Thursday, 22 November 2012


I am writing the odd guest review on the fantastic collaborative book review initiative started by Erin and Ria, The Bloggers' Bookshelf.

My first review got published today, and it's embarassingly light on review, and heavy on the rant - I've totally forgotten how to write reviews! My English teacher would be so disappointed... However, if you would like to read a grumble on a book I was actually embarrassed I read, then here it is!

There's a whole host of fantastic reviews of a wide range of books already - perfect in the run up to Christmas and lining up the holiday reading!

Products I'm loving...

There's a few products that I've really been loving recently, and I wanted to share them with you!

Garnier Skin Naturals Dark Spot Corrector, £9.99

Much has been made of this product in the US and the reviews are excellent. I think it has faded my spot scars considerably but more than that, I think it's an absolutely fantastic serum/primer/multi-use product. I use it as my night cream now and it leaves my skin beautifully smooth and bright when I wake up. I use it under my makeup and it's non oily texture is a lovely light moisturising base. I use it under my moisturiser and it evens my skin tone and leaves it looking bright and fresh. I LOVE this. I recommended it to my sister and she's also converted. Again, with all skincare, I add the caveat that all skin is different and yours might not respond in the same way as mine, but when I don't use it, there's a discernible dulling to mine, and my skin is noticeably less soft and smooth.

MAC Plumful, £14.00

Ah, Plumful. I've been meaning to buy you for years, but only got round to it this summer. But, where have you been all my life? On me (with my deeply berry-pigmented bottom lip) this is a very pretty, almost neutral soft berry shade. Can a berry be a nude? (I suppose it can, if that's your original lipcolour). It goes beautifully with smokier heavier eye looks, but gives enough definition and colour so I don't look dead (or make my full lips look ENORMOUS, which beigey-peachy colours like Jubilee do). It is totally non-drying and a joy to wear.

Lanolips 101, £11.22

I have the driest, flakiest lips in summer as well as winter and I've complained before about my dry skin (over and over again!) But I've really sorted it with Lanolips 101 - it's very thick and I use it at night on my lips and any sore/dry patches I have and in the morning, they're invariably gone. Plus it's the best balm I've found for preventing those awful nose-flakes that accompany a cold. I've had 4-5 serious colds over the last six months (way to go, immune system!) and my nose has survived all of them without awful peeling! These balms are pricey, but a little goes a very long way, and I bought mine in one of those magical Boots 3 for 2 offers.

Lanolips Lemonaid, £9.18

Lemonaid is my day-on-the-go version. I love the zingy, zesty scent - it is such a pick me up to use (and if you suffer from travel sickness like I do, having something lemony around is very useful!), and the softer texture is much easier to use for day. I'm rather fickle when it comes to lipbalms but I wouldn't be without these two now. I only wish the packaging was a bit less dated looking.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Treat wishlist

I have a good few gift vouchers and Boots Advantage points racked up at the moment. I absolutely refuse to use them on anything practical, and have a few things on my wishlist at the moment I would like to spend them on instead!

Tom Ford Black Orchid, £45

I'm patiently waiting to clock up enough Boots points to buy this, it's a very me-with-a- grown up twist scent. But I'm sad to see that it's gone up by £5 since I first started saving my points towards it :( I was almost there but it's going to take just that little bit longer for it to be in (and on) my rabbit paws!

Laura Mercier Petite Baked Shadow Palette, Golden Metallics, £20

I swatched this in John Lewis the other day, and it's absolutely stunning and such an adorable mini palette. The shades are so sparkly and complex, with numerous different coloured sparkles. Perfect for festive makeup looks!

Estee Lauder Chaos polish, £14.50

A smokey taupe shimmer with pretty blue-green sparkles. Mesmerising when I swatched it.

OPI Every Month is Oktoberfest, £11

I don't have that many shimmery vamps in my collection, and this has got some shadeshifting magic to it which I can never resist.

Chanel Illusion d'Ombre in Illusoire, £23

This smokey, sparkly, plummy taupe is so very pretty!

Do you save up gift vouchers and reward card points? What's on your wishlist?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Silencing my inner critic

It might be fair to say that my mind is my own worst enemy. I constantly think that I'm not good enough, not a good enough friend, not smart enough, not a good enough writer, a bit of a failure at life in general. When things go well, I'm always first to ascribe responsibility to others or minimise my own role in things. When things go badly, it's no one's fault but my own and I chastise and chastise myself.

I live - perhaps have always lived - under the rule that being hard on myself will make me better. Perhaps it was inculcated into me in a school that focused intensely on academic achievement (my favourite teacher never giving me a full A in English, for example, until the very last essay I handed in - despite me coming first in the year pretty much every term). Who knows - I'm not psychoanalysing myself here. Whatever the reason, it's how I operate. With cooking - with work - with friends - with family. In every area of my life, I measure myself. I measure myself - and I never quite measure up.

In my mind, there's always a litany of "you shoulds", "you musts" and "why did/didn't yous" going on. My therapist put it interestingly last week - that I never actually live in - let alone enjoy - the present. I'm flitting between the past (assessing what I did wrong) and the future (what I should do differently next time),

Ironically, writing so extensively and quite critically about my own brain means I'm still doing that. I'm trying to fix my mind in order to be better. So how on earth do I silence this critical voice that's always haunting me?

One CBT technique that has been helping me a lot has been to try to think of myself, and address myself, with an affectionate, kind voice, rather than the cold, self-accusatory tone I usually think in. They suggest to use a nickname - a name that's only been used about you affectionately. It sounds bizarre and rather American doesn't it? But switching mental registers in this way made me realise that we are always engaged in an unspoken conversation with ourselves, but that it's not always necessarily the kindest, most helpful conversation we could be having. Surely to be healthy and happy, we have to be good to ourselves? It seems self-evident and should come easily but it really does not, at least for me, at least not yet.

Another technique that I adopted on my own has been to keep a diary of things I do every day I should be proud of. When I first started CBT, my therapist asked me to list all the good things about me. I was at a low point, but even now I do struggle to list them. Even the positive attributes I can recognise - being a caring friend, being wise, writing articulately, building connections - I always feel could be improved. Sometimes days and days will go by without me feeling like I've accomplished anything of any worth. So I started logging the tiniest things I could be proud of - talking to an elderly neighbour, texting a friend I hadn't spoke to for a while, sorting out a cupboard - so that after a while I could see how every day I live is good in some way.

But it is an ongoing battle. My inner critic is so embedded in my thinking - facilitated by the peer-review culture of academia, no doubt - that I rarely even realise I'm doing it. I suppose that's the "cognitive" bit of the CBT I ought to be working on (again - "ought to be", argh!)

Why am I writing this? I suppose in part, in this ongoing process of "coming clean" with myself and with others - that I am a bit more complicated and struggle a bit more with life than I sometimes am able to admit. But also to ask whether this is something peculiar to me, or whether you struggle with it too. Do you have techniques that help? Have you found a way to silence that voice?

Supermarket Sweep Saturday

There's some lovely festive and wintery things in the supermarket ranges recently, especially Asda:

Asda, £20
Just how pretty and 1950s is this dress? I think with a pair of mid heels and a slick of ruby lipstick, it'd be perfect for fancier Christmas parties - and it certainly looks a lot more expensive than its £20 price tag.

Asda, £14

I love the rich purple shade of this dress - and it'd be great for work with some patent black may janes and pearl accessories.

Tesco, £14

This has got to be one of the cutest takes on the Crimbo jumper trend I've seen. The chunky jumper trend isn't one that suits me and I don't tend  to wear separates, but at £16 this would be a perfect snuggly jumper to wear with my PJs especially on Christmas Day!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Rabbit Recipes: Lunch Ideas

Not so much a collection of recipes, but some of the most popular lunches in the Rabbit-Bartimaeus household. I always love reading about people's lunch ideas because if you get in a rut, packed lunches can be so boring and miserable! A lot of these are self-evident, but if you would like a recipe for any of these, do say in the comments and I will happily oblige.

We both work from home a fair bit so some of these lunches aren't as portable as some. I find having a huge range of (mostly spicy) condiments really useful when I'm making lunches with 7 minutes notice. Things I wouldn't be without:

sweet chilli sauce/chilli jam - great with cheese, but also spicy noodles
aubergine pickle - a delightful Gujarati chutney you can pick up in Asian supermarkets, it's sweet and spicy and is great in sandwiches
mango chutney
mustards - I have wholegrain and Dijon always at hand
salad dressings -in an ideal world, we'd always make our own, but I like to have a couple of variants in the fridge to add flavour to salads
nuts - great to add protein and nutrients to salads, noodles and to have as a snack (I love cashews)
chilli mayonnaise - I hate normal mayonnaise but chilli flavoured versions are very useful - makes for a brilliant, perky tuna melt!

So here are some Rabbit lunches:

- Indian spiced noodles with frozen vegetables and prawns/chicken breast, topped with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce and a heap of peanuts and cashews

- Ciabatta rolls with breaded camembert and sweet chilli sauce, red onion and lettuce

- Indian spiced scrambled eggs on frozen potato and spinach stuffed paratha

- Non-pork "ploughmans" with smoked salmon/sliced turkey, cheeses, a boiled egg, foccaccia, avocado and carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes (Rabbit favourite)

- Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toasted croissants (lovely brunch too)

- Couscous with chickpea masala and feta cheese, pine nuts and rocket

- Chilli tuna mayonnaise and cheese melts

- Spiked minestrone (just tinned soup with some chilli flakes warmed up in it) with cheese on toast

- Mexican egg tortilla wraps - a fried egg, topped with salsa and greek yoghurt, with cheese, salad and coriander, wrapped in a garlic tortilla

What did you have for lunch today?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

SLS free reviews - update and wishlist

I've been trying a couple of SLS free products recently that I thought I ought to review for my fellow senstive of skin readers.

 Naked Ooh La La Body Wash, £3.79, 250ml

This brand is one of the most readily available SLS free ranges out there, stocked in most Boots. It's the first one I tried, and I've gone through most of the fragrances. The Rose is quite lovely and sweet, but a bit one-dimensional for use everyday, and it's not half as moisturising as Ooh La La. This one isn't foodie-scented, but it does have a deep, sweet and very soothing fragrance that is a joy to use. The lather is creamy, and it doesn't leave skin feeling stripped or tight. It's a lovely little everyday indulgence.

Liz Earle Botanical Shine Shampoo, £8.50, 200ml

Oh my days. This is THE best SLS-free shampoo I've ever used, hands down. (And I've tried many, including Daniel Galvin Junior, Naked, Body Shop and more). This lathers ok (much better when I repeat, which I tend to do because I wash my hair twice a week), but cleans so very effectively without at all drying or stripping the hair. And I have very dry hair. It has never irritated my dry, sensitive scalp, and the scent is pleasantly soapy-herbal and doesn't leave a trace when hair is dry. Most importantly, it leaves your hair so shiny and swishy and soft. I've never had that from an SLS-free shampoo, particularly the shine. An £8.50 tube lasts me months and months, so I view it as excellent value. Really, a godsend in shampoo form if you have a temperamental scalp. Or if you like your hair.

Faith in Nature Chocolate Shower Gel/Bath Foam, £5.45, 400ml

My hunt for foodie SLS free bath and shower products is neverending. Is vanilla an irritant? Because it seems that all SLS free products are scented with either geranium (the poor man's rose in my opinion) or lavender, or both. It's. So. Boring.

So I was quite excited when I discovered this product online over the summer. Chocolatey? SLS-free? Yes please. Reviews led me to believe this had a wonderful, soothing scent.

And it does smell faintly chocolately and rich when you open the bottle and take a good sniff. But that's about it. It is barely detectable on lathering. Furthermore, I was really cross to find that this brand that markets itself as "natural" and SLES-free in fact uses ammonium laureth sulfate, which is just as bad as SLS (and I've had terrible reactions to some ALS shampoos). I'm usually very careful about reading ingredient listings, so I'm not sure how this passed me by, but I was really disappointed. The massive bottle for £5.45 is ok value in theory, but I can't actually wait to finish it and move on. I haven't tried it in the bath because I very much doubt there'd be any scent at all, but it might be a good way to finish it!

And what will I be moving on to? I'm very curious about the following:

Korres Vanilla, Freesia and Lychee Shower Gel, £9, 250ml

I've heard great things about this in shower gel and fragrance form, and the combination of floral/fruit/vanilla sounds both sophisticated and delicious. In fact it provides SLS free folks with a rare opportunity to layer scented products because so many regular fragrance sets use the cheapest foaming agents available.

Soap and Glory Whipped Clean Shower Butter, £8, 250ml

Ooh, "shower butter." That sounds lovely doesn't it? When I was at uni, and only had access to a shower, and was stressed out of my brain trying to finish my PhD, I searched and searched for products that could give a bath-like experience (soothing, comforting) in the shower. Lush's now discontinued Almond Coconut Shower Smoothie was as close as I got (and it was lovely, sniff). But this sounds pretty on the money too!

I've tried to find out what Sodium Trideceth Sulfate is, and from some googling it seems it is much milder than SLS and its variants, so the scent of this and the promise that it is moisturising makes me very keen to try it. From a quick try in Boots, it smells INCREDIBLE.

Greenscape Organic Cocoa Butter Shower Gel, £7.15, 500ml

Ah John Lewis/Waitrose. How I love thee, and thy stocking of diverse SLS-free ranges. I happened upon this range in my local JL, and had a bit of a sniff, and it smelt sweet and promising. Before I encountered the Soap and Glory, this was highest on the list, but I'm a fickle rabbit and the massive size of this is putting me off!

S&G will be the next I purchase once I've finished the Faith in Nature one.

Have you come across any delectable SLS free ranges? 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Winter Wedding

Winter Wedding

Teardrop earrings
Hair accessory
Darling Edie Frame Bag

I am absolutely thrilled and excited about a few events coming up over the next few months - including a cocktail party themed birthday bash and most wonderfully, the wedding of two of dear, dear friends.

I love weddings, and haven't been to enough! Although it's a good few months away, I have already put my outfit together because I'm nerdy like that. I suppose most people wouldn't wear this much colour to a winter wedding - but I think British gloom makes it all the more important to break out sunny, happy colours.

I've had this dress in my wardrobe unworn for a while, and it is perfect for such an occasion - structured enough and made of a love heavy cotton stretch that will be warm but also comfortable. And it has pockets! Usually I go a bit mad on buying new stuff for a wedding outfit but for this one I'm almost totally sorted already. The glitter shoes are an amazing pair I picked up on Office's website for £12, whilst the bag is a lovely textured leather one from Darling via Brandalley for £22. I do love a bargain, me. The only two pieces I do not own here are the headband and the earrings! I love the hairband which is dramatic enough to give the dress a bit of edge and quirk and be appropriately hat-like for the occasion without at all veering into yucky fascinator-ville.

I've sometimes gone too crazy with the colour palette and my makeup at weddings, so this time I am trying to unite everything by keeping the main two accessories (head/toe) purple, with two hints of colours in the print in the jewels and the bag (how pretty and vintage looking are the earrings!). I will opt for a simple and pretty makeup look with a soft taupe eye, black flick and defined red lips and matching nails. The hair will be down to keep things a bit more relaxed, I think.

To winterise it, there will be thick black tights, and I plan to wear as a cover up an old but lovely and very 50s olive green cropped jacket I have from Topshop, with some long elbow length wool gloves in pale grey.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Magpie-Rabbit: Accessorize

I love jewellery. It's an inherited, quite culturally specific thing in some respects - when we were children, my mother used to drag us around all the jewellery shops looking for just the right pair of earrings to match a necklace or vice versa. It was drilled into me through these searches that it is important to accessorize an outfit with jewels - but always tastefully, always appropriately. My mother's great love is pearls, which I've also inherited.

But as any child is wont to do, I've taken those lessons, and I've taken them in directions my mother doesn't always approve of. I love costume jewellery as much as fine pieces and over the years I have amassed quite a collection. My jewellery tends to be like my clothes - girly, quirky but not too "out there." Being small, I prefer smaller, delicate pieces - I love little charm necklaces (teacups, rabbits, cupcakes, time-turners, snowflakes, I own them all), stud earrings or 1cm drop earrings that just frame the face, though for evenings and so on I do also like a good pair of chandelier earrings.

Accessorize (and this is not a sponsored post in any way!) for many years has been one of my favourite shops on the high street (especially during their 70% sales!)  I can browse in there for hours! They're having a particularly good season this winter so I thought I would pick out some of my favourites that I'll be watching out for in the next sale.

A pair of bow pearl studs is a staple in my jewellery wardrobe - bows are a very flattering shape and the tiny seed style pearls are so pretty and antique-looking. They go with almost everything so I always take them on my travels:

I've played with these a lot in store - they're so glowy and beautiful! 

 These are also quite high on my wishlist, to wear with my emerald lace skater dress. I love how Indian they are in style, they would go equally as well with a sari or salwaar kameez:


This is utterly gorgeous and very expensive looking I think. There's a beautiful matching cuff and earrings (though wearing all 3 together would be crazy). I think with a navy dress, this would be so bewitching and glamorous.


And finally, a little gothic beauty just to show how they have a bit of everything!


What are your favourite costume jewellery pieces? Did you have a jewel-mad mum like me?