Saturday, 29 October 2011

Why I love Halloween...

I never used to like it. Utter tosh, an American import, another way of getting us to part with hard earned cash... If there was a Halloween dissenter term for Halloween similar to 'Humbug' for Christmas, that could be used for me. But then I moved into the street where I was to bring up my children for the last 17 years and everything changed...

Picture from

For some strange reason our neighbourhood does Halloween in a big way. Okay so it can't compare with the average American suburb in terms of spiderwebs, tombstones, carved pumpkins and trick or treating but we don't do too badly. Most houses sport a lit pumpkin welcoming the little one's who all go to town with their fancy dress outfits. I spend between £15 - £20 on sweets to give away and I still run out - our few streets have a reputation and last year I estimated around 200 children between the ages of 2 and 16 came to the door. When you consider we are a terraced house with a narrow Edwardian pathway, this causes traffic jams and at one point we even had a queue. And this is why I love it so much... I've never been tricked (don't get any ideas, now) and the tiniest children dressed up as witches, goblins and elves does bring a tear to the eye. My girls have long gotten over the whole excitement of Halloween and usually disappear - so I am often alone behind the closed door sporting large black wings to welcome the hordes... and I can still imagine myself doing this when I no longer need the spooky make-up but can scare them all to death by appearing make-up free!

Roll on Monday night....

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ila Spa - pamper yourself naturally

Last night I was lucky enough to get to meet (for the second time no less) the simply fabulous Denise Leicester, founder of spa brand IlaSpa. Denise is one of those women who when you start to listen to her talk,  has you enthralled and hanging on her every word. Don’t get me wrong – she’s not in-yer-face like so many company owners who give good vocal, no, Denise is soft and gentle and to be honest, we’d all like her as a best friend/mum/favourite auntie. She has a passion for what she does, and with her gentle and caring nature it is no surprise that small collectives and big hotels all want to be involved with her products. She travels the world to find new ingredients and new treatments to develop into her product range and I must say the range is, quite simply, superb! Buying them also helps out so many small communities who produce her raw ingredients and she has a personal relationship with villagers in places like Pakistan, India, and Morocco.

It’s a stressful time for most people at the moment – I know I’m stressed out and so are most of those around me! So anything that aids us in managing to relax, take time out and simply look after ourselves for once has got to be good, so I am passing on Denise’s recipe for a ritual that will get us all back on a more balanced and even keel.

Block out 2 hours of uninterrupted time. Turn off the TV, phone, computer.
Then of course here’s a bit of a sell in terms of products but having used them in the past an investment is highly recommended... A combination of Ila Spa Bath Salts for Inner Peace, Body Scrub for a blissful experience, Body Balm for feeding skin and senses, Inner peace candle, incense for purity and an eye pillow. If this is placed in the freezer a few hours before it will be extra cooling and effective.
You will also need a hot water bottle, ginger, lemon, honey, tea, some stemmed flowers. Make yourself a pot of cleansing tea by grilling two halves of a ginger stem, then crushing it and adding to a flask or teapot with lemon/lime juice, hot water and honey. Allow to steep for five minutes.

Prepare a hot water bottle and spray the eye pillow with Ila Spa Dreamtime Spray (or something similar). Make your bed or a sofa as comfortable as possible with pillows. To prepare the bathroom roll up a soft warm towel, run and bath and add a scoop of Inner Peace Bath Salts. Light a candle and relax... Use the body scrub, relax for 15 minutes and slowly regulate and deepen your breathing. When thoughts come in and out of your mind, accept them and let go of them and connect with your breathing again.

Leave the bath and go to your relaxation spot. Sip the ginger tea, lie down and place your feel on the hot water bottle (ideally covered with a blanket). Place a pillow under your knees and the cool perfumed eye pillow over your eyes and relax. The cool of the eye pillow and warmth of the the bottle is a Tibetan ritual to take the stress from the body giving renewed energy.

Now you know why I’d quite like Denise to adopt me! To learn more about Denise and her wonderful spa range visit Ila Spa.

Monday, 24 October 2011

My life just took over...

I've been away from my blog for a couple of weeks because life has overtaken me and as I flop down, exhausted, at the end of the day the thought of switching on my computer (again) to post is not foremost in my mind. For this I apologise but I am back!

So what has been the cause? 
1. Four university visits with number two daughter in two weeks. Not local uni's - oh no. In just a fortnight we have been to Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Manchester Metropolitan, Sheffield Hallam and Birmingham City - all of which made me want to go back to university. Aside from spending some shared time with Lily - a rarity these days with independence replacing dependence - I have got to wander round some places I've never been.
The Hubs at Sheffield Hallam
Although my husband's family is originally from Huddersfield and many relatives still live there, we had never been to Sheffield - what a lovely city centre! And what a great job they have made of Sheffield Hallam - very impressed. To my embarrassment I've never been to check out the new city centre in Birmingham since it was all rebuilt and that too is an amazing mass of modern steel and glass with shops to rival the best that Europe has to offer... Manchester has had a complete scrub up since I was there about 20 years ago - beautiful buildings, wide avenues, an impressive station in Piccadilly (puts a lot of London stations to shame). Anyway it's been fun and I'm sorry it all had to end...
Birmingham City Centre
Magnificent Manchester

2. We've launched our Handpicked Media community. We have so many great blogs apply to be part of Handpicked but they don't always reach our criteria in terms of traffic, so I contacted over 250 in the last week to see if they would like to join forces in our community - nearly all have said 'yes' which was a fantastic response but also meant my inbox has been the most scary it has ever been.... and I mean scary. To the point that I wanted to go and lie down in a darkened room. Most have now been replied to and agreements sorted but if you are still pending (which a handful are) I will get back to you today.

And that's about it... no fantastic parties, trips abroad, thankfully no crises - just life overtaking. I promise not to neglect (until the next time) so keep looking back for more normal postings of things that take my fancy....

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Steve Jobs and the evil that is pancreatic cancer...

So another fine human being loses out to one of the most evil cancers and it is horrific that very little has changed in the rates of survival since my mother lost her life to it over 10 years ago.

It's a cancer that creeps up on you and you won't know you've got it until it's too late - and the fact that one of the wealthiest men on the planet didn't manage to pull through speaks volumes.

Steve Jobs was quite incredible, our lives have changed in the past twenty years largely down to his vision and attitude. Not being able to solve the problem of his pancreatic cancer must have been an even bigger trial for him than for most (and I don't say that lightly either) - he was, after all, one of the biggest problem solvers of our generation.

Do you remember early Apple computers like this?
 That over changed and became todays Macbook?
We also have the iphone, and now the ipad. I loved my first home mac which was in an unexciting grey - but all the colours suddenly brought colour to the IT world...
The company will continue to innovate and grow because of his legacy - I along with thousands of others who have been touched by pancreatic cancer in particular, hope that we have as stunning a breakthrough in finding a cure as we have had in technology. November is Pancreatic Awareness Month - the government funds very little in terms of research so if you see a purple ribbon buy one, every little helps...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Mary Portas - Queen of Frocks

I didn't like the last series I must admit - I know that mass market, pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap stores like Primark et al aren't going to give a great customer experience, I just don't think it makes for great TV. It all left me feeling non-plussed and I gave up after the first couple of episodes. I do think however, that with Mary Portas, Queen of Frocks the team have got right back on track with some addictive retail telly.

What's not to love? You've got Mary actually showing her human side 'Happy teams - that's what I insist on!' and breaking down into tears of frustration (who knew that was even possible). All humanity is there in the form of the staff interviews for the new store within a store (Mary Portas in House of Fraser). There was the camp one, the one stuck in the past and prepared to stand and fight, the super-efficient one, and a few challenges along the way - after all we don't all have the Mary Portas figure past forty which was made much of.

I like this show and will be tuning in next week. And from what I've seen of the clothes I like them too!

It aint cheap- the purple dress here is around £135 which isn't expensive either, just not as cheap as the high-street and certain shirts were in the £100-£300 mark so we'll see if this particular group of women have the cash to support Mary in her endeavour to create a place for the young fortysomething.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Breakthrough Breast Cancer gets cooking...

I’m always a little wary of brands who jump on the Breakthrough Breast Cancer bandwagon to shift more product in the month of October. There are now so many products under this initiative that it pays to check how much they are making for the charity from each product sold. If it’s only pennies then I won’t bother though I suppose they are grateful for even pennies. I just feel that we are now a bit awash with Breakthrough BreastCancer products and I, for one, start to suffer with pink fatigue.

I do like this cookware range from Sainsbury’s however and would be more than happy for any of the products to grace my kitchen. The idea of a pink, heart-shaped casserole will make me smile long after October – and in comparison with Le Creuset they are really, really affordable.
The 3 litres Cast Iron Casserole Dish is £30, the 5 litre version is £40 and the 2.5 litre Cast Iron Casserole Dish is also £30. On sale now at Sainsbury’s online and in certain stores only. 10% of profits go to Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Monday, 3 October 2011

French Martini - the weekend is but a week away...

So it's Monday morning, let's talk cocktails! BeautyandtheDirt Editor Krista and I went to a drinks party at The London Cocktail Club last Thursday. Considering it's only a stones throw from the office I can't believe we haven't been before - and if you're ever in Goodge Street then be brave and enter this basement bar where those who know about cocktails hang out.

Here I indulged my passion for French Martini - the addition of a fresh bay leaf of the top was inspired I must say. To accompany your cocktail they do fresh nibbles and charcuterie boards to nibble on, and all though we didn't partake they did look very interesting.

Cocktails weren't too extortionate for this part of town either - £7.50 and upwards isn't bad for the West End and they were delicious! Check them out at The London Cocktail Club, 61 Goodge Street, London W1T !TL, 020 7580 1960

Inspired by this I decided to make my own French Martini's on Saturday night - you will need,

1.5 fluid oz Vodka ( I used Raspberry Vodka to enhance the raspberry flavour but plain is fine), 0.5 fluid oz of Chambord raspberry liqueur and 3 fluid oz Pineapple Juice. Put all in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and serve! Here you go.... My version of a French Martini...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

My Unintentional Winter Haul... from TKMaxx

Okay so at a loose end this morning (and the sun was shining) I decided to go take a look at the delights that Enfield Town has to offer. I'm too lazy to go anywhere more exciting and frankly, it's too damn hot. What I had forgotten was that Enfield boasts (if this is a boast I'm really not sure) a TKMaxx and as it was only a couple of weeks since I attended a TKMaxx press day I decided to check it out.

Two hours later (yes, you read that right a full two hours later) I left the store with a new winter coat, a black jersey pencil skirt and two pairs of shoes. I only meant to pick up a couple of french bread sticks from Waitrose, but then I'm from a line of women which includes a grandmother who went out for a pint of milk and came back with a fur coat, but that's quite another story...

I wasn't the only mad woman on a day that was looking likely to break heat records trying on winter coats, sweaters and hats either, there were loads of us, but not enough to make it an unpleasant experience. TKMaxx big's up their designer element and it's fair to say they do have some real bargains. However you have to be prepared to painstakingly search the rails and racks of clothes to find those hidden gems. But it is worth it and what they lack in style they make up for in friendly and helpful staff so it ain't all bad.

Riding the crest of the shopping wave I then hit Monsoon who had a 50% sale and bought a rather pretty little dress that will be a great between season number with tights and, oh yes the new heels.

Purchase of the day my Antoni & Alison winter coat for £99.99 instead of £390!

Gorgeously soft Unisa pumps in black suede for £35 instead of £85.

These heels are truly comfortable but then they are Hush Puppies (just don't tell anyone) - £29.99 instead of £65.

Haven't added the pencil skirt as we all know what one of those looks like, but here's the little dress which has a bit of a Tea Dress thing going on. You can't see it really but it has a deep frill on the bottom and is very, very soft. Half price bargain at £27.99!

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