Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Search for the Holy Grail...

Or otherwise known as the Quest for a Flat Stomach.

I know this particular phenomenon exists as I used to have one. It was way back in my 20’s and I completely took it for granted. In fact if anything it was a bit of a hindrance. Models were still a respectable size then – Cindy Crawford had the body every one aspired to – and the smallest size than most fashion shops stocked was a size 10. Only in the deep dark recesses of places like Marks and Spencer and Wallis could you find a size 8; and then it was probably in clothes even your mother would think twice about wearing. So I hid my beautiful stomach in baggy jeans pulled in tight at the waist, (in homage to my style sisters Banarama) and envied the larger girls and their vast choice of clothes. Oh how time and society has changed. Now I am a size 10, I find myself furtively searching to the back of each rail whilst the size 4’s and 6’s stare mockingly at me from the front.

So what happened to my lovely abs? Well falling pregnant in my early 30’s didn’t help. This however gave my slim self no immediate concern. I treated my vastly expanding stomach as a thing of amusement, confident that I would snap back into shape once the baby was born.                

The worry started shortly after the birth. I distinctly remember lying in my hospital bed the day after Mini-Me arrived, poking my flabby stomach and asking the nurse why it hadn’t disappeared. “You still look pregnant” my brother in law said when he came to visit. I wanted to kill him.

As soon as I was able I joined the gym and set about transforming my shape. The gym had a crèche and to quickly identify mothers, should they need them in an emergency, special wrist bands were handed out. I wore mine with pride as it told the world that I wasn’t really fat I had just had a baby – the perfect excuse. Late nights, the stress of motherhood and a return to work full time soon had me abandoning my gym visits but I still used my pregnancy as the reason for my shape. I knew my luck had run out though when I was talking to a client at work and we were discussing our expanding waistlines; strange I know but a common topic amongst women.

“How old is your baby?” the lady asked,

“Eight” I replied.

“Oh eight months, what a lovely age,” she beamed “Is she sitting up yet?”

“Err… actually, eight years” I mumbled –at least I did have the decency to blush!

So now I think I have to accept the fact that my expanding stomach is more to do with my age and the copious amounts of wine and chocolate I consume rather than my dim and distant pregnancy.

So what have I tried?

  1. Pilates. Very boring.No music.
  1. Running. I bought a treadmill specifically for this purpose and set it up in the garage with a TV and DVD player to keep me entertained. I think they’re still there, I haven’t been in for a while.
  1. Personal trainer who I used to meet at the back of a Supermarket car park. Very expensive and the humiliation of being sweaty and red faced in full view of the general public became too much to bear.
  1. The Thing We don’t Talk About. (It involved a garlic enema and that’s about all I can say).
  1. Gillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD. This actually has a glimmer of hope to it. I will report back once the full programme has been completed.
So my quest continues although I have slowly started to accept that I may not be able to return to the full glory of my former self. That said, my holiday is only 4 months away and the thought of a bikini may keep me going a little while longer!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Let Them Eat Cake...

I used to smoke. It was the eighties and everyone smoked and they did it everywhere. I smoked at work, in the pub even in a restaurant after a meal and no one minded because it was socially acceptable.

When the anti smoking campaign kicked in, I had absolutely no objection as it has been proved beyond any doubt that smoking is bad for you. It can in fact kill you, which if you think about it is the worst kind of bad for you that you can get.

What I do object to however, is applying the same kind of censorship to other areas which are not so black and white in terms of their effects on your health.

Take cake for example. I love cake. Granted it is not the best provider of nutrition that will pass your lips. It has a calorific content off the scale and more teaspoons of sugar than, well, something with lots of sugar, but I still love it. Women for centuries have baked cakes for their families; countless hours have been spent consuming it with cups of tea; English fetes award prizes for the best examples of it. It is a national heritage but no, it seems the health do gooders are trying to do to cake what they did to smoking – banish it from the face of the planet. And how do I know this? Because eating cake is starting to become socially unacceptable.

I have lost count of the number of people who tell me with some glee how bad for me it is as I about to impart a small morsel into my mouth. These are usually the same people who pick at a salad at lunch time pretending they are enjoying it and then eat a multi grain flapjack for afters. I bet they have good toilet habits.

I can actually feel the disapproving stares from other customers when I order cake for dessert in a restaurant as a ripple of disgust, or is that envy, washes around the room,

“Have you seen what she’s eating?”

Even the old office ritual of bringing in cake for birthdays is not what it was.

“Better not,” most say tapping their stomachs in a virtuous way.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind it if people don’t want to eat cake I just mind it when they don’t want me to.

So does eating cake make me a bad person? No, because like everything else, I do it in moderation and that after all is a much better approach to life.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Clever Storage and Reclaiming the Dining Room...

I dream of having the stylish interiors I see in Living Etc. I am often found pouring over a homes magazine or one of Kelly Hoppen’s latest books, obligatory glass of wine in hand visualising new interiors - all white and glass with the odd piece of natural wood thrown in for good measure. Clean simple lines with a random ornament here and there for effect. Possibly even lit with a low energy mood changing bulb and a lightly scented Jo Malone candle burning in the background…

But in reality it looks nothing like this. Our house looks like the aftermath of a particularly energetic robbery. There are things everywhere.

After a brief tidying up session in the dining room last week, Mini-Me had already re-infiltrated the space with her vast array of Sylvanian Families. Three more families had recently joined the ever expanding brood; a brood that had taken to camping at the end of the dining room, settling like a mini travelling community. They’d even got the caravan. And I don’t think an injunction served by the local council was going to get them shifted.

Word Was Getting Round About a Great New Camp ...

Is it possible then to mix normal family life with a designer interior?

My epiphany moment came when I realised that things don’t get put away in our house because they have nowhere to go. It appeared that the answer to my tidying woes lay in clever storage. (Have you noticed how editors always apply completely inappropriate adjectives; what exactly makes storage clever?) One magazine I saw recently claimed to have storage solutions to get your heart racing. I knew exactly what they meant.

Armed with a tape measure and an unwilling Husband, I set about marking out the room and making a list of all the items that needed to be found a home.

It seemed that we needed the equivalent of Dr Who’s tardis to house all of the items I was planning to buy a cupboard for. How come we never have anything to watch when at the last count we had over 300 DVDs? I also discovered CDs still wrapped in their cellophane, 4 old Next Directories and chargers for mobile phones I hadn’t seen since the last century. Still undeterred, we made a quick pilgrimage to Ikea and soon spied some full height white gloss monsters with hidden door handles. Perfect.

These have now been strategically placed around the dining room and lo and behold they actually do exactly what we wanted. By positioning shelves at the right heights for each item we have managed to cram in an enormous amount of possessions in a relatively small space. And nothing got broken in the move. Although we did have one hairy moment when Mini-Me was waving around The Husband’s prized vinyl collection asking “What are these black circles with the holes in for?” Who said having children keeps you young, although I suspect The Husband hasn’t moved that fast since his 3rd year Sports Day.

So now everything can be neatly stored away in its proper place, will this make us tidy? Probably not but at least I can get to the back of the dining room without feeling like I’m reliving Gulliver’s Travels.

Just the rest of the house to go….

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Clarisonic Facial Brush and a Marketing Dream...

I am a marketer’s delight – the person that advertising agencies dream of. The one they have in mind as they sit around their white boards designing their next campaigns.

Why? Because I believe.

I believe that the latest shampoo/moisturiser/makeup range is the one that I cannot continue to live without; the one that once mine will enhance my life beyond its current dull existence.

Put these ads into a magazine and I believe them even more. A beauty editor’s write up is likely to have me scampering off to the shops, money in hand before I get to the end of the copy. Every year I pore over Instyle magazine’s beauty awards, checking off what I already own and making a mental list to purchase those I have yet to try out.

And whilst I’m old enough and wise enough to know that most claims do not live up to my expectations, I still continue my pursuit for the next miracle product.

So when beauty editors started to rave about a new face brush, I got the familiar urge to buy.

The Clarisonic is a new sonic facial brush that uses the same technology as a toothbrush to give your face a deep clean. It promises smooth, soft, clear skin. Not only that but I am informed that with all of the gunk removed from my delicate pores they will not only shrink into virtual non existence but will allow all of the expensive creams that I own to work much better. Wow! Sounded too good to be true.
The first major downside came with the price. At £155 this is an expensive replacement for a face flannel. But I am assured that the product is worth it. One editor’s husband apparently asking her how she had managed to put her make up on when he had just seen her leave the shower.

Luckily I had some money from my birthday so justifying the price was not a major issue. And anyway, wouldn’t this actually be saving money given that I would never again require a facial?

When the box arrived in the post, it contained some products (cleansers, moisturisers etc) that I immediately consigned to the bin and the brush itself, along with a couple of additional heads. The second downside which I hadn’t considered was that the brush head would need changing every month or so. At around £20 for a replacement head, this was beginning to become very expensive indeed.

The brush itself is quite large – larger than I had anticipated given that it needs to fit into the contours of your face. You can it seems take the outer bristles off to enable the brush to fit more snugly around your nose but to be honest I can’t see myself messing about with that every morning.

The controls are easy to use given that you just press start and the brush starts to rotate. You use it on your forehead first for 20 seconds, then you nose and chin for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds on each cheek – the brush beeps handily at each interval to let you know when to move on. Irritatingly though all of the controls are on the beep so you need a degree in Morse code to work out what each beep means. At one point, two weeks into use, I thought the brush had broken as it suddenly stopped working. Apparently the increasing number of beeps it had steadily emitted throughout the last few sessions were its way of telling me it needed charging!

The big question is though does it work? Well I can say that if I look really hard my pores are a tiny bit smaller and a couple of people at work have commented that my skin is glowing. I suspect though that this is more to do with following a routine – the brush is too expensive to justify missing a twice daily cleansing session – than the brush itself.

What it does give you is a feeling that your skin is clean as the brush is extremely satisfying to use.Like using its sister the sonic toothbrush you do get the impression that you are getting a really deep clean.

Would I recommend it? If you love gadgets and have £155 to spare then give it a go – there are plenty of rave reviews across the internet to justify a purchase. Personally I think Liz Earle’s cleanser and hot muslin cloth do as good as job.

But I can’t stop, I’ve just heard about a new eye cream that will take 10 years off me…

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Today I'm Loving...Shu Uemura Essence Absolue

  1. Is your hair dry and prone to breakages?
  2. Has it lost its shine? 
  3. Do you struggle to pull your brush through the tangles?
  4. Have you got a spare £39.50?
  5. Do you want to look like Jennifer Aniston?

Well ok it is expensive but if you answered yes to the others you are in desperate need of Shu Uemera Essence Absolue.

Traditionally the Geishas of Japan tended their hair with rich Camellia Oil to keep it soft supple and shiny. Shu Uemera have captured this oil into a treatment that nourishes and protects hair.

It can be used after shampoo and conditioner to protect your hair through styling and then as a finisher when hair is dry to soften and treat. This combined with my Babyliss Big Hair has given me soft silky hair with a great shine. It smells lovely too.

Don't use it at the roots though unless your want your newly coiffed locks to instantly resemble the bottom of a chip pan.

Chris McMillan, hairdresser and friend of Jennifer Aniston uses it on her hair to add gloss and texture at the ends and to give a smooth finish to her blowdry.

Hair like Miss Aniston's for under £40.


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