You know that phrase If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got? Oh, how I wish it applied to my skin!
It's only now that I'm approaching my late thirties that I can appreciate what good skin I had in my younger days. Not entirely sure why or how but I managed to avoid getting any spots as a teenager (although they are making something of an appearance now) and the worst I had to contend with was a few dry patches.
This genetic jackpot meant I really didn't take care of my skin at all. I was that person who went to bed in their make up and it never seemed to negatively affect me in any way.
But those days are gone. A few years back I discovered micellar water and I also do a bit of hot cloth cleansing. In terms of moisturising, after reading Sali Hughes' Pretty Honest I realised my skin isn't just dry (as I'd always thought) but dehydrated. Plus, I think my skin is verging on being described as 'mature' (sob!). Time to bring in the big guns.
Enter Perricone MD. Last month, Debenhams sent me four products for review from this new range that I've been using for a few weeks. Here's how I got on.
I began my skincare routine with Perricone MD Cold Plasma, which is designed to combat ten signs of ageing and 'represents the culmination of Dr. Perricone's most comprehensive research to date.' It's an unusual product but one that appears to have made quite a difference. My skin feels plump and soft after application, and so I'm going to give it a go for the foreseeable future (despite Cold Plasma's rather odd smell!).
Next, I've been applying one of two products - Re:Firm (not yet available - coming soon!) or Face Finishing moisturiser, kind of alternating between the two. Re:Firm breaks from a gel to a serum as you apply to your skin, which is something of a novelty. The Face Finishing Moisturiser is more of a traditional product than the previous two, and has a very lovely rose fragrance. This is my favourite product from the range.
Finally, the No Foundation foundation serum, which is a very light (in texture) product. I have to say I wasn't convinced it would give me the coverage I'm used to but I was wrong. I have no idea whether this is what anyone else does but my usual drill is to apply foundation or tinted moisturiser and to then take the colour down a bit with a layer of powder before applying the rest of my face. With this serum, I can imagine losing a couple of stages which would save so much time in the mornings! It gives a good, even coverage and I don't feel too bare (which can be the case with tinted moisturisers).
If you're interested, take a look at this vlog I filmed to go through the products in a bit more depth. It's my first foray into video - if you like it then subscribe to my YouTube channel and I'll make a few more!
More Paris, you say? Bien sur.
All I ever want to do in any city or town is to go for a rummage in a junk shop or market. We'd planned to do the famous Saint-Ouen flea market, but it turns out that arriving in town at lunchtime on Monday and flying out Thursday night makes the entire trip a flea-free zone.
Instead, our host Jorge suggested investigating the Passages - covered passages and arcades woven throughout Paris, each of which has a different focus (so antiques or fashion or Indian shops etc). I'm so glad he did. We stumbled upon a few and sought out a few more (they are clearly marked on maps) and it was more luck than judgment that we found ones that suited our tastes.
No trip to Paris is complete without a nose around Merci, the stylish 'destination store' and a complete blogger's paradise. (That little red Fiat 500 must be one of Instagram's most photographed cars!)
And with good reason. There was so much here I'd have taken home given half a chance - beautiful bed linen, the coolest kitchenware, Christmas specials including the twinkliest of fairy lights and flocked goodies a-plenty (EVERYTHING in Paris at Christmas appears to be flocked, and I particularly liked the fluffy orange or white or red trees outside each bar and boutique).
Luckily - or not, depending on the bank balance - Merci has a big ole online store and ships internationally.
During a stroll along the banks of the Seine, we came across one of those postcard racks and the image that leapt out at me was one I knew well: Marilyn Monroe, jumping in the air, photographed by Philippe Halsman.
One of the most prolific portrait photographers of the 20th century, Halsman holds the title for shooting the most Life magazine covers, and was the creative eye behind so many iconic celebrity images. But he also had his own psychological theory - Jumpology - developed after years of asking subjects to jump for him. The theory is, jumping uninhibits a subject, allowing the photographer to snap a truer portrait than the usual styled-and-PRed-to-the-max celebrity image.
Anyway, Jeu de Paume held the first retrospective of Halsman's work, a life's work, and it was sublime. From the pictures of Marilyn et al to his ongoing collaborations with Salvador Dali, all underpinned by the tangible personal story of Halsman's early life in Latvia, his move to Paris, and how came to flee the Nazis to settle in America.
I'm sorry to say that the Paris exhibition has closed but if it tours and you happen to be close by then do pay Philippe a visit.
And I'm beginning to realise that there is a Picasso museum in every city, or so it seems. Back in the summer we visited the Barcelona one, and I've been to the Antibes museum as well.
The Paris Picasso museum is in the Marais and has only just reopened after extensive building work and much beautification. They've done a good job. This gallery is just so perfect, sensitively making best use of the ornate period property but generating enough white space to allow the works to breath.
And there are many, many works on view, over 5000 in this collection alone, plus any temporary exhibitions that may also be toured in. As well as Picasso's portraits and ceramics, the Picasso Intime floor features assorted personal effects that give a real sense of his private self.
A note: we arrived in Paris on 14 December, exactly a month to the day after the attacks, unsure of what to expect. Would it be a noticeably different city?
Well, yes and no. All appears normal, on the surface of it, until you turn a corner and find yourself outside cafe Le Carillon, almost buried beneath bouquets. Or the candlelit vigil surround the Republique monument. Or every department store or art gallery you visit requiring extensive bag checks and security - all part of the Vigipirate anti terriorist measures.
But it is, and always will be, beautiful, snooty, charming Paris.
Fluctuat nec mergitur.
More Paris: Places to eat and drink
The best Airbnb apartment in London
The thing I like best about this combo is that it works for so many different occasions, from festivals to formal.
Recently, Lyst asked me to try out their website. The best way I can describe it is that Lyst is a little like Pinterest but for clothes. You can browse hundreds of thousands of items, designers and stores to find exactly what you're after, assemble them all in a lyst, and then click straight through to buy. Brilliant!
I bought something I've been coveting for a long time - the Emmet dress from Toast. It's a kind of apron style dress in a heavy cotton, dark grey in my case. One of those dresses, the ones that I'm not sure I ever want to take off (a bit like my wellies).
Head over to my Dresses, boots and cardies lyst to see more.
What would you choose from this enormous online store and why?
This is a collaborative post
When the man you love suggests taking you to Paris for your birthday, the only possible response is 'oui'.
During our summer weekend in Barcelona we discussed the relative merits of Barca vs Paris, arguing over the food, rating the climate, pondering the architecture. We came away swayed by the Spanish city, wondering if it had indeed stolen the top spot from the city of lights. There was only one way to find out...
After staying in that silly St Pancras clock tower apartment, we hopped on the Eurostar and were at the Gare du Nord by lunchtime. A few stops round on the metro took us to Rue Sebastapol, to our Airbnb apartment where we dropped off our bags before heading out into the unseasonably warm Parisian afternoon. Afternoon activities were pretty standard: a croque monsieur for lunch followed by stroll along the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower as the sun was setting.
Rather than writing this as if it were a school diary, here are a few of the places we enjoyed food and drink. Look out for another post rounding up our art and shopping experiences.
PLACES TO EAT IN PARIS
Our apartment was two streets away from Rue Montorgueil, famously THE foodie street of Paris. Each day we took a stroll down the road on our way to somewhere else, but each day it took an age due to the incredible shops, cafes and bars that line it.
Stohrer is one of the oldest, most famous Parisian patisseries and is sensory overload - the sugary scent as you walk through the dark, creaky door, the dazzling colours of the iced cakes and pastries.
We bought a couple of brioches sucrés (my go-to French pastry) and a little box of delights - religieuses in chocolate and coffee - tied up with ribbon. These are choux delights stacked up, full of crème pâtissière and drizzled in toothachingly sweet icing. (The religieuse is said to be the cake that inspired Wes Anderson to create Mendl's famous courtesan au chocolat in The Grand Budapest Hotel.)
For baked goods of a very different kind, head to Du pain et des idees in the 10e, which is a hipster hot spot right now.
Also on the Rue Montorgueil is Bistro Les Petits Carreaux, a traditional Parisian neighbourhood bar and restaurant but one famous across the city and beyond for its sauteed potatoes. This is where we ate on our first night in Paris - roast chicken for me and steak for Mike, both with pommes sautées, salad and sauce. It was a pretty perfect French meal.
While wandering in the Marais one day, we stumbled across Breizh, a creperie recommended by Jorge (our Airbnb host). I wasn't entirely convinced that a crepe is ever what I want to eat for lunch, but it turns out I was entirely wrong. These crepes are incredible - buckwheat flour simply bound with egg, milk and butter but topped with the tastiest combinations, like bacon, egg and potato, or goats cheese, walnuts and rocket. Crepes and cider are traditionally paired, so we drank a couple of Kir Breton aperitifs which made our afternoon all warm and fuzzy.
Midway through our trip, we met up with a friend I used to work with in Bristol who's lived in Paris for the past seven years. He suggested we meet for dinner at Soya, a vegetarian restaurant up near the Republique. It just goes to show how things have changed (or how long it's been since I've visited Paris) but this restaurant was so good! Previous attempts to eat at vegetarian restaurants in Paris have not been especially tasty, shall we say. Here, we ate spicy tagine washed down with craft beers.
My pal suggested we try Candelaria, a secret bar and taqueria in the 3e that's currently winning awards all over the place. If you fancy it, persevere. We followed the map to where we thought it should be and were foxed by being able to see in the windows of the bar at the back but not being able to work out how the heck to get inside. Turns out you go through the tiny taqueria through the white door at the back, and then you'll find yourself in Margarita heaven. But first, a little something to eat - it's more than worth waiting for a stool at the bar or around the table at the front. Order delicious guacamole and chips, tacos and beans - authentic Mexican street food made and served in the smallest of kitchens by a super speedy chef who passes dishes to the sole barman, whose acerbic English-with-a-French-accent-but-actually-Mexican chatter drives the brilliant atmosphere here. Then through that door to the bar for drinks afterwards.
PLACES TO DRINK IN PARIS
More places to drink in Paris! Did you know there's a champagne bar at the top of the Eiffel Tower? Yup. As well as shopping and ice skating, the elegant monument has all manner of restaurants. But take the creaky lift right to the top - and I mean right. to. the. TOP - and you'll be windswept and squiffy on bubbles. Proper tourist nonsense, but irresistibly so.
For a classic Paris experience of a more laid back variety, head to the Places des Vosges on the edge of the Marais where you'll find Cafe Hugo. This lovely bar is just what we needed after getting some bad news from home. Giant goblets of gin to drink and salted popcorn snacks helped ease away the lines from our foreheads, while the beautiful interior and classic exterior (we sat neither in nor out - under one of those patio heaters on the deck) reminded us where we were and brought us back to the moment.
And if you're in the 10e, right by that famous Amelie canal is Le Comptoir General. Like Candelaria, this is a doorbell bar, set back off the street and hidden away. Secret bars always suggest small to me - cramped cubby holes or little nooks - but this bar is anything but. I think the building is an old hospital but could be wrong. It's definitely industrial or institutional in some way, and is vast. If faded glamour is your thing then Le Comptoir General will be right up your rue. It's like drinking in Grey Gardens. Or a reclamation yard. Or one of those weird dream sequences in a sixties film.
Come back soon for my Parisian art and shopping tips!
A weekend in Barcelona
The best Airbnb apartment in London
More Airbnb stays
More travel posts
I saw a remarkable statistic that 2015 was the hottest year on record in the world, breaking the record set by the previous year for the third time in a row. It seemingly lends a lot of credence to the widely-accepted theory of global warming. Perhaps it’s all true, but, for me, this January has felt absolutely freezing. Whatever your stance on climate change, I think we can all agree that the cold weather at the moment has us dreaming of warmer places with beaches, pools and a forecast of nothing but sunshine!
I’m already excitedly planning our trip for this summer, and, based on my experiences, I thought I’d share some advice on making sure your family holiday is every bit as perfect as you imagined…
1) Give the kids a ‘prep’ talk
Especially if you have some real young’uns in your family, it’s well worth making sure they have a good idea of what to expect. Maybe sit them around the computer to give them a glimpse of the sights they can expect to see, the food they can expect to eat and the culture they can expect to experience at the destination. Not only will it get them prepared and excited about what is to come, but it will likely also get them more invested in learning new things as soon as they arrive.
2) Be clever with financing
Package holidays often offer decent payment plans to cover the cost of holidays, but if yours is an extra special treat that needs you to spread the cost in terms of financing, it may well be worth looking into a holiday loan. Check out some price comparison sites, and you’ll quickly see that there are plenty of good-value loans available, which will take the financial pressure off you so that your family can genuinely relax and enjoy the experience.
3) Keep something in reserve
Obviously you’ll want to get the kids excited by telling them all the fun stuff that’s in store. But why not keep a surprise or two up your sleeve? Imagine the look on their faces when, on the day, you take them to a water park you ‘thought you’d already told them about’. It will thrill them no end, and add to your already swelling credit in the bank.
4) Plan, but don’t over-plan
You certainly want to make sure you extend the activities beyond just the comfort zone of the resort you are staying on. It’s important to get the kids trying new things and getting a taste for local culture. But it’s also worth leaving a bit of room for them to take the lead. What do they fancy doing on a particular day? What restaurant do they want to eat at? Are there some new friends they’ve made who they want to play with instead? It’s not about ceding control – merely empowering them so they feel a bit more grown up.
5) No pool, no deal
It’s not a holiday without a pool, is it? It probably goes without saying, but pick your accommodation very carefully. What do the reviews say about suitability for kids? And for what age? Even if it requires shelling out an extra quid or two, comfortable surroundings are so important, and can really set the tone for the holiday from the word go. Maybe a villa is a better choice than a hotel, with shared spaces and a kitchen to knock together some food on demand? Have a think about it before clicking ‘Confirm’.
Hopefully these five little hints will help you out. If I had to offer a sixth bit of advice for those with young kids, it would be to remember that this is also a holiday for you and your special someone too, and an important time to get some much-needed R&R in for the year ahead. Be sure to take care of number one too, and not let the kids rule the roost entirely.
Just time for one last interiors post for this house before we up sticks and move on. This isn't the first time I've said how much this house has meant to me but it may well be the last. Its white walls and understated period features have made for a modestly stylish home, yet none of this is my work! I just moved my stuff in and everything seemed to flow...
The three of us have loved living here - from its perfect location by the water to the friends-for-life neighbours we've been lucky enough to get to know. If only it were a little bigger.
And so, in a couple of weeks, we'll be heading to a new home - still on the waterfront but a bigger property, one in which all seven of us can feel at home. It's a bit of an eighties disaster, which means major projects ahead. But that also means more interiors posts to come, so that's a win for me.
Goodbye little house, we're going to miss you.
My bedroom: wicker basket / patterned bedspread / watermelon bedlinen / floral pillowcases - vintage Toast / green lamp / ridiculous shoes
And I promised you an update on the Leesa mattress review - well, we love it! There's not a great deal more to add. After a week or two of a new plastic smell, the mattress relaxed into the bed frame and fits like a charm. Every night is comfortable, and having a super kingsize bed is pretty much my dream come true. If you're thinking of getting a new bed/mattress, I'd say go for it ;)
Bathroom: most things are vintage nick nacks / hammam towel - these are just the BEST and this Bristol shop is the place to go / soap / plant/pot/crochet baskets
Kids room: Smile print / rosettes / printer's tray / awesome Zoo-ology book
More interiors posts
Dining room tour
Living room tour
How to make a rented house feel like home
Increasingly, ours revolves around living life to the full and going large. Carpe diem might suffice, but I think I prefer f*** it. That's not to say I'm in the throes of a midlife crisis (I've only just entered my late thirties, after all), but I'm not getting any younger and I think it unlikely I'll be on my death bed, muttering about how we could've saved a buck or two on that silly Airbnb place in 2015.
It is, of course, quite possible to stay in a private room in a hostel or a cheap chain hotel in greater London for upwards of £60 or so. Or, one can throw caution into the wind and decide to spend a bit more on the best Airbnb apartment in London. Well, it WAS my birthday.
Look at this place. IT IS IN THE CLOCK TOWER - YES, THE CLOCK TOWER - AT ST PANCRAS STATION! Top right in the pic above, behind that clock face.
You see my point, I hope.
It really is quite spectacular. The clock is now digitally operated so the mechanism is not visible, but the room in which the man (whose sole occupation was to wind clocks) would work has been transformed into an unusual, brick room used for events, meals and recitals (there's a grand piano, n'est pas, but there have never been any bells).
Also on the entrance floor is the kitchen, utility room etc. Downstairs, there is the master suite with bedroom, living area and bathroom, and a guest suite - essentially its own private studio flat.
It's all the height of luxury - underfloor heating, beautiful kitchens and bathrooms, roomfuls of books, stylish neutral interiors - and wouldn't look out of place in a 5-star hotel.
So why stay here instead of a hotel?
Aside from the ludicrous nature of the location (perfect if, like us, you're heading to Paris on the Eurostar), Airbnb apartments are just ace. I've stayed in four now and I just love the personal nature - meeting the owners, staying in a real home, enjoying the personality and charm and quirks of both the home and the homeowner, feeling like a guest rather than a customer.
Have you Airbnb-ed before? Any recommendations?
If not, and you'd like to try, follow this link for money off your first Airbnb booking.
Want to read more? Here's a review of my first London Airbnb trip and my Copenhagen Airbnb trip.
Coming soon: 72 hours in Paris!
Before Christmas I headed east for a couple of days in London. Much as I love the capital, it's not always practical to go up for one event. But there are times when the stars align and a few events take place over a day or two, meaning it's impossible NOT to go.
Press shows are always so interesting - seeing what the big shops have in store for us a season or two ahead is fascinating although somewhat disorientating, as you end up faced with bikinis and flip flops when bundled up in scarves and gloves.
The first was the Monsoon and Accessorize, whose show featured beachwear but also beautiful occasion wear, jewellery and really cute Japanese-style bags, all of which left me with a hankering for summer.
And there was an on-site piercer! I had a helix piercing - one up near the top outer edge of the ear - which was an unexpected but kinda cool turn of events.
From here, Lori and I headed to the OXO Tower for afternoon tea with a twist. We met up with Team Pinterest and had the most brilliant selection of cakes and cocktails. And from there we watched the sun set over the Thames.
Later, a stop at Paperchase for a Christmas tree styling comp and glimpses at the new ranges. Those paper fans were my absolute favourites, and I love what the Paperchase design team did with the Beatrix Potter characters.
The following day I went to the Tefal Cook4Me morning and then headed back across London for the Habitat press day, where I met up with my pal Kat for a cuppa and a look around the new products.
My favourites? These colourful wicker baskets, cushions, rugs and bowls.
Phew! A happy few days that made me look forward to the seasons ahead.
And now that it is 2016, we haven’t got long to wait, have we?