Thursday, 29 November 2012

Hero beauty product - Estee Lauder's 'Sensuous' perfume

A good day to evening perfume can be hard to find.  Either a perfume can be perfect for evening but too heavy for day wear, or light which makes it great for daytime use but too insipid for evening wear.

I find that Estee Lauder's 'Sensuous' straddles the divide perfectly.  I wear this perfume more than any other.

It's warm and woody without being overpowering.  There's quite a silky undertone which enables it to make the transition from day to evening perfectly. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Hero beauty product - Batiste Dry Shampoo

I'm working all day tomorrow so won't have time to post this so here's an early Thursday beauty review.


I'm one of those people who need to wash their hair every day or at the very least, every second day. If I don't, my hair gets greasy very quickly and the scalp starts to smell.

Sometimes, for one reason or another, it isn't always possible to wash your hair so I've been looking round for other methods of keeping clean.  Batiste Dry Shampoo is the best substitute I've found.

Image via

It's very easy to use.  Just spray it on, massage into the roots and brush it out. Basically it converts into a powder when it's sprayed on, the powder absorbs the grease from the hair then you brush it out.  

Every dry shampoo works in the same way but Batiste seems to have got the formula right.  With other brands I've found that I've been left with a heavy helmet of unpleasant smelling powder that's quite hard to get rid of and dries out the hair but that's not the case here. The Batiste fragrance is light and pleasant, (I used Blush).  The powder is easy to brush out and doesn't dry out my hair.

Dry shampoo will never replace actual shampoo but Batiste provides an excellent alternative.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The future's bright, the future's female.

Something remarkable happened recently.  It happened so quietly that I very nearly didn't notice its value but it's important nonetheless.

A metal band I was considering working with sacked their singer.  'So what?' I can hear you saying, 'Bands sack their singers all the time'.

They sacked their singer because he, (a 27 year old man) made a pass at the 12 year old sister of one of the band members.  She quite rightly turned him down but he carried on pursuing her.  I need to make it clear before I go on, that no violence was involved and he didn't have sex with her.

What I find remarkable here was that, although nothing actually happened and the police were not involved, the (male) band members decided, without any external pressure, that they didn't want to be associated with such a predatory version of masculinity. There was no victim blaming, (yea, but how was xxx to know?  She dresses like she's 18), no laddish sniggering, (boys will be boys) they just decided that his behaviour was unacceptable.  There's always been a code of honour amongst men that you don't behave in an abusive, especially sexually abusive, manner towards women but I think even five years ago this would have been tempered with the attitude, 'but he's a good singer so we'll keep an eye on him and make sure that he doesn't misbehave'.

It really does feel that the zeitgeist with regards attitudes towards women is changing.  Ordinary men are increasingly less likely to put up with their sisters/ daughters/ mothers/ girlfriends/ wives/ colleagues/ friends being treated as second class citizens.  The Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal has shown public distaste for the treatment of women and girls as mere objects to have sex with.  The No More Page 3 Campaign is about getting The Sun newspaper, allegedly a family newspaper, to stop publishing pictures of topless women.  The public prosecutor is aggressively pursuing people who act violently towards women.  I even read somewhere that these days men are more likely to choose a partner on the basis of personality rather than looks or a hot bod.

It's a good time to be female.  So how are we, as women, going to embrace our new found freedoms?  I'd like to make a few suggestions;

Don't fight over who's prettiest or the most popular.  Seriously, it's demeaning and embarrassing.

Be nice and non-judgemental towards other women.  How another woman chooses to live her life is of no concern to any one else.  We have the freedom to be career women or house wives, celibate nuns or sex workers or indeed anything we please.  There is no right or wrong so long as we don't break the law or hurt anyone.

Don't blame men for our failings.  All men are not bastards.  As women, we need to start taking responsibility for our actions.

We and by this I mean society also needs to stop applying stereotypes to men.  They too can be breadwinners or house husbands, strong & silent or sensitive new men.

What an exciting new world it's going to be.  I can hardly wait.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Beauty review - Melvita Eau Fraiche micellaire

I've read a lot about how micellar waters are the Next Big Thing in cleansers so when Melvita Eau Fraiche micellaire arrived in my Latest in Beauty box, I was rather excited.

I'm the ideal person to test cleansers.  I do a very technical job and I often come home from work looking like this...

I need something that's gentle to my sensitive complexion but tough on dirt.  

You apply the micellar water by putting it on a cotton wool pad and wiping over the face - essentially, it's a wipe-off cleanser.  I found it quite strange - it was a bit like foamy, slightly oily toner.  I actually had to google the product to see if I was using it correctly, (I was).

It's quite gentle to use in that it doesn't irritate or dry the skin and has a gorgeous fresh, floral fragrance but I didn't find it to be particularly effective as a cleanser.  Although it removed all the visible dirt, the next morning when I used my usual wipe-off cleanser, I found that it lifted a lot more dirt than normal which suggests that the micellar water hadn't removed everything.

I'd imagine that if you had very sensitive skin & didn't do anything that made you get hot/sweaty/dirty, this would be the ideal cleanser but I'm not that person.  

The best use I found for it was this; if I'd spent all day at home make up free and I was going out in the evening & wanted to wear make up, I'd give my face a quick wipe over with micellar water so that I wasn't applying foundation to dirty skin.  However that's not enough of a reason to actually buy it. 

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday - 11 November

Lest we forget
"Jack Firebrace stood with Arthur Shaw on raised ground near what they called One Tree Hill, watching.  They expected a swift passage, almost unopposed. 
Jack was muttering, Shaw saying nothing at all.  They saw the Scots coming up out of their burrows like raving women in their skirts, dying in ripples across the yellowish-brown soil. They saw the steady tread of the Hampshires as though they had willingly embarked on a slow-motion dance from which they were content not to return.  They saw men from every corner walking, powerless into an engulfing storm.
Their own contribution to the day, the vast hole that had been blown at twenty past seven, had given the enemy ten minutes in which to take their positions at leisure.  By the crater they saw young men dying in quantities that they had not dreamed possible.  They had not fired a shot.
The excess of it made them clutch each other's arms in disbelief.
'They can't let this go on,' said Jack, 'they can't.'
Shaw stood with his mouth open.  He was unmoved by violence, hardened to the mutilation he had seen and inflicted, but what he was watching here was something of a different order.
Please God, let it stop, thought Jack.  Please let them send no more men into this hurricane.
The padre, Horrocks, came and stood with them.  He crossed himself and tried to comfort them with words and prayers.  
Jack turned his face away from what he saw, and he felt something dying in him as he turned.
Shaw had begun to weep.  He held his miner's hands to the sides of his head and the tears coursed down his face.  'Boys, boys,' he kept saying. 'Oh my poor boys.'
Horrocks was trembling.  'This is half of England.  What are we going to do?' he stammered.
Soon they all fell silent.  There was an eruption from the trench below and another wave went up into the pitted landscape, perhaps Essex or Duke of Wellington's, it was impossible to see.  They made no more than ten yards before they began to waver, single men at first picked out, knocked spinning, then more going as they reached the barrage; then, when the machine guns found them, they rippled, like corn through which the wind is passing.  Jack thought of meat, the smell of it.
Horrocks pulled the silver cross from his chest and hurled it from him.  His old reflex still persisting, he fell to his knees, but he did not pray.  He stayed kneeling with his palms spread out on the ground, then lowered his head and covered it with his hands.  Jack knew what had died in him." 
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

What makes a good hotel room?

I travel an awful lot for work and yet again this week I found myself in another hotel room far from home.

Hotels and hotel rooms are intrinsically depressing.  Hundreds of people who don't know each other are crammed into small anonymous rooms and charged the earth for the privilege.

So I got to musing, what makes a good hotel room?

  • The first thing is obviously the bed.  I think that if you're charging someone £/$/€200 plus to rent a bedroom, you should provide more than the cheapest Argos bed.  It also needs to be undamaged.  I've stayed in two places recently where it was obvious that someone very fat had slept in the bed and the mattress had given way.  Thought also needs to be given to getting the proportions right - not too hard, not too soft, not too high, not too low.  The only place I've ever stayed in where the bed was right was a small private hotel in north west London (unfortunately I've forgotten the name).  It was the best nights sleep I've ever had.  That's one hotel in 46 years of hotel staying.

  • The room needs to be clean!  Seriously, I'm astonished this even needs to be mentioned.  Too often there's a ring of dirt and fluff where the carpet meets the wall (Hilton Hotels, I'm looking at you).  Just give the cleaners the correct nozzles and enough time to do it.  Also the room needs to be cleaned every single day without me having to request it and without an additional charge.  I know that this is a contentious point and that some people would prefer not to have their room serviced daily and pay less but that's my take on the matter.

  • Decor.  A stained carpet, scuffed nicotine yellow walls and a water colour of a heron doesn't count as room decoration but it's surprising how often this is the case.  Quirky, unusual furniture and a thoughtful, serene colour on the wall goes a long way to alleviating the anonymity of a hotel room.  I especially love it when each room is different.  Local artwork on the walls is a nice touch and is a good way of supporting the community.

  • Quiet.  I don't want to be woken up by noisy stag parties/couples having a domestic/small children throwing tantrums.  I usually have a very early start the next day and I need my sleep.  It doesn't cost that much to insulate a room against noise and you'll have lots of happy guests who'll leave singing your praises and recommend your hotel to their friends, family and colleagues.

  • Towels.  I do need more than a hand towel and a bath towel.  How's about two bath towels - one for your hair and one for your body?  And if there's more than one person staying in the room, this needs to be taken into account when allocating towels otherwise one of you will be drying themselves with the other's sopping wet towel.  And please, bath sheets, not those glorified hand towels which call themselves bath towels.

  • Toiletries.  Quality, branded toiletries please.  You're charging a lot for the rooms so it would be nice to have body wash that doesn't strip your skin and body lotion that actually moisturises AND smells nice.  Again, if there's more than one person staying in the room, there needs to be more than one set of toiletries.

  • Universal plug sockets.  You're going to have a lot of foreigners staying with you, bringing their foreign tech which will need charging.  More and more hotels are introducing universal sockets but this needs to be across the board.
Image via

  • Free wifi!!  I know the hotel is getting their wifi for free so don't charge me £20 per hour for it.  That's just rude.

  • Reasonably priced mini bars in the rooms.  Seriously, how can anyone justify charging £10 for a 330ml bottle of beer when I can go around the corner and get the same thing for £1?? Charge less and you'll find that more people actually use the mini bar and you'll make more money!  Simples. 

  • Courteous, efficient staff.  I'm not expecting the staff to be overly exuberant and try to be my best friend but I do expect them to be good at their jobs and polite.  I appreciate that working with the public can be challenging at times & stretch your patience but unfortunately it's part of the job and if you feel the need to curt and abrupt with everyone whether or not they've been rude to you, it's time to get another job.

I could go on about breakfasts (generally ok but there have been some shockers) and views (I do realise that not every room can have a glorious sea/mountain/city view but looking at the builders bucket on the scaffolding just outside your window is unacceptable) but for me, these are the most important factors making up a decent hotel.

* *

I'd like to finish by telling you about the worst hotel I have ever stayed in - The Grand in Northampton.

We'd been booked into the hotel by the client because we were working on a job in the countryside close to Northampton.

It was a sign that things weren't good when we couldn't find the place.  The sat nav took us to a rather derelict street.  We drove up and down for a while but no Grand Hotel.  Eventually we had to stop and ask a passerby where it was.  She gave us a strange look and indicated a boarded up building.  We questioned this but she pointed to a sign halfway up the building - 'The Grand'.


The front door was a heavy, locked, steel security door with an intercom.  After we'd buzzed for a while, a male voice answered.  He took our names &  booking details and disappeared.  We waited...  and waited...

Eventually a very pleasant, elderly man let us in, dealt with check in formalities and gave us our keys.  He was so nice that we started to feel a little foolish, I mean, not every hotel is going to be The Ritz.

Ha!  That feeling lasted until we got into the lift.

There was a sign up with some very aggressive instructions

No fighting.  Police will be called immediately.
No naked flames in the rooms.  This will result in immediate barring from the hotel, (what the hell?)
No extra people staying in the rooms.  Only people registered as occupants to stay in the rooms.
No weapons.  Police will be called immediately, (???)

So the hotel wasn't concerned with creating a welcoming, peaceful atmosphere then.

Stepping out of the lift was like walking into another world and it wasn't a good one.  The stench of onions and rancid food was almost overwhelming.  The carpet was stained and frankly rotting in places but most worryingly of all there were a lot of holes in the walls as if someone had punched the plaster board.  I'm not a particularly wimpy person but to be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous.

Walking down the corridor, I could hear what could only be described as sounds of fighting coming from one of the rooms.  As I approached it seemed as if the fight was going to spill out into the corridor so I just ran, heavy bags and all.

Reaching the room, things didn't get any better.  There was a kitchenette on one wall and the room stank of stale cooking odours.  In all fairness, the bed was reasonable and although it was shabby, the place was clean.  What worried me though was a nasty brown stain halfway up one wall and the fact that there were lots & lots of small holes in the walls and in the ceiling where you could see straight into the other rooms!!  I spent about half an hour blocking them up with toilet roll but I couldn't be sure I'd gotten them all. 

Whilst I was busy blocking up the holes, one of my colleagues called me asking what my room was like.  Then another colleague called and another.  It turned out I had one of the best rooms.  We arranged to meet outside the hotel to talk about what we were going to do.

Not one person on that crew was a particularly difficult person but we all agreed that if the client didn't find us another hotel, we would be going home & he'd have to find other people for the job.  When we spoke to the client who was staying in the same hotel as us, he seemed to have the worst room of us all!  In fact he said that there was a stain which could only be blood spatter on one of the walls so he was more than happy to comply.

Later I found out that the 'hotel' was actually a notorious DSS dossers hostel.

I did just read on the internet that Travelodge had bought the building and completely refurbished it.  I'm not normally a fan of anonymous hotel chains but this will be a vast, vast improvement & I think will be an enormous benefit to the town of Northampton.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Thursday beauty review - Liz Earle Daily Eye Repair

As promised here's my first Thursday beauty post.


A good eye creme can be your best friend making you look fresh, youthful and awake.

So when I was given a sample of Liz Earle's Daily Eye Repair, I was keen to try it out as the Liz Earle cleanser's superb, (review to come).

Did I find a new best friend?

Yes and no.  

I liked it because it kept the skin around my eyes well hydrated and it didn't irritate my eyes as so many eye cremes do.  It also contained an SPF20 which is good for protecting the delicate skin around the eyes.

On the down side, it didn't absorb very well.  It was quite thick and tended to sit on the surface of the skin.  I found myself having to rub quite hard to get it to sink in which dragged the skin.

So would I be willing to pay out £14.25 for it?  No, probably not.  There are other, cheaper eye cremes on the market which do just as good a job without having to drag the skin to rub it in.  

I would use it again though if someone gave me a sample.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Musings on beauty and why I'm a cosmetics addict

I am a cosmetics and beauty junkie.  There!  I said it.

I'm fascinated by the process of transforming oneself from a plain jane to a gorgeous siren.

There is a school of thought that says an intelligent woman should be above such superficial things as appearance and looking good.  To a certain extent this is true because intellect will always trump looks but I can't see any reason why you can't be fiercely intelligent and look fierce at the same time.  Seriously, if all you were interested in was deep intellectual thinking and nothing else, you'd be kind of boring.

You don't believe me?

Let me present to you the case of Hedy Lamarr.

She was a movie star in the forties, famed for her beauty.  But she was also a mathematical genius and inventor.  Along with George Antheil she invented a technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping.  No, I don't really understand it either but apparently it served as the basis for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi communications.  See?  Being beautiful didn't undermine her intelligence.  Her looks combined with her brain made her so much more fascinating than someone who was either just beautiful or just brainy.

There's something enormously tender about pampering yourself.  I have a rather long before-bed routine which involves showering, cleansing my face and applying a lot of lotions & potions. It drives my boyfriend to distraction but I need it.  After a long, hard day it's a way of relaxing and taking care of myself. (Also, if I don't clean my face properly every day, I end up looking like a raison - all withered!)

Which leads me on to my blog...  Reading back on my old posts, I realise that I've been doing a lot of beauty and cosmetic reviews.  I enjoy writing them because I'm constantly trying out new products & I like sharing my findings and people seem to want to read them because these posts constantly get the most hits.  

So here's what I'm going to do.  Once a week, work permitting I'm going to write a cosmetics review.  I'll try and make it every Thursday so that if people do want to buy anything I've blogged about, they'll be able to get it in time for the weekend.  As I said though, this will depend on work.  I freelance so I can't guarantee I'll be free every week.  

I'll start next Thursday.  I do hope you'll join me.  x


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