See you soon…

Hello there!

I’m taking a step back from my blog for a few weeks.  As those of you who follow my blog and social media know, I’ve been on an at times very painful mental health journey over the last year.  I am now, under medical supervision, going cold turkey on some of the medication that I’ve been taking.  This, as I’m sure you can imagine, is taking its toll both physically and mentally.

Even though I love my work, and indeed writing helps to keep me stable and sane, I need to take the pressure of deadlines and blog schedules off myself for a few weeks while I heal.  This means that I’m unlikely to be posting here until early March.  I’ll be dipping in and out of social media as I feel able, so please do come and say hello to me there (there are links in the sidebar) as I’d appreciate some company while I do what I can for the rest of this month.

With love,

Rae x


Hard as Nails: five tips for strengthening weak ones

Nurture Oil || Hard as Nails: Five Tips for Strengthening Nails ||

I was asked last week if I could recommend a nail varnish that doesn’t destroy weak nails.  When thinking about my reply, I decided to widen the response and talk about the subject generally as it’s something I’ve encountered with my own hands.

Here are my five top tips for dealing with yours:

1) Take a supplement to ensure that you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain healthy nails.  There are lots of expensive ‘beauty’ versions on the market but I stick to Sainsbury’s own brand women’s capsules, which have the RDA of pretty much everything your body needs.

2) Wear your nails short.  It’s an obvious recommendation but nails get weaker with length.  A lot of advice says to keep them no longer than the end of your finger but I’d be lucky to grow my even to there!

3) Use a strengthening treatment to nurture nails as they grow.  A couple of years ago The Independent featured a great round up of options from £2.50 up to £40.  I buy Nurture Oil from my beautician and I absolutely swear by it.  Since starting to use just a drop a day on each cuticle, my nails have been in the best condition ever.  Get some!  You can buy a bottle here, although there are lots of similar generic oils on the market.  And if you wanted to go to the queen of hand and foot care, try out Margaret Dabbs’ Nail and Cuticle Serum, £12.00 at Space.NK.

4) Invest in a strengthening base coat to wear either on its own or under other polishes.  This adds another layer of protection to the nail underneath.  A classic is Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails which you can get from Boots for £4.75, while Butter LONDON have their Horse Power Nail Rescue Base Coat at £15.00.

5) Switch to a nourishing nail varnish.  A number of brands now offer colours that they claim will help nails.  Nail specialists Essie have just launched their Treat Love and Colour range (£8.99 each, available at Boots), made of up three pastel shade varnishes which, they claim, give you ‘beautiful sheer colour without sacrificing the health of your nails! In fact, it aims to improve it!’.  If you’re looking for a wide selection of colours then check out Liz Earle’s Strengthening Nail Colour options (£8.50).  There are seven shade that cover a pale to dark spectrum and each contains two kinds of oil – hence the claim to being strengthening.

And I couldn’t do a piece on nails without giving a shout out to the fab team at WAH Nails.  Their Soho salon is a great place to visit if your after a top notch manicure or fancy some crazy nail art – they can do it all in their fun and interactive space.  Perhaps it could be a goal once your nails feel stronger?!  




Clarity: why it’s so hard to give up drinking

Lost in translation: Soberano liquor || Clarity: why it is so hard to give up drinking ||
Lost in translation: Soberano liquor

Now that those who attempted Dry January are facing a decision about what to do with their drinking habits, I wanted to return to what seems to be a burning question: why is it so hard to give up drinking?

This question has been much on mind this last month as I’ve written a series of posts about sobriety.  To be honest, it’s something I’ve pondered a lot in the two years since I’ve quit drinking – and it also haunted me for well over a decade before that.

For some people it simply isn’t hard to do.  They can go for weeks or months without touching a drop and don’t think of it.  For those of us with a more complicated relationship to the bottle this kind of laissez faire attitude is incomprehensible.  When I was drinking, booze was all too often at the front of my mind: when I’d have it next followed by what had I done when I’d had it, over and over, an endlessly repeating drama.

Now I don’t drink, that drama has gone.  That noise has subsided.  There’s no furtive planning for the next occasion nor are there any pieces to pick up afterwards.  No fog of forgetfulness, no blackouts where memories should be.

I look back at last weekend and the one before and the one before that…I can recall Friday night and Saturday night clearly.  Thursday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday too.

This weekend will be the same.  No fuzziness around the edges, not even the slightest lapse in recollection.  It will all be as clear as it is now as I write at three in the afternoon.

Those strange people who’ve never liked getting drunk hold this up as a positive effect.  Many reformed drinkers do too.  You’ll never have that loss of control again!  Isn’t it marvellous?!

No.  No it isn’t.  I’ll tell you the truth.  Knowing that you’ll never again experience that fuzziness around the edges, the lapse in memory, the loss of control is not marvellous, it’s terrifying.

The long deep outbreath that comes with the first sip?  It vanishes forever and you’re left wondering what the f*ck you’re going to do without it.

What will life be like without the release valve that we’ve come to rely on?  What will life be like without having the edge taken off?  What will like be like without the endless drama of planning/drinking/patching up?

What’s it like?


Your mind becomes like a glass of freshly drawn tap water.  It’s refreshing in a way but you can’t hide anything in it.  You see all the things that you drank to forget right there, now unavoidable.  Whatever you tried to cover up will be exposed.  Whatever you tried to drown will rise to the surface.

This, my friends, is why it is so hard to give up drinking.  Facing this clarity, embracing it even, is one of the hardest challenges that we can take on.  It’s the archetypal hero’s journey, treacherous but noble.  Many will fall by the wayside, unable or unwilling to continue.

Living with this clarity, sitting with it night after night, week after week, will test us in every way it can.

Is it worth the fight?  Everyone answers that question for themselves.  I can see clearly what the right response is for me.

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.  

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.*

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Tuesday Reviews Day 17-01-2017: My January Cure

My January Cure: Clinique Crayola Chubby Lip Crayons || Tuesday Reviews Day 17-01-2017 ||
My January Cure: Clinique Crayola Chubby Lip Crayons

As Monday 16th January is widely labelled ‘Blue Monday’, aka the most depressing day of the year, I decided to bump my Tuesday Reviews Day post up by twenty-four hours as I think it offers a fun way to dispel some of the day’s misery.

At the start of the month, I agreed with some friends to commit to The January Cure and report daily on progress.  The January Cure is an annual email series run by the brilliant interior design and home website, Apartment Therapy.  It’s designed to help you declutter and clean your home simply and easily during a month when probably nobody feels like doing so.

The January Cure is great to participate in.  Although this year I’ve fallen woefully behind schedule, dipping in and out rather than diligently following each day’s instructions, I’ve been thinking about it a lot (thinking about the emails we receive rather than acting upon: sound familiar anyone?!).  In particular, I’ve been thinking about what my January cure is.

The answer came pretty quickly: bright lipstick.  If you follow me on social media then you probably already know that I’m a big fan of the bold lip.  My then three year old niece was genuinely shocked when she learnt that my lips were actually pink like everyone else; ‘But Auntie Rae, your lips are red!’ she exclaimed in bewilderment.

While bright lipstick is a favourite of mine all year round, it particularly comes into its own at this time of year because frankly very little else is bright in the northern hemisphere.  The world can seem drained of colour in January.  It can also seem pretty grim, with bad weather and interminable long nights (I write this at 16.30 with *all* the lights on).

Added to this, January is often the month when we feel most brassic.  I’m not sure if it’s ironic but it’s certainly annoying that the time of year when we most need cheering up is the one when we have least funds available to do so.

This is where bright lipstick can help.  For less than a fiver or as much as £25, and similarly in dollars, you can treat yourself to a tube of brightly coloured wax.

It doesn’t have to be red.  Fuchsia, purple, orange, terracotta, mauve, rose…there are many varieties of bright, and there is a shade out there for everyone, whatever their colouring.

If you’re uncertain about how to choose, here are my top tips:

  1. Buy a cheap one to try out. You can always replace it with a better quality one in a similar shade if you prefer but if doesn’t work then you haven’t lost a huge outlay.
  2. If you see someone wearing a colour you like, ask where they go it from. You get a recommendation and they will be thrilled for the rest of the day.
  3. Ask to try out the tester yourself. Make-up assistants in shops can be great but if you’re nervous about using colour then you might find their application techniques too dense.  Applying it yourself as you would at home will give you a more realistic picture of how it looks.
  4. Go outside and see what the tester looks like. The artificial lighting in shops can be distorting.
The Clinique Crayola Chubby Lip Crayon Box || My January Cure - Tuesday Reviews Day 17-01-2017 ||
The Clinique Crayola Chubby Lip Crayon Box

I’ve talked in #tuesdayreviewsday before about my favourite lip colours but there’s a new kid on the block that I can’t get enough of at the minute: the Clinique Crayola Chubby Lip collaboration.  Seeing as my dream job would be naming the Crayola colours, it’s two of my favourite things in the world come together!

This limited edition range takes a popular Clinique product, the chubby lip crayon, and gives it a well-timed mid-winter boost with a spectrum of felt tip shades from a classic red through pinks to a plummy violet.  They actually caused a sharp intake of breath when I first saw them and they haven’t disappointed.  They are less matte than many similar pencil lip colours so they aren’t as drying – but they still stay put for ages (the violet brick on the right of the box even survived a stack of buttermilk pancakes with nutella and banana.  The things I do in order to report back to you!).

Mauvelous & Pink Sherbet Clinique Crayola || Tuesday Reviews Day 17-01-2017 ||
Lovely shades but not so Crayola…

One caveat: I was less of a fan of the two most pink shades (third and fourth from the right on the box).  Pink Sherbet and Mauvelous (pictured) both deliver a lovely natural shade but they don’t provide the same pop of colour as the other colours.  Furthermore, they don’t seem as ‘Crayola’ as the others.  Particularly Pink Sherbet I expected to be rather more fuschia rather than the ballerina pink that it delivers.

They cost £17.50 each or for £35.00 you can buy a box containing all ten in a mini-size (this is the size featured in my photographs).  The range is currently available via but goes nationwide on Clinique counters (and their website) from 2nd February – my cure for this month and next.

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.