Thursday, 28 May 2015

A float

bristol float centre review and giveaway

From the day I learned to swim, water has always held a fascination for me. Family holidays - I'd practically live in the sea or a pool, retrieving coins from the deep end, learning to dive, and inventing underwater games for me and my brother to play together. I even used to joke that I didn't eat fish because I was one of them.

Floating is one of my favourite aquatic pastimes, one that can't really be indulged in a municipal pool for fear of being mown down by a front-crawling, cap-wearing, serious swimmer. The feeling of weightlessness is like no other, the ears-in-the-water sensation blocking out the rest of the world, half in and half out makes for a curious combination of temperature and water/air juxtaposition.

Turns out floating is a thing; an pursuit of its very own, a therapeutic activity that promotes deep, deep relaxation. Last week, I went to Bristol Floatation Centre for my first non-holiday floating experience.

Pictured is the cabin (there's also a pod available) which is where I went for my float. Fiona - who works at the Floatation Centre and upstairs at Back in Action - showed me around the Centre, after which I hopped up onto the Mobiliser. It sounds and looks rather intimidating, but lying on the bed with a series of rollers ironing out my spine was a truly relaxing experience.

Already part of the way to relaxation nirvana, after the Mobiliser it was time to float. I showered and rather gingerly climbed into the cabin, where the warmth of the water welcomed me. Huge quantities of epsom salts are the secret ingredient, meaning the water can hold you afloat. I lay back, arms above my head, and tried to relax. A bit like previous attempts to meditate, my brain began to whirr. I hummed a bit of Taylor Swift. Must relax... MUST RELAX I told myself. I spent several minutes focused on my lack of relaxation before it happened.

The dark, warmth and weightlessness of a float makes any concept of time or the outside world completely impossible to fathom. So it could've been 2 or 20 minutes into my float that I dropped into the deepest state of relaxation. You know that bit when you're between sleep and wake? It was a little like that, but less fuzzy. When the hour was up, a filter gently began to purr, alerting me that the session was over. Rather than feeling groggy, I sat up, bright as a button, and went for a shower.

Afterwards, I felt energised and perky. I went for a work meeting, and felt extra alert and motivated. And then I came home. Around 4pm I had an overwhelming need to go for a little lie down. An hour later I awoke from a deep, restorative nap. And since the float, I've slept so well every night. Epsom salts are one of the best ways to absorb magnesium, which is the number one mineral necessary for proper sleep. They're also rather good for the skin, and there's a noticeable creaminess about my complexion since the float.

My job takes me to many places and affords me such exciting experiences, for which I am always grateful. Floating was a treat and I can see how it could become addictive. I may well be going back for more...

Thanks to the team at Bristol Floatation Centre for their hospitality, 
and for providing me with a Mobiliser and Float session for the purposes of this review. 

Want to win a 1-hour float session with use of the Mobiliser worth £50? Enter the giveaway below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Cadigans / 04

Dior metronomy

White Company
Anything else sent?

Cadigans / 03

Cadigans are placeholder words, those brilliantly esoteric, eccentric words such as knick-knack, whatjamacallit, thingumajig, doo-dah - words to describe things for which we have no words.

Whims of the week right now include...

This podcast, in particular The Secret History of Thoughts

Hello mysterious new perfume

Eating this glorious bounty

Listening to tunes new and old

Reading this beee-autiful magazine

(hence the pic above - NL, always astonishing)


What whatjamacallits are on your radar right now? 

Friday, 22 May 2015

England has sprung / May in flowers

Recently, my Instagram feed has been chockablock with flowers. It is the month for it, of course. As soon as the winter wanes, spring is like that bit at the start of a roller coaster ride. Each passing month - each day - creaks by slowly, uphill, uphill, slowly until we hit May. And then it's all fast and downhill and arms aloft and WHEEEEEEE! as the trees blossom and buds open. The green intensifies almost perceptibly. I love this month.

The bloom that signifies May to me is the lilac. It's so fleeting, its short season bursting forth those white and purple stars with their sweet, old fashioned fragrance. I try to forage branches here and there, but this year I've all but missed the season. Seeing the lilacs begin to brown is something of a tragic day, I feel the first pang of regret at the passing of time - that end of summer feeling, crystallised.

When I was seven or eight years old, I wrote a poem. My teacher gave me a gold star, and read on if you want to know why.

The flowers in the vase, all withered and old.
Just like Grandma.

These are just the opening lines, but they're enough to trigger a fit of the giggles at any family occasion.

But, actually, the passing of time, the inevitable death and decay, has taken on new meaning for me this year. For various reasons, life recently has moved and changed, cycles have ended as well as begun, and I'm trying to accept every stage of the cycle and to see its beauty. Flowers help. (The Planthunter articulates this way better than me.)

This last picture - peonies and pink roses - were kindly sent by Blossoming Gifts. If you're after a flower delivery then have a look at their bouquets. For 33% off their beautiful flowers (all ranges excluding the flowers by post range), use code BGIFT33.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A day out in London: Part one

These pictures are from the awesome Grand Designs Live earlier this month. I was invited to go along by Vaillant, who were sponsors of the Kevin's Green Heroes section of the show.

For years, I worked at an architecture centre where building design was part of my daily life, and it turns out I kinda miss that world. Grand Designs Live reignited my interest in both the design/build process and also the sustainability issues that are now more important than ever.

At the show, I saw hempcrete being made (you can guess what that is), learnt about the super-efficient range of Vaillant ecoTEC domestic boilers and renewable technologies, and was haunted by that famous opening music from Grand Designs which played on a loop as you entered or exited the show. So much so that I wasn't fazed by hearing the dulcet tones of Mr McCloud himself - it didn't seem out of place for him to be chatting just a few feet away from where I stood.

If I wasn't a renter, I'd be making so many changes to my home to improve its eco credentials; I learned so much at the show. Plus, I loved seeing all the styled room layouts, product previews, and some of the more, shall we say, eccentric products on sale, such as this levitating bed:

There was so much to see that this little girl had the right idea - I wish I'd had a little lie down too:

Thanks to Vaillant for such a thought provoking day and for being such brilliant sponsors.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A new series: Five flicks for May

Since 2013, I've been writing about my five reads for each month (well, almost monthly), and now I have a new series for the blog.

The boys and I moved into our new house in March and I was reluctant to launch into the usual TV/DVD set up ensconced in the corner of the living room. Instead, we spent a month or so with just laptop or iPad screens to fulfil the need for culture. My kids surprised me by actually using their imaginations - drawing, playing, messing about in the garden. It was refreshing. But I found myself going to bed as soon as they were asleep, taking my laptop with me and nodding off with a box set on in the background. I barely used the living room.

So, it was time to re-think. We were given a hand-me-down DVD player by my parents, and a friend offered us her old telly. And then Netflix asked us to be part of their Stream Team. A box arrived with Apple TV and a year of Netflix for us to enjoy. What better opportunity to start this new series?

Five flicks will introduce the films, television shows and documentaries I've been enjoying. I'll be selecting a range of gems from various sources, all of which will be available to stream or download according to your own set up. Of course, you'll need decent broadband.

So, this month's five flicks picks... From the looks of things, I'm going through a fashion/Paris/nineties kinda phase. Nowt wrong with any of that.

Dior and I (I rented this from iTunes)

What happens when a new creative director is appointed to head up one of the oldest, most iconic fashion houses in Paris? Dior and I tells the story of Raf Simons and the six weeks of incredible work that went into the creation of his first couture collection for Dior. Going inside the intimate atmosphere of the atelier feels such a privilege, and the contrast between the quiet, methodical craft in the lead up and the presentation of the show itself is astounding. I think I'd have given anything to be at that show.

Frances Ha

Oh, Frances. This is a beautiful film about a dancer trying to make it in New York. But that description doesn't do it justice in any way. Shot in black and white, there is something so tragic and heartbreaking about Frances as we follow her journey from New York to Paris and back again, and in and out of dance troupes and flats and peoples' lives. Kinda Woody Allen-ish, it's funny and exquisite, messy and dazzling.

The September Issue

Well, if ever there was a film about office politics this is it. Anna Wintour (known to her staff as Nuclear Wintour - best nickname ever) and Grace Coddington spend six months battling it out planning the September 2007 issue of American Vogue, the most lucrative and influential of the year. This film offers access to this closed world of money and beauty and tension. It's fascinating. Look out for Anna's daughter and her attitude towards the fashion industry.


One of my very favourite films from the nineties, Clueless stars Alicia Silverstone as spoilt LA teenager Cher as she navigates her way through high school relationships. Alicia is a brilliant comic actor - way underrated, as Cher might say - and the language of the film is just genius. (I just wish this print was still available.) And, of course, the fashion worn by Cher and her school friends is completely bonkers.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I think it's fairly safe to say that anything Tina Fey does is golden, isn't it? Fey co-created and stars in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a made-for-Netflix series about the life of Kimmy after her rescue from a doomsday cult in Indiana. Not exactly the most uplifting subject matter you might think, but this show is all laughs.

What are you watching at the moment? Leave me a comment with your recommendations, I'd love to know.

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post. 
Thank you for supporting the posts that make Oyster & Pearl possible.


Monday, 4 May 2015

Children's books: Dandylion

There are some children’s books that capture something. A feeling, a mood, an experience. Dandylion by Lizzie Finlay is one such book that has featured on heavy rotation at bedtimes over the past few years.

Dandylion is a bright, sunny yellow lion. He turns up at school one day, and enters a class of rather conformist children, all busy doing their work neatly and quietly. Dandylion’s arrival disrupts and delights the kids, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with his imaginative games and endless energy. There are descriptions of his penchant for dressing up in rather inappropriate costumes, of playing raucous new games in the playground, and of drawing felt tip moustaches on the faces of his classmates. The latter results in the teacher being so cross she couldn’t look at her class - what we see (but they don’t) is that she’s actually laughing.

There comes a point, though, when Dandylion’s antics go too far, and the class tell him he’s like a weed. Poor Dandylion is devastated and goes home with his tail between his legs. There, he tries to conform, combing his wild mane into pigtails, and having a chat with old Grandpa Clock.

The moral of the story is, obviously, to be yourself, that those who love you will love you for your idiosyncratic ways, not despite them. This message is particularly pertinent to my youngest, T, who defiantly travels to the beat of a different drum (another post on this is brewing in my mind).

In celebration of all things different and wonderful and unique, we had our own Dandylion Day - a chance to draw moustaches on ourselves, to make Dandylion’s packed lunch of choice (extraordinary sandwiches, made from chocolate spread, jelly worms and candy floss), and to read the book for the nth time.

The kids took it upon themselves to make a museum by putting all their cuddly toys into every glass jar, vase and vessel in the house. That’s the kind of creativity that can only be a good thing. Slightly weird and macabre, yes, but I'd prefer that to uninspired.

For more children’s literature, have a look at this top five tear-jerkers.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Interiors: An easy IKEA chest of drawers hack

The kiddos and I have recently moved into a new house, and so we've started from scratch somewhat in turning it into a home.

Pennies are tight so it's flat pack and second hand all the way. The Rask chest of drawers from IKEA is just £20 and the drawers are perfectly kid-size, so the boys have one each. But functional though they are, the plain pine finish is a little dull for our tastes.

We sought solace in Pinterest (as so often in life), and were inspired to part-paint the outside frame of the chest of drawers, and to finish with a selection of colourful mismatched knobs from Abodent. Aren't they darling? T has Batman yellow (painted with roller and Vospur paint), with elephant, hippo and pine cone handles, as well as one the kids have named 'the black diamond'. A's version is green (spray-painted, this time, again Vospur), with squirrel, rabbit, and watermelon-coloured handles.

Things are getting more homely now, although we still have a toy box to build. Wine crate + casters + ? what? A giant box of classic Lego arrived from House of Fraser in every shade of plastic brick under the sun. Its arrival was every child's idea of heaven, and it feels right to give it a suitably colourful home. So, should we go with geometric triangles? Spray-painted primary colours? Or something a bit more adventurous? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Thanks to Abodent for supplying the handles and to House of Fraser for the Lego.
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