I began writing this post about three weeks ago. I thought, I’ll write something about beauty, because I love reading about beauty, and most beauty writing is so dumb and unfunny and predictable. I’m also writing two pilot scripts for [name of network redacted because they won't release us to talk about it yet]. Anyway, so I’d tinker with this for ten minutes, and then go back to my scripts for the rest of the day, and then thoughtfully order some more pasta and loo roll and rice and soap, and wonder if this pandemic would run out of steam before it hit NYC, and completely forget to finish this.

Fast-forward to today, and HAHA yah we’re all stuck at home. So now a beauty post seems delightfully self-indulgent and shallow and possibly the escapism we all need. So come on in, take a few minutes to stop worrying about your job and children and the economy and ventilators and ICU beds, and read this.

I worked from home for seven years, from more or less the moment I got knocked up with Errol and started writing novels full-time, to last year, when I realized working from home with three children was a form of self-harm, even with a nanny, and started working from an office in Soho. So trust me when I say: you can’t just wear your sloppy Sunday hangover clothes every day. At least, I can’t. I need to get the fuck dressed. I also need to wear a little bit of make-up and treat myself like I deserve to look good even if the only person who is seeing moi is my family and moi. Not making an effort is the fastest way to get into a bad sad mood. It is good to take care of yourself. You’re worth it.

Let’s start with hair.

Every year or so I find a new hair product and crow ‘THIS IS IT!’ to the world. And then six months later my hair returns to its usual straw-like state and I stare dejectedly in the mirror and think longingly about my Before Sunrise-like 90s teen hair. And then I get cross at myself for wasting time thinking about hair and put it in a bun and ignore it for six months. And the circle of life continues.

I was in LA last summer, and my friend Nicki’s hair looked unreasonably good. She told me to try this Pantene 3 Minute Miracle as conditioner and Pantene Conditioning Mist when blowdrying. She’d just switched after years of a cripplingly expensive Oribe habit. So I did. It’s been eight months and I am STILL in love with these puppies. So so so good for strong shiny healthy-looking hair. (For shampoo, I’ve been using and adoring the Aveda Sap Moss Shampoo, but it’s not cheap and it’s only been two months so lets give it another couple of months and see if I still love it before I recommend whole-heartedly.)

 

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Also in the shower: this Bliss Lemon and Sage stuff smells DELICIOUS. Combine with the Korean body scrub cloth, and a nice 60 second blast of freezing cold water at the end, like that guy in the Goop show, and you’ll leave the shower tingling with the joy of being alive and not having coronavirus.

Bliss Lemon & Sage Soapy Suds Body Wash | Gentle & Hydrating for Supremely Soft Skin |  Paraben Free, Cruelty Free | 17.0 fl oz

 

Sheet masks aren’t really my thing because they scare the baby, they create a lot of waste, I don’t always notice a difference and then I feel annoyed that I wasted my money and time. But this one is the real deal: your face will feel plump and smooth and happy afterwards. I picked one of these puppies up from CVS on a whim a few weeks ago when I was buying yet more soap and sanitizer, tried it before going out that night and promptly stocked up.

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When I haven’t moisturized my body, my knees look like very old apples. Lubriderm is boring and unscented and unsexy and WORKS. If you do it every day, you will be ready when this pandemic is over – which is will be, sooner than you think, it’ll just FEEL like forever – and you want to wear shorts outside.

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Another workhorse, this one for your face. Yu Be is so boring and so amazing. It is almost unreasonably thick, so I recommend mixing with your favorite moisturizer and put on an hour before you go to sleep. Wake with dewy plump skin. Giddy up.

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I tried Baby Foot mask years ago and loved the results, but Fox hated finding my feet flakes all over the apartment and claimed to be grossed out. I can’t imagine why. SO INTOLERANT. Anyway, now that we’re at home for the foreseeable future, I’m going to do it again. This time, I’m going to take a bath every night and pumice my foot a wee bit, and wear socks non-stop so I don’t flake all over the place like a moulty pigeon. I’m sure it’ll be much less gross this way.

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Okay, that’s face, body, hair and feet covered.

Let’s talk make-up.

YOU GUYS. I don’t mean to boast. But I’ve discovered the secret to perfect silky satiny skin in fifteen seconds or less. So order these from Sephora or wherever will let you return if I’m just smoking crack again and this doesn’t work for you. Ready? Okay.

Take one pump of Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate, and one pump of your favorite foundation (this Tom Ford Traceless Perfecting in Buff is mine right now – in fact, I’m on my second bottle, which is a powerful statement in itself because I think it’s overpriced and I always try new things) (‘powerful statement’ dear God Gemma, get a grip, it’s only make-up).

Mix them together on the back of your hand, and then dab on your ruddy bits (chin, nostrils, forehead, undereyes and eyelids, and so on). Buff in with this brush thing, and SCENE. You’re done. Right? RIGHT? Yeah. This works.

I don’t know why the Kiehl’s product is so magical, and it has the most ridiculous name in the world WHY SO MANY WORDS. It’s an interesting consistency – somewhere between a gel and a balm – and it’s full of glycerin (like the Yu Be) and yet also absorbs perfectly.   It’s a weird one. I read about it a lot before trying, as it seemed like such an un-essential product and yet people loved it. Now I get it.

Would you like to see images of these products? Oh, okay then.

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I always like to wear a little very light bronzer to make me look less, you know, sick, because I’m not sick, I’m just rather pale and yellow. This one is excellent. Hourglass Lighting Bronzer in Nude Bronze Light. It’s somewhere between a bronzer and a highlighter, not too brown, not too orange, not too anything. It just works. I apply it with this MUFE brush but any big fluffy brush will do.

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Lastly, lipstick. I don’t wear a lot of lipstick when I’m chez moi because I’m always kissing someone. But I’m in love with this Burts Bees Red Dahlie tinted lip balm, and this cheapie Milani All Natural lipliner. (I’m being repetitive I know – I’ve written about them before – but I’m also being consistent because you guys, they’re awesome.) The two of them will give you perfect naturally slightly tinted lips so you can smile at yourself every time you wash your hands, which will be frequently.

Image result for burts bees red dahliaMilani Color Statement Lipliner - All Natural (0.04 Ounce) Cruelty-Free Lip Pencil to Define, Shape & Fill Lips

Wow, this is a long post. Am I missing anything? Any requests? Stay safe everyone. Tell your parents to stay inside. 

 

 

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On… French pop song covers

A few years ago, I learned all the words to “Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher”, a French yé-yé cover of the Nancy Sinatra song ‘These Boots Were Made For Walking’ by a minxy little chanteuse called Eileen, for no reason at all other than I wanted to. It was delightful and pointless. I LOVE delightful and pointless.

In case you agree, here are some French pop cover songs you might enjoy to learn by heart and impress yourself:

Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher (to the tune of “These Boots Were Made For Walking”) by Eileen.

 

L’Amour C’est Comme Une Cigarette (to the tune of ‘Morning Train’) by Sylvia Vartan (oh, her miming in this clip is *bunches fingers, kisses them*)

 

Cette Année La (to the tune of ‘Oh, What A Night’) by Claude Francois

 

Itsy Bitsy, Petit Bikini (to the tune of oh you can guess this one) by Richard Anthony

 

Viens Danser Le Twist (to the tune of ‘Let’s Do The Twist’) by Johnny Hallyday

 

And, obviously, if you like a little Francais there are multitudes of AMAZING original French pop songs from the 60s. My favorite:

 

 

7 Heure Du Mat by Jacqueline Taieb

 

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On… a better January

January is too long, too cold, too boring, too everything. Here are some fun ways to get through it:

The Kominsky Method

Like a warm snuggly duvet in a 5* hotel room: high-quality, not too heavy, not too hot, just right.

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Carry On

I suspect that what you really want to read right now is a gay teen supernatural romance. Right? Yes. I absolutely adored this book. It is wise and witty and wonderful.

(Sidebar: The title confused me. It’s set in the UK and there was a long and very well-known series of dreadful campy British movies called ‘Carry On’ in the 60s and 70s, which have nothing at all to do with this book, but never mind, my own books had titles foist upon them by publishers, it happens, and the novel is wonderful and maybe it has a different title in the UK, they do that sometimes. Do not judge a book by its title. Or cover. And speaking of covers, I think this cover is SO cool. Some of my very early covers make me want to vomit onto my keyboard just thinking about them. Let’s move on.)

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Leuchtturm1917 

My day is always writing, punctuated with calls and Skypes and meetings that tend to move around a lot, and the occasional lunch or coffee. I try to have days that are nothing but writing, and days that are nothing but calls and meetings, because, you know, flow and whatnot. Anyway, I always use a pen-and-paper planner, because I’m extremely boring. This one is THE BEST I have ever found. Rather slow delivery to the US, but it’s worth the wait. And I use the blank space at the end of each day for kid-related school reminders and playdates and shit like that.

Uniball Black Pens

And this is the pen. Buy 12. Never be annoyed by lack of pens again.

Wonderful Fashion Men's Classic Herringbone Tweed Wool Blend Newsboy IVY Hat (Brown, LXL)

Tweed Newsboy Cap

Lastly, I LOVE this brown tweedy newsboy hat. Do you need it? Probably not. Do you want it? Probably yes. Will you do a little Christian-Bale-In-Newsies impression when you first put it on? Again, probably yes.

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On… damn good television

Whenever someone asks me what kind of TV I watch, I’m not sure what to say. The shows I like to watch don’t have anything in common, apart from their spirit. They are exuberant. Funny. Sharp. Smart. Optimistic. Because while the world is so fucked, those five things feel subversive and important.

All have female characters who are actually people, all have real drama and character-led humor, all are surprising – and all of them make me laugh out loud. (Not many things make me laugh out loud. I am a tough ol’ bitch.)

I wonder if it all comes down to a kind of entertainment solipsism. My favorite TV shows – like Catastrophe, like Fleabag, like Marvellous Mrs Maisel, like Russian Doll, like Friends From College – that feel like a big beautiful gift just for me. I want to shout I SEE YOU at these shows.

Anyway, here are three new ones you may not have watched:

 

The Boys. Good God, I love this show. I watched it twice – once alone, while my husband Fox was away, and again when he got home. Admittedly, I mostly watched him watching it because I get a kick out of seeing people react to things, and I knew he’d love it. He did.

 

Black Monday. This show is hilfuckingarious. Everyone in it is SO GOOD. Especially Regina Hall and Paul Scheer. And Casey Wilson. And Don Cheadle and of course Andrew Rannells, who should have a rom com lead like ASAP, and who also wrote a great Modern Love column.

 

 

Barry. If you haven’t watched Barry yet, get the hell off this silly blog and go watch it. You won’t regret it.

 

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On… Grayson

A little company called Grayson sent me some shirts a month or so ago, and I wore them so much and so often that I posted on IG about them, and then Grayson offered a discount code GEMMA20 for anyone else who might like to try them.

Backstory: Grayson is a little female-owned-and-run company that only makes one thing: the perfect button-down.

And it really is PERFECT. (And, for the record: they didn’t pay me to write this, they didn’t ask me to write about them. I have zero skin in this game and I’m not an influencer, just a writer who has to delete Instagram Monday to Friday or else she doesn’t get any actual bloody writing done.)

They’re lovely people and lovely shirts and if you’d like to try them then go to Grayson and use the code GEMMA20 and live your best button-down life. The one I’m the most obsessed with is the Hero in Washed Cotton in Colette French Blue and I’m going to wear the plaid one allllll winter.

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On… MOONSTRUCK

I flew to LA yesterday for work, and on the plane I watched MOONSTRUCK for the first time in years. It was so utterly perfect and wonderful in every single way.

 

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On… traveling solo with a baby

I just got back from a week in Ireland. My husband had three weeks off, so took both the big boys (age 5 and 7) for a long trip to see his family. I had to stay in NYC and do a little writing (about which, more soon) and so the baby and I went solo to join them for a week.

We flew via London, because it’s the only way to take a day flight from NYC, and we know how excruciating the night flights are with a baby. It all seemed very manageable when we booked it. Getting up at 5am to catch an 8am flight from JFK? Fine. Holding a ten-month-old on my lap for a seven hour flight to London? Fine. Changing terminals at Heathrow, which involves a bus and weird extra intense security and an insane amount of walking? Fine fine. Flying to Cork and landing at midnight, local time? Piece of oh holy shit what have I done.

I would never have done it solo with our first baby. But somehow with the third kid – and this sounds flippant and arrogant, which I am not, or perhaps I am, but not about babies – everything seems so much easier. (I was back writing a pilot for NBC when Arthur was two weeks old. I forgot how to spell my own name for a month after Errol was born.)

Anyway, we survived, because a) it was only a day, and because b) I am a damn genius at practical planning and am probably wasted on writing when I should be, idk, leading troops into battle. So although this is fairly off-brand for me, in case there is any chance that you have to do similar at any point in your life, here are my tips for traveling solo with a baby:

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An Ergobaby Original. Make sure it’s this one – the classic Ergobaby Original. This thing is the Sandra Bullock of baby carriers. It turns up looking good and does its job better than anyone else, year after year after year. He took two naps of about an hour each in it on the plane.

(NB: I don’t like the new version of the Ergo, the 360. I just got a secondhand one from my local moms board in NYC, as I thought Arthur might like to face outwards, but it gave me such a sore back, and he seemed totally freaked out to be drifting through space without being able to see me. So back to my old Ergo, which we’ve had for seven years. It’s the absolute best.)

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A messenger bag aka fanny pack.

Okay, stop sniggering, Brits and Aussies. (Americans: fanny means VAGINA.) I wear one of these in my day-to-day life lately – I have a tiny red one from Uniqlo and I wear it cross-body, over my shoulder, not around my waist. It’s super lightweight and comfortable and chic. For the flight, I dug out this bigger Herschel one. Mine is white, which is an extremely foolish color for a bag, but I like it. I wore it around my waist, which is def not chic and I didn’t feel like the coolest cat but that’s fine, I am not the coolest cat, I am a grown woman taking a baby 4000 miles around the world.

In the messenger bag:

Passports, tickets, wallet. Obviously.

Extra long phone charger. So at the airport you can charge your phone even if you’re forced to sit ten feet away from the charging station.

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A tiny portable remote charger, just in case.

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Chocolate, because… chocolate.

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Neosporin. Some people put this in their nostrils when they fly to prevent getting a virus. I am not one of those people, perhaps because I have the robust constitution of a convict who survived the perilous journey from Britain to Australia (which two of my ancestors did, different story, wrong forum). But I just like having it around in case of emergencies, particularly when I’m with the jumping-off-everything-more-than-two-feet-high big boys. Ditto bandaids. And by the by, someone once told me the best way to avoid colds and whatnot when traveling is to take your own pen. You can chop Neosporin up and snort it all you like, but once you sign a receipt with a random pen that 40,000 other people have touched that week, you’re still screwed.

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These pacifier leads are the absolute best. I’ve had them since Arthur was born. So good when we are outside the house and he might need to nap and therefore have a Paci. I usually have one attached to Arthur (not around his neckline, I realize odds of strangulation are v slim but… you never know)  and one attached to my shirt (because I am also frequently attached to Arthur). And we like these pacifiers but whatever blows your hair back, obvs.

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Bioderma Atoderm Lipbalm. I have a long and emotionally involved history with lip balms, but I have only used this one for months and months now, and I’m normally treacherously disloyal when it comes to lip balms. Love it so hard. I have about six of them floating around various bags/pockets/my desk/my makeup drawers.

An emergency diaper change pack – which is a sandwich bag containing two diapers, wrapped around three wipes (ie, the waterproof out side of the diaper on the wipes), so you can grab and go fast without having to go through the rigmarole of unzipping the backpack. (Sometimes I even stash the emergency diaper change pack in my jacket pocket to make it even easier. If I can give you one tip from my entire motherhood experience, this is it: have a tiny emergency diaper pack at all times.)

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Perfect Bar. These really are the perfect fuel, I had three or four of them for the trip. Coconut and Peanut Butter is the best imho. Eat one and you won’t be hungry for hours, and you won’t have a sugar crash, either. I hate being hungry on planes and the food is never good, or at least, never good enough, and it’s hard to eat with a lap full of squirmy baby.

A tiny pack of tissues, just in case.

A couple of tiny packs of wet ones, just in case.

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And lastly, wireless earphones, so you can half-listen to podcasts, if the mood takes you. (The Daily, Fat Mascara, Conan O’Brien, Mueller She Wrote, How I Built This and Getting Curious with JVN current favorites.) Don’t forget to download the podcasts first. Nothing more annoying than taxiing down the runway and realizing you’ve forgotten to get them, and in-air wifi is expensive wishful thinking.

Okay, so that’s the messenger bag contents.

NOW: a backpack! Yes, you also need a backpack. Don’t fight me on this.

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I have this one from Amazon. It is a sturdy workhorse. The reason I love it: the stretchy pockets on the sides. You can put the thermos in one side, and a half-finished bottle in the other. It’s not too big and can take a beating.

In the backpack:

Seventh Generation Baby Wipes, Free & Clear Unscented and Sensitive, Gentle as Water, with Flip Top Dispenser, 504 count

More diapers (I like to err on the side of ‘seriously?’ as in: one diaper per hour of travel, yes, this takes up a lot of space) and wipes. I usually use Water Wipes but for travel, a nice hard seal like the Seventh Generation one is great.

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A large muslin (as a peekaboo toy, as a mop, as a picnic blanket, as a nap cover, to dry bottles when you wash them in sinks on the go and the airport is out of hand towels, etc).

 

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A thermos of hot water boiled at home for making formula (they’ll let you on the flight with it, sometimes they make you sip it, sometimes they make you do that weird test with a strip which shows them it’s not, idk, secretly a bomb cleverly disguised as H2O?). The boiling water on planes is… not good. Even the air hostesses are always like ‘yeah, that water is not clean’.

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Formula in one of these clever things. I have an old French one that we got when we were living in Zurich when Errol was a baby, and I also have the Dr Browns one – I needed both for such a long trip. Keep in a large ziplock bag in case the top comes off.

Two bottles, stashed in a large ziplock bag. (I’ve been around the baby shit block – you know, the block full of baby shit? right that one – too many times to claim that any single product is THE BEST but Comotomo is very good for babies who refused every other bottle for FIVE MONTHS like Arthur. It’s also exceptionally easy to clean.)

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Two toys. I grabbed this thing (it’s called the Hug and Tug… snort), and some Duplo blocks. Arthur would rather crawl or talk to people up and down the aisles of the plane (“GA GA GA?”) but a toy can distract for a good five minutes.

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A touch and feel board book. I had this one.

Baby food. Arthur will nibble whatever I’m eating, but still mostly survives on milk, so I took three pouches, a single oatmeal travel thing where you just add water and go, and rusk biscuits. Again in a large ziplock bag. (I love a large ziplock bag, in case you can’t tell.)

My laptop and charger. Which are both annoyingly heavy but I couldn’t leave them in the suitcase. Whenever Arthur napped I would think about the laptop longingly and wish I could get it out to write.

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Two spare footed pajama onesies for Arthur. He normally only sleeps in these, so it felt odd keeping him in one all day, which is so stupid because he is a baby Gemma FFS he doesn’t notice these things. And the pajama onesie is warm and easy, and you dont have to worry about socks falling off etc. I changed him into the second onesie one half-way through the flight to London, when he was a bit grubby, and kept the third in case of a pooplosion that, thankfully, didn’t happen. (Until we got back to NYC, but that’s a different story.)

Womens Heat Holders: The Ultimate Thermal Sock

I wore these warm socks, because planes are cold…

… and these Birks, because taking off real shoes to go through the security scanner is just an incredibly annoying hassle one doesn’t need when one is carrying a baby. (Or ever tbqh.)

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And last but not least: my sister leant us her travel stroller, the Mountain Buggy Nano. HOLY SHIT. This thing is fantastic. It’s lightweight yet sturdy. It folds up the size of a tiny booster seat, so you can take it right on to the plane and stash it in an overhead bin (which is great as strollers get trashed when they store them underneath the plane, we lost a great one in Errol’s first year, thank you American Airlines). I goddamn love it.

And SCENE.  I hope this is helpful. Normal programming – ie conversations about books and tv, about once a month – will resume soon.

 













 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On… MCMC Fragrances

I like perfume. (We’ve discussed this in, oh, so many previous sessions.) I like reading books about it (like this and this). I like smelling old smells and new smells. If I have a morning to myself with no work or small children, I like to go to Barneys or Aedes de Venustus and smell everything. I like buying almost-empty perfume bottles from Etsy for $10 because I can tell from the font or the label size that it dates from before 1981 and contains ingredients now long-outlawed by the good old EU and, hell, I just want to smell them before I die. I like reading perfume blog posts from 17 years ago, you know, the kind written in Comic Sans, because the new perfume blogs are all #influencers and I don’t trust them. I find it all very soothing.

My favorite perfume of all time is Miller Harris L’Air de Rien. The perfumer, Lyn Harris, sold Miller Harris a few years ago and opened a little perfume boutique in London. It’s called Perfumer H. I’m *dying* to go. Read this, about their scent Rain Wood: “notes of galbanum+ elemi with a transparent heart of waterlily pepper, frankincense, myrrh resting on a base of wet + humid woods of juniper + cedar wood to make this an effortless fragrance for hot summer days.” What the hell does that smell like? I have NO IDEA and I WANT TO KNOW.

Fox once called me a Perfume Nerd, but I reject that appellation. I’m not an expert. I just like it. And have you noticed how people who call themselves ‘Nerds’ are actually just passive-aggressively boasting that they know more than you about the subject in question? Whenever I’m at a party and stuck next to someone who calls himself, for example, a Comedy Nerd, I stifle a tiny sigh, and don’t say ‘Wow, you must know everything about comedy and therefore have a truly superior sense of humor! You win.’ Instead, I smile and say ‘how fascinating’ and finish my drink as fast as I can so I can get away.

Anyway, darlings, where were we?

Yes. I like perfume.

For my birthday this year, Fox gave me a custom perfume workshop with Anne Serrano-McClain, at her MCMC Fragrances studio. She’s an incredible perfumer, she trained in Grasse, and is also a charming and interesting and easy person to hang out with. We talked for three hours straight and somewhere in there, made an absolutely gorgeous scent.

Here’s how it works: you turn up at her studio (ideally with a vague idea of the kind of smell you want – something light and floral, something sexy and musky, something fresh and lemony, something dark and spicy, whatever blows your skirt up). You smell dozens and dozens of smells. I wanted to make something that smelled a bit dirty and earthy and musky, but not too sharp or sweet.

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Then Anne creates three versions of your perfume, each with slight variations.

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You take them home and wear them for a few days to decide which is your favorite.


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And then she bottles it up and sends it to you. The final result from my session is all warm skin musk and earthy oak moss and creamy tuberose, with a whisper of black pepper and coriander to rough it up a little. Oh you guys, it smells SO GOOD. I’m obsessed with it. Truly. If you see me on the street, come up and smell me. I won’t mind. Send this post to people who love you so they know that this is what you want for your next birthday. (I’m into subtle hints like that.) Email anne@mcmcfragrances.com.
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