I'm attempting to get back in the swing of blogging about stuff.  In an effort to practice (or "practise" as the British spell it), I thought I'd show you a few words that the British spell differently than Americans.  As you might imagine, this becomes a problem particularly in situations like work emails, where one writes a lot of things to people who are not American (and usually British).  This sorta belongs on the "Language Barriers" page, but I'm putting it here in the name of posting SOMEthing today...

as in "I apologise profusely for the spelling error on our meeting agenda."

this is just plain annoying.  an unnecessarily hyphenated word.  i've held a few jobs in the past where my official title included the word "Coordinator," but when a British HR department reads my resume they think I've misspelled part of my own job title.  as if.

i rather like this one.  no complaints ;-)

sounds more like a George W. Bush-ism than an actual word.


talk about over-complicating something...

this is one i've had to write or type quite a few times, and each time i do, i roll my eyes.  what do the Brits have against the letter Z anyway?

again, over-complication.

not that i often ever refer to a ton of anything - but again, it's just extra letters that bring nothing to the party.  then again, i also dislike the metric system in general, so whatever.

There you have it:  a little warm-up, which was certainly not exciting, but perhaps interesting.

The Autumn air is carrying with it a little inspiration to start writing again.  Check back soon for new posts :-)

Everybody now knows Michael Jackson died yesterday.  RIP. 

My fave thoughts about Michael drift to being 9 - about to turn 10 - years old and hearing "Thriller" (yes, on cassette tape) for the first time.  I begged my musician father to let me carry his giant "Ghetto Blaster" portable stereo to school with me so I could play my Thriller tape at recess and dance with my girlfriends in the playground.  There was a big pile of dirt in the play area and while one girl manned the cassette player, we all crouched behind the dirt, and when she pressed the PLAY button, the song "Thriller" would start and the rest of us would oh-so-dramatically climb up from the dirt like zombies, trying to dance like the video.  We did it over and over for god knows how many weeks...

Last February I wrote in a blog on this site that Michael Jackson's poster for "Human Nature" (from the album Thriller) was the first music poster I ever hung on my bedroom wall.  The one of him wearing a white shirt, bow tie, pale yellow vest and a big rhinestone brooch with his hands in his pockets.  I've been told that as a young child I loved The Eagles' song "Hotel California."  I know that the first cassette tape I ever bought *with my own money* was Phil Collins' "No Jacket Required," and I know that Michael Jackson in that yellow vest was the first music poster ever to grace my wall.  Did I understand the meaning of the song "Billie Jean" at that age?  Definitely not. 

I also didn't know until today that the video for "Billie Jean" was the first time MTV ever aired a black artist's video.

I'm not sure my husband quite understands how much of an impact Michael Jackson's death has had on me today.  My husband's from a small town in northern England, and he's enough years younger than me to not really relate.  He wasn't that type of kid.  He didn't practice moon-walking in his bedroom, and he definitely didn't dance to "Billie Jean" wishing the sidewalk squares would light up under his feet -- nor did he get giddy while watching the half-million-dollar, 15-minute-long video for Thriller in the early years of MTV. 

And that is, of course, totally fine.

I just kinda wish I was back in LA today -- though clearly the vibe surrounding Jackson's death is global, based on the TV I'm watching this morning from London.  Last year TV's "Britain's Got Talent" was won by a teenager named George Sampson, who did a dance routine that never would have existed without 1970s and '80s MJ-created dance moves (don't forget MJ created the "robot" in the 1970s and then the "moon walk" in the '80s).  This year, an early front-runner for the same show was a boy who surprisingly belted out a fab rendition of a Michael Jackson/Jackson 5 number.  Clearly, Michael Jackson remains an artist by which all others will be measured.

Whoever you are, wherever you're from, some piece of Michael Jackson's music is a part of your life's soundtrack, whether you realize it or not.

I know a zillion people will write much better comments and retrospectives about Michael Jackson than this humble blog entry -- I just wanted to say my bit. 




At the risk of sounding, again, like amateur consumer reports, I'd like to say I've found a facial cleanser worth mentioning.  It's worth mentioning because it's a common, low-price-point brand found in pretty much every drugstore in the civilized world.

It's by Garnier, and the product is called "Skin Naturals NEW Clean Sensitive Anti-tightness Cleansing Milk". 

Non-lathering MILK has for several years replaced soap and gels as the best non-lathering fluid for skin cleansing.  "Milks" are fab for gals of a certain age (and by "certain age" I mean those who are way past the age of oil-slick, blackhead-dotted complexions).  If your skin's reached a reasonably mature level and your concern is to wash your face GENTLY and remove eye makeup WITHOUT drying-out delicate skin, this stuff's for you.

It's for sensitive skin, has no alcohol, no perfume and no coloring.  It gets mascara off without a bunch of rubbing and has "soothing waterlily extract," which sounds good - though its benefits are dubious.  It also leaves your face feeling noticeably soft, as if you've already applied light moisturizer.

Best of all?  It's Garnier, which means it's SUPER affordable (a couple of dollars) and easily found in shops.  See my photo above for the front of the bottle as it is sold here in England.  Note that it might look slightly different in the States... 


This weekend I read a good article about whether it is better to be ordinary or extraordinary, how some people straddle the line between the two, and about the so-called payoffs of being "the same" as those around us.  The article was written by Oliver Burkeman and ran in The Guardian newspaper on 23 May (full article at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/may/23/oliver-burkeman-ordinariness). 

I like pondering this topic, so I am posting the bulk of the article below:

We live in less flashy times... But the call to be remarkable, albeit in less preposterous ways, remains loud. Books with titles such as '101 Ways To Stand Out At Work' and 'Pop! Stand Out In Any Crowd' argue that being different is the key to thriving, while seemingly infinite numbers of personal development blogs urge readers to "live a remarkable life". In this sober [time] the point has merit. Being distinctive enhances your market value. And who can't appreciate the psychological benefits of making, and being recognised for, a unique contribution in life, rather than following the herd?

What's odd about our preoccupation with remarkableness, though, is how it coexists with its opposite. Most self-help books that aren't about standing out are about fitting in: making friends, finding a like-minded partner or realising that negative experiences - sadness, worry, stress - are really rather normal. And social psychology is awash with evidence of how far we'll go for the payoff of being the same. (In Solomon Asch's celebrated groupthink experiments, 75% of participants were willing to disbelieve their own eyes when others in the room - actors posing as subjects - insisted that lines of wildly different lengths were actually the same.)

The truth - that we need to stand out and to fit in - has been codified, in recent years, as "optimal distinctiveness theory". We crave the sweet spot between being too exceptional or too normal, and we're constantly adjusting our behaviour. When we feel suffocated by sameness, we'll strive to make our mark, but if we feel too lonely in our differentness, we'll rush to conform.

In other words, it's a balance. And yet our attitudes to specialness and ordinariness are anything but even-handed: we celebrate one and disdain the other. ("The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," Thoreau famously wrote, and however right he was, it's hard not to detect a trace of a sneer directed at the conformists.) So it's worth asking whether we should always be striving to be remarkable. Might some of us be better advised to get over our issues with being ordinary?

This will, I suspect, be the only time I enlist that notorious misery-guts Philip Larkin in the service of understanding happiness, but his poem Born Yesterday, dedicated to a newborn baby, might serve as a useful corrective:

"May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
Nothing uncustomary
To pull you off your balance...
In fact, may you be dull -
If that is what a skilled,
Vigilant, flexible,
Unemphasised, enthralled
Catching of happiness is called."

* I didn't write it, but I definitely understand.


I may not write a blog this weekend, so check out my newest Pic Of The Week instead - it's quite striking, I think...


OK.  I don't mean to sound like a paid ad disguised as a blog, but today while wandering through the massive Westfield London shopping centre I stumbled upon the most perfectly planned retail shop I've seen in a long time:

It's called INGLOT.

I understand Inglot is not brand new, but it's new to me.  It's an import from Australia, and while the one I went to may have been inside Westfield London since late last year, I've never taken notice of it until today.

Inglot is all makeup, all the time, and in every conceivable color.  And it's not a bunch of existing cosmetic brands - it's all Inglot brand - and priced extremely competitively (think £8 for lippy and eye shadow starting around £6), which makes it perfect for gals who want more quality and options than a drugstore, but don't want to fork out £28 for Chanel either.

Inglot isn't huge, but it's STUFFED with variety and color.  I was drawn in by their wall (literally) of nail polishes.  I'd been scanning drugstore shelves for a perfect shade of matte lilac polish when Inglot caught my eye.  There were several large sections of nail polish.  There were the "matte" polishes, the "shimmer" polishes, the "metallic" polishes, the gothic dark polishes, etc. etc.  And each type of polish was organized in rainbow order so it was super easy to find EXACTLY what you wanted.  There were well over 100 colors and no matter what your fancy, it was definitely there. 

To add super-efficiency to pleasure, Inglot has a system where you pick what you like from the display samples, then tell a staffer what number it is (every item is clearly labeled with its own number) and they'll pull the item out of fresh stock and put it at the register counter for you so you don't have to carry it around (or search on shelves for a color that isn't there, or out of place).  This system makes the store look amazing, as there are no empty shelves and only one example of each color, which looks like a miniature rainbow when you step in.

And it's not just the nail polish that rocks.  They had everything from eye makeup (again in every possible category) to face powders to lip colors (again, everything from matte lippy to metallic glosses to long-wearing chunky lip crayons)...

The best thing AFTER the totally amazing level of selection and organization was the fact that the place is literally lined with wall mirrors, and every few feet there were tubs of quality disposable applicators of all types to try stuff on with:  tiny single-use applicators for lippy, tiny shadow sponges for eye makeup, tons of tissues and trash bins and even three types of makeup removers for nail polish, regular makeup and water-proof products.  You can spend hours trying on colors and leave without a single smudge of unfavorable makeup on your hand, face or nails.  Excellent.  And even lovelier: it's hygienic.

Also, in a very subtle, no pressure way, Inglot sells the tiny, cheap items a gal could possibly need along with her purchase, like a nail file or an oversize pencil sharpener to fit the super-fat lip crayons.  And the whole thing is topped-off with NO-pressure salespeople.  They just sort of stand by to help if you ask.  No one tries to sell you add-ons at the register and no one tries to convince you that you need ten different products to look good.  They also run makeup lessons and other services for gals who are into that.

Obviously, at Inglot you don't have to buy a product and take it home and open it and USE it to know if it's going to look bad on you (and then be stuck with it if it sucks) because you can put on everything inside the store.  Before Inglot you had to fork out big cash at the counters of Dior, Chanel, MAC, et al. to get that kind of purchase experience.

The Inglot website says they carry over 200 shades of eye shadows, 200 shades of nail polish and more than 150 shades of lipstick.  What could be easier for the girl who knows exactly what she wants -- AND more helpful to the girl who has to try on twenty different colors before she can pick the one she really likes?

Inglot's my favorite retail spot of the year so far.  We'll see if iI still think so come December...

Again, I have no been paid to write this  ;-)


Today British retail giant Marks & Spencer had a fab recession-era celebration: Penny Bazaar 2009 - which meant that for a few hours they sold a bunch of stuff for one penny.

For those of you who don't live in Great Britain, Marks & Spencer is a mid-range (but not cheap) everything store.  By "everything" I mean groceries, produce, quality clothes and accessories and housewares including everything from down pillows to pepper mills.

Anyway, M&S opened 125 years ago, so they put on this "Penny Bazaar" to celebrate its anniversary.  They first opened as a small goods stall back in 1884 with a sign that said:  'Don't ask the price - it's a penny!'  Kinda like the ol' Dollar Store - or 99 Cent Store - or in this case, the One Cent Store.  Later on M&S got so popular it didn't even need to advertise, they say, and didn't produce their first TV ad until the mid-1990s.  Pretty neat.

Today I went by the M&S located inside the sparkly (and enormous) Westfield White City mall.  They had no less than five security guards at the single entrance, and ropes indicating where to get in line for entry - or "cue" as they say in Britain.  Shoppers were limited to 5 items each, and the penny sale was over by lunch time.

The photo above was taken outside the Westfield store after the sale had begun, so I'm sure the line was actually much longer at opening.  I chose not to cue up and go in, but might check it out tomorrow.  Apparently every penny made is going to local and regional charities. 

Shame that the most each person can contribute is five pennies  ;-)

If you want to shop the sale, it's going on for three days and the range of penny products includes five jewelry sets, scarves, purses, knickers (underwear), commemorative cufflinks, ties, socks, leather passport holders, leather luggage tags, tea towels, mugs, bags of retro sweets, cans of retro drink, beach toys and beach balls.  And no, I didn't get paid to write this blog.


In lieu of a whole blog entry, I've posted a new Pic Of The Week - go check it out  :-)