Birthday Bonanza

Happy Birthday to Meeee!

Happy Birthday to Meeee!

I don’t know what it is with me, but the older I get, the longer my birthdays last. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the fact that my birthday falls on the summer holidays and so, as a kid, there was no school on my birthday and the excitement leading up to it – and for a couple of days after, while playing with my new toys – meant my birthday glow lasted around a week. Somehow, I managed to keep the ‘no work on birthday’ rule going and always took the day off when I started work and since the kids were born and I’ve been working as a freelancer, it’s even easier to linger over birthday celebrations.

My birthday fell on a Monday this year, and everybody knows that Monday is never a good day for a birthday because no matter how old you get, Monday always has that first-day-back-at-school-after-the-weekend vibe. So, I decided to start mine on the Saturday and was happy for Stressed Husband to take over. We started our birthday-fest at Embankment in time for breakfast coffee where we sat outside a cafe, watching the world go by. I love people watching, it’s one of my favourite things – I love looking at what people are wearing, how they’re behaving and eaves dropping on conversations even if I don’t understand the language being spoken – I simply enjoy revelling in the differences in the human race. It always amazes me.

first coffee of the day

first coffee of the day

Next stop was checking into the fabulously stylish and modern Nadler Hotel which was our home for that evening. What excited me more than the luxurious faux fur throw across the bed and the hustle and bustle of the location, was the incredible photographs in Tim Flach’s coffee table book, Dogs Gods in reception.  For dog lovers like me, this will be on your pressie wish list for Christmas 2013. Stressed Husband pretended that he had had it placed there especially for me, but I know he didn’t ;-)

Tim Flach Dogs Gods

Tim Flach Dogs Gods

The next part of my birthday surprise didn’t quite go to plan as SH had booked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for the wrong date! I felt sorry for SH as he was more upset than I was that I wouldn’t get to see the show I had banged on about for ages. Luckily, he knew that a few cocktails and a spot of retail therapy would numb the disappointment!  Besides, we’ve managed to change the date so we get to see it at the end of the month – something else to look forward to.

Cocktail time

Cocktail time

We had a fantastic dinner at Itsu in Chelsea and were served by a beautiful waitress who was none other than my eldest daughter, Teen Queen!  Makes a change for us to be waited on by her, I can tell you!  A complimentary bottle of Moet & Chandon made SH forget – almost – about the money he’d spent on my birthday weekend.

I had wanted something in particular for my birthday, but SH decided that instead, he would surprise me with our weekend in Soho so we could spend time catching up with each other as husband and wife rather than mum and dad. The fact that the weekend cost more than the item I had wanted for my birthday wasn’t lost on SH but, did he grumble? A little. But he summed it up brilliantly when he said “The excitement of your present would’ve lasted a few hours; the memories we made this weekend will be with us forever.”  True.

Stressed Husband in Soho - lighter in the wallet department

Stressed Husband in Soho – lighter in the wallet department

A Stylish Summer Garden

image: frommoontomoon.blogspot.co.uk

image: frommoontomoon.blogspot.co.uk

Flicking through glossy magazines and coveting the lifestyle of the uber glam women showing off their shiny homes, shiny hair and shiny kids is one of my favourite past times. It’s not that I don’t love my messy home, messy hair (actually, not much love lost there) and messy kids – I do. I just wish my life was a little bit more sleek and ‘advert worthy’ and a little less chaotic. But at the end of the day, I suppose  I’m all for ‘keeping it real’  and I know that real life means nobody or nothing is perfect:  *shouts*: Yep, Elle Mcpherson and Gwynie Paltrow – you heard me! You look rough in the morning too and there are crumbs under your sofa!! What? There’s not? Oh…*rolls neck back in*

Still, on the theme of bringing a little glossiness into my life – I’ve decided that I’m starting with my garden and hope that my ideas to pretty things up a little in the garden will lead to a prettier life in general.

There’s no point in having sunshine like we’ve had recently (come back, I beg you!) if you can’t use it as an excuse to open a little pink fizzy and relax in the garden and make the most of it. We’ve enjoyed quite a few garden gatherings recently and candles and fairy lights really help make things look a lot nicer than normal. Let’s not think about what it looks like the next day with the empty bottles, left over food etc…

candles at night time

And if you’re going for a daytime entertainment, it’s easy to make things look great with a lovely tablecloth and a few bowls or jam jars filled with flowers – simple yet stunning.

I’ll never have green fingers and that’s why we’ve gone for a paved garden. It’s fabulously low-maintenance (great if you’re a little bit lazy, like moi) plus it’s easier to pick up those doggy deposits! But it doesn’t mean a patio can’t look just as pretty as a grassy area. I’ve come across this fab website that has inspired me to try a spot of garden DIY (for those who know me: stop laughing. I can try!) And I’ll report back with any successful attempt.

What do you love/loathe about your garden and what would your dream garden look like?

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No Junk Mail…I said NO JUNK MAIL!

junk mail

Apart from that one, coarse black hair that sprouts its curly way from my chin and appears – magically – overnight, a bit like Jack’s beanstalk (though not green and leafy) nothing makes me more annoyed than junk mail and unwanted door to door salesmen. I’ve avoided the ugly No Junk Mail sticker and Don’t Knock Unless You’re Invited stickers that I’ve seen plastered over some front doors along my road; I’ve always thought them a little tacky and Victor Meldrew-ish. But not anymore.

Honestly, this week, I’ve had unwanted correspondence about everything that I don’t want to know about and it isn’t helpful, it just adds to my recycling pile (or lays gathering dust in the letter rack until I can be bothered to throw it away!). And what about the salesmen or charity workers who turn up just when dinner’s about to be dished up and start my dog, Troy, off in a frenzy of excited woofing? Troy thinks whoever comes to the door is out to get ‘his family’ and so it is his duty to snarl and bark until his eyes almost eyes pop out – or until the salesman runs off down the path in fear. And them running away suits me if they are trying to get me to sign up to a charity. I already give to the charities that I want to, the amount that I want to and when I want to and I’d prefer not to be ambushed into signing a direct debit on the spot for a fixed amount which invariably means constant emails and calls from the charity asking me for even more money – which is thinly disguised as a thank you call, updating me about the cause.

Black dog

And how about the regular knocking on my door of Frankie’s Fresh Fish Man? I don’t know how many times I have to tell him that that no matter how jolly and fisherman friendly he is, my family don’t like fish much and we never will – so JOG ON fish face! And, the caller that makes me want to close the blinds and hide behind the sofa the most, is the man selling home-wares: I don’t want to buy badly made dish clothes and feather dusters at the door – but buy them I do – and at hugely inflated prices (don’t tell Stressed Husband) because I feel sorry for the homeless guys selling them.

friendly fish man

However, there is one thing I would be happy to buy at the door if you’re selling and that’s a No Junk Mail sticker…and I’ll even pop the dog out the back for you.

This Week’s Wonders

After a particularly hectic week, it’s good to take stock at the weekend and see that there were actually a few shining moments among the mayhem. Here are a few pictures of the things that made my whirlwind of a week worth it…

magic moments

There was Little Angel and her Tom and Jerry cakes that cheered me up just when I was craving something sweet but thought we had nothing in the cupboards to satisfy my sweet tooth | The Absolutely Chiswick magazine which showcased some of the PR for a client that I’ve been working so hard on lately – and gave me confidence that I’m doing something right at a new job | The swans in Chiswick House that are so serene and graceful that watching them for just a few seconds slows down a racing heartbeat | My big dog Troy cuddling his little soft toy, Pinky. Over his almost 4 years with us, he has chewed to pieces ‘indestructible’ dog toys, shoes, remote controls, books and more, yet his little, flimsy Pinky has got by with just lots of slobber and a chewed ear. He truly loves his little friend | Next is my very own Cinderella: Queen Teen has finally got proof from interested agents and casting directors that her years of hard work and training in musical theatre, is definitely paying off – watch this space! | Finally, a simple bouquet of yellow roses given to me by Little Angel – she didn’t forget it was Valentine’s day, unlike somebody’s Stressed Husband. What a lovely week after all!

The New Keep Fit Craze: Piloxing

piloxing

I’ve managed to shock myself by keeping up some sort of regular exercise regime for the past couple of years. Who would have thought? Me, a keep fit convert, who after years of competitive swimming hung up my Speedos at 16 and kept anything remotely exerting as far away from my lounge lizard lifestyle as possible. The only thing I put energy into during my 20′s and 30′s – apart from the whirling dervishes that are my children – was eating. I even managed to earn myself the nickname of ‘Cake Monster’ in my early 20′s but now, as you can see from a couple of my older posts, I’m loving a bit of Zumba and Pilates and now…I’m going potty for Piloxing! Continue reading

Rise of the CC Cream

cream title pic

Remember the big hoo-haa about BB creams last year? I joined in too here, loving the light coverage and hint of a tint from my ‘make-up bestie’ Garnier BB Cream. Throughout the spring and summer it was just enough with the addition of a little concealer, then as winter descended, I blended it with a higher coverage foundation to keep my skin moisturised and protected from the harsh weather.

Well, guess what ladies? Good news is a-coming and it’s time for those baby BB creams to move on over and allow the new and improved, darling of the dream cream team take centre stage – “Taaa-daaaah!”

It’s the new CC Cream. I haven’t tried it yet (it’s on my to buy list – at the top) but as far as makeup artists and beauty aficionados are concerned, it is the Must Have for your make-up bag and the Need to Have for your complexion. Let me show you how excited I am…

Image

I heard a rumour that CC cream was imminent and now, thanks to @GossBeautyStyle on Twitter I’m pleased to find out that the makers of global best selling beauty brand, Rodial have bought out a CC Cream in their reasonably priced Nip + Fab range. It’s the first of its kind to hit the UK stores but a quick trip to Boots shows that L’Oreal Paris Nude Magique CC Cream, £9.99, is hot on its heels and a luxe Chanel version is about to touch down any day now.

Nip and FAB CC Cream

Any male readers may have given up reading this post now they’ve realised that BB and CC doesn’t stand for bra cup sizes – but for those of you still following, you might be interested to know that CC stands for Complete Corrective cream and beauty experts say it delivers more skin nourishing benefits than a BB, as well as more coverage and a higher SPF of 30.

Check out the YouTube clip below featuring application of CC cream to see what you think.

In this video, the young-enough-to-be-my-daughter model has skin to die for even prior to any makeup application but on hearing the make-up artist utter the words ‘young, fresh, glowy skin’ was enough to make me whip out my  CC (credit card!). I may be a sucker for a bit of beauty baloney, but I definitely want to give this a go. Will you try it – or do you think it might be possible that we’ll be forking out for a DD cream next year?

Teenage Beauty

makeup

Imagine the scenario…you’re working hard as a cleaner and you have two young teenage daughters to look after. Your girls moan about not being happy with their looks, so what would you do? As mum of an 18 year old and 12 year old daughter, I’m used to the odd negative comment:  ‘I hate my freckles, my bum looks big, I wish my boobs were bigger…’ These are normal, teenage dilemmas, surely? Well, in today’s issue of The Sun there’s a story about a Colombian cleaner who spent  more than£10,000 on flying her 15 year old daughter to Colombia to have bum and boob implants and liposuction. The youngest daughter had a nose job at 14 and has now also had a buttock implant to give her the shape of her adored idol, ‘bootylicious’ Jennifer Lopez.

jlo free pic

The fact that the mother of these girls is a cleaner and has spent thousands on cosmetic surgery for her teenager daughters is mind boggling enough – surely the money would be better off spent or saved for their education/future rather than lavished on their appearance? But what’s more disturbing than the amount of money spent, is the fact that this mother is actually feeding her children’s insecurities about their looks by allowing their bodies to be cut, nipped and tucked! Most doctors would agree that a woman’s body might not be fully developed until the late teens and early twenties and so cosmetic surgery before this age is definitely not recommended, and wouldn’t be allowed in Britain.

The reason this story made the papers is because, thankfully, this mum’s reaction to her children’s looks is so unusual and extreme – as are those of the fluff-for-brains mums who allow their teens to have botox or their toddlers to have spray tans and wear false eyelashes. Of course, as women, we are aware that the images of perfect, flawless women in films and magazines will have an effect on our girls, so it’s our duty to remind them that most of the glamorous pictures they see are airbrushed and not realistic. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t encourage my girls to make the most of their appearance – even if it’s just trying to prevent Little Angel from leaving the house with un brushed hair and holes in her tights (I don’t always succeed).

To me, it’s common sense that we should instil confidence in our children by telling them they are gorgeous just the way they are and letting them know that looks should come second to a lovely personality and being a good person. But while I’m on the subject of teenagers and their looks, if your daughter is experimenting with makeup and looking more Coco the Clown than Coco Chanel, you might want to invest in makeup guru Bobbi Brown’s Beauty Rules, £17.99. This easy to flick through book is described as ‘a fresh, energetic beauty bible for teenagers and young women’ and I love the way it promotes natural beauty and goes over the makeup basics, showing girls how to achieve a glowing, pretty look to boost their confidence rather than masking their complexion.

Beauty book for young women

The Impossible: A review

The Impossible header

I’m not a film reviewer, but I just had to share my thoughts on The Impossible, the moving and horrific portrayal of one family’s life being torn to shreds by the tsunami that tragically destroyed hundred and thousands of lives in Thailand on Boxing Day 2004.  Directed by JA Bayona (The Orphanage) and starring mum of the family Maria (Naomi Watts), dad  Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three young boys Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) it really earned the ‘will have you on the edge of your seats’ tag that I’ve often read in movie reviews.

At first, I didn’t know whether I should see this film as Queen Teen had warned me “you will love it mum, but you won’t be able to watch because you’ll be crying too much.” Being known to well up with emotion at ‘Animals and Children do The Silliest Things’ type of shows, I thought she might have a point. But I was intrigued and so, Stressed Husband and I went along to Westfields, armed with tissues (and chocolate) and took our places. From the outset of the film I was hooked at the beauty of the lush, calm surroundings of the Orchid Resort in Phuket, Thailand and the friendly, gentle Thai resort staff. This peaceful and relaxed environment was a stark contrast to the violent and belligerent freak of nature that was about to smash these people’s lives upside down.

Once the tsunami had hit, it was the strength of the courage and love between Maria and her son Lucas that was so heart-wrenchingly touching. She didn’t know where her husband and two younger sons were, but she and Lucas hung on to debris together, knowing that they must stay safe for the other. They were all they had now. Watching Lucas – still a boy, but on the cusp of manhood – gritting his teeth to push his injured mum further up a tree to safety was hard to watch without imagining my son in the same position, which opened my flood gates and took at least a few tissues to mop up. Earlier in the film, when Lucas watched his mum being washed past him face down before surfacing and taking a breath which showed him she was alive, he uttered the heartbreaking words “never do that to me again, mum. Never do that.” He thought she was dead and only then did you see him allow the signs of the scared little boy within him peep through.

the-impossible-header-1600

While Maria and Lucas were found and taken to hospital, dad Henry and the other two boys were in turmoil not knowing whether mum and Lucas were alive. Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts are fantastic in their parts as parents thrown into a nightmare situation but the boys are all something else. For such young actors to play incredibly emotional and powerful scenes with such conviction was mind blowing. The tears I cried were also credit to their performances as well as to the tragedy of all of those families whose normal lives were ripped apart that day.

the impossible ewan mcgregor

There was a happy ending in that the family were eventually reunited, and in a tragedy that killed more than 230,000 people, what are the odds of that?

So Queen Teen was right in that I was a bit of a teary wreck after watching The Impossible, but the film also left me feeling more than ever that the bond between a family is amazing. It makes you want to celebrate that our children, husbands and wives are here right now. Today.  Maybe our lives aren’t that exciting, we might moan and bicker about our husbands not putting out the rubbish and snoring or the kids not getting on with their homework, but does it really matter? For a while, after watching this film, you’ll cherish the normality of your own, lovely, family.

Great Dog Walks for Londoners

big dog and little girl

Walkies!

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about how I love my daily dog walk and since then have had a few dog-loving tweeters following me or just checking in to see if I’ve written any other dog-related blogs or tweets. I must admit, I do ramble on a bit about my gorgeous black lab Troy (mostly on Twitter as I’ve been a bit slack on the blogging front, sorry!) But even though I like to upload the odd photo…okay, okay, he’s my screen saver on the laptop, the Mac and my mobile…but I do try not to be as annoying as those new parents with their cringe worthy Facebook statuses like  “ooh, look! Little Jimmy did  his first poo poo in the potty”  complete with pic showing the poo. There will be no doggy do do photos…promise!

But who could resist?

Black Labrador

My gorgeous Troy

But enough about my dog! I wanted to let you know about a great little glossy book that came into my hands from fellow Tweeter and dog lover @walkwithboomer. It’s called Dog Friendly Walks in and around London, walking with Boomerang and it features 12 walks across London ranging from 1 to 8 miles long. What I love about it is the useful information on where you can stop for a drink or bite to eat in pubs and cafes that won’t turn their nose up at a mucky mutt who’s just been splashing in the river. I need this! The times I’ve walked with Troy, heard the call of a lovely glass of cold wine but couldn’t find anywhere suitable to stop with Troy. So, this book is ideal.

Dog walking guide

I can’t wait to try out a few of these walks and if you’re interested in finding out more, you can pick up a copy online from www.bestdogwalksuk.com for £4.99 or email walkwithboomer@gmail.com for more info. So, what are you waiting for? Get that lead out, pull on those wellies and follow that New Year’s Resolution to get fit by walking more…Have fun!

That’s so S.A.D

All of the signs are there: I’m wearing Uggs – my sparkly, much loved Fitflops are now consigned to the ‘shoe-coat jungle’ under the stairs.

My Boy’s cosy, too-big-for-me hoodie has become my new best friend and on my desk sits not the healthy smoothie and salad combi that had become my fave lunchtime nibble for the last few months. No. Today, on my desk is evil personified – a huge bar of chocolate so enticing in its smooth golden wrapper, that I want to shove it down my cake-pipe (as little Angel calls it) and munch until I vomit.

Apart from the comfort food and cosy attire, there are other signs, such as pressing the ignore button on my Blackberry when my phone rings – can’t be bov’d to answer and have a jolly chat. And I’m also finding it impossible not to slope from my work desk to the too-close-to-resist sofa early in the afternoon. So, what are these all signs of? S.A.D – which stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or Shitty And Depressing more like it.

I’ve just returned from a fabulous weekend away to sunny Spain with my sister where we lazed on the beach and drank Sangria…and Cava and beer and wine and…well, we don’t get away together much so we were celebrating! And as I stepped on the plane back to London, I tried to come to terms with the heinous fact that I probably wouldn’t be seeing the sun for at least 6 months, so I’d better find a few ways of coming to terms with it. Here are a few things I’m going to try – if you feel your inner glow disappearing with the sunshine you might like to join me…

  • Hard though it is to resist that coffee that I love, stimulants like tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks can put the adrenal glands (which help you deal with anxiety and stress) on high alert, making you more stressed than before. So, I’m going to cut down my caffeine and try some tasty herb and fruit teas such as Rosehip, high in Vitamin C which is good for the immune system, skin and adrenal function. After the excesses of my Spanish break, It might be worth having a few slugs of Milk Thistle and Dandelion tea as well – it’s a natural liver cleanser.
  • I’d better try to switch that Toblerone for foods rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids such as oily fish, brown rice, Avocados, beans and bananas. These are said to help increase the brain chemical, seratonin which gives you a natural happy high. Then again, don’t panic too much because a couple of pieces of chocolate will also give you a little seratonin fix and release those mood boosting endorphins. But just remember the mantra…a little of what you fancy does you good and don’t O.D on Dairy Milk else you’ll feel sick. And get fat. And that will make you feel even worse!
  • Vitamin D is a feel good nutrient produced in the body by sunlight on the skin. You’ll be hard pressed to get much of that in our British winter, so take a supplement or get your quota through eating fish, eggs and fortified cereal.
  • Even though I feel like a sleepy slug, I know exercise is one of the best ways of feeling and looking good inside and out, so I shall make the most of my canine ‘personal trainer’ Troy – who drags me to the park as fast as he can and helps blow away those doom and gloom cobwebs.
  • I think I’m going to invest in a SAD busting light like one of these which comes on very slowly (imitating sunrise) allowing your body to subconsciously respond to the increased light levels around you so that you wake up feeling refreshed. Supposedly. I’ll let you know when I’ve tried it, but if it’s good enough to help the British Swimming team get into a freezing cold pool to train at 5am, it’s good enough to get me out of my pit to screech at the family.

If you’ve got any tips to make these dark, cold days any more bearable, please do share…just don’t expect me to share my Toblerone. Thanks.

And here’s a show tune to cheer us all up!