Thursday, 10 April 2014

Hero beauty product - Kiehl's Fig Leaf & Sage Aromatic Mist perfume

I bought this perfume for myself as a reward after one of my crazy work-all-hours-god-sends periods.

It's an unusual one for sure.  People either seem to love or hate it, but I really like it.

The packaging is clean & somewhat minimalist but retro.  White background, black lettering and a picture of the bottle inside.  No nonsense there.  The bottle itself continues the same minimalist retro theme - simple shape, clear glass, the retro Kiehls font embossed on to it and a silver cap.  With so much rather verbose, over the top perfume presentation around, I found this rather satisfying.

The perfume itself is strong.  The sweetness of the fig is counteracted by the sharpness of the sage.  It shouldn't work but it does.  Initially the sage is the foremost note but it settles into a rather warm, pleasing aroma.  At the risk of sounding like a press release, it really did remind me of sitting in a Mediterranean garden on a hot day.

I also liked the fact that you can buy it in both small and large size. Sometimes you want to treat yourself but can't spend too much money.

I think it's a great perfume for (hopefully) warm summer days.

*Edited 10/4/14

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Reflections on creativity

It's good to be back.

I've just been on one of those crazy production periods where you're working thirteen hours a day for six days a week.  It's hard work but I do enjoy it - seeing a show come to life before your eyes.

It fascinates me watching the creatives at work.  The starting point of a scene/show/piece of work is very different to the end product (inevitably lauded as something special).  It's that development process which I find incredibly inspiring.

I was working with a very well respected director recently whose whole thing was to avoid what he called 'usual'.  Not in a wacky, "I'm different, me" way but in an avoidance of mundanity and cliche.  We'd build a scene (which inevitably I'd find amazing) but he'd pace around the auditorium musing on how it wasn't working because it was too 'usual'.  He'd then spend ages on trying out discordant notes until he'd find something that worked.  Often it was only something minor like a light flashing where you wouldn't expect it but it introduced a vague sense of unease.

Besides a feeling of pride at being involved in such an amazing production, it left me with a better feeling of how to be creative.  I have lots of ideas but I often get frustrated because they don't seem to work.  I realised, after working with him, that your first go doesn't necessarily have to be any good, it's just the starting point.  I think the idea is to have knowledge of the 'grammar' of expressing an idea and know how to subvert it, or not, to tell your story.

Let me explain what I mean by 'grammar'...

We all know how to watch films/theatre etc.  When the Lumiere brothers first showed their film of a train pulling into a station to an unschooled audience, people were terrified because they didn't know how to read it - they just assumed it was an actual train coming towards them through the screen.


Over a hundred years later, we're so well versed in interpreting film it feels natural.  If we're watching a film for instance, we know that it's not a real time narrative but we suspend our disbelief for the 90 minutes of the film.  We know that the train is not going to emerge from the screen.  That knowledge of the conventions of what we're watching is the grammar.

Knowing the grammar but choosing to subvert and knowing how to subvert successfully was definitely part of the Famous Director's schtick.  I'm definitely going to try it in my own stuff.  

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Hero Beauty Product - Eve Lom Intense Hydration Serum

I wish I had more than a small sample of this.

Image via

It's one of those products that really worked for me right from the start.  

It feels more like a gel than a regular serum - clear in colour, thicker and slightly sticky in the way that gels often are.  I applied just like a regular serum by smoothing it over the face.  As it dried, I could feel it tightening.  For someone like me who has a droopy, jowly face this is a Good Thing.

I'd been through a tough stretch at work & my complexion was feeling particularly parched.  I can safely say that after applying this serum just once, my face felt noticeably less dry.  Not completely re-hydrated, because that would be impossible after just one application but that tight feeling you get with dry skin had subsided to easier levels.  

The sample only had three applications in it but even so, people started commenting on how good I was looking.

I found it worked best if I exfoliated my face first.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Beauty review - Jo Malone Wild Fig & Cassis candle.

There's certainly an impressive ritual to buying a Jo Malone candle.

The sales assistant will theatrically wrap the candle in black tissue paper then gently seat it in a posh black and cream box, spray some more sheets of black tissue paper with Jo Malone's latest fragrance, (in my case, Earl Grey & Cucumber), stuff the scented tissue paper around the candle in the box, put a cream ribbon around the box, put the box in one of those terribly chic Jo Malone carrier bags and put yet more scented tissue paper into the carrier bag around the box. The whole thing reminded me of that scene in Love Actually where Rowan Atkinson wrapped Alan Rickman's illicit purchase for his fancy woman.

After all that effort at presentation, I was very disappointed at how insipid the (extremely expensive) candle actually was.  If you stuck your nose on the candle and had a good sniff, it did smell gorgeous but the problem was, when you burnt it, the scent was very faint.  You could hardly smell it at all.  To be honest, I've had better results from a Yankee candle.  Occasionally, if I'd burnt it for a long time, like three hours, you could start to smell something but even then it didn't linger.  

Quite frankly, it was a waste of £39.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Beauty review - Yon Ka Phyto 52

Yon Ka Phyto 52 - firming, vivifying.

The first thing I had to do was find out exactly what 'vivifying' actually meant.

According to my online searches, this means to 'give or bring life to' or 'endow with life'.  Interesting claim for a face cream to make.

Let's see how we go...

The first thing I noticed was, how strong an odour it had.  I initially assumed it was camphor but camphor is not listed in the ingredients. The smell comes from a blend of lavender, geranium, rosemary, cypress and thyme essential oils.  It was so strong it actually made my eyes water slightly!  Seriously, pull back on the smells, Yon Ka.  Red watering eyes is not a good look.  And no, I didn't put it round the eye area.

Moving on from the overwhelming smell, it was very easy to apply. The texture is creamy and it absorbs quickly.  My incredibly parched complexion felt & looked fresh & rehydrated after just the first use.

And the firming bit?  It was difficult to tell.  I only had a small tester and I think things like that only become apparent after prolonged use.

My overall verdict is definitely meh.  The smell was overpowering.  The results were ok but I can get similar results without the watering eyes.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Film review - The Dallas Buyers Club

We haven't seen a film in ages, mainly because there's so much rubbish out there, so The Dallas Buyers Club sounded intriguing.

It's the story of Ron Woodroof, (played by an almost unrecognisable Matthew McConaughey) a red neck, homophobic Texan electrician & rodeo guy who contracted HIV through intravenous drug use & unprotected sex with prostitutes.  He was given 30 days to live by the doctors.

At the time, mid 80's, AZT was the only known drug available for treating HIV positive patients and unfortunately it was still in the testing stages.  Ron refused to accept the prognosis and started learning about his condition as well as other treatments available in other countries. He was able to exploit a loophole in the law of the time which allowed terminally ill patients to import drugs from other countries and set up a buyers club.  This brought him into contact with a transvestite, Rayon - a fantastic performance by Jared Leto - with whom he forms a tentative and unlikely friendship.

Given the subject matter, it's actually quite an uplifting and even life affirming film.  Matthew McConaughey's intelligent, nervy performance makes the film.  If he doesn't win an Oscar for it, frankly there's no justice in the world.

It's by no means a perfect film.  It's very long and could easily have cut twenty minutes of unnecessary scenes.  Jennifer Garner as a sympathetic doctor was all cliche and surface which jarred against the moving performances from McConaughey & Leto.

Definite recommendation from me though if you want something a little different from the standard gaming inspired/rom com/action movie fare.  

Friday, 14 February 2014

Who was St. Valentine?

It's Valentine's Day - aw!  Cue an outpouring of red & pink heart themed products, teddy bears and slightly awkward couples in restaurants eating overpriced, mediocre meals.

It has got me thinking though - who was St. Valentine and how did he get to give his name to such a commercial day?

It turns out that no one's quite sure who The Saint Valentine actually was.

There are two Valentines who were executed and subsequently martyred on February the 14th.  The first was a Roman priest who was imprisoned for marrying Christian couples and eventually beheaded on February 14th in either 269,270 or 273.

The second Valentine was the former Bishop of Terni, (a city in what is now Umbria) who was beaten and beheaded on February 14th 269 for trying to convert the Emperor Claudius to Christianity.

Ok, but how did the anniversary of such violent deaths become linked to a day for lurve?

It turns out that our old mate, Geoffrey Chaucer had a hand in this.  In 1381 he wrote a poem called 'Parlement of Foules', (The Parliment of Birds) where Saint Valentine's Day is mentioned as the day when all the birds choose their mates for the year.

"And in a launde upon a hil of flowres
Was set this noble goddesse Nature;
Of braunches were hir halles and hir bowres,
Ywrought after hir cast and hir mesure;
Ne was ther fowl that cometh of engendrure
That they ne were alle prest in hir presence
To take hir doom, and yive hire audience.

For this was on Saint Valentines day, 
Whan every brid cometh there to chese his make"

A copy of the original poem is here and a modern translation here.

The idea of a special day devoted to love quickly caught on and before you know it, people were sending each other massive, luridly decorated, often padded cards declaring their feelings.

There is a story that the idea of Valentine's Day, as we celebrate it today, was started by Hallmark Cards to sell cards in that lull between Christmas and Easter but it's nothing more than an urban myth.  The introduction of the Penny Post in 1680 and cheap, mass produced cards meant that people have been expressing their desires via kitsch paper products for well over two hundred years.  Hallmark Cards was only started in 1910. 


Personally, I'm ambivalent about Valentine's Day.  On one hand, I can't help feeling that if you need a themed meal and a cheap card to affirm your relationship, you're in trouble.  On the other hand, the romantic in me likes the idea of a day devoted to love.

Whether or not you celebrate Valentine's Day, just enjoy it and for god's sake, don't do as a friend of mine did last year - get drunk and post a series of self pitying posts on Facebook saying that no one's ever going to love you because you're too ugly.


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