There’s something indefinably sexy about French women. The epitome of style, glamour and sophistication, they have a certain something that defies definition – is it the voluminous hair, sultry eyes or flushed cheeks? How can they look so incredibly chic when their faces are devoid of make-up and their hair is more windswept than groomed? French women radiate self-assurance and glamour wherever they are – strutting along smart, Parisian avenues, relaxing on the Riviera or relaxing in their own gardens. Their secret weapons have mystified style conscious women around the world for centuries.
“French women have something special,” says Susan Sommers, fashion editor, journalist and author of French Chic: How To Dress Like a French Woman. “They’re feminine, sure of themselves and seem to delight in breaking the fashion rules while making it all work.”
Susan believes that the key to French sex appeal is a confidence and self respect passed down from mother and daughter – from an early age girls are taught to appreciate and emphasise their most striking natural assets. They’re taught to feel good in their skin. It’s this confidence in their body that gives them the power to look chic and lovely no matter what their physical features.
Susan says: “By believing in themselves, they radiate poise and beauty. French girls learn from a young age to be at ease with their bodies, dressed and undressed, for beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.”
Continental women don’t have to be classic beauties; instead of pining to be something they’re not, they live life to the full, following their own agenda and cultivating a sense of style. Mixing brains with beauty, their appeal has more to do with social grace than physical attractiveness. Peel back the layers of the average French woman and you’ll find a confidence honed by centuries of culture, influencing how she carries herself, the clothes she wears and the people she associates with.
Edith Kunz, author of Fatale: How French Women Do It, agrees with Susan that confidence is the key to charm. She says “French women are confident in themselves, confident with their age, their body and their power. They’re sensuous even at work,” she says. “Instead of following the latest fashion trend, their inner confidence allows them to adopt their own style. From their hair own to their shoes, they know what suits them and dress accordingly. Elegance is found in simplicity and classic designs rather than the latest fashion fad.”
Intrigued? Well, before you go splashing a fortune on Parisian labels and expensive jewellery, read on to discover the essential secrets of French glamour.
CHIC VS CHEAP
Think quality, not quantity, and pay attention to detail and accessories. Loose buttons, laddered tights and frayed hems are a big no-no – can you imagine Brigitte Bardot or Catherine Deneuve squeezing into a size 12 if their thighs were screaming for a 14? Can you imagine Coco Chanel walking into an important meeting with a creased jacket and scuffed shoes? Perish the thought. French women choose clothes that fit, garments that are streamlined and kept close to the body without compromising on comfort.
Instead of wasting money on the latest trend, spend extra on quality. The French don’t mind splashing out on one item of clothing if it fits well and will last for years. One pair of made to measure, beautifully crafted leather shoes is better than ten pairs from the high street. The little black dress continues to reign supreme in the realms of French versatility but check the details and that its always well cut. The same goes for the classic white shirt, tailored suit, jeans, leather handbag and winter coat – all timeless items chosen for their versatility rather than price tag or trend value.
Accessories are the finishing touch to an outfit, the glue that holds it together – but only in moderation. Dress the look up or down with a scarf, hat, ornate brooch or string of beads, but keep things matching – French women have scarves that match their gloves, that match their umbrellas, that match their handbags – but don’t overdo it. A striking pair of ear-rings and matching necklace will add sparkle to a plain dress but throw in a sequinned bag and patterned tights and you’ll look more drag queen than enigmatic princess.
The staple colours of any French wardrobe are neutral. Grey, brown, navy, beige, khaki, ivory, black and white are favourites due to their practicality. Outfits are coordinated around one or two dominant colours, made up of several pieces but always in different shades of the base colours. Popular combinations include navy and white, beige and white, grey and white, pink and navy and – the French favourite – black and white. Maintain feminine allure by opting for stretch fabrics – they’re non restrictive, comfortable and will show off to their best advantage.
Skin care in France is a priority, not a luxury, with the emphasis being on a clean, moisturised face rather than one caked in foundation and powder. The results speak for themselves – healthy complexions, bursting with vitality and few wrinkles. To achieve such radiance, the usual common sense rules apply – never wash your face with too hot or old water as the temperature can cause broken capillaries, never go to bed with your make-up on or you risk clogging your pores and avoid exposing skin to harsh sunlight. French often wear sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around the eyes.
As for cleansing, most women need only cleanse their faces at night. Use a good, three step cleansing programme that includes a toner and moisturiser. Make an effort to discover your skin type then get professional advise on suitable products. Most department beauty counters offer this service for free.
According to Rona Berg in her book Beauty: The New Basics, a splash of lukewarm water is all you need in the morning. “A French cosmetics executive once told me that soap should only ever touch your skin from the neck down,” she says. “Unless you’ve used a moisturiser the night before, a splash of water is sufficient.”
Skin care might be higher in the pecking order than cosmetics but that doesn’t mean make-up is taboo. As far as cosmetics are concerned, it’s about emphasising your best features to the max. Two things the French can’t get enough of are lips and eyes. If you’ve got fantastic lips, apply liner just outside your lip line and fill with a natural shade for a bee stung look. If your eyes are your asset, recreate the Bambi look with lashings of black mascara and liner. Keep brows well groomed and nails clean and short. If you’re using the correct skin care products, you shouldn’t need foundation or blusher – your natural radiance will do both jobs- but if you can’t go without, use a tinted moisturiser and rose coloured blush.
Like skin, French hair is kept in tip top condition. It can be short or long but always what nature intended. That means, if you’re a natural blonde, don’t try to be a brunette and vice versa. Instead, aim to have the best blonde hair – shiny, healthy and full of life. The money saved on colouring can be spent no regular trims, quality shampoos and deep conditioning treatments.
Everyone knows that a healthy lifestyle leads to better looking hair. Excessive stress, smoking, lack of exercise and poor diet will wreak havoc on your locks. Likewise, bad hair tactics can lead to breakages, split ends and premature hair loss. Take a good look at your lifestyle and make changes if necessary. Aim to get enough sleep, eat well and drink plenty of fluids.
To avoid stripping hair of natural oils, steer clear of products with alcohol and limit shampooing to no more than twice a week. Use conditioner after every shampoo and re-moisturise with a deep conditioner once a month. If you suffer from tangles, use a wide toothed comb in the shower, working your way from tips to roots.
When it comes to styling, whatever their hair texture – curly or straight – most French women favour the tousled “I’ve just rolled out of bed” look. With a little imagination, and creative fingers, this can be achieved with any hair type. If your locks are naturally curly, ditch the straighteners and boost those curls with specialised products. After conditioning, don’t rinse completely. Apply mousse or serum to damp hair, twist sections around your fingers then leave to dry naturally, blasting with a diffuser attachment when it’s almost dry. On the other hand, if nature gave you poker straight hair – lucky you – your hair will probably have fantastic natural shine because flat cuticles are highly light reflective.
Whatever your hair type, find a style that suits and stick to it, emphasising colour and sheen with quality products. Between washes, for true continental glamour you can’t go wrong with an updo. Try twisting a section of your hair around the base of a ponytail or use pins to create a bun, eating a few fugitive strands tumble seductively onto your shoulders. For a really casual look, use your fingers instead of a brush.
According to the French, sexiness as little to do with dressing provocatively or talking dirty. It’s the naughty sparkle in your eye, the sensuous, husky tone of your voice and really listening when someone speaks that determine how others see you. Think sensual, sexy thoughts and you’ll turn heads wherever you go.
Continental women never miss an opportunity for glamour and sensuality. Instead of saving decent clothes for best, wear them every day. The same goes for pretty lingerie. Choose a signature scent and splash it on morning, noon and night, on your skin and hair. Going to the supermarket? Don’t forget to touch up your lipstick.
Learn to enjoy the mundane details of daily life. Make time for family and friends, learning new skills and relaxing with a book. Introduce yourself to new neighbours. Refrain from gossiping. Speak slowly and confidently in low tones, maintaining eye contact and listening to what the other person has to say. Eventually, like all new skills, your newfound charm will become second nature.
Celebrate your body with perfume and oils. Make an effort to look and smell divine. High heeled shoes? The higher the better. Never worn a garter belt? There’s always a first time. Treat your body like a temple – drape it in luxurious fabrics such as chiffon, satin, suede and velvet. Bear in mind though, that true sex appeal has more to do with attitude than style and chic. What makes our European neighbours so alluring is a lethal combination of steely determination, femininity, self confidence and inner strength. As Sancha De Gramont wrote in The French, Portrait of a People: “French women are ants disguised as butterflies. In a nutshell, they speak softly but carry big sticks. They have style and chic but they also have grit. That chic, charming Parisian is a steel magnolia, a woman of iron and velvet.”
Armed with your fresh, radiant skin, your shiny, natural hair, timeless contour, high heels and heady confidence, you’ll be turning heads and feeling good in your skin in no time.
This article is published in Junior magazine.
Research has shown that vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and most forms of cancer. But can a meat-free diet provide the nutrients that your growing child needs?
Like me, my mother and grandmother before me, my daughter was weaned on to a meat eating diet because that was the norm for us. She adored chicken and beef until she was six. I’ve dabbled in vegetarianism a number of times, the first when giving up meat made me something of a rebel among college peers, akin to sneaking a cigarette in the toilets between classes, or getting a tongue piercing. Nowadays, my mother is a tee-total vegan who lost seven pounds in one week by dropping dairy from her diet.
My daughter’s decision to eliminate meat and fish happened on a farm somewhere between Bristol and Bath, when it clicked that the cute chickens clucking merrily at her feet were the same fluffy creatures dished up on her dinner plate on Sundays. Until that day, devising the weekly menu had been a breeze because, as a family of meat-eaters, we enjoyed the same foods. But, eager to embrace my daughter’s enthusiasm to make her own choices, I set about re-educating myself.
My first question: what kind of vegetarian was my daughter going to be?
There are several types. Put simply, vegetarian means eating a plant based diet, but this can be misleading. The most common vegetarian is the lacto variety, who avoid meat, poultry and fish but eat dairy and eggs. The strictest form is a vegan, who avoid all food connected to animals, including dairy and eggs. At the more liberal end are pesco-vegetarians, who eat seafood, dairy, eggs and plant foods. Then there are the semi-veggies, like me, who bend the rules occasionally.
One of my concerns was that a vegetarian diet at my daughter’s young age might impact on her growth. My fears were compounded by an American study that found vegetarian children to be generally smaller, in weight and height, than those who eat meat. Mind you, there any many studies that tell a different story; if my daughter maintained this diet she would lower her risk of not only obesity but heart disease, diabetes and most forms of cancer too.
An acquaintance, Charles Bishop, and his wife conducted extensive research prior to putting their three year son on a veggie diet. Charles’ words: “It’s possible to get all the nutrition one needs from a veggie diet.”
Armed with Charles’ reassurance, I sought ways to replace meat in my daughter’s diet with the essential nutrients a vegetarian diet offers. The initial weeks were fraught with tension, refusals to eat and desperation on my part. I cooked enough pasta and homemade sauces to feed an army, exhausted Linda McCartney’s range, used charm tactics to lure my daughter back to meat and, when that failed, I confess I popped a slither or two of flesh into her vegetable soup.
My daughter was never a child to clear her plate, but at least when she ate meat I had more choice – chicken with onions and gravy, fish without the skin, beef burgers smothered with tomato sauce and wedged between slices of toasted bread.
I was aware that the issue was not that my daughter needed meat but that I needed to learn a new way of cooking meals that would be appealing while providing the nutrients she required. The process of testing a new catalogue of recipes featuring ingredients I’d once have relegated to side dish status was no simple task. Looking back, I shouldn’t have expected it to be easy, since it typically takes a lifetime of gathering recipes from friends, family and cookbooks to establish a decent, weekly menu. I was unrealistically expecting to perfect a new vegetarian lifestyle in just a few days.
My second question: what will be missing from my daughter’s diet if meat is off limits?
One of the benefits of meat, fish and eggs is that their protein has the complete chain of eight amino acids that allows efficient absorption into the body. All food contains some of these amino acids but few have all eight in one package. As the body can’t store protein, this is one nutritional element that must be included on a daily basis. The positive news is that almost all food includes proteins and by eating a mix of legumes (pulses) – beans, lentils and soya products – along with whole grains, nuts and a range of colourful vegetables every day, you can achieve the same nutritional result.
Now all I had to do was create those combinations for my daughter to eat every 24 hours. At the age of 12 months, a child’s daily protein requirements are 14.5g, rising to 20g by the age of six. In practical terms, this means that my daughter needed to eat the equivalent of one small bowl of muesli (4g), a slice of toast with baked beans (8.5g) and an egg (7.5g) to achieve her 20g, which I acknowledged was easily achievable.
“Children’s nutrient requirements are highest for vitamin D, iron, calcium and zinc,” explain dieticians Virginia and Mark Messina in their book The Vegetarian Way. “Other nutrients of interest are protein, vitamin B12 and riboflavin.” Vitamin D and riboflavin are easy to achieve within a balanced diet and by minimal exposure to sunlight (a 15 minute walk to school is sufficient). For vegetarians, the main concerns are B12, iron and zinc. B12 is essential for the formation of red blood cells and is crucial as without it children can suffer anaemia and fatigue. Eggs and dairy come to the rescue, with a single boiled egg containing a six year old’s required daily intake of B12. For vegan children, food fortified with B12 is essential.
There are many ways to achieve the daily requirement of zinc and iron in a veggie diet – leafy vegetables contain riboflavin, kidney beans, chickpeas, tofu, whole grains, nuts, dates, prunes and dried fruit. Cashew nuts, dry roasted almonds and green peas provide a zinc boost. The important thing is to offer a variety of foods throughout the day. Include vitamin C rich fruits and juices with meals that contain iron-laden ingredients. Vitamin C encourages absorption of iron from plant based foods.
But even if the nutritional elements were available in a vegetarian diet, would my daughter be getting enough calories for her active lifestyle? Research shows that while the average vegetarian adult eats more food than their meat eating counterparts, they generally consume 500 less calories each day.
“A vegetarian diet can be low in calories but high in fibre, which can quickly fill up small stomachs,” explains Dr Kem Thompson, a health specialist and success coach. “To ensure your child receives enough calories, offer small, frequent meals containing higher calories, such as avocados, peanut butter sandwiches, nuts and seeds.”
Creating a varied menu for your child to graze on is a good way of ensuring they achieve the mix of foods containing all the essential vitamins and minerals each day. Pack their lunch box with a range of options: a handful of nuts and dried fruit, such as dates, prunes and apricots, a mashed egg and parsley sandwich (parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C and iron), a satsuma or clementine, a tub of humous with a colourful selection of fresh vegetable sticks. By doing this, you fulfil most of their daily nutritional requirements.
Variety is key. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics agrees: “Well planned vegetarian diets provide all the nutrients children need, produce normal growth, and may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases in later life.”
Another benefit of a veggie diet is the level of unsaturated fats found in whole foods like nuts, unprocessed nut butters, seeds, olives and avocados. Not only are these foods naturally rich in unsaturated fats, they’re also packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. One of the most important unsaturated fats for your child’s set is the miracle fat omega 3. Found in oily fish, vegetarian sources of omega 3s include flaxseed, walnuts and omega 3 fortified eggs (where the laying chickens have been fed a healthy, high flaxseed diet).
It was about this point in my research that I realised it’s not what’s issuing from a vegetarian diet but what’s in a meat diet that’s the problem. For starters, saturated fats come primarily from animal sources such as fatty meats, whole fat dairy products and lard. A number of studies have shown that an adult diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol generally begins in childhood and has a clear correlation to the increased risk of heart disease. Large scale Harvard studies show that regular meat consumption increases the risk of colon cancer by approximately 300 percent, while other studies demonstrate an increased risk of breast cancer for meat eaters.
Add to that the risk that meat can transmit diseases. “My decision to raise my daughters as non meat eaters was based more on the chemicals used to fatten animals than animal rights,” says Samantha Scott. “I want to be in control of what goes into my children’s bodies. It’s a choice I made during pregnancy following the outbreaks of mad cow and foot and mouth disease.” While the risk of diseases like these might be low, a vegetarian diet does feel like a cleaner option.
So, with the multitude of studies that have proven time and again that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure, prevent diabetes, reduce the incidence of kidney stones and gallstones and decrease the risk of osteoporosis, it seems my concerns about my daughter’s choice of diet were somewhat redundant.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER?
Preparing nutritious vegetarian meals needn’t be time consuming. There are many meals you might have been serving up for years that are simple to serve meat free.
Noodles – Make a vegetarian stir fry colourful with ingredients like green snap peas, julienned carrots, red peppers, baby spinach leaves and diced butternut squash. Add bamboo shoots, sesame seeds and a dash of soy sauce for flavour.
Baked Potatoes – Give your child creative freedom with a range of toppings to select from such as a can of warmed beans (baked beans, red kidney beans, refried beans – whatever variety they enjoy most), finely chopped fresh tomatoes, corn kernels, mushrooms in a sour cream sauce, finely chopped onions lightly fried, wilted baby spinach leaves, sun dried ingredients (tomatoes, peppers), mashed avocado, chopped parsley or basil leaves, cottage cheese, grated cheddar. Don’t use them all at once. Instead, give your child the choice to test run their own recipes. That way, you will learn what flavours they favour.
Home Made Pizza – All your usual toppings minus the meat. If the base is looking a little sparse, refer to the list of options for baked potatoes (above) and select your child’s favourites.
Burritos, Fajitas and Quesadillas – make up a fresh, spicy bean, onion and tomato sauce as a meat replacement and serve with the usual toppings.
Lasagne – There are a number of vegetarian options available but for an alternative to your existing recipe make a stew of onions, tomatoes and TVP (textured vegetable protein) to replace beef.
Risotto – Options include mushrooms, butternut squash, baby spinach and pine nuts, tomato and basil.
Soups – For a good vegetarian base, dice up onions and garlic and sauté with black pepper before adding canned chopped tomatoes. Then toss in whatever vegetables you prefer remembering to add them in the order they need to cook (i.e. root vegetables at the start, softer veggies a few minutes before serving). Add canned red kidney beans or pre-soaked chickpeas, lentils or barley for a meat replacement. If it needs spicing up, add a spoonful of umeboshi purée (a tangy, salty condiment made from plums) or vegetable bouillon powder or paste.
Salads – An obvious choice but try new styles including bean salads which deliver a protein punch.
Raising Vegetarian Children: A Guide To Good Health and Family Harmony by Joanne Stepeniak and Vesanto Melina, McGraw Hill Education, £12.99.
Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Meals in Minutes by Rose Elliot, Harper Collins, £9.99.
Veggie Food For Kids by Sara Lewis, Hamlyn, £8.99.
Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Fast Food: Over 200 Delicious Dishes in Minutes by Rose Elliot, Collins.
The Vegetarian Way by Mark and Virginia Messina, Crown Publications, £14.99.
I tested Weleda Wild Rose Intensive Facial Oil (£15.95) for Top Sante magazine.
Made from musk rose, peach and evening primrose oil, these little capsules are rich in fatty acids to plump and rejuvenate tired skin.
Rose oil is prized for its ability to intensely hydrate, but its soft, feminine scent works on emotions to soothe nerves, making these capsules the perfect pick me up after a busy day.
I look forward to using this product each day – the oil leaves my skin feeling super soft and the scent is beautifully uplifting.
Directions for use: To open the capsule twist the neck and pull gently. Use regularly each evening after thorough cleansing. Apply to damp skin, massaging gently around the eyes. After a few minutes remove excess oil with a tissue. Applying a warm, damp cloth to your face for a few minutes will increase the effectiveness of the treatment.
This review is published on Stereoboard.
I was there, aged 16, in 1990 when everyone was swooning-to-death over Take That. Not as delirious as the rest, but I was a fan. Now, here we are 23 years later, the glitter from the boy’s second record-breaking reunion is settling, and the band’s original breakaway artist Robbie Williams is set to launch ‘Be a Boy’, the third single from his ninth solo album, ‘Take The Crown’, scheduled for release March 11th.
I must admit, after years of non-stop adulation, when Rob changed focus and started gambling on genre roulette, the whistle blew for me and his music went as cold as a well digger’s rear end. So I was apprehensive when asked to review ‘Be a Boy’. Having been on Rob sabbatical for a few years, whilst observing from afar, would this be the ear “candy” to rekindle our flame or plunge me further into the depths of Alaskan waters?
When envisioning new music from Williams, nowadays I tend to expect foot-stomping, high-energy songs with lyrics that tell quirky stories about partying, women, lust, heartbreak, consequences and / or regret, sung to baser instincts with chirpy familiarity. This is a man who is, after all, not just a national treasure but our official guide to the seven deadly sins.
In the old days, surrendering to momentary stillness was the only way I could listen to a Robbie tune. If I attempted other tasks, I was pulled back into it’s depths, each note coiling around me in some Uri Geller style hypnosis.
Back then, all of Rob’s tunes burned like a slow absorption drug. The first few listens, a lukewarm trickle and then boom, intravenous and heavenly as it aligned and embedded itself with the pulse of my subconscious. I’m talking ‘Angels’, ‘You Know Me’, ‘She’s The One’, ‘Feel’, the lush, passionate ballads that remain his signature.
Having followed Rob’s career for more than two decades, I know the set-up. I know the character, the effortless contradiction of vulnerability and self-assuredness that remains his charm. So I turn up the volume, sit back and soak in the familiar voice, surrendering to the grip of an oh so smooth and groovy eighties style saxophone solo, which I have to say is one of the coolest intros I’ve heard in awhile.
Also cool is the cover artwork; simple and striking. Artwork is a key factor for me, setting my expectations. As is music that makes me feel warm, bulls me up and feeds my soul, which Rob’s sax solo does. So far so good.
Buoyed by ever increasing self-possession, Williams does upbeat and jolly in ‘Be a Boy’ beautifully, stripping away previous and glossing the new chapter that ‘Candy’ carved out. A collage of up-tempo notes sparking and fizzing, there is no self doubt. If he feels it, it doesn’t show. This is a funky, feisty, bullish song that unfolds as naturally as a ripple in the wind, a breathtaking display of confidence from start to finish.
Post sax, the single builds from a “woohoo” into a fluid electronic beat before raging into life with an addictively catchy sing-along chorus that fills my chest with a loud and soaring “Yes, I can do this!” attitude. The chorus is where the single really hits its stride. It’s not ‘Angels’ or ‘She’s The One’ (I’m an anthemics girl, can you tell?) but it’s as soul swelling as any of William’s greatest love songs. After a week of playing this song to death, I find myself singing the chorus at inopportune moments.
At its strongest, ‘Be a Boy’ triumphs in adding to Williams’ expanding creative repertoire with an engaging mix of instrumentals, vocals and lyrics. By no means a radical departure from the last few years experimentation, but a shuffle in the right direction, in my opinion, back to mainstream anthems. Reflective and bouncy, it makes me want to stand on a hilltop and scream “Good morning world! Guess what? You didn’t break me! The magic didn’t leave me!”
I can’t say I’m disappointed that Robbie appears to be abandoning the direction he pursued on his last two albums. If nothing else, previous singles / albums have proven his ability to nail many styles convincingly. The quirkiness of Rob’s personality will always shine through, no matter what. It’s what makes him such a captivating performer. Whether it’s ballads, indie rock or pop, you can’t help but go with him, albeit begrudgingly sometimes.
What Williams has achieved here with his Australian co-writers Flynn Francis and Tim Metcalfe is no mean feat; nostalgic lyrics, a feisty vocal and funky instrumentals mashed into a charming and appealing track. The fact that ‘Be a Boy’ is so euphoric makes it not only an excellent choice of single release, but also a fantastic live performance contender when he embarks on his tour later this year.
Williams deserves a great deal of credit for the seamlessly dignified way he has transitioned over the last few years. Musical longevity is in the bag now. It wouldn’t matter if he doesn’t record / release any new music in 10 years as long as fans know he’s working on stuff behind the scenes and writes the occasional blog to confirm he’s not absconded to another planet.
To sum up, ‘Be a Boy’ is unlikely to beat the massive commercial success of comeback single ‘Candy’, but it marks the culmination of the singer’s metamorphosis into Robbie 2.0, re-establishing his solo presence in the British charts. I believe the singer’s greatest moments are yet to come. They said the magic was leaving you? I don’t think so.
Definitely one to put on your must-hear single list. The excitement of ‘what’s next’ is buzzing through me like an electric current.
This product mimics the Chinese suction cups used by massage professionals to mobilise blood around the body, helping to improve lymphatic flow and reduce the build up of toxins. Smooth an anti-cellulite cream or detoxifying body oil such as Cellu-Cup’s Sweet Orange Massage Oil over your skin and squeeze the cup before pressing it against your thigh. Gradually release the cup until you feel it grip your skin -then move it in horizontal and vertical lines to help break down the fatty deposits under ‘orange peel’ skin.
I thought the cup would be difficult to use as it’s an unusual looking tool but the instructions were simple and I got quickly got the hang of it. Rolling it backwards and forwards across my leg was an unexpectedly lovely sensation – not painful at all. I used it every day after my bath or shower and my skin is noticeably different. It feels firmer and more rejuvenated – I’m thrilled with the results.
£16 from Birchbox
I reviewed Kate Atkinson’s novel ‘Life After Life’ for the May 2014 issue of Sainsbury’s magazine.
This is one of those rare books so intriguingly written, you want to read it over and over. The book spans most of the 20th century and covers the horrors of the Blitz. The ending is as unpredictable as the story itself, with each chapter full of surprises. Beautifully written and utterly engrossing, you can’t help but marvel at Atkinson’s talent.
At its heart, it is a simple story of a rich, early twentieth century family, with the lead character, Ursula, being born again and again, and dying as many times as it takes for her ultimate fate to be revealed. Though Ursula is not a time traveller, the book is a clever read for anyone with a passion for time travel.
Three things that make this book special:
The brilliantly achieved concept of a life repeating and evolving, no snagging – just seamlessly done.
Atkinson’s humour runs through her language, observations and rhythm of storytelling.
The characters develop with each rebirth and become embedded in the reader’s heart and head.
Fantastic entertainment can make your wedding unforgettable, filling the dance floor and raising the roof. Here are some ideas on how you can save money on music AND wow your guests.
With the exception of the honeymoon and venue, entertainment can be one of the most expensive parts of the wedding budget, and it is not always the easiest place to cut corners. But fear not, we’re here to help.
Timing is Everything
Like most things, entertainment typically costs less during the off-peak months of October to March. If you’re on a really tight budget, consider a winter wedding, or get hitched on a Friday or Sunday. Prices tend to dip enormously for these less in-demand times.
Pay Up Front
Ask for a hefty discount for paying up-front in full when hiring. Some bands and DJs will be happy to oblige for the security of having a definite booking. To slash the bill further, ask for an additional discount for hiring well in advance and consider cutting out extras such as fancy lighting and fog machines.
Approach Colleges, Universities and Churches
Ask your local college and university music departments to put you in touch with student musicians who may jump at the chance to perform live for portfolio credits and a small fee. The same applies to churches, a surprisingly overlooked way of hiring excellent pianists and harpists at cheap rates.
Keep Your Ears Open
Look to venues like cafes, karaoke nights and street corners for undiscovered talent. Many great artists started out as buskers – Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Damien Rice, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and the Manic Street Preachers to name a few! If you stumble across a great musician in this way, ask if he or she would consider singing at your wedding for a token fee (or a meal and a few beers) saving you hundreds.
Hire a Newbie
The more established someone is in their profession, the more they usually charge. Hire a new DJ or a recently formed band and you’ll pobably save a fortune. Browse the classified ads in your local paper and check noticeboards in colleges, cafes and shops. Try to get at least one recommendation if you can.
Ask a Friend or Family Member to Perform
If you know someone who is musically gifted, they may be happy to sing or play an instrument as a wedding gift, and their contribution will be extra special because you know them. You have nothing to lose by asking. Your only requirement will be to rent equipment if they don’t already have it.
Download Your Own Music
If you’re the proud owner of a fantastic music collection, you could consider creating your own playlist. You can either blast it straight from your MP3 player, laptop or iPad, or burn songs to a CD. To really make the party shine, you’ll need an excellent set of speakers, a designated person to supervise, and a varied playlist to appeal to all guests and ‘stages of the wedding’, including background music for when dinner is served.
Find Deals On The Internet
Social media fan pages on Facebook, MySpace You Tube, Spotify and Soundcloud are great for discovering musical talent. The less followers an artist has, the less you’ll probably be charged. Some bands may even agree to perform for free for the publicity. Browse chat rooms and forums on wedding and music magazine websites too, and eBay and Gumtree for cheap deals.
This article is published in Always & Forever – Plymouth’s Guide To Weddings magazine.
If you’re a bride-to-be with bundles of pre-wedding nervous energy to burn off, get physical with a dance themed hen party!
When it comes to feeling glamorous and gorgeous, donning our glad rags, downing a few cocktails and boogying the night away to funky music is a sure-fire way to feel a million dollars.
But cast aside visions of plastic tiaras and L-plates. If the thought of spending a weekend trawling bars and nightclubs dressed in plastic leaves you cold, an adrenaline-fuelled weekend learning a sexy new dance skill followed by a night at a salsa, burlesque or comedy club in the company of friends is a fun alternative.
Here are a few favourites – delve into your dress-up box, get your groove on and pull some shapes femme fatale style!
Live out your disco diva fantasies by learning the moves to iconic film dances such as Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Fame and Grease, before hitting the town dressed as pink ladies or high school dropouts.
Dance parties offered by Plymouth’s Bounce Studios include Dirty Dancing, Grease, Thriller, Madonna Magic, GoGo Lady Gaga, Back to the 80s and 90s Ravers. Visit Bounce Studios for info.
Devon based dance teacher Donna Beardsley offers group disco lessons designed for hen parties at venues across the South West. Classes are tailored to suit abilities. Visit Dance In Devon.
Burlesque isn’t for the faint hearted! Prepare to flirt and giggle a lot. Using props such as boas and chairs, captivate your audience with a series of seductive walks, poses and sensual movements like the bump n grind. Think striptease with no nudity, corsets, showgirls, Moulin Rouge, feather boas, long gloves and Dita Von Teese.
For hens who like to shake their feathers and get up close and personal with snake-hipped Latinos, an afternoon learning salsa fits the bill. Steamy, sexy and sizzly, this dance style combines passion with fancy footwork and fitness, a fantastic way to prepare for a night at a salsa club, where you can show off your new Hispanic moves – by the end of the night you’ll be shaking your thang like a Cuban pro.
Originating from Greece and the Middle East, belly dancing fun to watch, fun to perform and provides an all over body workout. It’s also an ice breaker across all age groups. What appeals is the upbeat, flamboyant music – think Shakira, Akon and Holly Valance – the brightly coloured, flowing skirts, wide legged harem pants and bras encrusted with colourful stones, gold beads and coins.
If you’re a thrill seeker, pole dancing is a great way to bond with the girls. Egg each other on and giggle with glee as you glide, spin and move around the pole in daringly compromising positions – the perfect ice breaker to prepare you for the rest of the night’s shenanigans.
If you’re looking for something challenging and fun, try C-H-E-E-R-L-E-A-D-I-N-G. Jump, shout, cheer and collapse in a heap of giggles as you learn stunts and routines and shake your pom poms – go hens!
Whatever dance style you choose, for the most giggles, don fancy dress and combine an afternoon class with a slap-up meal and cocktails at a funky restaurant, followed by a night at a casino, salsa, comedy or burlesque club, or a ladies night being waited on by bare bottom butlers.
My interview with ‘Human Barbie’ Sarah Burge is published in Woman magazine.
Sarah Burge, 49, has spent half a million pounds transforming herself into a real-life Barbie doll.
When I walk down the street and people call me ‘Barbie’, I’m so proud. To me, the famous doll represents a glamorous, beautiful and successful woman, so it’s a real compliment if people think I look like her. And it’s all thanks to my surgery.
In total, I’ve been under the knife more than 120 hours, had more than 100 operations, and splashed out well over £500,000. I’ve been lifted, buffed and remodelled to perfection, and now I’m famous for my looks.
I look two decades younger than my 49 years and I’m happy to keep going under the knife to stay looking young.
My first taste of surgery was at the tender age of seven. I was bullied at school because my ears stuck out, so my mum got them pinned back for me to make my life easier. The results were amazing and the bullying stopped.
When was a kid, I’d watch television and dream of becoming a celebrity, never imagining it would actually happen. By the time I was 17, I had the face and the body to land my dream job as a Bunny Girl at the Playboy Club, London.
I had the time of my life. Appreciative customers would give me fur coats and diamonds as gifts, and all the attention made me feel a million dollars.
But I began to realise I wouldn’t always be young and gorgeous. One day I’d get old. I hated that thought. So after 18 months as a Playboy Bunny, I trained as a beautician. It was part of my plan to do everything possible to keep my looks.
I was very confident until I had my first daughter, Charlotte, when I was 25. I felt so unattractive and hated my post-baby body and tired, saggy face. My family and my then-husband told me I looked lovely but I didn’t believe them.
I started obsessively researching cosmetic surgery. I saw a handful of doctors before I found one I liked. My next step was liposuction around my chin. Nothing too drastic. Within days, I was out and about, getting a huge buzz when people said I looked fantastic.
But not fantastic enough. If my chin looked this great with surgery, think how amazing the rest of my body could look …
Since then, I’ve spent more than £500,000 on remodelling my face and body. As I’m a walking advertisement for cosmetic surgery, I’ve had generous discounts on a lot of my procedures – some of them have even been free.
I’ve had Botox in my armpits and cheeks, fat sucked out of my thighs and put into my hands, three face lifts, two nose jobs, various implants, my nipples moved. Not forgetting all the skin peels, chemical dermabrasion, teeth bleaching and hair extensions. The only body parts left untouched are my ear lobes – oh, and my brain. I’m already thinking about having my ear lobes shortened in a few years, before they stretch with age.
One year, I had a tummy tuck, liposuction and a bottom realignment as a Christmas treat!
At times the surgery has gone wrong, but I’ve just had another operation to correct it. My first two face lifts left my face looking lopsided, so I had a third to correct it. I needed a second nose job because the first one looked hideous. A bum implant dislodged itself, which caused fluid to build up. It was painful but corrective surgery soon sorted it.
It’s more than 20 years since my first operation. Thankfully, my husband of three years, Tony, is supportive. In my opinion, men don’t care what you do to look pretty as long as you get results.
My children – Charlotte, 24, Hannah, 14, and Penelope, four – are proud of my ‘celebrity’ status. If any of them wanted surgery in the future, I’d support them.
Now, I have to maintain what I’ve created. As I’m a qualified practitioner in aesthetic medicine, I can inject my own fillers in my cheeks, lips or hands at home near Cambridge. And if I have to go under the knife in the future, so be it.
Next year, I’m having a Barbie themed 50th birthday party. I’m thankful for what I have, so I want the theme to be just right.
Most people are surprised to learn that, despite my Barbie looks, I’m more than just a pretty face. I’m writing a book about my life, and I’ve set up my own beauty practice.
My main aim in life now is to ensure I look better with each passport photograph, instead of worse! I’m hoping to look this good when I’m 70.
An edited version of this review is published on Stereoboard.
Shhh … don’t tell anyone but I think I just found a kick-ass tune for summer. Rephrase that, I think I’ve found a kick-ass classic, full stop. Trawling through this week’s releases, I stumbled across the third single release from hip hop duo SHY and DRS featuring 70s rock giants Nazareth, a powerful ‘rap ballad’ that, to sum up in one sentence: “feels like a joy ride around the best bits of heartbreak on a beautiful day.”
Admittedly, for me, there’s something in the primal nature of rock that fosters decadence, so having the word Nazareth on the cover is a profitable start, although granted the rocker’s contribution leans more towards poetic rock than ear-shredding, hardcore aggression.
Think dance floor ammunition meets bathroom escapism meets bedroom hedonism. Think one part heartache pill, 100% adrenaline rush. Think two fingered salute at regret. Think. Think. Think. Sod that, who needs to think when you can shake your hair loose and make the earth move to ‘I’ve Got (Enough Love)’, a catchy collaboration between two dedicated Scottish acts, at opposing ends of their careers.
Rappers SHY (Mark James) and DRS (Darren Robert) are an unlikely pairing for an act so popular in their prime with hits like ‘Love Hurts’ and ‘Hair of the Dog’ they remain the talk of rock connoisseurs 40 years later, but hell … it works. This is without doubt the rapper’s best offering to date and possibly one to catapult Nazareth back into the charts after a 25 year drought, ahead of their forthcoming album release and tour of the US, Canada, Europe and Russia.
After four decades in the business, Dan McCafferty wastes no time in getting to work, striking immediately after the opening strings with a wholly repetitive chorus that allows the rappers to shine. “It’s been a long road travelled on, it’s been a long road home,” he roars, demonstrating his high standard of musicianship with defiant vocals, giving me goosepimples akin to Hamilton cranking up the speed as he approaches the final lap. It is perhaps the most apt opening line in the band’s history.
The twins fly through brisk lyrics with a confidence that flows like water, documenting the pain and bittersweet joy of lost love, pride, regret and survival, with lines like: “My head’s moved on since losing you / It tells my heart to move on but it refuses to / I try to play it cool because I’m old school / I thought I had this girl’s heart and her soul too.”
The standout aspect of the track for me is the effortless balance between the choral balladry, which is so addictive it should be illegal, amped up with layered strings, thundering drums and heart-swelling commentary that defines the boys in a tamer light than previous: “When you left you stole that piece of me / I did everything not to let you win / From the word go we were up against the wind / I still remember the days it was you and me.”
Equally as impressive is the delivery: a close ear at the rap vocals rewards an educated Scottish twang, a real treat for listeners’ ears that contributes to the infectiousness of the track.
DRS calls for an awakening for his brothers to realise their power, potential to bid adious to regret and re-embrace love: “Now I’ve got enough love / Too much love / I’m so high in the sky / I can taste the pain / I can face the rain.” The whole thing pulled together is a cracking contender for a lad’s version of Gaynor’s 1979 anthem ‘I Will Survive’.
Banging feel-good club track, breakfast on the patio chill-choon or heartbreak tonic, take your pick, ‘Enough Love’ is versatile, touching on themes like failure to deliver on promises, regret at not fighting hard enough, pride at how far you’ve come, and the power that love has to heal love.
Drawing from a diverse pool of musical influences from Wu-Tang Clan and Eminem to Kanye West, Tinie and Professor Green, the Scott twins have been putting vocals to beats since they were 14, came out as rappers on their 18th birthday, and are on their way to nailing a style that personifies rap’s essence: equal parts charm and vulnerability, nimble flow, vast, contemporary vocabulary and a dash of controversy, delivered with the precision of swordsmen. Being Scottish adds to the package because, well, let’s face it, how many Scottish rappers have you heard of?
If you need proof of the twins’ ability to branch in different lyrical directions, prior to listening to this, have a gander at debut album ‘Before Too Long’, a gutsy, heart-felt, blood-boiling, soul-stirring collection of 13 tracks featuring other unlikely collaborations that work.’Enough Love’ shines like a diamond among rubies; proof that there’s a vunerable heart among blisteringly antagonistic, fun-poking ruminations about instant gratification, drink, sex, clubs and other geezer’s birds.
For brothers who admit to constantly trying to outdo each other as wordsmiths, there is no evidence of this as performers. On stage, they rap in harmony, their down-to-earth roots evident in their easy-going manner and wit. If they continue to enrich fans by keeping it raw and real, and utilise that competitiveness for what it’s worth, they have the potential to propel themselves to lofty heights.
‘I’ve Got (Enough Love)’ is available to download on iTunes.
This article is published in Always & Forever – Plymouth’s Guide To Weddings magazine.
One of the best things about planning a wedding is putting your stamp on the day, and that includes your flowers. But with shops bursting with seasonal blooms and a seemingly endless choice of combinations and scents, from sweet lily of the valley to spicy chrysanthemum, where do you start? It’s easy to drown in a sea of choices.
When choosing flowers, a theme gives you a fantastic base to work from, as does your dress style (larger bouquets tend to overpower anything slinky and fitted), body shape, personalities and preferences as a couple.
Essential flowers to consider are the bride’s bouquet (the most spectacular of the day!) groom’s and groomsmen’s’ buttonholes (lily of the valley is a good choice), bridesmaids’ posies (traditionally a smaller version of the bride’s flowers), corsages for mother-of-the-bride, mother-of-the-groom and other special relatives (roses, orchids, camellias and gardenias in white or cream are popular), table centrepieces, thank-you bouquets, ceremony and reception decoration.
If you’re marrying in church, flowers secured to pew ends, on the altar, steps and windowsills ooze creative flair, and archway garlands look fabulously feminine.
For flower girls, consider flower or petal filled baskets sprayed white or pastel, a piece of ribbon tied around the flower girl’s wrist with a spray of flowers attached, or a floral bracelet. You could ask your flower girl or youngest bridesmaid to scatter petals down the aisle, providing it’s okay with the venue. A carpet of fresh petals provides a romantic touch for an outdoors wedding too.
Cut pictures from magazines and books of flowers that you like, to show your florist. Borrow gardening books from the library and note the names of flowers that catch your eye. Take a trip to your garden centre or botanical garden to get a feel for how flowers appear in reality. Learning the meanings of flowers may help you decide too. Google ‘flower meanings’ on the Internet for inspiration.
If modern is your thing, most florists rent out glassware for table arrangements, freestanding trees and floral structures coordinated to your theme. Consider an eye-catching bouquet made of steel grass with flowers wired and glued on, or one or two luxury orchids or calla lilies for your focal point, mixed with seasonal flowers, sourced locally for quality.
You don’t need many lilies to make a ‘wow’ statement. An elegant line bouquet or a small posy, hand-tied with ribbon, is a pretty choice to coordinate with a slim-fitting gown. Gerbera are fun and contemporary too, available in a variety of colours.
Consider your height and dress style. As a rule, if the bodice is detailed, keep your bouquet simple and hand-tied to avoid it overshadowing your dress. Opt for a clustered posy or a trailing bouquet carried over one arm. A long train worn by a tall bride looks lovely with a trailing shower bouquet. For smaller brides, an elegant teardrop bouquet will add height. Large flowers such as roses or peonies can be loosely arranged with foliage and tied with ribbon.
White is traditionally a popular colour for bridal bouquets, but pastels and rich, vibrant colours work too. Choose snow-white flowers (rose, sweet pea, camellia, narcissus, gardenia, orchid, lily of the valley, jasmine and gypsophila to name a few) with a dusting of sparkle and diamante detail for dazzling effect. Wide, satin ribbon provides a rich, luxurious finishing touch.
Shades of blue are a sophisticated summer choice. Hydrangeas, freesias and roses in creamy whites and pale blues make delightful bouquets, posies and hair bands for flower girls. For sheer prettiness, indulge in a palette of pastels, with muted shades of pink, blue, cream and peach, or a rose-tinted, lemon, lavender or pale green and white bouquet. Sweet peas, carnations, tulips, lavender, lilac, iris, delphinium and hydrangea are pretty choices.
Exotic flowers in juicy shades with tropical foliage add a playful touch. Be bold with bird of paradise bursts of yellow (daffodil, sunflower, tulip) and green with a twist of hot pink.
Red is incredibly passionate, don’t you think? From deep red to raspberry and blush pink, it’s the colour of romance, renowned for bringing luck in some countries. Gerbera, rose, dahlia, poinsettia and amaryllis add an air of deep romance interspersed with crisp-white flowers, berries and lush, green foliage.
Personalise your bouquet by adding a piece of jewellery such as a string of pearls or a crystal brooch, butterflies or diamanté initials, especially poignant if the jewellery has sentimental value. Organza ribbon can be used to create bows and streamers. For a special touch, include a single flower that reminds you of your childhood.
This article is published in Always & Forever – Plymouth’s Guide To Weddings magazine.
Not sure where to start when it comes to choosing your wedding cake? These vintage inspired ideas are almost too good to eat.
Want to serve a cake with ‘wow!’ factor? If you’re a vintage lover, it’s easy to incorporate your love of all things classical into your big day – even your cake – to make your wedding unique.
The first step is to decide upon the type of cake itself. Meet with a baker or cake designer and get some samples. Three tiers of rich, dark fruit cake may be traditional, but there’s no limit to how creative you can be. From cheese and cheesecake to decadent Belgian chocolate, vanilla sponge, fudge and buttercream, your cake will be one of the focal points of your reception so choose your ingredients carefully.
For breathtaking vintage romance, you won’t go wrong with soft shades of dusky pink, sage green, light gold, pastel blue, peach or classic ivory icing. Choose soft, faded, antique colours and coordinate your flowers and table decorations to match.
Piped ‘shabby chic’ lace patterns inspired by the bride’s dress and veil are popular, on shimmery white, champagne or candy striped icing with an edible lace and satin ribbon tied around each tier, curly piping, feminine bows, tiny sugar flowers and beautiful glass pearls. Diamanté trim along the base of each tier is another simple but elegant way to achieve a vintage look.
Add eye-catching extras such as a brooch covered in lace, beads and sequins, pink heart crystals or a pearl necklace draped down the front of the cake and secured with delicate satin flowers. And for a sentimental touch, ask around your family to see if anyone has vintage cake decorations tucked away. Using the same decorations as your parents or grandparents did on their wedding cake would add nostalgia and make your day even more meaningful.
If there are no family heirlooms handy, there are plenty of places to source other people’s heirlooms. Google vintage wedding cake decorations, and browse eBay, local markets, wedding fayres, charity and antique shops for old-fashioned toppers. Popular decorations from the 1920s to 1980s include hand-painted lovebirds, doves, wedding bells and plastic bride and groom figurines.
A popular idea among today’s brides is to choose your favourite period of time and incorporate its style into your cake. With this idea in mind, you might opt for the 1920s Charleston era, the swinging sixties, flirty fifties or Victorian romance for timeless appeal. Each period has its own unique history, flair and fashion which can be extended to the rest of your wedding too.
This article is published in Always & Forever – Plymouth’s Guide To Weddings.
With warmer weather around the corner, summer weddings are a great excuse to add a splash of colour to your wardrobe. Help the happy couple celebrate in style with our pick of sunny accessories.
From tangerine, turquoise and pillar box red to yellow, mango and fuchsia, if you’ve been invited to a wedding or two this summer, an injection of colour is a welcome alternative to oh-so-predictable black and too-much-like-the-bride white.
Whatever the location – beach bash, country club, church or garden ceremony – when it comes to guest attire, ladies you won’t go wrong with a versatile dress (maxi, shift, cocktail, strapless) or a sleeveless or cap-sleeved blouse tucked into a well-fitted pair of trousers or pencil skirt accessorised with an eye-catching belt, bag, heels, cardigan or pashmina in a bright, cheerful colour.
Strapless dresses look amazing with coloured pearls against sunkissed skin and floor-skimming maxis are a classy alternative to an above the knee skirt. Both can be teamed with strappy peep-toe sandals, skyscraper or wedge heels and bold, chunky costume jewellery for wedding ‘wow factor’.
Fellas – dare to be different! A ‘summer coloured’ suit in beige, light grey or cream can create no end of head-turning looks when paired with a patterned or block coloured tie, quirky cufflinks and a silk or satin cummerbund, waistcoat and handkerchief in an eye-popping colour like yellow, hot pink, turquoise, tangerine or lime green.
When it comes to summer accessorising, less is more and opposites attract. In other words, if your outfit is neutral, jazz it up with one or two colourful accessories and ‘neutralise’ colour with nude, gold, white, cream, silver, light grey and beige accessories.
The exception to this rule is complimentary colours: a red dress with lime green accessories, electric or navy blue trousers or skirt with tangerine-orange blouse and blue-orange patterned accessories, fuchsia shift dress with navy patterned jacket, purple printed maxi with yellow wedges, clutch bag and jewellery.
Alternatively, do what the French do and go nautical with navy and white, a clean summer classic that looks great with a pop of yellow, red or orange. Try a navy and white spotty or striped dress with yellow heels or strappy sandals and a matching clutch or a nautical print maxi with orange or red peep-toe sandals, pasmina and fascinator.
On the subject of hair pieces, hats and fascinators are bang on trend. For a summer wedding, choose a hat with a wide brim, or if you’re not a hat person, decorate hair with a boho floral (Pixie Lott style) garland, a beaded headband, sparkly diamanté clips, a garland of leaves and rainbow pearls or crystal encrusted flowers.
Hairpiece or not, it’s best to keep jewellery simple. Opt for one or two contemporary, feminine pieces with a hint of romance, such as white-gold heart studs or enamel flower earrings, a pretty charm bracelet or floral cuff, pearl necklace or chunky costume ring, and for men, a quality watch and cufflinks.
Bags are a great way to show off your style and transform an outfit from average to ‘wow!’. A jazzy clutch in a bold print provides a sharp contrast to a plain dress or for a crisp, clean look, pair a white bag with ‘seaside’ colours – turquoise, peach, pale blue and lemon.
Wondering how you’re going to dance until midnight and beyond in heels? Easy – don’t! Heels take their toll on feet so if you’re wearing them to the ceremony, pop a pair of chic, comfortable ballet pumps or crystal embellished thong sandals in your bag to change into later – or wear all day for beach weddings! Wedges are a wise choice too, as they give height without being uncomfortable. Opt for a patterned pair if you’re wearing a plain dress and vice versa.
For outdoor weddings, trendy sunglasses add glamour, and is there anything more romantic, quirky and charming than a parasol or fan? If nothing else, it’ll break the ice with people you don’t know.
Powered by a combination of fast-paced action, juicy illustrations by Gabriele Antonini, tummy lurching twists and rhyming text, Giles Paley-Phillip’s debut picture book is a breath of fresh air in an era when children’s literature focuses more on the anxieties of adults.
One of the core things that make it a winner is that – like its classic predecessors – it sends out a clear message that while ordinary lives can contain moments of great unexpectedness and unpredictable, inflexible, animalistic personalities, at their core they are infused with hope, truth and goodness.
Hailed as a future classic reminiscent of Roald Dahl, Spike Milligan and fairy tales of yesteryear, the opening sentences of The Fearsome Beastie, read: “On a dark and snowy winter’s night, when folk switch off their bedroom light, from far away a ghostly noise, wakes up sleeping girls and boys.”
“Beastie travels all the night, arriving just before dawn’s light … it bears its claws, it cracks its tails, its fangs look like old sharpened nails.”
Among Paley-Phillip’s legion of readers, such an opening will come as a proclamation of gruesome intent, likely rendering those with an over active imagination unable to sleep without the main light on / whimpering next to the parental nest at 3 am / cowering under the covers praying for sunlight.
And their fears would be grounded should they be brave enough to read on, as there is nothing soothing – as an effective bedtime story typically is – about a bad-tempered, manipulative beastie with dripping jaws, murderous intentions and a restless yearning for pre-adolescent human flesh – ghastly when you consider the vigorous policing of the watershed, but picture books reside in a different realm right?!
The beastly predator on the prowl is an idea that writers have had several stabs at, with varying success: Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and The Gingerbread Man among the best known, the latter particularly grim as the central character is eaten by a fox and thus there is no triumph over evil, which is an expected given in traditional and modern, dramatic fairy tales, the other being a strong moral to the story.
All of this Paley-Phillips seems to understand, tackling Beastie’s evil intentions with a fat vein of poetic joviality, spiky humour, sympathy and warmth, replacing the usual hero handyman / friendly woodcutter with a heart-of-gold grandmother, who comes to the rescue with an axe and a recipe for Beastie Stew. From the opening scene, experienced readers know they are in for a cheeky, exhilarating ride.
For centuries, it was thought that scary stories resonated with kids and their imaginations and this might be so, but in a world seemingly collapsing into a hodgepodge of political correctness, a study of 2000 parents commissioned to mark the launch of hit US drama GRIMM found two thirds of mums and dads avoid stories which might give their children nightmares, with nearly half refusing to read Rumplestiltskin, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Gingerbread Man as the themes are kidnap, stealing and execution, and thus morally wrong / questionable.
Taken without a degree of skepticism, such findings don’t bode well for Paley-Phillips’ sales, but I still envisage many happy smiles and repeat readings. Satisfying endings are a personal thing and kids are tougher than we give them credit for. A balanced education calls for equal doses of realism, escapism and fantasy and picture books like The Fearsome Beastie are great tools for providing that.
Rather than teaching our children to remain cautious at all times and making judgements based on our own insecurities, confusion and fears, our efforts would be better spent empowering little people to trust and rely on their intuition, arguably humanity’s most powerful weapon and blessing. We’ve all got it, so why not get a whole lot better at using it?
Giles Paley-Phillips won the Children’s People’s Book Prize with The Fearsome Beastie. To buy your copy click here.
“One morning Mother Hen was sitting on her nest when two of her eggs hatched,” begins the story of Meg, an agoraphobic chick who doesn’t want to hatch because she is afraid of the outside world. Meg has a dilemma – what to trust? Her Mother’s soothing voice: “Come out Meg, I want to give you a cuddle!” or her own fears: “The world outside my egg is so NOISY!”
Mother Hen is anxious for Meg to hatch, worried that she will go on the rubbish tip if she doesn’t. The chick’s fears increase as the day progresses and the moos and oinks and quacks get closer. By nightfall, she still hasn’t hatched, despite Mum’s encouragement and reassurance that all will be well. The most frightening noise is a loud howl, which unbeknown to Meg belongs to a fox. She calls the noise “Howls”. When Mother Hen is taken by Howls, Meg finds her courage at last and sets off on a mission to save Mum, still inside her egg.
Meg The Egg is a read aloud, share and discuss book to return to again and again, brought to life with prose and drawings. The pictures advance the text, which is geared towards pre-schoolers, though the visuals will inspire inquisitive toddlers too. The images capture the mood as the story progresses. The book deals with two fears at once – noise and the unknown – and family bonds. It is a lovely story for introducing and discussing the fears your child may have, one of humanity’s most basic, primitive emotions.
We learn by watching others face uncomfortable situations, in real life and in movies and books. Observing and helping others – human and animal – triumph over hurdles empowers children with the confidence to change fear into action, shaping them into resilient adults capable of reading their feelings and reacting appropriately. `He did it so I can do it!’ is one of man’s most powerful motivators. Rita Antoinette Borg captures that message well with this uplifting story of overcoming obstacles.
This review is published on Stereoboard.
Just weeks after hinting that he is ready to hit the road with a backpack and a bunch of mates, Angus Stone has jumped ship personally and professionally, abandoning the brother-sister duo that has served him well for 7 years and absconding from the Byron Bay digs he shared with Transformers actress Isabel Lucas, a relationship that blossomed in 2010 when they travelled through Redwood National Park together.
After gushing haemorrhoidal sludge about Lucas for months, and crediting her as the inspiration behind his upcoming second solo album ‘Broken Brights’, scheduled for release July 13th, the singer-songwriter has reportedly moved to a nearby residence in the northern NSW beach town.
Short-sighted cynics might argue that the timing is carefully plotted, with the split coming a week after the release of the singer’s second solo single ‘Bird On The Buffalo‘, but Stone is living in a single zone at the moment.
If you think Angus with Julia is the most interesting folksy bro-sis collaboration in the biz, that might be because you haven’t heard the swirling soundscape that is Angus without Julia. This new album, produced by himself, is a voyage of discovery, shining a light on cobwebbed corners of his beguilingly bewitching repertoire with milky touch.
Before you guffaw with cynicism, suspend your commentary to get an earful of title track ‘Broken Brights’; a snapshot of youth described as “Fragile and beautiful” by Uncut magazine, and chill in the knowledge that little bro hasn’t acquired complete independence just yet, at least not musically.
Speaking about recording without his older sister, a musical pairing that has sold close to a million records in Australia and the UK since their debut EP in 2005, the shaggy-haired boy from Sydney’s northern beaches is vague but firm in his conviction that it is unlikely the sibling performers will go their separate ways permanently.
“Recording this album was a different experience for me, an opportunity to be a little more loose and have a bit more fun,” Angus explains of ‘Broken Brights’, the follow up album to his debut solo effort ‘Smoking Gun’, “Recording with Julia is cool but this is my most personal work to date.”
Their careers may be taking them in different directions, but the Angus & Julia show is far from over, a little messed up possibly, but the fat lady is still singing. This is a story with several themes running through it, the primary one being growth. The characters will grow with the story, and our perceptions of them will grow as we learn more about them.
‘Broken Brights‘ will be released on CD, deluxe CD and digital formats, each including exclusive tracks, as well as on vinyl.
Julia Stone’s solo album ‘By The Horns‘ will be released in the UK on May 28th.
This review is published on Stereoboard.
With a new attitude, a new sound, a new album, a 2012 tour and a life-changing love, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sandi Thom is finally her own woman. Yes, the distinctive voice is still Sandi, but the spirit is renewed, and her highly anticipated fourth studio album ‘Flesh and Blood‘, produced by Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson, reflects her new persona.
Featuring an all-star ensemble, Thom’s “coming of age album” as she calls it, has heart, soul and guts pulsating through every vein.
With fan bases in America, Australia, the Middle East and Japan, Sandi’s popularity is reaching new and impressive heights. It is fair to say that she has come a long way since her 2006 hit single ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)‘. Making her mark on the international music scene and playing live to sell out crowds across the globe, as she enters her fourth decade the girl from Macduff is ready to take on the world.
Never again will she relinquish control to others, as she has done in the past. The Sandi Thom of 2012 is in control of her emotions, her life, and every aspect of her career; personally keeping tabs on her money and maintaining creative control of her own, and her artists’, music.
“I control everything, and that’s a good feeling,” she says. “All I ever want to do is write songs that connect with people. With this album I’ve finally found a place where I can make the very best music I can achieve. The people that only know me from Punk Rocker won’t recognise me on this album. But they are going to discover another side of me.”
Most importantly, Sandi is happy. “My life turned crazy,” she says, from the Los Angeles home she shares with superstar blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who she credits for the “insane” changes in her life. Likening their relationship to a modern-day Johnny Cash and June Carter fairy-tale, Sandi says: “Isn’t this what everybody wants? That insane kind of love that utterly consumes you?”
Released August 27th under her own label Guardian Angels Records and recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, ‘Flesh and Blood’ comes 2 years after the label’s debut release, the critically acclaimed ‘Merchants and Thieves‘ which remained at No1 on the iTunes blues / rock charts for 4 weeks.
Led by Robinson, drummer Steve Gorman and fellow Black Crowe and session guitarist Audley Freed, this new effort heralds a fresh and exciting chapter in the singer’s life.
“Sandi really stretched herself and made a bold new album,” reflects Rich Robinson. “Her songs are honest, vulnerable and very strong. Her vocal abilities are showcased really well, as is her guitar work, and harp playing. I think Sandi’s made a great record. It was a joy to work with her.”
The intriguingly titled track ‘I Love You Like A Lunatic’ is based on Thom’s love affair with Joe, and the album features a rare duet with legendary singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie with 1992 classic ‘The Big Ones Get Away’. Growing up in Scotland, Thom got her earliest musical influences from Sainte-Marie, so it was a huge honour to work with her.
She says. “I’ve always been influenced by the Blues and Rock along with singer-songwriters like Dylan, Carole King and Buffy Saint Marie. I grew up on Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac and many more. It was a funny mixture that certainly influenced the way I sing and play.”
Legendary classic rock producer Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, Joe Bonamassa) mixed a couple of tracks, including ‘Sun Comes Crashing Down’, which is available as a free download from Sandi’s website.
“Sandi’s writing is fantastic,” says Shirley, “and her singing is wonderful. ‘Sun Comes Crashing Down’ has the right ingredients to be a hit.”
Respected Nashville stars Mike Webb and James Haggerty, and a guest performance from Rolling Stones collaborator, saxophonist Bobby Keys, complete the line-up.
Mark Nevin is an accomplished songwriter, beginning his career back in 1989 as writer and guitarist with BRIT Award winning band Fairground Attraction, collaborating with Kirsty MacColl, scribbling tunes with Carole King and Ringo Starr, and writing extensively with Morrissey on his Kill Uncle and Your Arsenal albums.
His first album for almost a decade and third solo album, if you’re familiar with Nevin’s previous stuff, you’ll know the drill with this; driving melodies and self-deprecating lyricism in a distinctively British narrative style combined to create a robust yet humble snapshot of real life.
Yes, more of the same but this one is different. Stand Beside Me In The Sun is the boy from Ebbw Vale’s most personal work to date; an album full of personal moments, from reminiscing about seeing his future wife Louise on her Suzuki Savage to sitting in a pub watching football with Muswell Hillbilly Ray Davies.
Highlights for me include the Lennonesque Oh Mama and the stirring lyrics of Ghost of Summer Past, which attains a multitude of contradictions; cheerful rocksteady simplicity with nostalgic solemnity that is as ecstatic as sober can get.
“It’s not far from the cradle to the cemetary” sums up Blood, a poignant melody inspired by Nevin’s son Wes, an accomplished frontman with London indie rock trio Let’s Wrestle.
Justifying his absence from the scene for 9 years, Nevin says: “I’ve been right out of the loop doing other things, and every now and again a song would pop out of its own accord. This is a collection of those. I did music because I loved music, and I continue to do it for that reason.”
This review is published on Stereoboard.
Best known as a one hit wonder for smash hit 2006 single ‘Bad Day’, which played in the background as Alvin and his Chipmunks gathered nuts for the winter and American Idol losers sobbed farewell, it’s fair to say Daniel Powter is in need of some fair press, and after a four year musical hiatus spent, by his own admission, surfing and fighting his demons, suffice to say he has his work cut out.
Defending his absence from the scene, the singer makes no bones about his allergy to the spotlight, admitting he struggled so much with fame the first time round, he turned to drugs and alcohol to block out the noise, despite ‘Bad Day’ notching up more than three million sales in the US alone, and sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks.
Repeated plays from this new effort reveals hidden depths from an individual long thought to have left the scene. It’s obvious that the Grammy nominated artist’s star is rising again. Whether that’s a good or bad thing for Powter remains to be seen.
The context might have been played before, many times over, but the songs are his own story, with soul-soaked narratives aimed straight at the heart. By blazing a trail with a torch of nostalgic Elton John-style bouncy piano melodies engineered for mass consumption, Powter has potted black.
Clean and sober for two years, the 41-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter, who became a father for the second time in February, marks out his territory beautifully with lead track ‘Cupid’, a romantic, sentimental tribute to an elderly couple in a park, semi-formally dressed, dancing and laughing under a tree.
Some works of art are destined to be crowd-pleasers, and this is one of them.
“I was mesmerised,” Powter recalls of the ‘sweet romance’. “I felt all this stuff churn in me, and was like: ‘This is what it’s all about.”
Such was his inspiration, he went home and penned a slew of melancholy lyrics like: “They don’t make a pill that can give me the thrill when you look at me” and “It’s quite clear to me that we were always meant to be” resulting in a befitting accompaniment to a flute of champagne in a rowdy chain pub.
If a one year sabbatical touring Native American Indian powwows doesn’t help you heal from heartbreak/obsessive desire, repeated rounds of ‘Come Back Home’ and ‘If Only I Could Cry’ will help you cling to the memories.
“For better or worse, I meant every last word” (‘If Only I Could Cry’) and “I see your face on every stranger that walks by” (‘Come Back Home’) set the pace for “Some call it fate / They say it’s meant to be / You meet that someone who fits you perfectly” (‘The Day We Never Met’) “I think I fell to pieces the moment I first saw you / I’m nothing but a shell of a man” (‘Crazy All My Life’) and “You got under my skin / The moment you walked in / You belong to me / It’s you and no one else” (‘Selfish’).
“With everything that’s going on in the world today – wars, economic crisis, people losing their jobs, losing their homes,” says Powter “I wanted to strip down all the bullshit and write about hope, coming home, love … the days of decadence are gone.”
Time will tell whether ‘Cupid’, ‘Crazy All My Life’ or one of the other eight impressive tracks on this catchy album makes Powter more than a one-hit wonder; lightning can and does strike twice. Whatever the outcome globally, my guess is that lead track ‘Cupid’ will be a smash here in the UK this summer and coming to a movie near you soon.
Award winning author Giles Paley-Phillips has created an endearing little girl who is unable to sleep as the wind howls outside her window. Her fears are justified when a big, hairy arm snatches her from her bed and whisks her into the night.
Little Tamara’s nocturnal adventure takes her to a monster’s ball at the village hall, where all sorts of grizzly creatures are dancing the night away, including a cackling old witch and a breakdancing werewolf.
The first half of the story may not be to every parent’s taste, prompting many a child to cower in recognition of their fear of night-time grizzlies, but there’s no escaping the humour, and the book manages to be educational too, with its message that a person doesn’t have to be pretty to be popular and loveable.
If you’re looking for a picture book to take younger children by surprise and teach them that beauty lives in the eye of the beholder, this is it. Paley-Phillip’s books are so colourful and animated that I sometimes feel as if I’m watching a 3D movie. Targeted to readers age 4 to 8, the bright, quirky illustrations by Gabriele Antonini add to the fun of the rhyming text and counteract the words being taken too seriously.
The creatures may have big noses, googly eyes and missing teeth, but their beauty shines in their generosity and humour. The cackling old witch surprises Tamara with a slimy cake gift and before the night is over Tamara has danced with everyone and received an invitation to return next year. The message that I hear in this book is one of friendship, caring and sharing – a good message!
Tamara Small and the Monsters’ Ball is simple and entertaining with enough humour to stop it being uncomfortably scary. The creatures are playful and funny and the finale is perfect, with little Tamara sleeping peacefully, undisturbed by her night-time adventure.
This article is published in Always & Forever – Plymouth’s Guide To Weddings.
Are you a bride besotted with all things vintage? If you’re planning a vintage inspired wedding, look no further than old Hollywood for seemingly effortless A-list locks.
There’s no bigger red carpet moment than your wedding day. It’s your chance to be a star for a day, so why not draw inspiration for your bridal hair from the Hollywood hotties of yesteryear? Period weddings are making a comeback and nothing is more glamorous than a vintage look.
Drawing inspiration from the old-school glamour of Hollywood starlets like Dita Von Teese and Gwen Stefani, more and more brides are turning to the past to add good-old-fashioned glamour to their wedding.
While a major part of a brides’ dream wedding is a stunning dress, a romantic hairstyle is an equally essential ingredient – take your time to choose the perfect combination. Fortunately, with the help of a good stylist, careful planning and effort, a vintage Hollywood style is not too difficult to recreate.
Keep short hair simple with a slick and sharp style. Look to old movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and Louise Brooks for a beautiful cut which can be accessorised with a veil or sparkly hair piece. Consider actress Carey Mulligan’s Oscars look – a pixie cut razored at the sides. Chic and unique.
Mid Length Hair
Shoulder length hair looks beautiful transformed into a vintage wave. Look to Marilyn Monroe and the Queen of pin-up girls Bettie Page with her slick black hair for inspiration. The vintage 1950′s wave style looks stunning with a red lipstick pout and vintage dress.
Long hair can be transformed into pretty much any style you want. Consider the infamous up-do worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys or Rita Hayworth’s 1940′s old school glamour. Both styles can be accessorised with a pretty corsage, beaded hair slides or a vintage style comb.
If you love wearing your hair down, consider Jessica Simpson’s loose, romantic waves with a few strands pulled away from your face secured with vintage brooches.
Or recreate the tousled tresses of Kate Moss, who combined touches of vintage with simple romance for her country wedding to Jamie Hince. A stunning Romeo and Juliet cap-style veil made of woven lace and sequins completed Kate’s look.
When it comes to true Hollywood glamour, Kate Bosworth has it down to a tee. She is reminiscent of the lovely ladies of times gone by like Gretta Garbo and Clara Bow. So elegant.
And we know they’re old news, but when Jennifer Aniston married Brad Pitt, she oozed classic movie star quality with her loose, flowing, shiny hair.
5 Things To Consider
1. For a truly stunning look, your hair should reflect your personal style, while complementing the fashion era of your dress. In other words, your gown should influence your hairstyle, not the other way round. Choose your dress first and show your stylist a photograph of it.
When actress Marley Shelton got married her gown had a 1920′s old Hollywood feel, so she complimented it with a glamorous finger-waved chignon. Likewise, actress January Jones complimented her 1940′s inspired dress with a sleek, wavy, long bob, worn loose.
2. For true Hollywood glamour, embrace what your hair does naturally. If it is naturally curly, embrace those curls. Having said that, if your hair is poker straight and you love curls, cheat! Hollywood starlets are forever sporting loose pin curls, finger waves and tousled vintage curls. We love Rita Hayworth’s soft wavy curls, Lana Turner’s platinum wavy locks and Ava Gardner’s short, tight waves.
3. Choose a stylist that you feel comfortable with, someone who knows your hair. If your usual stylist doesn’t feel comfortable doing vintage hair ask him/her to recommend a stylist who is willing to experiment. Don’t be afraid to try many looks and go back several times, practise makes perfect. Actress Carmen Electra tried 13 different hairstyles before she settled on the right one!
4. Immerse yourself in a vintage world! Browse old movie star websites, cut pictures from magazines such as Vintage Life (www.vintagelifemagazine.com) and borrow books from the library. Pay attention to how female stars from the era of your wedding dress wore their hair and discuss the styles with your stylist.
5. Remember, accessories are merely props to “enhance” you. The most beautiful thing you can wear is a dazzling smile with bags of confidence, and don’t forget the mandatory sweep of red lipstick!
Products For Great Condition Vintage Hair
Glossy locks are essential for true vintage glamour. Here are some products to boost the condition of your hair. Use them regularly in the months leading up to your big day and your glossy tresses will scream Hollywood glamour!
The ’3 Minute Miracle Conditioner’ by Aussie is renowned by beauty editors across the world. If your hair is craving moisture, this is a must have!
Try the ‘Luxurious Volume Blow Dry Lotion’ from John Frieda. This product gives great boost to your hair for the perfect at-home blow dry.
Trevor Sorbie does a brilliant range of colour care shampoos and conditioners to help transform your hair into tip-top condition for your wedding day.
Finally, if you’re brave enough to style your own hair, here’s what you’ll need.
For creating curls, waves and rolls, try the ‘Babyliss Pro Ceramic Dial A Heat Tong’.
For sixties and seventies styles, find a good set of old Carmen rollers or try ‘Babyliss Pro Professional 20 Piece Roller Set’.
‘Schwarzkopf Silhouette Super Hold Mousse’, a good tong and ‘Schwarzkopf Silhouette Super Hold Hairspray’ will curl and hold hair without stickiness.
Use pins and Kirby grips colour coordinated to your hair to secure pleats, rolls, beehives and buns.
Section clips are crucial for holding partings and shapes in place. They’re also great for setting heavy hair.
Metal prong tail combs are perfect for parting and sectioning, backcombing and teasing hair.
Bristle brushes are great for smoothing out backcombing and brushing out curls. Mason and Pearson do quality brushes. Look for a pure bristle one. It will make a noticeable difference to your styling.
‘Dax Purple Super Neat’ is great for smoothing frizz and for neatening hair prior to rolling and shaping.
This review is published on Stereoboard.
Dubbed the next big thing in Hip Pop Rock by NME Magazine and The Proclaimers of Hip Hop by The Sun, after years of chasing pavements, SHY & D.R.S are poised to give birth to one of the coolest genre explosions ever; a gutsy, heart-felt, blood-boiling, soul-stirring collection of 13 tracks featuring unlikely collaborations that work.
The life of the party with a seemingly insatiable sexual appetite, the Scott brothers – Mark James (SHY) and Darren Robert (D.R.S) – are the best twin rap group you’ve never heard, unless you’ve heard of them.
The degree educated duo from Aberdeen are an easy band to love or despise, depending on your stance on antagonistic explanations of human abilities and behaviour and openly mocking flirtations with girls with guys that are as unsurreptitious as they come. Most interesting bands are divisive in that way.
Formerly managed by Scots Rock legend Midge Ure and ex Stereophonics manager Ronnie Gurr, make no mistake, these guys are trouble; picking fights, breaking hearts and eating chicks like cannibals. With lyrics like: “If you can make them laugh you can make them do anything. Give me half a chance, I’m going to have you naked” and “What’s up son you look nervous, she’s your girlfriend, see if I care,” it’s easy to see why guys wanna leather them and girls wanna tame them.
The latest act to join Sandi Thom’s Guardian Angels roster in collaboration with Universal, the soulful rappers debut album ‘Before Too Long’ is a gateway into a world sculpted around addiction; drink, sex, clubs and mimicry, opening with a track as perilous as it’s title suggests in it’s power to rile every loved up man on the planet.
Short-sighted commentators might argue that the lyrics’ superficiality is carefully plotted but it feels like SHY & D.R.S are genuinely about instant gratification, hooked on the fast coming, intense high from the immediate fear of a twist ending.
It’s not all bad boys farting the charm offensive, mind. Nostalgia fans will be appeased with the operatic rap ballad ‘Heart of Stone’ featuring classical singer Nika whose voice took me by surprise, in a good way. Beautiful, but a different type of beautiful, Nika is a voice I could listen to at 3am on a freezing cold morning, gazing longingly out of the window while under the influence of large amounts of whiskey.
Every sound is thrown against the wall here. In a possibly subconscious reference to an imminent breakthrough, there are mentions of “unleashing the beast” and “letting the animal inside creep out”. With lyrics like those, it is no surprise to hear that the Scots duo received songwriting help from Eminem’s band D-12 on tracks like ‘Rockstar’, but SHY & D.R.S are far removed from bleached denim and bling bling. They may sport caps and tats and spanking white trainers, but they are the antithesis of hard, shifty expressions and their confidence is underpinned with a humble charm – “Our Dad is our biggest fan,” says D.R.S.
Highlights on this album include Relapse featuring former X Factor contestant Luke Bingham, legendary rockers Nazareth, whose riotous, feisty lyrics are a surprisingly natural fit for a hip hop classical combo, and an appearance from Thom, who is gearing up for the release of her own 4th album this summer and is seen in promo pictures sporting an all-in-one orange prison suit and bangs, a look that sees her offing the flower-holding punk rocker she once aspired to be in favour of the 21st-century Americana chick she has become since her move to Los Angeles.
The whole package is as subtle as a feet first stage dive, a marriage of genres that sounds like nothing else out there. With their passion for rap now matched by the business acumen of Thom and her team, the solid ground beneath the twin’s feet is about to give way. Suspend your cynacism for long enough to get an earful and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
‘Dirty Girl’ is currently available as a free download on SoundCloud with a video to accompany it.
This review is published on Stereoboard.
Like a swan’s head craning awkwardly backwards revealing a gaping, bloody wound in it’s neck, transformations don’t come more dramatic than Norah Jones‘ new album, a captivating indie set produced and co-written by Danger Mouse.
Filled with unrequited love and ashes of angst, ‘Little Broken Hearts‘ is the fifth studio album by Jones, a long awaited two-fingered salute at heartache debuting top 5 in 14 countries and number 2 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
A lip-biting, hair-flicking letter to the damaged swan who lives inside her; the collection is a musical journey of funky guitar grooves and sugar-fuelled synthesisers and strings, layered with an admirable depth of emotion and honesty.
The release, which Spin magazine calls “the second essential record of Norah Jones’ career,” sparked a series of profiles in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Associated Press and NPR Morning Edition and TV appearances on the CBS Late Show With David Letterman and ABC Good Morning America.
With compelling artwork inspired by the movie Mudhoney, this is a Norah that we haven’t seen much of, a lyrical exploration of the unpleasant, revenge-driven aspects of heartbreak that is edgy, spiky and darker than anything attempted before.
In a refreshing twist on the usual lamentations of lost love, Jones, who plays jazz piano in her kitchen, sings with dynamic, gutsy, joyous bravado, egged on by a wild energy that makes dumping a guy sound like so much fun a cover story in Magnet excitedly declared that “she just might have made album of the year.”
A gastronomical feast marinated in whiskey and cigarette smoke; the singer’s smouldering trademark vocals tell lullaby-esque, extraordinarily intimate, stories of lament with acrobatic, mesmerising gusto.
Highlights include the dreamy, angelic mimicry of the album’s opener ‘Good Morning’ in which Jones bewails that she is “folding her hand” and my favourite Norah track of all time ‘Happy Pills’ which includes the exquisite line: “How does it feel to be the one shut out? You broke all the rules, I won’t be a fool for you no more my dear.”
Commendable and compelling, this new offering affords an opportunity to witness a mass of bloody feathers evolve into a resurrection dance ahead of Jones’ US and Canada tour this summer. Add low lighting and several glasses of neat Scotch and you have the ingredients for a smooch with angst as comforting as a big bowl of soup on a gloomy day.
This review is published on Stereoboard.
Following a three year musical hiatus, and with his wounds apparently healed, the “new, improved and enlightened” seven time Grammy winner John Mayer is back with ‘Born and Raised’ a rootsy, Memphis rejection of his foot-in-mouth past released today by Sony, that is pleasant enough, but doesn’t demand repeat listening.
Mayer, who blamed a throat problem for the cancellation of the album’s promotional Spring tour, a setback which undoubtedly means limited TV and radio plugging, spent the past few years “thinking hard about life” following a string of disparaging comments he made in interviews to Rolling Stone and Playboy about ex chicks, that were by his own admission “attention seeking garbage”.
Measured with that ruler, his remorse shows in this soul searching folk-rock-bluesy effort; an undemanding album co-produced with Don Was that highlights the American’s writing and guitar strumming talents. The guitar playing is actually the highlight of the album for me, quite extraordinary. The man certainly knows how to take you on a voyage through strings.
A highly personal collection of 13 tracks, ‘Born and Raised’ is a real salt-of-the-earth heart-on-sleeve job on his road to humility. Like Marmite; you ether love it hate it. I’m unsure which camp to veer towards, being down the middle, but forced left or right, it could grow on me.
The smoky self-penned lyrics are more mature than Mayer’s first two studio albums, ‘Room for Squares’ and ‘Heavier Things’, which did a grand job commercially, achieving multi-platinum status. Unlike previous, this effort reveals a man with a conscience and new facets of the incredible song writing talent that he is renowned for.
“Now and then I pace my place / I can’t retrace how I got here / I cheat and lie to check my fates / It’s slightly harder than last year / And all at once it gets hard to take,” John reveals with a raspy, weathered self-awareness in title track ‘Born and Raised’ a folk-rock-country highlight that mixes steel guitar with piano to create a vintage number, with vocals from the legendary Graham Nash and David Crosby driving into your brain until wedged there.
My initial impression of ‘Queen of California’ with its reference to Neil Young’s acclaimed 1970 album ‘After the Gold Rush’ is a lyrical nod to Jennifer Aniston, which it might well be, but John’s lips are zipped.
Other highlights include the Eric Clapton-esque ‘Shadow Days’ which was released as a single, and my favourite of the set ‘A Face To Call Home,’ in which John is aided by Sara Watkins as he yearns to start a life with someone that he’s in the “getting-to-know-you” stage. The wistful ‘Something Like Olivia’ and bluesy ‘Fool To Love You’ stand out too. This is a different John to previous, but with barely a change of pitch throughout the album and no “wow that was totally awesome factor” that all musicians strive for, I struggled to sit through the relentless same-same after a while, leaving me as ecstatic as the therapist of a burnt-out rock star. But on a positive note, there is sensory stimulation in the album’s artwork.
Overall, ‘Born and Raised’ is no grand gesture, but drastic change wouldn’t fit the man. It’s all very soft-rock Americana, perfect for an Autumn road trip; not all bad but a horizontal attempt to fix his “Oops I took my foot off the brake” motor mouth ways. After a whole sitting, I admit to wondering, albeit fleetingly, if Mr Mayer’s remorse would have been better channelled meditating with Tibetan monks. Not quite the “seriously tasty” Rolling Stone hail it to be, but an admirable-ish effort nonetheless.
This article is published in The Oracle magazine.
Paint a Wall
A fresh coat of paint is an easy, cost effective way to brighten up a room. If you can’t afford to paint your entire home, try painting one wall a dark deep grey colour or chocolate brown, as a statement wall. For winter, solid dark colours work best – but only on one wall. Keep the rest of the room neutral for a modern look. If you’re feeling brave, why not add a dash of red to a white room? Check out the colour brochures at your local paint store for ideas of the new ‘in’ colours.
Get Cheap Artwork
IKEA has some fabulous pictures that you can frame for cheap and hang on your newly painted wall. An abstract painting against a chocolate brown wall will add impact to a room. Or try a polka dot painting, stripes, a landscape scene or a black and white print of your favourite musician or actor. Black and white artwork can be really classy. You don’t need to spend a fortune either. All you need to do is make black and white copies of your favourite family photos, or print some artsy looking pictures from the Internet. When I went to Paris, I took a photo of the Eiffel Tower, printed it in black and white, and displayed it in an antique white frame. It looks fabulous.
Another way to update your home on the cheap is to coordinate picture frames. You can buy frames super cheap at discount stores. Put all your pictures in matching or coordinating frames and group together on a feature wall. Thin black frames are modern and clean looking.
Buy New Fabrics
New curtains can make a huge difference to a room. Pick a rich colour and coordinate with matching curtains and a cosy rug. If you have light walls, choose curtains in a dark colour like chocolate brown with curtains a lighter shade of brown, or a contrasting shade like magenta, teal or khaki.
Bring The Outdoors Inside
Flowers and plants can do wonders for a bathroom shelf, dining room table or kitchen counter. Why not fill an empty corner or nook with a large, green plant? If you can’t be bothered with watering and preening, use artificial plants instead. A large vase of fake, colourful flowers will instantly brighten a room.
Clean and De-clutter
De cluttering will make your home seem less messy and you’ll instantly feel more organised. Any spot that is overcrowded can drain your energies, so have a major clearout of old knick knacks, ornaments and accessories that don’t define you as a person anymore. Put all the kids stuff away in toy boxes and deep clean the whole house. A bit of a vacuum here and there, gleaming windows and sparkling floors will put the oomph back into your home. Out with the old, in with the new.
Get a Large Mirror
Large mirrors make a room look bigger. You can buy them cheap, around £50 at B & Q and IKEA. Hanging a large mirror in a narrow room or hallway will create the illusion of space, and leaning it against the wall in the hallway or in your bedroom or bathroom, will create the kind of grandeur seen in stately homes. Plus you’ll get to check yourself out, full length, before you leave the house in the morning.
Move Furniture Around
Rearranging space can make a world of difference to your home. Try arranging furniture at different angles, or removing furniture that s too chunky or outdated. If you have green fingers, change the focus point away from the fireplace to a view of the garden. Take advantage of the scenery outside.
Sometimes all it takes to brighten a room is a new lamp in a modern shape and colour. Replace tired looking lamps with modern stainless steel for a contemporary feel, and install dimmer switches to enhance your mood. Remember to match the light shades on your ceilings to your curtains and cushions to keep the look coordinated.
Update Handles, Knobs and Taps
Buy cute handles for drawers from DIY stores and every time you open them you’ll get a tingle of happiness. Try starfish knobs for the bathroom and elegant stick handles or antique finished knobs for the bedroom. You’ll find a wide selection of door handles in places like B & Q. For regal opulence, replace old taps with gold plated ones and coordinate with matching plugs.
Create a Grand Entrance
Rejuvenate a tired entrance with fresh paint or stain. Sweep the porch, wash the door and windows and replace rusty house numbers, frayed doormats and drab lighting. Place a few pots of colourful flowers by the entrance, grouped together for maximum visual impact.
This review is published on Stereoboard.
Reggae python Jimmy Cliff is back to his roots with a message of hope that will keep your heart and soul on the sunny side; an open-hearted thirteen track showcase of his legendary talent which he calls “One more shot at the prize. One more shot at the goal.”
Rebirth’s cover art, boasting a silhouette of Cliff surrounded by rays of light, is an enticing introduction to an album devoted to injustice infused with spirited, feel-good Jamaican vibes, building cleverly on last year’s Sacred Fire EP. Think of it as a comfort blanket on a dismal day, a shot of neat dark island rum and a happy pill with a feisty edge. Whatever mood I’m in – wild, sensitive or angsty – Cliff makes me want to dance and spin around and feel good. He also makes me want to right the wrongs in the world.
His first studio work in more than seven years and second collaboration with Grammy award-winning producer Tim Armstrong of punk band Rancid, the collection is a blend of mostly original music with a couple of covers – Rancid’s ‘Ruby Soho’ and Clash classic ‘Guns of Brixton’ – the latter tapping into the uprisings for freedom in the Middle East and London riots, which took place as sessions for Rebirth were underway.
Highlights include the majestic, sun-beamy track ‘One More’ (I got one more song I must sing / Ding-a-ling / Freedom ring) – a statement of intent and purpose to himself and the world which was digitally released as a single on June 30th – and the equally infectious war and poverty track ‘World Upside Down’ with its pleas against social injustice (What’s wrong with humanity / Have they lost their sanity / For the sake of vanity?). The organ drenched ‘Cry No More’ and ‘Ship is Sailing’ and upbeat ‘Children’s Bread’, a hark back to his earlier works, also deserve a mention.
The entire album demands repeated listens and has done wonders for expanding my reggae horizons. When I can see an artist’s expressions through his voice, I know it will be an enchanting experience. There is an optimism in Cliff that really inspires me. He doesn’t just sing, he feels it with a soulful intensity that’s somewhere between roots reggae and punk rock. In just under an hour, the Jamaican born singer songwriter’s rich-as-rum voice and light-up-a-room crackle and pop charm brightened my week.
To be fully appreciated, the album should be listened to with at least some pre-existing knowledge of Cliff’s rich and colourful 50 year history. He has sold in excess of 25 million records, was canonized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, and is renowned for his passionate views against injustice in the world. But that’s not essential. Rebirth, as the title suggests, heralds a fresh chapter in the icon’s life and will appeal to new and old fans. Rave reviews from Mojo and The Los Angeles Times are a sure sign that Cliff’s star has no intention of diminishing.
The lyrics to ‘Reggae Music’ with its joyful chorus of “Reggae music making me feel good / Reggae music gonna make me feel good right now” sums up my verdict – a spunky album with attitude and punch. This is what authentic reggae sounds like. In Cliff’s own words: “Straight from the soul and in control.” It’s exciting to be privy to another instalment in a long and lasting career. For the love of everything sacred, don’t miss it.
‘Rebirth’ tracklisting is as follows:
1. World Upside Down 2. One More 3. Cry No More 4. Children’s Bread 5. Bang 6. Guns Of Brixton 7. Reggae Music 8. Outsider 9. Rebel Rebel 10. Ruby Soho 11. Blessed Love 12. Ship Is Sailing 13. One More (Alternate Version).
An edited version of this review is published on Stereoboard.
“Trust me sunshine, I’m about as Scottish as a haggis sittin’ in a kilt, listenin’ to the Proclaimers, sippin Glenfiddich in the Heelands with nothing but a saltire rapped around me and ma face painted blue and white!!”
“I run the whole show. It’s challenging to run a company and be an artist and write songs.”
“We have two staff, everything starts from somewhere small.”
“I just got back from Kuala Lumpur, meeting with distribution companies to talk about servicing Guardian Angels throughout South-East Asia. That’s the part of me that people don’t know, the mogul.”
If I had to sum up Sandi Thom in 10 seconds, the quotes above paint the words I would use in formidable colour … trailblazing, feisty, fierce, honest, real. And her new album? Heartfelt, soulful, raw, accepting, charismatic and oh so vulnerable … a self-described “obsessive Fleetwood Mac fan”, The Covers Collection has Stevie Nick’s smouldering angst running right through it.
Make no mistake, Thom is a Rottweiler when it comes to defending her reputation. If there’s one thing that has remained steadfast on the roads she’s stomped, it’s her ability to deliver, beat her drum, and remain loyal to the fans who have her back. Thom is not in thrall to major label delusion – a blast of fresh air in today’s ‘fame at whatever cost’ industry full of artists trying to copy each other.
The indie-rock-folk-blues singer’s style comes instead from an earthier vision – Thom cites sustaining the “real, honest, consistent” label that is Guardian Angels Records, grown from seed and raised with bare knuckles, as a driving factor in her reality going forward and the 11/11 release of fifth album The Covers Collection as a pivotal moment in her musical development.
Little else in the music industry has as much transformative potential as a new album. Through death, loss, tragedy, joy and birth, music touches the emotional, physical and mental. Will this album remake me? Push my career in a new direction? Finish me? Do I go for a dramatic change or a tidy trim? Just as travelling to a new place can help us on the path to realising our dreams, so too can releasing an album.
Sandi’s Covers Collection is as close to a page turning best seller as you’ll get, while maintaining an originality that makes you want to re-listen instantly. It’s a simple, timeless, doorstopper of an album that feels like being wrapped in multiple layers of raw silk, sending waves of joy to the listener, even in moments of sorrow.
I have yet to interview Sandi face to face, but there’s a saying: “The heart knows what the mind can’t explain.” Having grown up familiar with the 11 tracks on her covers album, with most having influenced, inspired or touched me in some way, my heart feels a connection to Sandi’s music that my mind cant explain, a sure sign as an artist that you’re doing something right.
My memories of the early nineties are of Sundays holed up in my bedroom listening to Heart’s Alone, sunny days running around Plymouth Hoe and Seaton beach with the itchy feel of grass beneath my feet, or sand squishing between my toes, skin exposed and burnt in sleeveless dresses, swimwear and shorts. Funny how a song like Led Zeppelin’s The Rain Song can bring it all back.
And then came the darker days, the hardships and hell, the bad and ugly, reflected lyrically on previous album Flesh and Blood, specifically in track “I Owe You Zero”, of which Sandi explains to journalist Mick Wall: “That song is me saying: ‘You don’t know the half of me’. I relate to that, like today I relate to Jack Johnson’s Times Like These, covered by Sandi beautifully.
While I’m a great believer in talking, when there are words left unspoken, actions left undone, lyrics are a shorthand way of offering up emotions, of declaring a truce, affection, humility, resentment and regret. We can just as much articulate intimacy through music as we can an extravagent bunch of flowers or a lavish dinner.
If you’ve ever hung on to pride as happiness vanished like a mist, don’t underestimate the power of music to break down the walls of communication, to remove the plaque and bacteria corroding a relationship gone bad. Music has the power to enable you to look at the bigger picture in a clearer, more balanced way.
We are all – individuals, governments, nations – thinkers, strangers, lucky and cursed, afflicted, traumatised, distressed and hopeful, harbouring fears, resilient, victims of a story that doesn’t fit us, teetering on the brink of change. In the boiling pot of emotions, humans are caught in a web of loss, anger, hurt, revenge, guilt and disbelief.
If you can relate to what I’m saying, buckle up, because The Covers Collection houses the full whack of emotion, from Johnny Cash’s Hurt, Guns N Roses November Rain, Extreme’s More Than Words and Eva Cassidy’s Songbird to Bonnie Rait’s I Can’t Make You Love Me, Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet and Aerosmith’s Dream On; powerful, stripped back ‘Thom’ versions of the classics that have played a part in Sandi’s human experience to date, blurring the lines of blues and rock, folk and pop, Americana and country.
Recorded at LA’s legendary Lion Share Studios, witness to some of the greatest music recorded from the likes of Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, Stevie Nicks and founder Kenny Rogers to name a few, The Covers Collection highlights in blinding white fluorescency that untouchable asset no music critic can destroy; voice.
The more Sandi reveals of herself through her lyrical choices, the more in tune with herself she becomes, the richer her material, and the closer we get to a ‘true niche’ unveiling.
From here, with influence on both sides of the Atlantic, an imminent tour of Australia and China, and five albums strapped to her belt, the pendulum could swing in any direction, but one thing is certain: The Covers Collection will delight Thom’s fans around the world. How do I know? Because they asked for it and Thom is an artist who listens.
The Covers Collection – available to download worldwide from 11 November – preview album here.
3. November Rain
4. I Can’t Make You Love Me
5. Dream On
7. Times Like These
8. More Than Words
9. Black Velvet
11. The Rain Song
Drawing inspiration from Hollywood starlets like Dita Von Teese and Gwen Stefani, more and more ladies are turning to the past to add old-fashioned glamour to their look. Fortunately, with the help of a good stylist, careful planning and effort, a vintage Hollywood style is not too difficult to recreate.
If you have short hair, keep it simple and sharp. Look to old movie stars like Audrey Hepburn and Louise Brooks for a slick cut which can be accessorised with a sparkly hair piece. Consider actress Carey Mulligan’s Oscars look – a pixie cut razored at the sides. Chic and unique.
Mid length hair looks beautiful transformed into a vintage wave. Look to Marilyn Monroe and the Queen of pin-ups Bettie Page with her slick black hair for inspiration. The vintage 1950′s wave style looks stunning with a red pout and vintage dress.
Long hair can be transformed into pretty much any style you want. Consider the infamous up-do worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys or Rita Hayworth’s 1940′s old school glamour. Both styles can be accessorised with a pretty corsage, beaded hair slides or a vintage comb.
If you love wearing your hair down, consider Jessica Simpson’s loose, romantic waves with a few strands pulled away from your face secured with vintage brooches. Jessica is such a fan of vintage, her perfume is aptly named Vintage Bloom.
When actress Marley Shelton got married she complimented her 1920s Hollywood gown with a glamorous finger-waved chignon. Likewise, actress January Jones complimented her 1940′s inspired dress with a sleek, wavy, long bob, worn loose.
For true Hollywood glamour, embrace what your hair does naturally. If it is naturally curly, embrace those curls. Having said that, if your hair is poker straight and you love curls, cheat. Hollywood starlets are forever sporting loose pin curls, finger waves and tousled vintage curls. I love Rita Hayworth’s soft wavy curls, Lana Turner’s platinum wavy locks and Ava Gardner’s short, tight waves.
Choose a stylist that you feel comfortable with, someone who knows your hair. If your usual stylist doesn’t feel comfortable doing vintage hair ask him/her to recommend a stylist who is willing to experiment. Don’t be afraid to try many looks and go back several times, practice makes perfect.
Immerse yourself in a vintage world. Browse old movie star websites, cut pictures from magazines such as Vintage Life and borrow books from the library. Pay attention to how female stars from your favourite era wore their hair and discuss the styles with your stylist.
Glossy locks are essential for true vintage glamour. Here are some products to boost the condition of your hair. Use them regularly in the months leading up to your big day and your glossy tresses will scream Hollywood glamour.
The 3 Minute Miracle Conditioner by Aussie is renowned by beauty editors across the world. If your hair is craving moisture, this is a must have.
Try the Luxurious Volume Blow Dry Lotion from John Frieda. This product gives great boost to your hair for the perfect at-home blow dry.
Trevor Sorbie does a brilliant range of colour care shampoos and conditioners to help transform your hair into tip-top condition.
For creating curls, waves and rolls, try the Babyliss Pro Ceramic Dial A Heat Tong.
Use pins and Kirby grips colour coordinated to your hair to secure pleats, rolls, beehives and buns.
Metal prong tail combs are perfect for parting and sectioning, backcombing and teasing hair.
Bristle brushes are great for smoothing out backcombing and brushing out curls. Mason and Pearson do quality brushes. Look for a pure bristle one. It will make a noticeable difference to your styling.
Dax Wax Purple Super Neat is great for smoothing frizz and for neatening hair prior to rolling and shaping.
For more ideas, read Style Me Vintage by Belinda Hay.
Just like CC (colour correcting) creams you apply on your face, this under eye version has an SPF (important for under eye skin) and light reflecting ingredients to disguise dark circles, it also contains five sources of vitamin C to brighten pigmentation.
Although it didn’t change the quality of my skin the way an eye cream does, its cosmetic effects were brilliant. It was lighter than regular under eye concealer and my wrinkles looked less obvious. Now I use it most days.
£20 from John Lewis.
Dave O Grady is a unique type of weapon reminiscent of a gilded hula hoop. An ultra-hip dude from Dublin with a velvet voice that swings effortlessly with beguiling charm. With influences of Christy Moore, Dave has brought his unique melting pot of talent across the water to Liverpool, spawning an instantly-recognizable vocal brand that is rich, smooth and distinctive.
In short, 5 fantastic originals combining melodious stories with purring slow bluesy folk, a bit of boogie and an unexpected foot tapping treat that I’ll leave you to discover for yourself. I’m shocked by the powerful, mature voice of this dude. Unbelievably only 21 years old. Prepare to watch his musical career escalate rapidly. Dirty Little Secret should be a best seller. Available for download now.