APoV's Blogger's Christmas Gift Swap! (& getting out of my shell)

I know, I know, its way too early to think about Christmas but honestly, who doesn't love a Secret Santa? This year I decided to get involved in Viola's Blogger Gift Swap, I'm trying to be a bit more out there and plus, its a Secret Santa type deal and I LOVE THOSE.

This isn't actually a Secret Santa as such, as there is hashtag #apovgiftswap so we can chat before hand and get to know each other which is great. I need to get out of my little circle and this is just the right thing for me. Its really easy to get involved in this so I don't feel like its a clique-y thing I have no part of, all you need to do if you want to join in is.... 

Fill in the google application here 
Write a blog post within 5 days of receiving your confirmation email (Ta DA!!!!)
Send a couple of gifts to your matched partner by 17th December 
Write a post about your gifts (must include photos) after you have received them
Send Viola the link to your blog post so she can see how the event has gone!

Deadline to sign up is November 1st, and then as soon as she can after that Viola will let us know who we are partnered with so we can get to know them via twitter and the aforementioned hashtag. Then just before Christmas Santa comes a calling!! 

I'm really excited to see who I get and then, of course, start thinking of gifts!! 

On the Rocks - Stocking a Bar

So we've been making it cocktail central here now for a while now, and while I have picked up some grenadine and angostura bitters to supplement my bar, I really had no idea where to start when it came to stocking my little bar in a way that gives me what I need without too many pointless bits and bobs.

For instance, my bar is my kitchen, so do I really need a cocktail set with a bottle opener and a knife for cutting lemons? I have a cocktail set someone got me years ago, but how much of it do I really need? Or do I need more. Then comes the bottles themselves, another total minefield. I came across a book (which I later found out was connected to this website) that is all about limiting the bottles and "stuff" that you think you'll need. So I'm kinda going with that mantra.

Stuff wise, I've pretty much stuck to the basics, everything else is already in the kitchen, so if i need a knife or spoon its there. Otherwise I have a hawthorn strainer, shaker, a jigger measure with 25 and 50ml sides, and of course glasswear. That was the big one, not essential but I decided for the classy touch to invest in flutes and martini glasses to compliment my basic hi-ball, tumblers and wine glasses. I'm a bit of a nut for that kind of thing.

This is my kit, and I don't have any intention to get more, as it isn't really needed. None of it is really essential - you could use another cup to mix, a sieve to strain and spoons to measure if you want to. The only essential is the one thing I don't have here.

Gomme Syrup, or just syrup is one of those things you don't think of but you need. Some recipes call for this and if you look at all the bottles behind the bar you might have noticed it. It is essentially a sugar syrup with gum arabic in it, which is an emuslifier that gets everything working together. At home, I wouldn't say its essential unless you want it to be. Syrup is however, because things need sweetening occasionally and ain't nobody got time to try dissolve sugar in cold liquor.

Making your own is incredibly simple. To make it, heat equal parts sugar and water together in a pan until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool, then pour into a bottle and store in the fridge for up to a month. It really is as easy as that.

Is a bottle easier, yeah, if you only have one or two a week it definitely can be. I will admit to having a mini bottle for those times I'm just making one. However if you are planning a party or cocktail night making up a batch makes way more sense. As long, as ever, you're going to use it before it goes funny. That's not a hardship really, just an excuse for more cocktails.

REVIEW - The Girl on the Train

Disclaimer - As you will know if you follow my Instagram, I've never read Paula Hawkins' book. It's on the list, I've even gone so far as to get it on my kindle but I've yet to crack the virtual spine. I knew nothing of the plot other than Emily Blunt's character watches a woman from the train each day, that it was originally set in London and that the character drinks. In the grand scheme of it, I pretty much went in with a virgin mind. I didn't even know anyone's name.

Touted as this years "Gone Girl" I was interested as I love a good thriller. The plot line itself was intriguing and very well thought out and just the right amount of misdirection. Haley Bennett was good as Megan, I found her convincing and as always Emily Blunt was excellent. Rebecca Ferguson as Anna was not as good as I would expect her to be (having seen her in The White Queen) and there we come to my issue with the movie - everything I liked about it were things not attached to the film.

I liked the story, and that is Paula Hawkins' work. I liked the actors, but then a good actor can, and they often do, compensate for what is lacking with their talent. What is lacking here is depth.

Comparing it against Gone Girl, as another thriller novel with an unreliable narrator, what is missing essentially is actually giving a damn about the characters. With Gone Girl what worked for that was the monologue provided by Amy's diary - in The Girl on the Train this is missing. We get some from Blunt's Rachel, and the therapy sessions of another give insight into her, but otherwise I actually found that frankly I didn't give a shit about anyone. Other than the fact I think I'm at least 90% cat based on my natural curiosity level, so needed to know what happened, nothing was keeping me in my seat.

Actually, not entirely true. I knew I could read the book/wikipedia. If I had been watching at home I would have nipped off and done some housework while watching without worrying. I really didn't care to watch it.

A good film thriller either follows someone working out events (a reporter, a detective or similar) or someone involved very talkative or with a voice over monologue. I spent last night thinking about this and as far as my experience goes, this rings true. With a book, especially one written in the first person, you get a greater depth to the story, you get the layers that can be hard to portray on film. A seemingly throw away line can have greater significance and make the mystery, the thrill, more entralling. If you've read Game of Thrones think to all the clues to R+L=J that never made it into the show - had Ned's recollections to himself from the first book been in the first season it really would have given the game away, but in the book they were more subtle and were missed by a lot of people on first read. Translating those sorts of things onto celluloid is hard, and The Girl on the Train fails.

Would I watch it again, maybe. Only after I've read the book, which is what the movie made me want to do. I'm only sad that I ruined the shock ending for myself.

Christmas has come to Lush Brighton! Christmas Bloggers Event

When the e-vite to this event dropped in my inbox I got very excited. I don't blog alot of beauty because basically I just use Lush. Hey, it's worked for me for over a decade and if it ain't broke I'm not going to waste time and effort finding new things that might not work. I'd rather waste that time on twitter.

In the last year there has been a lot of focus on the big Oxford Street Store and the Lush Kitchen when it came to fun new stuff. The spring seasonal ranges were basically what was expected with a few fun new shapes or colours, with the real fun as exclusives, Father's day was a step away from this and Christmas has happily continued the trend. Some old favourite fragrances are back in new ways, some old favourite products have had a make over and all in all its an exciting range to be tempted with for the next few months.

Lets start by talking the new arrivals in this years range. Lavender makes a big appearance in the form of a new body lotion and sparkling dusting powder, as does sugar-sweet in the form of more snow fairy scented products and more of the surprisingly vegan honey scented products. Light florals and citrus are also stand outs this year, but most of the spicy warm scents seem to be confined to the Halloween products that feature variants on that ever popular pumpkin spice idea.

A stand out new product is the Never mind the Ballistics, a sweet fruit little number that anyone who follows a lush addict on Instagram might recognise. A stand out from the Mothers Day range was the Rollerball, a bathbomb sprayed with bath melt that was almost impossible to get even with the best connections - I know, I tried. For Christmas that idea returns, but no longer sprayed and instead dipped, which I guess makes production a lot more practical. This innovation in the bombs is one I'm looking foward to seeing more of. So pretty and moisturising, as someone who finds bath melts a bit "too much" for me this is just about right. I also loved the look of the Snowie bubble bar, simple, yet really lovely, with a great uplifting smell too.


Slightly reworked is a big theme too, not least because for the first time the entire Christmas range is self-preserving - which is the way Lush refer to the products that contain nothing classified as a synthetic preservative. Simply, if its honey or alcohol or similar its ok, if its paraben it isn't. This is a really neat thing to do, as they've somehow managed the same shelf-life as in the other products. 

Product wise, a few of last years products have gotten revamped to varying degrees. Shoot for the Stars, Snowcake, Yog nog, Santa's Belly, Stardust, Northern Lights, Reindeer Rock and So White have all changed in some way. Some changes are on the small side; Stardust is bigger, Northern Lights less breakable and Santa's belly and Snowcake have new shapes, none of which really make a difference to how we as customers experience them. However in the case of Shoot for the Stars and So White bath bombs its more the fragrance is the same, but the whole experience in the bath has changed. So White, once a crisp red delicious is now a different variety of apple and as for Shoot for the Stars; it now a glorious blue bath sprinkled with golden star melts that fall from the bomb as it dissolves. Reindeer Rock has a totally new scent, colour and shape, making it a small pebble you just pick up and buy rather than a large block cut to order. It's a nice idea to mix up the soaps in that way, as much as I understand the rationale of the large blocks in gift season its a nice idea to have something that looks consistant. The pebbles are really cute, although I do wish they had kept the scent. I think the small block idea would actually work well in the new Igloo soap, but instead that is large blocks that build together, which is still a really lovely idea. 

Back to the event, because really, what part of an event is any different from a normal Lush shopping experience, or at least how it is on a good day. Well, firstly you are rarely greeted with a drink at the door - something I recommend they institute immediately! Continuing with the theme we were treated to a selection of warming autumnal teas from Bluebird Tea - the pot being constantly refreshed and glasses refilled by the lovely Kate, who also made us all aware of the nibbles dotted around the shop - saving us from a potentially awkward soap nibble. 

There was bath cocktail making with a twist - multiple bowls and vases were dotted around the bath section for us to play with - Chelle from The Mumington Post had her lovely daughter with her who was taking great delight in doing what I think we were a bit too in blogger mode to so - make them all extremely colourful and play messily with everything. We also got to see the "cocktails" in glasses, which looked so gloriously sparkly that photos needed to be taken. 

As well as trying out all the bath products we also got to make our own Comforter bubble bar to take home, using the same method they used to use in the factory. They make a big swiss roll now, as the one by one method is too time consuming apparently, but you make a candy cane and then squish it down to get the spiral pebble. This was WAY too enjoyable, but I wish I hadn't squished mine it looked much prettier as a candy mountain style pyramid.As well as taking home our comforter in a goody bag, we also each got a wrapped "Christmas" present from a lucky dip, which was a nice touch.

We each all got a chance to sit down with one of the lovely lushies and have a consultation or even just a chat over a relaxing hand and arm massage (such a relaxing thing). This is something that goes on in stores daily, but what with us all used to the systems of booking appointments and deposits held against purchase other beauty suppliers seem to do, is something that often gets lost from the average Lush experience in my opinion. People seem a little freaked out by the idea you can get a pamper for nothing, with no obligation to buy, but you can. That is one of the things I have loved about Lush since I was a teen - they believe in and stand by their products so much that they'll let you try them all out to convince you, rather than talking you into it.

Despite being an old school lushie and being pampered in store loads of times, it was great to experience the new range and have a bit of a giggle with everyone in store without feeling I was taking them away from people who were going to spend more money than me. It's a bit of a thing when you're not really buying and people in stores are happy to chat, but that's the lovely thing about the Brighton guys, they'll happily just try and make your day a bit brighter. 

The only sad thing (from the blogger viewpoint)was that Lush PR didn't have a hashtag or anything that us attending could use to find out who else was going and chat about the event beforehand on twitter etc. That's a blogger thing thou, and the lovely Kate and my good friend Sophie running the event did give us one to use once we were there. It's just a bit sad knowing how like myself have anxiety problems and so on, and find big things like this a bit scary if we are going on our own. I've never been to an event and not had an idea of who else was going before walking in the door an damn it, it was a bit scary. Lucky for me I knew the guys working the event otherwise I might have been bricking it. 

Anxiety or not, and my issue with PR aside, the guys working in Lush Brighton are a great bunch, and even if I didn't already know them I would have felt right at home with them as I smelt my way around the store. And as for the Christmas range, well... I'll be in the bath. 

Netflix Documentary Watchlist

With Stranger Things and Luke Cage, and it starting to get wet and windy, we've re-subscribed to Netflix. With that, comes going through all the lists again compiling the ultimate watchlist to see my through the autumn. I've been on a true crime kick lately, so its been the documentaries this time. For every Blackfish and The Hunting Ground there are fifteen other documentaries that are just forgotten about.

I'm a bit of a true crime junkie, give me a sensational criminal case, murder is good, and I'm enthralled. My old man was pretty fascinated by Jonestown and Manson, and of course I was "that age" when the Fred and Rose West trial happened. I know its pretty twisted but I also know I'm not the only one. Netflix has a few good crime documentaries that AREN'T Making a Murderer, but are still definitely worth the watch. Some I've seen before and know are good ones on the subject, others are ones that have me intrigued enough to want more on the case.

Audrie & Daisy

This one actually popped up in my suggestions as I wrote this post, but its that good it made it to the top if the list. Like The Hunting Ground, it looks at rape culture in the USA, but this time on the High Schools, and the social media bullying of the victims that seems to follow the assaults, focusing in on two girls in particular. The first is Audrie Potts, who committed suicide after her assault, which was also filmed. Her family and friends speak on camera in her place, and also her attackers talk on camera as part of her story which is an unusual insight. The other, survivor Daisy Coleman, is compelling and devastating at the same time. She is blunt and forthright when speaking about her attack, and her family share how the situation impacted her and them. I actually cried and honestly, she seems so much stronger than i could be shes my hero. If none of the others, watch this.


The phrase "drink the Kool-aid" in reference to cults comes from the horrific events at Jonestown. The Reverend Jim Jones, who had taken his near 1000 strong socialist "temple" to Guyana to live in their own community, received a visit from a US Congressman who was visiting to allay the fears of family members of Jones' followers living in his constituency. What resulted was the largest loss of US civilian life until 9/11 and the only assassination of a sitting congressman. In this documentary they go over the events at Jim Jones Peoples Temple that lead to those events. It is pretty in depth and they have Jim Jones son (who survived by chance) talking about what it was like living in Jonestown as his father descended into madness and paranoia. Definitely the most interesting one I've seen on this subject.


If you didn't already know thanks to the many pop culture references around him, Charles Manson was a cult leader and racist in 1960's California who decided to try and start a race war with the brutal murders of rich white people (including Sharon Tate, the heavily pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski) that would be pinned on the African American community. Like Jonestown, this Manson documentary is notable as it has eyewitness testimony from Linda Kasabian - a Manson family member present at the Tate murders who turned states' evidence against the rest of the family. Linda had very rarely accepted to be interviewed so if you are at all interested in Charles Manson it is worth a watch.

West of Memphis

As someone who has followed this case since the 90's, I much prefer the three Paradise Lost documentaries on this case, but as an intro to WM3 case this is really good. Produced by Peter Jackson - yes THAT Peter Jackson -  this follows the story of three teenage boys, convicted of the murders of three young boys and eventually freed in the most bizarre plea arrangement I've heard of. It is likely a story you've heard of, if not directly then indirectly, but rather than go over the satanic panic mania that accompanied the original trial making it a cause celebre this film goes more into the story that emerged over time AFTER the 1994 conviction. If you liked Making a Murderer you're likely to enjoy this.

Children of God

Not so much a crime documentary as much as a documentary that covers some crimes, but I include it here because its worth a watch. The Children of God cult was one I head heard about but was never big in my mind. I knew about it because River & Joaquin Phoenix and Rose McGowan all grew up within the cult but I knew nothing about other than cult = bad. Following several generations of a family within the cult it details the brainwashing and abuses - both of power and sexual abuse - within this cult which had a place in pop culture history now thanks to former members.

End of the World Cult

Another cult one, In this case one that was being looked into by the film makers due to suspicions that they might be about to commit mass suicide. Instead, inside "Strong City" they found a man claiming to be the messiah, sleeping with most of the female members and then charged with sexual contact with young teenage girls within the cult. Already inside, the documentary investigates the history of the cult as well as the process of the trial of the leader.


A rather bizarre murder case involving a man experiencing a midlife crisis getting involved with a young girl online, his alter ego taking over his real life and the co worker who got in the middle of the ultimate fallout when the girl figured out her online boyfriend wasn't who he said he was. Started watching because netflix said I might like it and I was on a roll. Apparently it was a pretty big case at the time but knowing nothing of it I found it compelling viewing.


Everyone had their own version of the boogeyman, the weirdo that kidnapped kids or the escaped mental patient or whomever it was. The stuff the best urban legends are made of is the stuff that scared us as kids, and this film tells a very personal story of how eerily similar their childhood boogeyman was to child disappearances and an infamous murder that happened in their home town. Really well presented, not the "found footage" fakery of Blair Witch, but the same sort of chills of that, the creepiness of  the old stories that turn out to be connected to real horror. There are shades of American Horror Story Asylum to the story also, as it does concern a horrifically abusive state institution for disabled people, Only its all true.

Galapagos Affair

Another one that kept popping up on watch next, I've popped it on here simply because after ignoring it because it looked a bit crap, after finally watching it I actually found it pretty interesting. In 1929 a German doctor and his mistress both left their spouses and set up together living on the Galapagos Island of Floreana. Three years later they were joined by a German family, and a lady who called herself the baroness, along with her two lovers. And then the disagreements started in the small community and some of Floreana's new residents disappeared. Odd mystery with a really good voice cast reading from the journals and other writing left by the parties involved.

My Brothers Bomber

Ken Dornstein had previously written a book about losing his brother David Dornstein on Pan Am 103, but in this three part mini-series he goes looking for more answers about the Lockerbie bombing following the Arab Spring and the fall of Gaddafi. Interesting from the point of view of not only the bombing itself but also the unfurling situation in Libya (he visits several times over a few years) Dornstein attempts to meet with the only person convicted of the bombing and unearth documents that may now be accessible in the new Libya. A really interesting look at it, there is no assumption that you know much about it which is new to me in other Lockerbie documentaries I have seen.

Who took Johnny

Johnny Gosch was a paperboy who went missing in 1982 when he was 12 years old. What made his documentary about his disappearence and the following events interesting to me was in 1982 no one worried when he didn't come home. Police effectively ignored people saying they had seen him being taken, insisting he had likely just run off. The abduction was linked to organised pedophilia which was something unknown of at the time, which made it interesting to me on that level. A kid taken by an abuse ring before people were aware of abuse rings and how people reacted to the whole thing. Things get a little strange in the story toward the end, but still a good watch.

If you have any suggestions for me on others to watch, leave me comments!

Blogger cliches I don't fall into

The husband is obsessed with tropes and cliches in TV and film, and it's had me thinking for a while about all the blogging cliches, the expectations people have of what bloggers are. The thing is we aren't all like that, not in anyway pointing fingers at those who do. The thing is yeah, a lot of us share things in common but people, and therefore bloggers, come in all shapes and sizes. There's a few things I notice other bloggers go nuts over that I am very much ambivalent about. I might have a cat, way too much stationary, a Harry Potter obsession, and I might use more bath bombs than are healthy, but these... count me out.

Rose Gold

I'd say copper too, but I do actually have a copper coffee set I adore. Its heirloom and from Central America so I let myself off but really, what is the big deal? I guess I've seen the gold obsession, then white gold then platinum ("its more shiny!"?) so to me its just another fashionable metal phase. I know what looks good on me and I like and shiny pink isn't part of it.

Tum Tums

I love disney and pixar as much as any sane person does but collecting these stackable teddy bears is a little too beanie babies for me, I didn't see the point with the beanie babies and I don't now. I'm an adult I'd rather spend the money on holidays and cocktails.

Starbucks, especially Red Cups and Pumpkin Spice

I'll give you the cinnamon rolls but ITS A RED CUP OF REALLY BAD COFFEE. And that's before you put pumpkin spice in it! Sorry guys but for me its hazelnut latte all the way, and not from Starbucks.

Posting mostly blogging advice and sponsored content.

I'd bloody love some freebies don't get me wrong but most of what I write about I pay for - I can count the freebies I've gotten on one hand (dayjob related aside of course). Also blogging tips seems a bit too much like I know what the hell I am doing (I don't) and maybe I'm weird but I want to write, and sometimes all I feel I see from some people is how to get PR contacts and followers and up your numbers. It's just not about that for me.

Yankee Candles, Fairy Lights in the bedroom, Naked Palettes and Cactus'

I have a cat, but otherwise all these things have been jokingly said to me by friends that I can't be a real blogger I don't have X. Sorry I'd rather buy cheap candles from tiger, have lights on my Christmas tree, crazy colour on my face and hair and grow plants that won't try to make me bleed. It just isn't my bag people!

Reality TV Obsessing on Twitter

Bake off & The Apprentice etc are competitions, and if its on Discovery channel I don't count it, but X Factor, Big brother and all of those count me out. Which might sound a bit odd from someone who writes about their life online, but hear me out. Those shows are 99% people who want to be famous, and edited to be really exploitative. It's a caricature of life and I see way too many kids at work that just want to be, or for life to be, like that stuff they see on TV. It's not by any means real, its like watching a car crash in slow motion. Nope, just nope.

Are there things that people expect you to be into and like that really, you just don't get??

Tea Mixology Class with Bluebird Tea

I've become a bit of a tea nut recently, what with my Bluebird Tea obsession and trying to cut back of the caffeine. Apparently tea is what you buy me now that bath bombs are out of the equation, and a month or so back I finally traded in my voucher and did my Tea Mixology Class.

When I went the classes were only held at the store in Brighton, but they've now stared doing them in Bristol and Tunbridge Wells stores too. They do tend to get booked quickly sadly, but it is very enjoyable once you've managed the wait. Drinks flow freely - both in the form of any tea from the tea wall and tea cocktail blends, whichever floats your boat!

The idea of the class is to mix your own tea blends, but in order to do that you need to know the basics of tea first. I found this really interesting as I thought I had an idea but I really had no clue. All "tea" comes from one plant,  Camellia Sinensis, and the different types are to do with the different places they are grown, not different varieties like I thought. I don't know about you but I thought it was a bit like wine - different grape types and all that. Not at all, White, Green, Black, Oolong and Pu-reh tea's are different parts and/or processing techniques of the same plant. Matcha is the same, although we use the name more for the processing method than how its grown, which is how you get Rooibos Matcha. While we think of it as tea, Rooibos and Mate are actually a totally different plant and then of course you have Herbal and Fruit tea's, which are really infusions but that is semantics. A lot of tea tasting (or "slurping") goes on as you learn the differences.

Essentially this class is separated into three parts - the history of tea and learning what they look like and how to identify the different types by sight, tasting the various types of tea and then blending your own. That last one is the real fun. A tea blend needs to have at least two ingredients - a base tea and at least one blending herb. After some recipe ideas and basic guidelines from the lovely Becky and being presented with three bags to make three blends, we were let loose on the counter top full of various tea blending goodies. Each tea gets a label advising how long and at what temperature to brew. There is also 10% off anything you decide to teat yourself with on the day of the class.

Its a hard one to describe in detail, as it is essentially making tea with the addition of being given all about the information on what tea actually is. The experience is good, hands on and instructional, and despite knowing a lot after my six months of tea subscription I still found it interesting to be told the details while also being able to taste what I was told were the defining characteristics of that type. It was really great to identify what it is I like in a tea and then make my own blends that fit that idea.

Were my blends good? Well that is between me and my taste buds, but it was well worth the making and I would recommend it to any tea fan.

Bluebird Tea Mixology Classes are £40, with group discount available.
My class was a family gift, all opinions are my own.