Here we are at the end of January, we’ve made it through the year’s darkest month so I think this weekend should feel like a small celebration of some kind. A glass of wine… a bar of chocolate… a new lipstick… a jumper in a spring colour, there’s definitely a reason for a little treat. The buzzword for it would be ‘self care’ but I hate that so I’m just going to call it a personal reward for keeping on keeping on. It’s another cornucopia today so let’s crack on with some musings on hair, beauty, outfits and books as well as a midlife lately catch up.
Hello February – hair, beauty, outfits
Instant beauty pick-me-up
I’m going to start with my own January survival treat which was a new lip balm – I know I talked about the Bobbi Brown one last week but this one is different because it gives you a real slick of colour as well as looking after your lips. I bought this on one of those very rare times when I respond to being stalked by ‘remarketing’ – you know the ads that follow you around the internet regardless of which site you’re on? But I’ve been looking for a replacement for a discontinued ‘Rosie by Autograph’ lip pencil that I got in an advent calendar a couple of years ago. It’s one I’ve always kept in my gym bag because it’s the perfect nude for when I don’t want to look overdone – and I find that’s most of the time right now. Even though I’m a lover of bright lippy, at the moment it just seems to look garish so I’ve been using my lip pencil every day and eking it out.
Most nude shades give me a deathly pallor but there’s also something about the shade and sheen of my Rosie pencil that has just the right finish. Anyway when I saw this new Charlotte Tilbury one I had an instinct that it might be a match and it is – the perfect shade for that healthy, natural look. This isn’t sponsored or gifted, it’s just something I’ve bought that I’m raving about. I’d love to say that it doesn’t come off when you’re wearing a mask but it does however if you’re going out for a walk, it’s just perfect.
I’m wearing pillow talk which is the shade that’s supposed to suit everyone. It has a glossy sheen, it’s like a lipstick / balm hybrid and I would honestly give it 10/10… well maybe 9/10 because the packaging’s a bit disappointing but the product inside is great. It’s the one little thing that’s made a difference to my week – here it is on me (excuse the shiny face and the red nose but this was celebrating the end of another run a couple of hours ago and it was cold!).
While we have that picture in view, I’m getting a lot of questions about my hair. First of all how do I style it and what products do I use when I’m blow-drying it? Unless it’s in need of a cut the answer is none – I just blast it with a hairdryer, it takes less than five minutes. Premlee, my hairdresser, firmly believes that if you have a good cut you shouldn’t need to use any products. His view is that they’re often just a way for hairdressers to make more money out of you while you’re in the salon.
Cutting your own lockdown hair
How that’s going to continue now that I’m cutting my own hair in lockdown I don’t know but so far it’s ok. When I was last in Hershesons and lockdown was looming he gave me a tip for cutting my hair at home. He told me to use thinning scissors and cut my hair on the vertical rather than the horizontal – obviously this is for any cut that has layers or a choppy effect but I thought it was worth sharing because it’s instinctive to cut across rather than up. This isn’t a great photo but hopefully it gives you an idea of what I mean by cutting vertically.
Lockdown hair colour
I haven’t done anything about the colour yet but this weekend I’m going to give it a refresh with my usual gloss which will liven up the highlights, take out any brassiness and give the white strands a sheen. I’m getting whiter and whiter on the right hand side but as it’s looking like hairdressers might not be allowed to open until July, now’s the time to embrace it!
Shade shot gloss (colours for all hair shades available)
Some of you have also been wondering when I’m going to talk about the new HRT regime that I mentioned before Christmas. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten – I have a follow-up appointment on 10th Feb when I’ll have been following it for a full three months so I’ll write about it soon after that. At the moment I’m trying to organise blood tests so that we can see the results in more detail which is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Anyway what I will say is that it’s returned me to full vigour – a vigour that is currently cloaked by the constraints of lockdown but it’s there!
Lockdown beauty – hand cream
I’ve had a few requests to include the hand creams I rely on. I’ve always been a hand cream obsessive, even before Covid and the need for extra hand washing hit. This is what I use:
Daytime SPF hand cream
Throughout the day I opt for one with an SPF to try to slow the wrinkles and age spots that are appearing on my hands. I buy this in bulk whenever I do a Boots shop because it sells out so there must be a lot of fans out there. As well as the SPF it has a pro-retinol ingredient to improve appearance and Vitamin B5 for your nails and cuticles.
Night time extra moisturising hand cream
At night I opt for something more moisturising so that my hands have a treatment while I sleep. This is the only L’Occitaine product I use because it isn’t a brand that I particularly love but you can’t beat their hand cream. By the way I’ve just seen that they’ve filed for bankruptcy in the US which is a shock.
By my taps
I have this hand cream (and the hand wash) beside all of the basins in our house. It’s not too girly so the boys use it happily and the fragrance is as spectacular as the moisturising effect. I prefer it to the trendy Aesop hand creams which smell fabulous but don’t moisturise as well as this. It seems pricey but it lasts forever and I do think that right now, a really good hand cream gives you pleasure all day long – and there’s 20% off at the moment.
Lockdown outfits – what I’ve been wearing
A few outfits from this week if you haven’t already seen them on Instagram. This is from Saturday morning when we woke up to a surprise covering of snow. I’d been out to the florist to pick up some pussy willow – a great buy for anyone who is frugal with their flower budget because it lasts, quite literally, for years.
Whistles coat, Baukjen jumper, Hush jeans, Boden boots (gifted AW20) – all past season
My outfits have been varying quite dramatically this week because every day I’ve woken up wanting to feel different to the day before. I haven’t worn these flares since Christmas but my goodness I feel great every time I put them on. I was asked lots of questions about length on Instagram – I wear a ‘regular’ length in Boden and I have a 1 inch heel on here.
This was last night, we just made it out in time for a walk before it got dark so the light’s a bit odd and my hair looks as grey as my jumper! Don’t forget that layering down jackets is a good tip at this time of year when the odd spurt of warmer weather comes through and you want to be able to peel things off. There’s a great offer on them at the moment and lots of colours available.
And this is today, taken at the end of a 6.25K run along the coast as we start to increase our distance at last. I had a few questions about patterned versus plain leggings last week. I find that patterned leggings are visually slimming whereas plain ones put more focus on the expanse of thigh that shows when you’re wearing them with a running top.
This week’s book recommendations
I’m still racing through books, not because I’m lazing around all day reading but because I’m not sleeping well for some reason so I read into the early hours.
One to buy
I mentioned that I was reading this last week and it turned out to be another winner. It was longlisted for last year’s Booker Prize and voted book of the year by The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Mail On Sunday, Red, Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. How to describe it? I’d say it’s about being a woman now… race… motherhood… friendships… the pull between big cities and the provinces – and the joys (or not) of being an Influencer. A brilliant book, my only slight criticism is that the ending felt a little bit rushed, it didn’t spoil it but it could have been written more powerfully.
Buy a hard copy from Bookshop.org here and support independent stores
One to borrow
A friend dropped this through my letterbox last weekend because she was dying to know what I thought of it. I’m probably not the right target for it because I don’t watch Strictly and so am only vaguely aware of who Claudia Winkleman is. She comes across as a very warm person and I liked her but the book didn’t grab me and I found I’d skimmed through it within 45 minutes. I felt her views were perhaps a little too strident in places – for example suggesting that women should only wear black which is easy to do if you have her strong skintone but would leave a lot of people looking like they were wearing widows’ weeds. Ditto her insistence that you should only wear baggy jumpers… and that you must never wear almond toed boots or shoes… and so on. She’s also perhaps a bit too self-deprecating in places – I found it a stretch to believe that she’s as chaotic and disorganised as she says.
I did think her last chapter about the move towards the empty nest was beautifully written and it left me feeling very moved. So I’d say read it if you’re missing girly chat and want to fill an afternoon with something light – as in any conversation with a friend, you might not agree with everything she says. Reading it reminded me of sitting in a coffee shop and overhearing one of those groups of women who lead a different life to you. You can’t resist listening in but you’re quite relieved you’re not at the table (if that makes sense and you can remember what it feels like to sit in a coffee shop!).
Lockdown Midlife lately
As we come to the end of January I can say that as I suspected from the start, it’s been an indistinct month… but then January usually is. The difference for me has been not spending a week in London as I usually do, catching up with my retailers to review the year that’s gone and look at the months ahead. All of that has continued on Zoom and although it’s much easier than spending a week going from one side of London to the other, it’s nowhere near as useful. Zoom fatigue has clearly set in for everyone, meetings are short and flat and I don’t manage to gather any of the incidental information that I would chatting to a group of people together in one room.
What retail news do I have to share with you? Not very much. Most brands have gone for very safely designed ranges for 2021 featuring a lot of classics in the styles and colours that they know people buy. I suspect that will give them one of two possible results: either the collections will be met with indifference by the consumer who may say that there’s no reason to buy because they already have similar things in their wardrobe. Alternatively it could be a success with people delighted to see pieces that they know work for them in new colourways with small changes of detail. Time will tell when the launches start in February with bigger drops in March.
I’m going to be particularly interested to see the new M&S strategy roll out. You’ve probably heard that in addition to buying Jaeger they’re now planning to stock Seasalt, Hobbs, Phase Eight and Joules in their stores. I’m absolutely on the fence with it as a business proposition. Part of me wonders at the brand positioning that they’re levelling at by association with the labels that they’re choosing to stock. It will silo the customer group that comes into store going forward – they’ve selected brands that are known as market town retailers, supplying what could be termed a provincial rather than an urban look. And that could be the right thing for M&S, maybe they need to say once and for all that they don’t aspire to being style leaders. The worst outcome is that they could become the new Debenhams, seen as a place where style dies on the rail because with the exception of Seasalt, the brands they’ve chosen aren’t performing well.
I struggle to understand the purchase of Jaeger though, a brand that’s gone under three times in recent years. Yes I know that the design archive will come with the acquisition but M&S already have a good tailoring legacy with Autograph so I’m not sure what more they’ll gain from that.
However, stocking third party brands will give them a great insight into what that particular customer segment wants and that could be invaluable if it’s the target market that they’re defining for the future. They’ll be able to see what sells right down to an item level and analyse the colours, fabrics and cuts that people buy. Plus of course they’ll be gaining this information without the overheads involved in designing, sourcing, producing, distributing and marketing their own apparel. So in terms of a long term retail strategy it could be a very clever way of seeing their way through the next few turbulent seasons.
Can you tell I’m missing my chats with my retail buddies? I don’t know whether this kind of conversation interests you or not but I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments. Quickly rounding up the news on the retail front, Jenners in Edinburgh is to close and will be turned into a hotel and leisure development. Another sad loss for the old, aspirational department store world where shopping really was theatre.
What news do I have on the home front? Like most people, not very much. We’re grateful that the older and more vulnerable members of our family have had their first vaccines, including Mr MC’s mum which is a huge relief. It gave her a trip into Newcastle too which she enjoyed. Let’s hope the current supply kerfuffle with the EU doesn’t grow into anything more – I don’t know about you but I’m finding the antipathy really unsettling.
A few of you have asked how the boys are getting on. We’re anxiously awaiting news on the eldest’s contract and whether it will be renewed. He’s working his socks off but isn’t feeling hopeful because in a burst of optimism in mid-December, the agency he’s working for recruited 16 new full time employees and of course now that we’re back in full lockdown, a lot of retailer activity has been frozen so he says it feels as if they’re overstaffed.
On the Monday when Boris announced that the new lockdown was coming we had a rather pressed conversation with the middle son, telling him that if he wanted to go back to uni we’d have to take him that night before lockdown came into effect the following day. It gave us an abrupt end to Christmas, setting off at 11pm to drive him to Newcastle and then returning back through blizzards at 4am. On a purely personal level I wish he was here and not there, we really miss his cheerful presence at home but he and his flatmates seem happy and as he says, at least he’s getting some value from his first year. His timetable this term included 9 hours a week of practical acting in the university theatre spaces which of course he’s now having to do on Teams from his bedroom. Oh to be a fly on the wall for that one!
The youngest seems to be managing his lessons ok from home and remains resolutely cheerful. You may remember that he was annoyed by the autumn announcement that exams were going to be made easier this summer (that was before they were cancelled of course). Well he’s now learning the truth of ‘be careful what you wish for’ because his school have decided that they want to be able to defend any teacher grading robustly. This means that they’re currently planning not one but two full exam series set a few months apart. In addition to that they’re grading each student on their term time work and also their contribution in every single online lesson which is keeping him on his toes.
As for Mr MC and me, like everyone else we’re just keeping on going. Our apartment purchase moved forward a tiny fraction this week but not quite enough for us to get excited yet. In the meantime I’ve found it’s good therapy to go onto AirBnB and shortlist places that I’d like to stay in, based in destinations that I hope to visit one day and it scratches my travel planning itch for now. What do you reckon my friends – will there be a return to foreign holidays this year or with the virus mutations, will the borders stay closed?
Sales ending with good offers
And that’s my news apart from a couple of sale ends that are worth a look this weekend.
- From 4pm tonight (Friday 29th January) Hush are offering an extra 10% off their sale pieces here with code EXTRA10.
- You can get an extra 20% off Hobbs clearance this weekend here.
- Mango have an extra 15% off their sale here with code EXTRA15 until Sunday night.
- Jigsaw’s unbelievable warehouse clearance has been expanded this week, as well as the coats there are now incredible offers on boots and shoes as well as knitwear. It really is worth a look.
- Latest in Beauty are clearing their 2020 beauty boxes so if you feel like a little treat, they really good value now. You can find them all here.
- If you join H&M as a member, you’ll get 15% off everything this weekend. Membership costs nothing and I find it’s worth it because you often get a discounted price that pops up on their best selling items while you’re scrolling. They don’t send too many emails either – you can sign up here.
So I hope you have a lovely weekend. Don’t forget to celebrate the end of January somehow – I’m sure that lockdown will gradually start to feel a little easier from now on. The days are stretching out and I’ve noticed the birds starting to sing this week. My Dales born grandma used to insist that they find their mates on Valentine’s Day which would mean that it’s only two weeks until nature really starts to spring back into action. We might be on a very slow boat to better times… but it’s moving.
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