Hello lovely readers. It’s been quite a while since my last post. Everything has changed and yet things are exactly the same. Funny how life can be like that!
As the nights start to draw in, it’s the perfect time to get comfy with your beloved/fluffy pet/preferred beverage on the sofa and watch some great TV. Here are my picks from the past few months:
Last Chance U
I loved this series and was delighted to have season two back on my screen. It felt slightly different of course; the effects of the on-pitch brawl last season (not a spoiler – the first series actually begins with it) are still being felt, athletes and coaches are reactive to their portrayals on screen and the associated ‘fame’ that goes with it and the breakaway star (and heart) of it all, Miss Brittany Wagner, announces she’s leaving. It hammers home the last chances for the athletes, with some overcoming their past and some unable to escape the cycle they’re stuck in. Expect tears.
Available on Netflix
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
A documentary on the Gawker vs Hulk Hogan case that saw Hogan winning $140 million in damages. It starts with a simple sex tape/invasion of privacy ruling and ends in the destruction of a company with multi-millionaires funding lawsuits to effectively silence dissenting or critical voices. It’s a fascinating (and sometimes flawed) look at the American legal system and first amendment rights and the scary AF notion that people with all the money can win at everything.
Available on Netflix
Game of Thrones
The greatest show on Earth. No, really. I don’t think there’s enough hyperbole to describe this season. It had e v e r y t h i n g with some episodes taking my breath away and others making me shout at the television like a hooligan. The production, the cinematography, the special effects, the budgets (!) are incomparable to anything else out there on television right now. Forget that it’s a fantasy series and forgo the snobbery of people who proclaim they’ve never seen it (it doesn’t make you a better person y’know *eye roll*) to envelope yourself in winter. It’s not coming, it’s here.
Available on Sky Atlantic
Imagine Breaking Bad without the drugs, cancer and science in the desert, add the Ozarks (actually filmed in Georgia for the tax breaks) and money laundering and brilliant performances from Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. Seriously good.
Available on Netflix
An eighteen year old decides to start dating throwing his family into chaos at his new found independence. Not unusual but it presents challenges as he is also is on the autistic spectrum. It’s funny, touching and insightful to life with autism – as much as it can be – with penguins. I love the relationship between brother and sister too: “My sister doesn’t let anyone beat me up. Except herself.”
Available on Netflix
This had me laughing out loud alone. A quirky look at the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling with a fantastic retro soundtrack and heartwarming performances. Watch it for the brilliant costumes and parody of stereotypes, stay for the sisterhood.
Available on Netflix
How The World Made America
I really wish I could make every single racist bigot watch this and then see their ideology crumble. A fantastic series documenting the immigration patterns of different ethnic groups from across the world to the US, merging with historical events. The interviews with descendants of key figures in the making of America are fascinating. It poses the question of what is it to be American, and can you be anti-immigrant when your entire nation is founded on the backs of those very same immigrants?
Available on History
Summer seems to have had a mellowing effect on my musical tastes, because everything is quite chilled on this installment of #stuckonrepeat. For the full playlist, click here.
Edgy with synthesisers, but still that late night-dark road, rock n roll that I love. You can’t beat a tune from the Boss. The original and the best version.
Favourite lyric: Hey little girl is your daddy home/Did he go away and leave you all alone/I got a bad desire/I’m on fire
Heard on an advert and I shamefully never realised that it was a U2 song. Love the vocals on this version, there’s an urgency to the desire which borders on hysteria.
Favourite lyric: Love is blindness/I don’t want to see/Won’t you wrap the night/Around me?
A classic lullaby that stuck with me for years and then I heard it on an advert for Audi and fell for its charms again. The sibilance alone is a joy to hear.
Favourite lyric: The winds of night so softly are sighing/Soon they will fly your troubles to sea.
I have to thank Jack Savoretti for introducing me to this beautiful tune. It’s ethereal and wistful and reminds me of big sunset skies.
Favourite lyric: So low and behold we’re all just silhouettes in the sunset
I already loved the Paul Weller version but together with Skin’s voice this transcends into something vulnerable and delicate, but could still rip you apart.
Favourite lyric: You do something wonderful/Then chase it all away/Mixing my emotions/That throws me back again
I heard this in the final moments of the last ever episode of Reign and adored the melancholy nature of it. It sounds like the song of a disappointed lover, knowing they will be hurt again.
Favourite lyric: Oh, the devil’s inside/You opened the door/You gave him a ride
The sound of the summer, laid back and sexy. I prefer the Major Lazer remix to give it a bit of a punch.
Favourite lyric: I’m gonna catch the rhythm while she push up against me/Ooh, and she tipsy
Someone shared this on Twitter and I found I couldn’t stop playing it. It changes and moves as if exploring the soul. Ten minutes of utter bliss that I need to play very loudly on a road trip somewhere warm.
Favourite lyric: Love me every night/Drown me in the water/Hold my hand and there’s something turning me
Thanks to Ozark for this one, it’s the song that Tuck plays on stop on the jukebox and I can see why. It’s borderline honkytonk mixed with a bit of darkness.
Favourite lyric: You’re still damn good, no one’s gotten to you yet
What are your current musical earworms? Let me know in the comments!
Back in the heat of summer I went to the Christmas In July festival, a space where lots of different brands showcase their Christmas wares. One of the very first brands I saw was Stitch & Story and their gorgeous display of woolly goodness.
My last attempt at knitting was quite a few years ago, being taught during lunch breaks at work by a colleague. My greatest creation was a rectangular hat that was meant to be for a baby, but could have fit my head. Oops.
I was apprehensive but the smiling faces from the two Jens encouraged me to take a seat and try my hand at using one of the beanie kits they had there. I chose my hat colour and slowly remembered how to cast on stitches on to one of the large bamboo needles with a little help from Jen and the easy to understand in-kit guide.
After just a few minutes of stitching and chatting I had something that actually resembled knitting, I left to continue my project at home, beaming with pride that *I* had created a thing! It didn’t take me long to finish, although I kept putting it down to give my eyes a rest because I can’t seem to knit without having the needles two inches from my face.
The instructions were so easy to follow and everything comes with your kit – the soft yet chunky 100% merino wool, smooth bamboo needles, a needle to stitch it all together and the little fluffy bobble to finish too. There are kits for different difficulties and lots of online support should you get stuck at any point.
Hat kits are from £28 with lots of other amazing kits available directly from their website. I’m delighted with my little hat and though it’s not shop perfect (my not-so-experienced knitting at fault there) I can’t wait for it to get colder so I can wear it.
Let me know if you have any knitting projects on the go or are tempted to try one of the Stitch & Story kits!
*I was given the kit as a guest of Christmas In July Festival, but the review and opinion is my own and not paid for.
These past two months have been full of music, mainly due to hours and hours of radio on an epic Californian road trip (blog to follow soon!) and it's festival season!
Here's what has been #stuckonrepeat – full playlist is here.
I'm not quite sure why but recently I've been loving the 80's classic sound of soft rock, synth and romance. This is such a sensual song, the beat could almost work for kizomba and you can't beat a classic!
Favourite lyric: We're too young to reason / Too grown up to dream
May isn't complete without The Eurovision Song Contest, one of my favourite nights of the year. Fiiiiinally, after what felt like a million years and on the day the Pope visited Fatima, Portugal won. The song deserved a win in my opinion; beautiful lyrics and a pretty melody. It's not a traditional Eurovision song (see Verka Serduchka – which I LOVE) but it felt completely different and what was needed for 2017.
Favourite lyric: Eu sei que não se ama sozinho / Talvez devagarinho possas voltar a aprender — I know that one can’t love alone / Maybe slowly you might learn again
I first heard this beautiful song in Big Little Lies and have been obsessed with it ever since. I sang it constantly on our road trip, following the great rivers of Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Park and now I sing it when I'm in the water swimming. It calms me, it gives me a rhythm, it transports me to a different place and it talks about the cleansing power of being in water.
Favourite lyric: In my darkness I remember / Momma’s words reoccur to me /"Surrender to the good Lord / And he’ll wipe your slate clean"
This song takes me back to being a teen with low slung baggy jeans and hearing about this mythical land called Tahoe in California. Fast forward twenty years and I was actually here, playing this in my head the whole time. The most beautiful place, I wish I could've explored more of it!
Favourite lyric: All is quiet on New Years day / think I'll try and impress my mates / So I jump into the lake / I won't do that again (I know why now – IT'S BLOODY FREEZING!)
A controversial song, in that it's the view of an abused lover knowing the person they love can't express their love other than by leaving bruises. Awful, but juxtapose this with the bluesy jazz and the soaring brass section and it oddly feels like a positive experience, like someone coming to terms with their situation, understanding why other people react in a way.
Favourite lyric: And I feel the whip / And I know it's out of love
I blame an advert for this – Three Mobile ran an ad with a Giraffamingo or some such creature and I can't help but smile with "Snap, Chat, Pose, Post" and I've had this on repeat ever since. It's so upbeat, it's an instant mood lifter!
Favourite lyric: I'm not shy so I asked for the digits / A ho? No, that don't make me / See what I want slip slide to it swifty
So I may have heard this version on Love Island (don't judge me) and instantly Shazam-ed it. I actually hated this song – I've heard it nonstop since 2001 but this was beautiful, haunting and ethereal. I love the harmonies and you can usually hear me caterwauling along.
Favourite lyric: Every night, oh, every day / Just to be there in your arms / Won't you stay?
That EPIC set at Glastonbury (which I watched from my rock n roll sofa) reignited a love of all things Foo. I had one request – that they play my three favourite songs of theirs: My Hero, Best of You and this, The Pretender, a song that is more than just an amazing rock song. The layers of riffs and chords give me shivers and it reminds me of an excellent Bond score.
Favourite lyric: We are not permanent / We're temporary
Let me know what your earworms are on social or in the comments below!
In the past few years I’ve been trying to make more of an effort with my skin care, moving away from the soap-water-moisturiser routine or face wipes *hangs head in shame* I used to use. As I approach *whispers* 35, I’ve noticed a few lines appearing and my skin misbehaving more than usual (with a spell of soul crushing perioral dermatitis) so I’m on a mission to correct and prevent any further damage. Here’s my current skincare cleansing routine and favourite products to use.
I love a good cleansing balm, more than a lotion or cream. There’s something about the slip of an oily cleanser that melts away make up and is easy to massage in, plus they never leave my skin feeling dry or stripped. I always massage in directly on to my face then wash off with a hot flannel.
Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm – simple, affordable and lasts for ages. Demolishes make up without stinging my eyes or irritating skin.
Tata Harper Nourishing Cleansing Oil – used when I feel like I really need to treat my skin, if only for the price tag! Smells delicious, full of good things.
I’m calling this stage the Spritz stage as a) toning doesn’t sound quite right, b) spritz is a marvellous word and c) I no longer acid tone as I believe I have a sensitivity to glycolic and other AHA/BHA’s so I’m being super careful to not aggravate my skin any further. I lightly spritz and spray (read as drench) my face to add a layer of hydration. I have an arsenal of these as they are so refreshing to use and much cheaper than any other step in my routine.
Caudalie Grape Water – inexpensive which allows me to be super liberal with it. Instead of allowing precious hydration to evaporate off the skin like most mists do, this is 100% pure grape water which naturally adds moisture and soothes even the most sensitive of skins.
Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator – smells delicious (like minty marshmallow) and full of loveliness, another nourishing treat for the skin.
La Roche Posay Serozinc – this is my healing mist. Soothes irritated or sensitive skin so well. I’ve used it on my face – for breakouts or rashes – and on my body for prickly heat, cat scratches etc. Hubby uses it to soothe redness after shaving.
January Labs Restorative Tonic Mist – cheapish, light and refreshing with witch hazel to battle blemishes.
May Lindstrom Jasmine Garden – this is crazy expensive so I only use it sparingly but it transports me to a tropical paradise. It surrounds you in jasmine gorgeousness and I feel different after using it – centred, calm and sensual.
I can’t correct my genetic disposition for dark circles or the crow’s feet I will ultimately get, but I can try to minimise the fine lines around my orbital area with hydration – can you see a theme here?! I much prefer a cream or heavier lotion for my eyes, anything too runny just gets wasted or stings. I’ll admit that I’m less loyal to a particular product when it comes to eyes and have tried various others that I prefer to my current one, but the price is too prohibitive for me currently, so I’ll stick to a beauty hall favourite for now.
Clinique Pep Start Eye Cream – don’t let the gimmicky plastic ball (meant to cool the eye area and de-puff apparently) put you off, it’s a lovely cream that leaves my eyes feeling brighter and nourished without puffiness.
Spend your money on this part of the routine. Serums are packed with good things that will help to nourish, repair and rejuvenate the skin but these are usually expensive ingredients in expensive formulas. I’d like to be using a few different serums on rotation but with my skin behaving badly, I’m playing it safe and sticking to what I know won’t cause a reaction.
Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum – light yet indulgent, I always feel glowy after using this. My skin looks visibly smoother, plumper and fresh. I am nearly running out and will end up taking scissors to the vacuum packaging!
I love an oily cleanser but I’m not keen on feeling too oily on my face, although I want the effect of a glowing complexion – I’m not asking for too much, am I?! When taking antibiotic lotion for my perioral dermatitis my skin would be so sore and dry that an oil was the only thing that truly worked. I first started with coconut oil on my hair and body but it would be far too comodegenic for my face.
The Ordinary Squalane Oil – an oxymoron of an oil – it’s light, non greasy and hydrating. It doesn’t make me breakout, you can use it all over and it’s one of the cheapest items in my routine.
If I’m staying indoors or feel like my skin is OK as it is, then I tend to skip moisturising, mainly because my moisture is already in all my previous steps, but if I’m outdoors then SPF is a must, even in cloudy London.
Josh Rosebrook Nutrient Day Cream SPF 30 – this is almost like a serum/moisturiser/SPF in one, which makes life so much easier. It leaves a gorgeous finish, not at all chalky and almost like my skin is blurred.
Olay Complete Day Fluid SPF 15 – a classic that works for me, my mum and my grandmother. I’ve used it for years (as does hubby) and it’s a great, cheap basic.
Vichy Normaderm Hyaluspot – regular spots and pimples happen, this is the best thing I’ve used to attack them with a mix of salicylic acid to attack the spot and sodium hyaluronate to hydrate the area so as to not leave a blemish.
Nuxe Reve de Miel – this lipbalm is the best I’ve ever tried, ever. Deliciously scented, like a honey lemon cheesecake (or is it just my cravings popping up?) it’s rich and creamy and makes my lips buttery smooth.
This is quite a basic routine, what with my skin having a will of its own plus I’ve run out of other favourites like May Lindstrom’s The Blue Cocoon and worse of all I’m on a buy ban until I get back to City Pharma in September! I’d love to hear about your skincare routines and if you’ve tried any of the products mentioned or can recommend me some new ones, leave a comment on here or on social!
Thanks, Catherine x
*Or, “So you’ve signed up to a Triathlon but now are having a meltdown at the thought of swimming in a lake,” but that would’ve been too long. I’ve written this as a guide for beginners to open water swimming (OWS) or those who are just generally nervous about getting in deep water.
The ever growing popularity of multisport events like Triathlon in the past five to ten years means that many of us non-sporty types may know at least one person who has decided to swim in a lake or other OWS venues. The initial thought for many might be Eww why would you want to swim in a cold, dirty lake? and a few years ago I would have agreed. But reader, I have changed!
I wasn’t a sporty person and I would still struggle to call myself one, but when hubby started joining in on RG Active sessions I found myself going along. There’s no peer pressure like triathlete peer pressure and despite saying never never never to all three disciplines, within a few years I had entered a Triathlon. Before that though I needed to be able to battle my fears of swimming and deep water.
If you are afraid of open water and don’t regularly swim in it – DON’T SIGN UP FOR AN OWS TRIATHLON WITHOUT EXPERIENCING IT FIRST!
Surely no one would do that I hear you say?! Such foolishness, much error! Indeed. Still happens though. For me personally it just couldn’t. I wasn’t a good swimmer in a pool and I was scared of the depth and cold. Thankfully the excellent team at RG Active built up my swim strength in the pool and my comfort in the water. I’m now more comfortable in a wetsuit in open water than in a cossie in a pool. (Well, at least when it’s warm!)
Love your wetsuit! It shouldn’t be a daunting thing to wear – it makes swimming easier, keeps you warm and lets you float, all good things. Make sure it is specifically for Triathlon, not surfing and that it fits well and yes, it should be tight. Putting it on is akin to wearing full body Spanx. GET USED TO IT; swimming in outdoor pools and lidos, putting it on and taking it off, wear it around the house if you so desire!
My first foray in the water was with a tri buddy who took their time getting me into what felt like the coldest depths of the Arctic. (Yep that’s me below, the shock caught on my face!) This was the best way for me to be introduced to it, with no expectations, minimal fuss and a very understanding and calming teacher, which helps when your brain is shouting at you to GET OUT, YOU LOON!
If walking in beach-style, then make sure to GET YOUR HANDS AND FACE IN THE WATER as soon as possible. A gentle blowing out of bubbles will help acclimatise you to the shock of the cold water on the face.
The next bit can be uncomfortable – when the water seeps in past the zip (I call it zip leak) and it feels like you have an Alaskan pipeline up your back. Lie back, face up and relax. Calm your breathing. Let the water go through the back of your suit. Flip over and breathe out bubbles. Now you’re ready to go swimming.
YOU CAN’T DROWN IN A WETSUIT – unless you really tried *shocked face* but mostly you will just float belly up. Test it, make sure you feel comfortable in the water.
I’m writing this bit of the post the evening before going in to the cold, dark waters of Stoke Newington West Reservoir. My first OWS of the year. *panic face* My brain has decided to remind me of all the terrible things I’m scared of when I’m near water and mostly it’s trying to get me to hyperventilate at the thought of the cold whilst I’m tucked up on a snug sofa. Nice brain, eh?
To ensure I can cope, I’ve packed a few training aids that will keep me comfy and as warm as possible so those pesky brain waves don’t have a chance to get a hold.
NEOPRENE SOCKS, GLOVES, HAT AND VEST all provide an extra layer of protection against the cold; the hat and vest are great against brain freeze and a chilly core. I tend to use the socks throughout the OWS season mainly because I don’t like anything weird touching my feet! You can’t use them in a race unfortunately.
Once you’re in, try and stay in. Keep moving so you don’t get cold and if you’re really panicking or having a sputter then switch to breast stroke – I prefer to lie on my back and go to my happy place.
Lying on your back (with your arm up) can be a distress signal for the safety crews in a race but I find it calms me quickly especially if I think of STROKING KITTENS, MICHAEL FASSBENDER AND FROLICKING PUPPY DOGS which are my go-to happy places; whatever will disrupt the brain waves and gets you to regulate your breathing to a calmer rate. Feel free to borrow those images or add your own!
Then, dear reader, you must simply practice, practice, practice. The more often you do it the better you’ll be. I’m writing this bit of the blog a few days after my first dip at Stoke Newington and I can safely say I HAD NOTHING TO PANIC ABOUT! In fact I’m gutted that I’ve not been back in – I was buzzing with post OWS joy as soon as I got home. There’s just something about being suspended in an element within the liminal space that makes my soul sing. Although it’s not like I wasn’t cold – my forearms ached and felt locked in to place but on the bright side my stroke was slightly better.
SWIM IN AS MANY OWS VENUES AS YOU CAN. By dealing with lots of variables you’ll be better equipped for your event. Try all manner of entries and exits, types of water and you’ll soon find you won’t be as afraid. A lido is not the same as a lake or pond; there’s something about being in a smallish man made structure that doesn’t play with the fears as much as a natural body of water – the Stoke Newington reservoir is large and deep enough to kick those fears up though!
I’m rather saddened that up until this moment, I’ve only been OWS twice this year. Oddly, my second time in the water started off very well but quickly ended up as a battle with my own mind. I couldn’t breathe properly, my shoulders were so tense, my head was all over the place and I wanted to get out. Somehow, I got round in a stupidly slow time (it was a race!) and got out feeling disappointed, especially as the water had been pristine and warm. The next day I dragged myself to the pool, swam 1.6 km and felt happy and free, making me realise the hang up was indeed all in my head.
The point I’m trying to make is that even if you love swimming, even if you’re in your happy place surrounded by friends, it’s still about you and the water; some days you will be fine, some days you will not. I’m looking forward to my third OWS of the season this weekend and hope to remember that I’m there because I want to be, it’s a beautiful way to exercise and a joy to be in, especially when the sun is shining, a swan flies overhead and all you can smell is the sweetness of the water.
WHY TRY A TRIATHLON GROUP? It’s an easy way to get coaching to improve your technique, amazing support and there’s nothing quite like a great coach or team to push yourself when you really don’t want to.
After you’ve swum, you should be filled with the joyous endorphins that accompany exercise perhaps with a few added perks of wobbly limbs and dizziness that I usually get from being in the water. Get in a hot shower and warm clothes as soon as possible (let’s face it, it’ll usually be colder out of the water than in) and my favourite thing is to have a second breakfast or treat from the local German bakery.
I’ve specifically not gone in to depth about techniques or things like that, that’s where your coaches will advise you, but if there’s anything you’d like advice on from someone who still consider themselves a newbie to OWS, then please do get in touch.