Author Archives: GemmaBurgess

On… this year’s anniversary photo

We took our anniversary photo late this year, June instead of April, and I’m posting this even later, in September, and back in August, I wrote something about it for my friend Joanna, who runs the brilliant Cup Of Jo site, and there we have the story of 2020 as pertains to the wretched anniversary photo. (It’s not really wretched, of course. It’s fun and easy and I love it.)

I think I wrote something very small about the anniversary on this blog before. Maybe four or five years ago. But I’m too lazy to check, and too scared of the second-rate writing I will find. (The search function on this blog is like a large rock that I don’t pick up, because underneath it are tiny, poorly edited beetles.) Let’s move on.

We take a family photo on our wedding anniversary every year, in the same spot, outside City Hall in downtown Manhattan. Each photograph is different – the angle, the light, our pose, all of it. The only consistency is that it’s us, it’s the same location, and it’s late April. To keep the experience as simple as possible, we always ask a stranger (or two) to take the photos. We never want to annoy them so it’s only like 90 seconds at the most. We end up with 25 or 30 photos to choose from. In most of the photos, someone is talking or jumping or sneezing or picking their nose. I try to have everyone hold hands or touch so we’re connected, and then Fox and I kiss.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2010
The first photo! This was snapped early one morning in April 2010, a few minutes after we got legally married. I carried flowers from a deli and wore a dress I bought from Portobello Market and silver sequined Converses, and we jumped on a ledge outside the City Hall doors for a kiss and a photo. It wasn’t planned. It just happened. It was perfect.

About six hours later we got married, again, in a big wedding ceremony surrounded by about 140 of our nearest and dearest. I held fancy flowers, and we had a proper photographer and band and cake and all those big shiny wedding things. It was wonderful. But this spontaneous little photo is the one that I love the most, because it was just Fox and me. When I look at it, I tingle. That’s how you want to feel about your wedding day.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2012
We moved to NYC in March, walked past City Hall early one morning, bleary-eyed, with our new baby, and decided to come back for our anniversary and re-take the photo. It was very hot, and I wore a dress that was basically the black version of my wedding dress, so my legs were all sweaty. After we took this photo, we went to the Square Diner in Tribeca and had pancakes, and baby Errol sat in the highchair they provided and grabbed everything in sight.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2013
Look at sweet bald Errol! He didn’t get hair until he was almost three, and even then, it was mostly around the back. We had just decided to try to have another baby. I remember thinking that I knew he would be a boy, and I knew we would name him Ned, and that in next year’s photo, I would be holding him in my arms. And he was and we did and I did.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2014
Darling newborn Ned with his serious little face! I don’t remember this day very well. Actually, I don’t remember this year very well. Both our fathers had passed away just weeks before this photo was taken. After the shock wore off, I found comfort in other people. We both started volunteering more, and I had long chats about death (and grief) with friends and strangers, people on airplanes and taxi drivers and television executives in L.A. Grief is a universal experience. It’s the flip side to love, the other universal experience. Ned had silent reflux and screamed all the time (ALL the time, no, seriously, all the time). I was also stressed about finishing a book for my publisher. I cannot even tell you what happens in that book now. Not a thing. Isn’t that odd?

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2015
By the way, the kiss pose is bizarrely flattering. It makes you all neck and cheekbones. You don’t have to think about your wonky smile or the way you always tilt your head at a weird angle when someone takes your photograph, which is an incredibly boring thing to think about.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2016
Yes, Ned is wearing a trenchcoat and he was NOT in the MOOD. If you have the chance to buy a baby trenchcoat, do. It will make you happy, over and over again. After this photo, we got our first outside ice creams of the year and went to the playground.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2017
I’m pregnant here, but a few weeks after this photo was taken, I had a miscarriage. It was my second miscarriage of 2017 – the first was in early January. Then I had a third miscarriage in October. I was just so sad by the end of 2017. I got up and wrote and mothered and did all the normal things people do, but inside, I was drowning in sadness. Unlike with my dad, this grief was too intense and painful and personal for me to talk about. People often can’t understand miscarriage unless they’ve been through it. This was the only time we dressed Ned and Errol to match, and I wish we hadn’t, as it’s cute but a tiny bit forced. If they’d dressed themselves, four-and-a-half-year-old Errol would have been an astronaut with a karate kid headband. Would have been much better.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2018
You can see that I am clutching Ned’s hand rather than holding it, because he was hopping around like a bunny and I was worried he’d fall off. I’m pregnant again here. But after the experiences of 2017, I had zero faith that everything would be okay. So, I dressed to hide the bump and my giant preggers boobs. And I basically put my back to the camera. This is not a good photo, at all, and I feel affectionate towards it because of that. I was very scared that entire year.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2019
Baby Arthur’s first family photo! What a little honeybun. I’m wearing a sequin skirt that Errol and Ned picked out for me. I remember laughing this entire day. We went to the playground afterwards and I left a bunch of sequins on the slide. That’s what happens when you wear sequins.

gemma burgess anniversary photos

2020
This photo was delayed because of lockdown, of course. We had discussed looking fancy for this one, because it’s our 10-year anniversary. But with much more important things to think about this year, we decided to do it without a fuss. My lovely sister took it, so it’s an extra-good one (asking a stranger was not really going to happen in a pandemic). Everyone has lockdown hair. Ned is wearing Errol’s clothes and Arthur just wasn’t feeling that shoe.

We never look at the photos until we get home. If you look at them, the part of you that wants to control everything will just think ‘if only we could try one more time it will be perfect.’ There is no such thing as perfect. That’s what’s perfect about it.

On… two new beauty things

I’ve been texting everyone I know and ORDERING them to buy this SPF, because that is the kind of friend I am: quite bossy, cares about your skin as much as her own, and wants you to have all the best things. And this is THE BEST THING.

Volition Prismatic Lumizinizing Shield SPF50.

Ridiculous name. But it’s SO good. Moisturizing. Glowy. Absorbs quickly. Your concealer or foundation will go over it perfectly and make friends with it. Just fluff some powder (I like Bobbi Brown Pale Yellow, because I am quite Pale and quite Yellow) on your nose and forehead and chin so they’re not super shiny. Most importantly: this puppy is mineral-based (19.6% zinc oxide!).

I usually wear LRP Anthelios, but either something changed in my skin or the formula this year, because it was sort of sitting on my epidermis and making everything look weird and chalky. I wear ISDIN on seriously sunny days when I’m going to be outside a lot, and it is marvelous but does not get along with make-up. And yes, I really am this much of a SPF dork: I haven’t gone a day without wearing SPF since I was a child, when my mother got some melanomas and told my sister and I that we could never, ever, ever go outside without SPF on our faces for the rest of our lives. We were very obedient children, so we didn’t.

Amazon.com : MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot VINTAGE SELECTION : Eye ...

I kind of love wearing a mask, because I sing or talk to myself a lot when I’m out alone, and no one can tell. But I miss lipstick. Still, at least we have eye make-up.  I have been wearing this MAC Paint Pot in Vintage Selection every day with mascara.

It gives you a delightful nearly-invisible-taupe-but-not-shimmer. You can put it on while holding a baby on your hip without even looking in the mirror, honestly. Just smush your finger in the pot, and rub it over your eyelids, and you’re done.

It’s also a good base for more eyeshadow, if you fancy being high-maintenance, and who doesn’t, now and again? I like NARS Matcha (Kermit the Frog green, but not clown-like if very light and blended, I swear) and Chantecaille Patchouli (expensive, but blends like a Nutribullet and will last me forever, I hope). Magic trick: when you’re using a brush for powder eyeshadow, after you’ve finished with your eyelids, pinch the brush bristles to make them shorter and tighter, and swish the remainder of the color (any color!) right under your bottom lashes. It creates an optical illusion that makes your eyes look bigger, but isn’t as hard as eyeliner.

(PSA: if you are using an eyeshadow brush instead of your finger, do put the baby down, or he or she will try to grab it and your might spear yourself in the eyeball by mistake.)

As ever, the caveat: I am not a beauty expert, just a mildly obsessive enthusiast. I did write funny things about beauty for Tatler magazine in London for a little while back when I was first writing novels, mostly because the nice magazine people sent me free make-up to try, and I’m nothing if not a total whore like that.

On… pandemic

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.)

 

Image result for pantene 3 minuteImage result for pantene conditioning mist

 

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.

Image result for garnier moisture bomb mask

 

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.

Image result for lubriderm

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.

Image result for yu-be cream

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.

Image result for baby foot

 

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.

Image result for Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum ConcentrateImage result for TOM FORD traceless perfecting foundation spf 15Image result for real techniques face blender

 

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.

Image result for ambient lighting bronzer nude light

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. 

 

 

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

 

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.

Image result for carry on rainbow

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.)

Image result for leuchtturm weekly planner english

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.

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.

 

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.