It’s been a while…

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!

Don’t fret, new posts will be coming your way together with a little blog redesign, so bear with and normal service will resume.

I’ve been getting myself lost in the desert… Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes at sunrise.

What to Watch – Spring 2017

Following on from my What to Watch post late last year, here’s what I’ve been watching since then and heartily recommend:

O.J.: Made in America


Set some time aside to watch this. Seven and half hours might seem a crazy amount of time for a documentary on OJ but it’s worth it. This is NOT the David Schwimmer/Cuba Gooding Jr one (also very watchable if only for the doppelgänger-esque casting for some of the roles) but goes into the history of race relations in California and Los Angeles, OJ’s standing in the community, what happened after the “Trial of the Century” and what a thoroughly unpleasant man he was to the women he was involved with. Beware of the crime scene photos, they are horrendous but give an idea of the brutality of the attack. The whole thing cements in my mind that this killer got away with it in a criminal court. Available on BBC iPlayer.

Big Little Lies


This caught my eye with the exceptional cast, Cold Little Heart song in the titles and Monterey location (to which I’m headed soon!) and I was surprised that it held Hubby’s attention too. The female cast are everything in this. I’m a born again Reese Witherspoon fan (genuinely, her character is excellent) and even applauding Nicole Kidman for some shockingly horrifying scenes with the so pretty-he-makes-my-eyes-water Alex Skarsgard. I loved how the whodunnits story flips on its head with you knowing someone gets killed from the start, but you don’t know who or why but it could be any of the characters. Who knew parenting in beautiful Monterey was so cut-throat?! Available on Sky Atlantic.

Girlboss


I’d heard of the brand and the book by founder Sophia Amoruso but never really followed it until I’d read about the company failing – you can understand why it does from Sophia’s character. It claims it’s loosely based on reality and whilst it probably does take a huge pinch of dramatic salt to flavour things up, you get the marked impression that if this girl was your friend, you wouldn’t be friends for long. She’s rude, arrogant, narcissistic and disorganised with sparks of creative genius which of course makes her a brilliant character played by Britt Robertson. The costumes are amazing – I WANT the leather jacket – and the soundtrack is a playlist of cool, revitalising but angry rock. Plus it was so lovely to be taken back to the Noughties and reminisce my twenties! Available on Netflix.

13 Reasons Why


A girl takes her life and tells us why through recordings on a series of cassette tapes, a moment of retro-ness that comforted me as a child of the 80’s. It’s a simple premise, with a decent soundtrack and a deeply complex story. This really reminded me of the play An Inspector Calls in the sense that it is not one main cause that causes a suicide but a series of related events that leave the protagonist in such despair it becomes an option. One person after another compounds Hannah Baker’s misery until the horrifying scene in the bathroom. I actually thought they wouldn’t show it but I’m glad they do. There is nothing glamorous about Hannah’s suicide – and people who think it is, I suggest you seek counselling. It is painful, distressing, stomach churning, portrayed with care but without sheen and left me sobbing. Available on Netflix

House of Cards


I finally got round to watching this and now I see what all the fuss was about. The only problem was seeing this in a world where Trump was elected president so sometimes I didn’t know whether real life or fake life was scarier/more preposterous, or if the new administration were taking notes. Robin Wright is sensational, Kevin Spacey is tormentingly creepy and conniving. I can’t wait for the new series to air at the end of the month, lord knows it won’t be as bonkers as what’s happening in DC. Available on Netflix.

Line of Duty


I’d heard whisperings about this series and thought it might be too late to catch up, however the lovely schedulers at Netflix and iPlayer had all three series between them for me to view at leisure before waiting for the weekly installments for series four. Allow me to say this: it makes the Top 5 of greatest British crime drama series. My license fee is worth it for this quality. Excellent performances from some of the top names in Brit drama, with a special mention to Vicky McClure who is an integral part of Anti-Corruption 12. Watch this and remember “you have the right to be interviewed by someone at least one rank senior.” Available on Netflix and iPlayer. 

Party of Five

Excuse the trip down memory lane but (*puts on rose tinted glasses*) weren’t the 90’s so awesome?! Not really, but this series was my companion throughout my early teens and it was a comfort to see the Salingers, if only to half crush on Bailey again and realise that I’d go for Charlie now. I fell in love with their amazing house and now about 20 years later I actually get to see it (and San Francisco) for myself in a few weeks. Listen to the soundtrack for more retro reminiscings – Send Me On My Way and Closer To Free anyone? Available on Netflix.

S-Town


A curveball as it’s a podcast but it’s so full of descriptive commentary and the personalities within the story are so vivid it’s worth a mention. From the team at This American Life and Serial comes the tale of John B. McLemore and the eponymous Sh*t town he lives in. It’s complex and weird and wonderful and shows how fascinating people are as well as carrying a hefty warning on never mixing chemicals for gold plating in enclosed spaces. Available on iTunes/Podcast. 

Resolution Update!

I am a terrible blogger. I wrote this post about how I’m all geared up for January and F*ck Yeah! 2017 and then I don’t write a post for an entire month. Ridiculous.

So I thought I’d remonstrate myself publicly here and be accountable to make sure I don’t go another full month without posting.

I’ve listed the resolutions and how I’ve got on with them below:

  • Try a monthly exercise challenge (every other month) – I started off so well with the RG Active January challenge but then missed a few days and by the end of the month I had given up. Not good, but I did try making a start on basic fitness by getting back on my turbo trainer at least twice a week, swimming with the big boys and girls at the weekly RG Active swim sessions and joining in a weekday circuit of planks, push ups, squats and glute bridges. Hashtag buff ting.
  • Touch my toes – This fell by the wayside too, but it should be a priority especially as my hamstrings get ridiculously tight and the stretch would do me a world of good. I have added foam rolling to my routine though so I’m hoping I will be back to a looser, bendier self.
  • Drink more water when at home – I’d consider this as a semi success *glugs water* the trick is to ensure I have big bottle near me at all times.
  • Unfollow anything/anyone negative on social media – Another partial success on this and especially because I’m so much more aware of it now. Avoiding the Askholes and drama imbibers is almost a full effort job! Then the Inauguration happened and lunacy and ego entered government in America and my social feeds became despairingly awful with rumours and speculation. This too has its pitfalls of negativity and goes without saying; unless it is true and confirmed by trusted sources then don’t add to the hype/distraction.
  • …learn to be cool when someone unfollows me on social media – meh…this has actually just happened today and I still get butt hurt about it. I’m still a girl, standing in front of the world, asking everyone to love me.

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  • Stop comparing myself to people on the internet – This will be an ongoing goal of mine. There will always be beautiful people in the world, there will always be people who are more successful.
  • Learn the Five Movements from The OA – There are finally some tutorials out in the web so although I haven’t yet, I WILL!
  • Use the things I’ve kept for best – Yep, I’ve been doing this with gusto and enjoying smelling like a Jasmine Garden or wearing sunshine yellow on my legs!
  • Paint my nails at least once a month – *chortles* Major fail, I last painted them in January and have been bare nailed ever since. Let’s try this one again, shall we?
  • Blog more – Errm, well. The less said about that the better, although January did see a bunch of new posts so it’s like I preempted the lack in advance!
  • Find a job I love – *cries self to sleep* After a very positive January that saw me in my first interview in FOREVER I was pipped to the post by another candidate. On the bright side the feedback was that I interviewed really well (why wouldn’t I, I’m fabulous) but I’m still searching, still applying and either no one bothers to get back to you/the agency that were haranguing you at first suddenly fall silent or the constant searching leaves you despondent. It’s hard to feel rejected and I didn’t think I’d still be in this position at the start of March.
  • Put my phone down more – 50/50 I’m trying, I really am. I don’t need to see twenty cat videos on Instagram in a row *keep telling self that* but to be honest, it’s a companion. I spend so much time at home with the cat, I feel like at least there’s a way to communicate online with everyone as otherwise they’re at work!

On the whole I’ve seen improvements in myself; I’ve been to a barre class, watched a sunrise somewhere beautiful and added another destination to the Topless Tour. I’ve learnt not chase my tail with the laundry, increased distance in swimming, kept up on the household filing, booked a road trip of dreams to California… I just need to get the job thing sorted, get some income and settle into a place where I can be a valued member of the team.

I wonder how everyone else has got on with their resolutions?

 

Resolutions for 2017

Happy New Year dear readers. We’re about a week in to 2017 so I’ve had a good while to plan my resolutions for the upcoming year (not just January) and start putting them into action ASAP!

Here’s what I would like to do:

  • Try a monthly exercise challenge every other month – I usually see a benefit or improvement to my body after completing them and it’s a nice sense of achievement. Currently I’m doing the RG Active #30DayActive challenge which has been sore fun with my triathlon buddies. 
  • Touch my toes – it’s true, I can’t touch my toes and never have been able to. I’m doing these daily stretches that are definitely helping. I’ve touched my toes within a week of starting so my aim is now to press my palms flat to the floor. I’ve got all year so who knows what I can achieve!
  • Drink more water when at home – somehow I can drink 2 litres a day at the office (probably something to do with wanting to spend time away from a screen and desk!) but get me at home and it’s like I forget that I have my very own tap. 
  • Unfollow anything/anyone negative on social – I’ve had a mini sweep of my SM accounts recently mainly to clear through accounts that are super clickbait-y/no longer interest me/are inactive/make me have negative feelings. Social media is the one thing that I look at every day, so if I’m following accounts that have a negative effect on me, I’ll be willingly exposing myself to negativity. On that note I need to understand that others may need to go through that process too and…
  • … learn to be cool when someone unfollows me on social media – I can usually tell who has pressed the unfollow button and the feeling that someone doesn’t like me stirs up old demons. I’m a people pleaser and it upsets me BUT I also know I am not my social media profile. What I post is barely a fraction of who I am as a person, so why should I take it so personally if online friends/acquaintances don’t get that?
  • Stop comparing myself to people on the internet – simple really. I’m not the girl in the picture, she’s not even the girl in the picture thanks to a myriad of filters and Facetune. Remember that pictures (especially on Instagram) are “constructed” moments, not actual snapshots of life. 
  • Learn the Five Movements from The OA – I’ve blogged about how much I loved The OA here and one of the reasons why it affected me so deeply was the wonderful use of dance. I may not open portals to other dimensions but I think the joy will come in the process of learning. If anyone has any tutorials for this, or would like to learn with me, let me know!
  • Use the things I’ve kept for best – I’m so bad at this one. I buy something I’ve wanted for ages that might be a little dear and instead of enjoying it, I hide it away only bringing it out for Sunday best. This is a ridiculous waste – life is short, use things now whilst you can enjoy them! Wear the jumper, spritz the May Lindstrom spray, put on the yellow thigh high boots.
  • Paint my nails at least once a month – I have a fridge compartment full of nail polishes which I barely wear. Again, such a waste, especially as I’m such a hoarder and magpie for new shades. It’s the cheapest way of sprucing up my look and acts as a mini pamper treat for myself. I’m currently rocking a gold and plum crackle effect polish that looks pretty neat and is a doddle to fix if it gets chipped.
  • Blog more – I have so many post drafts started with ideas and I always seem to put it off until the time has passed and it’s no longer worth writing about. I think I should write at least three a month.
  • Find a job I love – ha! This one is something I’ve carried over from the past five years and it’s still as elusive!
  • Put my phone down more – it’s so simple and yet I’m rather addicted to my little screen of knowledge. Yes to Googling things to finish family discussions amicably, no to infinite scrolling through Instagram. Put it down during meals and when watching TV with hubby. It’ll probably help with neck ache and posture too! 

There are a hundred more things I could add to this list: limit my procrastination to once a day, quit panicking about things that might never happen, dance more, actually train for and enter a non-team open water swim or triathlon this year, be less petty and reactive, have set days for doing the laundry, be more naked (literally and figuratively), tackle the pile of paperwork properly, travel to all the desolate places I want to go to… BUT I haven’t the patience to write them all down and I can always update this post at a later date with my progress. 

    Do you have any resolutions for the New Year? I’d love to hear about them!

    Big fig love

    If you’ve read my previous post on jams here then you may already know how much I love figs. No, seriously I really, really love them.  

       
    And what’s not to love? Succulent, rich parcels of sweet and juicy flesh, figs symbolise the excesses, headiness and pleasures of summer.  I especially associate them with my childhood summer holidays in Portugal; grandma would have a huge bowl of them cooling in the fridge, delicious and refreshing in the heat. Invariably, I would eat them all – though not all in one sitting, not unless I wanted a very bad tummy ache and to spend the rest of the day in the bathroom.

    Family members who had fig trees would be visited often. I have a memory of visiting a relative, I think a second cousin or someone related to my maternal side of the family and they had the biggest fig tree I’ve ever seen. My grandpa proceeded to ask if we could help them out with their abundance and we came back with a huge haul, picked fresh that day. Happy memories indeed. 

    Nowadays I get my fig fix from my parents fig tree or one of hubby’s lovely colleagues whose fig tree goes into overdrive and for a while I start hassling him as soon as he’s through the front door, “Did you bring anything for me today?!” Like some kind of junkie needing their next hit!! Of course I could buy them in the shop, but the ones available are usually tiny, purple skinned ones that have flown thousands of miles from faraway hot lands and are never as good as the green skinned ones. Plus they cost an absolute fortune – I’ve seen them at £4 for four! – so it’s an addiction that needs to be kept in check. I guess because they’re so limited now I enjoy them even more. 

    Not long ago, the last few drops of my absolute favourite perfume (Mark Jacobs Blush) ran out despite me nursing the bottle and only spritzing the teensiest amount on special occasions. It was my perfect scent. That beautiful jasmine combined with tuberose, freesia, honeysuckle and orange blossom. I always thought it smelled quite lily-ish on my skin with a lovely freshness. Light enough for day, but if I sprayed a little more liberally it was heady enough for night. It had been released eons ago and of course now discontinued. The search began for a perfect replacement.

    Now, I’m realllllllllly funny (weird, not haha) about scents. I dislike it when people buy new perfumes for me that aren’t ones I already adore or have specifically asked for. Oh goodness, could I sound more ungrateful?! I don’t mean to, it’s just I find my sense of smell is super sensitive. Always has been. I can’t go to a petrol station unless all the car windows are wound up. I’ve experienced migraines and nausea at work when a boss decided to burn a rose scented candle. I can tell when someone is smoking cigarettes even if they’re 50 metres away. It’s a boon – my scent memory has brought me to tears upon entering a room, and a burden – especially when overpowering scents lead to major sinus headaches. Most importantly, perfumes are such a personal choice and what smells a certain way on one person can smell completely different on another.

    A trip to SpaceNK for a top up of one of my favourite toners (Rodial’s Dragon Blood toning spritz made from the blood of actual dragons, sort of) led to a wander around the shop and a sniff of the beautiful Diptyque scents. I had mostly heard about Diptyque making beautifully scented candles but I’m not really a huge candle person. The ones I have at home are all gifts because I can’t bear the thought of spending £40+ on something I’m going to burn. That’s ridiculous to me. I may as well set fire to my money! (When did I turn into my mother?!?)

    I set about sniffing different bottles, whilst Hubby sprayed tester strips for me to sniff and/or veto. By some miracle we found the perfect replacement. The gorgeous Do Son has a similar white floral and tuberose scent, but is more powerful. I was delighted to finally find a new perfume.

    But then the magic happened – I smelled this: 

    It made me smile. No, actually it made me laugh. I was happy. I was a happy, laughing loon, happily laughing and sniffing a bottle of Philosykos

    You’re going to think I’m a sap but within ten seconds I had tears in my eyes. This delicious, fruity, sensual scent was a step back in time. It was a hot summer’s day stood in a grove of fig trees, with a plate of figs opened and ready to eat. It was happiness in a spray. 

    I walked away from the store with my wrist to my nose, trying to defeat the urge to nibble at it. I didn’t realise that this amazing scent had been around since 1996. I mean, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?! Why had I never smelt this in my life before?! Not only could I eat my beloved figs, I could smell like one too!

    I didn’t purchase then and there because it was going to be my birthday soon (this was back in middle of July) so could finally tell loved ones what I wanted for a gift. Hubby managed to get me the travel sized version (3 x 12ml) of both Philosykos and Do Son which was perfect as I wanted both – I’m a have-your-cake-and-eat-it kinda girl – and I’ve enveloped myself in figgy goodness ever since. If I’m feeling gloomy or blue I just spray Philosykos and feel instantly better. I don’t care if it’s more of a summer scent, I’ll still be in my happy, sunny, fig-induced haze in the depths of winter. If we’re close pals then you’re welcome to have a sniff of my neck if you need cheering up too. 

    Please Diptyque, promise me you’ll never ever EVER discontinue this scent. It’s happiness in a bottle and I think everyone should have it.

    What’s your absolute favourite scent?

    Love, Catherine x

    Curiosity killed… in Paris! Part deux

    If you’re reading this before reading part one, do that and then settle yourself in.

    I left our little tale at the Musee D’Orsay, the stunning museum of art and sculpture on the Left Bank of the Seine and headed off to another pantheon of culture, the Opera Garnier.  

    I’ve photographed and walked past this beautiful building a bajillion (ok, maybe four) times before and always wanted to go inside. I had just seen an amazing model of the opera house at the Musee D’Orsay.

    Cross section of the Opera Garnier – look at all those rooms!

    Look at all the pulleys for the set changes, the depth and levels of the building itself and is that an ornate “green room” behind the stage for the artists to repose in?

    I was lucky to find there were no queues and easily bought my ticket from the machine. Stepping through the darkened lobby I started to sing tunes in my head from Phantom of the Opera based on the novel by Gaston Leroux.

    So pretty! Now where did that man with the white mask go…?

    If you love beautifully ornate and opulent buildings then this place is a must visit. The auditorium was closed to the public as rehearsals were taking place for an upcoming production, but there were little viewing screens that you could look out of.

     

    the grand staircase

      

    beautiful lights on the staircase

      

    some dude ruins the stunning grand foyer!

      

    inside one of the interior cupolas

      

    a gorgeous ballet costume on display

     

    The afternoon was starting to pass quickly and I headed off to my next must-stop, the infamous City Pharma. A recent follower to the gospel of Caroline Hirons (wipes are for bums, not for your face!) there were a few things I was interested in getting. You can’t go more than a street without seeing a glowing green cross. French pharmacies are everywhere and rightly so, they are bastions of know-how in skin care and Parisian women are gorgeous. Based near St Germain des Pres on Rue du Four, I quickly found it by the amount of happy customers rushing out laden with plastic bags of product. It’s a happening spot. Arriving after four pm on a Friday it was HEAVING. Narrow aisles, filled with product, were almost impassable. Many pardon and excusez-moi were said. How many pharmacies do you know that you can’t open boxes, take photos or have security guards on every other aisle?

    If you want a deal on your beauty basics, then you have to go. I was on a budget and could have spent a tonne more. (I mean, I actually put stuff back! What craziness is this?!)

    This is what I bought:

    Total spend of €27.77 and I reckon I saved about £17 on my purchases-definitely worth it! It’ll be my first stop whenever I go back, hopefully earlier in the day to avoid the hordes of women. Oh, and if one of the knowledgeable employees in white coats approaches and asks if you need help, then get them to help you. They know their stuff. I’ll write a separate post on how I get on with my beauty purchases.

    My tummy was starting to rumble and hubby was nearly finished for the day at the trade show. We decided to rendezvous at one of our favourite cafes on Ile St Louis. The walk took me down Boulevard St Germain. I was reminded why I really like the buzz on that side of the river, it just feels more friendly. I took in some more sights and waited for my date.

     

    I thank Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for knowing about this place 😉

      

    spot the three couples

    The first time I came to Cafe St Regis I was in serious need of a food pick-me-up and loved the atmosphere within its understated walls. There’s always a cross section of society seated at the tables…last time there was a nun drinking a beer. I love sitting somewhere and hearing different languages being spoken. The mix of locals and tourists keeps service prompt yet leisurely, we are on the continent after all. I recommend this place wholeheartedly!

    always a cosy atmosphere

      

    I was watching my sugar intake so instead of nutella, I had lemon and sugar!

      
     
    You can’t go to France without having a crepe or two. Maybe three. Plus I started my nectar d’abricot addiction, oops! Satiated we made our way back to the hotel feeling happy but knackered. I looked at my health tracker and realised that I had walked 17kms, no wonder! A quick rest up and turnaround for a late dinner at a nearby restaurant brought the day to an exhausted end, ready for the visit to the trade show the following day. 

    In the next post… A day at the biggest trade show I’ve ever seen – Maison et Objet.

    Gin-Gin! 

    The last day of August should have been a beautiful and sunny one, but it coincided with a Bank Holiday so of course it would be rainy and miserable!

    After a much needed lie-in and a lazy start to the day, I needed to get out of the house. A quick trip to the shops provided the perfect excuse to tack on a country drive. I love those journeys that have no particular destination or purpose.

    We found ourselves driving down the A25 from Guildford towards Dorking and the sign for Silent Pool popped up. An idea sparked… I’d seen a tweet from Raymond Blanc about Silent Pool Gin and thought that would be a nice way to brighten up the day. 

    The beautiful location of Silent Pool

     

    Silent Pool Distillery is based at the edge of Silent Pool, a spring-fed lake with  tragic folklore of a fair maiden drowned in its waters that reappears at midnight. Don’t let that put you off visiting though, as these waters are beautifully filtered and crystal clear, added to the 96% proof to temper it to a safe and more drinkable 43%. 

    Where the magic happens!

       

    Silent Pool water is added to the gin here

     
    Arriving at the small and modern complex of barns, we met Derek who explained the process of producing the gin. Twenty four unique botanicals give the gin its beautiful flavour and this was evident in the wonderful aroma within the barn. Unfortunately we had missed a new batch being cooked up – imagine the smells then! – but were offered a snifter to taste before buying.  

    Such a beautiful bottle

     
    Hubby tried the Silent Pool Gin whereas I opted for the Albury Limited Gin Cordial; a crisp gin base with macerated strawberries. Utterly divine and maintained the actual taste of strawberries – none of that overly sweet artifice normally associated with strawberry flavoured drinks. It would be a perfect mixer e.g. with
    prosecco, or drizzled over ice cream. 

    Silent Pool gin is special and I’ll try my best to describe the taste – excuse me whilst I sip a little taster to remind myself, even if it is before lunch time!

    On first sniff you get an overwhelming sense of freshness and zestiness provided by the citrus and kafir lime. Then you smell the high notes of lavender and honey. It’s not aggressive and doesn’t burn the nostril when you inhale. There’s warmth and spiciness as it travels across the tongue and leaves tastebuds tingling. I think it’s delicious by itself or with a few ice cubes. (I know. ME? Drinking neat gin?! Who’d have thought?!)

    We couldn’t leave without purchasing a bottle. If you’re not local then you can still enjoy and buy a bottle (or two!) directly from them here.

    Let me know if you’ve tried Silent Pool Gin or are tempted to!

    Catherine x *hic*