Jodie Gets a Life. January 2019. Going Kayaking.

The fact that I wanted to go Kayaking in January, either makes me a genius, an idiot or perhaps somewhere in-between.

I was initially joined on this new adventure by my sister Anna, who after agreeing to do it, since she’s the “outdoorsy one” of the family, even though at time regretted that decision. I mean who wants to do Kayaking in the cold? Well, I do, and did, after all, how can I change my so-called life if I don’t get out of my comfort zone and do new things?

A google search led to me to New Forest Activities https://www.newforestactivities.co.uk/

Since that was where we were headed for a girls weekend, and it seemed more exciting than any location in London. No disrespect to London, but it’s London, this was my chance to kayak in a place, where I lived locally for four years, in Winchester, but never went to the New Forest.

£20 for two hours in the Kayak seemed like a good deal to me. Then it came down to what to wear, the website said, and I even emailed them to clarify. Bring a towel, change of clothes, things you don’t mind getting muddy in, a good waterproof coat, and all that, and of course gloves and hats. I forgot the latter!

I wore my hiking shoes, my oldest jeans, a simple top and when it came to the coat since I wasn’t about to buy a new one, I found one in my wardrobe, and I have no idea when I got it, or how long I’ve had it.

I booked it, all booked and we were going.

So here we were on a crisp Saturday afternoon, in the New Forest on our merry way,

After a bit of a journey to get there, this place isn’t hard to find, but it’s well hidden, we were at our destination, and met Daisy, our instructor. First impressions of the area, it’s well designed, a little bit rustic, and they have archery there too.

 

It reminded me of a scout hut, and that’s when we found out that only Anna and I would be doing the class that day because of everyone else was smart enough not to go Kayaking in January with the threat of rain.

This was when the day took an interesting turn when Kay decided she also wanted to do it. My elder sister, nine years older than me who had never Kayaked in her life, currently wearing brand new trainers,  who was only there because she planned to go for a walk while we were on the river wanted to join us.

I quickly paid for her before she could change her mind, and got a bit of a thrill because since I booked it, I was the one who had to sign the waiver, in case anything happened. It’s the little things in life, but I’m the youngest, so any time I can assert authority over my siblings is life’s bonus.

Everything sorted, we are suited and booted in the safety gear, and we go down to out Kayaks, being instructed to take them down to the river ourselves, were seated, had the water guard placed over ourselves were pushed into the water, and then we were taught how to Kayak.

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In the background, my sisters Kay and Anna and the instructor Daisy

Full respect to Daisy, she instructed us beautifully at how to hold the paddles, to steer, turn round and be able to support ourselves in the water…and I forgot everything the moment she said it. Thankfully my sisters are more attentive, and since they were copying Daisy, and I was behind, so I just copied them

 

In hindsight, since they’re both lefthanded (i’m not), maybe I shouldn’t but I really don’t think it mattered, because I was kayaking, and trying not to run into them on the Kayak, it happened more than once.

On the river, which wasn’t vast, but as you can see by the pictures, it was impressive as if it showed all the dimensions of nature.  The only things on the river were some small boats, and we were surrounded by some really stunning mansions, including one with was shaped like a musical treble cleft! One which we could almost envision Mr Darcy, walking out of the River towards Pemberley. Which since Jane Austen was born in Steventon in Hampshire may have a grain of truth to it. These houses were worth millions and so stunning, and yes I do now dream of owning one.

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What made the day more magical, aside from Daisy, who really knew her stuff as she gave us the history of the river and its occupants, she was careful to tell us to pull back when the weather got too intense and brought hot chocolate.

It was that in the two hours we never saw another human being. It was as if the whole world fell silent, and it was just us. As I’ve previously said, I love my sisters (and brother), but it’s rare that we have a moment like this, since this is something we have never done before.

Another thing to note is that Beaulieu river, is just so beautiful, with so much nature, marshland and it really is an unspoilt part of the countryside.

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As I said before, I’ve never Kayaked in my life, so I was surprised at how confident I became doing it, it was that good of a day, and it only started to rain five minutes before it ended, which came about far too quickly. There was something just so tranquil about just you, your kayak and the river.

The two hours went by too fast, and as we finished and carried our Kayaks back. Our arms which we were expecting to be knackered were fine, we were all relaxed and refreshed, and all happy we did it.

So, if you want to Kayak, or do Archery or the other myriad of other activities, yes, I recommend this company in the New Forest. It’s worth the money, Daisy is an amazing instructor and you just won’t regret it. It’s always fun to try new things after all.

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January. Walking 150 Miles in a Month.

I’m blaming Race at Your Pace for this one, ever since they announced the incentive for getting a medal a month, and then the final 13th Medal, which will tally it up for the year. This also means that I have to top the 1,767.24 miles I acquired last year. That being said, my Fitbit awarded me with the Japan Badge the other day. In the past year, I’ve hypothetically walked around Japan, which is my dream, which never came true. My Fitbit hates me.

https://www.raceatyourpace.co.uk/

Walking 10’000 steps a day for a new year’s resolution. I must have been insane, this is the month for sitting in bed and doing nothing, especially on my days off. At work, it’s easy to get my step count in, I even make 3000 steps before I ever get to work.

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Walking in Winter is not fun

Days off though, I have to get more creative, which this month aside from a trip to the New Forest, was just walking in my local area. I was using the green part in my garden to get the final steps in, but my brother and his wife have a boxer, called Paddy, (rescue dog, he came with the name) and they stayed over…all I can say is thanks, bro!

The issue with walking in January is that it’s so bloody dark, the air is damp, and it’s miserable. Right now, I’m seeing it as more of a chore instead of anything worthwhile. No point in going anywhere, when the sun sets at four.

I guess since I persevered this month, that has to count for something? And I did beat “Quitters Day”, which is the 12th January. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/quitters-day-new-years-resolutions-give-up-fail-today-a8155386.html

I love that there is a Quitters Day, really, I do. Unlike all the adverts, the “May this year be the best you resolutions” it’s more “May the odds be ever in your favour”. This hasn’t impacted my diet that much since I have loads of chocolate left over from Christmas. However this month is so cold, the only thing keeping me going is coffee, chocolate and my usual amount of sarcasm.

I even looked up ways to cheat on the Fitbit, which I didn’t do, but people really put their Fitbits in their tumble dryers. Seriously, at least I haven’t done that.

The worst thing about walking in January, is the introspection, after Christmas and New Year, the come down from the bright lights and being with family, is just depressing. Even with walks, I’ve done are usually done in more beautiful places than Hayes Park and Botwell Common, typically somewhere in the country, some little croft, or historical area. The type of place where if it snows looks pretty, and serene.

However, I am pleased I got this far, and I think I’ve become addicted to the vibration on my wrist, just to let me know I’ve done the steps. Yeah, I am pleased I haven’t lost my motivation, even though it’s hard to find someday.

 

The only time in the entire month, which felt like an adventure was the trip to the New Forest, as mentioned in my next post about kayaking. It really is strange that in all the years I lived in Winchester I never visited the New Forest because it was marvellous.

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The house we were staying in was on the estate, and there were New Forest Ponies outside our door just grazing. On the Sunday Kay, Anna and I went for a 5k long walk, and just enjoyed the beauty of the area, even though we were by the main road, we were also so isolated that it felt private.

At times when we were walking, the Ponies were standing to attention at the side of the path like the Riders of Rohan! It was nice to end the month doing and seeing something so beautiful.

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New Forest Ponies, they were amazing

There is something magical about the New Forest that even with the main roads not too far away, it was still tranquil, and once again the Ponies, the five-year-old in me geeked out when I saw them. Also, the land is owned by Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, but could walk anywhere we wanted unless it was someone’s property, so had free reign to explore.

Getting home was a bit of a culture shock after such a great, tranquil and quiet weekend, and that is when the snow decided to arrive. Thank you for that, mother nature.

So, I’m ending my walking month on a wet note. But that being said as my first medal has arrived and I’m now signed up for February, was it worth it?

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My first medal of the year

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It was worth it. Bring on Feb

Oh yes, now to February and my new 150 medal challenge.

Walking evidence

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Superdrug Mix and Fizz Expresso Martini Coffee Body Scrub…is Terrible

I don’t often do this, in fact, this is the first, so this is perhaps a warning. This is a cautionary tale of a woman who put her faith, in a long-standing pharmacy chain, and had it all turned to ruins.

Please see this as a review, and some advice about a product I tried last week from Superdrug, which has now been discontinued, pretty much the day after I used it. Ah hindsight is a beautiful thing

I guess it all started with a bath mat, not the most interesting of openings, then again, a certain famous book begins “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” so perhaps I’m in good company!

Now even though I have more beauty products that Boots, and now am on a product ban until I use them up, I decided to make a rare exception, since I love Superdrug’s own brand of products, and in all the years they’ve never let me down. The vitamin E body cream is a must-have. But I digress,

Let’s talk about the bath mat, being a shower type of person, I noticed that my size seven, one full of metal and as my sister Anna would so eloquently put “Mangled”, foot (which is true), after standing on an old bath mat, it was apparent that I had to get a new one.

Which led me to Wilco and a really nice, soft plastic one, the old one thrown in the recycling, since I do care about the planet after all.

The stage is set, my pristine white bathroom, and my new bathmat.

https://www.wilko.com/en-uk/wilko-comfort-bath-mat-white/p/0426380

A week later, I decided to have a shower, something I do every two days. Unlike my sisters who are the type to raise early, shower, straighten their hair, be super organised and leave. No doubt accompanied by birdsong, I’m the opposite, more like wake up, move fast and get the hell out.

However, my shower rituals, I’m precise, it has to be an event, a celebration in relaxation. So, face masks, hair masks, body scrubs, and that little bit of luxury. I’m pleased to say I have the skin density of someone younger than me.

Though when I go to events, occasionally they try to con me with the “Well this is good, and this is good, but this bit here needs this Serum which costs £49.99, the soul of the unborn and the keys to your car”.

Never fallen for it yet, yet the eager sale pitch amuses me.

So here I was, face mask from Lush, and the Superdrug Mix and Fizz Expresso Martini Coffee Body Scrub. A new pick up from Superdrug, a shop I usually love because it’s economical and up until this point I had never brought something terrible.

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It looks so good like this 

Perhaps my adoration for Lush’s Cup O’ Coffee inspired this. Better still it was on sale at £1.75 opposed to £6.00, in the Christmas sales rack, a bargain so I thought.

Standing in the shower, my skin damp from the water, I ripped open the packet, and found that it was coffee, just coffee grains, as in “Does anyone want a cup of coffee?”

Coming to the conclusion that appearances can be deceptive if Lush has taught me anything, I applied it…and it did nothing. I scrubbed it all over my body, and rinsed off, to find that out that it really was just coffee.

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It looks like Coffee!

There was no magical ingredient, nothing to exfoliate and dissolve, leaving my skin refreshed and pleasant. Also no hint of the Martini in the products title.

It was just coffee grounds, I had rubbed coffee grounds onto my skin, which wasn’t dissolving correctly admits the muddy pile at my feet.

Superdrug, since this is their own brand, pretty much poured Nescafé into a bag and resold it.

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Coffee, anyone

Personally, I think it’s a little bit on the nose that a woman with Brazilian heritage and whose last name happens to be the language she has never spoken was standing in the shower covered in coffee! If this was a tradition in Brazil, at least I was acknowledging my long-lost cultural heritage, but it isn’t.

Oh, and then it gets worse since maybe because I wasn’t showering with milk and sugar, it wouldn’t dissolve. I had to scrub this off my skin, leaving the debris field in my shower, grains and dregs of undissolved coffee, which really does stick to every surface.

Finally, I managed to get it all off, even though the scrub did nothing for my skin, I had to scrub the bath to make sure it didn’t stain, and then I saw the bath mat, my beautiful bath mat ruined. This is not mentioned on the packet at all, that this is possible. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have brought it in the first place.

Thankfully, since I looked it up on the website, within 24 hours, it was discontinued, and the only review mentioned that it dyed her skin, which thankfully that didn’t happen to me.

My bathmat is wreaked

As the product is now discontinued online, there is still a possibility, it can be found on the shelves,

This is a warning, don’t buy it, just leave it. If you already have one, get rid of it, bin it or drink it…after the tide pod challenge, anything is possible if your so inclined and an absolute Muppet!

This Coffee scrub did nothing for me aside from ruing my things, and if you see it on the shelves just walk away.

So, in summery, Superdrug, it’s a shame that finally one product from your own range had let me down like this, it’s a shame. Because if I wanted coffee, I’d just make it myself.

Price. £1.75 reduced from £6.00

Recommended. Are you out of your mind?

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Confessions of a Part Time Lushie!

I think it’s safe to say, that I am now a “Lushie”, now I can afford it, I am a devotee of Lush, and think it’s my mission in life to try all of the facemasks. According to the website barring the jelly masks and the combined body and face masks, there are ten to try, and I want to try them all.

But I want to do the five products, and get a free one… it’s a reward for trying new things. Though if Lush saw this, and sent me all of them to try and review for nothing I would love them for the rest of my life. I really would, and this is coming from the Lushie, who’s never brought a bath bomb!

My previous review is the five products I tried to get the free mask, which of writing this I still haven’t got because I don’t live near a Lush store. I live in hope one will be opened nearer to me, but until then, there is Windsor, Westfield and Oxford Street.

I did say in my last post that I wouldn’t be buying any products until the ones I have are gone. But Lush is vegan, good for the environment and do so much for charity. They are my exception to the rule. But I wanted to review the second batch as I went, because, two of them are seasonal and I was just in the mood. So here we go.

Lush Butterbear Jelly

Price: £3.95

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I have become a devotee of the Lush Jellies because they are so economical, last ages and makes your skin feel amazing. This is smaller than most, so I am pleased to see that this is reflected in the price, even if first impressions gave it a slight disembodied look.

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It was shame, he was a brave lad!

As mentioned previously I have sensitive skin, and at this time of year, it does need a bit more love. I was pleased to say that it left my skin feeling amazing, but the smell of Cocoa just didn’t last more than a few showers and just felt rubbery over my skin. The head detached from the body on the second wash, and though affordable I didn’t feel like this was value for the money. I wouldn’t have minded paying full price for an actual shower jelly, as I felt this was a bit too gummy for my liking.

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Its really is a shame, since I usually love the combination of Fair-Trade Organic Cocoa Butter and Ylang Ylang Oil but not this time

Also compared to the more solid jellies, it didn’t last as long. I know that it could be down to the size of the product, but it just felt like it was disintegrating in my hands. It was nice, but zero consistency, since the previous jellies have lasted up to a month, and these lasted me about a week.

One I’m glad I tried, but not one I’m using in the future. But it makes for a nice stocking filler at Christmas, which I suspect is the intended idea.

 

Sympathy for the Skin Hand and Body Lotion

Price: £7.50 for 100g

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What I love about this one, is that it is light, unlike some which are so overpowering you can only use at night before you sleep, this can be used all the time. The universality of this, I love already.

I have noticed that cocoa butter does seem to be in everything and I am not complaining. It was good enough for the Mayans; it’s good enough for this Londoner. I was also intrigued about trying this because all of the ingredients, from the almond oil, vanilla oil and the resulting scent could be overpowering.

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But this was gentle, smelled amazing and lasted for ages. My skin just loved it, it caused no irritation and also was one of the most economical of all the products I’ve tried. The light texture of the cream made it last longer than most from Lush. Also, one thing I noticed was the addition of sandalwood oil, which on the skin can prevent ageing, and my skin does feel better from using this.

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I can’t speak for anyone else, but even though Lush’s use by date is debatable, this is stated to last a year. Please get this one, I’m trying new things, and this is one I already plan to buy again.

Cup O’ Coffee Face and Body Mask

Price £8.50

I do not know how I could function through winter without this, though I’m a shift worker sometimes I start work before the sun rises and finish when it sets. I do not see daylight in-between (unless I’m on my break).

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Quite funny for someone’s who’s practically allergic to summer, is that I hate winter. I love Christmas and my birthday but hate the dark seasons. I have to drink coffee to function, and now I’m using it to function.

The thing is though, I’m not using it on my body, because like the Mask of Magnaminty, I want this to last.

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After smoothing a generous layer on your face (or body), all you have to do is wait for about 10-15 minutes and then shower it away. And it leaves the skin feeling exfoliated, refreshed and all the debris from winter is just pulled out of the face giving it a tingly and delighted feeling.

Definitely down to the ingredients as listed below but you can smell the organic agave syrup, the vanilla extract, which give it the healing feeling, and of course the coffee. The mask is rough, just to keep the coffee grounds intact, but which makes it last longer and come alive on dry skin. This is one which can be used every day, not to give your body but also your mind a jolt.

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I absolutely love it, and I love that it lasts for ages.

This is recommended for winter skin, and everything else in-between.

Here we are, three of the five down. Currently starting on the Santa’s Belly Shower Jelly and the Handy Gurugu Hand Cream, and will get to those two when I’ve finished using them, but can’t wait to review them.

So, two more products, then I get my other free Face Mask, with still no idea on what to get.

Please recommend one.

Love Jodie the Lushie x

 

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New Years Resolutions for my 39th Year.

I am writing this right now on the 4th January. Happy New Year to you all, it’s also my last year of being in my 30’s. Since I’m a bit of a birthday hater, as a previously mentioned story for another time. I promise you.

I had no plans on New Year’s Eve, apart from drinking vodka with my sister Anna. Funny really on this blog my tagline is/was. “Living a Life Less Ordinary” now soon to be changed to “Trying to Get a Life Less Ordinary.”

I really have no life, and I have no idea how that happened. Now it consists of work…and that’s it. The issue is being a shift worker, which I love, but it limits the social life. Back in the day, I used to be invited to things, some I had to turn down and some I didn’t.

In 2018, I only had a few social events, I had to turn down the rest due to work, or the fact they were too far away. I don’t drive yet, but I often think to myself. Where the hell am, I going to go when I do?

Never admitted it until now, but yes, I suffer from loneliness, acute loneliness. I look on Facebook and see friends out with friends, but I’m never invited, not even to hang out and drink wine. I’ve learned the hard way, friends have circles, but then there is the “inner circle”, and someone like me is never allowed on the inside.

I would love to be the person who can “invite themselves” to things, but I can’t. Because I don’t want the other person to be obliging and not really want me there. Or tell me flat out to my face. “No, we just don’t want you”.

Once upon a time, my social life was great, my friends lived nearby, I was a member of a Theatre Group, and one by one people moved away. Then the Theatre Group closed down, and I’ve yet to find another one that has like-minded people.

The reason I solo travel, is that I still feel the need to explore the world. But at the same time even on my adventures, it can be difficult because I do something amazing and I have no one to share it with.

My sister suggested that I join a single group tour, but I always find these companies a bit hypocritical, since they charge £1000 for a week away. When I can get the same holiday, just by booking it myself online for £300. Yeah, and then these companies brag about “No single supplement”.

I need to make new friends, gain a new social life. I even tried to join a book club at Uxbridge Library, but for some reason even joining that, and whatever book I should have been reading that month became too messed up! It shouldn’t be that hard to create an excel sheet, but apparently, it is!

I wonder if anyone I know reading this will wonder or even ask me “Why didn’t you just call me”.

Well, that’s the thing, I can’t. I’m very used to rejection that I just do it in my own head. I can’t call people, because I know in advance what the answer is going to be.

I think most of it does come from that deep down, I really am an introvert. In my house, I’m called “the quiet one”, hard to believe, but it’s true. I have three older siblings. My two sisters are more polished then I’ll ever be.

Two years ago, when it was my sisters Anna’s 40th Birthday, and since she’s the “middle child”, the natural peacemaker and more easy going. She’s managed to collect friends like I collect Pokémon!

Looking around at all her friends I was happy for her, but I knew I would never have this. The issue of being born at an inconvenient time, a month before Christmas, and even though I was almost a month early.

It is so inconvenient that most people get birthday presents and people wanting to spend time with them. And I get excuses, and I have for years. So pretty much given up on the concept of birthdays. Quite bothersome really since I’m known for giving pretty good presents for others, even when my budget has been limited, and got nothing back in return. I do not want a 40th Birthday for this reason, because I can not deal with the rejection anymore.

The thing is, I do have friends, I’m lucky to still be friends with the people I went to school and college with, less with Uni, though.

The issue is that even though we see each other as much as we can, life happens, they have families, they live too far away. And though I love the times we meet up and have a catch-up, it’s few and far between. I need to meet people more local to me.

As you can see, my life is (currently) pathetic, and I thank god that most of my family are allergic to cats, or I would be “crazy cat lady” by now.

Strange isn’t it, wants a better social life, but is hesitant at putting themselves out there, because I’m scared of rejection, even though it’s second nature to me by now.

So, this year I’m breaking out of it a bit more, getting more social. Trying new things. Sorting out my life and the clutter within it. So pathetic as it is, it’s also two sets of resolutions.

  1. Do more on the Geek List, it was written five years ago when I was off my head on Tramadol. I have to complete as much of it as I can.
  2. Learn to Drive, I’m working on it right now.
  3. Walk more, last year I got my Fitbit, and now am aiming to walk the 10’000 steps each day. Also signed up for Race at Your Pace, so aiming to walk 150 miles a month, every month, and lose some weight because of it.
  4. Declutter my life, and my finances. I vow right here I will not buy any book until I have gone through my TBR Pile. I will not buy any beauty products until I use what I have, because I have loads. Seriously I have more body creams than Boots! When it comes to my aspirational magazines, I’ve just begun to subscribe to save money, Marie Claire is now £4.20, or you can subscribe £6.00 for 6 issues and then £14.99 for 12 months / 12 issues.
  5. Christmas and Birthday presents, I have a self-imposed limit for everyone, I’m sticking to that limit, enough said. This year is going to be an expensive one, and I’m even repurposing my two old advent calendars for my nieces. Filled with awesome stuff of course, look I have 3 siblings, 4 nephews and 4 nieces. It gets expensive.
  6. New social life, this is a tricky one. I’ve been looking on meetup, and am thinking of going back to college, or an art class or just something. Have decided that each month I will try something new and social, just to get out there and meet people, and naturally blogging about my experiences about it. Let’s see if the introvert can become an extrovert.
  7. Write more, get the projects I’ve been working on off the grounds, screw my courage to the sticking place, and try not to psych myself out of it.
  8. Travel more, I went to Malta and Hungry last year, I have to go to Prague this year.
  9. Drink more water

 

2018 should have gone better, let’s see what 2019 brings.

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Reviewing Five Lush Products to get a Free Face Mask

Lush has always been a place of fascination for me. Back when it first opened, I didn’t have the finances to buy the products, but now I can afford to be more environmentally conscious. Even though I am economical with money, I can still afford the occasional treat, and Lush is definitely a treat for me and my skin.

Walk down Oxford Street, past the flagship store and your feet just traverse into it. London is dirty, grimy and chaotic, it’s like Dante’s lower circle of hell.

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Oxford Street is overrated, and I try to avoid it at all cost, but then there is Lush, which exists in a cloud of scents you walk past, and your feet are enticed in almost seductively. Lush is like someone stuffed a unicorn with rainbows then set a rocket up its arse.

Lush exists in a place of organised chaos, which they’ve used to their advantage. Levels and layers of soaps and bath bombs which they are famous for, and I’ve never tried the latter. Nothing against them, I have a bath, but I am more of a shower type of girl.

I think their genius is how they market, or rather how they, not market. Aside from a catalogue, Lush don’t spend money on print advertisements, media or the like. It’s twitter, Facebook, the website and word of mouth.

It’s the aunt treating their nieces to a gift box, it’s finding something new and delicious, and it’s all done organically. They don’t bombard you with advertisements, which is nice. Their genius is also on the recyclable black packaging, unlike the colourful array like The Body Shop. The contents are like little secrets hidden away in the packaging, so you have no idea of the contents.

It’s so simplistic it’s so stupid no one thought of it until them. Once again mentioning The Body Shop, such a thing could have reminded the consumer of their vegan and organic products…since that message has now pretty much been lost.

When I was growing up, The Body Shop was the place to go, since it was ethical, affordable, and had fantastic products. Apart from the soaps which just disintegrated into a soapy mush. After L’Oréal brought the company, the year before Dame Anita Roddick’s untimely death. It lost its personal touch and is just another brand on the high-street and a shadow of its former self.

With Lush though they try to stick to their home-grown organic roots, with the feeling of being environmentally conscious and ethical. On the website, it breaks down the ingredients of everything, so you know what the Natural Ingredients and Safe Synthetics are, for those of us with sensitive skin.

Even though Lush create great products, it’s nice to be rewarded for all your good deeds, and this is where the Lush Pot reward scheme comes in.

If you take in five of the little black pots, you get a free face mask which retails at £8.50. Which gives a feeling of wellbeing, it’s not that it’s environmentally friendly, it’s like a reward for being a consumer, and it becomes a beautiful karmic circle.

So, I decided to take five items I’ve never brought before, use them, review them and discuss if the five-pot get a face mask free really is worth it. I know people have done this before, but I haven’t so, please indulge me while I indulge myself.

Dream Cream Hand and Body Lotion.
100g
£7.50

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I knew about this one in advance, I knew that it’s been hailed as a “Miracle Cream”, and has helped people with eczema and other skin complaints, and I have sensitive skin so could it help with mine.

Oh, my good god, yes. Looking at the ingredients, the oats which make up the lotion are amazing, my skin feels soft and supple, and all you need is a small amount. But my issue is…Is that I hate the smell. No really hate it. According to the ingredients listed below.

I don’t know what it is, the tea tree oil, the cocoa butter, the rose water, the lavender. But put together, and it’s an assault on the senses. I could not wear this throughout the day, it’s so strong, and in all honesty, I just found it repellent. I love what it does, but it’s just too much on the skin. Even though I’m only in my thirties, it smelt and felt too “old lady” for me.

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I have no complaints with how my skin felt, but the actual scent meant it’s unlikely this will be on my buy list in the future. Miracle Cream it may be, but no on my skin.

Mask Of Magnaminty Face and Body Mask.
125g
£7.95

This was worth it, this time of year my skin is prone to breakouts. I had assumed teenage skin would stay in my adolescent years, but no such luck.

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This face and body mask is fantastic. Leaving it on your skin for only five minutes or ten if you have skin like mine, slathering it all over myself I hoped I would resemble Elphaba from Wicked instead of Grotbags! It says on the pot use over face and back, but I smeared it all over my body, on even the most sensitive parts there was no reaction. Quick disclaimer, this worked for me, just use your own discretion, when using it.

My skin felt amazing, and tingly all over and my face looked much brighter. This is a bestseller from Lush, and there is no mystery to the reason why. I am recommending this product to everyone, you can really smell the honey and vanilla admits the peppermint which gives it it’s soothing qualities.

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Whoosh Shower Jelly
100g
£4.50

According to the pot, this is “A boisterous bundle of fresh citrus juices and seaweed to help you bounce back to brilliant”. One thing I love is that almost every ingredient occurs naturally in essential oils. I was hesitant about using this because, and anything which “blast away sleepiness” could potentially lead to insomnia! It’s the other way around.

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After getting in from work, using this will give your skin a boost and wake you up in a way which feels natural. Also, this is the most economical product on this list so far, being a jelly, you can freeze it for extra coldness in hot weather.

I’ve found the best way to use it is to swipe the jelly over the parts of the body you can’t exfoliate like the chest, and then use a buffer to clean the skin. It’s good value for money and worth every penny. Unlike the Dream Cream where the combination of scents was overwhelming, this was a fantastic blend of natural ingredients, and I can’t wait to use it again.

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Salted Coconut Hand Scrub
130g
£8.50

Being a Londoner and handling paper all day I’ve been away for years that my hands seem to be ageing faster than the rest of me. So, I’m always mindful about keeping them well maintained.20180917_121107

I am so pleased I found this product because it’s fantastic, and value for money since all you need is a small amount, and the aftermath lasts for ages on your skin, without being too overpowering. The scent is less abrasive and last for hours. Perhaps it’s the coconut oil or the lemon infusion, but my hands felt soft and fresh.

The only issue I have with this lotion is that it’s a bit gloopy so I would prefer something with a bit more consistency to it, but it lasted me ages. Brought the first week of September, and lasted until December.

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Microbeads were banned in the UK, from the beginning of this year. However, it does bother me of all the damage I caused inadvertently over the years because like so much else, we didn’t understand the damage it was doing to the environment. Since then I’ve made sure it’s natural scrubs, and exfoliants, and for what I paid this is value for money, and more environmentally sound than anything I have ever used.

Maybe because it’s Lush and their products are universal, I’ve been using it as a foot scrub too, and in my hands it’s good but my feet it’s marvellous. This is one product, tried, tested, loved and recommended

Lush Charity Pot
45g
£3.95

According to the website “With every purchase of Charity Pot, we donate 100% of the price (minus the taxes) to small, grassroots organisations that could use the helping hand to continue the incredible work that they do. Charity Pot supports organisations that align with our ethics in the areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights.”

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How could I have gone this far in my life without ever using this? It’s incredible, as I’ve said before living in London can take it out on your skin, but these natural ingredients, which are readily seen on the shelves in their pure form, so you know exactly what you are buying, is a must for winter.

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I think it’s the combination of cocoa butter and olive oil, that makes it smell rich and delicious, and though easily absorbed leaves a pleasant lingering scent on my skin, and makes it feel fantastic. Also, the peace of mind that just by buying this product, you are doing so much for grassroots charities. What I also love about it, is that a small pot last ages, at least a week. It’s smooth on your skin, easily absorbed and is a must buy.

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In conclusion…What Facemask do I get?

Now, this is the five things I chose, and reviewed and loved, some more than others, but I appreciate the effort and diversity Lush provide. Now I did this to get the free face mask, but now I’m in a quandary because I’ve done it again.

I brought five more items to review, to get another face mask, but I have no idea what to get, this review is going out in December because everything has been used, only I won’t get to a Lush store until 2019, because the nearest one is in Central London or Windsor.

So, I have no idea which one to get. This is me asking for advice, which one do you recommend I get and why? Additionally, what products do you suggest that I try, nothing in bottles, pots only, please. Please give me ideas and take care, everyone.

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Why the Muppets Christmas Carol is the Greatest Christmas Film

The thing is, on paper nothing about the Muppets Christmas Carol should have worked, the Muppets taking the beloved classic by Charles Dickens and doing their own very unique take on it. A pretty ambitious task, since this was their first adaption, of any classic work.

You have Brian Henson, a Director, who had done everything else involved with the Muppets since 1981, but who was only 28 years old, never directed before and grieving for his father, Jim Henson who died two years earlier.

Jim Henson who wasn’t only the creator of the Muppets, but also the voice and operator of the figurehead of the company. Kermit the Frog, easily the most recognised of all the Muppets.

No pressure there then.

Then there was the sad complication of the loss of veteran Muppet performer Richard Hunt who had passed away in 1992, the film is dedicated to him and Henson.

Steve Whitmire, was given the opportunity has to voice Kermit, Rizzo and Beaker, while Statler well Marley was taken on by the great Jerry Nelson. Even if the story is straightforward, the drama behind the scenes must have been anything but.

You have a Muppeteer who had been with the company since 1978, but who had never performed Kermit in such a capacity. He had the job of filling some seriously big shoes while making Kermit the Frog his own.

In hindsight, you can safely say that even if the reason he left the company is unknown to fans of the Muppets, Steve Whitmire nailed his performance. Though there were subtle differences in Kermit’s voice

Jim was the definer voice role but played it as more of an everyman, yet Steve Whitmire was slightly more jaded and soulful.

Then there were the decisions made, instead of using the traditional Muppets in the roles, because it would be too distracting. Though Gonzo as Christmas Future would have been interesting to see. Instead, they made the decision to create new distinctive Muppets, to play Past, Present and Future. Which also managed to embody the images made famous by John Leech, the illustrator of the original A Christmas Carol. It is touching that they went to so much effort.

So, new Kermit, fresh director and their take on the beloved novella by Charles Dickens. What Brian Henson needed to do, was make the Muppets grow up, and embrace a semblance of maturity. They may be taking the subject matter seriously, but they are not taking this as sacred, which I will get to further along.

A Christmas Carol is an enduring story told and referenced over 100 times in 100 different ways. There is Scrooged, the one with Kelsey Grammer, the one with Patrick Stewart, the animated versions, Jim Carrey’s CGI nightmare. Barbie has one, even Doctor Who got one.

I even wrote my own, postmodern version a few years ago, making Scrooge’s archetype a woman. It’s very meta and a very geek-centric. The link below, shameless plug, it’s Christmas.

A Christmas Carol is considered the quintessential Christmas story, it helped pioneer Christmas as a time of celebration and giving, and “God bless us, everyone”. It entered the zeitgeist, and everyone knows the story even if they haven’t read it…which is in the public domain, so there is really no excuse not to. It’s only 26’000 words after all, and even Gonzo requests that you do!

But this is the story in a nutshell. Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserable old sod with a vague job, but who has a lot of money, who treats his employee Bob Cratchit like dirt. Then on Christmas Eve, his old boss Marley shows up telling him that he will be visited by 3 spirits. They are Past, Present and Things to Come, who do just that. He becomes a better person and Tiny Tim; the representation of hope and joy doesn’t die.

I think the reason I love this film so much, is that I hate Tiny Tim, I love the story of A Christmas Carol, but I hate Tiny Tim the character. Like many Dickensian characters, he’s too good for this sinful earth, and even though his death could promote social change. I think it’s also because of this line.

”He (Tim) hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

So sayeth Bob Cratchit and Kermit the Frog, a more cynical take on this is. Tiny Tim went to Church, and because he was a cripple, basically guilt-tripped people, because he’s so pure and innocent and dying of tuberculosis, and possibly rickets.

In most versions of A Christmas Carol, Tiny Tim is such a sweet child, and so damn cheerful. So, I don’t care if he lives or dies. But this film cast Robin the Frog, you can’t hate Robin the Frog. He represents the goodness and the child at heart which is at the centre of the Muppets. Wow, I think he’s the only Tiny Tim I can stand.

I’m glad I mentioned that.

Up to this point in the Muppet films, part of the attraction and appeal was how humans acted or reacted to the left-handed ones.

However, this being their 4th film, there was scope for development, but the only way to do it was to remove the humans. Part of the appeal in other films was playing “spot the celebrity cameo”. But by removing this, also gave the opportunity for the Muppets to stand on their own form of storytelling.

The only way they could do that, was by turning the Muppets into actors, keeping true to their characters, but making them inhabit different roles. Yet also being true to the vision of Charles Dickens, whose prose is being narrated to by Gonzo, who is breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience, with Rizzo as the audience surrogate

Rizzo who just questions everything and claims he is there for the food. For a Muppet film the logic behind this method, which was created by veteran writer and co-producer Jerry Juhl was genius,

But more importantly, the Muppets are performing the way that gives respect to the text without mugging the camera. For 20 years up to this point, Statler and Waldorf have sat on their balcony and bitched at the Muppets, hating on everything and the world in general. They were born to play Jacob and Robert (Bob) Marley and provided their trademark wit and disdain with genuine terror. The song “Marley and Marley”, is part funny and horrifying.

When it comes to relationships, at least this film in the guise of the Cratchit family, and showed us a happy relationship between Miss Piggy and Kermit. Apparently, the wedding in The Muppets Take Manhattan didn’t stick!

They managed to stay true to the Dicken’s characters, use the correct dialogue, while never letting us forget their real personalities. Let’s face it, Miss Peggy was born to play Emily Cratchit, her indignation about the “founder of the feast”, rang true.  Once again, a stellar performance from the now-retired legend that is Frank Oz.

Miss Piggy showed her human emotion, her heartbreak and gave us a glimpse of what could have been in the real world regarding her relationship with Kermit.  As of writing this, they are still not back together.

This is the magic of this film, is that by subduing the normally, more egotistical, vocal, screen stealing muppets. Yet, giving prominence to ones who have been around since the early days, but never given much focus like Rizzo and Gonzo, which will be explained more at the end of this article.

Overall take away the humans, take away the jokes, take away Janice’s brilliantly inappropriate conversations to her mother. And there you have Muppets Christmas Carol.  But what makes this film so beloved is the almost lack of humans.

Apart from Sir Michael Caine, his few family members, and Bella. The only time you see a human, they are out of focus and in the background, because if you look closely, most of them are the Muppet Performers, controlling the ones who draw the audience’s gaze.

When it came to Scrooge, he had to be played by a human, because otherwise, that honour would have gone to Kermit. Now, Kermit the Frog can portray sadness, anxiety and frustration. But there is no way he could characterise an uncaring bastard even if he is redeemed at the end. If they had done that, Steve Whitmire’s debut would have been his curtain call.

You needed an actor, with presence, directness, and I am so happy they asked Sir Michael Caine, who only agreed to do it so he could be in a film his daughter could watch.

Michael Caine, even with a diverse career, spanning since the 1950s. At this point in 1992, he hadn’t had a hit film in years, and been teetering on the edge of Hollywood for a while, not to say his films weren’t good, they were. But none of them was standout.

Then he got the gig of Scrooge, and I think we can all say he was fantastic, what he lacked in singing ability, he made up for with sheer enthusiasm. Also, it’s fascinating at how he played it, he didn’t change his accent, making Scrooge’s working-class origins more obvious and giving gravitas to the role. Though Scrooge in the original story was more upper class, the accent centred it more in the real world.

Scrooge may be a self-made man, but he’s still not the elite, however, his actions towards the end of the story where he impresses the charitable gentlemen played by Doctor Honeydew and Beaker, with his newfound altruism may propel him into a new social sphere.

Caine didn’t try to take over, and most importantly, he’s treating the Muppets, and by extension, the Muppet Performers with respect. In comparison to a lot of actors who don’t, they either underact or overact in a way to steal the gaze and typically failing. Caine is treating them as equals.

By extension by treating them like humans, gives them more profound meaning according to IMDB

“Before production began, Sir Michael Caine told Brian Henson, “I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role, and there are no puppets around me.” Henson replied “Yes, bang on!””

Caine is treating them like Shakespearean actors, has to keep his emotions in check, try not to look down since he’s walking on wooden planks for a duration of the film, wearing a dressing gown and keeping his dialogue sincere and without stealing the film.

The Muppets Christmas Carol has enough laughs for children and even some subtle jokes for us adults, for example, Beaker giving Scrooge the finger, earlier on in the film, then giving him a present afterwards. That was a nice touch, due to the sincerity of the scene.

Michael Caine is enjoying every second on screen and giving an epic performance, the cast and crew, are delivering to perfection. The film doesn’t have “Ignorance and Want”, since the Ghost of Christmas Future maybe “Culture”, but even I know you have to draw a line somewhere. Though Ignorance and Want, appear with Christmas Present, almost every version change that.

But what elevates it above most version of A Christmas Carol, it was probably the first musical version to take parts of Dickens prose, and not just work it into the dialogue but also the songs, all written by Paul Williams, with the score by Miles Goodman.

As I said before nothing is sacred, not even taking shots at Charles Dickens’s original dialogue. Just this line.

Jacob Marley: Why do you doubt your senses?

Ebenezer Scrooge: Because a little thing can affect them. A slight disorder of the stomach can make them cheat. You may be a bit of undigested beef, a blob of mustard, a crumb of cheese. Yes. There’s more gravy than of grave about you. Actual Dickens Prose

Robert Marley: More gravy than of grave? The Muppets prove that nothing is sacred.

Jacob Marley: What a terrible pun. Where’d you get those jokes?

Robert Marley: Leave comedy to the bears, Ebenezer.

Cleverly done.

Now I have to mention. “When Love Is Gone”. I swear when I saw the film 1991, it was there, but whatever. Jeffrey Katzenberg demanded it be cut because the children grew restless, even though we see Scrooge losing his last tentative link to humanity, and seeing his final transformation to the misanthrope he is at the start of the film.

It’s a beautiful song, full of regret, heartbreak and Scrooge’s mistake. Though Bella loved Ebenezer, they would have made each other miserable at this point. But here is the song in all its glory, and it does get a reference late on with “The Love We Found”. It was a shame to cut it, but they did. But we all love it and think that it needs to be restored on future releases.

The most important thing which brings it all together is the explicit trust the Muppet performers have in their own ability, even with so many performances on screen, they were all done by a crew of nine, and that’s it. With most of them performing multiple Muppet characters, all veterans had to put aside their grief for Jim Henson and carry on the legacy which he created.

Special mention has to go to Dave Goelz as Gonzo the Great. A veteran of the company since 1974, he became a Performer, it appears by accident by starting as a builder, dividing his time between the two until he asked to become a performer, with no formal training and “no voice”, according to his wiki page, he saw himself and Gonzo as a misfit, who didn’t belong there.

Quite fitting indeed that the Muppet with “imposter syndrome”, grew in confidence to the moment he addressed the audience in A Christmas Carol, as Charles Dickens and gave dialogue where about 95% of it was Dickensian prose.

Well done Mr Goelz, because for the first time Gonzo the Great was front and central, and has been that way up to now. Well done.

Not a success on its first release in 1991, though it got good reviews, it came out at the same time as Home Alone 2, which didn’t help. Even for those who don’t like the Muppets, but appreciate Gonzo the Great, advising the audience to read the original Novella, it’s a classic, it stands. It became a cult hit, and now is shown all over around Christmas in singalongs, which are fantastic, and I recommend you go to one. I just did, at The Grand in Clapham, and it was a tremendous night.

It’s fun, festive, but more importantly, doesn’t talk down to the audience in any way. Quite cleverly done, compared to most Christmas films. And even my heart is gladdened by Tiny Tim not dying. Which really is a Christmas miracle.

 

God Bless Us Everyone

And this the version of A Christmas Carol, which I wrote https://www.amazon.co.uk/Twisted-Christmas-Carol-Jodie-Portugal-ebook/dp/B017ON3VHE

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