Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Fashionably pale December 5, 2012

Filed under: Cosmetics,Fashion — lauravw @ 7:23 pm

I’ve started a new blog, about clothes and cosmetics. I’m not stopping doing Busywork, I just felt that these subjects don’t fit so well with the mostly domestic nature of what I write about here on Busywork. So I’ve set up a new home for my thoughts on style, finding suitable cosmetics for very pale complexions, and clothing in general. The new site is called Fashionably Pale, and I would love it if you’d come and visit me over there.

And I’ll be back with more Busywork posts very soon, including something about my recently-acquired Mary Berry cookbook. Let’s just say that as a result of buying this book, the cake tin is now full of treats which I’m having to eat up in order to make space for the next batch.


Sun up July 18, 2011

Filed under: Cosmetics — lauravw @ 2:35 pm

Sali Hughes’ column in the Guardian the other day was one I’ll be making use of: beauty bargains under £10. The comments people have left underneath are also interesting, highlighting products I’ve never heard of, alongside old classics.

Nearly all the products I use sit comfortably within the under £10 category, but there are a few things I don’t mind paying more for. One is sunscreen: I am very pale (people have been known to think I am wearing white socks on days when I am barefoot), and burn easily, so I am always wearing some sort of sun protection. I have tried quite a few over the years, with varying success.

The summer before last, I was on some medication that both made me more sensitive to the sun AND made my skin somewhat intolerant of sunscreens. That was a tricky time, and meant I had to dress in such a way that hardly any of my skin was exposed. On hot days I looked foolish, covered head to toe in layers of clothes. And I still got burned.

The video accompanying Sali’s recent column on sunscreen discusses the different ways sunscreens are formulated, and how certain products can cause certain people’s eyes to water when applied. This sounded very familiar to me, so I’m looking into the products Sali suggested – a Neal’s Yard sunblock, and a Liz Earle one. And recently I have been using a powder sunscreen, with pretty good results. It’s by Bare Escentuals, and I’ve found it to be very useful for topping up the sun protection on my face during the day. I’ve also used it on my neck, which has been very handy as I used to use a cream based sunscreen there, and then found that my jewellery would stick to it, and there would be stains around the neckline of my clothes. So having a powder-based version has been a huge improvement for me in that regard!

I’ve found only one downside so far: the powder is faintly tinted, but is almost invisible while you’re applying it. This means I’m always a little bit unsure as to whether I’ve applied enough, and to all the places that need protecting. But as long as I take my time while applying it, it’s fine. Definitely something I would buy again.

And speaking of sunscreen, the clever people at Information is Beautiful have put together a visual interpretion of the current advice on when to apply it, how much to apply, and how long you’re protected for. Clever stuff.

But of course all of this is purely academic on a day like today, where the clouds overhead are a very dark shade of grey, and the rain just keeps coming.


The lip balm confession March 7, 2011

Filed under: Cosmetics — lauravw @ 12:45 pm

I have a lot of lip balms. Seriously: a lot. More than you would think.

I have a few in my handbag, one or two in each room of the house, a selection mixed in with my make-up, and then I have a stash of them in a drawer. I have not added up how many there are, and I don’t plan to.

This picture is not the whole collection: it’s just the stash. These are my supplies – when a lip balm runs out, I rummage in a drawer and pick out a new one from this batch. As you can see, this collection will outlive me – I have more than I can probably ever use. As my northern grandfather would say, these will “see me out.”

I got them all out and took this picture because in the Guardian yesterday, Sali Hughes did a column on lip balms. She clearly takes them very seriously, and tested dozens before reporting back on her favourites – none of which are ones I have tried out (but I can’t really justify buying any more right now, so they will have to wait…).

The comments that follow her article illustrate that this is a subject about which people have strong feelings. People are squabbling and disagreeing, and everyone has their own set of criteria for what a lip balm should do. I’m very much in agreement with Sali:

“Too shiny and I look muttony, too tasteless and I feel short-changed. I want flavour, but not so much that it’s like spending 16 hours struggling through a knickerbocker glory. I want balm thick enough to heal chapped lips, groom brows, soften cuticles, add a sexy sheen to cheeks and clavicles, and in a static emergency, tame flyaway hair; but not so dense it doesn’t spread softly, or turns my lips an unattractive white. I want one I can wear blended with lip liner on a dress-down day, but that will also sit under proper lippy without the colour creeping up to my sinuses. I want nice packaging – a tube with a spreading surface, a stick with a well-shaped nib, or a pot not so deep that I’m still scraping balm out of my fingernail next Tuesday.”

The too-deep jars are a bugbear of mine, and I am wary of too much shine. These are my favourites:

Perfumeria Gal, in redcurrant. These tins are some of the prettiest around (that’s probably what prompted my first purchase, many years ago), and the contents are excellent: richer than Vaseline, and with a delicate redcurrant scent. If I had to choose (pleasepleasedon’tmakemechoose!) just one lip balm, this would be it. I’ve also tried it in orange and violet, but the redcurrant wins by a mile.

Urban Decay tinted lip balm, in NYC – which was discontinued a few years ago. So I bought ten of them.

Rosebud Salve – in original, and in Brambleberry Rose. These are excellent – and the plain one works well for all kinds of other tasks (healing dry skin, putting on cuts and scrapes, and so on). The Brambleberry one smells heavenly.

Burt’s Bees lip balm, with pomegranate oil. I love this – it looks red in the tube but it’s not actually tinted. I like to have this for when I’m out and about (ie when I can’t be sure my hands are quite clean enough to stick in a pot of lip balm).

Korres lip butter – in Quince and Wild Rose. Tinted lip balms are my favourite – I never wear lipstick proper (and I’m not a fan of gloss: you look lovely until you step outside, the wind blows, and your hair is stuck fast to your lips), and I think a tinted balm gives a much softer, more flattering look. These are lovely, and they aren’t that expensive (some of the other Korres products, while they look appealing, scare me off a bit because of the prices).

Eucerin Aquaphor. The least glamourous item on my list, but incredibly effective. It’s plain and unscented, and it’s not even sold as a lip balm – the label says “healing ointment.” I bought some when in the US a few years ago, as I was on some prescription drugs that dried out my skin and lips to an almost painful extent. This was the only thing I ever found that helped – the ingredients don’t sound like they are anything special, but it was so much more effective than regular Vaseline. I still use it even though my skin has recovered – and it has a slightly irridescent sheen to it, so for something so plain, it can look quite pretty on.

Propoline blackcurrant lip balm. This is a very natural tinted lip balm, in a stick. It’s very rich and the colour is quite deep. I don’t have any of this at the moment, and just looking at it makes me want to stock up.


Smoky eyes, Playmobil, and new shoes February 11, 2011

Filed under: Cosmetics — lauravw @ 9:06 am

Time for another Friday Tidy:

This week I was tempted to just put one link here, because I have a really good one to share with you. But then Converse and Marimekko formed an unholy alliance creating fabulous shoes, and someone made an amazing video of Playmobil toys recreating live footage of Joy Division. Wow.

But, had I not stumbled upon those two things, this is the one link I wanted to record here so that I can refer to it for all eternity: Sali Hughes’ incredibly helpful video showing you the secret of smoky eyes. I had a go at this after watching the video, and my attempts were certainly passable (which is good going for someone like me).


And another thing… May 10, 2009

Filed under: Cosmetics — lauravw @ 11:07 am

The Sunday Times Beauty Awards list makes for useful reading – lots of recommendations for products to try out, many of which are at the more affordable end of the beauty counter.


Sanctuary Spa February 9, 2009

Filed under: Cosmetics,Shopping — lauravw @ 9:10 pm

sanctuaryOver the past few months I have been sampling more than my fair share of Sanctuary Spa toiletries – they keep having them on special offer in my local branch of Boots (the one I have to pass every day, on my way to and from work, and so often end up going in…). I’ve tried out both the bodycare and the facial skincare ranges, and there are some products I’ve liked more than others.

My absolute favourite is anything from the Mestizo range – sadly it only consists of three products at the moment, but I’m hoping they will do more because it smells lovely… I’m also very fond of the facewash, and managed to buy around half a dozen of these last year when Boots had a £5 off deal on – each one costs around £6, so it meant I could snap them up for £1 and feel very frugal. More recently I’ve tried the toner, which is OK (I’m not sure how you differentiate between bottles of toner, but it smells OK and makes your face feel fresh. As with the facewash, I got this for about £1 – I don’t think I’d be willing to pay £6 for it), and this weekend I bought eye gel (refreshing, but quite expensive) and face lotion (not sure about this yet – it doesn’t absorb into the skin very well, but looks OK once I’ve put my makeup on. I am reserving judgement for a week or two).

My mum has had problems with her nails spitting, and has found the nail oil to help with that issue – plus she likes the hand cream that goes with it. And another thing I like is the Mande Lular body scrub, which works well and comes in a generous sized pot.

Anyway, I’m telling you all this because it’s all on 3-for-2 at Boots at the moment  – so if you’re in the UK it’s something you can take advantage of. When I went in on Saturday I got a good deal – I also had a few coupons that got me extra loyalty points, and various other loyalty card wheezes that made me feel like I was some sort of bargain shopper extraordinaire. For example, the skincare range is not labelled as being part of the offer in my local branch, but it is on the website, and when I took my purchases to the till, the woman who served me was surprised to see it register the discount.

But then I found out that I had only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my bargain hunting in Boots – there’s a whole community of customers who refer to their bargain-hunting ways as Bootsing! I found this out because it occurred to me that the deals I had found on Saturday were so good that there might be information on other such deals on the forums at the Money Saving Expert website – I had no idea just what level of information there would be, nor the amount of committment and ingenuity that people show when it comes to getting a discount on face cream. Here’s a sample post, which starts out by detailing this month’s offers – it has been viewed more than a quarter of a million times, and there are over three thousand comments on it. Clearly no-one in their right mind is going to read all three thousand comments just to find a few discounts on toiletries, but the post at the beginning was enough to get started. I popped in on my way home tonight and got a fancy bottle of conditioner, priced at £4.69, for £2.69 (using the £2 off haircare voucher they’ve been giving away with purchases recently) – but then the clever(ish) part was that I also got £1.50 worth of loyalty card points for it as well – because I put my card in the little loyalty card machine when I arrived and printed out an extra coupon for that. And then I got given ANOTHER £2 off haircare voucher, so I can do the whole thing all over again next time I’m passing. It’s a good job I have plenty of space to store my growing collection of fancy bodywashes and haircare products…


How to make Benetint January 25, 2009

Filed under: Cosmetics,Crafts — lauravw @ 3:31 pm

Sitting reading The Times yesterday, I read a recipe that could prove useful if the situation with the economy gets any worse: how to make your own Benetint:

“You need 45g of grated raw beetroot and three tablespoons of glycerine (which you can get for £3.90 for 100ml at Neal’s Yard Remedies). Combine the two in a double-boiler (or bain-marie) and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool and pour into a sterilised pot. Dab onto the apples of your cheeks, blending well, or use as a lip stain.”

The recipe comes from The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book, by Kyle Cathie.