Monday, 28 October 2013

FOTD: Twinkly kingfisher blue and peach

Thank you all so much for your support, kindness and love regarding my previous post. I don't want this blog to become a woe-laden space of wailing - so here's a face of the day from last week where my hair didn't look so bad (H&M, your braided headbands have saved me!)

The main shadow shade is a beautiful dusty kingfisher shade by Marks and Spencer Autograph, following a recommendation by that most enabling of enablers, Lipglossiping. I purchased the taupe she recommended and this shade. The shadows are creamy, impressively pigmented and excellent quality for £6. I've also patted on the prettiest microglitter shadow I've come across, Ellis Faas Lights on E301, a beautiful white gold sparkle, over the turquoise. I really love Ellis Faas, the packaging is annoying but the products are incredible - especially the lip shades. I have the driest lips in the world, and the only matte shades I've been able to wear comfortably are EF ones.

L'Oreal True Match concealer in Cafe Creme under eyes

Urban Decay Primer Potion (Original) as base
M&S Autograph eyeshadow in Kingfisher all over lid
Ellis Faas Lights in E301 over Kingfisher
17 Lacquer Liner in black for upper lid lining and flick
Avon Supershock pencil in black on waterline and to tightline
Maybelline Colossal Mascara
Rimmel brow pencil in dark black-brown

NARS Taos blush
NARS Albatross as cheek highlight
Rimmel Stay Matte powder in Translucent

Clinique Chubby Stick in Mega Melon

Saturday, 26 October 2013

RIP, Mane: Alopecia Arreata and Me

Today, I finally had an appointment I've been mired in an eighteen month battle with my GP, medical secretaries and NHS booking lines for. It was with a dermatology consultant, regarding the hair loss that has slowing been chipping away at my self esteem, sense of identity and confidence. (Hence no beauty or fashion posts from me for a long, long time).

It confirmed what I already know: that I have severe alopecia arreata, a little understood, barely researched and underfunded condition where (it is believed) that my immune system has attacked my hair follicles, meaning that I have now got large clumps of bald areas all over my head, as well as complete loss of all arm and leg hair (I never thought I'd miss that stuff, but I do, I really do). Along with the physical symptoms, the unknowability of it, and the fact that it affects a part of your appearance crucial to most people's sense of their selves (recall your last bad haircut, or even bad hair day, and think about how it made you feel), it's been fairly harrowing. Every morning, waking up and brushing out the knots caused by hairs detaching themselves overnight, looking down into the sink and seeing a mass of blackness, stomach sinking. Every day, artfully arranging remaining strands to try to cover the bald patches, only to realise in precious photos of me with Roshan that it didn't hide anything whatsoever. Slowly chopping my once waist length hair shorter and shorter in order to lessen the daily strain of witnessing the sheer masses I'm losing. Tears, so many, many tears.

I'll be the first to admit it: I've always been really vain about my hair. I was blessed with a thick, unruly mane, and since the age of fifteen, there's probably only been two or three (accidental scissor-happy hairdresser related) incidences of me having even mid-length hair. It's always been long, it's always been very thick.

But now I'm facing the prospect of it never returning - I have a 1 in 10 chance of a full recovery. And that's very, very hard to take. The problem with alopecia is that you never feel like you have the right to be really upset about it - most people (with the best will in the world) keep reminding me that I could have it so much worse, that it's only hair. But as I await a wig-fitting appointment, I'm struggling to put a brave face on this. I miss my hair. I just don't feel pretty without it.

As traumatic as it has been, the process to even get the appointment confirming my diagnosis has almost been as stressful. After seeing doctor after doctor at my surgery who dismissed my concerns ("there's nothing to be done, sweetie", "it's probably just stress, relax and it'll come back", "it's your pregnancy" - the last completely illogical given it began before I was even pregnant), I finally hit upon one that actually listened to me and agreed to refer me. That was in July. A month later I finally received an appointment - for December. Ringing the dermatology department, I was told that was simply the earliest appointment they had. My GP was outraged (finally found a good one, there) and immediately expedited my referral as urgent. Since then, I've been engaged in a merry (read: not merry AT ALL) dance with rude, huffing medical secretaries who jobshare and don't speak to each other, a bookings department that doesn't ever seem to be able to receive a fax, and GP secretaries who promise to fax things and then don't. It's been hell. I simply do not understand why it has to be this way - the NHS must be the only organisation still running predominantly through faxes (how many of us when on work experience many moons ago used to feel a little ill when handed a bundle of documents and phone numbers, knowing hours of frustration and earpiercing whistles of fax-sendings, or rather, failings, awaited?) Why can't emails suffice? Surely they're more secure, efficient and easy than bits of paper flapping about for anyone to see or intercept?

So after two months of phoning almost every day, I finally got given an appointment for this morning - I think in part because the bookings line manager understood that sheer incompetence had ensued. But again, another harrowing experience awaited me, as the very sympathetic, but entirely helpless consultant informed me there's very little treatment that works, and that the NHS doesn't fund much research into this area because failure is so high. This strikes me as a deeply flawed logic, a horrible catch-22 for anyone suffering from a condition that has been deemed a waste of NHS time. Perhaps I'm not very, very physically unwell - but the emotional impact of losing all your hair as a 34 year old woman is - well, I can't even put it into words. And here, I've really tried.

But I'm considering my options. I've never been able to do fancy 1940s hairstyles, so I've treated myself to this number in order to vintage-up my style. The bonus of having jet-black hair is that it's easy to choose wigs and know that it won't look too fake. I've been using hairbands and braided false hair-headbands, but now it's getting a bit too bad for that, but they've been invaluable and I think will also look nice with wigs. I might venture into the world of coloured hair, which I've always been tempted by, but never had the courage to do. I'm awaiting steroid injections to the scalp (fun!) and my consultant and my sister are looking into research trials I might be able to join. Who knows, I might be that one in the ten who's lucky. But I can't hide away forever and I can't sob my life away if not. So I'm going back to posting beauty and fashion - and my face - here, even if I might look a little different to how I used to.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Three months of Roshan

I've been a mum for over three months now. I can't quite believe Roshan's a quarter of a year old! It's certainly been a rollercoaster and I would say the first month or six weeks were the toughest of my life. But since we've sorted feeding and since Roshan's adjusted to the boots and bar that he needs to wear to treat his clubfoot, things have been going really well and I've been really loving motherhood.

Roshan's now laughing, smiling and regularly chatting away in his gurgling-a-gooing language. He is always, always in motion (even in sleep) - flapping his arms, kicking his feet, always a little out of breath with at least one limb blurry in all photos. He loves his jungle play mat and actively flicks the toys and follows the lights. His favourite way to fall asleep is resting vertically against my chest, with his little arms wrapped about my neck (what I call koala bear or froglet style). He looks really, really cute in dungarees. Whilst he hates wearing most hats (ruins the hair dontcha know), he doesn't mind a hood (obviously, because he's DJ Gangsta Sparrow). He still doesn't give me more than 5 seconds to get a bottle into him, but I've got fairly good at reading the signs as to when that moment of intense hunger approaches. He likes to smack his top lip really loudly, and suck his whole fist but he's getting less interested in dummies.

Within a week of getting them on, he got enough strength in his little legs to kick his 1/3rd of a kilo boots and bar right up in the air. Sometimes he gets to overwhelmed with joy and laughter he has to flap his arms as he laughs, it's the most delightful thing. His voice reminds me a bit of the aliens from Toy Story, a bit of ET. When he's worn out he lets out the most plaintive, tearless cry, like he's weary of the world. He can stare at me for minutes on end without blinking, and follows me around the room with his gaze. My heart soars each time.

He's truly a delight to everyone who meets him and gets a lot of attention any time we're out and about (I've found that middle aged men are surprisingly soft when it comes to cute, cheeky babies). He's very sociable but knows who his mum and dad are and saves his best smiles for us. He's on the small side (though he's chubby now!) but so are we. His name means light and they are his favourite thing - he'll gaze up at a lightbulb for hours. In the last couple of days he's become tickly though I haven't quite identified where the spot is, it is somewhere around his neck or shoulders as he giggles uncontrollably when I change his top.

When he looks up at me and smiles, there's no better feeling in the world. I can see him developing in alertness and he's so interested in the world, I feel quite proud that I'm able to help introduce it to him. He now gets up once in the night, drinking his bottle and falling straight back to sleep most nights. The only major issue I have with him now is that he can't fall asleep on his own but needs lots of rocking and cuddling even when he's totally exhausted. But he's a brilliant, happy, happy baby, and I'm so proud to be his mum.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Formula feeding - my story

Please help. I have six packs of Boots Breast Pads taking up room in Roshan’s nursery and I don’t have a clue what to do with them.

And that’s because despite best intentions (as pregnancy bulk buying of above breast pads should indicate) and a lot of effort, Roshan is a formula baby. I am a formula mum.

I started a version of this post with a guilt-laden, confessional tone. And then I scrapped it. Because, you know what, there’s far too much guilt and judgement of formula mothers as it is. It’s suffocating. And last week, at the health visitor clinic, I mentally turned a corner. The HV asked me how Roshan’s feeding was going and I apologetically shrugged my shoulders and said “well he’s a formula baby now”. The HV responded “oh that’s fine! But how is he doing on it?” – and I realised that she wasn’t interested so much in what he was feeding, but the quantity and quality of his feeds. I realised that I was loading the guilt onto myself, projecting the judgement of others onto myself when sometimes there was none (though many times no such projection is needed). And then I decided – no longer. I’m not apologising for bottle feeding anymore, to others, or to myself.

For every mother I know that has sailed through exclusive breastfeeding (a term I really hate with a passion, designed to make us “lesser” mothers feel like we’re being refused admittance to some elite club we’re too rubbish to be part of) I know of at least four who’ve struggled, mixed-fed or formula fed. There’s plenty of support for mothers to facilitate breastfeeding in the form of groups, lactation consultants, community breastfeeding assistants and so on. But that support network is ripped away when you decide to formula feed – and there’s nothing in its place.

So I wanted to write a post that’s, as controversial as it might seem, positive about formula feeding. I want to write down the things I’ve learnt, two and a half months on, mostly through trial and error, for other women in my situation – things I wish I’d been told in the many, many classes and workshops I attended during my pregnancy but which were never spoken of for fear of inciting women to formula feed.

Incitement to formula feed. The present climate in the UK regarding breastfeeding is such that any lone voice that comes out in support of formula does indeed seem like a pariah. But really, is formula such a big, so very moral, deal? As Anne Maxted points out in what I found to be a saviour of an article, in the developed world, not really. So why the fuss? In my opinion, the hysteria around breast/formula is just an another way for women to judge one another, to load even more pressure on each other, to create another impossible to achieve goal of perfection for us all to strive towards and endlessly beat ourselves up about.

Don’t get me wrong – I think breastfeeding is fantastic. I was deeply committed to it throughout my pregnancy – I set up cosy nursing places, bulk bought those wretched breast pads, and was generally so excited at the prospect of nurturing and nourishing my child.

Two and a half months on, on formula 100%, I am doing that still – but just not in the way I anticipated, visualised, dreamed of. But Roshan’s thriving now, crossing centiles, getting stronger, longer and louder and we are both so, so happy.

It wasn’t always this way. When I say I tried to breast feed, I don’t think I could have done anything more to try to establish it for Roshan. To the extent that I almost put his health at risk. And it still didn’t work out. And what they don’t tell you in those pregnancy breastfeeding workshops is that sometimes that just happens.

I’ve written about my frankly terrifying birth experience. After all of 5 minutes of “skin to skin” (continually interrupted by paramedics trying to keep Roshan alert), I ended up being apart from Roshan for over nine hours due to my surgery. So, it wasn’t surprising that it took some time for my milk to come in and when it did, that it came in tiny, tiny amounts. But I persevered and I mastered latching Roshan within a couple of days. But he couldn’t get much from me, and as I’ve found out, he’s not the most patient of babies even when he’s happy. He began to get so very hungry he’d work himself into a complete state, so much so that he couldn’t feed, flapping his little arms, delatching himself in complete fury. I would sit with him latched for an hour at a time, as he would fall asleep after five minutes of drinking. One night, I recorded my feeding and I had had him latched for a total of five hours overnight. But though he latched, he would fall asleep and stop suckling almost immediately, and then he’d wake up and delatch in hungry fury. It was a terrible, emotionally devastating cycle. He ended up losing 1/6th of his birth weight, going from 6lbs to 5lbs. He looked like a little prune, drawn and shrivelled, and he couldn’t sleep for more than half an hour at a time because of his gnawing hunger.

In retrospect, I can’t quite believe I held on with the breastfeeding for as long as I did. He did have the odd decent drink, and when I wasn’t around in the intensive care unit, he was given formula with a cup or syringe. But he still wasn’t putting on weight, and when we were discharged I was left with a starving, dehydrated, sleepless baby who couldn’t feed and couldn’t settle. Add my pain from my tear into that mix, and the first two weeks were the hardest of my life.

My health visitor ended up basically ordering me to mix-feed. I also started to express, to help my frustrated, cross little baby consume the “good stuff” he refused to take by breast. But as Roshan was a demanding baby during this time, this meant that when I wasn’t feeding/settling I was expressing and I had simply no time to do anything else. After five weeks I made the decision to stop mixed feeding and switch Roshan to EXCLUSIVE formula feeding. Given that by this stage he didn’t like the taste of breast milk and wouldn’t take from the breast at all (too much hard work!) he didn’t complain at all about this.

But it wasn’t plain sailing – even on bottles, he’d struggle, wriggle and take in lots of air so he was full of wind and in lots of pain from it. It took a switch to Hipp Organic (I feel like such a Hampstead yummy mummy feeding my child an organic formula!) and anti-colic bottles for me to get the happy, smiley and THRIVING little baby I have now. But looking at him now, all chubby cheeks, bright eyes and flapping, strong limbs, I know I made the right decision and we’re all brilliantly happy. So I’m not going to apologise anymore for what was right for Roshan and right for me.

Things I’ve learnt – you can master all the techniques of breastfeeding, but if you don’t have an easy/simple birth experience and/or your baby doesn’t have the right temperament, then it might not work out. Don’t underestimate the power of switching formula – I was sceptical, having read that all formulas now are pretty much the same, but I’ve seen a dramatic change in Roshan’s ability to digest his food. We have no back arching, no pained crying, no hours of coaxing burps out of him anymore. Infacol is a useful thing if your child is colicky. So are wide necked bottles – but for me, Tommee Tippee ones ended up drenching Roshan because of leaks (googling I found this to be a common issue) so we’re using Avent Natural. Teats also make a huge difference – some bottles come with teats for older babies, but don’t make it clear on the box that this is so. If your baby is spluttering out milk – check if the teat’s right. Formula dispensers are ace if you have a crazily impatient child like I do (Roshan would work himself into a frenzy before I’d measure eight scoops into a bottle if I dared to do that when he’s hungry). Burping is important. Some babies don’t like bibs – muslins are softer and more easily tucked into chubby neck rolls (neck rolls! We have neck rolls!)
The benefits of formula? I know how much food Roshan takes, when, which reassures me given his weight struggles. He feeds regularly, and in consistent quantities, so we’re getting close to having a schedule established. He stays over at his grandparents’, giving me time to sleep and time to do other things (gosh, that makes me sound less than devoted, doesn’t it? But it’s important too, I think, for Roshan to have a happy, rested, and fulfilled mother). I feel we – me, Bartimaeus, grandparents, uncles and aunts – co-parent Roshu by all of us being able to feed him. And whilst expressing worked, it (literally) sucked so much time from my day, I couldn’t even play with Roshan between pumping, feeding, settling him and housework. He’s developing brilliantly now I can actually give him proper attention.

So here we are. Happy Roshan, happy me. On formula. Exclusively.

Any tips on how to use up those breast pads would be more than welcome.

Monday, 12 August 2013

A Rather Unusual Delivery: My Birth Story

The spot

Much has happened in Poco Bunny Land over the last few months, most obviously the arrival of the mini Bun at the end of June. To say we’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions during this time would be an understatement. There’s been profound joy, but it’s also been incredibly challenging, physically and emotionally. In part that’s because of how the mini Bun R actually arrived in the world. One of the first questions you’re asked during medical exams as a new mum is “did you have a normal delivery?” By which they mean, did you have a c-section or not? I didn’t have a c-section. But I also didn’t have a normal delivery, by any means.

Roshan Arjuna Pathak was born on Friday 21st June at 14.52, exactly a week before his due date, weighing 6lb1.

In the weeks running up to my due date, friends told me that just before he’d come, I would get a huge instinctive drive to organise and nest. Both Bartimaeus and I scoffed at the very notion that I would ever have the urge to organise anything. And yet on the Wednesday and Thursday prior to his arrival that’s exactly what happened. I even cajoled my father in law into building a chest of drawers for me so that I could finally sort out our clothes storage and Roshan’s. So when on Thursday afternoon back pain presented alongside the sciatica in my hip I'd been suffering from in the last week, I didn’t think anything of it, and carried on writing my draft conference paper sitting on my gym ball.

At about 4.30 in the morning though I woke up with some twinges and cramps and thought that was rather intriguing so downloaded a contraction timer. The contractions were 20 min apart so I tried to sleep and didn’t wake Bartimaeus. At about 7 the cramps were starting to annoy me and I’d read you have to use your TENS machine early on so I woke Pathik up to set it up for me (I’d only ordered it on Wednesday and received it earlier that day! Which is lucky as it ended up being the only pain relief I got throughout the process until my spinal anaesthetic for my stitches).

I kept timing my contractions but they were erratic – some were 16 min apart, some 5. I called the hospital at 9 and they told me it was far too soon to come in and to wait until the contractions were regular and 3-4 min apart. I wandered about eating cream crackers and telling Bartimaeus to leave me alone. At 12 I started to feel the urge to push and called the hospital again but my contractions were still all over the place and the nurse said the pushing was probably just “the position of the head” and not to come in. (When I recounted this to my midwife her eyebrow shot up and she rolled her eyes, so I’m guessing this was wrong advice.) I was in a fair bit of pain during the contractions and the times I wanted to push (I threw up a couple of times) but I kept thinking it’d get worse because I’ve never given birth before and it wasn’t unbearable (in hindsight, it may be that I share my sister’s incredible and slightly problematic uber-high pain threshold). I figured it’d get a lot worse before I was done. I do remember feeling quite tired at about 1 and telling Bartimaeus that if this was going to go on for another three days I didn’t think I could handle it because I wouldn’t have the energy to keep going, and that I would need the epidural I hadn’t originally ever wanted. (ha!)

Then at 2pm my waters broke and I rang the hospital again and they said that I should come in now. But I was upstairs (and unbeknownst to anyone, actually in full blown labour) so it took me 20 minutes to get down the stairs. My father in law arrived to take us to the hospital but by the time I got into the car, I had a huge urge to push and he crowned. I was totally bewildered and had no idea what was happening. My mother in law and Bartimaeus were shouting that he was on his way and that I needed to push again so I did, and he was born, in the back of my father in law’s car, just outside our house. I was screaming at them to make sure he was ok and for them to give him to me. Bartimaeus gave him to me, wrapped in a towel whilst in the process of also ringing 999. The ambulance arrived in minutes and we were “bluelighted” to the hospital, sirens and all. It was all very dramatic. Roshu was breathing erratically and very blue because it was such a shock entry into the world, and the paramedics were looking concerned all the way there which really terrified me. From the time he crowned to when we arrived in hospital, I didn’t feel any pain. I was just praying to God for Roshan to be ok all the way there and couldn’t think of anything else. He, subanAllah, heard my prayers.

When we got to the hospital Roshan was rushed to intensive care and I was rushed to an exam room. I was fairly distraught at being separated from Roshu and not knowing what was going on with him but I was examined and sent for surgery for the severest degree of tear (the price of not having a midwife about to tell you when and when not to do things!) But the surgical team were very reassuring and kept checking on him for me throughout my surgery so I could stay calm. Once I was stitched up and stabilised, after 11pm, having spent over 7 hours apart from my tiny beloved son, I was actually wheeled in my bed into ICU to see my Roshu, beautiful, tiny, and asleep in his incubator, needle pricks all over his tiny hands and heels, and wires everywhere. I stretched out my hand and held his perfect little fingers (mirrors of mine) in my hand and I cried, a lot. Happy, shaky and overwhelmed tears.


Roshu spent the next few days in ICU and I spent them on a ward healing up a bit, with Bartimaeus wheeling me down to see him and spend time with him for hours on end. But he got stronger very quickly, and we finally got discharged after 6 days. Coming home was the best feeling ever – whilst the neo natal nurses are AMAZING I had both great and hideous care on the wards and I was desperate to go home to the point I was just going to walk out if they didn’t discharge us that night (more on that in another post).

I’m still in a fair amount of pain (especially if I overdo things) and I face the prospect of having any further children by c-section (which is a shame, to say the least, because given how quick my first labour was there’s a good chance I would have had very easy natural births). All this, because as a first time mother, the signs my body was giving me weren’t taken seriously by the midwives on the labour ward. They assumed that all first time births take a long time, that as a first time mother I was bound to be overreacting, that I had no idea what my body was doing. I wish I had been in the right headspace to have just gone in anyway, but my mind was a blur (hell, I was in full labour without pain relief!) and I trusted the midwives implicitly. I think back to all that might have gone wrong that didn’t, and I’m thankful – but it was a trauma I’m still recovering from and one which made the first month of Roshu’s life very, very hard for us to enjoy.

Now, though, we are just revelling in our beautiful, wonderful boy. I see the joy he has brought to both our families, how much younger all his doting grandparents seem since he has arrived, and how every day he delights and amazes us in new ways, and I just feel so very blessed to be his mother. Roshan, which means light/sunshine, born on the summer solstice, the bringer a beautiful sunny summer to us all, the light of all our lives.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Mini Egg NOTD

Hope everyone is having a lovely Easter weekend! Bump and I are currently propped up in bed with lots of cushions, (I'm typing this before I have a nap, the pregnant woman's prerogative) I have a Lindt bunny and a little Milky Bar egg next to me and Vanity Fair which I've just begun on my Kindle. Bliss!
The mini egg themed mani has been doing the blogger rounds of late, and I too have joined in on the sweet pastel fun this weekend. I think I've worn the L'Oreal Confetti topcoat on top of almost every mani I've done recently, I love it! I think it's because the glitter is so matte and the perfect size (not too big and no bar glitter either, I hate it!) and it lies so smoothly on the nails. If only all glitter was of this grade! My favourite colour to layer it over has to be duck egg blue though. It's such a pretty and delicate combination.

Time to bite off the bunny's ears! (So very wrong of me, I know!)

From thumb to pinkie: Ciate Bon Bon, Mavala Lagoon, Max Factor Diva Violet, Max Factor Juicy Plum, Essie Navigate Her, all topped with L'Oreal Confetti.

Monday, 25 March 2013

All the small things

Sometimes it isn't a massive haul of hugely expensive stuffs that makes you smile, but a few, small, carefully chosen treats. I took myself off with just over £10 in my pocket last week to indulge myself a bit after a couple of gruelling but rewarding days catering a workshop.

Above is what I "hauled" - mostly items that made for the loveliest, most indulgent bath ever, plus a little fashion pick me up: discounted deep pink roses from Waitrose, £2.99; purple butterfly tealight holder from Poundland, £1 (obvs); Yankee Candle votive in Vanilla Cupcake, £1.70; Ferrero Rocher, Poundland, £1; Lush Yuzu and Cocoa Bubbleroon, £2.95; and H&M mint headband, £2.50.

The Yuzu and Cocoa bubbleroon from Lush is my favourite Lush product - and my favourite bubble bath product ever. It's got such a comforting sweet chocolatey scent, and despite being really softening due to cocoa butter (it's much more moisturising than a standard bubble bar) it produces a decent amount of bubbles even in my hard water area. It's conveniently made up of two half-domes stuck together so you can pull them apart and make them last for two baths! On this particular night, I was very achy and exhausted from being on my feet and cooking all day, and so I used my bookchair to prop up a copy of Grazia in the bath, lit my little Yankee Candle votive (it smells amazing!), watched the butterflies on the tealight holder flicker prettily, ate a couple of my Ferrero Rocher and listened to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald's duets (I can't say I didn't sing along). It was HEAVEN.

I also picked this headband up in H&M - I have a small, oddly square head so hard headbands don't really fit me and I find them horribly uncomfortable, but I love wearing headbands as they accentuate my fringe. I always like pastel accessories in spring (spring? ha!) because I do like the sweetness of muted pastel shades, but full block pastels look hideous on my skintone. This has perked up lots of dark wintery outfits!

This was so immensely satisfying to do - I thought quite carefully about how I was going to spend this £12, much more than I have done in the past, and I love everything I did get for it. It's the little things, as they say.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

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Bejewelled Tuesday: People Tree

The ethical brand People Tree is going from strength to strength, I think - the Orla Kiely and other designer collaborations, beautiful organic cotton frocks, lovely block prints and affordable prices for great quality ethical pieces means it's a brand loved by many. I especially love that so many pieces are produced in Bangladesh and use traditional techniques like block printing and embroidery.

But did you know that they do some lovely jewellery? I'd never really paid attention to their jewellery before, thinking it might all be a bit too chunky for my tastes. But they do some lovely, lovely jewels.

Some of these pieces remind of me of the much pricier NW3 at Hobbs jewellery range, with their whimsical charms and bright colours. The hoop earrings and star necklace would look so amazing with a bright coloured maxi dress, they make me dream of summer. My favourite, though, is the brass charm bracelet. I just love the colours and the quirky little forest themed charms.

Bird earrings, currently £6.40

Cream collar necklace, reduced to £9.60

Brass charm bracelet, £8

Palm leaf bracelets, £6

Brass star necklace, £26
Beaded hoop earrings, £12

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Maps... they don't love you like I love you

Ah, the song lyric blog title cliche!* But it's true, both Bartimaeus and I love maps. They are fascinating representations of the world - but they also structure how we think about space and others. We have both used The Peters Projection and this, our favourite West Wing scene, in our teaching in order to get students thinking about how maps have always played a role in global power relations. Did you know how tiny Britain actually is in comparison to the African continent?

So when I saw this scarf on ASOS I couldn't but love it immediately! I already have a spinning globe pendant that's one of my favourite charm necklaces, but an actual map on a scarf? Amazing.

Warehouse at ASOS, £22

Then I had a google and came across these beautiful, but much more expensive chiffon map scarves. Though I think that limiting the designs to Europes, the States and Britain is somewhat parochial - especially given the rise of the Asian designer consumer!

Faliero Sarti, £222

Actually, these map scarves from Korea are my favourites of the bunch I think - I love the range of colours and the generous size. 

Ebay, £11.41

Ebay, £11.41

*Actually I was rather disappointed to find out that this song isn't really meant as a tribute to all things cartographical but as a somewhat needy plea to Karen O's musician lover of the time who was leaving for a tour. Whatever. It's about maps to me.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Bejewelled Tuesday: Oscars highlights

Although I love awards ceremonies and all the glamour of the gowns, to be honest, this year's Oscar offerings generally left me cold fashion-wise. Too. Many. Pale. Pastels. Yawn. Why are Hollywood actresses in general so afraid of colour?

Anyway, I thought a different take on the usual dress deconstructions might be to take a look at some of the jewels, because there were a few very pretty sparkly accessories going on. Here are my favourites.

I think in terms of dresses, Olivia Munn and Jennifer Garner were two of my favourites, each opting for rich, luxe, bold jewel tones in a sea of eau-de-meh. Their jewels didn't let them down either.

Olivia Munn's little gold studs PRECISELY demonstrate why I think this size of stud can be so very flattering for the face. With her baroque gold and rich burgundy gown, they were just enough in terms of accessories, allowing the dress centre stage but framing her gorgeous face perfectly too.

Ah Jennifer Garner, I love thee in so many ways as it is. But really, a pewter (possibly blackened rhodium?) and diamond set paired with a rich violet gown? I swoon at the combination.

Now here's a pair of statement earrings courtesy of CZJ (I wasn't a fan of her dress much, there's always something a bit to "cabaret" about her gowns that's very aging). I adore the jumbled pave setting (look closely and you can see pearls adding dimension to the gems) and think a pair like this would be a beautiful modern option for an Indian bride.

Winner Jennifer Lawrence. People are divided on both the dress and the award, but what I really adore is the delicate gemstone necklace draped across her decollete and down her back. It's just breathtaking. I'm not as keen on the chunky round leverback earrings which don't seem to go with it, in my opinion but the necklace with the simple yet statement gown was stunning, fresh and delicate.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Rabbit Recipes: Chilli Paneer

This is Bartimaeus' favourite dish, and the recipe is here as requested by the Monkey. I make it two ways - of late I've been doing it this way which is quicker, and I actually think, tastier than the long-winded recipe I used to use (where you coat the paneer cubes in a mix of ginger, garlic, egg and cornflour, fry, set aside and then add to the veg at the end). This is actually crispier (the egg coating actually slides off the cubes when you re-add them to the pan, leaving them soggy and without flavour). Some versions call for vinegar and tomato ketchup - they also make the dish soggy, and they just overpower all the zinginess of the chillies and ginger so I have always left them out.

This is a dish from a curious cuisine known as Indo-Chinese (I'll post up my recipe for non-deep fried "vegetable Manchurian" another day) which is basically an Indian take on Chinese food. That said, there is a distinct Indian-Chinese cuisine that developed in Calcutta as a result of Chinese migrant workers who lived there, as I found out from attending a presentation by a fascinating anthropology project - but I don't really know if this authentic Indian-Chinese fusion food bears any resemblance to its wildly popular Indian counterpart. There's also Chinese cuisines that use chilli and spices that are more reminiscent of India - basically, there's a lot of crossover going on!

1 red onion, sliced
1.5 tbsp minced ginger paste (I grate frozen ginger, it's much easier to work with)
1.5tbsp minced garlic
400g paneer block cut into cubes (I love chopping up paneer, it's so satisfying)
1 fat red chilli and 1 fat green chilli, sliced into rings (deseeded if they're too spicy for you - have a nibble at one to check!)
1/2 green pepper and 1/2 red pepper, sliced
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
5 spring onions, chopped
handful chopped fresh coriander

1. Add 3tbsp of sunflower or vegetable oil to your wok and heat until quite hot.
2. Add cubed paneer and fry untill golden brown on all sides and crispy.

3. Turn heat down to medium.
4. Add sliced red onions to the pan and fry briskly until a bit softened. Then add 1tbsp of each of the ginger and garlic, and the chillies, and mix thoroughly and fry off for a couple of minutes.

5. Add sliced peppers and turn up heat, frying them briskly. Add the remaining ginger and garlic. Add soy sauce so it sizzles, and then salt to taste. Allow peppers to char a bit. There should be a nice dark brown glaze by now, if not, add a bit more soy sauce.

6. Toss in spring onions and coriander, stir through, and take off the heat.

Recently, I've been serving this with spiced noodles, but I actually also really like this served with plain basmati rice - the cleanness of the rice and the savouryness of the paneer is just lovely. The proper Indo way would be to eat this alongside a couple of other dishes (like the above veg Manchurian) with a stack of fried puffed breads called puris.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Songs for my unborn #2: Gabriel (Lamb)

Lamb are one of those groups who are iconic for a certain part of the generation who went to university when I did, I think. (see also: U.N.K.L.E., Tricky, Massive Attack).

I was obsessed with their album Trans Fatty Acid for my second and third year and I still consider Gorecki one of the most perfect epic love songs ever written. (It's so very recognisable that when my friend mentioned a particular track that came on as the first dance at a wedding she attended, I immediately knew that it was Gorecki).

Then all went quiet on the Lamb front. After a year or so, towards the end of my MA, I was in Topshop Bluewater with my sister, and a song stopped me in my tracks. There's no mistaking Lou Rhodes' voice - it's deep, thick, guttural and there's something quite primal and raw and yet so beautiful about it. I just knew it was them - but I raced to a monitor to check. Sure enough - and the song was Gabriel. I loved it from that moment, when in the most unlikely and least spiritual of places, it raised the hairs on my arms with its magic. When I first found out that I was pregnant, I just wanted to hear it again.

For me, pregnancy is a miracle, one I have prayed for all my life, and a gift that I have been given that I am thankful for everyday. The lines resonate so much for me now. My little boy is that light that I crave (and indeed, the name we have chosen means light), and even though I know have I managed in my life until now. everything is better, enhanced, and I am stronger, knowing that he, our Jibraeel*, is going to be in our lives in a few short months.

*not his actual name!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

FOTD: Interview Makeup feat. MUA Undress Me Too palette and MAC Plumful

It's been a while since we've seen my face around here, isn't it? Luckily we're getting some lighter days now so I can actually take some makeup pics that look ok.

For job interviews, presentations and the like, I nearly always wear a version of this look. It's polished, pretty (the last thing you want to be in an interview, unless it's for a makeup artist or other creative post, is edgy), and just makes me feel confident.

I can't quite believe that before Charlotte's post drew my attention to an inexpensive taupe shadow, which I then snapped up. that this colour was totally lacking in my eyeshadow collection. It's the perfect soft shade for brown eyes, and goes really well with purples and plums. Suffice to say, I'm obsessed with the colour now. I've always thought Elizabeth Arden makeup was boring and poorly pigmented but after seeing Charlotte's swatches and finding out it was THREE POUNDS FORTY NINE PENCE I ordered it. It's more purple in tone than MAC's Satin Taupe and is a beautifully soft, pigmented and high quality shadow. It's still in stock, too!

I managed to pick up the new Makeup Academy paletty Undress Me Too which is generally agreed to be an Urban Decay Naked 2 dupe. I passed on both Naked palettes and the MUA take on the original Naked because I have a lot of eyeshadows, am drawn to colour more than neutrals and the first Naked palette and its dupe had far too many grey-toned shadows for me to use. If there's a guaranteed way to kill my skintone dead and make me look tired, it's a dark grey eyeshadow. (Taupe, on the other hand has warmth to it which means it works with my skintone rather than against it).

The Undress Me Too palette is just lovely - the shades are all warm and wearable for me, and I'm so, so impressed with the textures of the shadows in this £4 palette. I thought the shadows might fade but after eight hours they looked as good as when I applied them. It's absolutely incredible value - and I'll be job-lotting this as gifts for my aunts and cousins the next time I go to Bangladesh.

I've waffled about Plumful before but now you get to see it on me. HOW pretty is it? It's now my most worn lipstick and one of few I would actually repurchase when I finish the tube.

L'Oreal True Match concealer in Cafe Creme under eyes
NARS Sheer Glow foundation

Urban Decay Primer Potion (Original) as base
Elizabeth Arden shadow in Smoke all over lid
MUA Undress Me Too shadow in Obsessed (cool matte brown) blended in socket and outer corners
MUA UMT shadow in Reveal (cool silvery shimmer) on inner corners of lids and on brow arch as highlighter
17 Lacquer Liner in black for upper lid lining and flick
Avon Supershock pencil in black on waterline and to tightline
Maybelline Colossal Mascara
MAC Brow pencil in Spiked

Sue Moxley blush in Breath of Plum
NARS Albatross as cheek highlight
Rimmel Stay Matte powder in Translucent

MAC Plumful (Lustre) lipstick

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Bejewelled Tuesday: Orelia

As I have documented, I love delicate, dainty, girly jewellery. There was a period when Urban Outfitters was doing the cutest little charm necklaces (including tiny wishing wells!) but generally, the daintier the piece, the harder it is to come by at high street prices.

My favourite brand of costume jewellery has to be Orelia. I stumbled across a stand in Topshop Oxford Circus (I think it's also stocked at the Westfield branches) and just fell in love with the delicate, pretty range.

You can also find it on ASOS, and their own website, which currently has free delivery and stocks a host of other lovely accessories.

Here are my favourite of the new season's range, which features beautiful green and seafoam stones, colours I'm a complete sucker for.

I love the tiny facets on the stones of this beaded bracelet, and it would look lovely and delicate on its own and pretty layered.


I love the tiny facets on the stones of this beaded bracelet, and it would look lovely and delicate on its own and pretty layered.

And these earrings just exude vintage glamour:


Monday, 18 February 2013

50 Random Facts

This tag has been doing the rounds and I thought I would take part, mostly in order to cheer poor Charlotte of Lipglossiping up who is recovering from pneumonia. Feel better soon!

1. I grew up wanting perfect teeth and had them for a bit, before they all moved about leaving a gap on one side. But now I love that gap.
2. There's a novel in me, but I need to make time to write it.
3. I love to cook but would live on cornflakes and toast if I lived on my own.
4. I have forgotten how to ride a bike.
5. I had many different nicknames as a child, including Polly. It's a Bengali thing.
6. My favourite chocolates in the world are Ferrero Rochers.
7. I used to collect gemstones and still know quite a lot about them.
8. I look rubbish in all shades of blue (teal and turquoise excepted), and white.
9. I was bullied at school for being short and brown.
10. I predicted my sister was a girl, my brother a boy, and my baby a boy. Just call me Mystic Meg.

11. I passed my driving test on the fifth time but I have a social phobia of driving which means I haven't yet used my licence.
12. When I was fifteen I could sit on my hair and it made a plait I couldn't get my fingers round.
13. I've been able to do a perfect eyeliner flick since I was 17.
14. I have always had a secret dream to be a jazz/blues singer.
15. I can't swim.
16. When you come to my house you will be offered a myriad of different hot beverage options.
17. I own about 150 bottles of nail polish.
18. And three bedside cabinet drawers of makeup.
19. My sister is my best friend. But I love my bro too.
20. But I'm also blessed with a small circle of friends I've had for years now. There was a time I didn't have any at all.

21. I hated everything except learning at school.
22. I used to be ambidextrous but was told off at school for showing off when I used to write with both hands.
23. My chilli paneer is better than Sakoni's, Wembley (legendary).
24. I once cried because the heather in the New Forest had made the whole landscape purple and I was overwhelmed by how lovely it was.
25. Bartimaeus and I have a rather wistful, romantic love story that one day will be made into a Bollywood film.
26. Said film would star Saif Ali Khan and Konkona Sen Sharma.
27. I'm meaner than I seem.
28. Having a medic sister means I'm not very squeamish.
29. I could be tidier.
30. But I'm awesome at finding things people have lost and I never forget anything.

31. Once most of my makeup was high end (MAC, NARS) but now it's probably 75% high street.
32. I live opposite a tiny synagogue and consider myself its out of hours guardian.
33. I have a high squeaky speaking voice, but my singing voice is alto. It means the only songs I can sing along to on the radio are ones sung by dudes.
34. I used to never be able to watch horror films but really like (non-gory) ones now.
35. I am a fantasy and sci-fi nerd, and PROUD.
36. But I've never got into computer games because I'd get too addicted.
37. I'd rather have a glass of Coke than wine.
38. I love my Kindle even though I spent years debating getting one.
39. I'm not a very fussy eater but I am a slow one.
40. Most of my books are still at my mum's because there's just so many of them and I wouldn't know where to put them all.

41. I think there are two types of people in the world - Burger King and McDonalds. I am the latter, and I judge the former.
42. If I'm scowling at you, the chances are I'm grinding my sensitive tooth.
43. I'm a real scaredy cat.
44. I have the most pathetic veins ever and only specialist nurses and doctors can manage taking blood from me.
45. My mum was obsessed with me not being under five foot tall. Luckily, I just made it over.
46. Six years on, I am still completely fascinated by everything my sister's cats do.
47. I do appreciate a nice biscuit.
48. I don't look like me without a side fringe.
49. I loved my uni years.
50. I've always wanted to be a mother and am so excited that I'll soon be able to fulfil that part of me. 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Friday Frocks: 500 Days until Summer

I had to reference one of my favourite films there, sorry. It's been a gorgeously bright and sunny day here in Southampton - but frosty as hell too. But there are green shoots in my garden, daffodils on my table and that suggests to me that spring is perhaps nigh. And after spring, comes summer, no? A lot of online shops are getting their summer collections in even though it'll be months before we can wear them without being drenched/suffering hypothermia, and you know summer dresses are my absolute FAVOURITE. Even though this summer I will most be in a mumu/PJs/maxi dress and won't be sporting any of these, who am I to keep you away from all the loveliness? Let's hope it's not 500 days until we get weather warm enough to wear one, eh.

People Tree, £60

Rai of the fabulous Blarge Fargle drew my attention to this charming People Tree frock - I love the colour and the elegant cut, as well as the fact that it has bicycles on (even though, ahem, I can't ride a bike...) plus I know from my beloved Orla Kiely for People Tree teacup frock that their organic cotton is absolutely exquisite to wear, especially in summer.

Fever Designs, £75
I can never resist a rich floral on a black background - there's something so flattering and alluring about them. Especially if you're dark of hair, I think. This is courtesy of Fever, one of my favourite frockmakers, who feature twice here.

Yumi, £45

Yumi/Uttam/Mela 9whatever they are called) can also always be relied upon for a sweet little dress. This polka dot confection is no exception (I'm rhyming!) It would be just gorgeous with some red accessories.

Fever Designs, £85

And finally, a second bout of Fever. I have been on a hunt for the perfect black broderie anglaise 1950s frock for TEN years (I really have), and it's just not happened yet. Alas, this comes in navy, rose, white and this fabulous rust shade, but not black. Rust looks gorgeous with sunkissed skin though, and this would be beautiful with a cream cardigan and a burgundy or maroon beaded necklace.

Le sigh. Now, don't forget to wrap up warm when you go out...

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Songs for my unborn #1: Here Comes the Sun (Nina Simone)

Our baby is due at the end of June, a summer baby, like me, and this song has been played a lot in our house of late. I've always love Nina Simone's version of Here Comes the Sun. To me, it's more reassuring and optimistic in tone than the Beatles' original, simply because of the gentleness and warmth of Nina Simone's voice. When she near-whispers "it's all right", it's almost as though she's speaking just to you, and you believe her. I've had a tough year emotionally, and have learnt a lot about myself. The darkness descended last winter, and I feel like I'm only just emerging from the dark and the cold. I can't wait for our ray of sunshine to come into our lives - our sun.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Bejewelled Tuesday

I have a confession. I'm not really a rabbit. Nope. I'm a magpie. I have so much jewellery. It's an affliction I've inherited from my mother, as I've mentioned before. But especially now that most clothes are off the menu, I'm really enjoying all my necklaces, earrings, bracelets and baubles. I've only just come up with this as a weekly feature - but I thought I'd start profiling some of my favourite pieces, both in my collection and things I've seen on my virtual and real life travels.

Two of my most precious, cherished pieces are Alex Monroe necklaces given to me by my lovely sister. Here I'm wearing them layered - one is the tiniest butterfly with an even tinier green sapphire droplet, which she gave me for my Ph.D. graduation. The second piece was a pre-wedding gift, a charming little scene of branbles, a curious little mouse and a book. I wore it for my vintage afternoon tea-hen do.

Alex Monroe's pieces are everything I love most about jewellery - delicate, whimsical, pretty beyond words. There are so many pieces I love, it's hard for me to even pick some, but the piece I would dearly love to add to my collection next is one that has particular emotional resonance for me with my own little family in the making:

Birds and Nest Ring, £135

All this means I'm very excited that Alex Monroe is collaborating with Evans on a costume jewellery collection titled Miss Alouette, inspired by William Morris' nature designs. Of course, the daintiness and detail of his fine pieces is hard to replicate at high street prices, but this is still some of the prettiest fashion jewellery you will find out there. I'm impatiently awaiting the launch date to be announced!