The Middle Sister

The wonderings, ponderings and other 'ings' of me. Lifestyle, review, news and opinion posts. Chic with a hint of sarcasm... hopefully!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Review: Origins


An absolute eon ago the lovely ladies of Origins invited me in for a facial and private wander around their shop.  Which I went to and FULLY intended to write about the next day, but then a bunch of things happened (including President *retch* Trump) so I got a bit fed up and blogging was low on my list of things to do.  As we enter the final phase of ‘annus* horribilis’ I’m looking at things that have been good to me over 2016, being a Cambridge blogger is one of them.  I know in the infested gash of a year that has been The World Without Bowie its not much but we're starting small here people.

So back to Origins.  


Powered by plants, proven by science, the environment is a top priority for this company, with staff getting a tree planted in their honour after one year's service.  And while they admit to using preservatives, they are gentle and at present no microbeads are included in their products.  Using natural ingredients like tea and mushrooms and giving free facials, testers and on hand advice means Origins are well suited to the beauty quarter that is Cambridge’s Rose Crescent.  Origins have really thought about their price range as well, making those aimed at the younger audience more affordable. That said the cost of the tiny tubes of joy, available in a pick and mix variety, mean even I’m likely to consider trying one or two.



Origins are also great for sensitive skin advising they don't just deal with the problem (soothing and calming the inflammation) but claim to strengthen as well, so it may not be so sensitive in the future.  I've got what the pros call a combination complexion, I refer to it as ‘pain-in-the-arse-greasy-but-I-also-shouldn’t-bother-going-outside-in-winter-cos-I-look-like-a-snake-shedding** but we'll go with their phrasing because its less time consuming . Point being is their 'Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask' is currently riding high on my love it list.  It goes on clear, doesn't get all pealy, leaving you all zombie-like in the morning and smells amazing.  I can see this coming in especially handy for those celebrating hard during December, as long we remember to take off our make up and put it on before we crash out. 

But they can't do everything for us so that's our problem, not theirs.


Have you tried any Origins products recently?

*That’s Annus not Anus you bunch of children!
**bit of a mouthful that one eh?

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Thursday, 3 November 2016

Review: Spirit of Christmas Fair


Anyone who knows me knows I'm basically 'Mrs Christmas'.  The second fireworks night is done, my head fills with yuletide and Christmas cheer.  That said the past couple of years have seen my spirits dampen ever so slightly, which made me wondered if I had grown out being all jolly.  So an invite to the Spirit of Christmas fair, with wreath making, cocktail tasting and a blogger breakfast was just the thing I needed to see if the next step was for me to be visited by 3 ghosts.

Official Spiel... sort of
The Spirit of Christmas fair has been going since 2001, in partnership House and Garden magazine it champions independent non high street brands - Hooray for the little man we all cry! One of the said brands sells the world's most expensive rocking horse at £98,000
... Anyway!

It's safe to say there were a few hiccups with getting into the event and with the bloggers breakfast that was promised. The invite clearly said 'champagne breakfast' so forgetting the champagne is a pretty big mistake, they didn't even roll out cava or prosecco - so not cool in a totally first world problems kinda way. The sumptuous breakfast we were promised was also nowt but a few pastries.  

Our cocktail making class didn't exactly go to plan either. While the guys were lovely they had to delay the tasting as they ran out of ice.  But taste them we did and I'd go so far as to call our tipple quite interesting.  


Ingredients included celery, Absinthe and gin, seeing as I barely touched our 'sumptuous breakfast' well, you know!

When it came to the wreath making workshop, Electric Daisy Flower Farm have a few odd ideas.  Like an all male calendar with images of wreathes worn like crowns on all the models.  However, there's no denying they know what they are doing, we all got individual wreath kits with wicker rings and all you would need to make a truly festive decoration.  

The process was simple and enjoyable, until we found out how much they want to charge for the kit.   If you're a spondoolies rich/time poor type, it may be just the ticket but for your average Joe/Joanne paying over half a ton (£55 to be exact!) for a bunch of twigs and leaves you can get for free from your own back garden is a bit of a stretch.


Here endth the moaning
For all these woes, Spirit of Christmas has some wonderful stalls, jam packed with goodies that would bring a festive smile to the most humbuggiest of bah-humbugs. The food section was my first stop and I spent a happy hour sampling approximately 19 types of cheese, sausages and tapenade. 

I even found the nicest vegan chocolate by Octo Chocolate Ltd which kept me on a sugar and fat high all day.  On a practical note the facilities were quite acceptable, you could get your water bottle filled up for free at the coffee shops, the food queues moved quickly and there were ample restrooms.  
Jessica Mary Design
Beautiful candles, unique and interesting gifts and decorations filled the lower floor.  My favourite stalls included weirdly wonderful household furnishings by Antiques by Design, gorgeous hats by Jessica Mary Design, Original 1950's Jukeboxes and popcorn machines by The Games Room and chic yet affordable jewellery by Christin Ranger.


Antiques by Design
Christin Ranger
 After a full day at the fair I still hadn't visited all the stalls but my enthusiasm for Christmas was back to full strength. I think the previous couple of years it was just lying dormant, resting and gathering strength.  And now that I've started celebrating EXTRA early the spirit is stronger than ever! I'm going to be like the Christmas fairy on crack this year, if you're not a fan of the season you'd best avoid me til 2017.

Thank you Spirit of Christmas fair.  Like Arnie says, I'll be back!
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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

When TV shows go too far


If The Walking Dead (TWD) were my boyfriend he would be getting some serious silent treatment after last night.  

I consider myself able to deal with a fair amount of violence when it comes to TV.  It can be entertaining when done with humour or in short scenes where we then watch how people cope with the adversity they face.  But there are limits and I think I’ve found mine with TWD's opening episode of season seven.

Spoilers - don't read if you haven't seen it!

I get that TV needs to keep reinventing itself and for the longest time (I'm talking to you the 80's and 90's) main characters in popular shows were never really in any danger of dying.  When that changed it did become more exciting, as you genuinely didn’t know which of your favourites were going to make it to the end of the series.   The problem however is while trying to shock increasingly desensitised and bloodthirsty viewers, writers push some of us over the edge. 

I knew there was always a possibility that Glenn would die this way, especially as in the graphic novel the show is based on, that is exactly what happens. But there has to be a point where I question if the senseless bludgeoning of a character I've come to love is worth a sleepless night?  When the violence is so graphic and relentless that all I'm left with is feeling stressed out, scared and sick it may just be the answer is no.  I admit I'm partly angry that I was lulled into a false sense of security by killing off Abraham first, but it goes deeper than that. 

You're jerking me around by doing something so lovely (Glenn dumpster survival) and then doing something so horrendous (Glenn eye poppingly excruciating death).   
Is it just to see how I react? 
To show me that life is hard? 
To prove that bad things happen to good people? 
NEWSFLASH: NOT. A. LESSON. I. NEED. TO. LEARN!

So we need to break up, or at least have a little time apart while I investigate how to have you committed for homicidal mania. Because things have changed.

This isn’t a world of dragons and witches and iron thrones, nor is there one ring to rule them all.  
Now there's nothing in the show to differentiate fantasy story line from a just brutal world. 
Now its a show about how deranged a person can be.  
Now watching it means I'm enabling your behaviour.  

Like an audience member at the Colosseum, its all a bit sordid...


Frankly mate no, I'm really really not.
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Friday, 14 October 2016

Stylist Live - Meeting Moran

Stylist Live, Where to begin?

I’ll start by saying it’s a blast, Islington Business Centre gets chock full of interesting stalls and wonderful lady people.  We had scent free peel off nail varnish, shoes you can design yourself, catwalks, talks by those I would definitely be stalking were I bit more touched in the head as well as a great deal more merriment.  I’ll expand on the catwalk and how totally cool I was when I met my idol Caitlin Moran, in a bit.  But first an organisers tip for next time.

Pet Peeve 1: Bad Planning.
If you have an event with talks due to begin at 2.30pm and all the above merriment starting at 2pm you have to get your paying customers in on time.  So when the queue wasn’t going down at 10 past the hour and the line snaked round the building we sensed a problem.  Dud QR codes seemed to be holding entry up and though I asked a security guard if those of us with Moran tickets could jump to the front (as this was due to start in a few minutes*) he said no.  A little disgruntled but cheerful enough we trundled back to our place in the queue.  So when 5 minutes later the same guard called out ‘Anyone for the Caitlin Moran talk make your way to the front’ we became a little concerned about the common sense of those in charge.


But finally we got in and after being directed to the wrong place by another stylist worker bee(!) we made it to our seats.  Where we spent a good half an hour listening to Moran and Sali Hughes on wonderful topics including:
Tights with a well-marked front and back
Women who don’t look to have enough female friendships (#WhereAreHerGirls!) 
How working class people who are successful DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY BECOME MIDDLE CLASS**  

The late start meant we missed out on a few precious minutes with these two ladies but we cheered ourselves by popping round a few stalls and then meandered our way to the catwalk where we had (very kindly) been given FROW tickets.  





Lovin' the 'tude on this chicks face!

The trends were as expected with 'Velvet Goldmine' being a bit to ‘The Little Princess’ for my personal tastes and it took me a while to work out what ‘Intergalactic’ reminded me of…
But then I realised – Babylon Zoo!***
If you’ve ever read any of my Caitlin Moran posts you’ll know I’m not just a total fan girl, I have a whole fantasy world worked out where I truly believe we are great friends… Anyway this meant that faced with the prospect of meeting her in the flesh I bricked it.  Luckily I had someone with me who knew how much I would regret this and insisted on getting her book and queuing for an autograph.

Another queue but this time I didn’t mind, it was like a grown up version of waiting to chat with Father Christmas.  Just as exciting but less patriarchal and much more eyeshadow.  And we got to see just what a poppet Moran is when faced with her fans.  Literally hugging and kissing every person that came up to her, saying hello beautiful, commenting on something about their person and generally being life affirming. 


I love ALL the people in this photo - Image supplied by @GirlRunningLate
@GirlRunningLate warned me to ‘be cool’ adding that I’ll never get her as a real friend if I geek out… quite right to. 

Que literally zebedeeing my way across to my new BFF when it was my turn for a meet and greet, babbling on about something I have no memory of.  Cooler than cool.  Nailed it!  I regret that when she apologised for making us wait I didn’t tell her that it’s fine and that I’ve waited longer for a burger.  I’m sure she would have questioned that and I could have advised it was for a van called Steak and Honor and that if she was ever in the area she should let me know.  It would have been friendship cemented!
… She’s not a vegetarian right?

After this encounter everything else paled.  We wandered the stalls picking up beautiful candles, handmade cards and constellation necklaces.  It’s at this point I did notice, and feel the need to comment on, another issue Stylist really need to get on.

Pet Peeve 2: Water Stations.
Humans are like 90% water and we need to replenish this stuff. More so if we’ve been hyperventilating about meeting those we hold in goddess-like status however there were NO water station available! OK a small lie, there was one but it was feck all use as it had no cups, not even those weird triangle things that are about as useful as a sieve.  I don’t carry a cup around with me, in fact the only cup I have considered having on my person for an elongated amount of time is a mooncup and let’s face it, not too hygienic to drink out of!  

This needs to be fixed before next time or I may actually dehydrate and end up being carted away in the middle of your, otherwise wonderful, event. 

Stylist Live is on until 16th October, are you going?

* and for me to get my yearly Caitlyn fix. 

** as all that leaves for working class to be defined by is successful.  We are successful Working Class not Middle Class - If the caps hadn’t clued you in please note it’s something I feel really quite strongly about!

*** This is not a slight, calm yourself!
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Saturday, 8 October 2016

American Road Trip V - Five Star Experience, or the JW Marriott Way

Monsoon season had done little to dampen our spirits or mess with our itinerary until the last day of Williams when we were due to drive a 2.5hr trip for a horse ride.  When more rain came down in a few hours than I’ve seen on a Welsh mountain side* we were forced to readdress our plans.  Being a wildly vast state we knew AZ would be a damn site hotter in Tucson, where our trip was to continue after this expedition.  And so it was with the planning skills of big sis we ended up with an extended stay at the resort of JW Marriott




Now I’ve stayed in Marriott’s before but never one like this. After the countless ‘basic’ motels with air conditioning so loud it would drown out a war zone the switch of gears was more than welcome.  The disappointment of the missed horse ride soon dissipated as we were treated to beautiful accommodation, swimming pools (plural) and 5 star service.

Endless corridors and hallways housed bars, a fitness centre and a spa, you could see the cacti and smell the opulence at every turn.  The setting was a real treat and the staff ensured we were well cared for.  From the Aromatherapy Associates bathroom products to the different flavoured fruit infused water for the taking no detail was left unattended.  



Swimming outside in a thunderstorm, before the staff got nervous for our safety and moved everyone inside, was another memory making moment.  For a special occasion or say, if you happen to be called BeyoncĂ© Carter, I can’t recommend this place highly enough.

I loved that JW Marriott embrace the nature and faith of the local area as well.  Their guided walk is well worth schlepping out to.  It leaves at 6am in the morning but if that didn’t stop my 17 yr. old nephew getting out of bed then you’ve got no excuse.  The views were spectacular but see below if you don’t believe me.
  

They also have a Cherokee Indian Chief come and give a morning blessing at 7am.  True when some guests got out their cameras it did seem a little ‘rich people paying to hang out with those they destroyed in a bygone era’.  However the essence of the blessing was wonderful and I was quite touched he shared his teachings with us.  

The hotel is also close to a Desert Museum which, other than selling giant pots of ice cream** housed another highlight of my trip.  The hummingbird enclosure meant we got up close to fairy sized birds, beating their iridescent wings inches from our hand. I honestly could have sat there for days.






Considering we only stayed there two days Tucson made quite the impression on me.  Have you ever been there?

Next time Tombstone and the Artist town of Bisbee

* and that’s saying something

** a tub of Hagan Das would look bite sized next to their ‘small’ serving
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