Summer and Self Isolation Reading List…

May 11, 2020

A week prior to the official UK lockdown my work sent us home, and I had big ideas on reading a lot.  Truth is the first couple of weeks of lockdown were scary here, with daily changes to rules and more and more people getting ill.  I haven’t read any of these books, once I felt mentally better I stuck my nose into Harry Potter.  It has been decades since I read those books and rereading them has been so enjoyable.  There are so many differences between the books and movies with huge sections missing that make a great story.  To read these books I have been using my local libraries digital access.  If you have a local library membership, then it is likely the library has access to an online version too.  There are a few different ones worldwide, and most run on phone apps.  All I had to do was put in my membership number and pin and away I went.

If you are interested here are the books I panic bought and plan to read over the summer!  I’ve realised that putting this list together all the authors are female.  This wasn’t a deliberate act, but I am finding the stories more authentic then the ones I have read by men.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

Recommended by a friend, this story is based in New York about a thirteen year old boy who’s circumstances result in them being left with a wealthy family friend.  Determined to own a small painting that reminds him of his mother, he is drawn into an criminal underworld.

Character Breakdown – Zawe Ashton

I listened to Ashton speak on Jessie Ware’s podcast, Table Manners, and instantly had a crush.  Ashton mentioned she had written a book about her experience learning characters and acting so I bought it!

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

This one is all over the internet as a popular read and it was on offer when I saw it.  The story is about a cove haunted by the ‘marsh girl’, a local murder and being loved.

Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman

I first read about this because the BCC have done an adaption and it broadcast just as lockdown happened in the UK.  The first of five books that portray a world where Africa were the conquers and white people became the slaves.  The series is praised for showing how subtle racism can be and arrogance towards others.

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams

This one has been on my to read list for a long time.  Queenie is based in London and has been praised as a very honest view on black living today.

The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes

I have previously loved reading Marian Keyes short story collections but her main books hadn’t appealed.  I have realised now I just wasn’t ready.  After reading Grown Ups I added this one to my pile for social isolation.  I have also got Watermelon on hold with the library as all Keyes fans recommend starting with this one.

Life Making

Different Ways to Paint My Entrance…

April 27, 2020

I’ve been thinking about my entrance hallway and how I want to make it over.  I am a lover of colour, but the thought of painting entire walls is not sitting well with me.  Within my home colour is in the furniture and accessories and I’ve realised I do enjoy the calmness of the white walls.  As part of my makeover I have thought about painting and as I have been searching for options these different ways to paint have come up.

Pops Of Colour On Doorway Edges.

I first saw this idea on Bright Bazaar who credits Martha Stewart Living where colour is added just to the edge of the door.  This is a great way to create colour impact without committing to an entire wall.  A great contrast adding colour against neutral walls. I also feel that this allows me to have a bright colour that might have been overwhelming on a bigger piece.

Image from Martha Living.

Creating Frames Around Doorways.

2lgstudio are colour lovers and design beautiful spaces for their clients.  I was particularly drawn to this scalloped framing around doorways.  Again, it allows a pop of colour without taking over an entire space. 

Beautiful Doorways by 2LG Studio.

Subtle Wall Stripes.

Emma Jane Palin is a fab designer blogger who loves bold colour, creativity and culture.  Not one to stop being a renter get in her way, Emma has injected design into her many abodes.  In her previous flat she added simple stripes at the top of her walls.  I like the one she did in the bedroom that added the scallop motif as well.

Stripes from Emma Jane Palin.

Arches and Circles.

With small spaces adding colour can be encroaching and I adore the way Gen from Collective Gen has added this arch in her daughter’s bedroom.  This simple design creates a distinct space for the bookshelf.  Gen has also experimented with painting half her front door using this approach of creating shapes. 

Front Door Magic From Collective Gen.

For the moment the arches and circles idea are my favourite.  The scallop look is a close second.  I want to wait until all the pieces including the hanger are installed before I decide.

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Life Making

How To Hang Curtains…

April 20, 2020

I moved into my flat three years ago and I was flat broke! I was sleeping on the floor and had only two chairs and a table. You can read more about that here. I also didn’t have any curtains. Instead I had a very old duvet cover and a shower curtain which I hung across the windows with command hooks! Once my bank account had recovered I saved up for blinds and my dad showed me how to use a drill to hang them.

Forgive me these photos were taken ages ago when I did this and my photography and editing skills weren’t great. It is what it is!

This was the situation in my bedroom! A piece of blackout curtain was stuck permenantly to the window with hooks and bluetack. A blind pulled down in front of it to make it look nicer! Sometimes on the weekend I would take it down to let in light. The window could be open at any time. I longed for the day when I could open my curtains but the blind would stop nosy parkers as I got dressed. Not having to turn the light on would be so lovely. Saving for my lusted after West Elm Velvet Curtains took nearly three years and I thought I would share with you how I hung the curtains.

I decided I wanted the rod and hardware to be black and whilst the West Elm products are lovely I settled for these Ikea ones. It all came down to budget! First tip is that Ikea do not supply screws to hang the hardware so I had to nip out and purchase those.

Using the curtain holder I marked on the wall the gap where the screws could go. I wanted there to be enough room at both ends to tuck part of the curtain around the holder. This way when I pull the curtains the whold panel doesn’t move to the other side. For this curtain pole I left a 5cm clearance.

Using the drill bit I made the holes for one of the curtain holders. I decided to complete one at a time to not rush. Now that I have more confidence in the drill I would have done all the holes and not had to change the bits as many times. Placing the curtain holder in the right spot I screwed in both screws. Done! Once I had completed the second curtain holders I added the covers.

To make things a bit easier I left both ends off the curtain rod and threaded on the curtains. Lifting these up in the holders I was then able to add the ends. To ensure that hte curtain doesn’t move across the whole rod I made sure one curtain tab was on the ‘wrong’ side of the curtain holder. After living with this for a few hours I moved another tab over which helped to balance and also prevent any light coming through the side crack.

Using a drill does have this scary overtone but it is quick an easy skill to pick up. If you are unsure get some scrap pieces of timber and practice on those. The biggest thing I forget when drilling is to click the drill in reverse to get the drill bit out! I soon remember as the bit will not budge without it!

Now that I have lived with the curtains for a couple of months I need to jump back up and adjust the curtain holder on the left. When I was fiddling around with it and extending the curtain rod the older moved and actually it needs to be further to the left of the window.

Do you do any DIY at home? PF xo

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton…

April 13, 2020
Picture of the book.  The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton…

Published in 2014, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, is based in Amsterdam in 1686 and follows the marriage of Nella Oortman and Johannes Brandt.  This book debut to critical acclaim and continues to be in the top 10 or recommended lists.  I avoided it at first as the blurb really did not sell the story to me.  At the time I was working long hours in the advertising industry and looking for lighter reads.

Nella marries the wealthy merchant Johannes in a country side wedding and later travels to his home.  The house is dark and imposing and is the living space for her new husband, his sister and their two staff, Cornelia and Otto.  Johannes virtually ignores Nella who becomes consumed with negative thoughts as she wishes he spend any time with her.  To make amends Johannes gifts Nella an exquisite dolls house that replicates the rooms of their own home.  To furnish the home Nella engages a Miniaturist who sends her tiny gifts that seem to prophesise the future.

I enjoyed reading this book except for the explanation for Johannes lack of attention for Nella.  The reason felt a bit forced and put me off.  I continued to read the book thinking it was just a note about his character, but it soon became the main storyline.  I realised upon reflection that I must be a bit pedantic when it comes to historical telling.  The reason (and I am deliberately not saying to avoid ruining the surprise for you) just wouldn’t have been dealt with such lack of care in the 1800’s.  Johannes would have known that this secret would have consequences and would have been much more careful.  I did love how the story was able to bring Amsterdam alive and having visited I found myself walking the streets too! I can see why at the time this story got such a response and the BBC turned it into a miniseries.

Have you read The Miniaturist?  What did you think?  Jessica xo

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Free Tours Of London Buildings…

April 6, 2020
Picture of a group of people getting a tour of Somerset House.  Free Tours Of London Buildings.

“Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Quote Samuel Johnson.  To be honest I am having a back and forth with London now and trying to fall back I love.  I have lived here for nine years in April and spent four in my flat.  One of the reasons I moved to London is the history and architecture.  Australia is a young country and we don’t have the beautiful old buildings that London offers!  To keep costs down I have sourced free tours of London’s building.

Battersea Power Station.

One of my favourite buildings in London, the old Battersea Power Station is having a makeover.  Her shell previously stood by the river Thames unloved and with various owners.  Property prices in London increased so rapidly in the 2000’s and 2010’s that developers were able to make significant profit from just selling her on.  This changed in 2010 when Rafael Vinoly presented a masterplan to create a new suburb around the Battersea Power Station.  As part of the regeneration there is a free audio tour triggered by your GPS that guides you on the heritage of the area.  It was great fun and we spent some time afterwards in the local restaurant warming up!

Open House London.

A yearly event, Open House London sees large buildings and personal homes open to the public.  Every year the known buildings are keep secret and revealed to all!  There is a directory you can pre order already for 2020.  Based on last years buildings you can try your luck getting a tour around 10 Downing Street, A House With A Slide and Hive House.

Somerset House.

Situated on the River Thames, Somerset House offer free guided tours to all visitors.  Choose between The Old Palace, Historical Highlights and Studio Tours.  These are held at various times and available dates are shown one month ahead.  You do need to book even though they are free.  I went on The Old Palace tour and learnt lots about how this building was home to several Queens including Queen Elizabeth the first!

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Everything I Have Learnt About LED Laser Facials…

March 23, 2020

If you follow me on Instagram it won’t be a surprise to you that I use an at home laser mask or am always running off to a salon version.  I’ve had some form of acne since I was eleven and decades later it doesn’t look like it will ever leave me.  Sometimes this can be attributed to stress, then it is obviously because the air is quite polluted or other times it is hormonal.  My skin is sensitive, and I get red marks that can last a year despite my everyday routine.  Fortunately, my skin rarely scars so that is a blessing.  Laser facials have changed my life these past two years and I thought I would share everything I have learnt about laser facials to help you.

The Science.

Healing with laser light was first developed by NASA for their astronauts.  It was discovered that specific light waves could kill bacteria (blue) and also help to promote healing (red).  Further investigation has determined that light can reduce pigmentation (green), refresh mature skin (yellow) and boost collagen (white).

Picture of me holding the Neautrogena Light Therapy mask. Everything I Have Learnt About LED Laser Facials.

Try A Good Cheap Product First.

At home treatments can be expensive and you also need to see if this product works for you.  Neutrogena has a great Light Therapy mask at a lower price point.  It has 16 lights that emit 8 red and 8 blue light waves.  This means you are getting healing and bacteria killing at the same time.  The draw backs of this device is that it limits the usage, however youtube can help you with hacks for this.  Also you have to have both lights on even if you don’t need one and you can’t adjust the time. Because there are only 16 lights I found I did have to do this everyday to make a difference.

Picture of my MZ Skins Light Therapy mask. Everything I Have Learnt About LED Laser Facials.

Research Before You Invest.

When you are ready to invest more you can find light masks on the market from £200+.  The key here is to think about what you want from your mask as it will last a long time.  I wanted all five light options, with the ability to choose, more lights (at least 100) and to set a timer.  At the time of researching I settled on MZ Skins Light Therapy mask.  It is sold here in London so any issues I knew I could get in contact with them quickly.

Picture of person having a salon light session. Everything I Have Learnt About LED Laser Facials.

In Salon Treatments.

These are the dream and much stronger than any at home treatment.  Lots of salons will offer LED therapy as part of facials, but the ones who know where the money is at allow you to book just the LED light for a 20minute session.  Walk in, walk out.  No need to even take your top off.  Just sit in the chair, meditate and get on with your day.

My Personal LED Light Facial Routine.

I started with the Neutrogena Light Therapy mask and it worked great.  I had to use it everyday and after two years it broke and only gave me the red light.  I kept using it but realised that I needed the blue light to keep breakouts at bay.  My skin went crazy and I had soooo many breakouts that I booked a salon course.  I went once a week for five weeks and everything healed up and pimples went away. 

Then I invested in MZ Skins Light Therapy mask that has 150 lights.  I find I can use this 2-3 times a week, 10 minutes per coloured light.  As it is a bit stronger I also find I’ve had hardly any breakouts and can use just two colours, blue and white.  I still get pimples but the way they behave now is much different.  They literally appear within a few hours and if I pop them, because let’s be honest we all do!, they are ready and there is no scab or mark. Now I treat myself to a salon treatments every 4-6 months when they are on special.

Hope this was helpful and you are on your way to better skin too.  Read more about my skincare routine here. PF xo

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