A rose by any other name

Every now and again, life gives you a really nice surprise. For me, life managed this feat on Friday when I was feeling pretty low so news that I’d won something was just what I needed to pick my mood up from somewhere near rock bottom.

The competition I’d won was The Beauty Shortlist’s 7 days of beauty, which closed on Valentine’s day (less said about that date the better) and I’d won the first day’s prize, a candle from Jonathan Ward London in their most romantic of fragrances, Josephine’s Rose. If I was going to try one of their candles, this is the one I would have bought, being an avid rose fan, frequently wearing Jo Malone’s Red Roses perfume, using Ren’s Moroccan Rose Otto bath oil and body scrub, so I was especially thrilled when I won.

jonathan ward josephine's rose

Josephine's Rose, available from http://www.jonathanwardlondon.com

The candle duly arrived the next day and from the moment I opened the parcel, I knew I was in for a treat. Scented candles can sometimes be insufficiently scented to actually fragrance a room when burnt but this would never be a problem with this candle; it scents the room when unlit, the fragrance is so powerful.

The wax is made from organic soy and beeswax and so burns very cleanly with no black smoke and despite the fact that the candle isn’t larger than most of the glass housed candles on the market, it has two wicks to help ensure that all of the wax is burnt and you don’t end up with that annoying rim around the edge which just gets wasted once the candle burns down.

The glass the candle is housed in is hand blown Italian crystal glass and from the box to the care label on the bottom of the candle itself, everything is beautifully presented. And as for the scent, oh my word, it is amazing! A blend of four different roses plus cassis, it is an intensely heady scent  which is able to fragrance most of the house, let alone a single room.

If you read Jonathan’s blog, you can see how someone can develop such intensely powerful fragrances. For so many companies, scented candles are an “add-on”  product to enhance a range but whilst Jonathan is developing a range of fragrance diffusers, the candles are clearly the main event. His fragrances are developed in a similar way to perfumes, with top, middle and base notes, and if you read the issues he has had getting the diffusers exactly how he wants them, you know that hours of love, care and attention have been poured into every single one of his candles.

So I would like to say a massive thank you to Beauty Shortlist, Jonathan Ward and Wizard PR as I am loving my candle and am looking forward to trying some of the other fragrances soon.

Average Josephine x

Brighten up

As I might have mentioned once or twice, I suffer from severe insomnia. It has lots of rubbish side effects but one of the most frustrating is the fact that your skin gets ridiculously dull. It’s bad enough that you feel crap, knowing you look crap as well just adds insult to injury.

My skin is being a bit temperamental at the moment, patches of eczema around my eyes are flaring up randomly so when I started looking for brightening products, I started looking within brands I already use. I figured there was probably less risk of my skin having a total tantrum…

I’m currently using (and loving) the Elemental Herbology Purify and Soothe cleanser and when I was looking around their website I found that they did a Weekend Facial kit which included their Facial Glow, Facial Detox and Facial Soufflé. The Facial Glow is a biological and mechanical exfoliator containing fruit enzymes to loosen dead skin cells and spherical jojoba beads to gently remove them. The Facial Detox is a clay based mask to help reduce any blemishes and the Facial Soufflé is an intensive, overnight hydrating treatment.

Elemental Herbology Weekend Facial kit

Elemental Herbology Weekend Facial kit

None of these treatments are particularly cheap on their own and being the obsessive person that I am I did calculate the value of the kit compared to the price of the individual products. Suffice it to say that the kit costs £25 and the value, based on the price of the full-size products, is £59.40. Not bad.

As for the products themselves, when I opened the box they were sent in, I was greeted with a gorgeous, slightly fruity, slightly herbal smell as well as mini sizes of the cleanser, facial glow and a sachet of the cell food serum which was a bit of a bonus. I decided that as my skin is fairly dry at the moment I would skip the clay mask this time round and went straight from the exfoliator to the moisturising mask.

Unlike a lot of biological exfoliators, the facial glow doesn’t sting going on which is a good sign that it isn’t going to irritate any eczema patches. It smells quite citrusy and fresh which is always nice. It rinsed off cleanly without any problems and definitely left my skin looking perkier.

The facial soufflé is designed to be left on overnight although I was a bit confused about the application. Did you rub it in like a moisturiser or apply a layer like a mask?I went for the mask-esque option and applied a decent layer and then settled into bed with my kindle. After half an hour most of the product had sunk into my skin but at this point I had some serious reservations as my skin felt a bit tight. Come the next morning, I got a real surprise in that my skin felt softer and more moisturised than it had in a while.

This is a weekend facial I will happily keep performing for as long as the kit lasts and I would say it’s probably good for at least another five or six weekends. Given that works out at about £4 per facial, it is 10% of the cost of a high-street facial and actually, I prefer the results.

The Weekend Facial kit is available from elementalherbology.com and priced at a reasonable £25.

So, will you be giving it a go or do you have your own weekend facial ritual?

Average Josephine x

To print or not to print

When I heard rumours of a model with a 20″ waist on Twitter, I was horrified. This girl must be anorexic, I thought, and how irresponsible of the Daily Mail (yes, the article was in the Daily Fail Mail) for printing it when the girl was so clearly ill.

Ioana Spangenberg

Ioana Spangenberg. Source in2eastafrica.net

Having read the article, I still think that the Mail has been irresponsible but not for the same reasons. The model in question is Ioana Spangenberg, who is Romanian, aged 30 and at 5’6″ weighs a mere 6 stone which would give her a BMI of 13.6. Whilst the BMI is an admittedly flawed measure, if you consider that 18.5 and below is classified as being underweight, there is no way that she can be healthy.

Mrs Spangenberg claims to eat three big meals a day and snack on chocolate and crisps. I am not a doctor and I don’t claim to be so whether she has an eating disorder or a metabolic problem I don’t know, but for her to maintain such a low weight her metabolism would have to be extraordinarily high. And I mean obscenely high. To a point where it’s unhealthy.

I still maintain that publishing pictures of this woman is irresponsible given she’s claiming to be healthy. If she was anorexic and admitting she had an illness and this picture was a warning to others about the damage she has done to her body that would be one thing. But she’s not. And she needs help rather than publicity.

The other thing that is irresponsible is that the Mail does not disclose that in their picture Mrs Spangenberg is in fact wearing a corset and that said 20″ waist is not natural but only achieved when wearing a steel boned corset. She’s still unhealthy but if her real figure were shown rather than the restricted version of it (the picture in the Mail is not good quality so I have used one from a different source), the story would not be nearly as dramatic. The world record for the smallest waist whilst wearing a corset is in fact a ridiculously tiny 16″ (about the size of a big jar of mayonnaise) so whilst 20″ is tiny, it isn’t as horrific as it sounds.

My big issue with this piece of “journalism” is two-fold. It does appear that this woman is being exploited for a story. Quite what her problem is I don’t know but she cannot be healthy with a BMI so low. She needs medical attention, not media speculation. As for the omitted aspect of the story that she is wearing a corset and her waistline isn’t actually 20″, they are turning a person into a freak show by implying that it’s natural. And whilst I can’t entirely blame the Daily Mail as they only cater to an audience, they should at least attempt to produce a balanced piece.

But hey, why would they let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good article?

Average Josephine x

A cup of tea solves everything

A cup of tea solves everything

A cup of tea solves everything (C) Nikki McWilliams

My mum has often said she would be useless in a crisis. Not because she is prone to panic but because if offered “a nice cup of tea” her response would be “sod the tea, can someone get me a brandy?!”

I, on the other hand, am a massive believer in the healing power of a nice cup of tea. Many of the problems of my life have been dissected and solved over a few cups of PG Tips, Tetley, Yorkshire Tea, Scottish Blend, English Breakfast Tea, even a cup of Earl Grey will do in a pinch… You name it, I’ve had it.

Tea purists will often say that tea is best served in delicate china or even glass I maintain that the vessel used should be more suited to the occasion that the contents.

There is something inherently comforting about a warm mug being cradled in your hands.  And in situations where comfort is required, there really is nothing better than a proper mug. A thick, heavy, earthenware mug. Nothing expensive, none of this bone china or porcelain malarkey, just the sort of mug you can pick up in the supermarket. I will confess my favourite mug isn’t a supermarket purchase but my first Christmas present as an auntie…

Giddy Aunt mug from the Big Tomato Company

Giddy Aunt mug from the Big Tomato Company

There are however occasions where the comfort of a cup of tea is required but the soothing ritual of making tea using a teapot, cups and saucers is required. It requires precision to check the tea is brewed to the correct level and that there is not too much milk in the cups. It is an archaic ritual, although not as formal as the Japanese or Chinese tea ceremonies, and one where porcelain is most definitely welcome.

My love of tea is such that for my birthday my brother and sister-in-law bought me the most gorgeous Wedgwood teapot.  It is the sort of teapot that is kept in its box or in a display cabinet and only used with loose-leaf tea, none of those common tea bags. I want to collect the whole set (I currently have the peach and blue tea cups in addition to my teapot) to enhance the experience but this is likely to be a long (and expensive) process. If, of course, anyone wants to help out with this, then please feel free. No, really, feel free!!

Would you choose a cup or a mug when having a cuppa or does it depend on your mood? Or would you just say “sod it” in a crisis and opt for the brandy?!

Average Josephine x

Finding yourself…

I feel sometimes like I have failed at life.

When I was younger I had a set idea of the woman I was going to become.  I would go to university, have a successful professional career as an accountant or a lawyer or something similarly prestigious, meet a wonderful man, get married and maybe have a couple of kids plus the obligatory dog.

By the age of 31, I thought I would have at least reached the getting married part of this plan but with one thing and another, it’s not quite worked out that way.

I have a career, albeit one I’m not really sure I want. I am an exam qualified accountant, all that stands between me and the three letters that signify six years of hard work is a mountain of paperwork and whilst it seems ridiculous to let so much hard work go to waste, I do wonder whether accountancy is the right career for me.  Whilst part of me loves the rules and structure that it has, the lack of freedom and creativity is a bit stifling.  After all, creativity within accounting tends to be frowned upon…

So a successful career, that’s definitely not a checked box on the list.

As for being married, well having been single for nearly six years, that isn’t looking likely in the near future. And bizarrely this bit doesn’t bother me that much. I have stages where I want a relationship but to be honest, if I live on my own for the rest of my life, I’ll be OK with that.  I have my cats and my friends, two adorable nephews who I’ll get to be the crazy aunt with and that’s enough.

So whilst the married box isn’t checked, I’m kind of OK with that.  And the kids box we’ll be leaving unchecked as well. It doesn’t make me feel less of a woman but I can’t help but feel that other people are disappointed in me for not settling down and having a family and having a conventional life.

The biggest issue I have had over the past few years though is that I haven’t been happy.  I’ve been the opposite of happy for the most part and the fact that I have put so much pressure on myself to find this perfect version of myself hasn’t helped but I have never understood why.

"Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself" George Bernard Shaw. Photo: Samantha Hadadi

"Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself" George Bernard Shaw. Photo: Samantha Hadadi

But when I saw this quote by George Bernard Shaw I started to realize exactly why I keep failing at these expectations I have set.  I set these ideals according to my parents’ expectations of me when I scarcely knew who I was, let alone who I would become. I’m never going to find this “perfect version of myself because she doesn’t exist; she never has.

My life is mine to create and whilst I admit there have been some twists and turns I didn’t anticipate and would rather have been skipped, they have helped create the woman I am today.

We all come into this life as a blank canvas. Nature and nurture help determine what the picture looks like but eventually the only person who determines whether the picture is a true work of art is ourselves.

A little too much of my life has been this:

Edvard Munch "the scream" Source: Wikipedia

Edvard Munch "the scream" Source: Wikipedia

I guess we will have to see what the final artwork looks like…

If your life was a picture, which picture would it be?

Average Josephine x

2012- the start of the rest of my life

2012- image from techland.time.com

2012- image from techland.time.com

So here we are in 2012, the year the Olympics will come to London.  Can I just ask everyone one small question?

How the hell did that happen?

It seems like no time at all since we were celebrating the millenium (for a variety of reasons a night I will never forget) and suddenly here we are twelve years later.  A lot has happened in that time both on a global scale and on a more personal one but when people said that time goes quicker the older you get, I didn’t realise they meant quite this quickly.

So 2012, a new year and, for me, another new start.  Trust me when I say I’ve had a few of these.  But I’m determined that this one is going to be different.  Because I’m different this time round. My life is different this time round.

The biggest new start for me is moving back into my flat.  I’ve owned my flat since 2006 but have probably only lived in it for maybe two years in the intervening period.  The reason for this being that with my depression there were problems with me living on my own. Basically I couldn’t be trusted to keep functioning and doing basic things like eating and cleaning. So for the rest of the time I have been living with my parents.

The lack of cleaning thing means that in order to move back my flat needs a really good spring clean.  So that is my first job for the new year and it does equate to sort my life out! But I am looking forward to doing it as it is a step towards the independence that I haven’t had for so long and that I need in order to move on with my life.

Also, there is a good chance that either me or one of my parents may die if we keep living together much longer. There is only so long you can live with your parents and answer the “where are you going, when will you be back, what are you doing today” questions when you have had the freedom to do what you want, when you want before.

Of course, moving back to my flat means that I’m going to be spending a lot more money as I haven’t really been spending money on food or anything similar over the past couple of years.  The thing with that is that in the past I haven’t exactly been what you might call financially responsible.  Ooops? So I’m going to have to start -gulp- budgeting and getting my finances in order as at the age of 30. Alvin Hall, here I come.

My other aim for 2012 is to get comfortable with my biggest demon: the mirror. Like a lot of women I really don’t like what I see in the mirror, despite Operation Fit and Fabulous, I don’t live comfortably inside my own skin.  As a result I’m going to focus less on what my body looks like and more what it can do.  So I’m going to run.  I ran a bit at uni but an old back injury flared up and I stopped but I’ve been inspired by the fabulous Bangs and a Bun and her various incarnations of Team Bangs on the Run.

So come September I am going to run the Run to the Beat half marathon.  13.1 miles that may very well kill me but I’m going to do it. And luckily I have a partner in crime for this in the gorgeous and fabulous Mrs Samantha Hadadi, one of my best friends and a truly gorgeous woman, inside and out.

I’m also going to make a special effort with my diet, try and take my own food for lunch instead of relying on whatever I can lay my hands on when I’m at work.  This should help both the finances and the waistline as I’m sure I’m eating a lot of calories I really shouldn’t be with lunch.  I’m going to see a nutritionist to help with this as having been told I can’t eat gluten I think I need a bit more help with my diet to make sure I’m getting all the right nutrients to support my body.

The most important part of what are effectively my New Year’s resolutions is to love myself. I have a horrible habit of beating myself up for every tiny little perceived mistake and whilst it is something I have worked on in therapy, I still have a long way to go.  The good bit is that 2011 has brought me some new friends who will help me with this.

And with that I want to say goodbye to 2011 with a massive thank you to my fantastic friends, the lovely people who have supported me through some tough times. Special thank yous go to Samatha Hadadi, Cate Merrick, Jo GiffordSarah Williams,Jayne Hardy, Lea RiceAli Edgar and Andy Hagan. You guys are brilliant and I love you.

Another thank you goes to the lovely people who read my blog. I am hugely excited whenever I get a new follower or a comment so thank you and please keep reading.

What are your plans for 2012? Have you made New Year’s resolutions this year?

Average Josephine x

UPDATE: I meant to put this when discussing Run to the Beat above but if anyone wants to join me, Sam and Jo (who has commented she will be joining us!) then please let me know! I’d love to keep in touch with anyone planning to run and we can all keep each other going through the training- I’m going to need all the support I can get!!

The silent killer

Today, the footballing world was shocked and horrified to hear that Gary Speed was found dead at his home after hanging himself to death.  Police have confirmed that a 42-year-old man had been found dead and identified as Speed by his next-of-kin.

One of the reasons that everyone has been so stunned by his death is there were no indicators of a problem before his death.  He appeared on Sky Sports yesterday (I saw him and can’t quite get my head round it) and was celebrating with his friend Robbie Savage on the set of Strictly Come Dancing only a couple of weeks ago.

My heart goes out to his family, especially his wife and two sons.  Losing a family member at all is a hideous thing to go through but under these circumstances, it is inconceivable how a family can process and work their way through such a tragedy.

I have said before that I have suffered from depression and I’m not afraid or ashamed of admitting that there was a point where I came very close to carrying out the same act.  I remember carrying my cats around my flat telling them that my parents would look after them.  I remember making plans which stretched from stealing a family friend’s shotgun to overdosing to crashing my car to using it to gas myself.  The scary thing is at some of the points where I seriously entertained those plans, I was the only person who knew how ill I was.  I was at work and by and a fully functional member of society.  In reality I was suffering from very severe depression.

We have become much more accustomed to people talking of depression and the fact that up to one in every eight people is suffering from some sort of mental illness at any given time.  There is a perception that through antidepressants and a bit of therapy this illness can be cured.  And in a lot of cases a six month course od antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy is what is needed.  But when help is not available or a person cannot make use of it for whatever reason, the results can be catastrophic.

What people fail to see is that depression is an illness that kills. It is the biggest killer of young men between 25 and 34 years of age other than car accidents.  And yet we hear very little about that side of depression.  We do not hear about the depression that does not lift with medication or when therapy fails.  It is only when a tragedy occurs that we begin to wonder what drives a successful man with a family to kill himself.

So please, if you start to think about how best to take your own life, go to a doctor. There is no shame is depression; it is an illness, an error in a chemical in your brain.  It is not a sign of weakness. A long time ago my father told me that asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength rather than weakness and I beg all of you to remember that.

You will all know someone with depression.  They may never have told you but they will be there.  Support them, be there for them and maybe we can avoid some of the repeats of the tragedy that has happened today.

Average Josephine x