An ode to beautiful things

We throw money at the high street like it's going out of fashion (ha) but how much of what we actually buy holds a real place in our heart? How often do we put on an item of clothing and look in the mirror and think anything other than 'this'll do'? Who else goes out looking for 'a few basic items that'll see me through the season'? Very rarely do we make a single beautiful item the main event. 
I am ever-so-slightly OCD when it comes to cleanliness - I saw it as a bad omen and bad luck when, the first day I wore a new one of my beloved American Apparel chiffon shirts, I marred it with a small pen mark. The opportunist, creative type would smile at how this made the garment unique - my clothes are invariably marked with pen and chocolate stains and that indicates a little of the sort of person I am - but I viewed this as both the thing I feared the most and the release that allowed me to stop treating this like a treasured luxury item and treat it as something I could just 'throw on'. To me, wear transfers a piece from a statement to a staple. As soon as you first wear an item, and definitely when you first wash an item, it loses its sanctity and becomes a part of you.
But I desire to own beautiful things - the few precious, well-made and often expensive pieces of pure joy.  When my mum took me shopping a few weeks ago and offered to buy me a gift, I decided to use the opportunity to buy something that fit this category - a well-made, beautiful, feminine and lovely piece of joy. 
And I chose this. 

This is the Whistles Lottie skirt, a shorter version of last year's runaway success Carrie skirt. This is ASOS' photo of it. I chose it because the model in the Whistles photo looked sullen, aloof, and generally not revelling in the joy that something like this should give. At least this model is doing a decent job of attempting to capture the kind of joy something like this will bring. 
A coveted item, in a lovely, soft colour (that I inevitably wore with black leather) that flatters and floats, that looks feminine but in a sea of tough outfits, that marks the wearer out both as soft and feminine but also brave enough to wear light blue in a world of newsprint, coffee and waterstains. I lived in fear all day. But the fear was nothing compared to the joy of the simple twirl. 
Today is payday, and after bills are paid and birthday presents are bought, I'll be on the hunt for another truly beautiful, lovable item that deserves a place in my wardrobe. Not something I need, as has been the excuse for so many 'basics'. But something I see and feel my stomach flip, something that I know will make me smile the moment I put it on. Because clothes that make you feel this good will make you look better than any number of 'basics'. This isn't about dressing up for a crowd, for an audience at all. This is about  celebrating the fleeting moments of placing such a value on yourself that you feel worthy of beautiful clothes. And when that feeling comes along, you gotta grab it. 


Running in Heels - Once Upon A Time flash fiction contest

Of late I've done one of two things. The first is gotten my writing mojo back a little bit, and the second is to get hooked on the TV series Once Upon A Time. Part-mystery, part-drama, and full-on fairytale-modern world mash-up, it's a sweetly inoffensive yet strangely gripping show. 

And it ties nicely in with this competition - to celebrate National Flash Fiction Day on May 16th, the bloggers at Yearning for Wonderland are running a competition for flash fiction writers. 350 words of a story inspired by a twist on the traditional 'Once Upon A Time' fairy tale. Here's my entry...

'This station is Once Upon A Time. Change for national rail services to Happily Ever After.'

Some evening this had been, she thought forlornly, surveying the tattered remains of her tights as she stumbled hazily to a seat. Try as she might, she was yet to come home from even a day, let alone a night, out with her tights still ladder-free, and when your night ends with a mad dash for the last tube at midnight, coinciding with leaving your shoe on the other side of the barrier, you can't expect even 80 deniers to survive. Which these were not.

She looked down at her one remaining shoe with a mixture of sadness and frustration. They were new shoes too - bought on a whim with the remaining fraction of her paycheque that wasn't ferreted away by the taxmen and TFL. And Tesco. What's a girl to do? She took off the one remaining shoe and dangled it ruefully from her finger, scuffling her now-shoeless foot in an attempt to make it match the other foot for levels of tattiness.

Trust her to book the laziest cab driver in the world - when she said midnight she meant midnight, not whenever he finished his kebab. If prince-like gentlemen at the bar were designed to justify a dramatic 'mystery girl'-style exit, cab drivers were the proverbial gum on the underside of her shoes. Shoe. Another sigh as she contemplated the loss of the beautiful silver pump. She couldn't decide which was more sad - that she'd spent you-don't-want-to-know-how-much on a pair of shoes only to half their value within hours, or that she'd spent the evening flirting and dancing with a beautiful man with a black Amex and then didn't get his number. Opportunity missed there. Some other girl would have got him by now. And she'd never be able to afford to replace the shoes. Oh cruel world.

And she'd forgotten to buy bleach to scrub the bath with.


Asbestos fingers

Bored on a lazy Friday night, I thought I'd get inventive with my nails, and try to paint on flames a la Katniss Everdeen. I used to get called 'asbestos fingers' due to being quite good at holding hot dinner plates.
Several blogs suggest that I should have painted each colour on seperately, so as to get a slicker, finer result and not to have extra-raised bits where I've layered four colours over eachother! But without a teeny nail polish brush that gets tricky. So given the lack of that, I think I did a passable job.



I rarely wear lipstick any more - eye make-up is more durable (and less likely to get lost on your wine glass) and work-appropriate, and flamboyant colours are easier to come by.
Until now...Illamasqua Apocalips. Weirdly great with my skin tone (or maybe that's just the Instagram filter) and a dark brow. Wish I could get away with it in the office.


Tangerine Dream

Because the weather in London has finally decided to, y'know, actually correspond with the month, it's grey skies and downpours all round at the moment. So naturally the perfect time brighten everyone's days with an orange dress (you know the one) and orange make-up. Not the TOWIE kind.
Nothing like a '60s cat-eye flick with a '60s minidress. 

Blush - I'm waiting with great anticipation for Illamasqua's Dixie blush to return to stores, but in the meantime I acquired a cheaper cream blush from Topshop. I'm a recent cream blush convert after my mum provided me with a Maxfactor pot. Big fan of it - it seems to blend a lot more easily with foundation as opposed to sitting on the skin in clumps, and is generally longer-lasting. 

Foundation - Ah yes. Trusty Illasmasqua Cream Foundation. I use Shade 115 in winter/when I want to look like a dead thing. This is Shade 133.

Eyes - Ilamasqua Cream Pigment in Androgen in an arc over the lids, with Illamasqua Powder Eye Shadow in Servant on the lids. Cream pigments are great products - long-lasting and bold; usable on lids, as blush and even on lips if you're feeling brave (more on that later), and very easy to blend with the powder shadows. Can also be applied with fingertips if you're in a hurry!

The eyeliner is also by Topshop - I've previously been a huge advocate of Illamasqua's black precision ink but I've run out of it (it's that good), and the beauty of the Topshop version is its felt tip-like applicator, which is very precise. 

Slick on your favourite mascara, some powder to finish et voila!


RedHead recommends - Lush Coalface Cleanser

In the spirit of the excessive amount of beauty products, hair products and make-up I generally try and buy I thought I'd turn my hand to writing about some of it, as it's far easier to snap an Instagram pic (yes, I'm an Android user who's still excited about it) of daily make-up or a product than it is to get an outfit post set up in this hideous April weather.

I recently discovered a great beauty blog, Beauty's Bad Habit, run by a lady with a flair for eye make-up (and is masterful at photographing it it). On it, she recommended Coalface, a facial and body cleanser from Lush, using liquorice extract and finely ground charcoal to exfoliate and cleanse.

Now, having always fallen into the Body Shop camp and being put off by the bathbomb scents that wafted from Lush previously I've never been a fan. But of late, a change seems to have occurred - fewer overwhelming fizzy bath bombs, more great-smelling, innovative products.

Having naturally oily skin and wearing a decent amount of make-up means that I'm always on the hunt for a good face wash that doesn't dry out the skin (not that any cleanser has ever given me this problem) and produces lasting results. And I think I've actually found one.
How to use - My new friend the salesgirl at Lush carved me off a decent slice of the Coalface block and advised me to lather the bar up and rub directly onto the face. I advise/prefer to carve a small sliver off that lasts about six washes - avoids drying the whole bar out as I have no soap dish. Lather up under water until you've got a decent quantity of bubbles/grains and go!

Results - Lily of Beauty's Bad Habit raved about how she saw results within days and she's not wrong - my skin feels clearer, fresher and usual patches that are prone to redness and spots have noticeably reduced. Plus, I've hardly made a dent in the bar after two weeks, so it's decent value for money.

Use if - You like your skin squeaky-clean. Previously I've been advised against using soaps that completely strip the skin of oil, as it forces the skin to go into oil-producing overdrive. This, I find, strikes the right balance. The charcoal in the soap eliminates excess oil, while the liquorice infusion softens and moisturises (and makes your face smell nice!) 


Awesome films and such

Two big pieces of awesome film-y news. 
I dragged my housemate and her boyfriend away from their romantic evening to see The Cabin in the Woods this weekend. None of us were disappointed. See it. It's beyond awesome. 
Almost as awesome as Lisbeth Salander's choice of sleepwear.
(The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is released on DVD next Monday. So you can save your pennies.)
I also managed to get my boyfriend hooked on Game of Thrones. 
All in all, a good week. 


BREAKING NEWS - Bad foods are bad for you

While Stylist published a piece a few issues ago about new findings by the University of Granda and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria that claimed that those who eat doughnuts and cakes are more likely to get depressed than those who don't, I rolled my eyes a little bit. After all, these are the same people who pushed the idea that chocolate is good for us but a week before.
In the article, the scientists who are helpfully placing themselves between us and Krispy Kreme have said that those who eat 'commercially baked goods' on a regular basis are more 51% likely to develop depression than those who don't, but they also pointed out that those who fell into this category were more likely to be single, smoke, be less active and work more than 45 hours a week. The classic breakdown of a a frustrating life. When I Googled 'doughtnuts make women depressed', the first article that came up was, unsurprisngly, a Daily Mail story about unlikely causes for depression - non gender-specific, but all the images are of women, suggesting exactly which individuals the article is trying to target/scare. When you replace 'women' with 'men', Google first tries to redirect you search 'me', then when you refuse offers a discussion forum on mind.com first, then the Mail piece. Clearly, men are not as easily succeptable to scaremongering from mainstream media as women are.
If you read this article backwards, and latch simply on to the phrase that details unhealthy eating as a habit most commonly found in depressives, along with overwork, a lack of relationship and inactivity, you'd find this tenuous. If you read it from the front, like a normal person, you'll be terrified at how doughnuts are going to lead you down the path of depression. But for me the association with doughnuts will always be with Homer Simpson, beer gut spilling over his jeans as he craves a sweet fix. 
Doughnuts are not meant to be a health food. They will never be associated with a positive, healthy hip lifestyle, no matter how many times Glamour laminates them in pink glitter. They will always, like all junk food, be associated with laziness and excess, unless preceded with a work-out that allows us to justify the momentary slip.
I've spent most of the weekend sitting/lying around not doing anything, when previously I'd be berating myself for not exercising and walking briskly around the block for no other reason than the fact that it might burn half a calorie. NO MORE, I say. The makers of Krispy Kreme did not intend for their confections to be eaten in such quantity that after a while it's less eating and more inhaling. Like every company that strives to make an impression, its foods are designed to be savoured, relished for the taste alone. If you really want to shovel excessive carbs, just buy some basic Tesco bread, sprinkle it with sugar, and experience the same gratifying high and crashing low. At least it avoids the overspending guilt that would otherwise accompany the sugar crash and bloating stomach.
Asking whether doughnuts make you depressed by their ingredients alone is a question that should be asked for scientific purposes, but for social reasons we shouldn't really need to know. The image of such foods that has been sold to us (even the name, 'junk' food) indicates that this is not something that will make us feel good. We know it's not condusive to a happy, healthy lifestyle if you spend your every evening at home eating bread or in the office eating, well, bread. If you're still scared and shocked by the knowledge that carbs, loneliness and stress are major features of an unhappy lifestyle, please give me the secrets of your delusion.
Articles like this do nothing other than grab us with the cheap terror of the headline. They might be feeding us new facts, but they aren't telling us anything we don't already know. So don't worry if you spent the whole weekend sitting at home reading and eating Mini Eggs. It's been a long time since the Christmas break, you're tired and you deserve a rest. And a nice treat that tastes good. I promise it won't do anything any more horrific to you than it did before the article was published.