Monday, 11 August 2014

Summer citrus - 2014

Summer time means summer fragrance and for me this year it has been Bronnley's Lime & Bergamot Eau de Toilette. It’s part of their new citrus collection, which also includes Orange & Jasmine and Lemon & Neroli. The fragrance is light and subtly fruity, not overpoweringly citrus. It’s a daytime scent – it doesn’t last for hours, but then I wouldn’t expect it to, yet because it’s light it can be respritzed at will without becoming overpowering.

I’ve also tried the Lime & Bergamot shower gel and the Lemon & Neroli hand lotion, both of which I liked though, having dry skin, I prefer my hand cream to pack more of a therapeutic punch.

This is where Bronnley’s RHS Natural Gardeners Therapy Intensive Moisturising Hand & Nail Cream comes in.

It smells lovely, sort of citrusy and green, and it contains vitamin E, keratin and shea butter. You don’t need much, as it is so rich (though you could use it as a night-time treatment: apply thickly and wear cotton gloves on top), and it absorbs quickly. This should be suitable for winter, which is just as well as it is a rather large tube (100ml) and should last a while yet, so I’ll be putting it through its paces in the cold weather a few months (hopefully) down the line.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

A Long Way Down - film review

I’m not sure quite what I expected when I sat down to watch this film – a chick flick, a good old happy rom com – but A Long Way Down is neither of these. It’s a black comedy, with not so much emphasis on the comedy.

Four strangers meet one New Year’s Eve as they all separately decide to commit suicide from the roof of a very high building. For various reasons they all decide not to jump and instead make a pact to kill themselves the following Valentine’s Day. See what I mean by black?

The four main characters played by Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul and Imogen Poots all have distinctly different reasons for ending up in their sad situation; each has a different back story and different personality, but none of these are shown in anything but the scarcest of detail. This could be why I didn’t warm to any of the characters – except perhaps the mother played by Toni Collette (a little).

And then all four of them go on holiday to Tenerife. As you do.

A media storm later, Valentine’s Day arrives – and leaves again with a crisis point. All four then get on with their lives, presumably all the richer for having met each other. 

A Long Way Down is an adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel, which I have not read, so I don’t know how far the screenplay sticks to the truth of the book. As the credits rolled at the end I tried to work out how I felt about what I’d just seen. I found the storyline disturbing, but I had been expecting a rom com, which could explain that. Even so, the film left me feeling flat – I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t particularly like it either. I know it would have been impossible to create detailed lives for each of the four characters in just 92 minutes, but there could have been more than the superficial picture painted.

The press release that arrived with the DVD states Psychologies magazine found the film “Heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny”. It’s not. I would say it makes you smile in places, but the characters aren’t particularly likeable and my heart didn’t feel warmed. I don’t want to get heavy on you, but I thought the treatment of such a serious issue as suicide was glib, trite even. 

However the person watching the film with me enjoyed it.

Each to their own. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

I'm in the Daily Express today - health feature: vitamin D deficiency

I'm in the Daily Express today, talking about my vitamin D deficiency and how treating it with supplements made a real difference to my health.

I'm still taking a daily vitamin D supplement, though not the high-dose one prescribed by my doctor. I really believe many people who put down their aches and pains, their feeling-off-but-not-knowing-why problems to getting older, or late nights, would benefit from a daily supplement.

Read the feature and please leave a comment to tell me what you think. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Back to the 70s with Aqua Manda

Boozy oranges, lipstick, powder and other people's mums...

I have just received a bottle of Aqua Manda perfume, it has only just been delivered by courier and I've only just opened the bottle, but I am already back in the 70s and a kid at school.

I didn't know that smell was this perfume. Of course I'd heard of it before, who in my age group hasn't, but I've never owned a bottle (until now), and my own mam was a Coty L'Aimant girl (still can't sniff that perfume without feeling sad).

This, this is the fragrance that wafts from the depths of a handbag, a mix of pink lipstick in a gold case, face powder with a velvety puff, dare I say it - of cigarettes, and Babycham (or Cherry B). It's a hidden world of grown ups, nights out dancing or at bingo, talk about unknown people and places, and American Tan tights.

To the child I was then this is sophistication. I don't know what fragrance was worn by the women at Abigail's Party, but I can imagine it was this one.

For me it is a fragrance of its time - even the design on the box is reminiscent of 70s decor, with lots of orange, green and brown, while the bottle is solid, safe, just as I remember those days to be.

I don't know if Aqua Manda will find a new audience in the beautiful young things of today, but it's got to have a ready-made fan club in us children of the 70s.

Dot came home from school and on spraying the perfume declared it "awesome" so perhaps there is a new audience out there... There's also a new purse spray available here

Friday, 23 May 2014

Our family is growing

No I'm not having a baby, but a puppy. Two puppies to be precise. Angel is around a year and a half, and Dylan is three months, and they are both currently in Cyprus. I will tell you all about them soon, but as an introduction, here's a short video of Angel taken by Constantina, the lovely lady currently looking after her.

We can't wait for both dogs to join our little family and are so excited - they should be with us in around three weeks.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Summer scent - Alesha Rose Quartz

At last, it’s sunny and warm in Newcastle today and it feels like summer’s here. One of my favourite things in summer is the fragrance of roses, that heady, heavy, scent I associate with August, the six weeks holiday and playing outside as a child. Aunty Mary and Uncle Stan lived opposite us, across the back lane, and their garden was full to bursting with rose bushes, big, glorious blooms that spilled out their perfume in the air, especially in the evening. Happy days.

My daughter has inherited my love of that flower’s scent, though it’s a shame she won’t get to experience the joy of Uncle Stan’s garden as I did. Her love of roses though translates to perfume – currently one in particular, Alesha Dixon’s Rose Quartz.

(It's a press image - our kitten chewed up the perfume box before I got a chance to take my own photo)

Containing geranium, bergamot, grapefruit and magnolia, I don’t know if this eau de toilette includes any actual roses, but it smells like it does. It is very light, not cloying, so will suit a wide range of people. In the absence of actual roses around our way this is an enjoyable substitute. Not that I get to wear it often – Dot has acquired it and added it to her getting-larger-every-day haul of make-up and fragrance.

Usually I’m not one for celebrity scents, but this one is a belter.

Rose Quartz by Alesha Dixon costs £24.50 for 100ml from here.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Tresemmé 7 Day Keratin Smooth - not impressed

I bought Tresemmé 7 Day Keratin Smooth after reading rave reviews on a couple of beauty blogs I follow. It wasn’t exactly cheap, but I thought well, if it works…

I have dreadful hair – thick and lots of it, but not straight and not curly. There’s a wave that if left to dry naturally shows as frizzy, so I was excited at the thought that this set of products could be the answer.
It wasn’t.

The blurb says you can use the straightening treatment without the shampoo and conditioner, but the best results are to use all three steps of the system. So I did.

According to Tresemmé, the 7-Day Keratin Smooth Heat Activated Treatment uses heat activated polymers to keep hair beautifully smooth for seven days and up to three washes. It is described as a breakthrough in hair technology, and works with the heat of your hair straighteners. And it did, that bit is certainly true – my hair was so smooth and didn’t feel heavy with product, which is good.

It’s the bit where you wash your hair again and it’s supposed to still be smooth that I have the problem with – my hair was just as frizzy as it usually is when left to its own devices. I know I’m in the minority with my opinion here – there’s lots of reviews on the Boots website for example with people simply swooning over these products – but I won’t be putting away my straighteners anytime soon.

Tresemmé 7 Day Keratin Smooth Shampoo and Conditioner, around £5.99 each; heat activated treatment, around £6.99 depending where you shop.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

I'm a #Morrisons' Mum

This is the first May bank holiday I have spent in the north east for many, many years, so I was thrilled to be selected as a Morrisons' Mum and I turned the occasion into a bit of a family celebration.

My sister and I did the shopping at our local Morrisons' store and then I prepared the food for all of us – Dot, Don (my sister), Becky and Laura (my nieces). 

Unfortunately the temperamental northern weather let us down so the picnic I had planned went out the window – or rather we had it indoors, with lots of little dishes to tempt our tastebuds.

We enjoyed Greek salad, chicken drumsticks, which I flavoured with a smoked paprika and red pepper rub (Morrisons' own make), outdoor reared chipolata sausages in buns, garlic bread (always goes down well with the kids) and homemade spicy potato wedges. For my sister, a committed vegetarian, I also bought a pack of frozen cheese ‘sausage’ rolls and she had Quorn hot dogs in buns in place of the chipolatas.

There were dips, houmous, cheese, French bread and mushroom pate. Finally for dessert I bought a dark chocolate and passion fruit terrine – ice cream layers with passionfruit sorbet and sauce, topped with sugar crunch and chocolate curls. Unfortunately we didn’t get that far. After bowls of fresh strawberries with cream and ice cream we didn’t have any room left! Talk about a feast.

Now I have shopped at Morrisons in the past, but what I noticed especially this time was the huge variety of product on sale. Instead of just popping in for a few things I set about my shop strategically and went in armed with a list of dishes I intended to make as well as an ingredient list. I’m particularly pleased with my spice find – there’s loads of the smoked paprika and red pepper rub left and it gave a fantastic flavour to the chicken. Another buy that has become a big favourite with me is Morrisons' smoky chipotle BBQ sauce, which was great on the chipolatas and I suspect will be sublime on burgers. The kid’s preferred Morrisons' tomato and chilli relish, which I liked too, but the chipotle sauce is something else.

Bargain-wise I did very well. The outdoor reared pork chipolatas were two packs for £5, saving £1.38; I bought a big bag of potatoes for spicy wedges for 69p; salad potatoes reduced to 50p, two packs of chestnut mushrooms for garlic mushrooms, down to 34p per pack, vine tomatoes for 69p and half price pizzas, £1.49 each. Needless to say there was no way we could eat everything I’d bought at one sitting, so the bank holiday has continued all week with salade tricolore, pizzas, garlic mushrooms, chiopolatas, chicken and more spicy wedges (yum).

I definitely noticed a difference in prices. Morrisons' current campaign to lower prices is working – and they’re lowering them on things people actually buy. The fruit and veg offer (three items for £1.50) is particularly attractive and one I will be taking advantage of in future.

It’s almost six months since I became a single parent and with my daughter moved back to the north east, where I grew up. I can’t believe these past months have gone so fast; I love my new life, but I don’t think the transition would have been so pain-free had it not been for the enormous support of my family, especially my sister. Despite the Newcastle weather, we had a happy day and it felt good to be sharing it with my closest people; a family celebration to mark my almost six months' anniversary and being back home.

My sister Donna, enjoying her veggie hot dogs in between rain showers (she will kill me for putting this up!)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

DHC Revitalizing Moisture Strips – Eyes

Saggy skin under the eyes is something I’m susceptible to – I don’t know if it’s water retention, just a symptom of getting older, or tiredness, but there it is most mornings, enhanced by dark circles of varying hues.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Justice it isn't, but life goes on

I have been hit hard financially this week by a client who owed me money getting away with it – and this despite winning a court case and a CJJ against his company. I found out yesterday and I’m not exaggerating when I say the news has knocked me for six. 

Last night I could not stop crying and I could feel a dark cloud closing around me. Today I’ve slept a lot and worried, thought black thoughts about him and against him – and against the law. How can it be that somebody who does something so despicable gets away scot-free? I thought laws were supposed to protect innocent parties from being shafted – in my case I did a lot of work for him and he has just not paid me.

I’m slowly rallying now. I’ve paid a few bills, paid my rent, checked my bank account and I’m still in credit. There’s a fridge full of food, the cupboards are well-stocked and we have a roof over our heads, at least for now. That’s a lot more than many people in the world, in this country even, have and for that I’m thankful. 

I’m not going to waste any more time fretting and getting worked up about this man/company and what he has done; life is truly too short to waste even one breath, one second, on such a person. 

All that’s left for me to do now is to put the whole awful episode behind me and get on with life, making a living and creating a beautiful future for my daughter and me.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Welcome Cosmo kitty

We have a new member of the family - Cosmo the kitten came to live with us from Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter a couple of weeks ago and he is settling into life as the baby of the family fabulously.

Dot has wanted a kitten for ages and now seemed a good time to go ahead. Not only has she a lot of love to give but I'm hoping Cosmo will help her settle in our new home and ease this transition in her life and the change in our family.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Cook up a feast - book review

Mary Berry’s latest offering is a paperback version of her Cook Up a Feast, which caters specifically to large families, events and celebrations. The recipes are calculated to serve six or 12 and cover a whole range of occasions from informal lunches to swish dinner parties. The most I’ve ever catered for apart from kids’ parties (and I don’t think marmite sandwiches and fairy cakes count here really) is seven people – my family when growing up – and the thought of having to work out timings and courses preparing food for a crowd brings me out in a cold sweat. Timing is not really my forte as Dot would probably tell you if you asked her. 

Friday, 31 January 2014

Single parent stigma

I have just read this article on the Gingerbread website, written by author JK Rowling I don’t know how I came to be there – I’ve been enjoying myself browsing the web this afternoon, having submitted my tax return with almost 11 hours to spare until the midnight deadline, woo hoo – but there I was. I’m shocked. Read the article and read the comments underneath and tell me if you’re not shocked too. It’s not the content that left me gobsmacked, it’s the attitude that JK and those commenting have come across as single parents. What century are we living in for God’s sake? How can people still have this outdated, stereotypical view of single parents, their children, their place in society and their morals? It’s the sort of thing I expect to see in Call the Midwife, an attitude from the darker days before women’s lib when women stayed at home to raise babies and cook dinners, not an attitude I thought was rife in 21st century life. 

Women have fought hard for equality; laws have been passed to improve our status in society, laws that are supposed to give us the same rights and respect as those afforded to men. Are male single-parents subject to the same stigma? I wonder.

I’ve only just become a single parent and I can see I have a lot to learn. I receive child and working tax credits as I only work part-time. I hope I will also receive help with my council tax and yes, perhaps even my rent. I will not be made to feel ashamed by this. I have spent my adult life paying into a system and society that discriminates against the poor and brands people on benefits as scroungers! It’s not me who needs to feel ashamed.