Sunday, 22 December 2013

Scent-ual memories

In response to the Duchesse's lovely post about how perfumes have changed, I thought I'd share some of my smelly thoughts.

Parum d'ete by Kenzo
I still mourn the loss of Parfum d'ete by Kenzo. I wore it daily for about a year until the I used up my bottle. The original version was light enough for daytime, but complex and lush. It smelt to me like a bunch of very fresh flowers from an expensive florist that had just been misted with water.It lasted all day and worked layered on a bit more heavily for evening.

The new version just isn't as interesting - lighter, more synthetic-smelling, not up to par.

Youth Dew perfume by Estee Lauder
I still have my bottle of Estee Lauder's Youth Dew from 10+ years ago as it's such a strong evening scent that I don't wear it much. I love it though - it makes me feel confident and strong and sexy. It's a smokey, musky sort of smell that reminds me of an outfit like a feminine cut tuxedo with nothing underneath.

I've never liked the name, but I'm glad I've still got the perfume to enjoy on special occasions.

Since Parfum d'ete I've never really found one good daytime scent. I've experimented with various light florals i.e. White Gardinia from the Body Shop is nice for summer and the Rose 4 Reines Eau de Toilette from L'Occitane is nice, but a bit sweet at times. I love the packaging of the Penhaligons samplers I got for my birthday, but the actual scents are mostly a bit sweet and powdery for me.

Coco Madmoiselle perfum by Chanel
I inherited Coco Madmoiselle by Chanel from my mum. It's not one I would have thought of for myself, but it does kind of work for daytime and it certainly works for evening. It's fairly strong and a bit 'chemical' in some ways, but I like the complexity of the scent and the way it changes. I particularly like how it smells after a few hour's wear, sort of warm and slightly musky or spicy.

I find the packaging a bit bland for the price, but I guess that 'simple, sleek' thing is Chanel's brand. Basically, I'm a bit up in the air about this one.

Classique by Jean Paul Gaultier
Mum did get it right with a favourite perfume that I wouldn't have chosen for myself - Classique by Jean Paul Gaultier. I prefer the perfume, rather than the eau de toilette as I think the perfume as got more warm, slightly musky, vanilla-y notes, especially when it's been worn for a few hours.  

I was given a travel sized set of four different Gaultier perfumes and I've recently used up both the perfume and EDT of Classique so I think I need a full sized one. Luckily it's common enough to be widely available and often on special. I hope it's being made to the same recipe as a few years ago or else I'm going to be disappointed.

What about you - any suggestions? What are your favourites?

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas biscuits - it's a miracle!

Christmas spice cookies
So, I'm really not a domestic goddess. I bake roughly around twice a year, Christmas being one of the times that I bestir myself to get out the mixing bowls and baking trays.

This weekend the magic will happen, but I'm missing my favourite Christmas biscuit recipe! My friend always used to make them and they're delicious! Made with lots of spices, orange zest and juice, they're soft yet crisp. They're lovely when drizzled with lemon icing... mmm... I'm hungry now!

I'll have to experiment with a new recipe and see how that works out. Anyone got any suggestions?

This Hairy Bikers biscuit recipe sounds good, but we're seeing people at Christmas who don't like candied peel, so maybe not.

This one looks nice and simple, but I'd definitely add a bit of nutmeg and ground cloves as well as the cinnamon and ginger. Spices = Christmas for me.

I like the sound of everything that Nigel Slater is recommending - especially the mulled pear cider! I like the cardamon in the biscuits but they sound like they'd be a bit too dry and crisp for me. I like my Christmas biscuits a little soft in the middle.

Well, I'll give one of them a try and see how I go - wish me luck!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Making the same clothes look different

Work outfit with sheath dress

I've seen a few outfit suggestions recently that say things like 'One dress, four looks' then just show the same dress with small bits of jewellery and different shoes. 
If I'm going to wear and re-wear my outfits, I want to pretty much make people that think it's a different piece of clothing. A few tweaks of jewellery is just not going to cut it in the 'make people think you're not wearing the same things all the time' stakes.
So, I've got a lovely burgundy sheath dress that I'd like to make more use of (the dress above is the closest approximation I could find, although the picture looks more red than burgandy). 
I've worn my dress to the races at Ascot and a wedding (both in summer) but now I want to wear it for work in autumn/winter. 
I've got all the pieces above (or something like them). As you can see from the picture above, I'm pulling the formality of the dress down a bit as my workplace isn't super-dressy. I'd put the belt over the cardigan a) to keep warm and b) 'cos I like accenting my waist. For those apple-shaped folks, I'd suggest putting a wider belt under the cardigan - it still defines the waist but is more subtle about it. You could also make things a bit more fun with some subtly patterned black tights instead of just solid black.
 Above is another idea, again with items I already have some version of. Hopefully the change of colour palette looks different enough to not bring out the thought 'she always wears the same clothes'.Still, the style is definitely 'me' with the belted cardigan and tights the same colour as the shoes.
Now I'm running out of ideas. I don't fancy the idea of strong colour contrasts like navy and burgundy (remember my actual dress is burgundy) and heaven forbid I wear bright green and burgundy! 
I do have a pale pink cardigan which would look quite fetching with my dress. And I've got a nice pastel coloured statement necklace which would tie things together - with beige tights and beige booties. A bit frivolous, but could be kind of fun.
What do you think - do you mind wearing the same things all the time? How do you ring the changes?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Hit around the head with a 2 by 4

2 by 4 plank of wood
For those who are wondering, a 2 by 4 is a wood used in building houses - I think it used to be two inches high by four inches wide. In New Zealand it's kind of pronounced as one word i.e. toobafor.

Anyway, I feel rather like I've been walloped with one. I am under a LOT of pressure at work with long days of travel and far more work than I can cover in the time I have. Yesterday was a particularly full-on day and by the end of it, I was a zombie.

I ate dinner in front of Dr Who then watched Sherlock (mmm... Cumberbatch, so soothing) and had a bath with lavender oil so I felt a bit more human but still... This weekend is kind of feeling like the eye of the storm.

I'm sitting in an incredibly messy room with chores that need doing all around me, including some Christmas prep.

Nontheless, it's a beautiful, still morning with blue(ish) skies and goldfinches tweeting in the trees outside. A couple of local cats popped in the window for cuddles and to play with our Christmas ornaments for a bit this morning. And there is always coffee. I will try to use these couple of days to rest and refresh myself a bit for the big push on to the holidays.

So, that's enough from me. Enjoy your weekends, All!

Monday, 2 December 2013

The spirit of envy...

Queen from Snow White
London mayor Boris Johnson has made waves this week with a speech at the Centre for Policy Studies (a right wing think tank set up by Margaret Thatcher). Among other things, he said “I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses and so on that it is a valuable spur to economic activity.”

There are a lot of angles that I could explore on this concept, for example I totally disagree with his final phrase, but I'll stick to one angle for this post.

Boris's concept of the "spirit of envy and keeping up the Jonses" really struck me - first of all as something that I expect some churches would pray for as a demon to be cast out of people! But also, it struck me as the ultimate recipe for misery.

Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism all speak against envy. Buddha said "Do not overate what you have received or envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind".

In the Bible it says "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30. The Bible talks throughout the Old and New Testaments about envy being destructive.

Boris Johnson claims to be heir apparent of Margaret Thatcher but even she once said "The spirit of envy can destroy; it can never build".

I firmly believe in (and attempt to practise) the art of counting my blessings, feeling gratitude for what I have and who I am. I try very hard to remember people who are less fortunate that me and compare myself to them - not in a gloating way but just to realise how very lucky I am. I also try to help out people who are less fortunate in whatever small ways I can. I'm no saint of course, I could do a lot more.

Another point that I try to remember is that looking at others, we only see the outside. Comparing our insides to other people's outsides is a fools' game as you never know what's really going on with them. People can look all glossy and fantastic then you find out that they're in an abusive marriage or they actually feel like an impostor in their job or all their wealth is built on an unstable stack of debt and exploitation.

Henry Coffin said, "Envy is the art of counting another fellow's blessings instead of your own". It's around Thanksgiving or Harvest festival in many parts of the world now. I think as we come up to the great consumer melt-down that is Christmas, it's a great time to count our blessings and rest from the endless stress of trying to keep up with these mythical Joneses. 
As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man.


As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man.

As a moth gnaws a garment, so doth envy consume a man.

Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.

Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.

Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.