Let’s hear it for the girls

 

Wow! Where does the time go?
I have neglected this blog for just over a year, been meaning to catch up and life, work, holidays, shopping… all get in the way.
I decided today, on International Women’s day, that it is time to get back into some blogging and sharing some of my thoughts and observations on life.

Well I started this blog after I turned the dreaded 5 – 0 and since abandoning the blog for a year I have had another birthday…oh and there’s another one of the goddamn things on the horizon in a few weeks.
However, I feel like I have regressed yet again into my early twenties.  I have become somewhat obsessed with YouTube videos on how to do your make-up, hair, wear different items of clothing…in fact I rarely leave the house without first having consulted ‘Tiffany’, ‘Tallulah’ or ‘Brittany’ on what I should wear and how I should do my make-up.
Now bear in mind these pretty young things are at least 25 years younger than me and the only lines on their faces are their (very complicated) cat-eye eyeliner, so I also looked at the ‘more mature woman’ version on how to do a ‘smoky eye’.  The final result was me resembling my old headmistress or looking like I’d done six rounds with David Haye (now there’s a thought!)
So, refusing to take on board ‘less is more’ after a certain age  it was back to Tiffany and her friends and their seemingly two-hour long make-up routines.
I mean, yes the end result is stunningly beautiful (on them) but seriously, who has that kind of time to do their make-up, for a 8pm dinner date I would need to start getting ready at 4pm!
Another thing I noticed was the sheer amount of different products and tools they use, now don’t get me wrong, I like to spend money on make-up and in fact have a daytime make-up drawer and a night time one, but these girls virtually have the whole of Sephora in their bedrooms.
So it was off to shops I went! Luckily I had a trip to Madrid planned (no Sephora or MAC in this retail desert where I live). The Mecca of make-up, Sephora, was my first port of call, followed by MAC, the only brand I trust for foundation and then…now don’t judge me… I thought I would give Primarni a try!  (I know, shocked you all there!)
To be fair, the Primark in Madrid is pretty impressive, four or five storeys of cheap and cheerful clothes and, well, just about everything! In this store, there are actually clothes on the hangers and shelves as opposed to strewn on the floor, always a bonus.
If I was going to buy all the tools Talulah recommended I am afraid I was going low-end, so bagged myself numerous brush kits, sponges and other important paraphernalia ready to complete my new expanded make-up regime.
(I did pop back to Sephora to indulge myself with a 40 euro ‘Too Faced’ eye palette, a Benefit brown kit and a lip plumper, which actually works, even if your lips do feel like you’ve over indulged in a bag of the 1980s popular sweet, ‘Space Dust’!)

So you are asking yourselves, how is the new make-up routine is going? Well, since getting home, I haven’t been out in the evening yet and haven’t made the time to try, as Brittany would put it, “a subtle daytime look” as I already get up at 7am and after drinking my cup of tea, doing a workout, walking the dogs, showering and doing my hair, I simply haven’t had time!  I have, however, ordered an illuminated make-up mirror (still in the box). So watch this space.

 

She works hard for the money

While I have never been a saver or particularly careful with money (this is probably why I am not wealthy), I hate being disappointed by something I have spent my hard earned money on.
Whether it’s a meal in a restaurant, a stay in a hotel, or an item of clothing that didn’t seem to look the same when I got it home, I like to think I have chosen and spent well.

Shopping on the internet, while easy and convenient (I mean you don’t even have to put make-up on or leave the house), can also be a real minefield.
There are certain no-gos for me when shopping online, shoes (I have the smallest feet in the world and shoes in shoe shops rarely fit properly, let alone those purchased online), jeans, no, no, no, I am 5″ 2 and very low-waisted, so those cute skinny hipster jeans on the model would be inches too long (ok easily altered) and the waist would be somewhere up around my bust (impossible to alter) and, as I have recently discovered – make-up is also a no no.

If you are familiar with a brand and know the shade or have maybe tried a sample in an actual real-life store, then buying make-up online is probably safe.  If not, buyer beware – you are entering the world of orange toned foundation, scary doll-like blush and lipstick in a tone your grandma would even steer clear of.

Last week I made the fatal error of ordering foundation online.  Not only that, I chose a much cheaper brand than I usually buy (ok not all inexpensive products are bad) and a brand I had always steered clear of.
I’m not knocking the brand, it is a well-known staple of a equally well-known UK beauty and Pharmacy store, but sorry, it is just not for me.
Some items (alright not many) I don’t mind buying lower cost, but when it comes to make-up I am high end all the way!  Remember the TLC song, with the lyrics which say “you can buy all the make-up MAC can make…” well I do pretty much buy all they make, no it ain’t cheap, but, as that other well-known brand slogan states – “I’m worth it!”

So back to the bad purchase. I wanted an inexpensive foundation to use on non-work days or non-going out nights, days where I may walk the dogs to a nearby cafe or days when I go to the gym (yes I am that person who pops on a little bit of make-up to go running!) Not always, but you never know who you will run into!
So the foundation arrived, along with a couple of other products, those from the ‘safe’ list.  I excitedly opened it and gave it a try.  TOTAL FAIL, despite vigorous shaking which negated the need to go to the gym that week, it was a horrible oily consistency, and didn’t so much ‘glide’ onto my skin, it actually slid off, no gentle blending with the fingertips would make that sucker stay on my face, it was like some kind of chemistry experiment gone wrong.
If it had soaked in and enhanced all my pores or turned me orange I would have been less disappointed. This stuff was quite simply repelling off my face.
I was so annoyed, it went straight in the bin! When I say it was inexpensive, it was around 15 euros, so not exactly pennies but cheap compared to my usual favourite (sorry MAC, I will never stray from the path again.)

So apologies for the rant here but my husband didn’t get it, friends I have seen since the ‘incident’ were more hung up on what I usually spend on make-up, so I had to tell someone who would listen!!

So from now on I will stick to internet shopping from the ‘safe list’, iPhone cases, plain tee-shirts and tried and tested products!

Let’s get physical

If you saw my social media accounts you would be forgiven for thinking I am some kind of fitness freak.  Check-ins at the gym on a daily basis, posting upcoming 5k and 10k runs, photos of me finishing said 5k and 10k runs, check-ins at various sportswear stores, posts about being frustrated because it’s Sunday and the gym is closed…and so it goes on.

Actually I really only started this fitness lark about four years ago.  Prior to that I have never even run for a bus.  I hated physical education at school and towards the end of high school skipped it altogether and went to the mall instead.
Horse riding and ice skating were my only real form of exercise and I guess you can’t count splashing around in the pool or ocean to keep cool in the summer.
Luckily although I always want to shed a pound or two, I have never struggled with my weight so keeping fit was never a real focus in my life.

Then, around three years ago, over the Christmas season, my equally, non-fitness-freak friend suggested we sign up for a 9k run in our nearby main city of Almeria.  After questioning her sanity and asking if she had started taking drugs, I shocked myself by agreeing.
Bearing in mind neither of us had ever run in any event before and we only had about five weeks to prepare, everyone thought we were crazy, but I think secretly they were a little envious of our new found focus!
We trained as much as possible, night and day, the night time sessions mostly a quick dash around the nearby running track (please don’t picture a nicely surfaced professional track with lanes and floodlights, our local track is a dirty, dusty, sandy oval next to the fire station, mainly frequented by old Spanish men off on their evening constitutional to get away from the wife).  These evening sessions were followed up with hot chocolate and brandy…Don’t judge!!  A friend who is a running coach told me chocolate milk is good for muscle repair!

The big day finally came and we drove an hour down the motorway with husbands and in-laws in tow for moral support.  Never having done an official event before we were taken by surprise when the starter gun went off and therefore got off on a bit of a slow foot.  It was early February and quite chilly so I set off with layers of sports bra, vest top and zip top.  Around 20 minutes into the run I was peeling off layers which was kind of difficult as I had my bib pinned to my front and I nearly gave an old guy sat on a bench clapping on the runners a heart attack as I flashed him when peeling off the vest top and the sports bra was still pinned to it. His clapping certainly became more enthusiastic!

I am an antisocial runner, I like my music on, don’t like talking and want to run at my own pace so found myself a little ahead of my running buddy from early on.  Keen to offer as much support as possible, my husband kept popping out from behind buildings cheering me on (either that or he had hired a whole bunch of looky-likeys.)
As I saw the football stadium (finish point) ahead I could have cried with relief not realising I was to be subjected to the shame of running the final 500 metres round the sports stadium running track in front of the whole crowd!

Anyway we finished it and in good old Spanish tradition were awarded with copious amounts of free beer, tortilla and in our goodie bags a box of local tomatoes! Oh and did I mention the free massage.

It was all in a good cause as I had extracted from everyone I knew, a good amount of sponsor money to raise funds for two local dog charities, the rule was, if I don’t die, you pay up!

I was by no means anywhere near the medal positions but thankfully wasn’t in last place and in a strange masochistic way enjoyed it!

Unfortunately for my friend, that was it, I was addicted to running events and spent the next two years bullying her and anyone else who mentioned the ‘R’ word into entering every event on the calendar.  I even developed a spreadsheet of all results which I would email to everyone, I would write about the events for the paper I was working for and my friend and I appeared in dozens of editions until she moved back to the UK (was she trying to escape me I wonder?) and I became a sole competitor.  Then early last year I found myself a new fitness buddy, more about that next time…

Hazy shade of winter

I am not good with winter.  I was meant for sunny climes, which is why I upped sticks and moved to southern Europe 30 years ago.
Is it just me, or is world weather changing year on year?  Maybe after all this time I am acclimatised but winters seem that little bit more unbearable, even here on the sunny Spanish costas.

My little piece of paradise has just had the coldest spell in more than a decade, there was even snow on the hills overlooking the coast.  I mean this is supposed to be Europe’s desert for goodness sake!   We were fairly lucky in that it dropped to around 8 degrees (that’s about 46 in old money) so it could have been worse, but still…

Anyway, winter gets me down, yes it’s nice to get the warmer clothes out, swap the Havaianas for Converse hi-tops and give the heating in my new car a good run in but still, I find myself wishing my life away again, urging summer to show her face!

I always feel a little dull and grey in winter, although I am kind of olive toned, I find myself putting on more make-up to brighten my complexion, then wipe most of it off as I see it seeping into my face and enhancing any lines.  I envy my English Rose, peachy skinned friends who seem to glow in the winter (you know who you are!), whereas us olive skins turn sallow, verging on yellow.
My best friend in winter is ‘Benefit Rockateur’, a brightening blush powder which really gives a natural rosy glow without looking clown-like. The very similar Sugar Bomb powder also has lovely effects.  The packaging is a lot of fun too, cheers me up on a workday morning.

The staple colour of winter – Black, is not my friend, it simply does not suit me, trousers, skirts, yes,  but close to my face it saps any hint of skin tone I might have had.  I do own a few black dresses and tops but always pair them with a brighter-coloured scarf to soften the harshness.
I also hate wearing tights (did I mention I don’t like winter!) I hate the feel of them on my skin, I hate the way despite frequent pedicures my toes always rip through them, I hate the fact you can never get the right size, today’s pair I could practically pull up around my head, well I guess at least that would solve my make-up problem.
Annoyingly, my legs are still quite tanned but apart from the risk of contracting pneumonia, if I were to set foot out the door with no tights in January, people would either think I was a tourist, very poor or just plain crazy.

So I long for summer, long days of sunshine, sneaky afternoons on the beach, weekends swimming in the ocean and balmy nights sipping cocktails.
For now it’s hot porridge for breakfast,  soup for lunch, steaming cups of tea in the afternoon and a roaring log fire in the evening.
That may seem romantic, but the leopard-skin onesie kind of spoils the moment!

Who wants to live forever

Ok, not the most cheerful of titles for this ‘festive’ blog post.  By now you may have noticed I try to bring song titles into my blog headings, mostly as a challenge for me to find a suitable one and also because music (listening, most certainly not playing!) has always played an important role throughout my life.

Anyway back to the dreary title.
While I do love Christmas, this time of year always leaves me somewhat melancholy, as we see another year go by and begin to make plans for the next one, in theory wishing our lives away!

But enough of that solemn stuff and onto the festivities!  As is our tradition, my good friend and super employee Karen and I always go away for a night in the lead up to the holidays, last year we took the 3 hour drive to the wonderful city of Malaga and decided to do the same this year.
In a whirlwind 24 hours, we ate, drank, laughed, shopped until we dropped and shopped a little more.  We also enjoyed the fabulous Christmas lights on the Calle Larios which are renowned as some of the best in Europe.  This year they also put on a fantastic sound and light display which had us dumbstruck for the full 10 minute show.

 

christmas-blogChristmas day was deliciously quiet, with just Alex, me and the dogs, exactly how we like it.  Too much food of course and treated each other to some great presents. I spent most of the afternoon and evening playing with my new Apple Watch2, which will no doubt make my quest to be super-fit that much easier!  (Or so they say!)

Sad news came on the day after Christmas.  Alex’s Gramps passed away peacefully at his care home in the UK. While it was not totally unexpected at age 94, it was a sad moment as we remembered a great man who flew one of the last bombing raids as a RAF pilot in World War II.

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RIP Ron

For New Year it was back down to Malaga, this time with Alex and the dogs to see my parents who were staying down there for a couple of months as they usually do, to escape the cold UK winter.
I got news the evening before we set off that my dad was feeling unwell, dizzy, no appetite etc, we were concerned, as a few years ago he suffered a TIA or mini stroke so we didn’t want to take any risks.  So on arrival we whisked him off to the local emergency room where he underwent tests, visits with the doctor and yet more tests.  No I am a massive advocate of the public Spanish health system and although he received good, thorough care, we spent no less than eight and a half hours, mostly waiting around, by the end of it I was ready to check myself into one of the wards and fall asleep.    Anyway the good news was, the problems all stemmed from blocked ears! A good old syringing session and he was as right as rain.

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The long wait in the ER

This brings me back to my somber title for this blog piece.  As we start to get older ourselves, of course our loved ones, particularly our parents are getting older and frailer in front of our very eyes.  Living in a different country I only see my parents a couple of times a year and each year that passes I see a change in them.  My parents were young when they had me, barely out of their teens so they are by no means really old by these days’ standards.
But still I see the changes…my dad was always a slim, spritely, whippet-like man, never gained weight and never sat still for long.  He still is a thin as a rail but certainly sits still for much longer!  My mum still looks great for her age, refuses to bow to grey hair and ‘motherly’ clothes and despite being and avid sun-worshiper much of her life, could easily pass for ten years younger than she actually is.  While I didn’t inherit the ‘eat as much as I want and still stay skinny’ gene from my dad, at least I hope I got even just a little of my mum’s ‘ageing well’ gene!

The rest of the two-week break passed without a hitch, got to see the lights in Malaga again, this time with Alex and it’s into 2017, new year, new adventures.

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Happy 2017!

Beauty is only skin deep

I alway said, when I got older and started to look it, I would have any ‘work’ done that was within my budget.  As it turned out, my budget never got to be very big so I was fortunate so far not to be in dire need of said ‘work’!

I have dabbled in a little Botox, the first, about three years ago, just a little touch for those frown lines between the eyebrows, you know the ones, those that make you look perpetually angry or perplexed.  More than three decades living in sunny climes, despite the efforts of Mr RayBan, the lines in this area became deeper and more prominent.

As I have always worn a full fringe (bangs) I am not worried about the horizontal lines on my forehead so left that area au-naturel.  I was talked into having a little Botox in the laughter lines at the side of my eyes (to be honest I hadn’t even noticed them!!) Anyway, this turned out to be a disaster, within a week of having this area done, I found one side of my face became lopsided, I could only smile with one side of my mouth.
At first, I suspected a mild case of Bells Palsy or worse so I took myself off to my private doctor who sent me for an MRI scan.  While lay inside the machine, it suddenly dawned on me what the probable cause was…too embarrassed to tell my doctor, I collected the (favourable) results of the scan and left the poor woman scratching her head wondering what my mystery illness could be!  The effects took a good two weeks to ease up and no needle has been anywhere near that area since!!

Although I have never been a smoker, I felt my upper lip area could do with a boost so a few years ago braved a session of Restylane to give me a plump up in that part of my face.
Now, I bruise if I so much as look at the corner of a coffee table, so for about a week after the treatment I spent every morning trying and failing to cover up what looked like an Adolf Hitler style moustache, caused by severe bruising.
The results were eventually very pleasing but only lasted six months or so.  I may consider it again, but definitely when I don’t have to be seen in public for a week!

I have been amazed by how many of my younger friends have turned to cosmetic enhancements, it seems as easy as popping to the shopping mall and buying new shoes.
I have no qualms about giving mother nature a helping hand, if you can afford it and it makes you happy, then I say go for it.  Just remember to find a registered and reputable provider, recommendations from friends are often a good way to find the right clinic.

I like this quote from late American novelist, James Salter:

“There is no real beauty without some slight imperfection”. 

God bless the child

 

I, like many other women my age, chose not to have children, hell, sometimes I think it may have been easier succumbing to motherhood.  I have worked, without a career-break since age 16, no maternity breaks for me, no justification for going part-time and no phoning in work to take the day off due to sickly offspring.

Despite aforementioned ‘hardships’ I endured as a childfree woman, I wouldn’t actually change a thing.  My life is my own, my money is my own (well the part that doesn’t go to paying off the mortgage, bills, car repayments etc) and my nice (usually) tidy, toy-free house is my own.

I never considered motherhood as an option in my life, I was far too busy travelling the world, enjoying my career and making bad relationships choices to think about procreation.  As a child myself, I was never one for baby dolls, in fact my parents bought me a beautiful toy pram which I ruined within 24 hours of Christmas when I ‘painted’ it with a liquid glue I found in my Dad’s shed (my favourite part of the house).
I am an only child, from a very small, not particularly close family, I have eight cousins (I think) of those, I have only actually met three, one at my wedding when I was 36.  So I have never really been around family babies.
Sadly some good friendships fell by the wayside after the friends had children, while I made an effort in the early days, the endlessly interrupted conversations when said child demanded attention tried my limited patience and relegated the friendship to Facebook status.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a child-hater!  I actually have a good relationship with the teenage children of some friends and similarly with a couple of sweeties who are the offspring of my gym buddy.  Babies, I am less keen on, I was the air stewardess in the galley who busied herself with the nearest coffee pot when a child wielding mother, travelling alone needed someone to hold the little mite while she used the bathroom.
I have never changed a nappy and have no intention of ever doing so.  I have held a couple of babies, for ten seconds or so, before swiftly passing them back to the proud parent.
I don’t get the whole, ‘babies smell lovely’ thing.  They don’t, they smell of poo or sick or icky baby food.  Toddlers are messy and noisy and get into everything with sticky hands.
Give me a moody teenager any day, at least I can make an effort and chat about things I DO know about, like music, fashion, social media.  (Maybe I can relate to teenagers more because deep inside my 50-year-old brain, I am still 19.  In fact my husband would back this up as he has had to deal with many a freak-out when I find myself in an area with no 4G coverage and no shopping mall within reasonable reach)

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Could I look any more uncomfortable.  Cute baby – Nula.

Even in this new millennium, being a child-free woman is some what of an enigma for many people.  They ask: “Do you have children?”, when I reply, “no”, their faces come over all sympathetic-like as their mind instantly conjures up visions of failed fertility treatments, deep maternal yearnings and unfulfilled womanhood.   The simple fact is, I have no time or space in my life for another human being (apart from my husband of course).  I enjoy my freedom, my own space, my tranquility and plenty of me-time whenever I want it.  Does that mean I am selfish, probably, but to whom?  My parents have never expressed a desire to be grandparents and my husband enjoys our life as much as I do, so if that’s being selfish, long may it reign.

So while I am delighted for my friends who bring their little bundles of joy into the world (hey I am a great baby-gift buyer!).  I remain happy in my childfree life.