Review: Energise You by Oliver Gray

2012 was all about a Mr Grey for a lot of women, and I think 2013 is shaping up to be all about another Mr Gray and not just for the fairer sex… Oliver Gray, ex tennis player and personal trainer, and Managing Director and founder of energiseYou has recently released his book ‘Energise You’, the ‘ultimate health and energy plan’ and as soon as the book landed on my doorstep I couldn’t resist curling up on the sofa armed with a green highlighter and diving in.

The book has seven chapters that centre on the seven key elements that impact most on you and your well-being – Mind Management, Nutrition, Sleep, Exercise, Computer Use, Re-Energise and the doozy, Work-Life Balance. Before I knew it I’d read the book from cover to cover and was logging on the energiseYou website in order to take their on-line energy check to see where I was most deficient before putting my head back into the book for a second slower read and the chance to think about applying the knowledge to my life.

The way the information is laid out and broken down makes it far more manageable than other ‘self help’ books I’ve read and there were quite a few eureka moments where it was like Oliver had de-cluttered a tiny part of the fog inside my brain. Since reading it, it’s like I’ve had nuggets of wisdom implanted in my noggin that pop up when I least expect them and point me in the right direction, such as putting down my phone, iPad and laptop for at least an hour before going to bed in order to help myself get to sleep. Sounds simple doesn’t it? And yet it had never occurred to me until I was sent this book.

I’ve been using Oliver’s book for a couple of weeks now and apart from last night when I had the worst night’s sleep since records began, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my energy and in my sleep quality. I’m going to give it three months of implementing the changes suggested in the sleep and re-energise chapters and then take the on-line energy test again to see how I do before moving on to some of the other areas in an attempt to gain some balance.

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to get a bit of pizazz back in their life, for £7.99 you can’t really go wrong and if you’re anything like me you’ll be dipping in and out of it and sharing tips with all your friends. It’s available online at http://www.energiseyou.com/book and there is a Kindle version on Amazon at £4.19.

*press sample

Ally, Queen of Shops

Unexpectedly lovely day yesterday as I wandered round the corner to Bedford Place to do a spot of local shopping and ended up spending several hours helping my friend Mama Hep sort out her new collection for her vintage shop, Hepwright’s

I’d stuck my head round the door to say hello and ended up getting sucked into the treasure trove of fabulousness, it’s the sort of shop where rummaging is positively encouraged and you can’t help but want to browse through all the racks, drawers, trunks and baskets. Mama Hep (Catherine) is an ever gracious host and having watched her in action, I can definitely recommend Hepwright’s as a shopping experience. After doing a whole lotta browsing I got down to helping with the folding and sorting of some seriously wonderful pieces incoming from a local Opera company. I’m not exactly what one would call a fashionista and I’m not exactly brave in my sartorial choices, nor do I really have a clue what goes with what and so it was great to be able to talk styling with Mama as we waded through piles of clothing. 

And then it happened… I was left in charge of the shop! *squeals* All my girlhood dreams were coming true as MH popped to get a coffee and I took up my position behind the counter and tried to assume an air of ‘I belong here and I know what I am doing, honestly’ by moving things round the counter and doing a spot of tidying. The façade lasted until a lady came into the shop with a bag of things to sell. Holy crapola was I out of my depth! I stalled and decided instead to show her some of my favourite things on the racks (hellooooooo yellow seersucker dress, I’m talking to you!) which prompted a lovely reminisce from her about some of the things she remembers her Mum wearing when she was growing up and thankfully took long enough for Mama Hep to return with liquid refreshment and her all encompassing vintage knowledge to save the day.

I couldn't resist making myself Ally, Queen of Shops.
I couldn’t resist making myself Ally, Queen of Shops.

It made me realise quite how crap and impersonal shopping on the high street can be, as I watched customers come in and share their stories, each one lavished with individual attention and service. We met the loveliest Irish ladies and by the end of the afternoon, I knew more about the pair of them than I know about some of the friends I’ve known for years. At one point the four of us were sat cross legged on the floor of the shop poring over old maps whiling away time and shooting the breeze. Mama Hep knows her stock inside out and will always go rummaging in ‘Narnia’ (the stockroom at the back of the shop) if she thinks there is something back there that you might fall in love with.

It was such fun getting to play shops and help a friend out all at once, and when the time came to say goodbye I left the shop with a smile on my face and a spring in my step, which was further magnified when a very handsome bearded young gentleman, riding a proper old fashioned bicycle and rocking a wicked tweed suit, dinged his bike bell at me as he sailed past, he may as well have doffed his cap it was so positively perfect to top off my vintage day.

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Hepwright’s is located at 34 Bedford Place, Southampton and is SO worth dropping in to. You can also chat to Mama Hep @hepvintage on Twitter or visit their website http://www.hepwrights.com

Birchbox: A Review

picture taken by Long Tall Ally

Birchbox are the latest beauty box on the block. For those not in the know, beauty boxes are the current favourite ‘monthly fee for fun pushed through your letterbox’ craze following on from Graze and Not Another Bill. New to the UK having scooped up previous company Joliebox, Birchbox have a monthly subscriber base of more than 300,000 in the U.S and are finally bringing their beauty and lifestyle discovery service to the UK starting with this January 2013 offering. There was no mistaking what it was when this landed in my lap – that hot pink just screams rip me open and look at the goodies, doesn’t it.

So, what’s in the box?!

picture taken by Long Tall Ally

When it arrived the bow was perfect however yours truly couldn’t wait to be reunited with a camera to take pictures so I dived in straight away and then had to attempt to re-tie the bow as best I could. I was bemused by the Birchbox branded magnifying glass, I thought perhaps it was a dig at my advancing years and looming birthday however the strapline on the press release was ‘Discover Beauty Better with acclaimed US experts BIRCHBOX’, so grabbing the magnifying glass and stroking my imaginary Sherlock Holmes beard, I dived in.

picture taken by Long Tall Ally

I might sound like a bit of a geek but I really like the packaging, it feels good quality and it looks classy enough for me to re-appropriate the box to store earrings in, although I’m not really sure why they felt it necessary to include a drawstring pink bag – unless they knew that I would do this with it:

I know, I'm amazed I'm single too...
I know, I’m amazed I’m single too…

Lurking inside my new rainhat (It totally suits me, right?) were six sample sized products to help me start the new year on the right foot and a postcard telling me what each product was for, and how much a full sized version would cost me.

Pic taken by Long Tall AllyFrom left to right we have,

  • KMS California FREE SHAPE Quick Blow Dry which apparently leaves hair bouncier and shinier than ever and promises to cut down on blow drying time by 50% thereby giving me even less time to try and master blow drying my own hair. I’ll be honest, I’m more likely to spritz this on and then not bother with the blow dry but it smells nice and might give me an extra ten minutes in bed in the morning.
  • Wei Jujube Age Control Serum (no, I’m not sure how it’s pronounced either), a tiny tube but a little goes a long way I hope, particularly as it’s supposed to soften the look of fine lines which appear to be setting up home on my face.
  • fresh Sugar Rosé Lip Treatment SPF 15 – bit of a mouthful here, and I’m hoping it will give me a bit of a mouthful (that boys want to do smooching on). This is the product I’m most excited about trying as it exfoliates, has a hint of colour, smells divine and contains SPF15. What more could you want? What’s that? You want it to apply itself? Well there’s just no pleasing some people.
  • Wild Romantic Body Butter with Shea and Marula. I’m not going to lie, I actually recoiled in fear of losing my nasal hair when I smelt this. It certainly packs a punch given the size of the sample (my pot is about a third full) and whilst it claims to be lightly scented (I beg to differ) it also claims to conquer dryness in a snap. I’m tempted to keep it in my handbag to use as smelling salts, but if you’re a fan of heavier scents than I am, this might just be your thing.
This might bring all the boys to my yard...
This might bring all the boys to my yard…

In addition to those four main items were two ‘extras’, some I Coloniali Deep Massage Body Cream with Myrrh which looks like a standard sample you could probably blag from the counter directly and a Teapigs Tummy Tonic caffeine free peppermint leaves packet. Teapigs are a brand that I’ve heard a lot about which is unusual given that I don’t drink hot drinks and it smells absolutely scrumptious, even though I know it will probably taste like dishwater. Not that I’m dissing Teapigs, I just can’t bear the taste of herbal tea.

Pic taken by Long Tall Ally

In addition to all the goodies there is a Birchbox magazine which takes us behind the Wei brand, gives tips on using some of the products in the box and introduces a monthly ‘Birchbox Crush’, this first honour falling to Gemsmaquillage a YouTube guru and blogger.

pic taken by Long Tall Ally

If you’re in the market for a sample subscription service, I don’t think Birchbox have done too badly with this first offering, it’s not promising the world and delivering far less and it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with in the following months. To get your very own Birchbox will cost you £10 a month plus £2.95 P&P from http://www.birchbox.co.uk

*press sample

Zut Alors, Michael Kors!

I’ve fallen in love. Proper sparkly shiny dry mouth heart poundy not going to be able to sleep tonight thinking about the beauty love.

It’s with Michael Kors. Not the 53 year old blazer wearing American fashion designer, but with the gorgeousness he puts his name to. I’ll confess, it brings out the magpie in me and I want to gather all the shiny together and nest with it whilst whispering ‘my pretties’ over and over.

It started when I thought I’d replace my battered old Fossil watch and clocked a friend of a friend with something gold and chunky on her wrist. Gold, chunky and Michael Kors. Having stalked gold chunky watches for a while, I’ve come to rest on the one that I’m hoping will be a 30ish birthday present, probably from Me, to Me because I’m nice like that.

image courtesy of polyvore.com
Michael Kors MK8077 from £158 through Amazon UK

 But it doesn’t stop there, because it transpires that Mr Kors does a fine line in other beautiful things. Like these bangles which I’d stack up high on my wrist and listen to them jangle whilst I sip cocktails at a glamorous rooftop bar and slink about in a très chic kaftan (naturally I’m a size 8 glamazon with bronzed pool boys catering to my every whim in my bangle fantasy).

Skinny Buckle Bangles, Rose Golden $95 from Michael Kors website
Skinny Buckle Bangles, Rose Golden $95 from Michael Kors website

I’ll tell you a funny story about the night I attempted to wear a pair of shoes similar to the ones below. It was for a ball at Goodwood House, I got all glammed up and felt fabulous, cracked out the shoes and realised as I tottered to the car that a) they made me 6’7″ and b) I couldn’t fecking walk in them. It wasn’t long before I kicked them off under the table and got a friend to fetch my flats when he popped back to the bedrooms for something. Oh how I wish I’d kept the high shoes on. If I had, I wouldn’t have got so drunk that I thought a very famously gay celebrity was chatting me up, spent the best part of a grand in one night and sent Greg James from Radio One an email asking him out. Okay, I wouldn’t change that last part because it was great fun but STILL. I can’t walk in shoes like this, but I can lust after them.

Kaleigh Studded Platform sandal $295 Michael Kors website
Kaleigh Studded Platform sandal $295 Michael Kors website

And the final, most magpie inducing shiny shiny of them all:

Gia Studded clutch $795 Michael Kors website
Gia Studded clutch $795 Michael Kors website

Isn’t it incredible? It comes in black, navy, grey and ecru but if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it properly right? This thing is IN YOUR FACE bling and I love it. So what started with some arm candy in the shape of a watch has now progressed to pretty much the entire Michael Kors website. Oh to win the lottery.

Go on over and have a browse but don’t blame me if your bank manager takes a hit out on you. http://www.michaelkors.com

 

The Giving Keys

I know “The Giving Keys” sound like an indie band from some hick town who cruise the streets in a bashed up old Buick but it’s actually the nicest notion that I’ve come across on the interwebnet for a long time.

Brainchild of Caitlin Crosby an American singer-songwriter and actress, The Giving Keys exists to help people in LA who are transitioning out of homelessness by employing them to engrave recycled keys which are then made in to bracelets, necklaces and pendants. The keys are engraved with single words like ‘BELIEVE’, ‘FEARLESS’, ‘GRATEFUL’, ‘HOPE’ and ‘LOVE’ and they’re beautiful in that quirky something slightly out of the ordinary, people will ask you where you got it from kind of way.

The Giving Keys was born when Caitlin started wearing an old New York hotel room key as a necklace which progressed to selling engraved key necklaces at the merch table at her gigs. The key necklaces became a massive hit and sold like hotcakes and became a real focus for Crosby alongside her music. However it wasn’t until she met Cera and Rob who were homeless on Hollywood Blvd and rocking a sign saying ‘UGLY, BROKE & HUNGRY’ that things clicked into place. They became the first employees, scouring the streets for old keys before meeting Caitlin on street corners to exchange keys for cash. With the help of The Giving Keys Cera and Rob moved into apartments of their own, Rob graduated from high school and headed off to college and Cera is training to be a nutritionist and both still work for TGK. From little acorns, there are now ten employees working for TGK and making the steps to transition out of homelessness.

Never Ending Necklace
Never Ending Necklace, $55 plus shipping

So far so ‘something you could probably buy on ASOS’ right? That’s where the giving part comes into its own. The driving force behind the words on the keys is that when a key comes into your life, you keep hold of it until you cross paths with someone who you feel needs the message that the key bears. There are a collection of stories on the website of the people who have bought the keys, been given the keys and given away the keys, and some of them are so touching that I’m not ashamed to say I’ve cried at a few.

I just love the random act of kindness of it all. That you could be drawing your own inner strength from a key round your neck, but that in that one moment you feel compelled, inspired, driven, to give your key to someone who needs it more. It reminds me of being given a little round flat pebble of green glass that had been worn down by the tides to a smooth little nub. The person who gave it to me carried it in their pocket and whenever they were feeling worried or stressed they’d give the smoothness of the glass a rub to calm down and focus on something other than what was swirling round in their head. In their mind if the power of the tides hadn’t rubbed the glass to nothing then a bit of worry wasn’t going to kill them either. They came into my life at a time of great stress and it was fleeting but I still think of them and what they’ve given me (more than just a bit of old glass) every time I rub that little pebble.

Classic Pendant
Where did these keys come from?

The mysterious nature of it all means my imagination can also run wild about where the keys have come from, who they might have belonged to and what they might have unlocked. I just think it’s beautiful and once I’ve decided which word I feel I drawn to most, I’ll be placing an order.

– The Giving Keys are available from http://www.thegivingkeys.com/ and they ship internationally, with postage to the UK at approx $16. They are also sold in 200+ stores in the US, including Fred Segal and Kitson.

Cosy Toes

After splashing through several puddles the other morning wearing a pair of inappropriate ballet pumps I have had enough and it’s time to make the annual switch to boots both for warmth and practicality. I thought I’d show you some of my favourites out there at the moment, of course I can’t buy any of them due to having massive feet and being on a shopping ban but I can live vicariously through you lot and your normal sized tootsies.

Starting off with the ‘Welly’ category, it would be remiss of me not to mention the ubiquitous ‘Hunter’ wellington boots. They come in a range of colours and sizes so there really is something for everyone but the ones that have caught my eye are their new Regent Collection. They bring to mind Elizabeth Bennett romping over the fields all flushed and sexy looking before bumping in to Mr Darcy for a bunk up. My particular favourites are:

image courtesy of targetwholesale.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Of course not everybody has over a hundred squids to spank on a pair of puddle splashers so if you’re in the market for a pair without a three figure price tag then the Welly Warehouse has literally hundreds of pairs to choose from – this pair that look like some girlie stripy rigger boots caught my eye, I’m a fan!

But what about if it’s cold and crisp and there are no puddles to jump in to? What’s a girl to do then? Break out the fur of course! Now I know they say that ‘Uggs are for Smugs’ but I can’t condone the wearing of those outside of the house so I’ve searched for other alternatives. I like to think of this category as ‘Ski Bunny’, conjuring up images of fair isle jumpers, plaits and big mugs of hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire.

I love both of these because they look so cosy and warm and would work equally as well with skinny jeans or a nice skirt and thick tights. My toes are getting warm just looking at these bad boys!

The final category in my boot tour of the world is for when you don’t want to schlumph about but instead want to be able to pick your way delicately over cold ground safe in the knowledge that you won’t be getting any chillblains. The sort of boots that make you think of Nancy Sykes from Oliver or the dancing scene from Titanic where Leo shows Kate how its done before they begin their ill fated love affair. Oh Leo, I appear to have come over all unnecesary *fans self*

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it’s the laces that I like about these, I have a similar pair that my friend describes as my Victorian wench boots and far from being offended I quite like the description. They’re sort of like sexy hiking boots…. and who doesn’t want to look like a sexy hiker when the weather turns!

Only Ever Just a Temporary Measure…

I’m going to let you into a little secret, one of my favourite places to browse on the net and somewhere I love ordering stuff from. Described as ‘photographic canvases and stories and commissions and cards and accessories and a lovely cup of tea…’ Temporary Measure is a small tearoom and shop in Keswick, Cumbria and is well worth a visit either in person (oh how I’d kill to visit in person) or online at their rather fabulous boutique.

My gorgeous sister in law ‘The Middle Wife’ brought this slice of home interiors heaven into my life about seven years ago and since then whenever I’ve needed a special gift for a loved one they’ve instantly come to mind. Their mainstay used to be their printed canvases, both set pieces like the one below and some mindblowingly lovely commissions – they really have a way with words.

The lovely Emma is head honcho and an all round bundle of joy who has expanded Temp Measure over the years so that it now offers all sorts of goodies for the home from textiles (including knitted bunting!), to fine china, clothes, cards, and most recently they’ve started branching out into books. It really is a treasure trove of lusciousness and I for one would absolutely love to get a gift from here. And because it is a small family run business they even sometimes let you get away with phoning them up to commission two very special canvases with four days notice until you need them. Ahem.

Such is the perfection of Temporary Measure and their little home in Keswick that a lady who had been on a coach trip through Keswick sent a letter addressed to ‘Main Post Office, Keswick, Yorkshire Dales?’ describing a rather lovely knitted purse that she’d seen in a shop somewhere but couldn’t remember where abouts. The lovely postman in lovely Keswick just knew that it had to be a Temp Measure purse. Lo and behold it was and now Betty has a new purse and a great story to tell her friends. It really is magical and with Christmas approaching at a rate of knots, I bet you can find something perfect there for someone perfect.

  • Temporary Measure are online at http://temporarymeasure.co.uk or if you’re so inclined you can chat with Emma over on Twitter @onlyeverjusta although don’t distract her for too long, she has amazing things to make.

WeWood Watches – I Would

I’m a total fiend for watches, I feel naked without a heavy chunk of something something dangling off my wrist and have been known to turn the car round and go back to the house if I forget to put one back on after my shower. My first watch was a 1992 Pop Swatch “Parade” which I alternately wore on my wrist or ‘popped’ on my t-shirt like one of the cool kids.

Then when I was about 14 I graduated to a blinging DKNY number that I pestered my Mum to buy, it was sleek and sparkly and probably somewhat inappropriate for school wear but I loved it like it was my own child. It’s still in its display case amongst my keepsakes somewhere and if early 90’s bling ever comes back into fashion then I might pass it on to my daughter or my very gay son.

Then came the Fossil watch obsession, starting with the chunky leather strapped badboy that I thought made me look like Lara Croft all ass kicking and lethal; the sparkly Twist stainless steel jobby that I ended up having an allergic reaction to followed swiftly by the oh so chic bang on trend white ceramic looks like a Chanel J12 but y’know isn’t, watch.

As a normal human who only has two wrists that should be more than enough watches to last me a lifetime huh? Well I know it is but I can’t help but keep an eye peeled for little beauties that could technically be an addition to my collection were I not on a shopping ban of course. One such watch is the WeWood Watch in Beige which made me do a little squeal when I saw it – a wooden watch.

Made entirely from organic, hypo-allergenic wood and without any yucky chemicals I reckon the WeWood range is definitely one to watch. I think they’d make great Christmas presents and can think of someone in particular I’d love to buy one for. They’re stylish and a bit unusual which is a great combination, and I think a WeWood watch would look just as good on a stylo teenage girl who has been drop kicked through TopShop as a suited and booted business man with a bit of fashion flair. In fact I’d quite like to date a wooden watch wearing suity man, if you know any? The WeWood range is reasonably priced between £79-89 and the best thing about buying your own bit of tree to adorn your wrist? The promise from WeWood that for each watch sold a new tree will be planted. Italian design and eco credentials? Count me in. The WeWood range is available at Watch Me Go a site I’m very glad I didn’t encounter whilst I was still shopping. It’s like hardcore porn for watch lovers.