Sunday Tittle Tattle: Brain Fry

mr bear the british shorthair

I have total brain fry this weekend. I think that trying to find five brilliant bargains for under a fiver (see yesterday’s post) must have exhausted me! But in all seriousness, despite being able to write in reasonably coherent sentences, my grey matter has gone on complete strike. I’ve just spent over an hour writing about it being the start of winter (!) and before that I got frustrated because I couldn’t find any hotels in a country called Hungaria.

Oh dear. I’m taking the rest of the day off. I might try a bit of meditation – the equivalent of a spring clean for the brain, surely? Any recommendations for good iPhone apps? I have tried the Headspace one but didn’t ever get into it properly and I am ridiculously picky about the voices of the people leading the meditation! Not as picky as I am when it comes to audiobooks, but almost…

Interesting fact: when I Googled brain fry, the first result that came up was a recipe. For curried brain. It had a picture with it. The whole experience (possibly because I had been thinking of the human brain when I Googled) made me retch. Turns out the recipe called for mutton brain, not human, but still.

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World Book Day: Some Historical Fiction and a Tudor Rose

world book day tudor books

Now that’s a weird old picture, isn’t it? Sorry Jo Malone London, it does absolutely nothing to show off your splendid perfume packaging! But this post was always going to be more about books than fragrance, so in a way, the rather muddled imagery is quite apt.

It’s World Book Day today. As a voracious reader (I love that phrase, despite its rampant overuse by just about everyone in the world) I thought that I’d recommend some brilliant books. And because I’m so interested in the Tudor era (interested is an understatement: obsessive is probably more accurate) I thought I’d pull out some suggestions for good historical fiction. Books that transport you straight into the stinking, rat-infested streets and the dangerous courts and the boudoirs of trembling Tudor brides. Some of the novels lean towards the “bodice-ripping” genre, others are long-haul reads that take a lot of thought and close attention: all of them are absolute page-turners. Here’s my shortlist of favourites:

Philippa Gregory‘s The Other Boleyn Girl, and pretty much every one of her Tudor novels since. (I see that there’s a new one out next week, The King’s Curse: I already have it on pre-order! You can get it here.) What I like about Philippa Gregory is that she writes from the perspective of female historical figures, and there is quite a lot of allowable poetic licence when you write about the ladies. Often there was very little recorded about these women and certainly not a lot was known about their personal feelings or inner lives; it means that Gregory almost has carte blanche when it comes to creating and embellishing her characters’ lives. She’s been publishing bestselling Tudor novels for years now, and I have to admit that some of them can be a bit formulaic, but I still look forward to every new release. Find her books here.

More book recommendations….

CJ Sansom‘s Dissolution and the five Tudor novels that follow: absolutely unputdownable. Actually the first novel, Dissolution, was my least favourite – books two and five were my most – but it must have been good enough for me to want to read the rest, so don’t let my opinion put you off. Sansom’s novels follow a lawyer, Shardlake, as he gets himself embroiled in terrible murderer-hunts and dangerous political affairs. The activities of King Henry VIII act as a kind of rich historical backdrop for these thrilling “whodunnits” and the books span a great number of years, so you start off in the Anne Boleyn period and end up, by the end of the sixth book, with a dead King. (No spoiler alert necessary, we all know that he died. He’d be bloody old if he hadn’t…) I most highly recommend the Shardlake books – you can find them all on Amazon here.

Hilary Mantel‘s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. When I mentioned long-haul reads, it was these I was referring to. I did my MA dissertation on them and boy, are they dense! But after all of the Tudor fiction that’s been churned out over the past few decades, Mantel’s writing is a breath of fresh air; she makes the whole era seem new and almost unfamiliar. Cromwell is an interesting choice in terms of narrative perspective – widely considered to be a total monster and completely unpalatable – but Mantel brings you round to his side, you find yourself championing him. The writing is beautiful, the dialogue sharp, the historical detail breathtaking… You can find Mantel’s novels here. The third book in the Cromwell series is due this year.

There are other series – Diane Haeger’s, for example – but the above are my favourite. Antonia Fraser’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII is something of a must if you’re a Tudor Fanatic, find it here, but it’s biographical rather than fictional and much more fact-heavy. Talking of Tudor Fanatics: I’m about to shoehorn in a fragrance review!

tudor rose and amber cologne review

These little beauties are from Jo Malone’s new Rock the Ages collection: Geranium & Verbena Cologne and then – this is where the tenuous link is! – the gorgeous Tudor Rose and Amber. Obviously I grabbed the Tudor Rose straight away, pleading with the big man in the sky that it wouldn’t have undertones of Clove, Dung, Parchment or Leather Breeches. Not to worry; it’s actually quite a clean-smelling rose, clean with hints of danger. There is clove, but I don’t really get much of a hit – it’s more the warm amber and then something a bit musky and spicy.

More rose-scented things…

It’s very nicely layered-up, this cologne; like a freshly-powdered lady on the surface, all rosy and neat, but one who’s hiding some secret under her many skirts. Maybe a man, with a machete, or some kind of precious manuscript. Let’s be honest, they could have hidden anything up those dresses…

The Geranium and Verbena is also great- very Springtime, very green, but I’ll be back with more on that one soon. In the meantime, you can find all of the Rock the Ages colognes at JohnLewis.com here – they cost £42 each.

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Beauty Stuff I’ve Managed to Finish… (AKA The “Empties” Video)

empties video

I love finishing stuff off. It gives me a real sense of achievement, which is…sad. Oh well! I’ve been saving up my empty bottles and tubes ready to do a series of little mini-reviews on the products, and it’s all recorded in the video below. There’s a lot of hair stuff, which is largely because I’m quite good at sticking to the same shampoo and conditioner until I finish it off. At least the same two or three varieties – I have them on the side of the bath or in the shower and kind of use them on rotation until they’re done with. Though I always have my gargantuan litre bottles of Philip Kingsley’s “Flaky Itchy” shampoo and “No Scent No Colour” conditioner too, because they are my staples… When it comes to skincare and makeup I chop and change a lot and I’m always testing out something new, so “empties” are a rarer sight.

Have a little watch of the video – you’ll see a couple of things that I’ve mentioned before, and a really really old body serum from Murad that I’ve been meaning to put in a video for years. I think I finished the tube in 2012… It is supposed to be paired with a cream, but I finished that even more years ago. At any rate, I liked both products very much. I’m not convinced by cellulite or slimming creams, but I did see a noticeable difference in how my skin looked, and it seemed smoother and less dimply on the surface. I just did a little search online and you can get the Murad duo at a reduced price at the moment on LookFantastic  here – it’s £32.75 instead of £60 for both products.

Products Finished:

ARGH! That Oribe masque is SO expensive. Sorry, didn’t realise – would have said in video if I had known! You’d think it was made of actual gold. Maybe it is…

Una Brennan Superfacialist Rose Oil: http://tidd.ly/5eefc7a2

Institut Esthederm Hydra System Aqua Diffusion Care: http://tidd.ly/15033ce2

Chanel La Nuit Serum: http://tidd.ly/dc35ea02

This Works In Transit Spray-On Moisture:

Murad Serum and Cream – is actually reduced at the moment to nearly half price! http://tidd.ly/80f33122

Colour Wow Colour Security Shampoo: http://rstyle.me/n/xi2g8t6a6

L’Oreal Paris Ever Riche: http://goo.gl/AFdbEo

Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo and Conditioner: http://goo.gl/hbo81k

Oribe Gold Lust Masque – http://goo.gl/EfEr7f

Colab Sheer Invisible Dry Shampoo: http://rstyle.me/n/vep3yt6a6

Makeup in video: Clinique Beyond Perfection Foundation in 02, Chanel Tisse Mademoiselle Eye Quad, Delilah Eyeliner in Twig, Clinique Feathering Mascara, Zelens Lip Balm, Chanel Les Beiges 30, Clinique Bronzer in 02.

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Top Maman – Nestlé

Teaser – Top Maman – Nestlé Préparation pour gâteaux 01 – Six mamans devront cuisiner de délicieux gâteaux au chocolat, à l’aide des préparations pour gâteaux au bon chocolat Nestlé Dessert® : Moelleux au chocolat, cookies aux pépites de chocolat, fondant… Elles devront également relever des défis plus fous les uns que les autres. Entrez dans l’aventure gourmande Top maman !