work it

I have a confession to make. Every year (or month), I write a list of things I want to do. I've done it since I was about 16. It always begins with the same things. Be kind. Grow hair long. Get tattoo removed. Exercise regularly. Read 52 books a year.

I have never, ever cultivated a regular exercise regime (I went to write practise there and realised that is a word that feels akin to 'curation' in its level of pretentiousness). I've dabbled with yoga, but at best it's been every fortnight. I hate running. Swimming is too... cold. Everything is too hard, and inconvenient and not very interesting and too expensive.

Then, then! I signed up for ClassPass and it really has changed my life. I feel like some sort of religious zealot and have found myself saying slightly embarrassing things like "I can't wait for my Old School Garage Spin Class at Rebel1 tonight! They have a Roots and Bulbs juice bar and the class has a live DJ/MC!" and buying sports bras and things.

It is magical. I look forward to exercise. It is varied. It is convenient. It is easy and seamless and I don't have to talk to anyone and it's easy to book. And it's neatly arranged to force you to make your classes unless you want to be fined 20 pounds.

Here's how it works. You sign up and pay 80 pounds each month. You can stop at any time, and you can pause your membership. You use an app on your phone to select where you are, what time you want to attend a class and what sort of class you'd like to do. Pilates, yoga, boxing, barre, cardio, spin, pregnancy fitness, whatever. Then you book, and you go, all through an easy to use, Uber-style app. The only catch is you can't go to the same gym more than three times in a month (I've kind of liked that though as I've tried new things).

It's amazing because you save money once you go to more than five classes a month (working on the theory that most classes are at least 15 pounds), and because you aren't tied to a gym - you can go to a class near your office in your lunch break, and then somewhere near home on a Saturday morning. You could also really get into trying out swish West London gyms if you wanted, like some sort of gym tourist.

I'm trying to think of some downsides. I'm sure they'll put the price up in a few months once enough people are addicted, in the way that Uber has and will do more of - the crack dealer model for business. The gyms are great but definitely concentrated in the City and West, there are a lot in Shoreditch but it thins out as you go further East. The providers are good quality, from Frame to The Life Centre, Yoga on the Lane and so on.

I'm a convert. I might even try kettle bell training.

well read

Enjoying a peek into the founder of Apartmento magazine, Omar Sosa's bookshelves. From Leonard Coren and Nathalie Pasquier's Arranging Objects to the Grace Jones covered Jungle Fever by Jean-Paule Goode - it's an impressive collection. 

I'm particularly interested in tracking down the Arranging Objects book. I am intrigued by their approach to the aesthetic, and treasure my copy of Wabi Sabi. 

where i want to be

Busy at work (hence not writing for six months) and dreaming of a holiday in this light, beautiful Echo Park Air BnB created by Beatrice Venezuela and her husband. On a similar trip is Lauren Soloff's bohemian LA home.

Reading about the women of Sweet Briar.

Making these homemade fruit jellies. They're good for your gut and look like little stained glass windows.

Inspired by Grace Dunham's speech on Why I Am Hot at Frieze. Self-aware, honest.

naturally: beauty bag

Following on from my post on natural skin and bodycare, a list of the natural make up items I am using. Using natural make up is important to me. I am so aware of the negative health and even cosmetic skin effects of using chemical laden products. I use the ThinkDirty app to make sure the make up I use doesn't have carcinogenic, allergenic or toxic effects - which, sadly, cuts out almost anything you can buy in Space NK, Boots and duty free. I used to love buying things from Tom Ford, Chanel, Nars - but now that I am aware, I know that the silicon, parabens and so on are really harmful, not to mention the plastic and to be blunt - products made mostly of water that we are being charged a mad amount for - that will likely give us skin and health problems! Why bother - particularly when there is such a beautiful and substantial range of nicely packaged, affordable make up with great colours! As always, Content Beauty is really wonderful for finding natural health products and makeup in London, as well as your local health food shop. 

I have tried several different 'natural' bases but this is the first that works well for me. RMS is an entirely natural brand started by the brilliant make up artist Rose Marie Swift after a period of severe illness (hair loss, exhaustion) in response to the damage chemicals cause to our skin. I love the soft, creamy texture and how easy it is to use just on the places where you are a little red or pimply. I've already seen my skin become much nicer in texture and less inclined to congestion. It is, happily, packaged in glass, recyclable containers; and it has a raw coconut oil base. 

I love these lipsticks - I discovered them through the amazing Storq (Courtney Klein is so clever and even though I'm not pregnant I really want to buy the beauty and skincare bundles she has created)! I have the Funnel of Love and Perfect Day shades. They are natural and organic, and also come in very un-crunchy, simple packaging. They have a nice, creamy texture and are neither too matt nor too shiny.

This soft, neutral pink is also made by RMS, it's a good everyday, pretty shade for pale skins. Again, it's coconut oil based and non-toxic; and packaged in glass. 

Eyeliner and Mascara

I have had real trouble finding a good liquid liner in black and a black mascara that are both natural and effective. Please let me know if you have any recommendations!

I don't wear much makeup so this is quite short, but to be honest I find I can do both everyday and night time 'looks' (ugh, sorry) with these products. I do have a short wishlist of things to buy soon, this includes...

Plus, other brands I have enjoyed and would recommend...

Dr Hauschka (their mascara is quite good and smells like roses)

it's only natural: body care, hair and bath products

I've recently started to swap out all of my cosmetics, skincare and personal items to natural alternatives. It's a slow process but here are a few of my favourite finds so far. I'll do my skincare and beauty in another post.

Weleda Salt Toothpaste: Guys, since I stopped using 'conventional' toothpaste when I do use it now my mouth actually BURNS. I don't know what is in it but I know it's not good. This is a little hard to get your head around but once you're used to it you'll never go back. I have no cavities.

Activated Charcoal: Once or twice a week I break open a capsule of charcoal onto a spare toothbrush and scrub with charcoal. It looks disgusting, but it gets rid of staining and yellowing, plus it's good for you, or at least not bad like say, bleach. Make sure you get capsules rather than tablets.

Soapwalla Deodorant Cream: This is the only natural deodorant I have ever found that doesn't make my armpits smell worse than they did before. It's in a little pot and you pat it on like moisturiser with your fingers. It's incredible, you have no smell or sweat through a normal day and it smells lovely, like lavender oil and tea-tree but only very faintly. Content Beauty is an amazing source of natural skincare, bodycare and make up, you must visit when next in Marylebone, or um, the internet.

Mooncup (well, I want to but I haven't done it yet) apparently it's a great idea according to Lauren of Trash is for Tossers, and it doesn't leak, means you're not creating waste nor putting random stuff inside your body's most ABSORBENT and sensitive area. It still freaks me out though, but I really want 2015 to be the year of the Mooncup. Also, who else gets really annoyed at spending 10 quid a month on something as boring as tampons, and WHY are they taxed? However, here are some Natural Cotton Tampons if you're not feeling the Mooncup.

Sans Body Cream and Sans Body Oil: This is heavenly stuff, I alternate between each and smear it neck to toe. I also use a drop or two of the oil to style/defrizz my hair. 

Homemade Body Scrub (I never know what to do with the leftover pulp from almond milk, so I freeze it all along with coffee grounds then mix it with olive, avocado and coconut oils, a little rosewater and some rose petals and put it in a jar for scrubbing). Do not do what I did and leave it there while you go on holiday, it rots and smells like actual shit. This is a one week or in the fridge type thing.  

I have manicures at beautiful Glasshouse Salon, they use chemical free polish and also offer a really nice service which is just a manicure with buffed, tidy nails - no polish! If you live in London you should really go here, for haircuts and blowdrying too!

Rose Oil: For feeling relaxed and 'womanly'.
Lavender Oil: For insomnia and/or deep sleeps.
Epsom Salts: For muscle aches, tension relief and general wellbeing - also removes bloating.

I buy all my 'natural products' in bulk from iHerb, it is brilliant and very cheap. Oils I buy on holidays, it's a really nice thing to bring back from places like Morocco as a memento.

I don't know what Lucy Marr, the creator of the brand, puts in this that makes it smell so good. I spend a lot of time sniffing my own hair - it's clean but warm and natural. I like this shampoo because it has low foam but it does mean you have to wash and rinse carefully - there's no Sodium Laurel Sulfate which is what makes shampoos frothy (I think). It's also carcinogenic so not having it is a plus. 

working girl: lunches

The art to making an office day better is, I believe, a good lunch. Healthy, interesting and fresh. It's a challenge, at least for me. Surrounded by good cafes (Medcalf, Morito, The Clerkenwell Kitchen, Caravan); I've challenged myself to bring my own at least four days each week. 

Inspired by...

For their thriftiness and idea of a Sunday cooking session to prep for the week (hardly groundbreaking but it made me do it more often, which is helpful). 
And their breakfast ideas, which all travel well. 

The dream, surely, is to have a workspace that includes a glorious kitchen and time and people to prepare lunch each day with? This is unfortunately not the reality, but it's nice to pore over these pages and dream. 

I'd quite like to meet Peter Miller who wrote this book. He owns a bookshop in Chicago and this is a recording of the lunches he and his staff make, with no kitchen and not much fuss.

Lunch at the Shop is a call to lunch. On the most basic level, the book is a primer for making lunch for a few people at work, including more than 45 tried-and-tested, deliciously simple recipes. However, the essence of the book is about adopting a lifestyle that allows food to be savored every day, in a way that is easy, fresh, healthy, and a pleasure.

This, quite frankly, changed my life. I love being told exactly how to do something and never having to think about it again. Systems! This is like having a capsule wardrobe, but edible.

When Bon Appetit told me to set up a desk pantry, I listened! Nestled between paper clips and Post Its I have almonds, Dijon mustard, vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, fresh black pepper in a TINY grinder, chili flakes, almond butter, crispbreads and pouches of Puy lentils. 

When they told me to have standards and never eat out of a plastic container or with plastic cutlery, I obeyed. 

When I don't know what to have I bring a boiled egg or an avocado to work and it all works out. 

And when I have time, I do the Hemsley Sunday cooking thing and make a pot of brown rice or quinoa; a tray of roast vegetables and a jar of dressing - then I buy a bag of kale, a few tomatoes and some apples and goats cheese, and that's it.

working girl: happy commuting

The one thing I can't stand about London is the Tube. I never used to mind it, but early morning commutes in winter put me in the worst mood. It's cold, so I can't ride my bike as I would in summertime, so that means pushing, shoving and being coughed on. Since there's no other option, I've decided this year I'll make it as happy as possible, so I don't wind up cranky before I even get to work. It's not very glamorous, I know - but here are a few ideas to ease the pain.  

Podcasts I load up on my favourites before leaving the house - currently in heavy rotation are Monocle's Culture program, All Songs Considered by NPR, the BBC Food Programme and Welcome to Night Vale. And here are some I've just subscribed to for the new year. 

Noisli For when you're really stressed, Noisli is a beautifully designed back ground noise app - I use it at work if I need to concentrate - think non-tacky forest sounds, wind and water. 

Audible I've just started to use this. While I love the idea of audiobooks, I actually find it hard to concentrate and fully 'take in' a book whilst walking and thinking. I often 'come to' after ten minutes and have to rewind, but that might just be because I started off with Steven Fry's autobiography, and his voice is so lovely I drift off. I'm looking forward to working my way through my wish list though - maybe it's better for long haul travel for me - I recommend you try it though, they have a huge list of everything from classics to mysteries and non-fiction, often read by the authors themselves, or Joanna Lumley reading Pride and Prejudice, etcetera!

Hand sanitiser I love Dr. Bronner's Lavender scented one - OCD I know, but it does make a difference (or at least it smells nice). You can buy it here.

KeepCup I am a horrible person before I have had coffee, and there isn't a nice coffee shop between my house and the station. Also, I think I actually like homemade coffee better than bought. Freshly ground Caravan beans with homemade almond milk and some Manuka honey - nothing better. Plus, you're saving a paper cup. 

Oyster A surprisingly large amount of people don't buy monthly passes for their travel - you save so much money and time when you do it this way! Do it! You can even connect it to your card so it automatically updates and you never have to scrabble for change or deal with queues. 

a modern way to eat

Admiring author and stylist Anna Jones' Clapton home. Light, bright and simple with pops of colour and affordable joinery ideas. I've just ordered her (lovely) cookbook, A Modern Way to Eat. It's a particularly English take on Californian-style healthy eating, which means it's not full of unaffordable ingredients and it's a little more laid back, less over-styled and fussy than the glut of same-same Instagram health foodies. Question though (and I'm as guilty of it as anyone), when do we reach 'peak cookbook'?

are you in favor of hands?

They sure don't make them like they used to. Lauren Hutton and Anjelica Huston, in conversation.


LH: I don’t even know what that is anymore. 


LH: Exactly. I think women have been in the secondary position for 4,000 years, and it's contra naturam, against nature."