October Things

Good lord, what a wash out.  October started fine, but ended with me bedridden for an entire week with a mystery virus which I’m still trying to get over.  Nice.

Little Lord Stinky Butt
Over the course of a few weeks, we’ve had an adorable vulpine visitor to the garden.  He set up house for himself behind our shed, but would come out to stretch his legs and catch some sun every so often.  He didn’t seem fazed by me peering at him as he snuggled up in his temporary den, or by Husband and I taking a million photos.  We think he’s moved on now, but we’ll remember Stinky Butt for a long time (so named because… well…. he smelt quite strongly).

Buffering the Vampire Slayer
I’m trying to remember how I found the Buffering Podcast – I think it was a recommendation on another blog – but however I found it, I am now OBSESSED.  It’s a weekly Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast hosted by real life married couple, Jenny Owen Youngs and Kristin Russo who are just precious!  If that description alone is not enough to get you listening, I don’t know what’s wrong with you to be honest.  They love Cordelia to the same degree I do, give awards for sexual tension of the week, and are people I desperately would love to be friends with.

All this, plus an original song each week – I don’t usually like silly made up songs, but these are slices of genius because Jenny is a brilliant musician.  I’ve bought the albums for season 1 and 2, and will no doubt buy season 3 as well.  All together now – When Daryl was in high school he played football, till he fell from some rocks and died…

Everything Everything
Speaking of music, I have listened to the new Everything Everything album a million times this month.  Can’t Do is a phenomenal song, and it’s firmly placed the band in my top ten bands of all time list.

Glossier
Thank goodness Glossier has finally launched over here, as I was experiencing some serious fomo.  Despite going to NY twice this year, I somehow managed to forget to visit their showroom, so snapped up their phase 1 set and some Cloud Paint on launch day to see what all the fuss was about.  So far, I’m really enjoying their moisturiser and Birthday Balm Dotcom.  Not so keen on the Milky Jelly Cleanser, although that’s mainly because rose scent makes me feel a bit queasy.  I now need to figure out what to try next.

Lurgy
I always boast about how quickly I can bounce back from an illness.  Not this time.  I spent the overwhelming majority of the last week in October under the duvet, only emerging to watch Strictly and The Defenders finale.  The prolonged recovery time has been quite unnerving for me – I know I’ve been run down so that’s probably part of the reason but I’m genuinely not used to being out of action for so long.  Nearly time for our holiday though, so that will give me some more time to get over it.

Touring the South Bank

Two years ago, almost to the day, we went on the most amazing tour of the Southbank Centre.  It involved donning high vis vests to visit closed off spaces and I loved it – an absolute highlight of 2015.  I can’t even remember why I was on the Southbank Centre website a few weeks back, but I noticed that they were advertising more tours and being the efficient nerds we are, Tim and I decided to combine this with a backstage tour of the National Theatre.  What an excellent Saturday.

We met our guide in a very peaceful National Theatre foyer where we were immediately given high vis vests again.  YES!  I now know this to be the hallmark of a brilliant tour.  There were about 10/15 people on the tour, a mixture of ages, quite a few Americans, but a nice respectful bunch who asked (mostly) sensible questions.  After hearing a bit about the history, we were taken into the back of the Olivier theatre, where crew members were going through a tech rehearsal.  I did try to make an effort in listening to the wonderful tour guide as she talked about the drum revolve and the fly tower, but it was so fascinating seeing the action on the stage.

It’s a beautiful theatre and brought back great memories of seeing Everyman there a few years ago.  From the Olivier, we went over to the Lyttelton theatre which was all set up for Jane Eyre.  It’s really odd being in a brightly lit and empty theatre, but you really get to experience the venue, rather than the performance.  We were taken around the back of the stage (where the photo at the top was taken from), saw the props all laid out, costumes hanging up, and a Henry Hoover ready to go. 
From there, we walked down the main ‘road’ behind the stages, visited the carpenters shop, and peered down into the props department from the walkway.  Even though it was a Saturday, staff were still busy at work creating amazing sets and props, including very realistic looking pizza.

The final part of the tour took us through the offices and dressing rooms, where we saw Bryan Cranston’s name on a door, reminding Tim that he has tickets to see Network, and enabling me to snag his spare ticket.  Back to the Olivier I will go in January.
The second tour of the day was the architecture tour of the Southbank Centre, sadly without high vis jacket.  The tour mainly took us around the public areas so it didn’t really add much to the one we did a couple of years ago although we did get to go into the empty Royal Festival Hall where some musicians were hauling instruments on stage for that night’s performance.  What a treat.

I was able to boast about my stay at A Room for London which I am always happy to do for a willing audience (can’t do it enough to be honest) but the rest of the tour wasn’t ‘backstagey’ enough for me.  They do have a bunch more tours scheduled for the rest of the year, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to go on the actual behind the scenes tour.

After we said goodbye to our tour guide, we went back to the National Theatre to try to catch a glimpse of something referenced on our tour.  We were told that the dressing rooms have windows that overlook a private courtyard and on press night, the actors all stand at their windows banged on the glass as part of a longstanding tradition.  According to the guide, you can just about see the courtyard from one of the outdoor terraces.

Off we scampered, and whilst we didn’t find the courtyard, we did find a secluded garden, great views over the south bank (and also people trying to work with two idiots running around outside).  Every time I visit the Southbank, I discover something new.

Richard Ayoade and Adam Buxton

The last week of September was pretty insane.  There were a couple of days where I clocked in 11 hours at work and when I wasn’t in the office, I was asleep.  It always is madness at the start of semester, so goodness knows why I arranged two things to do in London.  I’m clearly a masochist.

The first event was seeing Adam Buxton interviewing Richard Ayoade for a Guardian Live event where they discussed Richard’s new book The Grip of Film by Gordy LaSure.  Richard is a fairly introspective and reticent interviewee, but it feels like Adam and him have a genuine friendship so it made the evening a very intimate and relaxed chat.  I’m a huge fan of Richard’s films

I hadn’t heard of the venue before – the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster, a church-like building with very dramatic mood lighting.  Whilst is was a beautiful looking building, we did suffer from sitting in pews for 90 minutes.  Husband lost feeling in his legs, my butt was in a lot of pain, and Tim’s spine turned into the spine of a much older man.  Pews are not build for comfort.

In those 90 minutes, Richard and Adam chatted about his book, his films, and other random nonsense – fans of Adam’s Podcast would have recognised this as a classic Dr Buckles ramble chat.  There was also a lot of talk about film, and I was pleased to hear Richard’s cinematic journey was much like my own.  He didn’t watch films as a child – neither did I – so hasn’t seen a lot of the ‘classics’ that almost everyone has seen, a good example being Jurassic Park.

There has been a lot of historical Ayoade/Buxton crossover, with episodes of Gadget Man, Travel Man, Adam’s own podcast, and most recently The Crystal Maze so Richard did seem quite comfortable, but he did seem to tense up a bit when it came to the audience Q&A, particularly as the first question was a bit mean spirited for comedic value.  The rest were really good questions however, which I genuinely wasn’t expecting.  The audience clearly had a lot of respect for the talented filmmaker.

And at the end, a bonus book signing which I felt terribly conflicted about.  It was clear Richard wasn’t looking forward to a queue of needy strangers… but I did want my book signed.  I thought long and hard about what to say to him.  As a fellow introvert, I could feel his discomfort and I didn’t want to add to it so simply told him I really enjoyed listening to the talk, and he promised to pass this on to Adam as well.  I couldn’t have empathised with him more.

I’m looking forward to reading his book – his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade was surreally delightful and this one promises the same.  It will have to sustain me until his next outing as a writer or director.

September Things

There has been a distinct lack of posts this month, due to the fact that in my industry, September is crazy times.  That’s not to say it’s been all work and no fun and there were two particularly awesome things I did which I haven’t had a chance to blog about which I’ll briefly mention.

They’re back
As already mentioned, this month is start of academic year madness.  At least we were expecting the madness though – it happens every year so it’s doesn’t take us by surprise.  I did have a last minute meeting at another university which I had to fly to however.  That was definitely unexpected, and involved me getting up at 4.30am, driving to Heathrow for my 7am plane, 4 hours of meeting, then flying home at 8pm.  It felt like a long day, but I did manage to squeeze a facial into the afternoon whilst waiting for my flight home so it wasn’t all bad.

Green hair, do care
I’ve always scoffed at people who accidentally turn their hair green.  I’ve been dying my hair since I was 18 and believed myself to be a bit of an expert.  Which is why it came as a bit of a shock when my hair went from reddy-purple to godawful green a few weekends ago.  That’ll teach me to be smug

Grown-up perfume
I’ve never really worn fragrance, other than the old cliche of Vera Wang on my wedding day, but having experienced Byredo scents in the many Liberty advent calendars over the past few years, I started to become a bit obsessed with them.  I’m a semi-frequent visitor to their counter in Liberty and can never resist a spritz, and fell in love with Velvet Haze when it was released, so my Mum bought me some for my birthday.  My first grown-up perfume.

Richard Ayoade
One of the fun things I managed to do was see Richard Ayoade interviewed by Adam Buxton for Guardian Live.  I’ll be posting about that at some point.

Theatre Nerds Day
The final day of September was spent wandering round the South Bank on two tours – one of the National Theatre, the other of the Soutbank Centre.  Blog post to follow about this as well.

August Things

August is birthday month in the Untold Blisses household.  And what do birthdays mean?  A trip to the…

Celtic Manor!
Our new birthday tradition – a trip to my favourite UK hotel which this year included afternoon tea, a trip to the spa, and much booze.  WIN.

We bought a car
I adore my car.  His name is Kasper and he is my favourite possession.   But he’s getting on a bit, and I feel like he needs to retire to a nice farm in the country, so Husband and I took a trip to the car shop to look for something new.

The new one won’t be here for a couple of months yet so I have plenty of time to find a name for it.  And also to say goodbye to Kasper.  Oh no, I can feel the tears coming already.

Jessica Jones
I have resisted Jessica Jones for such a long time, dismissing it as too similar to Veronica Mars, or too superhero-ey.

I was wrong about that – it’s amazing and there are not enough episodes.  We’ve now moved on to Daredevil to see if that gives me the same feels, after which we’ll get started on The Defenders.

Bicester Village
I do feel bad for Husband this year, as I haven’t really helped him figure out what to get me for my birthday.  We’re both still trying to do this mindful/purposeful shopping thing so he didn’t want to buy me something for the sake of it.  So we took a quick drive up the A34 to Bicester Village to see if anything took my fancy at the Liberty Outlet store.

It turned out to be the quickest visit I’ve ever made as we just dipped into Liberty and Kate Spade, I decided on a Liberty purse, then we were back on our way.  We’re nothing if not efficient.

Much skincare
I’ve talked enough about my first online Sephora order but this month I also managed to scoop up a silly amount of K-Beauty from TK Maxx, and bought the Net A Porter On The Go Beauty Kit which has an awesome amount of fun things to try.  I really do need to start using this all up (what was that I said about mindful shopping?).

Ordering Sephora from the UK

Us UK folk have been able to order Sephora for a while now, but I’ve always resisted.  Sephora has always been a holiday treat for me, since my first trip to America a long time ago (sidebar – my first visit was actually to the UK store on my 18th birthday.  I made my Mum drive me all the way to Bluewater where I spent all of my birthday money.  Why did they leave us?!?!)

After three visits to the USA this year, my Sephora addiction has reached new highs, and the temptation of a birthday gift and 3x Beauty Insider points got to me so I placed my first online order.

It’s made incredibly easy as Sephora use Borderfree, so shipping is only $6 and all the customs and taxes are sorted on purchase – no guessing the upcoming bill or having the parcel held up at the border.  Not only that, but my parcel arrived only 6 days after I ordered, which is faster than I receive most stuff I order in the UK.

As you can see from my photo, my order was largely sheet mask based, but I also picked up two sets – one of the reasons I love Sephora so much as it’s a great way to try products out.  I picked out a Christophe Robin set as I’m trying to convince myself I don’t want to by a full size of the Regenerating Mask (I really do though – it’s so good).  I also picked up a Peter Thomas Roth Cult Classics kit and am already a huge fan of the powder SPF and the cucumber eye patches.

But my experience wasn’t all positive.  That birthday gift I talked about?  Not available to me because I’m in the UK.  I understand that some items are restricted for various reasons, but it’s super sucky that I can’t get my gift!  Not only that, but none of the codes on the beauty offers page worked for me (all restricted), and those 3 free samples they rave about was bloody impossible – 12 to choose from, and only 3 were available to me.  So I ‘chose’ those 3 only for them to ‘forget’ to include them.

When I raised this with them by email, they almost shrugged.  I know it’s only free gifts, but I’ve almost reached VIB Rouge so I kind of expected more.

Still, I’ll carry on enjoying the many sheet masks I bought.  Freebies aside, it was a good experience and I’ll probably end up making another purchase before the end of this year.  Those Peter Thomas Roth eye patches are calling to me already.

Happy birthday in a hot bath

I don’t quite know how I managed it, but I convinced Husband to go to the Celtic Manor for his birthday this year.  We visited a lot last year – it felt like every time they emailed with a special offer, we booked up, and we even spent our anniversary there.  To say I’ve become obsessed is a bit of an understatement.

We had planned to continue the visits this year, but time has got away from us and we found ourselves in August without having made a trip into Wales.  Fortunately, we managed to find some time in amongst Husband’s many overseas business trips and spent another wonderful afternoon, evening, and morning in one of their signature rooms.

You can’t go wrong with a signature room – gorgeous huge bed, marbled bathroom, Elemis toiletries, and turn down service.  I wouldn’t want to stay in any other room.

We booked afternoon tea as treat – another great reason to visit.  Last year, we had winter themed tea, so it was fantastic to try the summer version with inventive and tasty sandwiches, savouries, and cakes.

The Prosecco was an added bonus.

After tea, I managed to fit in a 50 minute Elemis facial at the Forum Spa which came with a shoulder, arm, hand, and scalp massage.  I love the treatment rooms at the Forum Spa as you can truly relax without noise coming from other rooms.

A stay on the signature floor gives you access to a lounge with yet more free Prosecco, and also delicious cocktails like my Raspberry Swizzle.  It was so good, it gave me an instant hangover.

We decided to order in room service because we didn’t feel like putting fancy clothes on, although there are so many restaurants to choose from.  We ate burgers and fries as the sun went down, followed by a lovely bath with the Elemis products, before falling asleep in front of the Hunger Games on TV.  We had a blissful sleep, and woke in plenty of time for the delicious signature breakfast.

And they’ve already sent another discount code for a return stay.  Can’t wait to go back.

Happy (belated) birthday, Mr Jones Watches

For someone with only two wrists, I sure do have a lot of Mr Jones Watches.

I wrote about number one here.

And numbers two and three here.

Covered off four, five, and six on one busy day last year.

Quickly followed up with number seven.

It seems very fitting that 2017 has been the year where I’ve reached number ten as it is also the year of their 10th birthday.  I sadly wasn’t able to make it to their exhibition and birthday party as I was in New York, so I decided to celebrate in my own way – by cracking out the debit card.

Number eight was acquired a few months ago as Husband treated me to a limited edition Dog watch.  I got number 15 (I can’t resist a numbered watch), and I love the super cute strap.  More pink stitching please, Mr Jones!

Number nine was another gift from Husband.  The beautiful Nuage designed by Marion Labbaz is another limited edition which sold really quickly – whilst I was debating whether or not to buy it, Husband visited the shop and picked up number 38 for me.  Nuage has now made it to the permanent collection, but I’m so pleased to have one of the originals.

And ta-da – number ten!  I’ve had my eye on Colour Venn since it was released, and snapped it up in recent 24 hour sale without a second thought.  It’s my current favourite, although the yellow ‘second’ hand is very distracting in meetings.

So happy birthday Mr Jones Watches.  Can’t wait to see what you create next.

July Things

I started July in New York which was as wonderful as ever, continued with two average weeks, and finished with a week alone as Husband is away at a work trip.  He’s off in South Africa seeing giraffes and elephants, whilst I’m sat feeling sorry for myself on the sofa.

Hot, sweaty NYC
New York in the summer is a very different city to New York in winter, but we had an awesome time, as it evidenced by my many blogs on the topic.

Hampton Court Flower Show
Still feeling a bit jet lagged, I went to Hampton Court with my Mum a couple of days after getting back from NY.  Flower of the show this year seemed to be the echinacea which I had just seen on the High Line, so I needed some of those for my garden.  It was insanely hot and really crowded, but we did get to see lots of pretty flowers.  

Netflix
Guys, have you heard of this thing called Netflix?  It’s got TV shows and films… and OK so I’m very behind on this but with Husband away, I got myself a free trial.  I’ve started on Riverdale but have mostly been mainlining How I Met Your Mother.  I am so modern.

Treating myself (after a bit of pain)
I had some additional leave to take at work, so booked in an Elemis facial and Aveda hair cut last week.  Unfortunately, my two days of me time started with a horrific hour in the dentist chair – god lord, I have never experienced anything like it.  And it seemed relentless.  I felt really bad for bursting into sobs as my dentist went into overdrive with apologies, and I did make him feel quite guilty but it was just awful!

Fortunately, the facial and hair cut were 100% less stressful.  Very much needed.

A trip to Bankside
With Husband away, my Mum challenged me to find a nice, reasonably priced hotel in London so we could do a bit of shopping.  I found the Hilton Bankside which was super nice with gorgeous decor, and just behind the Tate Modern which is one of my favourite areas of London.  We spent the afternoon getting absolutely drenched, followed by a relaxing Bobbi Brown make-up lesson at Liberty, and then dinner in the hotel.  If you’re looking for somewhere reasonable to stay in London, I highly recommend it.  

New York in July – the everything else

We did a lot of walking during our 5 days in New York.  A lot.  But that is part of the reason why I enjoy the city so much.  Once you get away from the insanity in Midtown, it becomes an entirely different trip.

There was a bit of shopping – Husband had a spree in Uniqlo 5th Ave, and I spent an hour in Sephora 34th St which was BLISSFUL.  Window shopping was equally as fun, especially down in Greenwich and SoHo.I introduced Husband to Bleecker, although felt a little sad as I had just read a NYT article on how gentrification has devastated the street.  Bit of a downer.

4th July was fun though – a lot of residents had escaped the city to go to the beach, so there were some streets almost devoid of people.  It felt a bit like we had the place to ourselves.

A trip to the Too Cool for School shop ended in frustration as it was closed for the holiday but I felt a bit of deja vu whilst cutting down Jersey Street (above).  Just an average NYC alley, right?  And then I realised where I had seen it – it’s the street where Carrie got mugged.

I am a phenomenal dork.

From here, we wandered around Nolita, visited Le Labo and Grenson.  I was desperate to buy something but nothing grabbed me.  Loved the area though.

Walking around Brooklyn was fun as well, and we got to see Anish Kapoor Descension which made me feel really unnerved.

Just around the corner from the Skylight Diner (and from our hotel), we stumbled across a very polite protest against B&H Photo.  Always fun!

I don’t know when our next visit will be but we added some great standards to our New York routine.  We’ll definitely stay further south and explore more of Brooklyn.

And maybe take the subway a bit more so my feet aren’t left utterly broken.