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The Perfumery! Never felt the need for a dressing table?

23 Mar

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Ever felt the need for pink fluffy talk?

I haven’t ever had a dressing table with a stool but my grandparents and my parents always had one and there was always a sort of air of female mystery to them; drawers on either side with handkerchiefs, nylon stockings, underwear, boxes of  talcum powders and those fluffy brushes with little satin bows on the top. There were special green glass containers shaped like mermaids or with pot pouri inside, and trays to put your pearl necklaces and earrings in. I still have a whole set of black ebony dressing table tray and ring holders and a selection of bristle hairbrushes and mirrors which are boxed and on the loft and never to be used.

Is it that we just don’t have the time, or the room, or is it just another thing to dust? We had Maids, as in Downton Abbey? We have Spas now and ‘body-brushing’ (only just found out what this is!) I can remember reading a book by a famous Turkish Sufi Master called Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak “Love is the Wine” and about brushing his wife’s hair, which is one of the other reasons I keep my hair long, as I am rather like Mr B Pussycat who loves his hair brushed.

My lovely hubby has just been perusing our library on Sufi Mystics and thinks it isn’t that book! Hahaha I made him look! Memory is a wonderful thing if it throws you back to move you forward!

The other reason is that I have been nagging my architect husband to build me a turret at the back of our house, so I can hang my hair down like Rapunzel. It hasn’t materialised, but it is so delicious thinking about it.

I think my love of  the Eastern Culture stems from my reading the Arabian Nights, when I was a child;  I could almost smell the turkish delight, and the perfumes, and the night scented air. I have just been reading a book by a turkish lady, Elif Shafak ‘Forty Ways to Love” and her latest, ‘The Architects Apprentice’ It has made me realise that we absorb so much from our childhood, which stays within our being, and it returned my heart to that wonderful poetry by Rumi, and the search for the soul. Anyway I digress but only to point out, how we have forgotten to make time for these ‘mindful’ meanderings, and hair-brushing and dressing tables, indeed. Don’t you just love all the different shapes of glass bottles? Pop into the glass section of the V&A in South Kensington. Food for the glass lover! I just so so so love perfume it sends me on different journeys, depending which one I use. I used to sit on the telephone in the ‘olden days’ sniffing the pot pouri on the telephone table. I am a very Olfactory person. My son gave me Perfume to read ages ago and I can’t see it on the shelf so forgotten who it is by? Brilliant strategy of writing. I love “strategies” for sharing truths and wisdoms AND for getting people to do things they hadn’t thought they wanted to do! Ha ha ha xxxxx Love you. Toodlepip!

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Clarins Mother’s Day!!! Very Exciting and so Classy!

14 Apr

P1120383This was such a lovely surprise! Thankyou Clarins and Thankyou Ruth xx A knock at the door and the box itself had Clarins message on the corner! Really exciting!P1120386Inside was a white hat box tied with a ribbon and a really lovely collection of Clarins products which I so love: Bain aux Plantes ‘Relax’, Eau Dynamissante, and Extra firming Day cream and night cream AND my favourite neck cream. Wonderful present as I can now use all the same brand, which is the best skincare as usually I have a ‘mix n’ match’ approach, dependent on what I can afford and also what is left over as, invariably, I don’t use as much of one skin product as another.

Lovely message inside, which went to the heart strings, so poignant, very clever Clarins:

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“Even though your talented daughter has the beauty world at her fingertips, we know that behind every great talent is a wonderful Mum.

With this in mind, it’s your turn to enjoy some well-deserved pampering with the enclosed Clarins products”

I have been trying for ages now to grab other pics from the desktop but my machine is not interested and hubby is waiting as we are off to Madrid and I should have sent this earlier but have been topping up my knowledge of political Spain, reading Ian Gibson’s ‘Fire in the Blood’. I am always fascinated by the non-tourist parts of Spain and had really interesting visits to Northern Spain in the past! Hey ho, oooops gotta go! xxxx

Les Etangs de Corot (Mother and Daughter hotel)

18 Mar

IMG_7839I just loved this hotel, really ideal for a mother and daughter special break. It is in La Ville d’Avray, on the main Paris to Versailles road, which does really mean, you have to get a taxi from Gare du Nord and it takes a couple of hours. If you were driving, it is only a two hour drive from Caen ferry.    Worth the drive, especially if you are going to visit Versailles palace.

I did look the hotel up on Tripadvisor and read reviews on Booking.com before we got there, so, like most people, I already had an idea of what to expect, but most of the reviews were from couples, on romantic breaks! I checked out their website, looked at the photos and noted the scarcity of rooms which had twin beds! To be honest, it is a super boutique hotel for that luxury romantic getaway, when all you want to do is gaze lovingly at each other, enjoying subdued lighting, gourmet food, very good wine and the intimacy of a ‘spa experiece’ BUT, it is even better for that ‘girlie’ break, that crowd of girls’ hen-party, that ‘sisters’ get together, lolling about in dressing gowns and having pink fluffy talk; which husband wants to sit on loungers, discussing facials and massages, and which face creams are the best? AND of course that special ‘mother and daughter’ treat!

It is quite a modern frontage on the main road through the town, Ville d’Avray (with underground car park, if you are travelling by car!) It is actually a wonderful venue for weddings, as the back of the hotel overlooks a  picturesque lake (built, I think, eons ago, as a reservoir ?) and the grounds are extremely pretty with ‘medieval’ wooden walkways and separate outside eating/party area, reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s ‘English Tudor Hamlet’, she had built at her summer palace ‘Triannon’  All interiors are very tastefully decorated, very chic.

The house/studio which belonged to the nineteenth century painter, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot(he was a fore-runner of the Impressionists) is in Ville d’Avray, hence the name of the hotel! Huge ‘canvas copies’ of his work are propped up against the walls in the main dining room, giving an easy ambience, but also the intimacy of an artist’s studio, loved it, felt like home!

IMG_7931Actually , if you go onto booking.com or Tripadvisor, they have oodles of photos and reviews , so I won’t bore you! It is a lovely, peaceful, spa retreat away from the bustle of Paris, and not very far from the palace of Versailles, PERFECT for Mothers day treat? The lake has a good walking route around it for a brisk morning jog! The restaurant serves wonderful gourmet food and exceptional wine and the Spa uses all Caudalie beauty products, which rate VERY high on my list of ‘best-evers’  What more could a mother want?
This brings me onto mine and Ruth’s  interest in food and good wine. All those holidays in France, wine-tasting at Dopff’s in Alsace, the Gewurztraminers and the St Emilions and the Bordeaux visits, tagging along three bored children, BUT all three have incredibly good taste when buying wine; osmotically synthesised? The proprietor of Les Etangs, is the daughter of the owners of the vineyard in Bordeaux, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, very lovely wine, and there is also a hotel and Spa, there in Bordeaux, so must go there! Other daughter is the founder of the Caudalie beauty products. What a treat!
I have stayed in lots of hotels, I used to always check that they were Johansen recommended, before I booked, so my appetite for ‘chic’ was firmly set, a long time before the emergence of the ’boutique’ hotel,  and before the internet and Tripadvisor! I am well-versed in ‘amuse bouche’, and having just been to a favourite hotel in the Cotswolds, and been disappointed with their rendering of a ‘foam’ soup in a glass yogurt pot, I was apprehensive!
Perhaps this is why Ruth decided we should choose ‘THE TASTING MENU’ I haven’t ever tasted such a cacophony, such a medley, of epicurian gastronomic delights! WOWEE! oscillating taste-buds!
Our tasting menu included:
Parsnip cream with snail and celery croquette ( I can remember helping my eldest sister make croquettes from Larousse when I was 12)
Wild sea bass in carpaccio, beetroot and Granny Smith apple with caviar from Aquitaine!
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Smoked eel with brussel sprout en miso!
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Scallops from Normandie, salsify,parsley and nuts and Colannata ham!
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Chicken with butternut, vegetables from Joel Thiebault, candied lemon from Menton!
Selection of cheeses from Monsieur Ouvrat ( whose shop was in the town) We were instructed to start at twelve o’ clock, and eat our way clockwise around the plate: currants, apricots  and grapes to be eaten with certain cheeses.
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Lemon Tart, cottage cheese, Buddha hand ( which Ruth ‘de-constructed” as lemon meringue pie)
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Lastly the ubquitous macaroons, chocolate mousseline formed into cherries and covered in chocolate AND fruit jellies! ( this last dish had to be eaten solely by me as Ruth had pigged out too much! such a lightweight!)
Gourmets’ delight! ALSO lovely wine: Chateau Haute LaFitte 2011 and sweet desert wine was from Southern France, the Pyrennees, Gironde Saens? I was trying to scribble everything down but accents don’t often relate to my french spelling skills, sorry!
Great waiter throughout, explaining why they choose local produce and in very good english, he explained one dish as ‘surf and turf’, pretty good et tres jolie!
I was just so full, couldn’t move! Great fun! Thankyou, thankyou Les Etangs de Corot for splendid cuisine in wonderful surroundings!
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I am going to write about the Spa treatments and Caudalie beauty products separately so keep in touch.

Mother and Daughter : Versailles and Marie Antoinette

20 Feb

IMG_7643Well here we were in front of the golden gates of Versailles Palace! I haven’t read much about all the ‘Louis’ but didn’t need to, as VERY well documented in English, and we decided to have an audio input! AMAZING visit! We arrived at 10 am and left at 5 pm and could have stayed longer! We also visited the palaces of Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s estate, reached by a long ‘breezy’ walk through the Palace gardens ( it was so very windy that all the statues had been covered up, just in case parts were blown off and HIT us, french health and safety! WOW) IMG_7760

Not really too sure what this statue was? ? But all good fun! Had a whale of a time just guessing!

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Favourite part of the Palace was definitely The Hall of Mirrors; so much opulence! I was trying to remember a T V programme, quite a few years ago, which was about the restoration of the palace? Must do a search! I am sure I have seen it recently, as part of a historical programme, perhaps Lucy Wordesley series? The ‘chapel’ was pretty ‘extravagant’ with its ceiling paintings!

IMG_7650IMG_7651But, best of all was Marie Antoinette’s palaces and gardens of Trianon, her retreat from the splendour and ostentation of Versaille, where Louis XVI was allowed to visit her. Wonderful. Every woman’s dream? Actually I was very taken with the mechanism of lowering the shutters over the windows of the Boudoir, a highly technical accomplishment.

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IMG_7781I also really loved the wooden ‘gazebos’ which were all decorated with wooden carvings. They were applied to a metal structure and I am just checking them out, so I can inform my husband, how they are constructed, as I think, to show how much he loves me, he could easily pop a few into our garden.

IMG_7793I need a BIGGER garden.

IMG_7797Perhaps just start off with one of the flower urns? I can wait. I am very patient!

Ruth and I had a really good visit and fortunately, we were both so very interested in that particular period of history.

So very interested, that Ruth took FOUR hours to download the film of Marie Antoinette by Sofia Copola, onto her tiny Ipad, and we sat up in our twin beds, in the hotel, balancing it on our knees, until well after the early hours of the morning! I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘flippancy’ of the film and, of course, I so loved the fashion and the hair styles and the ‘silliness’  and decadence of it all. Definitely worth a watch BUT not on an Ipad, balanced for over two hours, on knees and pillows!

More to come! haven’t ever been to Versailles? Go with your daughter! Great fun!

Mother and Daughter in Paris and why does my daughter take better photos of me than my husband!

20 Feb

IMG_7789I JUST LOVED IT ! ! Such a very special occasion to spend time with one’s offspring and observe how they have grown up, and how they interact with the world, and how they have developed into ‘thinking’ compassionate human beings, and to recognise that soul and spirit and energy, which drives them on to fulfil their dreams, and to sit back and watch and think “YES, they have landed; they are happy and contented with who they are, with where they are and with what they are doing”

I didn’t have to go to Paris with Ruth to realise that; could have just sat at home and had a laugh! To quote a Vulcan ‘mind-meld’ “My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts, my thoughts are yours”

HOWEVER what a treat to do ALL the things that I really enjoy doing in a place that I LOVE with a wonderful companion!

I have been to Paris about fifteen years ago for a ROMANTIC birthday treat (I am a valentine’s day baby so it is always freezing on my birthday treats)  My husband is an architect and we visited the UNESCO building, L’ Institut de l’Arabe, La Defense, Parc de la Villette, Le Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame and we gazed at The Eiffel Tower and went up and down in the lift in the Louvre, but no queuing for us to see the Mona Lisa! The one hour flight home took over two hours, as we couldn’t land, due to very high winds, and we kept watching the same google aerial map, as we circled and circled ; I vowed then I would never go back to Paris! !

But I did; I then accompanied over a hundred twelve and thirteen year olds by coach via the Channel Tunnel. Very different! A brilliant opportunity for the children to look down from the Eiffel Tower, to visit a chateau, a french village and the ubiquitous Intermarche and practise their french? Mmmm….I spent a lot of the time not really seeing anything at all but counting children, even in my sleep, but all great fun, apart from the long drive to Dover from the Midlands to catch the Tunnel.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the joys of Eurostar and how easy and efficient the whole experience was! That will be my mode of travel from now on, St Pancras is a wonderful re-furbishment and I can’t remember now which architect was responsible, but well done and very useful ( thought the sculptures were really distasteful and trite, were they meant to be Beckhams? awful, perhaps they could melt them down and start again, although, maybe, we would get a ‘Kapoor Olympics special’, the silly ‘Helter-skelter’ construction, bring back Rodin!) I do apologise but I have a lifetime of Art and Architecture seeped into my mind and it emerges now and again!

I think that is why Ruth steered me away from visiting the art galleries in case ‘I went off on one” She is VERY clever at ‘managing’ my passions and interests; that’s why we ended up in Le Marais in the BHV Department store, looking at lampshades and clothes.

We had macaroons in an outside cafe, Carretere, near Le Parc des Vosges, being pulled along, so I wouldn’t begin to voice my critique of the ‘art’ in the galleries we passed, or queue up to see Victor Hugo’s house!

I did all the things I wanted to do before on my visits, but were too ‘girlie’  to do with a husband; cocktails before dinner, lots and lots of eating at cafes ( my husband is like a cross between a stick insect and a camel and he NEVER gets hungry!)

We also took TAXIS which my hubby doesn’t do ( I had miles to walk every day in our last visit to Amsterdam, lugging a suitcase through the blizzards, and ending up with a very poorly bunion and blisters!) A little tip I learnt from daughter is, watch what their tariff says when you first get into the taxi and object if it is too much; We ordered a taxi to Gard du Nord from Hotel Duo, in Le Marais, and he came early and, as we were settling our bill, he was cleaning out the taxi with a dustpan and brush, leaving all the rubbish on the road, and clocked up 10.35 euros before we had got in! The trip to station is only 6 euros anyway!

Ruth’s performance could have won an OSCAR, brilliant and extremely effective, as she refused to get in and argued her point IN FRENCH, and english and sent him packing, having retrieved our suitcases. It all reminded me of a similar incident when Ruth was nine, when I felt I would argue my case with a traffic warden’s unjust parking ticket! I was parked on a cul de sac that I had used every week for years, and I hadn’t noticed a VERY INCONSPICUOUS plastic- covered, type-written text on a lamp-post ! So I drove to the local police station to await the arrival of the traffic warden to point out the inadequate signage! As I was arguing my case calmly and logically, Ruth was also interjecting with her carefully constructed  arguments! (I can see now why Ruth originally started her career reading LAW for two years!)

I had a wonderful opportunity to see Ruth as my ‘grown-up’ daughter and all the organisation, which I usually do for my hubby and I, Ruth did absolutely everything and I just let go of the responsibility, first time EVER! I just LOVED it!

I am going to split my posts up, as there are too many photos for one post!

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Ruth has taken really good photos, although I was very amused by her body poses as she took them! Hubby always manages to make me look HUGE on the top with tiny feet, rather like a penguin, even though I advise him to bend at the knees to come to my level, he is, or was, quite tall!

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Chemicals we slap on our skin !

16 Aug

I have spent HOURS trying to get a PDF copy of a newspaper cutting which I scanned in to let you read BUT to no avail; I shall just have to write it out for you. One more try will copy to Word Document! Trouble is I have had years of using Microsoft Word and bought it for my Mac and it struggles to match up if that makes sense? Okay tried PDF and JPeg gonna write out the important bits!

From the daily 20p I(Independent)paper last monthish and cut it out for you. There was a previous SCARE reported, and commented on, actually by the RCOG, in the same paper, about the use of some chemicals in face creams, which they thought may have adverse effects on ladies’ hormones, leading to infertility OR miscarriages and I so wish I had kept that cutting too.

Allergy ‘epidemic’ from chemical in cosmetics

by Oscar Quinn

A chemical found in cosmetic and household cleaning products may be causing an epidemic of skin allergies, dermatologists have warned.

A special meeting is to be held at the British Association of Dermatologists’ annual conference in Liverpool this week to address the findings, which claim that shower gels, washing-up liquids and wet wipes could be resonsible for eczema and contact allergies.

The ingredient in question, Methylisothiazolinone (MI) is to blame for an increasing number of allergic reactions, accoprding to researchers at the Leeds Centre for Dermatology and the St John’s Institute of Dermatology at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Anyway, to cut it short because I only do two finger typing, MI is a preservative and had previously been used in a compound with an ingredient called Methylchloroisothiazolineon (MCI) but concerns that MCI was causing allergies led to manufacturers to stop combining the two! MANY industrial and household products, including cosmetics, contain both MI and MCI. I am really careful now, since my episode with the first anti-ageing cream I ever used, where I was going to return it, because it made me turn bright red and get HOT (I was 53 and hadn’t realised that was what menopausal ‘power-surges’ were like! thank goodness the girl on the Lancome counter was out at lunch!)

I really have always felt that we are exposed to too many chemicals and have always used my lovely slippery combination of almond oil (over- the- counter- in- a- brown bottle at Tesco pharmacy for three pounds ish) with five drops of lavender oil, I am sure I wrote a blog about it?

I have never bought those air fresheners that plug in, I spray the shower and run out, or wear a mask so that I don’t breathe it in, as we are breathing in chemicals very quickly into our systems!

Anyway beware and always read the ingredients, even though it takes HOURS. There is a really good website where you can look them all up, but I have my doubts, who’s paying ’em? I used to have a little saying “Love your enemies, trust but few, and always paddle your own canoe” I am still saying to my children to ‘Keep your own counsel and don’t just go with the flow, always question and find the answers before you plunge and never ever trust the media’

I could be a paranoid, suspicious person, perhaps, but I always feel we have to be in control of our thinking and never run along on those emotions of fear, vulnerability, vanity and sheer hysteria that can creep in when we aren’t looking.

I do really worry about you all out there as you are faced by an overload of information and so many choices and you are so very vulnerable. Take care xx

Chanel…….. and Arm Pitt and Expensive tastes! Was I a Changeling?

10 Nov

I can remember reading a fairytale, when I was a child, about a changeling and I used to think, that when I got to the top of our road, where the Co-op was, clutching the shopping bag and shopping list, that a wonderfully handsome prince would ride up to me on his white horse and tell me that I was really a princess, and there had been a terrible mistake, and I really lived in a palace and wouldn’t ever have to go to the Co-op ever again!

I can remember there were always dogs roaming around without owners, and you used to have to have quite a big shopping bag to protect your legs, when sidling past them, hoping that they wouldn’t jump up and bite you. Dogs were really my biggest fear, when I was little, and also having to go out to the coalhouse in the dark.

i read , and re-read ‘The Purple Fairy Book’ which had the most hideous pictures of goblins and demons and from an early age I became ‘The Princess’ from the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, who just couldn’t sleep as her mattress was so uncomfortable. The King piled mattress upon mattress and still the princess couldn’t sleep. It turned out to be a hard pea on the bottom mattress! I must find that story as I still insist on good beds and have to complain in hotels if the mattresses are not to my standards!

In fact I am completely anxiety-ridden; my husband often asks me why I bound into bed waking him up through the night, if I have been on one of those journeys across the landing to the loo. It’s not long ago really that I have started to turn the landing light off but I am not going to tell him that! I put one hand on the switch, looking at the bed room door, and then make a bolt for the bed before anything in the dark might loom up at me!

I used to sometimes have to pinch myself in the classroom, as I couldn’t believe I was having to actually work in a school, amongst teachers! I was much too posh for school! I can remember buying the last staff room, a set of posh matching soup bowls because i couldn’t bear all the scummy assorted crockery they used! I just love POSH. I check all hotels to see if they are Johansen accredited and I read every Tripadvisor review before I book anything. I don’t do: camping, mobile-homes, caravans, B&Bs (why on earth would I want to speak to someone I don’t know in the morning and compliment them on their breakfast-making skills?) cheap hotels with polyester sheets, nasty dirty public toilets in pubs and restaurants ( it takes me hours to clean the seat, and I just can’t bare my bum if someone has ‘soiled’ the sides, or left any fetid miasmas, I just go out and wait until I get home, rather like a camel, I can wait AGES) I have always loved fashion: I used to have a Saturday job at Timothy Whites, when I was a teenager, and I would save up my wages to buy the best designer clothes, from the one and only up-market fashion shop in the town.

Since I first discovered the perfume counter, I have been tantalised by Guerlain’s Samsara and Madame Rochas’ Byzance but above all, Chanel No 5 was the pinnacle of olfactory excellence. We loved the black and white boxes, the smell and we were all quite dismayed when they brought out Chanel No 19. I do remember that CoCo Chanel then became my firm favourite BUT right now I have gone back to No 5 and Coco Mademoiselle, as they are not quite as heavy. We gals know our perfumes!

We didn’t need a trashy advert to tempt us to buy the perfume! Imagine how surprised I was to see Arm Pitt, who apparently is the heart throb of the day, standing like someone whose underpants were too tight for him, mumbling incomprehensibly about a perfume that he is using? Perhaps? My god, he is an ACTOR, what is wrong with him? I just can’t get my breath at the banal lack of  integrity! Who is the art director? Where has this ‘striving for excellence’ vanished to? Is a classy product of long-standing success to be obfuscated in the mundanity of an excuse for ‘crass -celebrity- curtain-calls’ ? Come on now Chanel, surely you can do better?

Anyway, I have got to that stage in my life where I am not particularly impressed by adverts: some of them presume, that we have a brain the size of a gnat, and that we will buy a pile of trash, because a small spectrum of the populace, that they hope portray ‘the norm’, speak whilst their lips just remain in a smile, so there is no audible articulation, a complete lack of consonants and just a burble of vowels. Try it! Try saying WATER with your mouth in a smile! The ‘cool’ teenagers at school used to ask me,” Miss, can I get a drink of water?” but all with out moving their lips! I used to sometimes say to them that I didn’t know what wau..uh was. Perhaps Mr Pitt has been practising this technique?

Just a little praise of Chanel’s Sublimage essential regenerating cream: it is LUSCIOUS! You don’t need an advert do you girls? When I say that it smells like Ponds cold cream and comes in a real glass jar. Ruth asked me to test it and I started the jar at the beginning of March, I think. There is still about half left in the jar and I have used it every day! I LOVE it. It really smooths the skin  and feels wonderful. It does leave a bit of a shine though, which I hate, so it is best with my foundation powder brushed on the top. I didn’t like the serum as much because it smelt of alchohol and I really hate that smell you get from old perfume when you first spray it on. Probably I was too sparing and should have used it up more quickly which brings me to a pet hate: Why do they sell under-eye cream in such big pots because you use so little that they have gone off before you get your money’s worth?

Bye bye my lovelies…… I apologise to all those people who responded to my last blog, and I will answer, but I have been so BUSY……..I started this post on September 14th………. Sorry I also seem to have gone off on one…….you should hear me going on about our plutocratic society we live in, I can go on for hours………ranting away… but it is now 00:10 and my wonderful bed awaits and I need to escape on my raft of female romanticism into that wonderful world of dreams……….actually I am trying to finish this book on the Medicis and finding it uncomfortably similar to ………….but that’s another story! Night Night………