shit, I’ve dropped another three plates into the sink Tony, we’re going to have to use some bits from the wedding set.”
Have a browse on their site – there’s also a factory shop, which I must never go near ever, ever because I would buy it all, and there are various pre-chosen sets that offer better value than buying pieces separately.
Oh and if you’re still after gift ideas then there couldn’t be a better gift for a tea-lover than a Burleigh tea set, surely? I love the pretty blue Felicity tea set, here and the traditional Blue Calico, here.
Pillar candles from John Lewis, as before. Pottery as detailed above. Gold cutlery bought from Marks and Spencer last year here*, beast-footed bowl was bought from Anthropologie. Glassware bought from H&M home.
Oh I do love a proper napkin. We never use them at home if we’re alone (bit of kitchen roll if it’s a particularly messy taco-typed meal, otherwise why do you even need one?) but for dinners and special occasions it just feels lovely and so grownup to offer a pressed linen or cotton napkin.
If you can be arsed to press them.
If you can’t be bothered to iron then make sure you get the linen ones that look hipster and cool even when they are wrinkled. And tie a bit of rustic ribbon or brown string around them instead of using a napkin ring, so that they look like something you’ve found in a hay barn. Sprig of dried lavender, job done.
I rather like the napkins simply folded over once and thrown nonchalantly onto the top of the plate, as though a Parisian waiter has laid the table. “F*ck you customer!*”
(*not all Parisian waiters hate their clientele, I’m sure. At any rate, their constant ire is always a great source of amusement to me!)
I bought my table linen from Zara here – the napkins were £19 for four and I bought a matching lace-trimmed table runner. To be quite honest, the runner is something of a faff – I didn’t need it and it’s covered in all of the candles/flowers/serving plates anyway!
Crocodile Candle Holders, £30 each from &Klavering – I bought mine at Amara here*.
Duck leg candle holders, £9.95 each – I bought mine at Graham & Green here*.
Kitsch Pointless Plates
If you already have serviceable crockery but want something quirkier, adding some smaller plates to sit over the top of your existing ones can be cheaper and less of a commitment than going for a whole new set. It also looks really fancy when you use your normal dinner plate as a charger and then place a smaller, more decorative one on top. Utterly pointless, from an eating point of view, but gives everything a bit of a facelift.
I quite like pointless plates, anyway – good for olive stones, serving individual quenelles of butter, sauces, ketchup or anything you want to decant from a jar or bottle. As plates for eating from, they are ridiculous, but for adding a bit of jazz and flair to the table they are excellent! Which makes them not pointless, I suppose…
I bought these badgery/fruity ones from H&M Home and they were a few pounds each. (I have no clue where they have gone online, they seem to have vanished, but I only bought them the other week so they may have a comeback tour.)
They have that kitsch sort of appeal that seems to be de rigeur at the moment and I thought that they looked relatively festive, too. They are small enough that they can all be packed away into the back of the cupboard when they’re not needed – all much more convenient than buying a whole set of specific “Christmas” plates with – I dunno – pine trees on them or something.
Foliage and Flowers
I am not a person who buys flowers for myself. I’m incredibly fortunate in that now and then clients might send me a beautiful bunch, and in the spring and summer I pick bluebells and various other flowers from the garden, but going to the actual florist has always seemed like a huge extravagance.
However I did splash out a few times this year, usually because I was filming something in particular and wanted to sort of “dress” the background, and it’s amazing how much of a difference a vase of flowers can make to a room.
So put a load of flowers on a dinner table and all of a sudden you’ve halfway there in terms of looks. Add flowers, or foliage, and it’s no longer just a dinner table, it’s a desirable place to be. People are drawn to their seats, everything suddenly looks so sumptuous and decadent and of course the food will be delicious if the setting looks that good…
(Little do they know that you’ve reheated four Tesco lasagnes and put some sprigs of parsley on top. Dug around the edges with the back of a teaspoon to make it look more homemade. Drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil. Scorched the top a bit with a bunsen burner to make it look authentic.)
So yeah: flaaaars. The ones in these pictures were for my birthday and the red berry ones were taken home after an event I was at because I didn’t want them to go to waste. They’ve lasted over a week already – I just need to keep feeding them and nursing them for a couple more weeks and I might be able to use them for Christmas! (Mental image of me gently wiping the berries and leaves with a cool cloth, changing the water hourly, adding special feed powder and carefully snipping out dead bits.)
Joking aside, because I will have to buy more at Christmas, it’s really worth taking a look inside your local independent florist’s. Mine quite often has a bucket of “imperfect” blooms outside, dead cheap, really great condition still but not quite up to the standard they need to be for the full-price bouquets. I agree it’s an extravagance, but a beautiful extravagance and one that – if you’re anything like me – will bring you great cheer.
Lots of Stuff Overstuffing
One of the common things you see in the tablescaping images on Instagram (what has my life become?!) is that the tables tend to be really full of stuff. I mean you can barely get the plates in front of the guests. There are huge flower arrangements that take up 80% of the surface area, place names on elaborate cards, candles by the dozen, glasses for this and tumblers for that, gifts for the guests (for the love of God don’t get started on that, you’ll be financially bereft by Boxing Day!), jugs of Seedlip Cocktail, decanters of well-drawn eco-water…
It’s all very OTT and would be faintly absurd in a domestic setting perhaps, but the feeling of table excess does look very appealing and inviting. So I suppose the general rule is to do things with purpose – if you’re keeping it all very elegant and minimalist then fine, a white linen tablecloth and some beautiful candles will do, but if you’re going for the “fuller” look then try not to do it by halves!
You can easily “get the look” by keeping your flowers (if you have any) low and spread out, rather than tall and slim so that they cover more ground. At Christmas, rather than paying for an expensive bunch of flowers, you could ask the florist if they have lots of seasonal green foliage, which is cheaper and looks great in abundance around the centre of the table. Smells amazing too.
(If you have a holly bush/fir tree in the garden then you know where you need to go with your garden scissors!)
If you’re short of bits and bobs and the table looks a bit empty then bring out the condiments and put them in interesting bowls and jugs. It’s a bit of a pain when you have to decant them back at the end of the night but it’s nicer than having a jar of Hellman’s on the table and it gives you more – well – stuff.
I realise this is becoming a little bit Pippa’s Tips obvious, so I’ll stop now, but surely you’ve got the gist of it? Make it look decadent by grouping things like candles and vases, add height to the table with tall candlesticks rather than little tealights and add some interest with gorgeous dinnerware and cutlery. If you’re going the whole shebang with your dinnerware and cutlery then get stuff that you’ll use all the time and not just squirrel away “for best”, and if you’re on a budget or have perfectly good crockery that you just find a bit boring then add some quirky little plates to sit on top. (Hunt around for bits that look good with it, or that purposefully mismatch.)
Right, I’m off to work out how to use my new food processor. Hopefully it won’t go the same way as the last one, which had an accident when it tried to crush some ice. (It had already drunk six salt-rimmed Margaritas…)
We’re revisiting a post that I (kind of) did a few years ago, really, but it’s a good one and so it deserves another airing. Because this post may just save your Christmas Bacon, if you’ve left present-buying until the last minute and/or have no clue what to buy people and/or don’t want to spend a fortune on absolute tat that people will hate and/or re-gift.
It is – quite frankly – a genius idea, this one, but I’m sure I can’t take credit for it because it’s so simple that a million people probably posted about it before me. The fundamental equation behind this gift idea is:
Good Book + Excellent Chocolate = Ultimate Christmas Experience
Give someone a brilliant read and something to munch on whilst they read it and you’ve pretty much sorted their holiday. The bonus for you is that you can order books right up until the last minute (or get them at the supermarket) and the chocolate is reasonably widely available, depending on which of the fancy and niche brands you plump for.
Which is important. Because there are caveats to this genius solve-all gifting idea, after all. The first is that the chocolate must be fine, interesting, artisanal or unusual – to elevate it above the Dairy Milk level – and the second is that the book must have a good cover. Be it vintage Penguin or classic Puffin or whatever other bird you can think of. Luckily publishers put a lot of thought into covers and so your job here is quite easy.
And before you all shout in defence of Dairy Milk, I love Dairy Milk, but for this gift to work then it can’t be just any old normal chocolate bar thrown in to the shopping trolley – the bars in this feature are all exquisitely made with the finest ingredients and truly are, for want of a less cringe term, a taste sensation. (Liberty is a treasure trove of pretty and quirky chocolates – find them all here* – and they helped massively with sourcing good-looking bars for this feature, so thank you Liberty!)
The selection of books I’ve chosen should offer up something for everyone (apart from kids) and there are a few suggestions, such as The Bees, for example, that are relatively obscure and could be a safe bet for those who are hard to please.
I have listed a load of books ‘n’ chocolate combos below, with pictures so that you can admire my supreme books ‘n’ chocolate styling prowess. Hopefully it’ll give you some idea as to what the hell I’m on about. Wrapping these little delightful parcels needn’t be a stress either – get yourself a load of eco-friendly, plain brown paper and you’re sorted. Add nice ribbons that can be reused by the recipient and Bob’s your Uncle.
There’s (believe it or not) a video that goes with this post. Or perhaps this is the post that goes with the video – either way, I’ve managed to eke out an unbelievable amount of content from what it basically the world’s most simple gift idea. It’s a bit Pippa’s Tips (sure I said that last time) but sometimes you need to be reminded of the basic things in life…
Little Women (Puffin in Bloom edition) £9.99 here* + Pana Mint Chocolate (raw, vegan), £3.20 here. A beautiful chunk of a collector’s edition book with a raw and minty bar to chomp on. What a pretty pairing!
Wolf Hall £5.94 here* + Pana Coconut & Goji Chocolate (raw, vegan) £3.20 here. Particularly pleased with this combo, for some reason – and this is the book to buy a voracious reader who hasn’t yet unearthed the delights of Hilary Mantel.
Ooh, I’m starting to feel like Willy Wonka with all of these chocolate descriptions!
The Handmaid’s Tale, £6 here* + Pana Chocolate Rose, £4.95 here* – the brutal modern classic that’s worryingly astute and a rose-oil infused chocolate bar that should hopefully salve the soul somewhat…
Girl, Woman, Other, £10.64 here* + Chocolate Society Salted Caramel, £4.95 here – this year’s well-deserved Booker prize winner and a brightly-wrapped bar that contrasts with the cover. Two knockout gifts for just over fifteen pounds.
(Has my Book + Chocolate messaging sunk in yet?!)
The Bees, £5.84 here* + Love Cocoa Honeycomb Chocolate, £4.50 here* – I won’t lie, I’m thrilled with this combo. Not only is the book really quite unique (a darkly thrilling novel from a bee’s narrative perspective, anyone?) I’ve carried the theme through into the accompanying sweet treat. Feel free to applaud.
Made In India, £12.71 here* + Creighton’s Imperial Chilli, £4.95 here* – Meera Sodha writes the best Indian cook books. The recipes are just so fresh and delicious, I highly recommend. The book covers are also giftworthy in themselves, like art posters!
Any Human Heart, £4.49 here* + Creighton’s Pink Gin Bar, £4.50 here – the cover of William Boyd’s wonderful novel is identical in colour to Creighton’s Pink Gin chocolate bar. I just couldn’t resist putting these together – in fact, I think this was one of the book-n-choc pairs that sparked off my need to revisit the whole idea!
My Thoughts Exactly, £5.64 here* + Creighton’s Maple Bacon, £3.95 here* – a slightly offbeat little hook-up here, but I thought that it was well suited. Lily Allen (author of the autobiography hidden behind the bar!) has never been known for towing the line or fading into the background, so I’ve chosen an appropriately unexpected chocolate flavour. Not for everyone, admittedly, but it would certainly be a conversation starter!
Testaments, £10 here* + Sour Cherries (as before) – another colour-block combo, but oh so pleasing. Don’t you think? Again, a striking cover that is almost a gift in itself and then the sour cherries rising up above the parapet once more. Under his eye!
The Hours, £5.99 here* + Pump Street Gingerbread Chocolate, £7.95 here*. One of the pricier chocolates, but at least I’ve popped it in with one of the cheaper paperback books! And this novel by Michael Cunningham is an absolute literary treat – a Pulitzer winner and a weave of stories that’ll stay with you for life.
I, Robot, £10 here* + Salted Caramel Chocolate (as before) – a book I never thought in a million years I’d be featuring, but I read a sample of it and thought that it was brilliant. Witty, self-deprecating but in all of the right amounts. I genuinely have this on my bedside table on my book pile! I don’t even like football. Plenty do, however, which makes this a bit of a no-brainer. The cover doesn’t quite meet my strict criteria but this is the wildcard…
For more book suggestions there’s a whole category here on the website – just click here and all book posts will come up as a listing!
The post My Ultimate (Thoughtful, Easy and Widely Available) Christmas Gift appeared first on A Model Recommends.
PMT has now become a major event in my life every month; for the entire week before my period I really struggle to get anything done at all. I’m confused, fuzzy and I just want to sleep. In PMT week I don’t want to speak at all, I want everyone to go away and leave me alone in a semi-darkened room so that I can variously scroll through The Outnet for things I’ll never buy, Whatsapp my insecurities to people who don’t want to listen and quietly and internally hate on anyone who is posting holiday pictures on Instagram. (Although only if they’re on a beach holiday. I couldn’t care less if they’re “travelling” or snorkelling or doing anything that involves effort, because to me that’s not a holiday.)
My PMT week has become so disruptive that I have downloaded an app to track my periods so that I can be forewarned as to when I’ll be completely useless and potentially dangerous to society; a raging, insecure mess of a woman with a bloated torso that feels like a bargain-basement water bed and a brain that can only function if it is given one simple task at a time.
Writing this is painful, quite frankly. It’s not that I can’t string sentences together, it’s that I have absolutely no motivation to. I just think what’s the point? and this is my default setting for about six or seven days. That’s a quarter of the month! Twenty five percent of my life!
Twenty five per cent of my life spent trying to find my glasses when they are on my head, a quarter of the month spent walking into door handles, dropping heavy books on my feet and writing long mental lists of wrongs that have been done unto me. (Almost all of them entirely fictional.)
The period itself is a walk in the park; I used to get cramps, pre-kids. Cramps no more – barely a twinge. I used to get spots, pre-kids. Now I hardly get any, though that is almost definitely thanks in part to my superb pre-period skincare routine.
No, folks, it’s now the pre-period week that hits me full on in the face; headaches, mood swings and a general feeling of intense pessimism. I’d use the word depression, but I don’t feel as though I know enough about what depression might feel like, and I would hate to reduce or trivialise other people’s experiences, so I prefer “intense pessimism”.
I’ve always had a slightly morbid and overactive imagination, but this kicks into a whole new level when I have PMT. Going to London the next day? I visualise myself being pushed off the edge of the tube platform by an unhinged passerby. Then follows the shocked faces of the people on the platform – a tear runs down the cheek of the kind old gentleman who had tried to help me up using the hook of his umbrella handle, alas too late, and then there’s the mourning scene that always takes place graveside, a la the USA, with (inexplicably) six uniformed military personnel giving an emotional three-volley salute.
(Note to people reading this (hopefully) far in the future – give me another forty years at least if you don’t mind – if my funeral is any less than the above then I shall be frowning down upon you all. I demand lots of tears and full black mourning attire, I also require a lengthy slideshow of my best life moments set to a moving song. Tiny Dancer by Elton John will do it.)
Anyway, see what I mean about morbid? My imagination runs riot. You see a friendly giraffe’s head sticking out over the fence at London Zoo, I imagine myself being mauled by it. Giraffes don’t even maul people! You see a bus, but in PMT week I just see a big red killing machine. I see danger at every corner – in PMT week it’s amazing to me that anyone manages to stay alive.
So yeah, that’s what I’m dealing with. Excuse me if I just want to lock myself in the wardrobe and sleep.
Does anyone else have these particular PMT symptoms? Are there any effective remedies that you’ve tried?
Oh! Good God, I almost forgot the most important and life-disrupting thing that I’ve recently noticed during PMT week: I’m about ten times more likely to get a bout of cystitis. True fact! It has taken me years to realise this, but I started to write down the dates and I almost always get cystitis about three days before my period. The good thing about this revelation is that I can now watch out for it – like a hawk – and do whatever I can to fend it off. I actually have some antibiotics that are specific to treating that type of infection and they are intended to be taken as a precautionary measure (eg after sex, if that’s your usual trigger) and they’ve worked incredibly well so far. In fact the one time I knew I should have taken a tablet, and didn’t, I got a full-blown water infection.
That was a bit of sudden sidenote and perhaps “too much information” – hi Auntie Margaret! – but so many of you commented on my original cystitis post that I thought it was a sidenote worth sharing. Anyway, proceed with your PMT anecdotes and tips, please…
I was going to call this post Top Faux Christmas Garlands but when I looked at the pictures it was more like a fireplace catalogue, so I’ve kept the title real and relevant for you.
Fireplaces aren’t all they’re crack(l)ed up to be, in my opinion. It must have been more than a full time job, in the Georgian times, keeping the house fires going. A constant hassle. Finding your matches, using your old manuscripts as kindling, hoovering up the soot with Ye Olde Henry Hoovre.
And also quite hazardous, all those sizzling grates. Imagine always worrying about whether a spark had flown too far from the hearth and set fire to the edge of your wicker chair or piece of parchment or box of gunpowder or whatever.
No smoke detectors, either – the first you’d have known about a disaster was your horse winnying in the stable. And that’s not the most reliable method.
In these modern times, sticking the heating on is far simpler than going outside into the cold and selecting your firewood, chopping it, carrying it inside and then arranging it carefully so that the flames catch etc etc.
(I write that like I’ve actually done it – I haven’t lit a fire since I was in the Girl Guides, which was almost thirty years ago now. Mr AMR does it and has all of the equipment, like his special axe and his special gloves…I like to dress as Red Riding Hood and trot past the woodshed coquettishly.)
And that’s why none of the fireplaces in the house are working open ones (two have wood-burners). It’s a pain in the arse having proper fires. They look great in pictures, in reality they are probably the least efficient way of heating a house known to man. Apparently you lose about eighty per cent of the heat up the chimney. Or something. Don’t quote me – I’ve guessed at that statistic and can’t even be bothered to open a new internet tab to check it!
Anyway, welcome to my fireplace showcase. Or, if we’re being sensible about it, a roundup of some of the best faux garlands. Didn’t think you needed a garland in your life? Think again. I’m a convert. If you have a large, long feature in a room, such as a mantelpiece or a shelf or a console table, then a garland arranged along the length of it looks instantly quite plushly festive.
Why faux? Have you seen the price of fresh ones? Good God, you could buy the whole Christmas dinner thrice over. And they die! For some reason I don’t mind if the wreath dies (and I love the smell of the real ones as I come in the front door) but an indoor garland that’s only on show for a few weeks of the year: give me faux. Give me something I can box up and stick on the loft until next year.
Here are my favourites:
Frosted Red Berry Garland, Gisela Graham at Amara here*.
I think that this one might be my overall favourite (followed by the other red berries one, see below – I must have a thing about red this year!); there’s something a bit childlike and magical about the frosted apples and berries. It almost feels as though there should be toadstools and little silvery spiderwebs woven in too!
I think that because the apples and berries look so purposefully fake, the whole garland just seems incredibly well put-together and expensive. It’s properly kitsch and it’s not pretending to be something it’s not.
I bought my garland at Amara here* – it was £50.
Three Metre Pre-Lit Christmas Garland, Marks & Spencer In-store.
Wow, this went fast online! No wonder, it’s a beauty – really, really very long and generous on the faux-foliage. Fo-fo-foliage.
I hated the pre-lit thing, when I first switched the lights on, but they’ve grown on me. It’s cheery and festive.
Berry Garland from Sainsbury’s In-store and Argos here
This berry number is my second favourite garland. I think that it just looks quite elegant and striking and chic.
Sold out online, the one at Argos looks really very similar (and now that Argos are inside my local Sainsbury’s I do wonder whether it’s the same garland?) to the point where even the berries are in the same positions!
Golden Pinecone Garland, £18 at Amara here*
Another simple but rather elegant buy, this pinecone garland is lightweight and non-fussy but looks very cheerful draped along a shelf or mantelpiece.
This would possibly be my pick if I needed to use a garland on the Christmas table, too – all of the others are a bit too cumbersome. This one would bend and snake around things nicely! I paid £18 for mine at Amara here*.
The gorgeous wooden nutcrackers are extra large ones and you can find them at M&S here* and instore.
This frosted berry and faux-faux-foliage garland is also from Marks & Spencer, but you need to run to store to catch it. Again pre-lit, it’s slightly more muted because of the frosty effect and so would suit your interior decor if you prefer lighter, more neutral tones.
I quite like the sprigs of white berries and the snowy pine cones. This one isn’t so supersized as the other M&S garland – I think it’s about 180cm, which seems to be about standard…
Pom Pom Garland, £12 at Sainsbury’s here.
This fluffy garland is soft and cute and perfect for a kid’s room. Angelica was thrilled with this when she came home from school – she wasn’t expecting any decorations in her room (however minimal) so it was a bit of a bonus. Except that then Ted wanted decorations and so we had to cover his beams in tinsel and I nearly broke my neck standing on the footstool…
What have a started? Next year the decorations will have crept into the garden…in a few years it’ll be one of those mad houses that people queue up to see, with lights covering the whole exterior and a full-size Santa sticking out of the chimney. Order your tickets now….
I made my first school-related Mum Error the other day when I sent Angelica wearing her uniform on something called a “mufti day”. What the hell is mufti day?
Granted, I should have probably Googled it instead of dismissing the mufti-themed email – thinking I have no clue what this means and then deleting it from my inbox – but I’ve never been very good at dealing with things that I don’t understand. I’d rather just ignore them and move on to the things that are easier to process. Ha!
Anyway, I can say that – categorically and one hundred percent truthfully – I had never even seen the word “mufti” before last week. It sounded to me like something to do with hand muffs or maybe a special type of bread roll or a kind of dense, difficult-to-digest cake and none of those things seemed relevant at the time of reading and so I basically just ignored the fact that it was “mufti day” the next day and got on with my John Lewis sales browsing.
Terrible, terrible parent.
Although obviously I couldn’t admit to myself that I was a terrible parent, so instead I became incensed with the school emailing system and the email wording in particular and questioned, at length, why they wouldn’t just use a phrase that everyone would know. Like, I don’t know, “non uniform day”. Because who the hell knows what “mufti day” is?
“You don’t know what mufti is?” said my nextdoor neighbour. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Erm, mufti, yeah,” said my (usually quite conspiratorial) school gate pal, “everyone knows what mufti is.”
I rang my mum. There was no way she would know what mufti was. I’d never heard her utter the word ever, and so really it was mostly her fault that I was so ignorant. She was a teacher for decades, too – if mufti was a commonly used phrased for non-uniform day then I’d have known about it.
“Musty?” she said. “Hold on, I can’t be long, Karl and Linda are here. You want to know about Musty Day? What’s that? I’m sorry, I have no idea.”
“Mufti!” I shouted.
“No, you know, it’s when you wear your own clothes to school.”
“Are you talking about mufti? Mufti day? Ha! It’s MUFTI with an F, for God’s sake. How have you not heard of mufti? I hope you didn’t send Angelica into school in her uniform, that would be so, so cruel.”
Christmas is creeping up on is, isn’t it? I’m planning on taking three weeks off – one to run around buying all of the things I’ve forgotten to plan for, another week to cook meals continuously for people visiting my house and load the dishwasher on repeat and a third week to try and get everything back to normal so that I can start work again.
As I wrote (almost) a year ago, Christmas is not a holiday. So I have set the bar low in terms of expectations this year. Although, I do now have two fully-functioning walking, talking children who can effectively communicate their wishes and also use a toilet, so it should be easier than Christmas 2018. Shouldn’t it?
I’m hoping that Angelica will provide the bulk of the festive entertainment, seeing as though she has transformed, seemingly overnight, into a kind of expressive dance amdram noise machine. She never tires, her ability to improvise nonsensical lyrics and put them to tuneless tunes knows no bounds, she must hold the world record for number of pirouettes achieved before fainting with dizziness. I’m looking forward to the Christmas Gala, which is to be held in our living room and has just one performer who must be applauded loudly as she emerges from behind the sofa to take her bow.
I suddenly have quite a clear vision of my future; I foresee many Saturday afternoons spent sitting on uncomfortable benches in leisure centres waiting for dance competitions to finish. I’ll be the woman in the fleece holding a tin of slightly stale cheese sandwiches wishing that she’d never started the bloody clubs in the first place…
With December comes Elf on a Shelf. Do any of you hide the elf every night? (Not a euphemism.) I honestly don’t know what possessed me to add another complication into our daily routine, but for almost the entire month of December we now have to get up early, ie earlier than Ted, ie 5.50am, to put the bloody elves somewhere imaginative. (LOL.)
Except that we never remember. So one of us has to creep about in our dressing gown as the little sproglings eat their breakfast, find the elves from the day before (we have two, they came in a cheapo two-pack on Amazon) and move them. It’s not a massive inconvenience, but when it’s a job just to remember your own name in the morning adding elf shenanigans into the mix is a recipe for disaster. This morning the children almost saw me move them because I’d shoved them down my pyjama top and one of the legs was sticking out at a jaunty angle.
Anyway, it’s all worth it for the look on their little faces. (Ted and Angelica’s faces, not the elves’. The elves’ faces always have the same look. Slightly evil, worryingly glee. Like they’ve just emerged from a pet shop carrying an axe.) They (Ted and Angelica) are still at the age (two and four) where they believe absolutely, wholeheartedly in whatever you tell them. Elves that watch you and record your behaviour, a man with a red suit and a white beard who watches you and records your behaviour… Actually that all sounds really creepy when you write it down, doesn’t it?
We need to talk about BBC’s drama Gold Digger, but also about a hot red lipstick. Weird mix, admittedly, but I got distracted halfway through recording my makeup video and ended up talking about Tom Hardy, morning breath and implausible storylines. Sorry about that.
Shall we get the makeup out of the way first? In the nicest possible way. Because I will return to red lipsticks in the next couple of weeks – it’s nearly Christmas, after all, which means that red lipstick posts are almost mandatory.
The one featured in the below video (which you must please watch) is the new Chanel Rouge Allure Lipstick in Rouge Spectaculaire, which is £35 here*. It’s luscious and has the special clickety-click packaging that I adore so much. (I wrote about this particular packaging years ago – a whole post on it! – here.)
Rouge Spectaculaire is not my usual choice of rouge – this one has a smidgen of pink to the mix, whereas normally I tend to err towards an orangey hue. The pink (or blue) tones do make your teeth whiter, unlike yellowish tones which make you look as though you’ve been chain-smoking Benson & Hedges for the past thirty years.
This fancy Chanel one is a punchy and true red and is perfect for kissing under the mistletoe, which is something that nobody does, ever. Which brings me smoothly to my Gold Digger rant, which is about another kissing situation that surely never happens and that is: kissing – heavy petting, even – first thing in the morning.
Who on earth smells good enough to kiss someone as soon as they wake up? If they do, I want to know their secret. Do they sleep with an extra strong mint slowly dissolving under their tongue? For most people, the first proper exhalation upon waking is one of pure evil. I can imagine that it’s the bodily equivalent of when the landing crew at an airport open up the airlock on the plane and release all of the noxious gases that have collected during the eight hour flight. Imagine!
Yes, in fact I’m going to run with that analogy – first breath upon waking is equivalent to airplane door opening after a long haul flight. You can almost see the horrendous green air puffing out towards the crew who wait on the other side. It’s a wonder they don’t pass out, or even melt.
So anyway, Gold Digger got my goat because of the morning kiss thing. I know we should suspend disbelief and all that, but really that’s something I refuse to budge on. Especially as both parties in said BBC drama had been drinking heavily the night before the kiss – I didn’t see any water or Alka Seltzer on the bedside tables and neither had apparently been to the bathroom to brush their teeth.
I know that it kills the romance, somewhat, thinking about the morning kiss but it’s all I can see when they do those scenes. I inwardly cringe. I reach towards the television with my outstretched claws in a vain attempt to separate them.
“For the love of God, don’t do it! You’ll never look at them in the same way again!”
But the morning kiss wasn’t my only problem with Gold Digger. It was the entirely questionable relationship as a whole. She, sixty years old, he mid-thirties. He looks like an M&S underpants model, with his manscaped beard and smooth chest, she looks – well, like Julia Ormond. Beautiful, slightly fragile, very obviously older than the bloke.
Which is not where the problem lies at all. Not with appearances. Because age gaps are fine, obviously. I mean who would have a problem with them in normal circumstances apart from nosey parkers and “Infuriateds of Maidenhead”? Each to their own, love knows no bounds, etc… except that in the case of the BBC’s drama there was absolutely nothing appealing about the young guy. Benjamin. There was no real love established – no behaviour on his part that would make anyone fall at his feet, let alone a wise, well-heeled, intelligent woman of means who had been hurt before.
It made no sense.
The whole thing continued to make no sense for the entire series, which meant that I had to listen to Mr AMR saying, repeatedly, “shall we just skip to the last episode?” He always suggests that when he thinks that a storyline is lacking. I always refuse because it’s a bit like cutting out the journey to somewhere vaguely important – I quite like to see where I’m going and how I’m getting there, rather than waking up in LAX wondering what the hell happened after five gins and a sleeping tablet.
People of Britain (and possibly others, if you have access to BBC iPlayer – I’m not sure how widely available it is): give your verdict on Gold Digger. I’m awarding it a 5/10 and one of those points is for the epic manor house in Devon that they used as a location. Swoon.
And a 5/10 might seem low, but I did enjoy the whole thing immensely. I kept thinking that there would be a great twist – it never came – or that Julia Ormond would chop all of her hair off with big scissors, like she did in Legends of the Fall, but the ending was rather like the long, slow, comedy deflating of a flatulent balloon.
The best character, I thought, was the lawyer son Patrick who was in equal parts selfish and highly-strung and amused me no end. I constantly saw him as being on the verge of having one of his forehead veins explode, which he would then blame on his mother’s new lover. Benjamin.
Before I leave you to comment with your own Gold Digger thoughts, I need to mention the silk shirt I bought from Boden a few weeks ago. It’s a class act, isn’t it? I thought that it was very Gucci with the striped trim and the floral print.
It was £110, but at the moment Boden have 30% off pretty much everything – see code on their homepage here*. So glad that I paid full price! I will revisit this shirt because it’s a cracker – flattering, drapes well and the sporty stripes make it rather interesting, I think. I’m wearing a UK10 but it does pull a little over the boobs, so I probably should have gone with a 12… I’m usually a UK12 so I’d say that the shirt runs ever so slightly on the large side.
Clarins Everlasting Youth Fluid Foundation in Shade 110, £35 here*: http://tidd.ly/acf849d6 NB, I love this foundation, it’s so dewy and natural, but I DO get some oiliness and slippage on the t-zone after a few hours!
Bare Minerals Endless Summer Bronzer in Warmth, £26 here*: http://bit.ly/2D2nxu8
Lanolips Scrubba Balm, £13 here*: http://bit.ly/2qpDoQY
Topshop Matte Blusher in Game Changer £10 here*: http://bit.ly/2HeBWFl
L’Oreal Unlimited Mascara, £7.69 here*: https://amzn.to/347bho0
Gold Digger, BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode…
Glossier Boy Brow in Blonde, £14 here*: http://bit.ly/2rc92RO
Chanel Rouge Allure Lipstick in Rouge Spectaculaire, £35 here*: http://tidd.ly/375484ff
I interrupt the gift guide frenzy to bring you some videos that have somehow slipped the net, here on A Model Recommends. Firstly, this house update and then – perhaps tomorrow if I get a move on – a rambling makeup try-on with a fancy new red lipstick and a chat about Gold Digger.
Please tell me you’ve been watching BBC’S Gold Digger? There’s much I feel I need to discuss with you! I tell you what, I’ll give you a head start now so that you can watch the first episode before my next post – then we can chat about it next time. You’ll definitely have something to say.
Though I’m wary about recommending it as Mr AMR only gave it a four out of ten and felt quite cross that his time had been wasted – I found it utterly ridiculous in many places but enjoyed it immensely.
Anyway, back to the house update: Cinematic Views and a Mouse’s Back. Not an actual mouse’s back; it’s a Farrow & Ball paint shade. Very descriptive. There’ll be a longer post soon with all of the house shenanigans, this is just to keep you all going…