First of all, thank you to everyone who’s taken part in the survey, it’s now closed and I’ve been busy going through the responses. My goodness they’re interesting, I’m really grateful for all of the careful thought that you’ve put into the comment boxes. I’ll be taking suggestions on board and starting to answer some of the questions you had in posts as I go along. Now, it’s a while since we’ve had a cornucopia so here are a few things that I keep meaning to tell you about – beauty, style, travel and puppies… oh and health and books too.
Beauty, style, travel and puppies
I noticed a few of the beauty bloggers that I respect raving about a highlighter from Bare Minerals that won a few awards at the end of last year so given that my skin always feels a bit lacklustre at this time of year, I thought I’d try it and I love it. It’s from Bare Minerals and even though it’s described as a highlighter, I use it on light make-up days in place of blusher. It gives your cheeks a bit of a teenage glow – I want to say youthful but that makes me sound as though I’m about 99. I’m hopeless at selfies so I don’t know whether you can see the effect here, it’s quite subtle.
There’s nothing tricky about it, just use a big blusher brush and swipe over the apple of your cheeks and along the cheekbone, it’s a lovely product, not too sparkly and it deserves all the praise it’s getting – Joy is my recommendation.
Young British brand – Ark skincare
Just before Christmas I mentioned that I’d been enjoying trialling skincare products that I’d been sent by Ark skincare. At that point I hadn’t had time to test everything but I have now and they’re all lovely to use. Ark is an interesting young British brand, the founders claim to be:
“quietly challenging what it means to be a skincare brand in the 21st century. Empowering our audience to celebrate the age they are and making skincare easier to navigate by age and benefit.”
Their view is that it’s often the artificial additives in skincare that irritate the skin and cause problems. As a result everything they produce is free from parabens, SLS, mineral oil, SD alcohol, formaldehyde, artificial colours and fragrances. All of their products are made in the UK and nothing is tested on animals. The core product range is defined by age and so the lines we’d be most interested in are Age Defend for women in their 30s and 40s along with Age Defy for women who are over 50 although they have a range for younger women too. This core collection is where you’ll find cleansers and moisturisers to suit your skin’s particular lifestage.
There is then a range of Skin Essentials which includes products with universal appeal such as make-up remover and an SPF primer (a particular favourite of mine, it’s such a clever idea to combine SPF with primer because it means you don’t forget to apply it).
The final category is Skin Perfectors and this is where you go to address any specific concerns that you have so you’ll find solutions like an anti-redness serum and a clearing serum.
The most recent product that I’ve been trialling is the newly launched night cream. It’s been launched in two categories: Age Defend for women in their 30s and 40s whose skin needs protecting but not overstimulating and Age Defy for women over 50 who need higher levels of nourishment and moisture. All of Ark’s products focus on natural bioactive ingredients that are chosen so that they work with the skin to achieve maximum results. Because metabolic activity peaks while we sleep, they’ve selected ingredients that promote collagen and reduce inflammation for the Age Defend product, along with vitamins and minerals that detoxify and revitalise skin at the same time.
My skin is always particularly dry and dehydrated at this time of year so I was a bit reluctant to switch from my usual night cream but like the day cream it’s been a pleasure to use and my skin is supple and springy in the mornings. I particularly like the fact that it’s gentle enough to use around your eyes which means one less product in the increasingly intensive night-time routine that makes Mr MC grumble.
As you know, I don’t cover skincare unless I think it’s good and this is. If you look through the website you’ll see that as well as having won industry awards, Ark’s products receive consistent 5 star reviews from users which is what really counts. I know that most of you like to support small, hardworking British brands with good ethics and the good news is that even though they don’t have the cost efficiencies of mass scale production, the prices are still lower than the big skincare companies. So, Ark is highly recommended by me, give it a try.
(Disclosure: Ark have made a small contribution to the blog in return for fuller context to the brand than I would normally write. I wouldn’t have agreed to include them without trialling them first and believing the products to be good).
The team at Beauty Expert have released a Beauty Icons collection – their favourite products of 2019. As always it’s incredible value for a selection of full sized, hardworking skincare solutions. The set includes:
- Eve Lom Cleanser (100ml)
- Babor Skinovage Reactivating Eye Cream (15ml)
- Niod Photography Fluid, Opacity 12% (30ml)
- Nuxe Reve de Miel Ultra Comforting Face Balm (50ml)
- Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour All-Over Miracle Oil (100ml)
- Molton Brown Bath & Shower Gel (100ml)
They arrive in a good quality toiletries bag that you can use for travel. The collection was already well priced at £79 but if you click here and use code ICONS20 you’ll get a further 20% off.
Knits that don’t itch
I’m always being asked for recommendations of knitwear with a low wool content for people who have sensitive menopausal skin. This jumper is released in this style every year and it’s one of my favourites. Most of the fabric has been recycled so you can feel good about wearing it and it’s currently in the sale with a few sizes and colours left from only £12.
Another sale worth looking at
I don’t usually cover the sales but I was surprised to see how many lovely things there are left at Jigsaw where everything is half price or less. Jigsaw, as you know, has great sustainability principles and they pride themselves on making clothes that last for years. I have a coat that gets huge likes if I post it on Instagram that was a Christmas present from Mr MC in 2002. So this is the one sale that I’m going to say is worth rooting through because you’re getting high quality at a very good price. The range of knitwear in the sale is particularly good value because it’s so well made…
… and the same goes for the coats and jackets.
Lots of you tell me you wish you’d bought the red metallic boots that I often wear so I thought I’d point these out from the new Spring drop at Hush. I’m telling myself firmly that I have no space in my life for a third pair of metallic boots… By the way, the Hush sale is ending next week and there will be an extra 10% off everything (in the sale) from Sunday to Tuesday with code EXTRA10.
New Boden drop
For my January Boden mini-edit I ventured away from my usual winter neutrals. As you can imagine, I’m spending a lot of time out in the fresh air with Teddy in an attempt to wear him out so I chose something that I know I’ll wear a lot. This waterproof coat is working really well for me, I’ve layered it with a down jacket here because it’s freezing at the moment but it will take me through to late spring. I know I probably shouldn’t care about what I’m wearing when I’m walking the dog but I do and this has slotted in well with the navy in my wardrobe.
On a practical level it has everything you need if you’re out in the elements including a drawstring hood, warm pockets, press studs as well as a zip fastening and a dipped back… and it wipes clean when you come home covered in muddy paw prints.
The other piece I chose was the cashmere jumper, I’ve been looking for a yellow one but last season’s version was a mustard tone which just makes my skin look sallow. This time they’ve released it in a bright buttercup which is a colour I wear a lot as we transition towards spring.
Who isn’t in the mood for booking a holiday? We’re very late with our plans this year because so much depends on the boys but I think we’ve just about pinned things down, I’ll tell you more when the time comes. In the meantime don’t forget the two lovely places that we stayed last year. Philippa who owns the super luxurious villa in the Taurus mountains in Turkey that we went to last year has a discount for Midlifechic readers.
As an extra special gift she’s also offering the choice of a lovely day at sea on a gulet cruising to the island of Kekova, stopping off to swim in bays along the way with a lovely lunch and tea on board…
Alternatively you can opt for a meal at a lovely mountain trout farm just a short distance from the house. We went there a few times last year and the food and views are wonderful, just thinking about it makes me want to be there.
New flights to Turkey have now been released from a number of regional airports filling the redundant Thomas Cook slots. You can contact Philippa at firstname.lastname@example.org and my post about staying at her villa is here.
The French Riviera
Our friends Darryll and Bettina will soon be coming towards the end of their homestay season because their lovely house in the French Riviera tends to be rented by tycoons throughout the summer.
However before that, there is the stunning mimosa season which runs until the end of March. Mimosa trees turn the French Riviera gold and they’re seen as the symbol that winter’s hold has broken. The D’azur with its beautiful gardens is bathed in their heady fragrance. Don’t forget that you can stay there from only £90 per night with the option of dining in and enjoying Darryll’s home cooking too. More information here. and my posts about staying at Darryll and Bettina’s are here and here.
Health and Fitness
I never know whether to cover this on here but a lot of requests are coming up in the survey responses so I’m going to do a quick round up. Please skip over it if this kind of thing upsets you in any way. In summary “how do you stay a size 12 and avoid middle aged spread?” is a topic that’s coming up again and again.
If I’m honest, it’s probably only the fact that I have to have my photo taken a lot and fit into retail sample sizes that keeps me disciplined. If I didn’t write this blog it might be different because I enjoy food and have a very sweet tooth. However this is what I do and I’m not saying it’s right for anybody else, I’m including it because a lot of people have asked.
So, the most important thing for me is to weigh myself every single morning. If I don’t, I let go and before I know it half a stone has piled on. Balance Meals got me off to a good start again this year but I eat healthily most of the time and restrict carbs to those with a low GI. I try to make sure my meals are roughly 35% protein, 15% carb and 50% veg. I never eat anything with the words ‘low fat’ or ‘diet’ on the label and I try to stay away from sugar but that’s the biggest challenge for me.
I differ from my friends in that I rarely drink anything alcoholic at home unless we have people round. If we’re out socially I don’t restrict myself but because I don’t drink often, a little goes a long way. I used to be a ‘wine at nine’ person but I stopped in 2003 because I found it was really affecting my sleep. In hindsight it must have been a peri-menopausal thing because I was waking up with a pounding heart and then worrying about random things all night. Over the Christmas period this year we were drinking wine most days and the heart pounding thing happened again, this time accompanied by a burning dry heat. For me, midlife and alcohol don’t mix. It doesn’t stop me going out and having fun when I want to though, I just know I’ll sacrifice a night’s sleep for it.
It’s odd because my limited drinking annoys some of my friends, even though I join them when we’re out. They feel it’s a boring way to live but wine affects my weight too – not only because it carries calories but because I tend to eat badly the following day. It makes me crave pies and we have a fab pie shop just two doors away from our house.
The only other thing I add to the mix is exercise. I was forced to join a swanky new gym last June because the one I’d been going to for the last fourteen years closed down very suddenly – so I no longer find myself working out next to Tyson Fury. When I was there I did three sessions a week, a mix of Kettlercise, Pilates and my own workout.
Since joining the new gym I’ve been doing Kettlercise and my own workout but I’ve added a session of strength training and it’s made a bit of a difference. The new gym has very high tech 3D body scanning equipment which shows me that my weight hasn’t changed but my shape has slightly. Here’s the scan they did when I joined with one from last Sunday (I have no idea what the weird hollow in my thigh is – I’m slightly paranoid now!)
The most pleasing thing in a sea of stats is that adding strength into my routine has given me a 3.1% increase in bone density and a 29.3% drop in visceral fat (the fat that you store around your organs). As I mentioned last week, I’ve now signed up to their academy so I’m doing two strength sessions along with circuits every week and a few of you have asked me why. I think it’s just because I needed a new challenge and this is pushing me to my limit. I hate having somebody telling me what to do. As I’ve mentioned before, at school the games teacher used to run behind me with a nettle when we did cross country because I just couldn’t see the point of it.
Weight at midlife is a very emotive subject. I admit that I find it a struggle and my body stores fat very easily. I don’t think you have to be thin to be beautiful and actually in my view, midlife women who are skinny often look a bit haggard. However if you do want to avoid middle age spread the only way is to recalibrate what you eat and the energy you expend. It takes time along with both mental and physical energy and it’s going to be a forever project that you tweak along the way. I started this journey back in 2013 when I realised that I was nudging a size 16 and probably heading towards my family’s diabetic legacy. The first step I took was to join Slimming World and that helped me to change my mindset because it’s a relatively painless approach.
I’m going to leave it there but I’m happy to answer any questions you have. I’ll let you know how the academy works out in the end because there will be another scan in ten weeks’ time. I don’t have a goal but it will be interesting to see what happens (and I hope the weird thigh dimple disappears).
A good read
Moving on to the thing that I’d always rather be doing, reading. Lots of you asked for more book recommendations in the survey and this is where I hesitate. I’m a prolific reader, I’d much rather pick up a book than watch TV but as anyone who’s studied literature as part of their degree will recognise, I’m a guilty one. I know I should be reading foreign texts in the original to keep up with my languages but by the day’s end, I only have the energy for something relatively light. This is what I’m enjoying at the moment, I saw lots of people voting it as their book of the year in the 2019 round ups and I can see why.
Contemporary fiction, it’s the story of one woman’s journey set against a backdrop of classical music and European cities. Love, friendship and reflection are the main themes but I haven’t got to the end yet so who knows what else might crop up. I can’t stand chick lit but there’s an intelligence to this even though it’s still a relaxing read on these dark winter nights.
I’m delighted to say that we signed the adoption forms yesterday so Teddy is now officially one of the family (even the cats have accepted him, albeit grudgingly). This has been a long post so I won’t take any more of your time but here he is sitting still for once, it doesn’t happen very often. I’ve been so glad to have him to baby this week because the youngest is in Lyon on a French Exchange and I’m having to scour the pictures on the school’s Twitter feed for reassurance that he’s still alive!
IdLF @ Uniqlo jumper SS16, jeans (gifted (AW19)
Fancy meeting up on Tuesday?
Just a thought, the two old Selfridges friends that I was supposed to be meeting in London on Tuesday night have just blown me out so I’m at a loose end from about 5.30pm. If anyone’s free for a glass of wine send me an email via the contact form. And as I’m away there won’t be a post on Tuesday but I’ll be back in time for a retail try-on next Friday. Have a good weekend everyone.
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