At the very real risk of boring myself to death with the same makeup look over and over again I thought I had better jiggle things up a bit. There’s nothing wrong with “sticking to what suits you” when it comes to putting your maquillage on but sometimes there’s a better face-improving tip or trick just around the corner and if you don’t experiment then you’ll never, er…see around the corner.
(Don’t judge my writing skills today, please, I have terrible PMT and as well as wanting to set fire to the fridge because it beeps too much I’m finding it difficult to string words together in an entertaining manner.)
So: three little changes that have updated my makeup routine. I go as far as to say three little makeup improvements. They might just work for you, too – see what you think.
The Eyeliner Replacement
I’ve been using an angled brush (handily, there’s one on the other end of my Benefit brow brush*) with a very dark brown shadow (from this excellent Lancome palette*) to very gently press shadow into the “lashline” at the inner corners and then to form a short flick at the outer. Because the brush is so fine and the shadow isn’t quite as punchy as a liner the effect is every so slightly softer. I’ve been finding that sometimes eyeliner can make me look very tired and my eyes very small if I don’t handle it carefully – this angled brush technique seems to be slightly more subtle and foolproof.
Perhaps it’s because I rarely sharpen my eyeliner pencils to the recommended needle-like point!
The All-Over Glow
The next tweak is that I’ve been giving my skin a bit of a once-over with a glowy powder for a mega-watt all-over sheen rather than confining it to the tradition highlighter zones. Amazingly, it doesn’t look greasy or weird and I don’t end up like the Tin Man from Oz. I think it’s because the powders I use (Ambient Lighting from Hourglass* – unbeatable in my opinion and worth the investment if you can make that sort of investment) are so clever and non-glittery and fine. I use the slightly darker shades in this Hourglass palette on the cheeks and where I’d normally bronze for a bit of extra (glowing) depth and the paler shade over the t-zone. It has the added bonus of setting makeup in place for the long haul.
My actual Hourglass palette was in the car but it was a good excuse to photograph the beautiful new Unlocked limited edition ones – the Elephant version is the closest to the one I use already (find it here*.) The powders are smaller – much smaller – but you get the additional colours so it’s sort of an all-in-one blush, setting powder, complexion enhancer kit.
Also of note in this category is the new Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Brightening Powder*. Gee whizz this is a strong one. I would treat it with slightly more caution than the Hourglass palette. I wore it all over my face as a setting powder for a red carpet event and my face was basically a beacon. It’s amazing stuff but I’d be tempted to use it on cheekbones and around the traditionally “non sweaty” areas and then her equally good non-bright powder on the t-zone.
The Darker Brow
You can’t really see this in all of its glory on the video because I filmed on my iPhone and the front-facing camera is rubbish and pales everything out so that it all becomes a featureless sea of cream and sepia. Yes I can mess about with levels in post-production but I didn’t here – see aforementioned PMT.
I’ll film another makeup routine video showing what a difference it makes – the darker eyebrow, simply taken down a shade using a slightly darker brow gel, looks fresh and youthful and, if done right, very chic. We’re not talking about drawn-on comedy brows, just a smidgen deeper for those of you (me included) who usually err on the safe side when it comes to doing your eyebrows. My default is a bit of Elnett brushed through in an upwards direction and so adding a brow gel that’s fractionally more dramatic is big news. Still no pencil, still no drawing-in (this just spells trouble for me), just a simple swipe through with the tinted brow gel. I’ve been using the one in Light Brown from Authored, here.
Here’s an unhelpful video that doesn’t really show what the makeup changes do but does demonstrate the final effect. I didn’t think it through enough.
I’ve been doing some quick little makeup videos on Instagram and Youtube and thought I’d start to share them here. I love before and afters, the transformation from normal to glam or from washed-out to a bit more lively. And this video just shows you the process in between – a whole makeup look edited down to one minute for those who are impatient and have the attention span of a gnat, which I think is probably most of us these days.
I’ve embedded the video below with a quick run-down of the makeup used and any particular likes and dislikes, product-wise. For those coming over for Instagram who’d just like an at-a-glance product run-down, this is it:
Dior Forever Skin Glow in 2N, here*
Vieve Foundation Brush, here*
Charlotte Tilbury Film Star Bronze & Glow, here*
Rare Beauty Cream Blush in Rose, here*
NARS Voyageur Palette in Suede, here*
Hourglass Gel Liner in Chestnut, here*
Elnett Hair Spray, here*
Rare Beauty Liner in Fun, here*
Code8 Beauty in At The Barre, here*
Benefit Brow Brush, here*
Before and After Beauty: October 2022
I begin with the Dior Forever Skin Glow Foundation in shade 2N (online here*) applied with the Vieve foundation brush, £26 here*. This is a long-term face base favourite as it adds luminescence but doesn’t leave any particular residue on the skin. For those who want a more velvety matte finish there’s the Dior Forever – both have great longevity and you need to work relatively fast to blend them in. It’s just a very, very reliable foundation.
For slightly less coverage but similar sort of low-key glow take a look at L’Oreal True Match (online here*). There are loads of shades and it’s marginally easier to work with as it doesn’t set so fast. It’s also a fraction of the cost, if you’re budget conscious.
I don’t use concealer here as the Dior foundation does the trick for me (I need concealer with the True Match) so it’s straight in with my ultimate “instant glamour” product, Charlotte Tilbury’s Filmstar Bronze & Glow (online here*). I use this a lot when I want to create something a bit more grown-up and polished – the cheekbone and chisel. It’s an investment but a little goes a long way and I never fail to be pleased with the results. A bit of the bronzing contour beneath the cheekbones and a touch of the highlighter on top, this is not for your low-key everyday routine if you like to have a completely natural, undetectable sort of makeup look.
The blush here is a Rare Beauty cream one in Rose*, applied with a Jones Road blusher brush. And that completes the skin.
You can see that I very simply brush and set my brows using a spritz of Elnett* on a brow brush (this one is Benefit and has an angled liner brush on the other end, find it here*). It’s a very quick and cheap way of doing brows if you’re not fussed about adding more colour and volume to them – you cannot go far wrong with this technique and even if you’re the most minimal makeup person ever I’d recommend adding this in to your day. It just seems to lift my eyes slightly and make me look more awake.
Eyeshadow is mainly “the top middle one” from the NARS Voyageur Palette in Suede. I think that this is my all-time favourite eyeshadow palette due to its handy size and the fact that I like all of the shades, no exception. They’re all useful and you can create so many looks. The palette is £28 (find it here*) and for a heartstopping moment last month I thought they’d discontinued it but it looks to be in stock with a few etailers so I’ll chill.
I use the slightly darker shades just to run along the lower lashline and then the darkest in the palette to create a small “flick” at the outer corner. You know the drill, you’ve seen this before.
Mascara is an Armani one but that didn’t float my boat too much, the brush was slightly too thick for me and I tend to get a lot on my lids when this is the case! Back to the Telescopic* I go…
I have used an eyeliner here, even though I’m trying to not use an eyeliner these days for low-key looks. There’s just something about it that I think makes me look slightly tired, unless I’m doing a big old smokey eye extravaganza and blending it all in. I’ll have to experiment more on that theory. Anyway this gel liner is gorgeous whether it tires me out or not: the Chestnut gel liner from Hourglass*. It glides on beautifully and then sticks in place for hours and hours.
On the lips? A Rare Beauty lip liner in shade Fun*, ‘cos that’s what I am, and the AM/PM lip crayon from Code Eight in a shade called At The Barre*. I’d forgotten about these beautiful tinted lip balms from Code Eight; so easy to use and very moisturising. As you’d hope.
That’s the whole look. I curled my hair with my Cloud9 wand (this one*, in case you’re interested) and then bouffed it out with my fingertips so that it all felt a little bit retro.
I have some research to do before next month’s One Minute Makeup; I’m trying to find the loveliest high street lipsticks. There seems to be a dearth of nice pinks on the high street – I’m thinking one’s like Clinique’s Peony Pop – and I’m determined to find some nice options. Any ideas, please let me know in the comments…
It’s “neutrals with a hint of pink time”! Yes, that’s right: whilst the whole world of social media experiments with the mandatory seasonal shades of russet and bronze, I’m still stuck in bronzer mode with a little bit of pretty pink to eradicate signs of tiredness and add a bit of youthful flush into the mix.
Here’s what I’m using on my face at the moment; the hero products are the recently rediscovered Dior Forever Skin Glow foundation and the liquid blush from Rare Beauty, which seems to be totally sold out. Some potential alternatives listed below.
Let’s get cracking – if you’d like to watch all of the products in action (and full technicolour) then scroll to the bottom of the page and click play on the video screen.
Dior Forever Skin Glow Foundation
They’ve relaunched this foundation a few different times since I first reviewed it here in May 2013. It started off as a velvet finish face base and then it became two different foundations altogether, one with a matte finish and one with a glowier finish. The matte (simply called Forever) is absolutely brilliant for staying power and a massively perfected finish, the sort that looks airbrushed. The Skin Glow looks slightly more natural and real. Flexible.
I use shade 2N but actually it looks better on me mixed with a bit of 2.5N to warm things up. In the depths of winter I’ll probably be 2N proper.
I feel as though you have to work quite quickly with this foundation, it sets fast and then sticks around until you have a proper cleanse with a flannel. The coverage is medium-to-full and it’s easily buildable – I can go in with another little tapped-on layer under the eyes and around the nose and it looks seamless.
Find Dior Forever Skin Glow here* – at Escentual it always seems to be a load cheaper than elsewhere. There’s a reason for this and I can’t remember it, but whatever: it makes it just a little more appealing, price-wise, when it’s £38.25 rather than £45.
Armani Power Fabric Concealer
This concealer deserves its own post; I use it constantly and it’s my default option. It gives a really natural, lightweight look, as though the product melds with the skin and moves with it, but the coverage is still very good. It’s a clever product in that it disguises and detracts without forming a thick, opaque layer.
You still see some of the skin beneath but it makes everything vastly improved. If you tend to wear lighter, sheerer bases and a heavy concealer on top looks odd then this is the product for you. If you can stretch to it. I’d say it’s a good investment if you struggle with concealers that sit in fine lines or look cakey – this blends in quickly and stays looking fresh all day.
You can find Power Fabric online here* – I use shade 5, for reference.
Charlotte Tilbury Cream Bronzer
Is actually called Beautiful Skin Bronzer but I’m lazy. This is very similar to Chanel’s big cream bronzer in the flat jar but comes in more shades and is marginally less orange-toned so slightly more foolproof. By buffing this into freshly-applied foundation you can create a sunkissed look that’s very believable and subtle or build up the colour for a more dramatic look.
It’s excellent stuff. Priced to reflect that. I’ve just realised that this video is erring on the side of pure luxury which wasn’t intentional! Find the cream bronzer here*, I use shade 1.
Rare Beauty Liquid Blush
This is sold out everywhere by the looks of it, but give this link* a try anyway in case you’re reading in a time of good stock! I use Hope, a lovely pink shade and you can see from the video that the amount you need to use each time is minuscule. Truly. I doubt I’ll ever use this up, unless I live to one hundred and twenty.
Good alternatives, though they’re cream rather than liquid; the cream blush from Rare Beauty (same brand, different texture) and also the cream blushes from Trinny London and Beauty Pie. They are all delicious – I apply with a brush for these, too, for a really flawless sort of effect.
If you’re lucky enough to get hold of the liquid blush I use in the video then just dap a dot on each cheek and blend lightly with a fluffy brush rather than a firmer, kabuki one. You don’t want to upset all the makeup beneath the blush, things can get alarmingly patchy very quickly…
NARS Voyageur Palette
This is one of my most-used eye palettes. Possibly the most-used if you exclude the Becca one that’s now discontinued. As in the entire brand, not just the palette. NARS Voyageur in Suede has precisely the shades I want to use on a daily basis and nothing else at all. It’s small and compact and I can bung it in a handbag if I need to an it even slides into one of those stupid small purse-on-a-string bags that are all the rage for people who seemingly never need to cart about an emergency Tampax, car keys or, I don’t know, money.
Find the palatte here* – and if you tap “Voyageur” into the search box then you’ll see plenty of videos where I’m using it. The big fat brush I use to apply the shimmery peach-beige shadow is the Bobbi Brown Blender, here* and the flatter, rounded one for the “fake eyeliner” trick that I do is a Sigma E55 brush, here*.
Brows and Lashes
Nearly there! Brows are groomed and thickened with the perennial favourite, Benefit’s Gimme Brow in shade 1, here*. Lashes are lengthened and volumised with L’Oreal’s Telescopic False Lash mascara (here*) which is as good as any of the luxury offerings out there. If you have fine, flat lashes and big brushes do you no favours then honestly, get involved with the Telescopic. I prefer the one in the matte gold tube (currently seven-ish quid here*) for everyday use but it was in my car and couldn’t be bothered to go and get it.
Clinique Lip Pop
Clinique’s lipsticks are genuinely some of the very best out there. They combine a lip primer to smooth and fill with a beautiful, punchy dose of colour and you can get matte finishes or shinier ones. Peony is, in my opinion, the perfect pretty pink. At time of writing Clinique have these lipsticks for sale at around £17 – find them here*. I doubt anyone would regret the purchase of one of these – they feel like a luxury buy but don’t have the luxury price tag.L’Oreal Telescopic Mascara*: https://amzn.to/3LzaLFW
Some lovely, melty-textured makeup bits that’ll see you through the rest of summer and take you nicely into Autumn.
Oh God! The A-Word!
I hate myself for even using it, because the summer months are what I live for, but all good things must come to an end. Also, the summer holidays stress me out more than they ever relax me, September is always a welcome break. I still think of September as being a new year and a fresh start – empty notebooks waiting to be filled, the smell of unworn plimsolls. Is anyone else still stuck in their school years, decades on?
Back on topic: these are all relatively new makeup launches and (apart from the annoying fiddly cap on the cream eyeshadow) make near-perfect additions to any makeup bag. Highlights include a brilliant tinted sunscreen (one that could easily replace your sheer foundation if you were after an all-in-one summer weather multi-tasker) and a cream bronzer that buffs into the skin to give the most beautiful, diffused colour.
Read on for all of the details or, if you’d prefer to watch me talking and applying the products, scroll down to the video at the bottom of the page.
I think that this tinted sunscreen is one of the best beauty launches of the year. There’s a whole rave about it in my previous post about SPF top-ups but, in short, it’s a sheer skin base with full SPF50, UVA and UVB protection and it comes in lots of shades. It’s easily doable to apply the recommended amount to your face (1/4 teaspoon) without it looking overdone or claggy and I don’t find I need a separate moisturiser beneath it.
The coverage is by no means “full” but if you’re after the ultimate all-in-one skin product with colour, minimal coverage and full sun protection then this is it. Find it at Space NK here* – it’s £38 for 50ml.
If you prefer your skin to look naturally sunkissed rather than obviously bronzed then Charlotte Tilbury’s new cream Sun-Kissed Glow bronzer (£42 here*) is a solid investment. It’s as pricey as Chanel’s Les Beiges version but has the same soft-focus effect when buffed into the skin and comes in four shades rather than Chanel’s two. This is sophisticated bronzing that seamlessly melds into your makeup base rather than sitting on top – if you’d like to see it in action then watch the video at the bottom of the page. It’s such a lovely, grown-up effect.
You can find the Sun-Kissed Glow bronzer online in all four shades – I wear shade two, medium, but in winter I could be tempted to notch down to shade one and apply more copiously. It’s nicely buildable.
I like this very summery highlighter. It won’t be for everyone, especially not those with oily or combination skin, but if you love a sheeny finish to your makeup and also a bit of movement, where the skin and the makeup all look flexible and natural rather than set in place, you’ll really like it. It almost feels more like a luxury body product than a face one – it smells unbelievably nice and comes in a little bottle with a pump – but tap it onto cheekbones and you can instantly see how it adds a gorgeous non-glittery glow.
I tried all shades of this but I think Midas is the best on me – it has a slight warmth that works really well on summer skin. See video below.
This is a great summer-autumn eye colour and the cream formula blends in so nicely. Not sure that the tube with the tiny cap is very user-friendly and you need to squeeze out the tiniest amount of product otherwise all hell breaks loose but this would last you a long, long time even with daily use.
I love the shade “Flare”, which has just the right degree of beigey-warmth beneath the shimmer; you can do a brilliant one-shadow eye look with this, it highlights in all the right places. See video for application.
The shade name Bungalow really tickles me. It’s a very unglamorous-sounding word, like bungle. But the shade itself is lovely – the perfect amount of pink to make it pretty but with a neutral edge to keep it subtle. The gloss formula is marginally less sticky than your usual gloss, which is something to celebrate – I’m wearing it as I type and I’ve had it on for around five hours. Granted I haven’t eaten or drunk anything or even spoken to anyone, but it still has all the sheen and colour and feels ever so slightly – really very slightly, – tacky rather than sticky. It’s a good ‘un if you like your glosses but hate having small insects stuck to your lips all day.
Find it here online.
I’m very pleased with the poetic title for this post. I’m even more pleased with the fact I’ve actually finished the seaside holiday cottage renovation project I’ve been working on* and the romantic little Dorset Nook is now available to book!
Think lazy walks down to the beach for a picnic on a sunny day, think longer, blustery walks along the south-west coastal path to take in the stupendous views along the Jurassic Coast (this is my favourite activity); think massive slabs of apple cake with clotted cream, trips to the Gelato hut, seaside fish and chips (the best kind). Think long lunches at creaky old pubs and then back to the gorgeous, cosy cottage for a warm bath and a glass of wine in front of the fire.
Yes, the cottage is finally ready for bookings. After a very prolonged renovation period (do I need to even utter the word pandemic?) and a seemingly endless era of zipping up and down to Dorset to decorate and furnish, this gorgeous hideaway is available for beautifully lazy summer holidays, crisp autumnal long weekends and snug winter breaks.
I’m going to go into “travel agent mode” to tell you a bit about it – I feel as though I need to wear two hats at the moment because I have to be this professional holiday-let owner when I get enquiries and not write the word “lol” in my email responses and also deal with things like lost keys. Which is very different to the hat I wear the rest of the time when I’m doing things like dressing as a wizard (see here).
So here we go: let the brochure begin.
The Dorset Nook is an 18th century cottage in the picturesque village of Eype that sleeps two adults in very stylish comfort. (If I may say so myself. Sorry – popping in with the other hat on!)
There’s a kingsize bedroom upstairs (the staircase is through a little doorway in a panelled wall, it’s very secretive) with deep window seat and a lovely, soothing vibe. It’s so quiet and so dark at night, it’s a true romantic hideaway up there.
Downstairs there are two lovely living areas; the cosy, ancient living room with exposed stone walls and woodburning stove and then the light-filled open-plan space with kitchen, dining area and reading nook.
The living room is perfect for cuddling up in if the evenings are chilly but I actually love it at any time of the day – it feels so atmospheric in there with its window seat and thick stone walls.
The open plan living area (below) was originally a series of small, dark rooms but now they are knocked through into one space it is filled with light all day long – it’s also surrounded by the little cottage garden so that you can throw the windows open and listen to the birds.
There’s a fully-equipped kitchen, a dining area with antique farmhouse table and chairs and a lovely reading nook with squidgy sofa and cushions and throws.
It’s really hard not to fall asleep here in the afternoon. I always planned to write a novel from the kitchen table, but that hasn’t quite manifested itself. Maybe somebody else will!
The sweet bathroom downstairs has a bath with a shower over it and lovely traditional sink and fittings, and then there’s the little cottage garden that wraps around the cottage with space to dine and deckchairs to kick back in.
There are amazing walks straight from the garden gate, there’s an incredible beach a third of a mile away (I march down there in a matter of minutes, you can amble at a more leisurely pace if you prefer!) and the views from the south-west coastal path are just stunning.
You can find loads more information about the cottage on the website here – there’s a whole page on amenities and interiors and another on location and things to do and places to eat. I’ve really fallen in love with both the cottage and the area and I’m hoping that everyone who visits will too.
It really is such a lovely spot and the cottage is tucked away (it can only be accessed on foot and isn’t suitable for pets or children) so it feels like a proper holiday from the world as soon as you step through the garden gate. And the cottage with its crisp, beautiful bed linens, vintage furniture finds and old oak beams feels so welcoming and atmospheric – it’s a joy to land back there at the end of the day. Or just not leave it at all.
*Just in case some of you missed the intro to my latest venture (I do like to keep them coming!); it has been a long-term plan of mine to renovate a little holiday cottage somewhere, off the beaten track, fill it full of gorgeous bits and pieces and let it out to nice people who appreciate lovely things. I did record some of the process on the Instagram page here if you’d like to take a look.
I’m thinking about doing a renovation post on how we transformed the cottage, so let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. It was actually quite a drawn-out process, in the end, and took a lot longer and cost a lot more than I anticipated. (Mainly because I am an eternal optimist and didn’t think that trying to manage a renovation that was an hour-and-a-half away would be an issue. With two small kids. And a job. You live and learn!)
I’m on Bridgerton Season 2 Episode 3 and have been gripped by what I can only describe as “heaving bosom fever”. (Why am I only on episode three, you may ask? It’s because I can only watch Bridgerton when Mr AMR is away because we like to watch something together in the evenings that we both equally appreciate and he thinks that Bridgerton is a load of old tripe. He’s not far wrong, to be fair, because there’s very little in the way of gripping storyline going on, but I enjoy it nonetheless. Apart from the annoying narrator who pips in every now and then to tell us nothing very useful. Go away narrator, we’re only here for the houses and the sexual tension!)
Anyway, I love the dresses with the plunging necklines and the chests held up by corsets and the expanses of soft, pampered skin – heaving bosoms ahoy – and thought I’d give a nod to them in this try-on video. And who better to turn to for plunging necklines and acres of pushed-up bosom than The Reformation. You may remember this brand from last summer (I made a video here): I dipped back in to see whether they had some corset-inspired low-cut dresses and tops and lo and behold…
The only problem is I have not a single clue how to style them. On the website the tops are bunged on with jeans and really that’s the only way I can see me wearing them. They’d look ridiculous with tailored trousers, surely? And with skirts would they not be a bit…costume drama? Jeans dress them down and make them seem effortless, but I’m still not sure I’d get away with it.
Thoughts in the comments please! And here are the tops and the dress I’ve tried on in the video:
Miraflores Top, short sleeves with a corset-style bodice. Online at The Reformation here.*
Isadora Top in Mildred fabric, similar shape but with long sleeves. Online here.*
Tagliatelle Dress in Blush Check, online here.*
Hello! It’s been a while. The month-long pause to “write a book and spend quality time with the family” seemed to very quickly and easily turn into a three-and-a-half-month break from the blog that has proved quite difficult to come back from. I was planning a bit of a honey I’m HOME! post at the end of January but that’s still lying in the drafts folder, and life got hectic – we had a wall knocked down (on purpose), then another three walls got knocked down (also on purpose), then we all got Covid (very much not on purpose) – which just about brings you all up to date.
And so a smooth segue from the last post – Festive Favourites – to this post, which is called Early Spring Favourites. At least there’s a seasonal theme. I’ve actually decided to update and upgrade the monthly favourites so that they’re a little more pulled-together, less random. Rather than finding my five favourite things each month, I’m going to wait until some sort of interesting category or motif strikes me; for example it could be my five favourite UK hotels. Or my five favourite recipes of all time. (Ooh! That’s a good one!)
For now, though, let’s get all springtime optimistic with my 5 Early Spring Favourites. I have to admit that the theme here is tenuous and I actually didn’t explain very well in the video how on earth some of the favourites were related to early spring, so hopefully my accompanying write-up will finish off the job. If you’d like to skip straight to the video then feel free – it’s at the bottom of the page.
1. Clinique Even Better Refresh Foundation. A rediscovery after I spent a day sorting my makeup archives, this is the perfect sort of makeup texture for early spring. It’s lightweight and very fresh and glowy, like the effect you’d maybe get from a tinted moisturiser, but it has better lasting power than most tinted moisturisers. Shade-wise I have CN28 but could actually go a smidgen darker, they have a much wider range of shades in their Even Better foundation. You can find this online here*.
2. RAB Thermal Leggings (online here). I did quite an extensive test on three pairs of leggings for my Instagram page (the video is here) and these RAB Power Stretch Pants beat the others hands down. I mean, with a name like Power Stretch Pants how could they not win? At absolutely everything? They sound like an eighties New York stockbroker.
The reason they’re included in Early Spring favourites? Should be self-explanatory if you live in the UK, but for those who aren’t familiar with our temperamental, mostly-disappointing climate, in springtime (or indeed summertime) it can be boiling hot one day and snowing the next. With weeks of grey drizzle either side. And now that turning on the heating is as expensive as staying at The Dorchester it makes sense to layer up.
The RAB Power Pants are made of very thick fabric with a fleece lining; they feel like a dry and cuddly wet suit. Full disclaimer: I don’t think I’ve actually ever donned a wet suit because I only swim or go near water when I absolutely have to and I certainly never fully immerse. But I imagine if there was a cuddly version it would feel like RAB thermal leggings.
3. My new sliding bedroom doors! They have completely transformed the roof terrace outside the bedroom making it a space I want to spend every minute in. On. Just in time for spring. For anyone interested (niche content alert) the doors are SMARTS aluminium Visoglide Plus with 35mm sightlines. (Basically the “frame” you see down the middle is quite slim so that you don’t cut the view too much. Although from this angle you see the depth of the frame on the one on the right, too, so it looks wider. It’s not.)
I could talk about glazing until the cows come home so do hit me up with questions if you have any. Honestly, I’ve had so many experiences with glazing companies – mostly bad – that I am glad to help if I can…
4. Margaret Howell Anglepoise, bought from John Lewis here*. Not remotely related to springtime, is it, but I’ve wanted a proper Anglepoise for years. I like to be able to spotlight whatever I’m doing on my desk and it amuses the geek inside me that I can angle the lamp in so many different ways! Easily pleased.
Anyway, I’ve been waiting for a colour I liked – they often do collaborations – and the Margaret Howell collection had quite retro colours.
5. Oh look, this one is very spring-appropriate: my Liberty nightie. I love it despite the kids laughing at me and asking whether I was off to a ball.
Five and six years old and I’m getting mocked already! I used loyalty points towards this and at time of publishing this it’s in the sale – you can find it here*. I have a real thing for Liberty print nightwear but only allow myself to peek at it when they have a good event on.
I’m clocking off for Christmas now, but not before I present you with this month’s favourites video. It actually straddles two months (oh, how I’ve always longed to use the word “straddled” in a non-sexual sentence!) because I missed November’s favourites out completely. (It’s my birthday at the end of November and I always forget to film in advance.)
I’m about to sign off for at least a month, I think, in order to a) have a proper Christmas break with the kids and b) attempt to birth some form of book, or at least a good few chapters of one. Seize the day, and all that – if I don’t knuckle down and do it next year I fear it’ll never happen.
So: festive favourites. Five things that have tickled my fancy when it comes to getting into the Christmas spirit, including a massive tree, a dramatic tulle skirt and, er, some wellies. It’ll all make sense when you read on – and please see video below for visuals!
Festive Favourite Numero Uno: The 10ft Vermont Spruce from Balsam Hill
Good lord I had a right old rigmarole with this artificial tree business. You can follow the journey on Instagram here. The first two trees, in true Goldilocks style, weren’t quite right. The third tree finally arrived….but only half of it! Who sends half a tree? Balsam Hill, that’s who.
This little (large) problem was overshadowed, however, when the tree was erected in all of its realistic glory. I’m quite taken aback by how much I love it. I can highly recommend the Balsam Hill Vermont Spruce if, in years to come, you decide you want a non-dropping tree that you can keep forever. (I have to have a fake one as I start shooting Christmas content around seven or eight weeks before Christmas.)
The tree I bought is here but they do have far less expensive options, especially if you’re not buying a gigantic one. The needles are really very convincing and it’s pre-lit with so many lights, way more than I would ever bother to put on. You could almost not decorate it and it would still look great.
Festive Favourite Number Two: Muck Boots
We are now, seemingly, a Muck Boot family. I’ll admit that they look slightly less, er, chic than some of the trendy brands by by God are they comfy. Neoprene-lined so that your feet don’t get cold and with soles that feel on a par with Nike Airs for bounce level. You can find all of their styles on their website here and they also stock them on Amazon here* if you’re in an almighty rush to get something for someone in time for Christmas…
Festive Favourite Number Three: Tulle Skirt
I went all Sex And The City and bought a grown-up tulle skirt and have no regrets. Hush keep selling out of this (it’s £99 here* online) but keep an eye on the page and do order if it takes your fancy, it’s exactly as nice as they promise. Although I would size down at least one UK size.
Festive Favourite Number Four: Desmond & Dempsey Pyjamas
I ordered these cotton pyjamas* for a shoot and could not have been more impressed with the service – really fast postage, the pyjamas were beautifully packaged (above and beyond!) and the quality is superb. The design I liked the most (here*) happened to be reduced in price, inexplicably, but I’m not complaining! I love that Desmond & Dempsey do shorts with long-sleeved tops; lots of places only do short-sleeved shirts with their short sets but I’m never that keen. They make me feel like I’m wearing a school uniform.
You can find all the Desmond & Demspey ranges online here*.
Festive Favourite Number Five: Huda Glowish Skin Tint (Press Sample)
For those who want that sophisticated candlelit glow on their face, there’s Huda Glowish. It’s really great. It’s tinted enough to actually wear as a tinted moisturiser but personally I feel it’s a little too glowy to wear without being tempered down slightly. So I use it as a primer with a very light foundation on top in the places I need it, or I dab it onto cheekbones and below the brows after I’ve finished my makeup. Or both.
It’s a wonderful alternative to highlighter for those who can’t abide the strong, shimmery or pearlescent line that some of the more dramatic highlighters can leave. Utterly foolproof and really amps up a glamorous look. You can find it at Cult Beauty here*, it’s £32.
Here’s the video if you’d like to see some of these bits and pieces in action; all that’s left is for me now to wish you all a very lovely Christmas and a joyful 2022. (Realise that with the current state of affairs that joyful might be stretching things a bit, but we can hope!)
Thank you so much for all of your support in 2021, I really do appreciate every read and every comment. You may have noticed that posts have been a bit more regular on here for the past few months: it’s a trend I’m hoping to keep working on next year. Which will hopefully please those who don’t use social media and only keep up with me here on the blog!
My Christmas gift ideas 2021 for him is here. In all honestly, Mr AMR chose a lot of this but I think that’s probably a good thing. I tend to find oddities such as “coasters that cost £71” and he finds coffee machines that look like a Makita drill… Remember to pass this guide on to anyone who might need some gift-buying inspiration!
top left DIESEL LIVING WITH SELETTI ‘Culture Skulture’ – Bison Skull. For those who want the ultimate mountain ranch aesthetic but aren’t keen on having an actual dead head on their wall. Just add cedar cladding and an open fire… Buy for £281 from Amara*.
Top middle TOM FORD – Floral Print Boxers. Excellent prints, just don’t let the dog chew them… Buy for £90 from Selfridges & Co*.
Far right MONKEY – 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin. If you’re going to gift booze then make it special. I have it on good authority that this is a nice one and I find it very aesthetically pleasing. Buy for £35.40 from Amazon.
Bottom middle NATIVE UNION – Heritage Airpod Pro Case – Forest Green. Jazz up the Airpod case. Not sure whether this will make Airpods any less easy to lose – someone should make a GPS tracker for airpods! Buy for £40 from Amara*.
Bottom left JONATHAN ADLER – Full Dose Coaster – Set of 4. Yes this was one of my brilliant suggestions. Cue eye roll from Mr AMR, but lots of people are house proud and want cool stuff and like to set out coasters when they have visitors and… Buy for £71 from Amara*.
POLS POTTEN – Plate with Gun. When is a plate not a plate? When there’s no room for any food? I don’t know. Obviously this is art, darling. Buy for £100*.
JONATHAN ADLER – Rocket Vodka Decanter. I’m sure I’ve included these decanters from Jonathan Adler before – I think they’re a lot of fun. More ornament than decanter, because you wouldn’t want to drop this, but it would look excellent on a retro bar cart. Buy for £163 from Amara*.
FRED PERRY – M12 Twin-Tipped Shirt. I’m very into forest green at the moment, it’s a very smart kind of colour. And you can’t go wrong with a bit of Fred Perry – old school classics at reasonable prices. Price reduced from £85.00 to £59.50 from Liberty*.
CASA BUGATTI – Diva Coffee Machine – Orange. Go big or go home – you can’t get bolder than this Bugatti coffee machine. If you were ever looking for a centrepiece for the kitchen… Buy for £799 from Amara*.
Featured above, gifts for men who are ‘foodies’:
top left KAMADO JOE – Portable Charcoal Grill, Blaze Red. ’tis a good one. Great for camping enthusiasts, beach-BBQ-lovers and those who like to do a bit of al fresco cooking at home. It’s small and convenient enough to make it the sort of gadget that will get loads of use. Buy for £336.99 from Amazon.
Top middle MAKITA – Cordless Coffee Maker. Ah, the coffee maker disguised as a Makita drill. And it’s cordless – one for the camper who thinks he has everything. Buy for £56.95 from Amazon.
Far right STANLEY 1L Stainless Steel Thermos Flask. Can a flask look more rugged? Asking for a friend. Buy for £36.14 from Amazon.
Bottom middle PERFECTLY SALTED PORK CRACKLING 300g. This stocking filler is pretty self-explanatory and I have nothing to add. Don’t crack a molar. Buy for £14.99 from Selfridges & Co.
Bottom left PSYCHO JUICE 70% – Ghost Pepper Hot Chilli Sauce. Now hot sauces are things I can get on board with: I love them! You can find some with brilliant names and labels but I liked Psycho Juice for its 90s slasher horror movie undertones. Buy for £7.45 from Amazon.
Featured above, gifts for men who are tech-lovers:
top left PHILIPS SONICARE – Advanced Whitening Toothbrush – Gum Pressure Sensor & Bluetooth. Sleek looks, amazing performance. It’s not the most glamorous sort of gift, but there’s a luxurious touch to this toothbrush. Buy for £89.99 from Amazon.
Top middle APPLE AIRPODS PRO – with MagSafe charging case (2021). I’ve waxed lyrical about these in the women’s gift guide: the noise cancelling element is just outstanding, especially if you’re trying to work from home and block out unwanted bustle. Buy for £189 from Amazon.
Far right DJI POCKET 2 CREATOR COMBO – 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer with 4K Camera. A tech pick from Mr AMR, this is one for enthusiastic film makers who’d like to produce smooth, professional content. Buy for £469 from Amazon.
Bottom middle TELESCOPIC LADDER. I said we needed a clever ladder in this guide. Something spacesaving that looked futuristic. Mr AMR was doubtful but then look: telescopic action and good looks. Buy for £78.99 from Amazon.
Bottom left LEDLENSER – Professional LED Torch, Black. Take it from a torch obsessive (Mr AMR, not me!): this is a nifty little number. Compact but with incredible range (apparently, I had started snoozing by this point) Lenser is a solid brand for, er, torches. Buy for £51.02 from Amazon.
MUCK BOOTS – Unisex Adults Derwent II Rain Boot. These boots mean business. Mr AMR has three different pairs and he is picky as you like when it comes to wellies. They keep your feet slightly warmer than other brands when it’s chilly and they’re incredibly durable. Oh and comfy! With bouncy soles and a good lining. Buy for £109.99 from Amazon.
Featured above, gifts for the home:
left KLEVERING Purfect Orange Mirror. I had no idea what this was when I looked back at the photo! A mirror. It’s a mirror. I think I chose it because the colour matched the coffee machine. Well, at least I’m honest… Buy for £28 from Liberty*.
Right PRICKLDN Stetsonia Coryne £10 for plant (pot sold separately). Prick is a great plant shop in London with a massive selection of cacti, some hilariously phallic. I almost think it’s the rule that you have to buy one that looks like a spiky penis when you’re shopping at a shop called Prick, but maybe that’s just me. Buy from Prickldn.
LIBERTY Thorpe Tana Lawn Cotton Pyjama Set. I know you’re thinking that this has crept in from the women’s guide but you’d be wrong. The cut is different. And I will not apologise for my Liberty print obsession… Price reduced from £225.00 to £180.00*.
ASSOULINE French Riviera Book. My “books and chocolate” guide will be out soon. Mostly smaller (far less expensive!) picks in that, but if you wanted to splash out on something more special for a posh coffee table then Assouline is your brand. Buy for £150 from Amara*.
Featured above, gifts for men who love their tools:
left TOOENJOY Car Door Step – Easy Access to Car Roof. This is genius! Take a look at the link to see how it works, but it will honestly intrigue and delight anyone who loves faffing with gadgets. It’s an instant step so that you can reach up high onto the car roof, maybe to pack a roof box or secure a surf board. It’s a practical person’s joy. Buy for £45.99 from Amazon.
Right GERBER DIME Mini Multi Tool – Black. Toolkit in your pocket, anyone? Buy for £39 from Amazon.
BOND – Photographed by Terry O’Neill – The Definitive Collection Hardcover. Again, book post coming soon but this is a cool (and relatively inexpensive) buy for Bond-lovers and photography fans. Buy for £35.45 from Amazon.
Christmas Gift Ideas For Her is here. Wow, that’s a mouthful of a sentence! I hope that the following bits and pieces spark your imagination
Top left GUCCI Bloom Nettare Di Fiori For Her – Eau de Parfum 100ml. Is this not just the coolest bottle? Instagram heaven. Buy for £114.00 from Feel Unique*.
Top middle PRINTWORKS ‘Snoozing’ Eye Mask. I feel as though this has popped up in a Movie recently, this sleep mask – if it hasn’t then it should. It’s very stylish and a change from the usual silky ones with your star sign on or ones monogrammed in a curly font. Buy for £32 from Amara*.
Top right PEARL LOWE – The Ava Gown. Well this is all sorts of glamorous and sexy – it’s almost too good to keep it for indoors. And a nice, substantial fabric that will actually keep you warm. No flimsy silk robes on this page! It’s winter for crying out loud! Buy for £395 from Pearl Lowe.
Bottom right CANOPY PLANTS – Cherry Aglaonema plant with ceramic pot. Chosen, admittedly, because it looks good with the other products in the guide, but canopy plants have loads of options and they are all potted and ready to go. Waiting for people like me to kill them. Buy for £38.00 from Selfridges & Co*.
Bottom middle ANGLEPOISE 90 Mini, Anodised brushed Aluminium finish, Berry Red. The classic – you can’t beat an anglepoise for timeless style. You can spend upwards of £500 for a desk lamp that’s a true design classic but this one is a small slice of cool for a palatable price. Buy for £87.20 from Amazon.
Bottom left BEAUTY PIE – Luxury Silk Hair Scrunchie, pack of six. I can’t be without my silk scrunchies now; yes they send me back to the nineties a little, but they are smooth and snag-free and the easiest way of securing my default twist-into-a-bun hairstyle. Buy for £35 (BECOME A MEMBER AND PAY £16.76) from Beauty Pie.
CHARBONNEL Et WALKER – Pink Champagne Truffles. I know that these divide people; Mr AMR thinks that they taste of soap. Other versions are available but I’m always drawn to the pretty box, year after year. Buy for £15 from Amazon.
SIMPLEHUMAN – Sensor Mirror Compact, Rose Gold Stainless Steel. The best makeup mirrors come from Simple Human – their wall- and desk-mounted ones are pricier but once you have one you’ll never look back. Because you’ll always be looking in the mirror, ha! This is a portable compact and no less handy – brilliant for hotel stays where the lighting is dire and for doing your makeup in the back of a cab. Buy for £89.95 from Amazon.
Top left LIBERTY Bubble Candle. So many candles, most of them in glass containers: I love this sculptural bubble candle for its simplicity and sense of fun. Buy for £13.60 from Liberty.
Top middle ASSOULINE Ibiza Bohemia Book. The coolest coffee table books in town – warning: flick through this and you will have the uncontrollable urge to travel. Buy for £70 from Amara*.
Top right JUICY COUTURE Gillian scoop-neck stretch-velour bralette. We did the tracksuits (come on, we all did, didn’t we?) and now there’s the bralette. Nostalgic, yes – but more importantly, comfy. Buy for £30.00 from Selfridges & Co.
Bottom right OH FLUFFITA SLIDE UGGs in pink. Another nostalgia-propelled choice: we did the boots (oh, how we did the boots) and now we will do the slides. If we want to look like something that’s crawled in from an all-night bender down Sesame Street. Buy for £100 from UGG*.
Bottom middle NATIVE UNION Drop Wireless Charger Pad – Rose. The practical present, but infinitely useful for bedside charging and it’s the best-looking charger pad around. No more searching for the cable that’s dropped down the back of the drawers. Buy for £40 from Amara.
Bottom left LIGNE BLANCHE Andy Warhol Scented Candle – Campbell’s Soup. Candles don’t get cooler than this. It’s a mini work of art and once you’ve finished burning the candle you can store your makeup brushes in the pot. Buy for £45 from Amara.
MULBERRY – Small Darley in Quilted Light Salmon. The classic shoulder bag with gold hardware and enough room for wallet, phone and keys. Oh so luxurious and beautifully made, it’s utterly timeless and the perfect special gift. Buy for £695.
ADIDAS – PRIMEBLUE TRACK TOP. I’m really into my Adidas again, perhaps inspired by Squid Game but maybe because I have been trying to up my leisurewear game and stop looking like someone who has been living in the woods with only cats for company. I like this soft pink version for lazy days and for when I start running, which will be never. Buy for £35.
Top left LIBERTY Twist and Twine Tana Lawn Cotton Short Pyjama Set. Liberty print again, I’m not going to apologise. It just makes excellent giftlist fodder because it feels inordinately special and looks the absolute business. I can’t get enough! Buy for £225.00.
Top middle SWAN Retro Pump Espresso Coffee Machine, Green. I don’t drink coffee but have been researching coffee machines for my holiday cottage business venture. (Don’t even ask how that’s going.) I thought that this one was very pleasing and not outrageously expensive if you didn’t want to go OTT. Buy for £79 from Amazon.
Top right NEWGATE – Charlie Bell Echo Alarm. You have to be a certain type of person to want to be awakened by two clanging metal cymbals going off right next to your head, but if you’re that person then this is your clock. Buy for £25 from Amazon.
Bottom right SELETTI Toiletpaper Mirror – Sea Girl. I love these Seletti mirrors – they do a few different versions and they are all like small pieces of art. Brilliant for spicing up the downstairs loo. Buy for £260 from Amara*.
Bottom middle DORA LARSEN – Dolly stretch-tulle underwired bra. When sexy lingerie gets colourful. I’ve never seen such a fun lingerie brand and there are plenty of different cuts and versions depending on whether you prefer soft bras or more structured items. Buy for £52 from Net-a-porter.
THE BRITISH LIBRARY: A Book of Nonsense Journal. If ever a book was up my street. Buy for £10.95 from Liberty*.
ELIZABETH SCARLETT – Jungle Leaf Travel Pouch. I’ve bought loads of Elizabeth Scarlett toiletries bags as gifts, they are so pretty. Just add a small bag of bath salts* inside if you want to give the gift some literal weight. Buy for £20 from Amara*.
BERGS POTTER – Copenhagen Glazed Plant Pot and Saucer. When plant pots go posh. I have two of these in different colours and they are supremely photogenic. Not that that’s the main requirement for a plant pot, but it helps… Buy for £65 from Amara.
Top left BODEN Cashmere Chunky Bed Socks. Always a treat and the Boden socks are amazing quality. I still have some from five years ago (the only ones the dog hasn’t chewed) and they’re surviving admirably. Think of them as slippers rather than socks, otherwise the cost is almost too hard to swallow. Buy for £50*.
Top middle LIBERTY Elderberry Large Weekly Diary 2022. Nothing can replace the feeling of writing actual lists with an actual pen – the annual diary-purchasing event is not dead, I tell you. Buy for £30*.
Right BURLEIGH Blue Calico Medium Tankard Jug 1pt. For those with a penchant for cottagecore, I give you Burleigh pottery. Their calico tankards are up there with my favourite household items. Buy for £37.00 .
Bottom middle APPLE AirPods Pro with MagSafe charging case (2021). It took me a while to get on board with these, as I like silence and don’t really listen to music when I’m on my own, but man are they helpful for blocking out unwanted noise! I use mine to edit video when I’m on the train to London and I now take most of my calls through them rather than holding the phone to my ear, which now seems so 1998. Buy for £189 from Amazon.
Bottom left DEXAM Wooden Magnetic Toast Tongs, Beech Wood. I know; what a weird thing to include in a gift guide. But if you haven’t yet experienced the joy of the toaster tong then you will thank me: it took me thirty-eight years not to burn my fingers every morning and for the past three I’ve been living in a state of domestic bliss. Buy for £5.97 from Amazon.
VIVARAISE – Fara Cushion – 45x45cm – Amber. Cushions with frills, tassels and trims are all the rage (and I’m on board with this trend – never dismiss the power of added interest and texture!) but many of the high-end versions are over a hundred pounds. This is a cheaper route to interiors nirvana and the quality is great. Buy for £31 from Amara*.
DERWENT II Muck Boots. I know they don’t look showstoppingly gorgeous but believe me when I tell you that Muck Boots are unrivalled in terms of comfort, durability and general practicality. They’re like the Nike Airs of the welly world – and come up true to size, in my experience. Buy for £68 from Amazon*.
SOHO HOUSE – Eat, Drink, Nap: Bringing the House Home – hardcover. Buy for 20.99 from Amazon. I’m going to be back shortly with my “books and chocolate” post so if you’re after easy, relatively cheap presents that will look stunning and seem incredibly thoughtful then hold your horses!
I hope that these Christmas Gift Ideas for Her has given you some useful ideas – let me know in the comments if you’ve had any good gifting brainwaves this year!