Four ways to freshen up for (almost) spring: Tuesday Reviews Day 31-01-2017

Four ways to freshen up for (almost) spring: Tuesday Reviews Day 31-01-2017 || Wash, brush, spray, paint ||
Ways to freshen up…

Bit at a time, the evenings are drawing out and the mornings are getting brighter.  We keep getting the odd day of blue sky and sunshine even if there’s still a nip in the air.  Conversations are turning to holidays and plans for the summer months.  This can only mean one thing: the end of winter is coming into sight, even if we have a way to travel yet.  So grab some daffodils for your kitchen table and inject a bit of zip and zing into your beauty routine – at times like this, we can at least begin to dream of spring.

Here are my recommendations for stepping towards the new season even if there are still the last legs of winter to battle through first!


The Body Shop Sewweed face care range || Four ways to freshen up for (almost) spring: Tuesday Reviews Day 31-01-2017 || Wash, brush, spray, paint ||
The Body Shop Seaweed face care range
Marvis Amarelli Licorice toothpaste || Four ways to freshen up for (almost) spring: Tuesday Reviews Day 31-01-2017 || Wash, brush, spray, paint ||
Marvis Amarelli Licorice toothpaste
  • If you fancy a bit of spring clean for your skin, check out the face washes available at the cheaper end of the market. You don’t have to shell out loads to get that fresh faced feeling.  I’ve been using The Body Shop’s Seaweed Deep Cleansing Facial Wash at night, along with their Seaweed Clarifying Night Treatment (picked up for £1.50 each in their sale) and each more my skin looks bright and clear.
  • While you’re looking at face wash, browse the latest toothpaste offerings too. There are always new dental products on the market so see if anything takes your fancy.  Again this doesn’t have to cost a lot, although if you do fancy treating your teeth to something a bit more fancy than I’d recommend the Marvis toothpaste in Amarelli Licorice (retails at £5.50).  When you’re used to minty fresh breath it can feel strange to have a liquorice residue instead but it leaves teeth feeling as if they’ve had the equivalent of a proper barber’s wet shave – a sensation no doubt encourage by old school packaging.
Marc Jacobs Rain & The Library of Fragrance Rain perfumes || Four ways to freshen up for (almost) spring: Tuesday Reviews Day 31-01-2017
Marc Jacobs Rain & The Library of Fragrance Rain perfumes


  • Switching perfumes can be a great way to mark the changing of the seasons and after the dark, dull days of winter a new scent can really pep you up (even if you are still waiting at the bus stop in the dark each morning). I love Marc Jacobs Rain.  Fresh, light, watery, floral – it’s a great choice for facing down April showers but it has now been discontinued.  As an alternative, there’s also Rain by The Library of Fragrance (£15 for a 300ml bottle, available from their website and Boots).  The kind folks at The Library of Fragrance sent me a bottle so that I could make a comparison.  Both smell like a beautiful fresh downpour, although there is more of a lighter, citrus zing to The Library of Fragrance offering.


L to R: Daisy Days, Roll in the Grass, Breakfast in Bed, Pillow Talk || Rimmel 60 Seconds nail varnish || Four ways to freshen up for (almost) spring: Tuesday Reviews Day 31-01-2017 || Wash, brush, spray, paint ||
L to R: Daisy Days, Roll in the Grass, Breakfast in Bed, Pillow Talk
  • Finally, if you’d like to add a bit of springtime colour into your life, try out a brilliant and bold nail varnish. I saw one of the staff at WAH Nails in Soho sporting an egg yolk yellow manicure last week and had one of those beauty envy moments where you think ‘I need to do that too!’.  I always recommend Rimmel 60 Seconds to friends: they’re widely available in a range of colours at a cheap price (£2.99) and dry super quickly.  My favourite springtime shades are Daisy Days, Roll in the Grass, Pillow Talk and Breakfast in Bed.

Sunday Suggestions 27-01-2017: A Compendium of Curiosities

A Compendium of Curiosities || Sunday Suggestions 29-01-2017: a round up of things to read, watch, listen to and do ||

This week’s #sundaysuggestions is a compendium of curiosities, a motley assortment of interesting tales sourced from across the Internet – so I’ll launch straight in to the list.  Enjoy, learn and share!

The blog I’d like to highlight this week is Mind the Gap by David Baker.  Baker is a UK academic who spent time in the US last year on a Fulbright scholarship.  His research focus is death after police contact, although the blog also incorporates his observations on US life more widely.  Definitely worth a read, especially in light of recent political developments.

A couple of weeks ago this column cited a review of Jackie.  This week I spotted an article by Veronqiue Merley, the film’s set decorator, about how they accurately recreated the Kennedy era White House.  I wonder what decor changes are afoot now?

Jackie Kennedy Onassis was supposedly the most photographed woman in the world, as was Princess Diana a couple of decades later.  Now the celebrity scene has changed beyond recognition, including’influencers’ emerging from social media.  The LSE blog ‘Parenting for a Digital Future’ has included a post by Crystal Abidin, a sociology scholar in Singapore, about ‘Micro-microcelebrities: famous babies and business on the internet‘.  Intriguing issues raised about when celebrities make their own babies and young children into celebrities in their own right.

A once famous figure who you now may not have heard of is yachtsman Bernard Moitessier.  I first heard his story about a decade ago but it doesn’t get any less bizarre with time.  I won’t say anything other than read this account of his life and adventures.

A history of Harper's Bazaar editors || A Compendium of Curiosities: from barcodes to Moitessier via The Gambia || Things to read and watch online || Sunday Suggestions 29-01-2017 ||
Part of the gorgeous spread on influential Harper’s Bazaar editors by Justine Picardie in this month’s UK issue – check out the online article cited in today’s suggestions

From bizarre to bazaar: Harper’s Bazaar is 150 years old this year.  The magazine’s history is littered with a number of powerful and pioneering female editors both in the UK and the US.  The current editor of the British edition, the brilliant writer Justine Picardie, has written about these women, both in the current issue and also for The Daily Telegraph.

You can read the latter here, although I’d recommend buying the celebration edition if you’re at all interested in the history of magazines (if you’re *really* interested in this subject then you might like to invest in this collection of essays edited by me!).

One of Harper’s rivals on the newstands both sides of the Atlantic is Vogue.  Their US website this week featured a good read by Marjon Carlos about ‘How Clothes Helped Female Leaders Convey the Struggle for Civil Rights‘.

Brits are often amused and/or baffled by the difficulty that other nations have in deciphering our accents, yet truth is that many in the UK can’t identify voices from different regions either.  This light-hearted tour of seventeen British and Irish by actor Siobhan Thompson provides a helpful guide.

Ever thought about the story behind the development of barcodes?  No, me neither but Tim Harford’s article for the BBC website provides a fascinating insight into how this technology came about.

Why 'The' Gambia & not just Gambia? || A Compendium of Curiosities: from barcodes to Moitessier via The Gambia || Things to read and watch online || Sunday Suggestions 29-01-2017 ||
Why ‘The’ Gambia & not just Gambia? BBC R4 has the answer

Also from the BBC, this time Radio Four, is this short clip explaining why we put ‘the’ in front of ‘The Gambia’ and some other countries but not others.  Fascinating!

In my group therapy session this week, we each mindfully contemplated a coffee bean for several minutes.  This led to the realisation that none of us really knew how they were grown or what the coffee plant was like.  I wonder who many of you don’t know this either?  If you would like to learn more, check out this article from the ever-helpful Wikipedia.  You can always rely on Wikipedia for a good read.  Maybe next week I should have a Wiki special feature…

#FiveThingsSaturday Art & Architecture in Birmingham

This afternoon I’m off to an Instagram meet-up, a get-together of some of the gorgeous gals that I’ve got to know virtually over the last couple of years.  So excited to be able to hug them in person!  We’re largely scattered around the Midlands so our gathering is in the UK’s much maligned second city, Birmingham.

One of Sir Edward Burnes-Jones windows at St Philip's Cathedral, Birmingham || #FiveThingsSaturday Art & Architecture in Birmingham || 28-01-2017 ||
One of Sir Edward Burnes-Jones windows

I lived about twenty miles away for the first eighteen years of my life and spent many a happy hour trudging the shops with my friends, bank notes rolled up in my bra for fear of being mugged!  I’d also visit Rackhams, the large department store, with my parents, buying small Kookai purses (anyone else remember Kookai?!) and listening to James Alexander Gordon reading the classified football results as we drove along the rain splattered M6 on the way home.

Born of the industrial revolution and with more miles of canal than Venice as well as plenty of recent investment, there’s lots to keep you busy on a Saturday afternoon there.  Here are my five art-and-architecture themed suggestions:

(1) Visit St Philip’s, the Anglican cathedral.  Take a pew on a nearby bench and watch the city’s teenage sub-cultures in action before heading indoors to marvel at the amazing set of stained glass windows designed by local boy and pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris.

Inside The Old Joint Stock pub, Birmingham || #FiveThingsSaturday Art & Architecture in Birmingham || 28-01-2017 ||
Inside the pub

(2) Straight opposite the cathedral is The Old Joint Stock, a Fuller’s brewery pub that also houses a surprisingly stunning interior.  Built in 1862, it was originally designed as a library but has spent most of its history as a bank (hence the name).

Fill up on a good pub lunch (their speciality is pies but the desserts are pretty decent too) surrounded by Victorian grandeur at its very best.  It’s very popular and gets particularly busy on match days but it’s worth hovering for a table.   There’s also a small venue upstairs that still hosts the old tradition of pub theatres.

Birmingham Council House || #FiveThingsSaturday Art & Architecture in Birmingham || 28-01-2017 ||
Birmingham Council House

(3) The cathedral and pub aren’t the only examples of Victorian art and architecture in the area.  In many ways, Birmingham is the archetypal nineteenth-century city, publicly demonstrating the confidence of its municipal leaders during that period.

Wander from The Old Joint Stock down Colmore Row to Victoria Square and, if you suspend your prejudice about the place, you’ll see imposing civic buildings that express pride and status.  The Council House in particular echoes the neoclassical style that you’ll see in European cities such as Austria (yes, really!).

The Round Room, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery || #FiveThingsSaturday Art & Architecture in Birmingham || 28-01-2017 ||
The Round Room, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

(4) Around the corner is Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, free to enter and full of cultural and artistic highlights from across many centuries.  You can view local collections and an Ancient Egyptian display as well as the Staffordshire Hoard (the largest stockpile of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found) and the world’s most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The world’s most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art is housed at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and you can visit it for free on a Saturday afternoon, or any other time of the week.  There’s a lovely tea room too.

The Library of Birmingham || #FiveThingsSaturday Art & Architecture in Birmingham || 28-01-2017 ||
The Library of Birmingham

(5) A short walk from the museum and gallery is a more recent addition to Birmingham’s arts and culture scene: the Library of Birmingham.  Described by its architect as a ‘people’s palace’, many go just to see the building’s striking interior and exterior design; in 2015, there were almost two million visits, more than any other tourist attraction outside of London.  Work your way around the central atrium like a modern day Alice in Wonderland then check out the city’s skyline from the 360° roof terrace.  From that vantage point, you’ll see the varied architectural styles that have become part of Birmingham’s built environment, surrounding the Victorian core where art and architecture helped to forge the fast growing city’s new identity.


Interview with Courtney Carver, of Be More With Less & Project 333, on making sustainable changes

Rae Ritchie interviews Courtney Carver ( & Project 333) on making sustainable changes ||
Courtney & I previously worked together to host the London leg of her 2016 Tiny Wardrobe Tour

Last Thursday, I was privileged enough to spend some time interviewing Courtney Carver.  Courtney is well known the world over for sharing her journey to minimalism on her blog,, and also for masterminding the Project 333 wardrobe challenge.  We’d arranged to talk back in the autumn as I knew she’d have some wise words to share about making long term and sustainable changes.  It’s an apt conversation for this time of year as by late January many of us are despairing about our seeming inability to alter our behaviour and habits.  Courtney has plenty of reassuring and practical advice if that’s you!

Our conversation is a great counterpoint to the one I had last week with Helen Rusell of Leap Year and The Year of Living Danishly so if you haven’t already listened to that then head over and catch up!  It’s been a huge honour to interview two such inspiring women but a challenge too, particularly with the technicalities of getting a decent quality audio.  In today’s recording, Courtney’s voice is super clear but I’m accompanied by a bit of a fuzz.  Apologies for this although it’s really her that you’ll be wanting to listen to anyway!

Dropbox: Rae Ritchie interviews Courtney Carver

Things that we mention:

‘Your clothes know your secrets and they’re shouting them to the world’ does indeed come from friend and coach Anna Kunnecke

Gary Keller & Jay Papasan The One Thing 

Courtney’s post ‘Seven Perks of a Minimalist Wardrobe’

Alexandra Shulman to leave British Vogue: The end of an era

Alexandra Shulman to step down as Vogue editor :: The end of an era ::
Alexandra Shulman at the Paris couture shows

This morning the news broke that Alexandra Shulman is stepping down from her role as editor of British Vogue after twenty five years at its helm. She will leave her post in the summer.

I was initially shocked by the announcement, especially as she’d been much on my mind today while I read her diary of Vogue’s centenary year. Yet upon further reflection it isn’t so much of a surprise. A quarter of a century is a long time in any job, especially one that carries so much power and responsibility. Furthermore it is also clear from her diary that she was tiring of certain aspects of her role such as the regular travel (Shulman fears flying and loathes unpacking luggage, adding extra levels of stress to the hectic biannual fashion weeks).

The publishing world, and the fashion industry, has changed dramatically since Shulman joined Vogue back in 1992 (or, more accurately, rejoined; she was features editor for two years in the late eighties before moving to become the editor of GQ for two more years). Back then there was no internet, no Instagram, no hashtags, no influencers. In 2017 I am able to sit on my sofa with my phone watching the Paris haute couture shows live just as Shulman does on the front row, and yesterday I did just that. I saw Lily-Rose Depp escort Karl Kagerfeld out at the Chanel finale at the same time as she did.  Developments such as this pose new challenges for the publishing world. What added value can magazines offer to content that we can all view for free if we choose?

During the same period, and thanks in part to the same the same technologies, fashion’s constant demand for the new and the latest has accelerated beyond what was imaginable in the early 1990s. Consumers in both established markets and also the increasingly influential newer markets such as China and the Middle East want instant – or at least quicker – access to catwalk looks. The old two season cycle with its lag time of half a year is no longer tolerated by impatient customers. This is heralding further huge changes, such as a move away from the traditional fashion weeks to being able to order direct from the catwalk, as Christopher Bailey at Burberry pioneered.

Shulman was well aware of the need for print media such as Vogue to adapt and during her tenure she has guided the magazine in the direction of change. for instance is a lively and time sensitive source for fashion news (such as Shulman’s resignation, of course) and other trends (reporting on the Women’s Marches in recent days). She has bought on board modern fashionistas, such as Alexa Chung (who makes vlogs for the website) and Kate Moss (contributing editor), while also securing old school style and glamour, as in Kate Middleton’s first magazine cover shoot for Vogue’s centenary issue. On top of all this, Shulman has negotiated the delicate balance of producing a commercially viable – nay successful – publication, juggling technological and industry developments alongside keeping designers and their financiers happy all while sticking to budgets and sales figures. Not an easy task in a world where no-one turns up on time.

Some argue that magazines such as Vogue are no relevant to modern style nor represent the cutting edge of fashion. These claims are not without validity but for many (thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?), Vogue remains synonymous with high fashion – and for the last twenty five years, Alexandra Shulman’s name has been part of that equation too.

Not a diet book & not giving a f***: two books to help you make changes || Tuesday Reviews Day 24-01-2017

Edible slime || Two books to help you make changes: Not a diet book & not giving a f*** || Tuesday Reviews Day 17-01-2017 ||
Edible slime that I don’t feel guilty about

The other day I spotted an article entitled something like ‘What we can expect from the final series of Girls’ and instantly felt a pang of guilt.  I was unaware the final season was approaching.  That makes me feel even worse that I’ve yet to watch one single episode.  Ever.  Not a minute of it.

I feel especially bad because I spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about popular culture and even writing about it (see pretty much everything I’ve written for The Huffington Post blog).  Yet Girls isn’t alone.  I’ve not seen Breaking Bad or The Bridge or Game of Thrones or even Mad Men, which someone bought me the first series of because they were so convinced that I’d enjoy it.

I’d list some more examples of ground-breaking, water-cooler, must-watch shows that I haven’t watched except I’m struggling to even name anymore.  I’ve long felt remorse about this and wasted a lot of breath uttering ‘Oh yes, I must add that to my list, after The Sopranos, The West Wing and the remaining eighteen episodes of 24 series one’.

After processing my apparent regret at not being au fait with Girls, another thought drifted into my mind like a cloud during the opening credits of The Simpsons (that I have seen!).  ‘I just don’t give a f*** about must-watch television!’, I realised with a start.

This moment of recognition felt like freedom from a self-imposed prison.  It is so true: I don’t care.  If I was that bothered I’d have watched at least some of it, like the Gray’s Anatomy DVD that my friend Kath lent me in 2007 which I found amongst my possessions eight years later.  After she had emigrated to Thailand (I’m sure the two events are not connected).

This is so wonderfully liberating!  I no longer feel I have to pretend to be interested.  I can just quietly get on with my EastEnders obsession with little desire to watch anything else.  And that is just a-okay.

Sarah Knight The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k || 2 books to help you make changes || Tuesday Reviews Day 17-01-2017 ||

All this insight into my television viewing habits is by way of building up to a book that I’ve read recently: Sarah Knight’s The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k.  Inspired by Marie Kondo to declutter her calendar as well as her sock drawer, Knight set about figuring out what aspects of life she really cared about and which she didn’t.

In this less provocative than it sounds book, she shares her technique on how to (a) first decide what you don’t give a f*** about and then (b) go about releasing those things from your life.  Knight includes exercises to help with this process.  However I hadn’t even got as far as completing these when I was struck by my realisation about must-watch TV, which is testament to the power of her argument.

At the heart of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k is the notion that if we let go of those duties and obligations that we don’t care about, we are calmer, kinder and more considerate people to be around and have more time to dedicate to those people and things that we do value.  Not feeling guilty is central to this.

Bee Wilson This Is Not A Diet Book || 2 books to help you make changes || Tuesday Reviews Day 17-01-2017

Not feeling guilty is also a core theme in food writer Bee Wilson’s latest publication, This Is Not A Diet Book.  This slim tome is comprised of over one hundred tips and more than a dozen recipes to help you move towards a more joyful and nourishing relationship to food.  In contrast to the inflated (and often frankly false) claims of the January diet programmes and adverts for weight loss, Wilson states in the introduction that ‘This book can’t give you a six-pack in seven days or the skin of a supermodel.  But I can promise that if you make even a few of these adjustments, your eating life will alter for the better in ways that you can sustain.’

There are so many little gems of wisdom contained within it that I closed its covers with an overwhelming urge to make lentil soup.  Something I particularly valued is her encouragement to eat three regular meals and also, if you get hungry, allow for three regular snacks too.  We need to eat enough to not be hungry!  What a revelation!

I did chortle somewhat at Wilson’s condemnation of one of my favourite snack choices, the ten calorie ‘fruit’ jelly, as not really a food stuff at all.  A fair call on her part but in the spirit of not feeling guilty about what we eat, I intend to carry on munching (well, swallowing) these little pots of edible slime.

*If you’d like to see what other books I’m reading at the minute, I have a Pinterest board where I’ll be adding each title when I’ve finished it.*

If you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate it if you could share it on social media using the buttons below.  And if you find yourself regularly coming back here, how about signing up to my mailing list?  You get a monthly letter from that comes complete with links to all my writing (blog posts, Sunday Suggestions and articles elsewhere) as well as a creativity prompt for you to try.  



From Coronation Street to Japan: Sunday Suggestions 22-01-2017


From Coronation Street to Japan: Sunday Suggestions 22-01-2017: a round up of things to read, watch, listen to and do ||

Last week I featured the blog that I knew from my academic days and today I thought I’d showcase another.  This time, it’s the writings of Dr Charlotte Mathieson, a lecturer in English at the University of Surrey.  In particular, I wanted to flag up her recent fascinating reflections on Victorian attitudes to suntans.  Seems funny when there isn’t a scrap of sun in the skies above me but we can live in hope for a good summer ahead!

If I’ve known Charlotte’s work for a long time then my next recommendation is at the opposite end of the scale.  One of my newest friends is an amazing woman called Mary, who is a vet in the US.  She’s recently been involved in an amazing project to help save hundreds of cats in Brooklyn.  The project, and a quotation from her, featured in the New York Times.  It is such a fascinating story!

My sister-in-law alerted me to this great article on the BBC website which highlights a public health campaign in which a charity used an image of damaged lemons to demonstrate the signs of breast cancer.  So clever, so effect.

I’ve also been alerted to two very different blog posts about Japanese food over the last week.  Having spent three weeks travelling the country last year, this is a subject that I am extremely interested in!  The first is a beautifully design infographic from ‘I Love Coffee’ about how to eat sushi.  I’m wondering if seeing this had a subconscious impact as I had sushi for lunch *and* dinner on Tuesday!

The second post, from the Roads and Kingdoms site, is a long read about ‘The Second Most Famous Thing to Happen to Hiroshima‘ and it focuses on the regional speciality of okonomiyaki.  Blood delicious albeit perhaps not the most photogenic food, as my snaps (above) from our trip suggest!

One of my goals for 2017 is to become a minor expert in the soap opera EastEnders. Yes, really.  I’ve watched most of the UK soaps on and off over the years, often depending on the viewing habits of my housemates.  After researching the genre during my MA, I developed a new found respect for the way they work, particularly their willingness to blur the boundary between the fictional world on the screen and the ‘real’ world of the actors outside of it.  A particular poignant example of this happened this week as Coronation Street actor Kym Marsh depicted emotional and distressing scenes of having a still birth baby – a situation that she had experienced in her own life some years ago.  The Huffington Post published a thoughtful reflection on this.

And finally, this week’s viral video feels like a much welcome celebration of immigration and diversity in a world that seems increasingly divided.  It is actually an advertisement for Australian lamb but you’d never really notice that!  It perhaps sweeps rather optimistically about the country’s colonial past but still it’s a heartwarming message as we move into dark days the world over.  Ironically you have to go through another ad to get to the ad, which you can view here.