Monday, 30 November 2009

Swathed in Memory

It was one of those mornings. I woke up today at seven, it was pitch-black outside and I felt more tired than I did when I'd gone to bed. My heart was heavy from the waking realisation that none of the many problems in my life right now had been miraculously resolved overnight. The weather announced that today it would feel like -3 degrees. I blinked thinking that was for the night. But no. The sinking feeling grew. It's a feeling I describe as "hide-mode:" when my inner self recoils at facing the public world. One of those days you don't want to leave the house.

Invariably, those days are often the days you have to. What, therefore, to do? My strategy is often to swathe myself in comfort, reaching for my favourite pieces of clothing and cashmere and soft cotton or jersey, and less poetically, my UGGs. Makeup is often a good mask too - particularly when my dark circles are as pronounced as they are today. So: floral jersey tea dress, new green glittery bow and white pearl necklace, green eyeliner.

But today I felt I needed an extra dose of comfort and protection. I reach for it rarely, purely because it's precious to me and I feel its power and durability will both be diminished with too much wear. It's nothing overtly "special:" not a Tiffany ring or some other designer trophy. It's a black cropped cashmere cardigan from Sainsburys. But its power derives from the fact that it was the last thing my father bought me.

Whenever I wear it, my mind casts back to the day of its purchase: a golden, perfect day, the last perfect day before the big C and before everything went to hell. In my determination to acquire this cardigan I'd persuaded my parents to take me to a Sainsburys some distance away, in Merton. My dad drove my mum and I there. Having located the cardigan and ready to pay for it myself, my dad grabbed it out of my hand and paid for it, charming the female sales assistant as he entered his card details, as was his way. It was a golden autumn day, and having made the journey it seemed a shame to leave straightaway, so the three of us went to explore Merton Abbey Mills nearby, a permanent craft and jewellery fair I'd always begged my dad to take me to as a child. Locking my arms through my mum and dad's, I joked that this is how it would have been had I been an only child. We ate hot mini doughnuts and I bought my mum some Palestinian glassware. My dad got involved in a political discussion with the seller, as was his way. (He also, despite his atheism, laid it on regarding Muslim brotherhood, in order to get a discount. This was also his way.)

There was a strange sense of past, present and future coinciding that day. This branch was one of the first hypermarket-style supermarkets in the South East - and my family and I visited often when I was a child, on our way from visiting family in Mitcham. There were also moments when my sheer sense of joy in the moment was unsettled by a sense of foreboding: when my dad didn't eat many doughnuts, and when he found it hard to walk (later it was discovered, due to my incredible medic sister, that this was due to tumours pressing on his spinal column.) But the worries were unformed, unspoken, easy to quieten. I felt loved, happy and protected.

Those feelings return often when I think of my dad, my Baba. But my memories of that day never return so viscerally as when I wear the cardigan he bought for me that day. I wear it as a charm. I feel stronger already.
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Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Up/Down

Yup, you've guessed it - I'm on the train again! So here goes:

Up

Nail Polish

I'm loving No. 7 Totally Teal (a murky teal creme) which unlike green polishes doesn't clash with my skin or make me look like Grotbags. It just looks modern and really cool. It stains a bit though - but I blame my Nails Inc base coat (NOT a favourite brand of mine!) I'm also loving OPI Merry Midnight which is a super-sparkly purple glitter jelly, perfect for Christmas!

Shoesies

My new black and dark gold platforms from M&S, of all places. They go with pretty much ALL of my going out dresses and just lift an outfit (they lift me too, at nearly 5in - I'm almost normal height in them! Which is weird.)

My Thermos

Bartimaeus has transformed my commute with this purchase. I'm now a much happier bunny at the end of my 4.5 hour commute, sipping Rooibos Vanilla and reading Look! magazine.

Budgeting

I've been much stricter with my spending and instead of feeling deprived or depressed I feel a real sense of achievement. We'll see if - can sustain it over the holiday period though!

Where the Wild Things Are/The Wild Things

The film looks utterly magical, and Dave Eggers' book a very tempting option for my book vouchers.

Down

MAC Baby Goth Girl

Loved the name of this polish, and the look in the bottle, but it doesn't look like anything special on. Putting OPI Merry Midnight over it helps, mind.

Weather

The rain was practically horizontal just now! My knees are still damp. The nightly storms keep waking me too. Me no likey.

X Factor

So dull this year - and all the more so now Jedward have gone. I've had no goosebumps or punch-the-air-nailed-it moments this year and don't really mind who wins. Not that I'll stop watching it though!

Train Delays

My train has stopped for 10 minutes because it's waiting for extra carriages, and it means I'll miss my next one. The exact same thing happened last week. Not sure why the carriages can't be here on time but hey-ho. Hopefully I won't have to wait an extra hour like I did last week because I have a dinner date with Bartimaeus and don't want to be late!

Builders

They come, they destroy, they bugger off with your money. Grr.
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Sunday, 15 November 2009

Shampoo

Not the girl group, alas. But the stuff. I've had an ongoing battle with it - well, with the ubiquitousness of the ingredient sodium lauryl sulphate in particular. Since childhood I've suffered from extremely dry, sensitive skin (it can crack and bleed of its own accord if I don't moisturise - quite the incentive!) and from eczema. I've also had a horribly itchy, flaky scalp that is prone to sores and bleeding (sometimes so much so I can barely put my head on the pillow). Sorry for the gruesome detail!

The funny thing is, that when I've been to the GP about my scalp I've always been prescribed incredibly harsh dandruff shampoos that have further stripped my scalp and made the condition worse. Excuse the pun, but it left me and my GP scratching our heads in puzzlement.

Until I read about SLS when I started to get interested in natural skincare. This foaming agent is in most shampoos, body washes and (yuck!) toothpastes. It doesn't do anything except create lather - which we psychologically associate with cleanliness. And it is a known skin irritant.

Since I've opted for shampoos free of SLS and its milder derivative sodium laureth sulphate my scalp has been sooo much happier, I can't tell you how different it is. I can't believe I've had this scalp problem for years and years and all this time it was my shampoo that was causing it. I'm pretty horrified that even many BABY shampoos (including Johnsons & Johnsons!) contain these two ingredients. I also try to avoid it in shower gels now too - and my skin has felt much less itchy as a result. The difference in both makes me realise what toxic ingredients they really are. I've also read the SLS in toothpastes can give people mouth ulcers which I also suffer from, so I'm considering changing that too.

However, the unfortunate thing is that a lot of SLS-free shampoos are very drying on the hair, and mine is long and very thick so it needs a decent, moisturising shampoo and an ultra rich conditioner to stop it being a tangled mess with lots of split ends (though I think those have also reduced remarkably since I switched - and I blowdry my hair every time I wash it). I've gone through quite a few by now with varying degrees of success, so I thought I'd give a lowdown of the ones I've tried so far:

Lavera Almond Milk Shampoo for Sensitive Scalps:

This is a special "natural" brand. This smelt like marzipan, but in a sickly cyanidey way. It was also quite drying on the hair. I felt no desire to rebuy. And the lime green old fashioned packaging's hideous too. I'm superficial, it's true.

Vo5 Soothe and Shine:

This was so cheap at £1.15 and was up until recently easy to find on the high street. This has ammonium lauryl sulphate in, which can also irritate, but I had a good run with this until it was discontinued :( Recently my final remaining bottle has been irritating my scalp, though, so I guess it is time to move on, but what I loved was that my hair was indeed very shiny after using this, and very soft too.

Daniel Galvin Junior Kids's Shampoo in Watermelon:

A great everyday shampoo with a yummy watermelon scent that makes me think of NERD sweets we had as kids. Not drying, and reasonably prices at £3. I'd buy this again if I could find it! I think larger branches of Waitrose stock DGJ but I rarely can get to one.

Danier Galvin Junior Hair Rescue Shampoo with Lavender:

Very very soothing when my scalp is extra-stressed (usually when the rest of me is!) It is rich and non-drying. I really rate this range.

Trilogy Smoothe and Shine:

The priciest I've tried at £11. This has ALS in it like the V05 Soothe and Shine, which narks me a bit given its "luxury naturals" price tag. But it doesn't irritate and it makes my hair look and feel fantastic (it has a really noticeable straightening and de-fuzzing effect!) Though I'm not commenting on the corresponding conditioners, I have to say the Smoothe and Shine conditioner is my HG conditioner - my hair has never felt so soft. I just wish it didn't cost £22 for the two!

Dr Organic Honey Shampoo:
This is £5 and part of Holland & Barrett's new own-brand line of bodycare, all of which is SLS and paraben free. There are tons of products (body washes, lotions, butters, toothpastes and deodorants) and several ranges (Pomegranate, Tea Tree, Lavender and Vitamin E) to choose from. This looked like the most moisturising bar the Vit E (but I'm a sucker for honey scents and so bought this instead!) In hindsight perhaps I should've opted for Vit E as this had the unfortunate effect of drying out my hair and making it greasy quickly at the same time. I also had some scalp itchiness which I was not pleased with! I'm using it up as a shower gel right now. The positive thing about it is that you can actually feel the honey content in it - it's kinda gluey and sticky to the touch! But not sure you really want that in a shampoo!

As my scalp is stressed right now I've bought a new one to try today: Waitrose's own brand Organic Moisturising shampoo. Incidentally, Waitrose's baby shampoo and body washes do not hav SLS or sodium laureth sulphate in them, and they stock a wide veriety of "natural" bodycare ranges including Neal's Yard, Weleda and Burt's Bees. My shampoo was £3.90 and I'm hoping it'll be good. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 13 November 2009

One word tag

Following Lou and the Witterer:

Where's your mobile phone: desk
Your hair: black
Your mother: amazing
Your father: irreplaceable
Favourite Food: curry
Dream last night: stressful
Favorite drink: tea
What room are you in: bedroom
Hobby: drawing
Fear: failure
Where were you last night: here
Something that you aren't: tall
Muffins: chocolate
Wish list item: flat
Where did you grow up: Laandan
What are you wearing: PJs
Your pets: cats
Friends: happiness
Something you're not wearing: jewellery
Favourite shop: Liberty
Favourite colour: aubergine
Last time you laughed: yesterday
Your best friend: sis
Best place you go to over and over: Bluewater!
Person who emails you regularly: Facebook
Favourite place to eat: Carluccio's

I tag:

Geeky Weirdo Chick

Passion for Fashion
Lionlovingtiger
VexintheCity
Butterfly Wings

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Give blood...

I'm currently waiting in the queue to give blood at my local church hall. It's my first time - not through lack of trying, just that I've always come down with a cold just before the appointment! But I'm here now, and on the tail-end of a sniffle for once.

I'm pretty surprised by the number of people here, and the diversity of the group. It's a cold, wet Tuesday evening and yet everyone's waiting patiently for their turn. I think of the transfusions both my brother and my dad had during their illnesses and I feel grateful to them, to everyone who turns up to do this thing. For once, an ad rings totally true. It is something amazing.

I'm sure many of you already do this, but if you don't, please think about it.
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Friday, 6 November 2009

HMmmm & S

So I seem to have acquired £35 of M&S vouchers (courtesy of my lovely mum giving them to me!) And I cannot seem to decide for the life of me what to spend them on! There are actually several lovely things in M&S I have spied - which I am now umming and ahhing between.

First and foremost, these shoes, £29.50:

I have come very latel to the "toughened" shoe trend (and actually, these really are quite tame in comparison to some out there) but I spied these in my local M&S the other day and I love them. I have some other Limited Collection heels that are staples now for me because they're the comfiest heels I own, and having tried these on today, they're just the same, super-supportive with a squishy platform sole. I don't usually like black shoes, but these are broken up with the bronze sections and I can see them being quite versatile. My only reservation is that I have a pile of heels I hardly ever wear - can I justify adding these to it?

Secondly, this dress:

A girl can never have too many black dresses, and I like the stud detailing on this one. And it has pockets!

But then, there's this dress:
Okay, it's kinda yawn-ville. But since seeing lots of pics of the Victoria Beckham dresses (sshh) with the zips that go all the way down the back, I am really hankering after one. (Particularly if it can be slightly unzipped as per the VB dresses.). And the shape of this is perfect for me. My reservation with this one: pink lining (eughh) and perhaps too long for munchkin-me.

Finally, this oversized pure cashmere scarf, which would have 50% taken off its price, but in black (my staple winter coat is purple!):

I adore cashmere in the winter - for warmth and softness, there's no beating it. I'd love a huge wrap I could bury myself in on my Kent commute. However, from M&S's helpful reviews, I'm not sure this is The One, given some have mentioned that it is very thin. I want a scarf-blanket!

Sooo - which should I go for, do you think?