Style, menopause, hot sauce & books – how’s that for a lead in?! A surprise mini post today because there are a few things I’ve been meaning to mention and one in particular that I need to flag before Friday. I do like posting on a Tuesday again though – even if it’s just a quick ‘hello’ it helps me to feel as though life’s getting back to normal which it is in a way. I had my second jab on Saturday so spent the weekend feeling a bit peculiar – at one point I nodded off on the sofa and then jumped up in a rush to take the Christmas tree down… something very strange was going on in my Covid fuelled brain. Anyway I’m back to normal now and feeling very lucky and thankful to both the NHS and Astra Zeneca.

So, let’s crack on with what I have to tell you because I don’t have much time which will no doubt be a relief because it means I can’t chat for as long as usual.

Books – The Women’s Prize For Fiction Shortlist

Firstly, given that I suspected a sofa weekend lay ahead, I was thrilled when the Women’s Prize for Fiction got in touch last week to see if I’d like copies of the books in the shortlist. I don’t know about you but having spent lockdown retreating into easy to read page-turners I’m ready for something with a bit more substance. It’s great that we’re gaining a reputation here as women who read rather than just look and so I’m happy to help raise awareness of the six finalists and their books here. They are:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

style, menopause, hot sauce & books!

“The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passingLooking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.”

Independent bookshop; Amazon

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

style, menopause, hot sauce & books!

“Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides which thunder up staircases, the clouds which move in slow procession through the upper halls.

On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food and waterlilies to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone. Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?

Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous. The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.”

Independent Bookshop: Amazon

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

style, menopause, hot sauce & books!

“What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant?

What would you do to get it back?

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

Unsettled Ground is a heart-stopping novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.”

Independent Bookshop: Amazon

Style – new small ethical brand – Kate Barton

It’s always exciting to discover a new brand that’s been founded by a midlife woman who’s taking a new turn in her life. Kate Barton started her career at Laura Ashley and then went on to help Johnnie Boden launch and develop Mini Boden. She’s now gone back to her heartland and launched her own collection of women’s fashion, focusing on ethical and sustainable practices.
style, menopause, hot sauce & books!
As yet it’s a tiny range and it’s going to be the perfect place to turn to when hot holidays are back on the cards – the pieces are well priced and all made in floaty, natural fabrics. When the sun comes out they’ll be great for this year’s staycation holidays too, I can see them being worn in Cornwall… or Suffolk… or Northumberland(!) Anyway it’s been too cold for me to shoot the lovely dress that I was sent but I did find a little patch of sunshine last Friday night and popped out for a glass of wine wearing some suitably fancy pants.
As you can imagine with their Pucci style print these floaty cotton trousers are right up my street. There’s a matching cotton wrap too and I can imagine wearing these trousers with a white cami and the wrap over the top. If you prefer something a little less dramatic they also come in a more subtle orange or navy print or navy with white polka dots.
Midlifechic Pucci style trousers
Floaty wide legged trousers; (Hush knitted tee SS20; Stories sandals SS19)
The dress that I have (and I will photograph it when the weather picks up) is this one which is just so beautifully cut. It really makes me want to be somewhere hot, I know that I’ll wear it on holiday for years to come and every time I do, people will ask where it’s from…
Kate Barton white dress
So – Kate Barton, another fellow midlifer for us to support and a good brand to have on our radar, I’m sure we’ll enjoy watching it grow.

Style – WIW

And a far less glamorous going out outfit. Mr MC took this quick snap when we were going out for some al fresco dining in Newcastle after a day of painting saying,”I bet you won’t put this on your blog.” Of course I always like to prove him wrong so here it is. And actually I had the last laugh because I’d layered up so well that I wasn’t cold (I had an extra down jacket in my bag) whereas he was so frozen that we had to go home early. He clearly needs to reboot his Geordie genes!
Midlifechic post lockdown
Uniqlo down coat (AW18); M&S striped poloneck (SS18); Velvet sweatshirt (now in the sale); Hush jeans (AW19); Suede stretch boots (now in the sale)

Style – one to revisit?

I spent quite a bit of time looking through the shops in Newcastle and the one brand that I think has quietly regained its status this season is Whistles. The problem is that their clothes look nothing when you see them online, even though I give them full marks for using midlife women in their shots, they really need to do something to lift their photography. However when you have time to linger over the pieces in store you realise just how well made they are. Now that Whistles is regaining lost form it’s once again managing to add a cool edge to otherwise basic staples and as there is 20% off everything at the moment, there are three simple pieces I want to show you that caught my eye.
Yes it’s a striped t-shirt but the thing about it is the fabric – it’s the way the soft, slubby cotton falls that makes it look cooler than the rest. The narrow stripes are flattering because the eye can’t settle in one place and the trim at the neckline sets it off. It’s the sort of t-shirt that you’ll wear with jeans and a blazer all summer and feel just right in.
Chic striped t-shirts
Cotton tee – BCI approved (20% off)
Along with every other retailer they’re doing the ubiquitous floral buffet dresses but they also slip in flattering numbers like this shirtdress. When I saw it in store I thought it was soft denim but it’s actually a washed linen. Cool to wear and yet it still gives some definition to your form.
Simple chic shirtdress
Linen shirtdress – 20% off
And last of all this jumpsuit. I’ve been looking for a well fitted denim jumpsuit for ages and this is it. The zip means you can adjust the neckline to suit you and it isn’t baggy enough for anyone to mistake for painting overalls(!) Again it’s so simple but it speaks for itself amongst the sea of flowery patterns that are all over the place.
Best denim jumpsuit 2021
Assuming you have an eye for the simple but well cut, they’re all clothes that you’ll have and love for years and, putting fast fashion behind us, that’s what we need to be buying now. The only thing Whistles needs to make progress with is sustainability because they’re one of those brands that says “we’re working on it.” Let’s hope they hurry up.

Style, menopause, hot sauce & books

Hot sauce – Indian ‘ketchup’

Another thing that I’ve been sent recently that the boys have really enjoyed playing around with is a set of Indian ‘ketchups’ from Pico sauces, another small brand that is trying to build its profile. They’ve been going down a storm with things like chicken and chips or bacon butties. The Punjabi is the majority favourite, it’s a real curry flavoured ketchup. Those of us who like really hot stuff also enjoy the tongue tingling Ghost Pepper, you have to like hot spice though or you’ll sit with tears running down your face like the eldest. Mango chilli as you can imagine is milder and sweeter, the tamarind was a bit runny so it’s been used the least.
It’s another little company that’s trying to get going over here with no supermarket distribution as yet so just order from them direct for a great barbecue talking point.
style, menopause, hot sauce & books!

Menopause – Have your say – Women’s Health Strategy

Last of all I’m sure you’ve noticed that the topic of menopause is trending at the moment and it’s always good to throw some weight behind it before attention moves on to another cause. I’m pleased to say that the government is reviewing its Women’s Health strategy, albeit rather covertly. There’s a survey in the public domain that hasn’t been very well publicised but it’s a really good way for us to prove the need for better provision for menopausal women. It will influence strategy at all kinds of levels going forward, including NHS care.

style, menopause, hot sauce & books!
It would be so good if GPs were given more training and it was easier for all women to access good advice and HRT from their own surgeries. At the moment it feels that middle class women who can afford to go privately have a distinct midlife advantage and that’s not fair. So please can as many of you as possible complete it, it only takes a couple of minutes and we need to focus on the menopause side of things in the comment boxes if possible. If you’re not sure what to put just keep asking for better menopause care provision at a GP level.

Menopause – Watch Davina McCall’s ‘Sex, Myths and The Menopause’ (live if you can!)

I’m sure you’ve already heard that tomorrow night (Weds 12th May) at 9pm Davina McCall is fronting a Channel 4 programme on menopause. She reveals that she was told from a professional perspective not to talk about it, that menopause was “ageing and a bit unsavoury.” However regardless of that she’s gone ahead explaining that for her, going through menopause was so bad it was a bit like withdrawing from heroin at times.

style, menopause, hot sauce & books!

It’s really important that we prove to the media industry that menopause is not ‘unsavoury,’ showing how much interest there is by making sure it has high viewing figures. Watch it live if you can rather than on catch-up, that way you’ll help to give it even more credibility. If the TV execs see that viewers were waiting to watch, it proves that it’s a relevant topic.

Menopause – read this before the programme if you have time

The show’s producer wrote a really good piece in The Observer on Sunday so if you missed it, you can read it here. Intelligent voices are gathering in all the right places and opinions are slowly changing.

Midlifechic menopause posts

Wow – that was a mixed bag today wasn’t it? And now I must dash but I’ll be back on Friday with another try-on of clothes for our British Summer… and looking at the weather forecast the photos may be representative of it in all its unpredictable glory!

Disclosure: “Cornucopia – style, menopause, hot sauce & books” is not a sponsored post

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